Monday, December 24, 2007

Idiot of the Day Award

As many of you may have read, Israel is considering broadening the criteria for Palestinians prisoners qualifying for release in a potential swap. The negotiators claim that with current "no blood on their hands" criteria, there are no prisoners left!!
So today on the morning radio I heard Rafi Eitan, the health minister offer forth the following argument for release of murderers, including the ringleader Marwan Barguti: The prisoners organise themselves and remain activist in prison anyway (evidently we allow them to do so). So there's no reason to hold on to them, and if and when they return to terrorism (which they are extremely likely to do) we can simply arrest them again or kill them.
This is not only morally bankrupt but sheer lunacy. The terrorists kill or injure Israelis. IDF risks soldiers lives to capture them, after they commit terrorist acts. They are tried and convicted in a court of law. We then summarily release them so that they continue their activities, thus risking the lives of their potential victims and of the soldiers who have to arrest them again. Can you imagine Rafi Eitan making the same argument for releasing jailed common criminals?

Very compelling logic and brilliant strategic thinking.

Matan Vilnai, vice primier, and another over-confident and under-intelligent minister, states that we have to do anything to secure Shalit's release, and if this means releasing the arch-terrorist Barguti, then so be it. According to this logic, even if Hamas demands we withdraw from Jerusalem or disband the IDF we must do so, since we must pay any price.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Israel's Newspapers

Here's another example of the Israeli press's immature journalism and Ami Ayalon's stupidity.
Suddenly, yesterday every paper was carrying a story reporting some of this idiot's remarks, that could come either from the journal "Duh!", or from Neville Chamberlain's School of International Relations. Here are some of the "pearls" quoted in the stories:
1. There is a military intelligence "failure" in that we don't have enough information to rescue Shalit.
2. We should do no less to stop the Qassams than what we're doing to get Shalit back (presumable he means talk to Hamas)
3. Here's to real duezy: Hamas is now asking for a cease fire because they are in distress, for what reason? Because of the diplomatic process since Annapolis. (Not because of our military successes against them)

I can't believe that this guy was really head of the Shabak! Its kind of scary that he has a say in government policies.

Ayalon's PR man must have launched a campaign to get him some publicity, otherwise how can we explain why the ranting of a second rate politician suddenly appear in the headlines in all of the online papers? Israel's major newspapers, in their unprofessionalism, cooperate in this scam.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Now I figured it out

In one of my Shabbat discusions with a friend, I finally came to understand the essence of why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is destined to continue, and why around the world we are so misunderstood:

Good will.

Online definition:
"An attitude of kindness or friendliness; benevolence.
Cheerful acquiescence or willingness.
A good relationship, as of a business with its customers or a nation with other nations."

The American/western culture, in essence, values the "other" and sees conflict as a way of resolving misunderstanding. In other words, if 2 parties have a disagreement, it results from misunderstanding each other. Since the parties really want to resolve their differences, negotiation is really about problem solving and increasing each side's understanding of the other's needs and interests, thereby finding a creative solution. Everybody wins. American negotiation is characterized by pragmatic problem solving, with "goodwill" gestures and avoiding dirty tricks.

This is not part of Palestinian Arab culture, which sees negotiation more as a zero sum gain. I win and you lose. They are not men of good will. Gestures on our part, which we and the Americans see as "goodwill", are seen by them as concessions out of weakness, to be pocketed, and used in the future against us. Have we ever seen a "good will" gesture from them? I'm not saying we're all sugary with them, but there is a gulf between us in our basic approaches to negotiation. Herein lies the problem. We approach peace talks from a problem solving point of view, they view it as a method to defeat us, in lieu of or in parallel to, military force. In this case the rules of negotiation are very different than ours. Lying, cheating, and trickery are legitimate tools in negotiation to defeat the enemy. (They quite openly still refer to us as the "enemy"). Witness Iran's antics in dealing with the West.

Here in Israel I work for a medical HMO. We have branches in East Jerusalem, run by local Arabs. I am told by my administrative colleagues that doing projects with them is nearly impossible. Why? Because we'll set up a meeting, come up with agreement on a plan, and shake hands over it. Later, when the plan isn't implemented, when the local Arab administrative head is confronted, he behaves as though no plan was agreed upon and we have to start all over.

So the Americans and Europeans see the problem as an issue of misunderstanding, whereas in truth, we understand each other all too well.

Therefore, I don't see a resolution in the foreseeable future, until the Pals lose all hope of defeating us.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Did religion evolve?

One of the hot topics now among evolutionary biologists is the existence and survival of religion among human beings. Is religion and belief part of our wiring? In Darwinian theory a trait that evolved and survived did so for a reason. Did it evolve in order to give the species some survival advantage? If so, what about it modern times? The plethora of religious beliefs as far back as recorded history, and its existence everywhere, is fascinating. That people are drawn to faith is certain, but why?
One school of reasoning is that faith is indeed an adaptive evolved trait. It gave groups a survival advantage, whose members organized around a group of similar believers, giving them a social structure and primitive organized society. To the individual, faith gives strength, comfort, community support and predictability.
Others argue that religion logically is maladaptive, in that the person believes in imagined beings and false explanations. So how could that be a survival advantage? Seemingly, the most "logical" rational intelligence would have an advantage over others. According to this school, religion is considered a "spandrel" (literally, the unplanned space between two arches). In evolutionary theory, a spandrel is an "unintended" byproduct of another trait that is in fact, advantageous to survival. A classic example, which Dawkins gives, is the moth, which uses the angle of incidence from the sun to navigate in a straight line. Since the sun is at an infinite distance, this angle doesn't change. But a close artificial light source, like a lamp, is close, so the angle changes, causing the moth to spiral into the light.
Man's large cortex and intelligence gave him an advantage over other species. Part of this intelligence includes determination of cause and effect. Certainly a creature who could learn well from mistakes and figure out the causes for things would do better than a creature who couldn't. Yet ancient man didn't have to tools to really understand the cause of many natural phenomena around him. So his drive to understand these things lead him to find hidden, unseen causes for these experiences. So the basic intellectual trait, which is adaptive, went "awry" with religion.

Both explanations seem plausable. My sense is that by observing how people today are drawn to religion that even now it has adaptive value in helping people living a meaningful and healthy life.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Absolute or Relative Morality?

Religious fundamentalists (including Jews) claim moral superiority because their morality is absolute, from God, as opposed to secular and humanistic values, that shift over time. Herein lies the biggest flaw in their ideology.

Any serious student of Jewish history and halachah knows that Jewish law and morality has shifted over time. This is true for all religions. Even for the ultra-orthodox morality and law is not absolutist but evolved over time (albeit more slowly than general society), given societal pressures. Their morality is a function of the society with which they identify. Yes, it is anchored in an ancient tradition through a process, but it definitely shifts.

Think about attitudes about women, relations with non-Jews, slavery, economics, sacrifice, etc. To assert that Jewish ethics is absolute is completely ridiculous. A good book about this topic is "T'murot B'sadeh Hahalach", by Akiva Sternberg (in Hebrew).

As far as God being the source of morality, I would posit that most religious people observe their ethical norms because of the societal structure that they live in, not because of God, since clearly they have to determine what God wants of them through man's interpretation ("an eye for an eye", etc). Do not kill? It depends who is doing the killing and the being killed!!Would a Beit Din now burn a prostitute? This "intepretation" changes due to societal pressures and circumstances.

Just like American culture is a function of American history, laws, norms and societal pressure, Judaism started as the ethical and legal system of ancient Israel, and bears little resemblance to modern Judaism (even though many ultraorthodox like to believe that they are observing Judaism like they did during the Temple era).

IMHO, morality is a man-made construct to make society more livable, and is part of our emotional makeup. Religion then adds holiness to it and gives it metaphysical meaning. This perhaps strengthens it but also makes it resist the inevitable adaptation and change. Maybe for the better but who knows?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

To all readers!

Please Note: I have changed the settings to this blog to allow anonymous comments, so you don't need to log in or have an account.

I welcome all of your comments!


The teacher's strike in Israel is seriously disrupting hundreds of thousands of high school students and their families (including mine). Israel still has a very strong socialist vestige, and the labor laws and courts essentially block the possibility or breaking a strike. In the recent past, Israel has been afflicted by strikes at Ben Gurion airport, the sea ports, city services (including garbage collection), banks, universities, hospitals and postal services. There has been some form of teacher's strike almost every academic year. I would claim that at a societal level this is very dysfunctional and would qualify for a Darwin Award. Most of the strikes end with very marginal gains for the strikers, who then strike again after a short time. They are often political in nature, intended to advance the interest of a particular labor leader or organization. The electric company, which is a national monopoly and has the highest paid workers of any sector in the economy (including private), can also strike and bring the country to its knees but shutting down the power (although this hasn't happened in a long time, thankfully).

It's about time that Israel revises its labor law to ban strikes in the public sector (such a law exists in the US for federal workers) . In 2002 when Bibi Netanyahu was finance minister he initiated legislation to outlaw public worker strikes but backed down when the unions agreed to accepts wage cuts during a severe economic slowdown. These strike cause severe economic damage to Israel, not only in direct losses in productivity, but due to harm in its industry's ability to meet commitments to international partners, and thus result in lost/cancelled agreements, future deals and imposed penalties.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Peace Negotiations

One might almost begin to believe the news reports regarding negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The fact is that these are destined to go nowhere for the forseeable future. Here's why:

1. Everybody--the Americans, the Israelis and the Palestinians--know that the bottom line positions of the two sides are mutually incompatible. Israel cannot give the Palestinians the state they seek and remain viable herself.
2. The extremists on the Palestinian side will veto any potential agreement using violence and terrorism. This can be counted on.
3. The Americans are stretched thin militarily and diplomatically and cannot do anything unilaterally. They need the support of the Europeans for dealing with Iran, Iraq, N Korea and Syria.
4. It follows from 1-3 above, that, to help get Europe on board, the best course for the Americans is to create the illusion of diplomatic activity and that they are trying to solve the Middle East's problems. Thus all of Condy's trips. the November conference, etc.
5. It follows from 4, above, that Israel must cooperate with this game, knowing full well that it will lead nowhere, and that it must tread carefully in order to avoid being pressured into making compromises that jeapordize its current or future security. Thus, the talks with Abu Mazen, who is powerless to cancel a parking ticket, and trial balloons in the press every day.
If the past is any indication, it would seem that at some point the negotiations will blow up (again) and lead to a new wave of violence.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Zionism, US foreign policy, and Muslim Terrorism

Because of propaganda directed at the West, by Al Qaida and Palestinian terrorist groups, it is easy for some of us (either because of wishful thinking or well-meaning humanistic ideals) to be convinced that terrorism is a desperate, pained response by the Muslims to real or perceived injustices. If somehow we could only redress these greivances, we could get to the root cause of terrorism. This is the standard narrative of the Left here in Israel and liberals in America. Never mind that there isn't any evidence for this being true, given our experience with terrorism (particularly that it INCREASES any time we make gestures, concessions, or attempt to make agreements).
For those of you who have any doubt about the matter, I advise you to read this. Basically, the author shows that propaganda directed to western liberal audiences (particularly the message that terrorism is punishment for Western misbehavior, and promises to stop if certain conditions are met) is psychological warfare, while in propaganda to Arabs no mention is made of Zionist or American crimes. Rather, the issue is the fundamental Muslim attitude towards the kufr, the non-believer.
These Muslims harbor resentment over their status of inferiority in relation to the western world. In any measurable sphere of human progress-- economic, scientific, technological, and political-- they are behind. The fact that the kufr is more powerful than them and not subservient is unacceptable in their theology. In their view the Quran commands them to fight the kufr until defeat or until they convert to Islam.
The Palestinian cause has been effectively hijacked by Islamicism. It is no longer about nationalism, because they could have had their Palestinian state along time ago. The Palestinian terrorists' narrative is that of unending Islamic resistance to the heretics and their control over "Islamic lands".
Our strategy is to utterly defeat them, or bring them to the point where they feel that their cause is hopeless.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Moral Psychology, Columbia U and Ahmadinejad

The recent controversy surrounding Ahmadinejad's visit to New York and the audience granted to him at Columbia highlights the moral dilemmas and conflicting values inherent in liberal Western values. While most of the media and politicians refer mainly to the limitations of the right to freedom of speech, in reality the differences of opinion on this matter reflect a deep- seated argument about morality that goes to the core of our values. By the time this essay appears I assume that much will have been said about the Iranian president's visit; therefore in this essay I will focus on the broader controversy regarding the source of our morality, using the visit as an example for analysis.

In the past few years several books have been published espousing atheism. Books by Richard Dawson, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris are among the most popular recent entries into the fray. The books have generated much controversy and public reaction. Although the specifics of their styles and focus are different, the thrust of these books boils down to three main points: 1. Science, and not religion, has proven itself useful in finding answers to questions about our physican world. 2. Religion accounts for much, of not most of the evil in the world. 3. The multitude of incompatible and conflicting religious beliefs, combined with the internal inconsistencies in each, demonstrate their falsehood. All of the authors come to the same conclusion: The world would be a better place without religion. While I don't want to foray into this endless debate, I want to focus on the specific claim regarding morality: that a godless, liberal, western and rational society represents the best morality available.

Dawkins and his ilk propose that rational, fair-minded thinking is capable of producing ethics on par with those of religious communities. But what kind of ethics? While one could easily agree on the most basic tenets of humanity, such as not killing, stealing, and the provision of justice, it is beyond this point the moral systems of the religious and atheist diverge. Jonathan Haidt, a psychologist at the University of Virginian, wrote an excellent essay entitled "Moral Psychology and the Misunderstanding of Religion". (available online at ) Haidt speaks of 5 components of our moral sensibilities, which are functions of both our intellect and emotional makeup. (1) harm/care; (2) fairness/reciprocity; (3) ingroup/loyalty; (4) authority/respect; and (5) purity/sanctity (the sense that certain things are noble or repulsive). According to Haidt, the first 2 components make up the "contractual" model of morality, which holds the individual as the highest unit of value.

Accordingly, in this liberal world view, the ultimate ethic is to avoid harm and suffering to the individual and increase happiness. In contrast, in the religious, conservative world view, components 3,4 and 5 take no less an important role. Haidt calls this the "beehive" model, in that while the individual has rights, these are no less important than his responsibilities to the cohesivenes of the group. These responsibilities are reinforced by respect towards authority, loyalty towards one's group (whatever it may be), and a common sense of what is worthwhile and what is not. These are psychological mechanisms that help suppress the human tendency towards selfishness, and reinforce generosity, self-sacrifice and loyalty. One can assume that the "liberal" atheist outlook contains these ethical concepts as well, but they are emphasized to a much lesser degree. Furthermore, without the "myth" of religion, or national or ethnic narrative, these components of morality are much harder to maintain.

Let us now return to our case of Mr. Ahmadinejad. The liberal, secular ethic would emphasize the ultimate "fairness" of protecting the free speech of even a hostile non-citizen. Furthermore, this freedom is necessary in order to protect the individual from the potential "harm/suffering" of suppression of expression. In contrast, the "religious" view, while acknowledging the need to not harm people, nonetheless underlines the need to protect the "unit" of society, in terms of security and cohesiveness. Furthermore, it acknowledges and validates the human sense of "revulsion" that we have towards our declared enemy, thus not granting him the same treatment given to our own group.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Article from Magazine "Duh!"

Here is a product of the 3000 year old accumulated Jewish intelligence:

Cabinet votes Gaza a 'hostile entity'

2 years ago we withdrew from Gaza. Since then, this "entity" has demonstrated non-stop hostility towards Israel, with daily attempts at bombing, shootings, infiltrations and rocket attacks on civilian targets. Meanwhile, we supply them with electricity, water, fuel and food. We also allow their workers to come into Israel for work. Then, if we threaten to stop materially supporting our enemies, we are accused of collective punishment.

The absurdity of this situation is a function of what Richard Dawkins calls "shifting moral zeigeist". Basically, this means that moral standards shift over time. Rights take precedence over responsibilities. During WWII or during the Vietnam War, the US or Britain could firebomb entire areas and kill civilians indiscriminately, who paid the price of the war effort. This same behavior would now be considered unacceptable, among Western powers. Nowadays the "rights" of the individual to safety (in our case the Palestinians) take precedence over the right or responsibility that Israel has to defend its citizens. It is also more important than the Palestinians' responsibility to prevent rockets being forward from their land. So Israel has to equivocate and do pilpul (talmudic back and forth analysis) before even turning off electricity in Gaza.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Iranian Nukes

I propose that Ehud Olmert forward the following email to the leader of Iran:

TO: Mr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the entire Iranian leadership

FROM: The Jewish State

SUBJECT: Your nuclear "project"

Dear Mr. President,

Of late there has been much discussion regarding nuclear technological development in your country. Although you deny the intention to develop nuclear weapons, it is unclear what belies your evasiveness, stonewalling and diplomatic maneuvering. Furthermore, your expressed desire to wipe our country "off the map" makes your hostile intentions towards us quite clear (if you mean what you say).

As a signatory to the NNPT you have a right to nuclear technology for civilian peaceful purposes, and Israel has no intention in interfering with this. But let me be crystal clear in stating, that Israel has no intention of allowing you to "wipe" us off the map, or allowing to you to possess the means to do so. We will vigorously defend our right to exist in our land, and will do whatever is required to secure that right. I believe that recent events in Syria adequately demonstrate our willingness and ability to do so.

Whatever your attitudes are towards the West in general or Israel specifically, we have no a priori hostile intent towards you and have no wish for war. However, as the leader of my country I will not shy away from the responsibility of defending the world's sole Jewish state from destruction, by you or anybody else.

For the sake of all peoples in the region, I call upon you to openly and fully cooperate with the IAEC's effort to verify your compliance with the NNPT and to confirm your development of solely civilian nuclear capabalities.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

What happened in Syria?

The fog about the recent IDF incident in Syria leaves us curious and thirsty for more information. What really happened there?

Lacking inside information (even Debkafile doesn't know!), but by reconstructing a few known facts we can try to guess:

1. Even by Syrian reports this was not an accidental or incidental foray across Syria's border. It was a deep infiltration via its northwestern coastal frontier to its central-eastern sector. Yet the planes were reportedly only fired upon upon their exit to the northwest.

2. The Syrians waited a full 12 hours before reporting the infiltration. This perhaps means that they were deliberating what information to release or to report on it at all. In other words, they appear to be concealing something, perhaps the targets, or the degree to which their anti-aircraft systems failed. Note that Russia was one of the first countries to condemn the raid.

3. The dumping of the fuel tanks appears to be an evasive maneuver. On their way out the planes were detected and being fired upon, but without being hit. (One can assume that if planes were downed we would know about it from gleeful Syrians)

4. What does the Israeli silence mean? There was probably a secret, sensitive mission (beyond routine surveillance), which, either 1. did not go as planned or 2. succeeded. My impression is of the latter, because if there was a failure we would be hearing leaks and people blaming each other for it. The smug, self-confident denials (and almost uncharacteristic total silence from govenrment officials) makes me believe that the mission was succesful, or that they are waiting for intelligence assessments of the mission.

5. What could the mission have been? Possibilities include 1. a probing of the Syrian/Russion/Iranian air defense systems. 2. destruction of the above system. My guess is the first, as an attack on a military target would be a clear provocation to war in which Israel is not interested at this point.

Islam and Terrorism

Five Reasons that western intellectuals give for terrorism and the Arabs/Muslims hatred of the west:

1. Israel's oppression of the Palestinians and lack of a Palestinian state
2. America's support for Israel
3. America's support for non-democratic Arab/Muslim regimes
4. Poverty and economic backwardness of Arabs
5. Western exploitation of Muslims (oil)

And Five Reasons why they are wrong...

1. Every time Israel and the Palestinians get close to some kind of peace agreement terrorism increases. The Palestinians would have had their state a long time ago were it not for Hamas and the second intifada.

2. Osama bin Laden couldn't care less about the Palestinians, whose lot only worsened after 9/11. If suddenly there were Pal-Israel peace, would Ibn Laden go away? Would Muslims stop blowing up Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Ssudi Arabia, Sudan?

3. The Arab world is not ready for democracy. What happened when Algeria, Gaza and Iraq tried to democratize? Islamic fundamentalists took over and guess what? terrorism. America has supported plenty of non democratic govenments in its history, without promoting terrorism. The 9/11 terrorists came from well off families, professional men.

4. Poverty and economic backwardness abounds in Africa, South America, and parts of Asia. Impoverished Hindus, Vietnamese, Brazilians, Cubans? No terrorism.

5. There is economic interdependence between OPEC countries and the west, not exploitation. The west's economy needs oil, and OPEC's countries get huge amounts of cash.

The west's excuses are just wishful thinking and adopting of the Islamists own narrative. If only WE would be good the terrorists will go away...

So, what are the real reasons?

1. Arabs and fundamentalist Muslims are offended by Western infidels' dominance of the world and their own backwardness. This contradicts their religious expectations, sensibilities, history and sense of justice.

2. As much as they hate the West, they hate even more their own co-religionists who cooperate with the West. Thus their first goal is to topple "pro-western" muslim and Arab regimes.

3. A global economy and technological development have allowed previously impossible activities for terrorists. Cheap Asian made weapons, cellphones, internet and computers have given terrorists access to the logistics and coordination previously available only to governments or large organizations. While guerrilla warfare and terrorism also existed in the past, it was much harder and much less deadly. So now the fundamentalists have new tools at their disposal. They are empowered with new abilities.

4. The Islamists understand the modern West's weaknesses and how to exploit them: tolerance, sensitivity to suffering and loss of human life, democratic systems of government.

Despite the differences, there are remarkable similarities between the rise of Islamicism and the rise of Fascism. They are populist movements, led by demagogues who take advantage of the inferiority complex of peoples, fueled by resentment from real or imagined grievances, and whose growing power and danger are underestimated by liberal western societies. Western attempts at appeasement only encourage the Islamists and strengthen them.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Here are my favorite Israel news analysis web sites

Recommended sites:
  • Ynet-- The online version of Yediot Achronot, Israel's leading daily, available in Hebrew and English. Its a bit sensationalist, but overall gives fairly accurate headlines.
  • Jerusalem Post-- The leading English newspaper. The English editing is a bit weak, sometimes a bit dull, and the coverage is shallow at times. Editorial slant fairly centrist, with columnists representing both liberal and conservative views.
  • GPlanet-- Dr. Guy Bechor, if the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center. News analysis and opinion. Provides very interesting essays regarding current events, from the point of view of an expert on Middle East affairs. Hebrew and English.
  • JCPA-- Excellent articles and essays on Israel, from a strategic, military and diplomatic perspective, in English.
  • Google News-- gives excellent coverage of the region, with often interesting news and analysis from foreign, including Arab, sites.
  • Israel National News-- English news site operated by Arutz 7, the right wing national religious station. The news stories are accurate, and right wing editorial for those who care to read them. Also, the site features good-news type human interest stories about life in Israel.
Not Recommended:
  • Haaretz-- a far left, anti-Zionist newspaper with poor editorial standards. Blatant editorial bias in news stories and headlines, and no accountability for inaccuracies. Haaretz does have a good financial section.
  • Debkafile-- A neo-con news and analysis website that claims to reveal behind the scenes scoops on current events. Basically conspiratorial and unreliable. Most of their "predictions" turn out to be false and their "sources" are questionable. They take bits of information, some reliable and some not, and weave them into an overall theory to fit their "spin"-- usually doom and gloom, neocon. Sometimes entertaining.

This is me on a cruise in Eilat, during my tiyul (leisure trip) with work. In the background is the Jordanian mountain range, off Aqaba.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Human rights in the era of terrorism

Once again Israel is being dragged through the tar by human rights organizations who claim that we targeted civilians indiscriminately during the second Lebanon war.

For the purpose of this argument, let us, for the moment, disregard the fact that Hizbullah intentionally targeted civilians, and that they hid their terrorist infrastructure within their own civilian population. The key question here is, what is deterrence? The doctrine of deterrence applies to the balance of power between states. It applied particularly during the cold war, but is an essential part of the defense doctrine of all western countries. In an era of missiles, warplanes, nuclear weapons, how do we defend our civilians? We say to our potential attacker, that whatever you do to us, we can do back to you even more harshly. If you attack our cities, we can attack yours. Otherwise, what's the use of deterrence, if, when your own population is attacked, you only attack "proportionately" again military targets only?

What other self defense is available in a situation, where rockets cannot be interecepted and cannot be located?

Israel acted correctly in bombing civilian and infrasructure targets. Now the Arabs know that we will not hesitate to massively bomb them if they bomb us. This is deterrence!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Cause and Effect

One of the adaptive abilities developed by higher forms of life, especially in humans, is the ability to learn from our environment. At the most basic level we learn an association between 2 events (such as in classic conditioning). Many animals can do that. We humans, as we grow, also develop the ability to discern causality, in that we are able to distinguish, given 2 associated events, between cause an effect.
Apparently the Palestinians, stuck in their collective psychopathology, lack this skill.
The recent justifications by the Palestinians for the continued Qassam rocket fire at Sderot illustrates this. This reminds me of a maladjusted child, who misbehaves and is punished for his actions, and who then protests and misbehaves even more, claiming that he misbehaved only because of the actions of those around him who are only responding to his offensive behavior. The Palestinians, like the child, confuse cause and effect (or pretends to). Everybody knows (except the Pals themselves) that if the Palestinians were not perpetrating terrorist actions from Gaza, there would be no need for the legitimate security measures that Israel is taking, such as the closures, etc. Further reinforcing this pathology is the international community which refers to the "cycle of violence", thus absolving the Palestinians from responsibility.
Another explanation is that the Palestinians know very well the cause and effect, that the Kassams have nothing to do with Israel's behavior but more to do with internal Palestinian power struggles.
Probably the truth lies in a combination of the two.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Self-hating Israeli news reporters

This article speaks for itself and confirms what I have said about many of Ha'aretz writers' unabashed anti-Israel bias.

Zionist Federation cancels Haaretz journalist
Columnist Danny Rubinstein reportedly likens Israel to apartheid South Africa

According to Alan Dershowitz's criteria, this kind of writing borders on anti-Semitism, while disproportionately demonizing and singling out of Israel for criticism, in the context of dozens of nationalistic struggles worldwide.

So now Danny Rubenstein can join the Avraham Burg club of Israel and Jew bashers.

I have found good summary articles from the excellent CAMERA site, regarding Ha'aretz's questionable editorial standards and anti-Israel bias; they can be found here and here

By no means should readers expect to obtain a balanced, responsible or objective view of events in Israel from Ha'aretz.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

It's not all bad

Perhaps, because of the selected emphasis of this blog, I have created an overly negative impression of events in Israel. So, on order to set the record straight, let's take note of a few additional facts:

1. The economy is continuing to grow at a healthy pace of 5-6% per year. A recent report by the IMF rates Israel's per capita income, at $31,767, placing it number 18 of the developed countries, on par with France, Germany and Italy. This is a remarkable acheivement, given Israel's challenges. About a month ago I attended a lecture by Dr. Stanley Fischer, the governor of the Bank of Israel, who is optimistic about Israel's economy. The interest rates here are lower than the US, the currency is strong with low inflation, we have large foreign currency reserves, a trade surplus, a balanced national budget, decreasing national debt and declining unemployment. All of these are basic indicators of a healthy economy. Liberalization and privatization in various sectors in the economy continues unabated

2. Israel has learned the lessons of the failures of the last war in Lebanon. Ground forces have undergone extensive additional training, and an effective short range rocket interception system is currently in the advanced stages of development. Despite the foulups of the last war, no country in the region is in a mood for a bruising fight with Israel, despite the rhetoric. The main cost of the war was an erosion of the Arab's sense that we can't be defeated, thus delaying the eventual realization that they have no choice but to make peace with us. Undoubtedly Israel faces new challenges with the potential of a nuclearized Iran, but I think that we are up to the challenge.

3. Israel has an excellent nationalized health care system based on rational allocation of resources and accessibility to all. It's not perfect, but on par with good systems in Europe. Nothing like the system presented in "Sicko".

Just to keep things in perspective...

Friday, August 31, 2007

More Ha'aretz anti-Israel bias: Darwin, where are you?

Here is a gem. Ha'aretz reports, in the lead story on its web site, the the Palestinian children who were killed on Wednesday were playing tag near the rocket launchers. No other news web site is carrying this item. The article, written by Amos Harel, sarcastically comments about the IDF's initial explanation. The article implies that the army determined that the children were playing nearby and nonetheless carried out the attack. The overall tone of the article conveys a sense that the IDF acts brutally and carelessly, and then tries to cover up its mistakes.
The truth of the reporter's "scoop" is questionable, and the editorial slant is defamatory to the IDF and Israel. Furthermore, this story is carried as a LEAD HEADLINE!
This kind of dishonest crap incites Israel's enemies and provides fodder to the Palestinians propagandists and their European "human rights" friends.
This Israeli behavior is almost as maladaptive as the Palestinian's collective psychopathology.
I've come to the conclusion that much of the political and diplomatic difficulty that we face around the world is the product of our own self-defeating and self-flagellating extreme left media.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

More on Palestinian Pyschopathology

As a follow up to my previous post, Dr Guy Bechor explains the overall maladaptive behavior of the Palestinian national movement. This boils down to one obvious conclusion: The Palestinians don't really want to be independent. If they really wanted a state, they would have been able to have one along time ago, in 1948, 1967 and 2000. Yet, each time when they get close to getting what they say they want, they blow things up in their own faces. Instead of building up the physical, social and financial infrastructure for a future state, they squander all of the world's goodwill (and contributions) towards self-defeating violence. After all, it much easier to blame "the occupation" for all of ones ills than actually take responsibility. One gets the sense that the Palestinians have a pathological love-hate relationship with being occupied, which permits them to perpetually wallow in hatred and victimhood.
Pretty pathetic.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Our Palestinian cousins haven't heard of Darwin

Today's events in Gaza represent yet another example in the long string of maladaptive behavior of the Palestinian people. Out of their endless hatred of Israel, they are willing to send their children to the Kassam rocket launch sites, in order to retrieve the used launchers. They do this knowing full well that the launchers are targets of the IDF and that they are exposing their children to mortal danger. Even more cynically, they do this intentionally so that Israel will be criticized ( especially by Israel's own leftists) for not doing enough to prevent civilian casualties. It's also great propoganda for internal purposes to show how cruel Israel is.

As usual, ultimately their strategy will backfire and they will continue to be their own greatest enemies.

Are these people worthy of a state?

Halachic Fictions

Speaking of Christopher Hitchens, here is a news item from Ha'aretz. No, this time I'm not complaining about Ha'aretz, but about the mixing of religion and politics.

This articles essentially explains that in order for us to eat "kosher" fruits and vegetables during the Shmita, or Sabbatical, year coming up, we must "sell" the farm land to a non-Jew, so that the Shmita laws don't apply. (A Jewish owned farm may not be cultivated for the whole year). The Israeli rabbinate holds by this "sale" (which is symbolic and on paper only), although many ultra-orthodox don't, and insist on buying their produce from abroad or from Gaza, which is considered outside of Israel. During Shmita when you go into a restaurant or store you'll see various certificates signed by different rabbis indicating which type of supervision is used for the fruits and veggies.
This is similar to other legal fictions in Halacha, such as selling chametz on pesach to a non-Jew, or transferring loans to the rabbinic court on the Jubilee year to avoid the Biblical imperative of forgiving all loans. Another example is the "Heter Iska", which is the legal loophole permitting payment of interest on loans and investments, circumventing the Biblical proscription of charging interest. This reminds me of the joke about the Orthodox rabbi bragging to the Reform rabbi about how he deals with the problem of smoking among his congregants, by arranging for the sale of their lungs to a non-Jew.
What other religion does such things? We must look pretty damn stupid.
It is very clear that there was (and will continue to be) a progressive development of Halacha over time that was forced upon it by the changes in society, but the rabbis had to create the impression that these changes were consistent with the Torah. Nothing wrong with changes, but let's be honest!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Israeli Self-Flagellation

One of my favorite news analysis web sites for understanding the Middle East is Dr. Guy Bechor's page. No, you won't find conspiracy theories, scoops, or other nonsense. Just level-headed commentary on the situation, free of political agendas, and based on his expert understanding of Middle Eastern mentality, politics and history.

The original Hebrew articles are more elegantly written, but this English translation of a recent post describes the Israeli tendency towards self-criticism, that often reaches a pathological level. Whereas the Arabs do the reverse, blame outsiders for every misfortune that befalls them, we Israelis collectively blame ourselves for everything. Of course, this stops when it comes to an individual politician admitting error. However, every national issue, from the climate, water, security situation, Arab extremism and terrorism, to road accidents and poverty-- are a result, according to our newspapers and politicians, of incompetence, negligence, malice or other preventable causes.

A measured dose of self-criticism is healthy, if it helps to expose and correct mistakes. But here it is unrestrained and used for political purposes, only results in national depression (and embarrassment in the eyes of the world)

The issue of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier being held hostage by the Palestinians, has been getting emphasis again lately. The media converage has been interminable, not out of sympathy for the family, but more out of the desire to blame ourselves-- for the incompetence of the kidnapping in the first place, to the failure to obtain his release. Guy Bechor has written about this, too. In a nutshell, the possibility and timing of a release has more to do with internal Arab politics than with anything we can do.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Me at Shmurat Dan

Tendentious reporting in Ha'aretz

OK, here is a good example:

This story reports on the near lynching of an Israeli soldier in Jenin and his rescue by Palestinian policeman.

1. The paper claims that there was a gunbattle between police and Islamic Jihad militants who were trying to kidnap him. No other media reported such an event, other than police firing into the air to keep the rioters away while they were escorting the soldier to headquarters.

2. By emphasizing Livni's comments about the PA strengthening, along with the supposed "shootout", the article gives the impression of a supposedly strong "good guy" police defeating "bad guy" militant organizations.

While the Pal police certainly deserve our thanks for saving the soldier, the Ha'aretz article distorts the true and fair grasp of the event: A hapless soldier stumbles into a Palestinian town, inhabited by residents with a bottomless well of hatred toward Israel, is almost lynched, and is rescued by Palestinian police doing their jobs. A close call. If anything, the main lesson of the story is not about the "good guys" getting stronger, but about the limitless hostility among the Palestinians, being promulgated by their media and education, which all but precludes a settlement anytime in the near future.

I assert that this article intentionally attempts to present a falsely optimistic picture to the Israeli public about the true state of affairs, while serving as a basis to pressure the Israeli government for more "gestures" to Abu Mazen.

My First Specimens

Here are today's specials:

1. Last night on the way to a meeting, I was driving on the Beit Oved highway between Nes Tziona and Rishon. On a particularly dark, unlighted section of the road, I noticed some cars braking. As I passed I noticed two young men, riding bicycles, wearing dark clothing, with no helmets and no reflectors or lights on either the bikes or on their persons, riding on the side of the road (not even the shoulder).

I can only hope and pray that these guys don't make it long enough to have offspring!!

2. Dr Yuli Tamir, currently Israel's education minister and probably one of our most ungifted politicians , recently called on Ehud Barak, the defense minister, to sign a statement guaranteeing that the schools in Sderot are safe for students and that they won't be harmed by Kassam missiles. Otherwise she won't open the school year. Barak's assistant shot back that Mr. Barak would be willing to sign such a statement, only after 1. Yuli Tamir would sign a statement that the schools are safe from violence, 2. The chief minister of police Avi Dichter would sign that there would be no crime, and 3. If transportation Minister Mofaz would sign that the roads are safe and there will be no auto accidents.

Dr Tamir, you win the award this week!

3. Rav Ovadia Yosef used to be a respected halachic authority. But once again religion and politics poison each other, as the old man opened his mouth claiming that soldiers died in the Lebanon war because they didn't pray or put on tefillin. These idiotic comments really make me identify with Christoper Hitchens.

4. In later posts I will be writing extensively about Israel's print and electronic media, who consitently, systematically and maliciously, search and seek out, or invent, and then magnify, false news stories. The outcome of this self-destructive stupidity is to intentionally mislead readers and to use the enemy's psychological warfare against our own public in a breathtakingly irresponsible and maladaptive act.

The Israeli Darwin Awards

This blog will be my collection of personal experiences and news stories reflecting the precarious nature of human intelligence. I will attempt to make posts at least once a week, giving detailed examples of human stupidity in public life here in Israel. My hope in exposing these examples is to improve the survival of the Jewish species by selecting out the least deserving of our kind.