Monday, December 21, 2009

Another Lop-Sided Prisoner Exchange on the Way

I shudder to think of the massive strategic damage that Israel will inflict upon itself when it approves (and I'm sure it will) the latest deal for Gilad Shalit. No, it's not fair that Gilad Shalit and his parents should shoulder the responsibility for Israel's strategic position in the Middle East. But it wasn't "fair" that he was kidnapped in the first place.

The released terrorists will return to organizing and carrying out terrorist activity. Nobody questions this, given the history of these releases in the past. Hamas will rightfully claim a major victory against Israel, which will strike a mortal blow against Abbas and his Fatah organization. Nothing Israel could do would prove more clearly to Hamas that kidnapping pays off and so does force. The damage to Israel's deterrence and diplomatic status in the region will be incalculable, and will dwarf the harm that Israel suffered in the Lebanon War of 2006. Hamas and Hizbullah will be emboldened, and Israel will hold its breath, until the next kidnapping or wave of terrorist attacks. Yet Israel's leaders and media continue to march forward in a march of the mad.

I feel sorry for the Shalit family, and I certainly wouldn't want to be in their shoes. But I cannot imagine any other country acting in such an irrational way, contrary to its supreme national interest. There are those who argue that Shalit's release is necessary because of a "contract" with draftees, that anything will be done to secure their release, and that boys won't agree to be drafted otherwise. But I have seen no evidence of this. For the past 3 years since Shalit's kidnapping, there has been no such phenomenon. Motivation is high. Any draft dodging is done for other ideological reasons, having nothing to do with Shalit.

Israel needs to act like a proud and strong country, willing to act (and suffer if necessary) to secure its national interests.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

An Open Letter to the World from Israel (WARNING-ADULT LANGUAGE)

Dear Friends and Enemies of Israel:

Last Thursday, Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech to the UN. This speech pretty much expresses how the vast majority of Israelis feel. We are not surprised but nonetheless outraged at the UN Goldstone report. We are outraged at the audience given at the UN to a venomous, anti-semitic, holocaust-denying lunatic who openly states that radical Islam is a gift the world. We are outraged that an American president, the leader of the free world and probably our only natural ally, refers to Jews living in the West Bank as "illegitimate".

Perhaps the most important point that Netanyahu made in his speech, relates to demands from the Arabs and friends alike (as well as some on the Left in Israel) that Israel needs to "take risks" for peace. In a most hollow, superficial sense this rings true. Leaders who make peace need to be "brave" and sometimes make unpopular decisions. But someone who takes a "risk" is gambling. Usually one gambles on something that they can afford to lose. What exactly are the Palestinians gambling on, that they stand to lose? Very little. In fact they stand only to gain.

Israel on the other hand, is gambling everything. It is being asked to throw its money into the poker pot. Now, Israel has a little experience in the matter, beginning with the "risks" it took for Oslo, the withdrawal from Lebanon, up to the disengagement from Gaza. Many in Israel argued that by taking these risks and demonstrating Israel's willingness to compromise, that we would gain the good will not only of the Palestinians, but of Israel's friends--and that if we had to defend ourselves from a new, weakened position, we would be understood, and the world would give us backing for legitimate self-defence.

Sadly, this has not been the case. In each instance--Operation Defensive Shield, the Lebanon War, the separation fence, and most recently, Operation Cast Lead---Israel is being taken to task for merely defending itself. So if the world is going to forbid us from defending ourselves, why risk anything?

You know what? Israel wants peace, but not a suicidal peace. But this is exactly what the Palestinians want, as demonstrated by their adamant refusal to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish State, along with their demands for repatriation of refugees.

So I say fuck them, and fuck the Europeans and Obama.

We're not taking another goddamn risk, not even for a grain of sand.

The Palestinians want a state? Fine, let them work on building one from the land they now have. When and if, and only if, they (along with their Arab supporters) can unequivocally demonstrate that they are capable of behaving like a normal peaceful country, and show that they recognize a Jewish state, then maybe I'll be willing to compromise.

Until then, you the Arabs, Obama, and the Europeans can just fuck off.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Things I Do With My Ipod Touch

I think that Apple's Ipod Touch has got to be one of the coolest and most useful gadgets ever made. Maybe the Iphone beats it because of the phone functionality, but you have to pay through the nose for that, whereas, with the $230 ipod touch you get 95% of the usefullness of the iphone withough committing to a $100/month contract (I have a free cell phone through work, which I don't want to give up anyway). The only disadvantage is that you need to have Wifi access for functions which need the internet, while the iphone uses the cellular network. But nowadays almost anywhere you go you can pick up a Wifi signal, so this isn't such a limitation any more.

So here is my list of things that I do on my ipod touch:

1. PDA functions:
-address book
-calendar/scheduler (syncs with Google Calendar!)
-note taker
2. Clock and Alarm
3. Stopwatch/Timer (for timing physical performance, which I do in my medical practice)
4. Check the weather (with built in Yahoo Weather program)
5. Check stocks (with built in stock market graphing program)
6. Check Shabbat times (with free Shabbat program)
7. Browse the internet
8. Get and write E-mail
9. Listen to music
10. Listen to lectures and other podcasts, at home, while jogging, and while commuting.
11. Play Sudoku and other games
12. Use Calculator and unit conversions
13. Read e-books
14. Read medical texts and check drugs.
15. Watch YouTube videos or other video podcasts
16. Reference Wikipedia with free program.
17. Dictionary
18. Get myself to sleep with soothing sound effects (Ambiance)
19. Store photos of my family to show people
20. transfer Office and pdf documents from my PC for viewing and/or editing
21. Follow Facebook
22. Google instant messaging

Since I have the first-generation model, which doesn't have the ability to record sounds, I can't use it for Skype VoIP phone calls, but that would definitely be on my list if I had the 2G model. Apple is also hinting about a new model with a built-in camera. Maybe for Chanuka...

Except when you need to type long documents, the ipod touch can replace your computer. The sleek design and well-thought out touch interface make it truly user-friendly and fun. The most recent firmware update 3.0 added some badly needed functions including cut and paste, and full Hebrew support. (In the past, if you wanted those things, you had to "jailbreak", basically which means hacking the built in firmware to allow non-Apple approved software to be loaded. This often affects the speed and stability of the system).

I carry around my ipod touch just about everywhere I go, since it is useful in so many situations. Apple really struck gold with this product, and did so at a competitive price. No other comparable priced PDA or phone can touch it (sorry about the pun...). We'll see if Microsoft's Zune or some of the new smartphones can compete.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Straw Man Arguments of the Israeli Left

This article in Haaretz is a very good example of meaningless and hypocritical posturing on the part of the Israeli Left. The editorialist drones on about how the Netanyahu government and the right are needlessly picking a fight with the US, and intentionally painting Obama and the US as an Israeli "enemy". He then issues a dire warning about Israel putting itself among the enemy countries of the US. Only in the end does Barel attempt to make a cogent argument as to the justification of the American position and a proper Israeli response to it.

Nobody in the Israeli government is portraying the US as an "enemy". Furthermore, no previous Israeli government, including the left leaning ones of Barak and Olmert, agreed to a total freeze of building in the territories including East Jerusalem. Now that a right wing government is being asked to do this, the left is screaming hysterically.

So rather than make an argument based on its own merits, Barel and the left prefer to create an imagined but non-existent right wing demon in order to falsely "prove" how correct the left is. This is a transparent straw man argument.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The "Truth" about "Settlements"

My wife and I spent this past Shabbat with our daughter and her family, who live in Noqdim, a small "legal" settlement in the Gush Etzion area. The air is clear and dry , and the view overlooking the Judean desert is beautiful in its starkness. From the porch of my daughter's apartment, we were able to see the mountains on the Jordanian side of the border, which along with the Judean desert mountain range form the borders of the dead sea. Also within our view, about a mile away, was an "illegal" outpost of Rehav'am. There, on a desolate flat between two hills in the desert, are five or six caravans, a water tank, a few tents, and a small dirt path leading up to the settlement.

I thought to myself, sarcastically, "these settlements are really standing in the way of peace." Look, everywhere you see, peace is spreading, taking hold, and these settlers, with their bare hands, are blocking peace.

How ridiculous. Even the Arabs know its ridiculous. Perhaps Barack Obama is the only one who doesn't know.

We are all familiar with the arguments regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Each side has its narrative, along with "proofs" of their factual truth and righteousness of their position. Supporters and opponents adopt one or the other of these narratives, and nobody can change their minds. Israel has very real security concerns and national interests at stake. Israel also has proven that it is willing to dismantle settlements if necessary. In the framework of a peace accord, the settlements will be negotiated, and everybody knows that Israel will make concessions. But these arguments make no difference to Israel's opponents.

The real question is the balance of power and US national interests.

Demanding the Israel freeze all construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is unfair, against all previous understanding with the US, and won't bring peace any closer.

But: there are about 300+ million Arabs, and perhaps another 900 million Muslims in the world. There are 6 million Israelis and another 8 million Jews worldwide. It occurs to me periodically, that we would not even be having this discussion, had the population situation been reversed. Or if the Jews sat on oil fields, not the Arabs. Even if we were just 50 or 100 million Jews, we would not be having this discussion. But, to our regret, this is not the case. So arguments of logic, facts, or justness have limited value and relevance.

US national interests take this reality into account. How could they not? Sometimes extremist Israelis on the left and right forget this. The right, because they think that we can do whatever we want, no matter who opposes us. Caroline Glick is a good example of this. On the left, because of their arrogance, they assume that Israel can change the whole middle east all by itself by just "doing the right thing". The editors of Ha'aretz are typical of this view.

In my view, all we Israelis and Jews can do, is argue as forcefully as we can, and use wisely whatever power and strategic assets that we have. This means being careful and choosing our battles, while not crossing red lines that erode our prestige and position. The goal is to manage the situation, even if there is no solution in sight.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Inkjet Printer Ripoff

I know that this is off of my usual line of discussion, but I needed to blow off some steam about this one.

It is well known in the printer industry that low-end printers, especially inkjets, are essentially loss-leaders- the printer is sold at or below production cost, with the intention of making the profits by selling the supplies-- ink cartridges, print heads, etc.

While this is a legitimate strategy, buyers need to be aware of the efforts that the manufacturers make to commit the customer to ridiculously high future costs. One of the ways they do this is by forcing you to replace a color cartridge that empties (even if you don't need it) before allowing you to do ANY printing, even black. The printer, or other functions, simply shut down.

A few years ago, I bought a Brother multifunction printer, seemingly a bargain, to replace my ageing fax and printer. I printed in color rarely. However, the printer had self test cycles periodically, and every time that printer was turned on. When this happens, the printer would use a small amount of color inks. After a few months, the magenta ink ran out, shutting down to printer even to just black printing. I checked the forums and web site and found there was no way around this. You had to replace the magenta ink cartridge, costing $20. Then a month later, the yellow cartridge did the same. Mind you the black cartridge had plenty of ink in it.

I decided to cut my losses and dump the printer. I actually tried to GIVE the printer away, only 6 months old, to a neighbor, who decided that it wasn't worth the headache for him either. So I took a new, perfectly working printer, and put it out at the curb for collection. I have a friend who bought an Epson and has had the same problem.

I decided not to repeat this mistake again. I swore never to buy a Brother printer again. After doing some internet research and talking to salesman at Office Depot, I found a Lexmark printer that met my needs. It has the old fashion "HP style" setup with 2 print cartridges-- one color and one black. When the color one empties it gives you warnings but doesn't stop you from printing black. So far it works for me.

Out of curiosity I stopped by the local Office Depot again recently to see what on the market. This time I saw a fancy HP multifunction color printer at a "too good to be true" price-- 600NIS, including multiplexer (2 sided printing), built-in ethernet, fax, document feeder, etc. I came home and checked on the internet and read the reviews, which were pretty positive. The problem is that the reviewers aren't necessarily aware of this color ink requirement scam if they don't use the printer long enough. So I went onto ZAP, and Israeli internet comparison shopping site, which includes buyers reviews. Sure enough, this printer showed up, with several buyers complaining about their printer shutting down after only a few weeks use when one of the colors ran out. (This is especially frustrating after the purchase, because the manufacturers usually put in "starter" cartridges with low capacity).

I think that buyers should organize a boycott of these printers, and really let the manufacturers know that this arrangement is unacceptable, and deceptive to buyers.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bibi got it right

Bibi's speech at Bar Ilan last night was the right speech at the right time. From an Israeli perspective, I can't think of a better move.

In the introduction, he essentially expressed the "Jabotinskyan" view, that the source of our conflict with the Palestinians is a refusal to accept the existence of a Jewish entity here. It is not about settlements, land or borders. He demonstrated this claim's truth unequivocally by reminding the listeners of recent history. Every withdrawal, with or without an agreement, has been met by terror and demands for more concessions. Its important to understand this point, which isn't about being "right", its about being practical. For if the Palestinians reconcile themselves to a Jewish presence here, all other things will fall into place. Without it, no matter how many concessions Israel makes, peace will not get any closer.

In Netanyahu's acceptance of a Palestinian state, albeit one with limited powers, along with a demand to recongize Israel as a Jewish state, Bibi is calling the Palestinians' bluff. His conditions are not pre-conditions for negotiations. They are conceptual requirements for an agreement, without which there will be no peace. For if the Palestinians reject the idea of a dimilitarized country, and a Jewish Israel, what they are calling for is to Israel to agree to its own dismantlement. The Palestinians know that the significance of recognizing a Jewish state is that there will be no return of refugees to Israel.

So the Palestinians' reactions are telling. They say that Bibi's "conditions" are a non-starter, and that no Palestinian in a 1000 years will agree to his proposals. By their standards even the Geneva accords would be a non-starter. What are they saying? They are saying that refugees must be allowed to return to Israel, and that Palestine must have an army and be allowed to make treaties with anybody they want. This is the only logical way to understand their position. Any other leftist Israeli attempts to re-interpret Palestinian positions is delusion. No, the Palestinians will NOT be satisfied with a "theoretical" right of return, because Arab countries will not repatriate refugees and Palestine cannot absorb them. Will Lebanon grant citizenship to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians? What about Egypt and Syria?

What is truly astonishing is that the Palestinians actually expect Israel to knowingly and willingly agree to its own dismantlement, by allowing refugees in and allowing another armed entity arise in the West Bank which would threaten vital Israeli interests.

Lets hope the Obama wakes up before he forces Israel into harmful concessions which would eventually lead to another blowup in the region.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The New IPhone: Doesn't America have anything better to do?

Don't get me wrong.

I like gadgets as much as the next guy. But lets face it: They are just expensive toys.
So why all of the hype?

With ubiquitous email, SMS, faxes and cellphones, working people are already as productive as they can be. So some new gadget isn't going to revolutionize the work place.

With all of America's problems with health care, the economy, real estate, the war on terror, North Korea, it seems to me that America is just turning to toys to anesthetize itself. Lets forget about the important issues, and find things to play with.

While there is nothing instrinsically wrong with gadgets, to me the Iphone hype is just part of America's social ills. Its economy is based on air. People are willing to spend their money (and to wait in long lines) to get the latest iphone, even though they have a perfectly working iphone that they bought a year ago. Plop down $2600 ($200+ $100/month for 2 years) just like that. They are willing to indebt themselves and buy SUVs which are about as practical as a combination candlestick/laser pointer and help make America dependent on foreign oil more than ever.

I recognize that consumerism as a fuel for economic growth, and this is America's history. But when it goes beyond any logic or reason, and is being subsidized by foreign debt, its just plain stupid. America's is falling into decadence. I don't blame Apple or the Iphone. I don't know who to blame, really. The consumers? The marketers? American culture?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Seven Myths of the Palestinian-Israel Conflict

With so much attention lately in the media about jump starting the so-called peace process between Israel and the Arabs, I thought it would be interesting to expose the common false assumptions underlying the statements from many world leaders:

1. The heart of Middle Eastern instability and terrorism is the Israel-Palestinian conflict. This the biggest granddaddy of them all. If we could only solve this conflict (presumably by forcing an "obstinate" Israel into concessions) we would remove the motivation and support of terrorists. The absurdity of this claim is obvious when one listens to Al Qeeda's and Iraqi insurgents own rhetoric-- which is based on fundamentalist political Islam. The Israel "problem" is just one of their many grievances against the west, and thus can never be pacified. The westerners are "heretics" and must be subjugated.

2. Israeli "settlements" are an obstacle to peace. This is easily rebutted by 2 simple facts:
a. Before 1970 their were no "settlements", yet the Palestinians were not exactly falling into our arms. b. Israel showed that it is not only willing to stop settlements but to actually dismantle them and expel settlers, as was done in the disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. What did the Palestinians do with the vacated lands and greenhouses? They turned them into launching pads for rockets targeting Israel's cities.

3. Regarding the West Bank and Gaza, Israel is the "occupier" of lands that were stolen from the Palestinians. The truth: the native inhabitants of Palestine never ruled themselves. They were always subject to rule of some occupying power. It never "belonged" to the Palestinians (other than individual land ownership) Currently, the area known as the West Bank is disputed territory. The Palestinians, as a national entity, did not come into being until the 1960s under the PLO.

4. Hamas and Hizbullah are not terrorist organizations but legitimate "resistance" movements who are simply trying to restore Arab rights. This is a subtle but sinister attempt to use the language of metaphor to put a positive spin on movements whose goal is to destroy Israel. When they say "resistance" what do they mean? Resistance to what? When they say they resist "occupation" what they really mean is the whole State of Israel. They openly say this. Thus "resistance" is simply a nice word for "destruction of Israel". Its as cynical as calling the Nazis or the KKK "resistance movements".

5. Israel has a peace partner with Abbas (Abu Mazen) and the PLO. Indeed, one could call Abbas more "moderate" in comparison to Hamas. Nonetheless, Abbas does not control half of the Palestinian people, in Gaza. Furthermore, by his own statements, the Palestinians will accept nothing less than withdrawal to 1967 borders and return of refugees. In other words, he demands the Israel knowningly commit national suicide, by withdrawing to indefensible borders with a hostile failed state and allowing a flood of Arab refugees into Israel.

6. Netanyahu, by his "extremist" policies, including his unwillingness to discuss a 2 state solution, is killing peace. This is really quite absurd. For the past 15 years since Oslo every Israeli leader, including Olmert, have publicly agreed to a 2 state solution, and made offers which were rejected. All of this discussion of 2 states had not brough peace any closer. So now, that Netanyahu doesn't what to discuss it-- suddenly he is to blame for lack of peace? This is really cynical and is dripping with hypocrisy.

7. "Solving" the Palestinian conflict will help "solve" the Iranian race for nuclear weapons. The linkage between these 2 issues could go in either direction-- the Palestinian problem makes tackling the Iranians difficult, or that Iranian support in the region for extremist rejectionist ("resistance") groups makes peace with the Palestinians more remote.
In reality, its hard to see how Iran's drive to regional hegemony has anything to do with the Palestinians. Secondly, even if the Palestinian-Israel conflict were resolved, how will that change Chinese and Russian support for Iran? How will it change Iranian ambitions? Sunni Arab countries are threatened by Iran for their own reasons, having nothing to do with helping America or with peace with Israel.
On the other hand, Iranian support for extremist groups have emboldened them and given them hope that one day soon, they will be able to throw the Jews into the sea (or back to Europe). So why should they compromise? Once Iran gets nuclear weapons, these groups will have nothing left to fear of Israel.

Ultimately, it is obvious to anybody with eyes in his head that the Palestinians will have to rule themselves in the future, whether this means a state or some other kind of entity. But currently it is not Israel that is blocking this outcome, but Palestinian and Arab rejection of Israel's right to exist in this region. Even the Arab league so-called "Saudi initiative " peace plan calls for Israeli self-destruction. In other words-- the Arabs want peace, but without an Israel.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Obama-Bibi Show

Behind all of the talking heads, speculation, commentary and buzz surrounding the meeting between Netanyahu and Obama, the basic facts on the ground remain unchanged. Both Israel and the US know this, but cannot publicly declare that there is not a chance in hell that there will be a Palestinian-Israeli agreement in the forseeable future. So they dance around each other, making public statements in support of peace and negotiation. The Europeans, Americans and Arabs need to maintain the illusion of "progress" towards peace.

So the meetings and declarations are just a big orchestrated farce.

Obama will pretend to be pressuring Israel into a 2 state solution, even though he knows that this is impossible given the Palestinian divide. He cannot make Israel commit national suicide by forcing us into making a deal with Abbas. Bibi will continue to evade saying the magic word "state", knowing full well that ultimately the end game is indeed a Palestinian state, but not in the near future, so why provoke his domestic right wing opponents? As Ehud Barak correctly point out, after all, Israel has been talking about 2 states for the past 15 years since Oslo, and the Palestinians have not exactly fallen into our embrace. This is the precise point that Leiberman has been making all along.

There will be "virtual" pressure on Israel to make gestures-- taking down a few checkpoints or makeshift illegal buildings in the territories, but it will lead nowhere.

So really the argument between Bibi and Obama, and with Bibi's erstwhile colleagues in Kadima, is, how best to handle the PR. Do we say "two states", in order to appease the world, or avoid saying it, in order to not raise unrealistic expectations?

Unfortunately, American efforts to "reshape" the Middle East, as in the past, are doomed to failure.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ha'aretz's false reporting and lies

In reference to the following story in Haaretz by Akiva Eldar,

I wrote the following to the editor:

Dear Sirs:

This story seems to represent the opinions and wishes of Mr. Eldar, rather than a factual news item. In this article, Mr Eldar states:

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people as a condition for renewing peace talks is unacceptable to the United States, the State Department said ..."

A survey of other domestic and foreign news sources (via Google News) failed to reveal any other article referencing an explicit American reaction to Netanyahu's demand, let alone a rejection. I wonder where Mr Eldar's sources are, if they exist.

Eldar uses his interpretation of the American position (which admittedly is firmly in favor of a 2 state solution) and presents it as a news item. Evidently the idea that Israel is be recognized as a Jewish state is objectionable to Eldar. By presenting the most reasonable and basic of demands as "unacceptable" by the US, and therefore blocking any possible negotiation, Eldar wishes to portray Israel's current government in the most negative possible light. Yet the Palestinians' underlying and persistent rejection of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state (to which they openly admit), with its accompanying demand for the return of refugees, is what is blocking peace, not Israel's demands.

This is unfortunately Haaretz's pattern of tendentious and dishonest reporting. It would be appropriate for an essay such as this to be in the "opinion" or "wishful thinking" section, rather than appearing as a news headline.

Jeffrey Shames

Note: as usual, Haaretz did not bother responding. They habitually do not respond to errors or corrections. There have been many other stories by Akiva Eldar of a similar nature-- taking partial facts out of context, manipulating them according to his agenda, then presenting it as "news".

What a truly shitty newpaper.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Should Israel Bomb Iran's Nuclear facilities?

I will begin with the answer: No.

Iran's nuclear ambitions are worrying, and represent a negative development in the region. Iran is ruled by extremist ideology, with an explicit goal to eliminate the Jewish State. They oppose reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians. They have demonstrated their ability to fight Israel via their proxies, Hamas and Hizbullah. Some past statements made by various Iranian politicians have raised the issue of a nuclear attack on Israel.

Proponents of an Israeli attack on Iran point to the successes of its operations in Iraq in 1981 and in Syria in 2008.

Nonetheless, it would be against Israel's interest to attack Iran for several reasons:

1. Diplomatic: The Iranian nuclear issue is in the international limelight, and efforts to deal with the issue are being lead by the US. Any Israeli attack conducted without coordination with the US would sabotage these efforts and lead to a severe strain in relations with the US and European allies. Israel would pay a high price in terms of support from the US vis a vis its policy in this region.

2. Tactical: The world has changed. Iran is not Iraq or Syria. It has a large sophisticated army with significant capabilities, and most importantly, has Russian backing. The world is no longer unipolar, and the US does not have military or diplomatic hegemony. The regional balance of power has changed, not in our favor. Therefore the effectiveness of a potential military attack on Iranian facilities would be limited in scope and in time. The Iranians would be able to rebuild quickly, with the help of the Russians, unlike the Iraqis who needed the French. The Iranians would most definitely be able to retaliate, either directly or through their proxies. Israel has vulnerable strategic sites throughout Israel that could easily be hit in such an exchange, causing extensive damage and casualties.

3. Strategic: I don't think that it is possible to stop a determined state from acquiring nuclear capabilities. Iran, unlike Iraq, Syria or Libya, has rich natural resources to support its development efforts and its ability to sustain economic and diplomatic pressure. Therefore, Israel has no choice but to rely on deterrence and defense systems to maintain a balance of power against Iran. Furthermore, as Robert Gates pointed out, and I think that it is correct, that an Israeli attack would galvanize the Iranians behind their nationalist leaders and lead to bottomless hatred, and a determination to exact revenge which would be legitimate in their eyes. They would undoubtedly be able to carry our revenge attacks on Israel or Israeli/Jewish interests abroad. Right now the Iranians are limited in their ability and desire to hurt Israel, because of the middle eastern political situation vis a vis the Palestinians and other Arab countries. But in the event of an attack, they would have every excuse to use their full abilities.

Therefore, in my view, an Israeli attack would be a mistake.

I might be wrong. Perhaps if Israel does not act, history will not forgive us. But our allies and the region definitely will never forgive us if we start a regional war which we won't be able to end.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What (and who) is a self-hating Jew?

My previous post regarding Gideon Levy's essays in Haaretz raises the question of accusing somebody of being a "self-hating Jew". This post is a minor revision of a letter that I actually sent to Mr. Levy and to the editorial desk of Haaretz (I received no acknowledgment). Since I am not so sure about the definition, and because bloggers are not immune to charges of libel, I did not use this term to describe Mr. Levy himself, but only to characterize his writing.

But the question is an interesting one. What is a self-hating Jew?

Jewish history is replete with Jews who renounced or denounced their Judaism and then became its harshist critics. But the phenomenon did not become become widespread until the 18th and 19th centuries following the emancipation. Up until that time, the Jew in Christian Europe lived in a traditional community, surrounding by hostile populations or governments who kept the Jews in their place. Upward mobility was not an option. Jews in Muslim lands fared somewhat better, but were still relegated to 2nd class citizen status. Following the emancipation, when European Jews where given citizens rights in various countries, the doors opened up for Jews who wished to progress socially and economically. Jews began to assimilate, and various liberal reinterpretations of Judaism appeared, which incorporated the new knowledge acquired by science, and accomodated the desire for many Jews to not appear different from their Gentile neighbors. These Jews preferred to disassociate themselves from the image of the Eastern European "shtetel Jew", with his traditional garb, mannerisms and langauge.

This assimilation, however, did not solve the "Jewish problem"--the dilemma of trying maintain the Jewish people's identity, while avoiding the disabilities of discrimination and anti-semitism. There were still formal and informal strictures which interfered with upward mobility for the Jew. There was still cultural anti-semitism. So many Jews simply renounced their Jewish faith by being baptized. They adopted Christianity in its cultural sense, but not necessarily its faith. This opened the doors further, allowing the likes of Heines, Mendelssohn, Marx to become accepted and famous. Often, the route that they chose included denouncing the Jewish faith, culture and its people, in the most vile and stereotyped manner. Others, however, remained "philesemitic" such as Disraeli. The advent of Zionism brought the identity of Judaism into sharper relief, with lines drawn between Jews for or against the zionist enterprise.

So classically, the "self-hating Jew" was somebody who severely criticized his people by attacking "core" characteristics of Jews and Judaism, often adopting the narratives of the Gentile anti-semite. In the 1930s and 40s Lessing and Lewin were the first to attempt to understand the phenomenon. In essence, the term is perjorative and used by others to describe and discredit the critic. Whether the self-hating Jew actually hates himself or his Judaism is unclear. The assumption is that because the Jew is uncomfortable or ashamed with being a member of a disliked minority, he responds by internalizing the ideas of the critics of Jews and attempts to disassociate himself with the disliked group. Furthermore, it is assumed that because of some deep dark internal conflict, the self-hating Jew turns against his core identity. More recently Finlay has proposed that the term is used by opponents to "pathologize" dissent. In this case, the accuser of self-hatred has defined some "core values" which in his view catergorizes Jew from non-Jew. Thus, when somebody opposes one of these core values, such as support for Israel's policies or some other public issue, he is considered to be "self-hating". The problem, of course, lies in what these core values are, given that there is considerable debate among various factions of Jews-- liberal or conservative, religious or secular, zionist or non-zionist. So how can I avoid labeling anybody who disagrees with something dear to me as "self-hating"? Interestingly, Finlay points out that although there are vigorous debates in the Christian world about theology and dogma, nobody calls someone a "self-hating Christian". The desenter might be called an apostate or heretic, but not self-hating. So why do we characterize such Jews as self-hating?

I think that the term self-hating is intertwined with the unique nature of the term "anti-semitism". We don't really have a similar term for other religions-- we don't speak of an "anti-Christian" or "anti-Muslim" in the same sense. We might call them bigots or racists. However, anti-semitism is unique in that it implies certain characteristics present in the anti-semite himself-- irrational hatred, advocacy of violence, envy, and perhaps psychopathology. Anti-semitism is also uniquely illegitimate in the civilized world. A garden variety bigot is not pathologized in the same way. Because of the magnitude of Jews' suffering at the hands of anti-semites, any form of bigotry against Jews or Judaism is demonized and the focus of particularly sharp condemnation. Jews are particularly sensitive to anti-semitism, perhaps more so that any other group is sensitive to bigotry against it.

So self-hating is essentially seen as home grown anti-semitism. Therefore, Dershowitz's famous 3 D's can be applied-- demonization, double standard, deligitimization-- to detect "self-hating Jews", just as they are used to detect anti-semitism.

So each reader can judge for himself if Gideon Levy is a self-hating Jew.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Haaretz does it again

Once again, Haaretz, in this article
gives a voice to the sarcastic, whiny and self-loathing essays by Mr. Gideon Levy. One wonders why he chooses to live in a country which he considers to be so brutual, corrupt, and dark. Its hard to imagine what justification he sees in a Jewish State. Jewish self-loathing is unfortunately not rare, and Mr. Levy can compete easily in this realm with the likes of Karl Marx, H. Heine, and Avraham Burg. Its roots are usually in low self-esteem and a desire for acceptance, Every country has its self-respecting traditions that reinforce its identity, history, and culture, but Levy seems to want some generic rootless state, perhaps in Scandanavia. The Palestinians who Mr. Levy adores certainly would not have a more secular state than Israel. So what does he want with us?

If such an essay were to appear in an American paper from a non-Jewish author, it would be considered anti-semitic. I fail to understand why Haaretz includes Mr. Levy's essays in their paper. In the name of freedom of the press? Haaretz would serve themselves (and Israel) better by finding columnists who can write essays that contribute constructively to the debates in Israeli society. Mr. Levy writes more like a resentful and bitter "talkbackist" than a trained and principled editorialist. Including his writings in this newspaper speaks mountains about Haaretz's anti-zionism and anti-semitism.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Arab "Resistance" (Moqawama)

I believe that the Palestinian conflict will eventually be resolved by a 2 state solution. There are no other logical or practical possibilities. The Palestinians, Arabs or Iranians will not "destroy" Israel (modern countries can't been "destroyed" by another state). Israel will not make the Palestinians go someplace else, nor will they kill them all. I think that Bibi knows this and has chosen not to speak of it due to present political circumstances. But the "road map", which Israel adopted and even Lieberman acknowledged, envisions a Palestinian state. There may be more wars on the way, with lots of suffering on both sides, but eventually the sides will adopt this solution.

The problem at the present is that the Palestinians do not actually appear to want a state. Think about it. When the Jews were offered a state, they accepted what they were offered in 1947. The Palestinians have had 5 opportunities for a state. 1. with the UN partition. 2. in the period of 1948-1967 when Arab countries occupied their areas. 3. With the culmination of Oslo, when Barak offered them a state in 2000 covering 90%+ of the territory they demanded. 4. When Israel withdrew from Gaza, they could have build a mini-state there. 5. When Olmert (evidently) offered Abba a state covering 97% of the territories.

What did they do with these opportunities? They did not build up national and cultural institutions or infrastructure. They did not sieze these opportunities, when they could have had a state on a silver platter, with the blessings of the entire Western world. Instead, they continue to fight for their "rights"-- the rights to all of Palestine, the rights to the Temple Mount/Al Aqsa, the right for a few million "refugees" to return to their original towns and homes in modern day Israel. Now, of course, Israel would not voluntarily agree to self-destruct. Nor can the Palestinians or other Arabs overrun Israel, kick all of the Jews out, and bring all of the Palestinians back. So, unable to compromise and unwilling to accept a partial fulfillment of their dreams, the opted to this day for "Moqawama"-- the arabic word for resistance.

Resistance, in the Muslim context, refers to any act against those who are engaged in the perceived violation of "rights" or against injustice. Any action is legitimate, no matter how violent. More importantly, the resistance doesn't have to be effective, either. It is resistance for the sake of resistance. Now, I'm sure the Muslim themselves view this idea as a moral and lofty goal. The problem is that as long as the Palestinians and their leadership are stuck in their wallowing over how they have been wronged, without being able to get past all of their resentment and anger, they cannot arrive at a practical compromise. So they hold out for all-out "victory", even if it never comes, even if it costs them their lives, their economy, their social fabric and well being. Resistance has become a standard part of the Muslim language, to justify all kinds of things. The Lebanon War was an act of resistance? For what goal? So the Gazans fire rockets at Sderot's civilians. For what goal? What has it brought them?

It is though they are perpetually and tragically stuck, in a state of mourning over their perceived losses and injustices, and they are unable to move on. In insisting on a "just" solution, they eliminate the possibility of realistic compromise. Most Palestinians will settle for nothing less than the dismantlement of Israel. Certain other Muslim groups, like the Iranians, use the Palestinians for their own regional aspirations, by keeping their false hopes alive, making compromise even more remote.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Why Avigdor Lieberman is a good foreign minister for Israel

The Israeli left and the Arabs are already screaming hysterically like hyenas about the new right wing government in Israel, and against its foriegn minister, Avigdor Lieberman. He is a racist, the say, and against peace.

Yes, he is against "peace" if it means creating a state that threatens Israel's security. Yes, he is against "peace", when it means only Israeli concessions in exchange for more Palestinian demands, incitement, and threats. Yes, he is against peace if it means handing over land encroaching Israel's heartland, to an impotent, violent and divided Palestinian society. When the Palestinians call for Israel to accept "peace", what they actually mean is surrender and self-destruction.

Is he is really a racist? When an Arab member of Knesset openly identifies with Israel's enemies and supports their armed struggle against Israel, is it racist to demand that he be kicked out of Knesset and stripped of his citizenship? What about when an MP, such as Azmi Bashara, spies on behalf of an enemy terrorist army? Should he be entitled to a pension from the State of Israel? Is that insane?

I think that its good that we finally have a FM that doesn't speak mealy mouthed about a peace that in reality is unattainable at this time. Israeli has shown that it is willing to compromise, but unilateral moves on its part are only recipricated with scorn, contempt, and demands for more concessions. I also think that the world, including the US, will get used to a different but clear message-- that we want peace, but will not compromise our security, period. Lieberman is correct in his assertion that the blind pursuit of an elusive peace only invites war; and that preparing for war by showing strength (politically and militarily) brings peace closer.

All other fake calls for "painful concessions" only make peace less likely.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Reframing the Israeli- Arab conflict

When I read the news of the events in our region, I note that it is very easy to get carried away in the existential meaning of every occurrence. Every battle, attack, or diplomatic episode is seen as fateful, a victory or a loss, and in some way tipping the balance in favor of a resolution in some direction. At a psychological level, we all experience a gap between reality and what we wish would be. So we look for signs of that gap narrowing or widening, which in turn affects our anxieties. Yet we know that this conflict has been going on for almost 100 years, and it may go on for 100 more. Although this may be a painful reality, it is reality nonetheless. So not every blip on the screen has that much meaning in the scheme of things.

It is interesting to think about how insignificant this conflict would seem to the rest of the world, had it not been involving Jew and Arab. Arab- because he has oil. Without oil, the west wouldn't give a shit about what goes on here, and the Arabs would have zero influence. The Jew- because he is a Jew. The story of the Jewish people, from the Bible through the holocaust and creation of Israel, fascinates the Christian gentile world. The Bible is their narrative, too. They are intertwined with it, for good and bad. Note that for the Far East, Israel carries much less interest. The Jews are not part of their story, so they don't really care one way or another.

So every little event here is seen in cataclysmic terms.

But really, the earth couldn't care less. And evidently neither does god, who is claimed by both sides as their guide and inspiration.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Moral Cowardice of Spain and Hypocrisy of Turkey

Evidently, guilt feelings of the Spanish over their own past has caused them to join the chorus of Israel and Jew-bashing.

At the outset of the Iraq war, the Spanish had troops who were fighting alongside the Americans, as part of the international war on terror. Then there was a big terrorist attack in Spain, after Al Qaida demanded that Spain withdraw their troops from Iraq. The Spanish quickly complied. Since then, Spain has been towing an anti-American and anti-Israeli line. Recently, some provinces cancelled holocaust memorial services because of Israeli "Nazi" crimes. Yesterday they notified us that some of Israel's military and senior political officials will be tried for "crimes against humanity".

There is no doubt that endemic anti-semitism, along with Spain's Muslim population, is responsible for these outrageous allegations. Spain is being sucked into Europe's left wing "multiculturalism", a catch phrase for surrender to the Muslim's increasing demand for special privileges and "sensitivity" to their religion. Holland seems to have past the point of no return, as it recently announced the prosecution of the MP who produced the film "Fitna".

It is only a matter of time before many European countries wake up one morning and discover that they no longer have a liberal western Christian democracy, but a Muslim theocracy instead.

Turkey seems to be gradually going the way of Iran. Its not going radical in one revolutionary step like Iran did. Rather, through democratic means, it is slowly adopting the values and narrative of the angry bitter Muslim world who all share feelings of inferiority to the West. Erdogan's recent anti-Israel rhetoric showed great similarity to that of Ahmedinejad. He demonizes Israeli actions and deligitimizes Israel's self defence, and justifies his accusations by invoking Turkey's "honor". At the same time Turkey fights it own anti-terrorist war against the Kurds with an iron fist no less firm than Israel's. Yet the Europeans want Turkey in the EU, and have conditioned acceptance on "reforms" in Turkey which would weaken the army's secular hold on the country.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Why Debkafile is Stupid

As many people probably know, Debkafile is a news and commentary website with an emphasis on "scoops" on security and terrorism issues.

It bears a neo-conservative approach with a tendency towards conspiracy theories.

I occasionally read it for entertainment value, although unaware surfers might become alarmed at their frequent dire warnings of impending disasters.

Some of you may be familiar with the documentary hypothesis for higher Biblical criticism. This utilizes the idea that sources from multiple authors were weaved together to produce the final version of the Bible that we have today. This theory solves the problems of multiple inconsistencies, anachronisms and contradictions that appear throughout the text.

I believe that the same methodology can be applied to Debkafiles "news" items. Although sources are never quoted and the articles' writers are never revealed , it seems that there are at least 3 different writers who produce this nonsense.

1. E-- the "editorialist"-- periodically a "report" will appear that is essentially a far right wing conspiratorial opinion piece, weaving together mostly known facts with a small dose of conjecture, to produce a story that paints a picture of complete failure, doom and gloom, and impending disaster. Israel's leaders are consistently shown to be incompetent, ignorant, malevolent, or all of the above. Israel leaders are also generally assumed to be deceiving the Israeli public about the enemy's endless capabilities. The enemy's leaders are portrayed as cunning, all-knowing, frighteningly powerful and competent. All events are shown to neatly fall into the scheme that the enemy has designed. So every new item, even just a comment, however seemingly minor, are seen as cataclysmic and fateful, somehow having a lasting and dramatic effect on the turn of events. Any tactical setback on Israel's part is presented as proof of our incompetence and impending defeat. Any tactical "success" of the enemy is greatly exagerrated by E to prove that the enemy is ever closer to its inevitable goal of defeating Israel. For Debka, usually the "end game" that moves closer with each fateful turn of events is total warfare.

2. S-- the "scooper"-- S scours the internet and other anonymous sources for tidbits of information. Some of these "scoops" prove to be correct and appear in the mainstream press shortly after appearing on Debka. Some appear to be total fantasy, like the impending terrorist attack in NYC which put the authorities on high alert in 2007. S often interprets these scoops, like his colleague "E" with a conspiratorial slant, weaving together seemingly unrelated or routine news items into a big story. S's favorite item is movements of warships, which are frequently used to indicated impending war. Another favorite is ominously reporting on some event that occurred "the very first time", showing us that we are ever closer to the inevitable Armageddon.

I think S could be divided into S1 and S2. S1 gets these scoops from lesser known but legitimate news sources, such as military publications, foreign media, etc. S2 get his information from whacky internet blabber or from some unnamed blabbing "official" who may or may not know whats going on. An example of this would be a so called detailed account of a secret conversation between an Iranian and a Syrian official.

Generally, I agree with many bloggers' assessments that Debkafile makes us dumber, not smarter. You can't really learn anything new from them, its mostly conspiracy theory.

Let me know what you think.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Israel vs. Hamas: Who Won?

Much has been said and written about Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW). This refers to asymmetric armed conflict between state and non state actors.

In earlier "conventional" wars between armies, the outcome of combat was determined by surrender, occupation of enemy territory, cease-fires and end of conflict treaties. There were also clear distinctions between civilians and combatants. The Geneva Conventions, which defined international laws of war, were written in the context of this form of warfare. The major Western powers and Russia are the undisputed rulers in the world of conventional wars.

From the Vietnam War and onwards, this type of warfare has evolved into something new, 4GW. This term was coined by William Lind in 1989. Battles and victory are no longer defined by casualties, territory, or sovereignty. There are no clear lines between war and peace, or between civilians and combatants. Rather, we have an ongoing "struggle" or "resistance", whose mere existence is seen by its supporters as victory. Winning is defined in terms of perception, psychology, and on "moral" or ideological grounds. Civilians on both sides are considered by the non-state actor to be "soldiers": On their own side, to be sacrificed for political gains, and on their enemy's side, as legitimate targets whose strategic value is to demoralize the enemy.

In 4GW, the non state actor's strategy and goal is to demoralize and sap the resolve of the state, so that it gives up on the struggle as being "unwinable" or too costly. It does not aim to actually defeat the army of the state in the conventional sense.

In the case of Israel, the Hamas-Iran-Hizbullah axis seeks to continually erode Israel's self confidence, support abroad, and unity of its own people. This presumably would lead to further weakening of Israel's resolve to pursue its national interests. In the end game, Hamas sees that Israel will dissolve from within, through emigration, and social and economic collapse, thus forcing it to evolve into a bi-national Palestinian State, with the Palestinians rapidly overwhelming the Jews. Their model for this "internal rot" is the USSR and Apartheid South Africa (although they did not disappear because of guerilla warfare).

It is clear that in 4GW, from the terrorist non-state actors point of view, short of total annihilation, they can never "lose". If they exist, they win. They live on to hope and continue to struggle.

Their problem is that not all Palestinians share Hamas' point of view in this regard. Hamas' political leaders can continue to celebrate "victory" from within their holes in the ground, but what is the average Israeli or Palestinian to think?

I think that a very simple test is to ask the following question: Of you were an alien landing on earth and had to choose whether to be a Palestinian or an Israeli, what would you choose? A Palestinian, whose land was just ravaged by a foreign army killing thousands of people, while the "fighters" hid underground, to occasionally surface to fire off an ineffective rocket and then go into hiding again? Whose economy is essentially non-existent while the rulers of the land are considers pariahs by most of the world? Whose "fighters" failed to defend its civilians? Or an Israeli, whose economy is modern and thriving, who suffers occasional light civilian casualties from terrorism, and whose army is among the best in the world?

To me the answer is pretty clear. I know that many Palestinians and Hamas supporters do not think like that, but there is nothing we can do about that. Furthermore I think that the difference in perception about this war, incomparison to the Lebanon War, is gaping.

Therefore, any claims of "victory" by Hamas leaders in hiding will sound hollow to most Palestinians. Israelis, on the other hand, love to debate and argue, and particularly like to blame themselves for things not being perfect. Nonetheless, Israel has gained the upper hand for the time being. What the future will bring, only God knows.