Saturday, November 30, 2002

From ABC news: "Australia said it received information more than two weeks ago about terrorist threats in Mombasa. American officials said there were indications that American, British and Israeli citizens traveling abroad were facing greater danger.
In Washington, initial suspicion centered on two groups: al-Qaida and al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, a Somali Islamic group suspected of having links to bin Laden's network, a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Friday. It also was possible the two groups were working together, the official said." IBA radio says Israel was not warned.

Friday, November 29, 2002

If Cinderella Bloggerfeller did not invent himself, someone else would have absolutely had to. The same goes for the Google Language Tool. Not only for its frequent usefulness, but also for its unlimited alit to amuse me. If you ever bored, try typing a simplest phrase, then translate it to German, then French, and then back to English.
BTW, the tall skinny guy, that reads, writes and talks back in two languages, plays the piano, and who used to be small enough to live inside me, turned nine yesterday. There, don't you ever say that I am not a typical Jewish mother!
November 29, 1947 - November 29, 2002

Today is the 55th anniversary of the UN vote on resolution 181, which
approved the partition of the western part of Palestine into a
predominately Jewish state, and a predominately Arab state. (It is
vital to recall that the UN partition plan referred to western
Palestine, to underscore that in 1921 the eastern part was ripped off
the Jewish National Home by the British Government and handed over to
the then Emir Abdullah.)

The partition plan was approved by 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions.

The 33 countries that cast the “Yes” vote were: Australia, Belgium,
Bolivia, Brazil, Byelorussia, Canada, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia,
Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Haiti,
Iceland, Liberia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua,
Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Sweden, Ukraine,
Union of South Africa, USSR, USA, Uruguay, Venezuela. (Among other
countries, the list includes the US, the three British Dominions, all
the European countries except for Greece and the UK, but including
all the Soviet-block countries.)

The 13 countries that chose the Hall of Shame and voted “No” were:
Afghanistan, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon,
Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen. (Ten of these are
Moslem countries; Greece has the special distinction of being the
only European country to have joined the Hall of Shame.)

The ten countries that abstained are: Argentina, Chile, China,
Colombia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Honduras, Mexico, United Kingdom,

On November 30, 1947, the day following the vote, the Palestinian
Arabs murdered six Jews in a bus making its way to Jerusalem, and
proceeded to murder another Jew in the Tel-Aviv - Jaffa area. This
was a prelude to a war that claimed the lives of 6,000 Jews, or 1% of
the total Jewish population in 1948. This toll is the per capita
equivalent of today’s Canada losing 300,000 lives, or the US losing
3,000,000. In addition, immediately after the UN vote, Arabs attacked
their Jewish neighbours in a number of Arab countries, the murders in
Syria’s Aleppo being the best known.

Bruised and bleeding, Israel prevailed nonetheless. May our
sister-democracy thrive and flourish.

Contributed by Joseph Alexander Norland.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

I am often inclined to think that, to a certain extent, nations get the leaders they deserve. Also, in more than few instances, the leader is really an embodiment of the “national character”, i.e. of that nation’s culture, it’s “collective psyche”. Naturally, this mostly applies to nations where the people have at least some say in choosing their leaders.
The Palestinians chose their leader themselves. No, I did not take Jimmy Carter seriously, when he wrote in the NYT some time ago that those elections were clean and fair. And I realize that there may have not been any serious competition. Yes, Clinton, Rabin and the EU are at fault, too. But the bottom line is that the Palestinians were given a chance at democracy, and they blew it by overwhelmingly electing Arafat. And this is a classic case of a people who deserve their leader, because he is the embodiment of what they are at their worst.
Now, if Arafat were kicked out, it would be very satisfying on an emotional level, to very many people. It would be even more satisfying if he was killed. But as a practical matter it is not going to do much good, and can even do some harm. (If he is kicked out, he will start touring the world again, regain legitimacy, raise money, and we will see him in the media much more often than I can bear. If he is killed, he will become a martyr, and we will not be able to kick him out, not to mention kill him again, and he will be all over our TV’s for a long time.)
Steve DB says that if Arafat were gone, “that would be one of the best things that could ever happen to the Palestinians”. It is true, but only if Palestinians themselves do it. They don’t need to kill him, just kick him out. Of course, I don’t see this happening any time soon. It would take for them to change their “national character”, their culture, their “collective psyche”. Absent some major traumatic event, it is not very likely to happen.
Now this might not make any sense, but I have the feeling that the Palestinians are running out of time. As long as Arafat is alive, they can kick him out – both literally (out of the country) and metaphorically (by changing their entire outlook on themselves, the world around them, on life, and on death). Once he is dead, even a natural death (and it will happen – he is not getting any younger) it will be so much more difficult, if not impossible for them to do. Steve says that they are digging their own grave, and I think that they are likely to share it with their chosen leader.

Imshin’s mother has just passed away. It often happens that I start feeling like I actually know a person whose blog I visit frequently. And, in a way, I do. That is why this especially saddened me.
I never knew my parents, and if this sounds sad, it really is not. Except, maybe, for the fact that I never fully understood the relationship between a person and his parents. That is, until I myself became a mother.
Yehi zichra baruch.
For the first time an HIV positive man has been accepted to serve in IDF, Maariv reports. The young man was unaware of his condition, until the time he was about to donate blood, while already serving in the IDF. He was discharged, but later has volunteered to serve, following an approval of a medical committee. He is placed in a combat support unit. He will be monitored by an army physician, and will be directed to a civilian AIDS center, if necessary.
IDF says that between the years 1987-2001 there were found 30 active duty, and 122 reserve soldiers who are HIV positive. This is the first time such a person has volunteered to serve. IDF says it encourages as many young people as possible to volunteer, provided they do not pose a health threat to themselves and others.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Tomorrow's show will be brought to you by the letters A and B:
That is: Arik vs Bibi. And the show, of course, is Likud's internal elections, which will determine who will be the next Israeli Prime Minister. Although I don't like Netanyahu, there is one aspect of his record as a PM that maybe interpreted in his favor, and that is economic policy. Bibi was PM in the 90ies - a period of significant economic growth in Israel. To be fair, the security situation was incomparably better than it is now, and so was the world economy. But Bibi was very much personally involved in the economic policy, which cannot be said about Sharon. Again, it may not be fair to expect Sharon to attempt any major economic policy initiatives during war time, other than the two that his TM Silvan Shalom did manage to pass: a new tax on capital gains, and a major cut in social aid programs (both were thought to be "unpassable"). But it just happens that Sharon does not really have an economic policy record. That said, I still think that he has the ability to surprise for the better, and so seem to do most Israelis - according to the polls.

(Crossposted here).
There was a failed attempt to highjack an Alitalia airplane on its way to Paris. The plane has landed safely in Paris. There were no more details given at this time. (IDF radio)
Update: the plane landed in Lion, rather than Paris. The would be highjacker is said to have claimed to be al-Qaida member, and is suspected to be insane. ???
I mean, aren't they all? BTW, a couple of days ago a man who knew the Israeli Arab that attempted to highjack an El-Al airplane en-route to Turkey, said that when he heard about the incident on his car radio, he had to pull over, and wait until he could stop laughing and drive again.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Glenn Reynolds writes: "The story of Saudi complicity in the 9/11 attacks seems to have legs, much to the discomfiture of the Bush Administration. Or is it all part of some devious plan?" I don't know about a devious plan, maybe just a sensible one. I am sure that Bush, just like me and many others, would like to see the fat Saudi ass kicked from here all the way to Riad. But this just may be the case where you don't change horses in the middle of a stream. I am sure we have nothing to lose by maintaining a relationship with them for the time being. And, since the Saudis know that we know just how dirty they hands are, they might even want to be useful to us, albeit not publicly. I am sure they also understand that once we - and the rest of the world - get our hands on Iraqi oil, we are going to need them much less than we do now. They are already running out of oil money, and it is only going to get worse. Without the oil money, they are effectively out of power, and this is only a matter of time. So I am not worried - they will get what they deserve.
More on church and state: on Morning Edition today there was a report on the Cobb county, Georgia school board decision to approve "a policy that allows science teachers to discuss other theories of human origins, in addition to evolution. Teachers await the new rules, which will spell out exactly what they can teach". Although I am a secular Jew, and although I would very strongly object if students were forced to pray in school, I don't have any problem with this one at all. On the contrary, it is always a good idea to present students with as many as possible alternative points of view on anything. Some might point out that in this particular case the alternative is silly, and it is, from my secular point of view. But let the students hear it and decide for themselves. Because the most important role of school is to teach the kids thinking and learning skills, and teach them how to make decisions for themselves. Actual information is only secondary. And besides, there is only so much information you can give them in 12 years, anyway.
One thing that I dislike about some public schools in America, is that they behave as if there is no such thing as religion at all. They even stopped using the words "Cristmas, Channukah, Haloween" etc. Instead, we now have generic Winter, Fall and Spring holidays. I would not mind this tranzi nonsense if it actually did make the minority students feel better. But I am afraid that what it does instead, is make all kids who celebrate any religious or traditional holiday feel as if there was something wrong about that.
In Israel, public schools are divided into secular and religious. Then, of course, there are the yeshivas for the orthodox and the ultra-orthodox, but that is a different story. Most Israelis are secular, and thus send their kids to the secular public schools, where from first grade on they are tought the Old Testament, and some of the later Jewish scriptures from an entirely secular perspective. This kind of instruction deals with the historical, sociological, legal, literary and other aspects of the religious texts. These lessons are often fascinating. I was lucky enough to have a wonderful teacher of the subject in highschool, and it was one of my and my classmates favorite.
There are no prayers in the secular public schools, but there are in the religious ones. One thing that this system lacks, IMO, is the instruction of the Quran and the New Testament (unless it has changed since I went to school). But this is still much better than the American approach.
Dave Barry and Wind Rider ask: how can one measure a flatulence rate of a kangaroo? Well, if we begin with a more stationary animal - like a cow, I think the answer can be found in Ireland. (Thanks to Steve Chapman for that Irish link.)

Monday, November 25, 2002

Writing on the wall - literally: It turns out one of the less obvious advantages the Palestinian terrorists have over IDF is the language barrier. While most Arabs in the "territories" understand, if not speak Hebrew quite well, most Israelis do not understand Arabic. It is often offered in schools, but only as an option along with other foreign languages (unlike English, which is part of the curriculum imposed by the state). And Arabic is not high on the list of a typical Jewish mother, who would rather have her child learn French, or at least Spanish.
One of my girlfriends in Israel came there from Lebanon at the age of 9. She and her several siblings still speak Arabic when they get together, but most of their kids (some of whom are no longer kids) don't. This puts Israeli citizens in general, and IDF soldiers in particular at a great disadvantage in every aspect of their dealings with Arabs, both inside Israel, and in the territories. Most Israelis get their news from the nearby Arab world through translation, which naturally follows selection.
While Israel still seems to be managing quite well when it comes to intelligence gathering, it has problems in areas that may seem less crucial, but still very important. A retired IDF general on IBA radio today pointed out one such area: the writings on the walls. They are everywhere in Palestinian towns and villages, and they are much more than Western style graffiti. They can contain anything from political messages, through wedding, birth and death announcements, to any other kinds of information. Often one can learn from them which of the several militant organizations, or which one of the competing leaders within an organization controls the specific area. To most IDF soldiers entering these densely populated areas these writings mean nothing. Another more obvious disadvantage is the frequent inability of the soldiers to communicate with the residents in language they understand best, or to simply listen in on someone's conversation.
The general also pointed out that if Israelis and Arabs are to live next to each other in the future, under whatever arrangement, it only makes sense that we understand them, not only that they understand us. I think many Israelis are familiar with the Arab culture to a certain extent, but there can be no full understanding without the mastering of the Arabic language. And in any event there is also much room for improvement in how educated Israelis are in the Arab and Islamic history. Speaking of history: I heard or read somewhere today that some Palestinians seem to be studying the history of Zionism and Israel very closely, with the key idea being that what had worked so well for the Jews, might work for them as well, and that some tactics or strategies may be worth emulating.

(Crossposted here).
Netanyahu can see the future, but not the past: he says he has information indicating that Sharon will not offer him a place in his government, if elected to lead the Likud on 11/28. Sharon says that Netanyahu declared earlier that he will not be willing to join such a government, but he (Sharon) will make the offer regardless. (IBA)
I find it interesting that the two countries most significantly affected by the Arab terrorism - Israel and the US, are seeing a very similar development in their respective politics. Both face an unmistakable shift to the right, leaving the left irrelevant, scrambling for answers, but instead just shooting themselves in the foot every time they open their mouth. Just listen to Daschle or Mitzna. This is not necessarily a good thing. In Israel, just like in the US, the right is associated to a certain degree with religious fundamentalists. So there is a need for an effective opposition to keep religion where it belongs, which is mostly in the privacy of the home. The small Israeli party Shinui, led by Yosef ("Tommy") Lapid is trying to fill the void, but it is probably too small (yet). Lapid is a staunch atheist, which I am not, so his push for a total separation between Judaism and the Jewish state is not something I am comfortable with. But it may be the only way to prevent civil war, after (or even before) the current war is over. I wonder how this might play out in the American politics, of which I have a lesser understanding. In light of Bush's background, I am not very optimistic. All this, of course, has big implications on the american Jews, and I am not ready to agree with people who call on them to vote republican for their own good. Most American Jews would feel quite uncomfortable in a more Christian fundamentalist America, and having a more fundamentalist Israel as the only alternative is not an encouraging prospect.
IBA radio says that there have been some new archeological findings in the Wailing Wall area. Among them are tunnels that Jews used to escape from the city during the destruction of the Second First Temple.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

Am I the only one who cannot access LGF?
This article from FoxNews is more than a week old, and I am sure there are several blogs that have dealt with it (I was out of the Blogosphere that week), but I am going to do it regardless, just because I need to get it off my chest:

President Bush characterized Islam as a peaceful faith Wednesday, seeking to distance himself from controversial remarks by conservative Christian leaders Pat Robertson and the Rev. Jerry Falwell.
This is not a spin: that is what Bush is trying to do.
"Some of the comments that have been uttered about Islam do not reflect the sentiments of my government or the sentiments of most Americans," Bush told reporters as he met with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
I don't know about the government, but as far as American people are concerned, I think maybe Bush would do well to take a page from Clinton's book on polling.
"Islam, as practiced by the vast majority of people, is a peaceful religion, a religion that respects others."
Says who, our friends the Saudis, or our friends the Egyptians?
"Ours is a country based upon tolerance, Mr. Secretary General," Bush said. "And we respect the faith and we welcome people of all faiths in America, and we're not going to let the war on terror or terrorists cause us to change our values."
Folks, whoever called Bush unsofisticated cowboy, did not have a clue.
Though Bush never mentioned their names, his remarks came in response to recent comments by Robertson and Falwell, the administration said.
Robertson, on his Christian Broadcasting Network, said Jews in the United States should "wake up, open their eyes and read what is being said about them."
"This is worse than the Nazis," Robertson said Monday. "Adolf Hitler was bad, but what the Muslims want to do to the Jews is worse."
I was never a fan of Mr. Robertson, and even less of a fan of Mr. Falwell, but when they are right, they are right. And don't tell me about strange bedfellows: I'd rather sleep on the couch.
Falwell, in a recent interview with CBS' "60 Minutes," said he had concluded from reading Muslim and non-Muslim writers that the Prophet Muhammad "was a violent man, a man of war." "I think Muhammad was a terrorist," the conservative Baptist minister said.
This is what caused the most outrage, even among some war-bloggers. I don't see why. It sounds very consistent with all I have read so far about Islam and Mohammad. While the term "terrorist" maybe be irrelevant to the 6th century, since being war-like was the thing to be at that time (no Geneva convention, either), why would people who party in the streets, when innocent people are blown to pieces, would be offended by this?
Muslims were outraged. An Iranian cleric called for his death while a general strike called to protest his comments in Bombay, India, turned into a riot, and five people were killed. Falwell later apologized.
Well, if an Iranian cleric calles for someone's death, that someone must be wrong, right? And, BTW, it turns out that Falwell is a wimp.
A senior official said the administration recognized that such comments had angered Muslims abroad and caused them to question whether they represent the opinions of the White House and of the American people.
What, they got even angrier than they were already?
The issue is particularly delicate for the Bush administration, because such Christian leaders are seen as Bush allies, and the remarks come at a time when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is trying to fan anti-American sentiment by charging Bush hates Islam.
And they are surprised most Jews still don't vote republican.
A recent tape apparently made by Usama bin Laden also called on Muslims to take up arms against the United States.
According to Osama's spokesman in Washington, his boss was ready to deliver a tape containing holiday wishes, but was forced to change it after he heard what Falwell said.
Bush has often said he believes Islam is a peaceful religion and has reached out to Muslims repeatedly since Sept. 11.
I wish he'd stop doing this. It stinks.
But given the remarks by Falwell and Robertson, Bush felt he needed to go a step further and repudiate the comments, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Bush's remarks came on the same day the Council on American-Islamic Relations urged Bush to repudiate anti-Islamic rhetoric, citing comments by Falwell and others.
"It is time for the president to step up to the plate on the issue of Islamophobia in America," said the group's board chairman, Omar Ahmad. "Merely repeating the mantra that Islam is a 'religion of peace' does little to stem the rising tide of anti-Muslim hate or to mitigate the negative impact that hate has on Muslim families."

What impact? Of what hate? On which families? Could Mr. Ahmad elaborate?
But, I agree on one thing: Mr. President does have to step up to the plate.

There, I feel much better now.
I have had a bunch of interesting articles bookmarked for a while now, and only now am I getting to read them. The only problem is that I don't remember whom to thank for the links. Like this one:
Inshira Mahameed, 30, of Umm el-Fahm, has announced her intention to run for a position on the Likud's list for the Knesset. She is reported to have been a member of the Likud's Wadi Ara branch since 1998.
According to reports in the Hebrew press, Mahameed expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of the Arab parties, maintaining that only the Likud can make changes for the benefit of the Arab community.

Nigeria's Islamic culture does not allow it to host a beuaty pageant, but they are interested in hosting the 2010 World Cup. And I thought that a self-respecting Islamic state only uses soccer fields for public executions...(Link via LGF).