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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Open Purim thread

No time to post.

A freilichen Purim!

Report of large explosion near Hamas leader's home

More evidence of Hamas infighting....

Palestine Press Agency is reporting that a large explosion occurred Saturday night in the Shati refugee camp.

Witnesses said it targeted Abu Anas Hammoudeh, one of the top leaders of the Qassam Brigades in the Shati refugee camp west of Gaza.

Sources in Gaza said that the secrity forces of Hamas on Thursday arrested two members of the armed wing of Hamas against the backdrop of bombings that rocked a few days ago near the house of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh story beach camp west of Gaza.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Arab News insanity

Arab News published a ridiculous article,that stated in part:

Check this out. Here's a story of two countries from the Middle East. One is an ancient civilization with a rich history that goes back five thousand years. It's a functioning democracy with free elections held at regular intervals.

It's a huge country of 70 million people. It has remained within its borders and hasn't attacked any country in the last 100 years. It is pursuing a nuclear power program, which it insists is for peaceful purposes.

The second country also claims to be a democracy. In this democracy though you get citizenship and voting rights not on the basis of your origins even if you were born in this land but on your ancestry. This country was founded on the land stolen and forcibly taken from its original inhabitants. It has fought at least three wars and is locked in permanent conflict with its neighbors on all sides. It has a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons and other state-of-the-art killing machines. It pursues assassination as a state policy and regularly sends death squads around the world to take out people it doesn't like.

Which country do you think is a real threat to world peace? The first country that has no history of aggression or the second state that has killed tens of thousands of innocent people in wars of aggression against neighbors and in cold-blooded executions?

And no prizes, dear readers, for guessing that the two countries in question are Iran and Israel.

If anyone had any doubts about the evil and criminal nature of the State of Israel, they should have been cleared after what happened in Dubai.

I wrote as a comment:
Let's see..."Peaceful" Iran is a state sponsor of Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups; it has used its Syrian proxy to try to turn Lebanon into a Shiite state, it develops "peaceful" missiles that can reach most of Europe, and it is working overtime to build nuclear weapons-something that even the IAEA is belatedly admitting, it was involved in a war only a couple of decades ago that killed more Arab civilians than Israel could dream of, and its "free elections" were proven to be a sham only a few months ago.

Oh, and it is headed by a group of messianic nutcases who are itching to do whatever it takes to bring the Mahdi back.

I guess the author forgot to mention those things. Instead he believes that the killing of a known terrorist leader is much worse than anything Iran has done.
The previous times I wrote comments on Arab News they didn't get published, but I can always hope...

Arab papers jumping on the passport bandwagon

Kuwait's Al Rai newspaper is reporting that the assassins of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh, killed in Syria in 2008, used fake passports as well.

According to the paper, quoted by Palestine Today, Mughniyeh's killers had passports from Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium.

In my experience, Kuwaiti news scoops of this nature are rarely confirmed and are often fictional. The "analysis" that follows pretty much proves it.

Using peerless logic, the paper then asserts that this is proof that European governments work together with the Mossad and provide the Israelis with necessary paperwork.

The logic gets more bizarre as the claim is then made that the reason that Israel doesn't use US passports is because it doesn't want to embarrass its American ally when it gets caught, and it shows how much contempt Israel has for Europeans.

What's in a name?

The New York Times' Ethan Bronner reports, in an article about a dispute between Jerusalem's mayor and Jerusalem Arabs:

[N]o utterance escapes politics. All labels and names here are contested. The mayor calls the neighborhood not by its Arabic name of Al Bustan but by a Hebrew one — Gan Hamelech, or the King’s Garden, a reference to the spot some believe King David wrote psalms.
The implication is that the Arabic term for the neighborhood is the ancient, correct one, and that the Hebrew name has been retrofitted to erase Arab history.

But as the My Right Word blog notes, the truth is the exact opposite. Bustan is the Arabic word for garden or grove. The place name is Biblical. It was the Arabs who stole the name and Arabicized it, not the other way around.

10,000 tons of apples from Israel to Syria

Palestine Press Agency reports that the ICRC will be transferring 10,000 tons of apples from Israel's Golan Heights to Syria next week.

This has been an annual occurrence, as Israel has been selling their surplus apple crops to Syria since 2005, where the apples are often resold to Gulf states at a profit.

Druze communities in the Golan, which Syria considers occupied, grow most of these apples. And Syria supplies water to at least one of the Druze border towns for free.

MK Ayoub Kara, the deputy minister for the development of the Negev and Galilee, has suggested that these arrangements be increased. He suggests that if Syria would supply water to more Druze villages, more apples could be grown and the annual export could be increased tenfold.
"The two countries' economic interests will return the sides to the negotiating table, and from economic peace we will also reach true peace," said Kara.
Deputy Minister Kara is a member of that extremist, hawkish, racist political party known as the Likud.

He is also Druze.

New resources for college students

The annual hatefest known as "Israel Apartheid Week" is almost upon us. CAMERA has set up a very useful site that demolishes the claims of the Israel-haters and shows them to be anything but peaceful.

Also, check out this video about the "anti-Zionist" Jew-hatred on college campuses.

(h/t Jack)

Israel selling Iran booby-trapped material for nukes?

Palestine Today quotes French media as saying that Israel has set up dummy companies in Europe to sell components that could be used in the manufacture of nuclear bombs.

The purpose of these front companies is to take orders from Iran, ship them fake components, and when the Iranians open up the shipments ....boom.

According to this unconfirmed report, some Iranian experts were already killed in this manner.

I could not find the original source.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Islam's three tombs of Abraham

The New York Times, on November 9, 1902, had an interesting article, about two tombs of Abraham - and neither one was in Hebron:Edward James Banks wrote a book in 1912 about his adventures in Babylon and he includes his attempts to excavate under the Tomb of Abraham in the village of Tel Ibrahim, and why he was stymied:

Tell Ibrahim, the Biblical Cutha, for which I had sought permission to excavate, is one of the ruins suggesting the crescent and star ; the temple is the star, but the crescent is very irregular. A canal bed, some three hundred feet wide, separates them. We rode up the steep slope of the temple mound and dismounted on the summit by the little tomb of Abraham. It was because of the sanctity of this tomb that permission to excavate here was denied me. Visible from the tomb are the date palms bordering the shores of the Euphrates, and over beyond them is Ibrahim Khalil, and there stands another sacred tomb of Abraham. The tomb is by no means impressive. The building, measuring about thirty by fifteen feet, is constructed of the square, Babylonian bricks from the ruins beneath it, and surmounted by a conical dome. The doorway, leading to the antechamber, has been partly walled up. The dust on the floor had long been undisturbed, for pilgrims seldom visit the place. The inner chamber, lighted by a small opening in the dome, contains only a plaster mound to mark the grave ; on it were lying a fragment of a marble slab, a broken earthen pot, and a faded green rag torn from the turban of some pious pilgrim. Rassam claims that while excavating at Tell Ibrahim, he rebuilt the tomb ; had he been less zealous, this one of the many sacred graves of Abraham would probably have been forgotten by now.
Ibrahim Kallil, the other site of a tomb of Abraham in present-day Iraq, was also mentioned in a much earlier travelogue by Claudius James Rich who visited there in 1811.

We arrived at the Birs about half-past eleven. There are vestiges of mounds all round it to a considerable extent, and the country is also traversed by canals in every direction. The soil round the Birs was sandy. To the north of it runs a canal called Hindia, dug for the use of Mesjid Ali, by order, and at the expense of, Shujah ud Doulah. Close to the Birs, or at about a hundred yards from it, and parallel to its southern front, is a high mound, almost equal in size to that of the Kasr. On the top of it are two koubbehs, or places of prayer. The one is called Ibrahim Khalil, where they show his burialplace, which is under ground, exactly in the style of Am ran Ibn Ali. The natives tell you that it was here that Abraham was thrown into the fire by Nimrod. This tomb has been lately repaired.
So it appears that the Arabs and Muslims have had a number of places they venerated as the burial places of Abraham, not only the one in Hebron.

It appears likely that the main reason they only talk about the Hebron tomb nowadays is because it also happens to be a place that Jews worship.

Mabhouh's use of passports and disguises

Firas Press reports:
A close friend of Hamas leader Mahmoud Mabhouh said Thursday that Mabhouh, who was assassinated in Dubai, resorted to the same method used by the killers as he used several false passports and means of deception during secret missions undertaken by him to bring arms to Hamas.

Mabhouh would take his personal security very seriously. "He used to wear contact lenses and dyed his hair while traveling to European countries," the source said, adding that he lived with Mabhouh for two years in exile.

The friend added: "He provided Hamas and other allied factions with money and weapons."

He said, "He had a lot of passports of different nationalities, all Arab", adding that Mabhouh had recent surgery to change the shape of his nose.

Dubai Police have not commented officially on the which passport Mabhouh used to enter the emirate.

The friend said, "He did not ever live a normal life. He never told anyone, even his wife, about his travel plans," adding that Mabhouh used Arab passports to enter the European countries because they are less suspicious.
Somehow, I don't think that any Arab countries are too worked up about the fact that Mabhouh used forged passports to get money and arms for a terrorist group.

Today's hypocrisy by Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook, the Nazareth-based writer who finds every excuse he can to lie about and bash the nation that allows him to write freely, has another perfect example of hypocrisy in his latest piece published by Ma'an.

You see, New York Times reporter Ethan Bronner recently revealed that his son was in the IDF.
Cook uses this as a springboard to accuse all Western journalists in Israel (outside of himself, of course) of having pro-Israel biases. He also manages to whine that they have better sources than he does.

There is another journalist who has written dozens of arrticles for Ma'an, as well as for many other Arab and far-left sites. His name is Ramzy Baroud, and his hatred of Israel is palpable. He doesn't even pretend to be objective any more.

He just wrote a book called "My Father Was a Freedom Fighter." Although he says this is a history book, his father was actually a member of the Palestine Liberation Army in the 1960s.

Will Jonathan Cook, or any other Ma'an writer, decry Ramzy Baroud for his obvious conflict of interest?

Given that Bronner clearly tries to be fair in his writing, and Baroud clearly does not, wouldn't it make more sense to go after Baroud?

Fat chance.

"Death of those who support mingling men and women"

From Al-Arabiya:
A prominent Saudi cleric has issued an edict calling for opponents of the kingdom's strict segregation of men and women to be put to death if they refuse to abandon their ideas.

Shaikh Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak said in a fatwa the mixing of genders at the workplace or in education "as advocated by modernisers" is prohibited because it allows "sight of what is forbidden, and forbidden talk between men and women."

"All of this leads to whatever ensues," he said in the text of the fatwa published on his website (albarrak.islamlight.net).

"Whoever allows this mixing ... allows forbidden things, and whoever allows them is an infidel and this means defection from Islam ... Either he retracts or he must be killed ... because he disavows and does not observe the Shariah," Barrak said.

"Anyone who accepts that his daughter, sister or wife works with men or attend mixed-gender schooling cares little about his honor and this is a type of pimping," Barrak said.
Part of this seems to have been prompted by the new Saudi KAUST university that allows men and women to attend classes together, and even allows women to go without the hijab.

Egyptian scholars denounced this fatwa.

EoZ: The official J-blog of the 2010 Winter Olympics



Happy (almost) Purim!

Mabhouh circus update

The latest bizarre details in the Mabhouh assassination:

A third Palestinian Arab is being questioned by Dubai authorities for his involvement in the murder.

Two (or three) of the suspects left Dubai after a reconnaisance mission (or the hit) and went to Iran.

Iran is the only player in the region outside the Mossad that would have the means to do such an operation, and the ability to make it look like Israel did it.

However, I think it is more likely that we are seeing Dubai police incompetence, accusing anyone who was on Mabhouh's floor in the Rotana hotel, than a bizarre Iranian conspiracy to kill a business partner.

There is also this interesting tidbit from CBS:
The members of the hit team – at least a dozen men and two women – can be assumed to have been wearing disguises at every moment they were caught on camera. Antonio Mendez, former chief of disguises at the CIA, years ago revealed to CBS News that ultralight latex-type masks that fit completely over the face – and make you look like a completely different person – are real and not figments of the "Mission: Impossible" screenwriters' imaginations.
This would mean that the agents are not "burned" after being seen on camera in an operation like this.

PalArabs are protesting Jewish ties to ancient sites, not Israeli

If you think that the latest Palestinian Arabs are rioting over Netanyahu's including the Cave of Machpelah and Rachel's Tomb as Israeli heritage sites, read the Arab press.

They are upset that the sites are being called "Jewish heritage sites."

From Palestine Press Agency:
The city of Hebron in the West Bank called a strike this morning in response to the call by Fatah to protest the Israeli decision to annex the Ibrahimi Mosque and another mosque of the heritage sites of Judaism.

The strike affected all walks of life in the city of Hebron, including schools and universities, as the are protesting the decision of the Israeli Prime Minister to include the Ibrahimi Mosque and the Mosque of Bilal to the list of heritage sites of Judaism.
Palestine Today:
Clashes are continuing clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli occupation forces in the vicinity of the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron in the West Bank, to condemned the Israeli government's decision to annex the Ibrahimi Mosque as a Jewish religious site.

Also Palestine Today:
Sheikh Kamal Khatib, deputy head of the northern wing of the Islamic Movement of Palestine occupied in 1948, warned that the declaration of Israel on Sunday night to include the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron to the list of so-called Jewish heritage sites is only a "rehearsal" to see the reaction from Muslims as they plan to Judaize the Al Aqsa Mosque in the middle of next month.

The secular Al Quds:
The Israeli government had decided at the weekend, the restoration of its landmark of 150 historic Jewish sites, as "sites of special heritage status," and carry out development of the expanded and transformed into tourist sites. Among these sites the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb (near Bilal Ben Rabah mosque) in Bethlehem, outside the city walls of Jerusalem.
(It is interesting that Al Quds says that Rachel's Tomb is "near" the Bilal mosque, not in the same place, as Palestinian Arabs have been claiming for the past decade or so.)

These riots have nothing to do with Israel and everything to do with Jews asserting their rights to their holiest sites.

Even while the "hawkish," "extremist," "right-wing" government of Binyomin Netanyahu takes pains to emphasize that in no way is he interested in diminishing Muslim rights to their holy places, the Palestinian Arabs - even the supposedly secular ones - are trying mightily to keep all Jews out of every one of their alleged holy places, which, not coincidentally, are all belatedly considered Muslim holy places as well.

Every conciliatory move that Israel has done towards accommodation is taken as proof that Jews aren't as attached to their holy places as Muslims are, and it emboldens the Arabs more and more.

The harsh reality is that if Israel would have annexed these sites in 1967 - including the Temple Mount - the Arabs would have grumbled but they would have understood and respected it. They project their own attitudes towards the Jews and expect them to act the way they would have. Only when the government of the Jewish state wavers as to how important these sites are do the problems arise.

And keep in mind that the Muslims claim the Western Wall as well, so if Israel caves on this, it won't help "peace" - it will just move the battle towards Jerusalem.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How do you insult Al Jazeera?

By publishing its logo on top of an Israeli flag!
This accompanied a bizarre conspiracy theory article in Firas Press which seemed to link Al Jazeera with the assassinations and arrests of major Arab figures.

As far as I can tell, the article does not really claim that Al Jazeera ("The Island" in case you want to puzzle out the autotranslation yourself) is in cahoots with Israel, but it notes that both Mabhouh and Hamas leader Rantisi were assassinated very soon after they were interviewed by Al Jazeera, indicating a possible Mossad mole in the network.

I have a feeling that many Arabs are checking for Mossad agents under their beds before they go to sleep.

Are Muslims obligated to hate all Jews and Christians?

Last week, an op-ed was written by a Dr. Hamad Al-Majid in Asharq al-Awsat, calling on Muslims to interpret the Quran in liberal ways that would allow respect for non-Muslims:
I think that with a careful Shariaa reading of a number of texts on this subject, and by confining this [hatred] to specific cases, many problems and dilemmas would be solved, and this could even have help in consolidating social peace, especially in the Muslim countries where acts of violence are being carried out against their Christian minorities such as Egypt and Nigeria. This is something would also need to be taught as part of the academic syllabus, and this may be the key to solving this problem.

When I was working for the Islamic Center in London in the 1990s, I saw for myself the state of confusion in the British people who had recently converted to Islam when they were taught the principles of hatred, rather than [peaceful] disagreement. This had a negative impact in the way in which they treated other people; their parents, their brothers and sisters, their family and friends, and so Islam lost a number of potential converts who might have been attracted to the religion had they been treated with more respect and compassion.
It appears that many Muslims were very unhappy with Dr. al-Majid's liberal interpretation. So much so that he felt compelled to write a follow-up, possibly out of fear, saying that the Muslims that passionately hate Christians and Jews have solid textual evidence for their feelings:

Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal [founder of the Hanbali school of Fiqh] would turn his face away if any Christian looked at him, when asked why, he answered "I cannot look at anyone who lies about and slanders God." On the other hand Imam Malik ibn Anas [founder of the Maliki school of Fiqh] said that it was permissible for a Muslim to share a meal with a Christian. This is a clear example of the huge gap in the different understandings and diverse opinions that Muslim Imams have on this subject.

The principle of not loving those who resist and make war on Allah and his Messenger [pbuh] is a "firmly established" Islamic principle. However scholars disagree over whether this applies to peaceful Jews, Christians, and others, or whether believers should hate all non-believers regardless of how peaceful they are, whether this is a wife, a neighbor or a colleague. This issue is considered to be a "contentious" issue and clerics have adopted different opinions with regards to this recently as well as throughout the past. It is therefore unworthy for any scholar or seeker of knowledge to describe anybody who adopts either of these two opinions as being confused or capricious or influenced by the West or having a loose doctrine or responding to pressure; they should not consider them to be sinners or wrongdoers in need of correction. Similarly, those who follow the permissive option [of Imam Malik] should not label those who adhere to their own contrasting doctrine as hardliners or extremists.

In the end, nobody can be certain who is right and who is wrong; only God can know.
Dr. Al-Majid's credentials are "Journalist and former member of the official Saudi National Organization for Human Rights. Al-Majid is a graduate of Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh and holds an M.A. from California and a Doctorate from the University of Hull in the United Kingdom. "

If a Muslim with such a comparatively liberal background feels compelled to excuse Muslim hate as just another valid opinion, it does not bode well for the chances that liberals in Islam will ever manage to gain ascendancy in their community. (And even with his seemingly conciliatory feelings, he mentions that he is a fan of hate preacher Yusuf Qaradawi.)

Ahmadinejad blames US for delaying return of the Mahdi

From Al-Arabiya:
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed once again to "cut the hands" of Iran's enemies if the Islamic republic came under attack, AFP reported Tuesday.

In the speech, broadcast live on state television and circulated in several media outlets, Ahmadinejad reiterated his accusations that the United States was hindering the return of the redeemer of Islam, the Mahdi, local media reported.

“If the Mahdi does not come, this will mean that the battle of Karbala could be repeated. The Mahdi will face what the prophets faced and his life will be in danger,” he told the rally.

While pointing out that the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which ousted the Shah and installed the current religious regime, is a prelude to the appearance of the Mahdi, Ahmadinejad argued that the arrogance of the United States is one the main obstacles to the Mahdi’s coming.

Ahmadinejad accused the United States of planning and carrying out the September 11 attacks in order to gain the sympathy of the world.

“These attacks fed its propaganda and became an excuse for attacking Afghanistan under the pretext of fighting terrorism.”

In an earlier speech he gave in Esfahan in December, Ahmadinejad claimed he had documented evidence that the United States invaded Iraq in order to prevent the coming of the Mahdi and stressed that the Iranian people would prepare the ground for his coming forming the Mahdi Army.

In a meeting he held with cleric Ayatollah Jawadi Amuli, Ahmadinejad claimed a halo of light surrounded him while he gave a speech at the United Nations General Assembly, attributing this to the Mahdi’s support.

In Shiite faith, the Mahdi, an Arabic term for guided, is believed to be the redeemer of Islam who will come to earth before the Day of Judgment and, together with Jesus, rid the world of all tyranny and injustice.
So, according to Ahmadinejad, Obama is more powerful than his messiah. So was Bush. Cool!

If mere US presidents can stop the Mahdi from arriving, how can the Mahdi expect to rid the world of tyranny and injustice?

Dubai police now have 26 suspects

From Gulf News:
Police revealed 15 more suspects in the Al Mabhouh murder case on Wednesday.

The extensive investigation has led to a total of 26 suspects so far involved in the murder of the Hamas official Mahmoud Al Mabhouh at a Dubai hotel.

In addition to the previously released list of 11 suspects, Dubai Police has now identified another six suspects, who include a woman who used British passports, a man and three women travelling on Irish passports, two men who used French passports, and three people with Australian passports. The Australians included a woman.

The new list of suspects include 15 names, bringing the total identified suspects to 26.

Soon every European who ever visited Dubai will be a suspect.

By the way, this is not the first high-profile murder to happen in Dubai. Two years ago, famous Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim was murdered by a hitman hired by her ex-lover, a powerful and rich Egyptian businessman and politician.

Hillel Cohen responds to my review of "Good Arabs"

The author of "Good Arabs," Hillel Cohen, responded to my review where I questioned whether the word Nakba was used in the 1950s:
Thanks for your review. Just one factual comment - the term Nakba was in use in Arabic in the 1950s. As you might know, the book of Constantin Zureik 'Ma'na al-Nakba' (the meaning of the Nakba) was published in Beirut in summer 1948 (!). It is true that Jewish Israelis (and the elders of Zion?) became familiar with it only in the 1990s, but one should bear in mind that there are discourses beyond the Hebrew one.
I asked back:
Thanks for writing, Hillel. My only question is whether the term was used in the 1950s with the "capital N" usage that it is used today, even in Arabic. In other words, would the average Palestinian Arab have used it in that context in that decade to the extent of saying that "May 14th is Nakba Day."

And, if you would be so kind as to answer whether you believe that the word "collaboration" is the correct, consistent translation of the term in Israeli documents you cite, or whether "cooperation" was closer to the authors' intent in some or most cases.
Cohen answered:
As far as i understand, the term Nakba was rather widespread in the internal discourse among the Arabs in Israel in the 1950s-1960s, and was the common word to refer to the war of 1948 and refugehood.

As about 'collaboration' - Arabs who were involved with the Israeli security agencies were usually considered collaborators by all involved parties (, i.e. the general Arab community, themselves and the security agencies). Political cooperation with Mapai was termed 'collaboration' by those who opposed it, and 'cooperation' by those who advocated it (and I tried to present their arguments according to my understanding). Anyhow, it was frequently the same people who were involved in politics and security matters. Police and Shabak officers in many cases looked down at the people who assisted 'the system': sometimes view them as traitors, but not always.

There were changes in this respect througout the years, and what was considered treason in one period was not necessarily considered so in other, what complicates the definitions even more.

Personally, I'd add, I have no political goals in writing my books, and I don't try to prove anything - but to present and analyse historical sources that I read. This is not to say, of course, that I am not influenced by my (ever-changing) political views that support Jewish-Arab cooperation.
I appreciate that he came here and explained himself, and from reading his books it is clear that Cohen is intellectually honest he does intend to portray things as accurately as possible.

UNRWA chief again takes away "refugee" choice

The new UNRWA Commissioner General, Fillipo Grandi, is in Syria to discuss the situation in UNRWA camps there and to praise the Syrian president for all he does for Palestinian Arab "refugees."

According to Firas Press, he explicitly told the Syrians that UNRWA is not interested in resettling any Palestinian Arabs in other countries besides "Palestine." While he stressed that UNRWA wants to improve their living conditions in the camps, he said that on the topic of the UNRWA position on resettlement in Arab countries, he "discussed this matter with the Syrian government and representatives of the refugees and the refugees themselves" and that they were not interested in resettling.

This is, of course, a lie. A significant number of stateless Arabs of Palestinian origin would jump at the opportunity to become full citizens of Arab countries, and in the rare occasions that they had such an opportunity, they grabbed it.

It is the Arab leaders - and the Palestinian Arab leaders - who work mightily to stop such a thing from happening. And now UNRWA, which actually did try to resettle refugees in the 1950s, is in the forefront of prolonging the statelessness and misery of Palestinian Arabs, doing everything it can to increase the number of "refugees" forever.

The world sits by silently at this abuse of millions of people by the UNRWA and Arab leaders who all pretend to be doing what is best for the stateless Arabs of Palestinian origin - without once surveying them and asking them what they really want.

The most basic human right - the right to make one's own decisions - is being explicitly revoked by the UNRWA.

This is why the UNRWA needs a major overhaul, or to be eliminated altogether. It does not solve any problem, and it is a major reason that the problem is getting worse.

Hamas leader's son was a "collaborator" who saved many lives

Remember Mosab Yousef, the son of one of Hamas' founders who converted to Christianity and caused his family much grief?

Their grief is about to be redoubled. From Ha'aretz:
The son of a leading Hamas figure, who famously converted to Christianity, served for over a decade as the Shin Bet security service's most valuable source in the militant organization's leadership, Haaretz has learned.

Mosab Hassan Yousef is the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a Hamas founder and one of its leaders in the West Bank. The intelligence he supplied Israel led to the exposure of a number of terrorist cells, and to the prevention of dozens of suicide bombings and assassination attempts on Israeli figures.

Yousef's memoir, "Son of Hamas" (written with Ron Brackin) will be released next week in the United States. Yousef, 32, became a devout Christian 10 years ago and now lives in California after fleeing the West Bank in 2007 and going public with his conversion.

Yousef was considered the Shin Bet's most reliable source in the Hamas leadership, earning himself the nickname "the Green Prince" - using the color of the Islamist group's flag, and "prince" because of his pedigree as the son of one of the movement's founders.

During the second intifada, intelligence Yousef supplied led to the arrests of a number of high-ranking Palestinian figures responsible for planning deadly suicide bombings. These included Ibrahim Hamid (a Hamas military commander in the West Bank, Marwan Barghouti (founder of the Fatah-linked Tanzim militia) and Abdullah Barghouti (a Hamas bomb-maker with no close relation to the Fatah figure). Yousef was also responsible for thwarting Israel's plan to assassinate his father.

His former handler, who no longer serves with the security service, says Yousef collaborated with Israel because he wanted to save lives.

"So many people owe him their life and don't even know it," said the handler, named in Yousef's book as Captain Loai. "People who did a lot less were awarded the Israel Security Prize. He certainly deserves it."

Loai makes no secret of his admiration for his former source. "The amazing thing is that none of his actions were done for money," he says. "He did things he believed in. He wanted to save lives. His grasp of intelligence matters was just as good as ours - the ideas, the insights. One insight of his was worth 1,000 hours of thought by top experts."

Loai recalled one time when the Shin Bet received information that a suicide bomber was going to be picked up at Manara Square in Ramallah and be given an explosives belt.

"We didn't know his name or what he looked like - only that he was in his 20s and would be wearing a red shirt," he said. "We sent the Green Prince to the square and with his acute sense, he located the target within minutes. He saw who picked him up, followed the car and made it possible for us to arrest the suicide bomber and the man who was supposed to give him the belt. So another attack was thwarted, though no one knows about it. No one opens Champagne bottles or bursts into song and dance. This was an almost daily thing for the Prince. He displayed courage, had sharp antennae and an ability to cope with danger. We knew he was one of those who in any situation - rain, snow, summer - give their all."

With his memoir, Yousef hopes to send a message of peace to Israelis. Still, he admits he is pessimistic over the prospect of Israel signing a peace agreement with the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, let alone Hamas.

"Hamas cannot make peace with the Israelis. That is against what their God tells them. It is impossible to make peace with infidels, only a cease-fire, and no one knows that better than I. The Hamas leadership is responsible for the killing of Palestinians, not Israelis," he said. "Palestinians! They do not hesitate to massacre people in a mosque or to throw people from the 15th or 17th floor of a building, as they did during the coup in Gaza. The Israelis would never do such things. I tell you with certainty that the Israelis care about the Palestinians far more than the Hamas or Fatah leadership does."
Hamas, for its part, describes the Israeli media as being filled with lies and as just another instrument of war, and will not dignify this article with a response, according to Palestine Today.

In other words, they are seething.

Mamilla update and the text of the judgments

The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles has an op-ed by Rabbi Marvin Hier where he discusses the article I found in the Palestine Post about how the Supreme Muslim Council approved building on the Mamilla Cemetery in 1945 - including its own offices - showing how the Muslim community no longer considered it sacred ground.

It also has an article about the 1945 plan, which mentions me:
The blog, titled Elder of Ziyon, is written anonymously and serves as a watchdog against anti-Zionism.
I'm anonymously famous!

While we are on the topic, I have uploaded the text of the Israeli Supreme Court judgment on the original case (it was corrupted so I had to recover the text only, not the formatting.) I also have the text of the judgment concerning the appeal.

For people who care to read it, one can see that all of the arguments against the building were heard, discussed and dismissed by Israel's Supreme Court. The people who are now making a stink over the museum are being dishonest by repeating only their side of the story and not mentioning how their arguments were demolished, twice. For example, in the appeals judgment:

Furthermore, from the various data produced to us, it appears that the “purple area” has been deeply excavated and that the work of moving the tombs and interring the human remains has been completed. Such being the case, it can no longer be said that the Court’s intervention is necessary for the purpose of implementing the recommendations of Mr Sulimani in the report that he filed so that the whole site will be excavated. In view of this state of affairs, it is not clear what relief the Petitioners are seeking from the Court. Are they seeking to stop the construction of the Museum at the site even though the tombs and human remains that were there have been moved? Or is it sought to move the tombs back to the site and thereby prohibit construction? One way or the other, it is clear that those applications cannot be met and there is no cause to do so either, in view of the express findings of the judgment in the first petition.

...
We have gained the impression that whilst the first petition was filed with the intention of raising factual and legal pleas against the venture and obtaining the Court’s decision, the filing of the petition herein was essentially intended to bring about a delay in the Museum’s construction, in such a way as amounts to an abuse of court proceedings.
The first judgment is much lengthier and describes each sides' arguments in great detail. One of the more laughable claims made by the anti-museum side was this one:
It submitted the opinion of Dr Hassan Sanalla of 12 December 2006, which reviewed the extensive protection given to Jewish burial sites in Islamic countries, and the general protection extended to sites of a religious character in international law

The most important cemetery in the Jewish world is on the Mount of Olives, which is not only ancient but also still being used today. And that cemetery was mercilessly defiled by the Jordanians between 1948 and 1967:
On the Mount of Olives, the Jordanian Arabs removed 38,000 tombstones from the ancient cemetery and used them as paving stones for roads and as construction material in Jordanian Army camps, including use as latrines. When the area was recaptured by Israel in 1967, graves were found open with the bones scattered. Parts of the cemetery were converted into parking lots, a filling station, and an asphalt road was built to cut through it. The Intercontinental Hotel was built at the top of the cemetery. Sadar Khalil, appointed by the Jordanian government as the official caretaker of the cemetery, built his home on the grounds using the stones robbed from graves. In 1967, the press published extensive photos documenting that Jewish gravestones were found in Jordanian Army camps, such as El Azariya, as well as in Palestinian walkways, steps, bathrooms, and pavement.


Here are some pictures of the desecration. (h/t Boker Tov Boulder)

Here are Jewish tombstones used as pavers for a road:

For building a wall:

For building a bench:
The hypocrisy is stunning.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mossad T-shirt sales explode

From Irish Times:
SALES OF Mossad-themed T-shirts, available by mail order, have risen tenfold since the Israeli spy agency was linked to last month’s assassination in Dubai.

Despite the fact that Israeli leaders are refusing to confirm or deny Mossad involvement, orders for the garments have flooded in over the past few weeks – from Israelis and particularly from diaspora Jews.

Eran Davidov, marketing manager of a top mail order company selling Israeli-made products, told The Irish Times they have been overwhelmed by demand since they launched a special “Show off your Mossad and Israeli pride” campaign earlier this week.

Don’t Mess With the Mossad” next to a picture of a pistol is top of the T-shirt range. Another popular T-shirt has the word Mossad with the letter “o” replaced by a circular target used on a rifle range, with the organisation’s title underneath: “The Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations.” The word Mossad in Hebrew next to a pistol is also on offer.

Mr Davidov said that since the launch of the marketing campaign the company has received dozens of e-mails and blog messages expressing pride in the ability of Mossad to strike with impunity throughout the Arab world.

Mossad-theme souvenirs are now definitely in.

Israeli army or T-shirts with pro-Israel slogans have been popular for years among Jewish tourists visiting Israel, particularly with Jewish American teenagers.

Ironically, they are often purchased from Palestinian merchants in the winding alleyways of Jerusalem’s old city.

The myth of the Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque continues

I mentioned a few months ago that Palestinian Arabs gave Rachel's Tomb the supposedly "ancient" name of the "Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque" in the mid-1990s. The Arabs are desperately trying to claim this indisputably Jewish shrine as their own, just as they claim every other Jewish shrine in the Middle East without exception.

Now that Binyomin Netanyahu decided to place Judaism's second and third-holiest sites in a list of Israeli heritage sites, the lies about the very name of Rachel's Tomb are increasing, both in Arabic and in English (including here and here.)

Another proof of how new these claims are comes from IMPACT-SE, a group that translates Palestinian Arab textbooks. They note:
Even the Jewish holy places in the country are not recognized and are presented as Muslim holy places taken over by the Jews:
… The attempt to Judaize some of the Muslim religious places like the Mosque of Abraham [the Machpelah Sanctuary— Cave of the Patriarchs] and the Mosque of Bilal bin Rabbah [Rachel’s Tomb]

National Education, Grade 7 (2001), p. 55
In the case of Rachel’s Tomb, in fact, we see a myth in the making.

In an experimental book issued by the PA in 1996, this place is still called the “Dome of Rachel, mother of our Lord Joseph and wife of Jacob.”3 In a book published in 2001, it is given the name “Mosque of Bilal bin Rabbah.”4
This is an amazing example where Palestinian Arab history is faked in front of our eyes, yet you will not find a single Arab willing to say publicly that there was never any such mosque.

(There happen to be many mosques in the Arab world with that exact name, including in Tulkarem, in Gaza and elsewhere.)

Syrian human rights activist to be tried for "insulting" Assad

Al Quds al Arabi reports that a prominent Syrian human-rights advocate is going to stand trial later this month on the charges of "insulting Syrian President Assad and his father."

Haitham al-Maleh, 78, has been held by Syrian authorities since last October. His arrest came two days after he gave an interview criticizing Syrian authorities for their repression of free speech.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration rewarded Syria by appointing a new US envoy to the dictatorship, the first in five years. This was right around when the IAEA indicated that the complex bombed by Israel in 2007 was indeed a secret nuclear plant.

Political intrigue in Libya between Fatah and Hamas

An Arab League summit is planned in Tripoli next month, and the big question is whether Hamas would be allowed to attend as a representative of Palestinian Arabs.

At first it appeared that Hamas would not be permitted to attend as a representative unless there is a reconciliation deal between the two groups.

But Al Quds al-Arabi is reporting that when Mahmoud Abbas went to Libya to make arrangements for the meeting, Libya's leader Maommar Ghaddafi refused to meet with him, and is hinting that he might want to meet with Hamas leaders instead.

Abbas seems to have more prestige in the West than in the Arab world.

Now, here is a target for the Mossad

According to the Saudi Okaz news agency, quoted by Palestinian Press Agency, this coming weekend it is likely that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will meet in Damascus both with Hamas "politburo" leader Khaled Meshal and with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Actually, why bother with the Mossad? A couple of cruise missiles or smart bombs could do more for long-term peace in the region than any number of UN conferences.

A new "Persian Gulf" diplomatic crisis

From the WaPo:
Airlines not referring to the waterway between Iran and the Arabian peninsula as the Persian Gulf will be banned from Iranian airspace, the transport minister told local media Monday.

The warning was directed specifically toward the airlines of neighboring Gulf Arab countries who have a history of referring to the body of water as the "Arabian Gulf."

"The airlines of the southern Persian gulf countries flying to Iran must use 'Persian Gulf' on their flight monitors," Hamid Behbahani told the IRAN daily.

Airlines ignoring the warning would be banned from Iranian airspace, while repeat offenders would have their planes grounded in Iran and "the companies' flight permits to Iran canceled."

The report said Iran expelled a Greek flight attendant from the private Iranian airline, Kish Air, for using "Arabian Gulf" on a monitor over the weekend.

What most interested me in the Kish incident is that some Iranian airlines lease airplanes from other countries, including their flight crews.

This would be a nice way to leverage sanctions, if the West ever gets its act together.

Friend of Jimmy Carter visits Hamas in Gaza

From Ma'an:
De facto government Prime minister Ismail Haniyeh hosted former national security adviser for Latin America Bob Pastor in Gaza City on Monday, officials reported.

Pastor, who worked under the Carter Administration, teaches at the American University in Washington DC in the International Service School, he is also co-director of the Center for North American Studies and the Center for Democracy and Election Management at the university.

Government spokesperson Tahir An-Nunu said Haniyeh and Pastor discussed political developments in the region and Palestinian reconciliation efforts. Haniyeh also addressed the affect [sic] of the Israeli-imposed siege on the region.
Pastor is most well-known for his advocacy of a North American confederation, which he calls a "community" and would be akin to the European Union. He also was instrumental behind the Panama Canal treaties.

As far as I can tell, the only real tie he has with the Middle East is through Carter.

Monday, February 22, 2010

"Israel has the right to defend itself..BUT"

Ask anyone from the EU or someone like Richard Goldstone whether Israel has the right to defend itself, and you will get the answer of "Yes, but...."

Goldstone, for example, said that the UN report he wrote "in no way contradicts the right of Israel to defend itself." He just wrote it in such a way that so severely hampers Israel's ability to defend itself as to make the words meaningless.

Amnesty International's Middle East director says that “Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself from rocket attacks but this blockade is not the right policy."

Human Rights Watch writes that it "recognizes Israel's right to defend itself against attacks by Palestinian armed groups in Gaza...But lawful means of self-defense do not include harming civilians in Gaza." (Note they do not say "purposeful" harming of civilians, they are implying any harming of civilians, even if Geneva allows it.)

The EU Parliament passed a resolution last year that stated, in part, that it "Reaffirms the right of Israel to defend itself, but stresses that this right must be proportional to the threat received and should be exerted in full compliance with the humanitarian law and..... " a full paragraph of what Israel is not allowed to do even as they assert this "right."

The upshot seems to be that everyone agrees that Israel is certainly allowed to defend itself in theory, but there is always a "but": Israel has no practical, legal, moral means to do so according to these self-proclaimed arbiters of law and morality.

The Mabhouh assassination, presumably done by Israel's Mossad, is a textbook example of this rule at work. Assuming that it was done by Israel, here we see the elimination of a known terrorist and murderer; who was in the process of procuring weapons meant to murder Israeli civilians. No civilians were killed or injured; there was no bloody mess for the chambermaids to clean up; no one else in the hotel were even woken up from their sleep - this was the cleanest, quietest way for Israel to defend itself.

And yet, the world is up in arms, mostly because it appears that passports were forged!

From Al-Arabiya:
European Union foreign ministers condemned on Monday the use of forged European passports by assassins who killed a a top Hamas figure in Dubai, but made no direct reference to Israel.

"We strongly condemn the use of fraudulent EU member states' passports and credit cards acquired through the theft of EU citizens' identities," the foreign ministers said in a statement drawn up during a meeting in Brussels

The EU also for the first time condemned the act of assassination in Dubai believed to be carried out by Israeli spy agency Mossad.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said the culprits must be punished, stressing that such political assassinations "have no place in the 21st century."

Even though Goldstone ridiculously asserted that Israel could somehow eliminate the rocket threat through "commando actions" - showing his extreme ignorance of what the threat even was - apparently the clean assassination of a terrorist scumbag in Dubai is not an appropriate way to approach that very same threat. After all, the killing of Mabhouh was much cleaner than any actions Israel could do in Gaza - no damage to anyone's houses, no unwanted injuries, no danger to innocents. And yet it is condemned.

(It will be recalled that Mabhouh's often used forged passports as well, and no one seems to be very worked up about that.)

Putting it all together, and Israel's critics still cannot come up with a single realistic scenario of how Israel can legally defend itself, even as they insist that Israel has that "right." Having the right without the practical ability means that, according to these people, Israel really doesn't have the right to defend itself.

They might as well just admit it.

Jordanian murderer gets trial postponed for soccer game

Al Quds al Arabi reports that a Jordanian man who is accused of murdering his three sons, a neighbor and her two children in 2008 has requested that his trial be postponed...until after an important soccer match between Jordan and Singapore next month.

The judge agreed to postpone the trial to the week after the game.

Why peace is impossible, reason #73

In 2001, a pair of books were written for the purpose of cross-cultural understanding between Jews and Muslims. One was called "Children of Abraham: an introduction to Judaism for Muslims" by Reuven Firestone and the other one was called "Children of Abraham: an introduction to Islam for Jews" by Khalid Durán.

The latter book was slammed by Muslims and Islamists as being inaccurate, and the author says that he received death threats.

The book for Muslims to learn about Judaism, written by a professor at Hebrew Union College, is now under a different type of attack.

Although both books were written under the auspices of the American Jewish Committee and the Harriet and Robert Heilbrunn Institute For International Interreligious Understanding, a new Arabic translation of the book is being decried as a great danger by Israel to the Arab nation, by a columnist in Al Asharq al-Awsat:

Zionism, as a doctrine based on religious myths, is controversial and extremely racist. The international community acknowledged the danger of it and considered it a disease that must be fought against just like Nazism, Apartheid etc. For decades, Israel has been trying (by all means possible) to consolidate the idea that it has a divine right to the land of Palestine, however to no avail. Of course this idea is met with the biggest rejection from the Arab and Islamic World.

Now Israel is taking a new step in this regard, or to be more precise, an unprecedented audacious step (even for Israel!) A book has been published in Israel in Arabic by the Harriet and Robert Heilbrunn Institute for International Interreligious Understanding of the American Jewish Committee entitled: ‘Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Judaism for Muslims,’ by Reuven Firestone. The book opens with the following verse from Surat al Jathiya: “We did aforetime grant to the Children of Israel the Book, the Power of Command, and Prophethood; We gave them, for Sustenance, things good and pure; and We favoured them above the nations.”

The book contains numerous historical errors and fallacies. The author chose Quranic verses that praise the Children of Israel to open his book with but the truth is that this praise was not aimed at today’s Jews but the rather the People of Moses within a certain period of history. The People of Moses believed in Almighty God as the One and Only Creator and at the time they formed a unified nation. However, the Jews who came after them broke away from the divine teachings and some of them worshipped the calf and became disbelievers while others killed prophets, went back on their pledges and acted treacherously.

The book’s “dangerous” introduction aims to give an Islamic smokescreen to the Jewish claim to Palestine by misinterpreting certain Quranic verses and presenting an explanation to history that corresponds with the Jewish Zionist vision of the right to the Promised Land (whilst completely ignoring Quranic verses that criticize this). The book bases its argument on a mix of religion, history, politics and law but its points are weak and fragile and can be refuted. However, Israel is randomly sending hundreds of copies to Arab addresses in an attempt to gain new solid ground among Arab masses. It uses Islam as a pathway to achieve its goals and plays on the profound influence of religion on Arabs and Muslims. They are trying to send a malicious message here; that Israel’s existence in Palestine – by virtue of it being a “divine right” – is not only a Jewish belief but also an Islamic one.

However, Islam is very clear on this point. No Mufasirun [interpreters] of the Holy Quran or the Hadith [Prophetic traditions] or the Prophet’s Seerah have ever acknowledged that the land of Palestine was promised to the Jews or anything of the sort. War is an act of deception; Israel is now escalating its psychological war against Arabs and Muslims by presenting them with misleading, ideologized political and religious interpretations to serve its Zionist plots in an attempt to show people that the truth is on its side. Israel claims to be standing on a firm, legitimate foundation as the party that is rightfully entitled to the land of Palestine, not the Arabs.

The lies and myths of Israel are nothing new. The Israelis have made many attempts in the past to pollute our heritage and establish their lies and myths as part of the region’s history in order to base all policies, laws and systems on that distorted foundation. ‘Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Judaism for Muslims’ needs to be read carefully and countered as there is a wide base that is not qualified to interpret the Quran away from its historical context and the events that took place. This new book represents a new chapter of Israeli audacity to be added to Israel’s record of black deeds.


Whew! A book that aims to show the Jewish side of the story (and, from looking at the excerpts on the English version, its point is clearly not to interpret the Quran but to explain things from the Jewish perspective) is considered a huge danger to Arabs by this writer. Not only that, but he feels threatened by any narrative that asserts that Zionism is anything but racist and built on lies.

He must believe that Arabs' knowledge of their own history and the Quran is tenuous indeed to be this upset over a book, so that even the slightest exposure to other viewpoints is a major assault against their very beings.

And, of course, he blames Israel for being behind this immense propaganda campaign, when the entire project was apparently done by well-meaning - and very naive - Jews who are only yearning for peace. Could anyone imagine a Muslim organization being behind a similar initiative?

Once again, the utter Arab inability to look at, or attempt to understand, anything but their own ingrained narrative is an immovable obstacle to any real peace. Long-term understandings and agreements cannot occur without a degree of empathy, and this is an attribute that most Arabs simply do not exhibit. As this story proves, they don't only lack empathy - they actively fight against the possibility of any of them gaining empathy, as if learning another viewpoint is danger to their very sense of identity.

Ma'ariv: Hamas trying to manufacture Qassams in the West bank

Ma'ariv (Hebrew) reports that PA security forces arrested seven men, five of them Hamas members, who had created a rocket manufacturing facility near Ramallah.

One rocket which was close to completion had written on it "there is no god but Allah."

This could be the secret new type of offensive that Hamas' Al Qassam Brigades swore in revenge for the death of Mabhouh.

Another work accident in the "playground of death"

From Ma'an:
The paramilitary wing of Hamas, the Al-Qassam Brigades, announced on Monday that one of its combatants was killed in Khan Younses, southern Gaza.

"Diya Al-Khalout, from Jabaliya, was martyred on a Jihad mission," a statement issued by the armed group said.

Two combatants were injured following an explosion at a military training camp affiliate to the National Resistance, west of Khan Younes, Gaza, witnesses reported.
Here is Hamas' press release it its official English version:

As Al Aqsa Intifada against the occupation assault on the Gaza Strip continues, Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades has its best men to be in the playground of death to defend their people from any attack by the enemy.. Today, Al-Qassam Brigades mourns the death of the mujahed:

Deya Fathi Al Kahlout [26 years old]

Jabalya camp – northern Gaza Strip

The mujahed was martyred on Monday February 22nd, 2010 after his injury during a duty performance in Khan Younis city, south Gaza Strip. He was martyred after a bright history of hard work with Al Qassam for his home "Palestine".

Al Qassam Brigades mourns the death of the mujahed, reaffirms the commitment and determination to continue the resistance against the belligerent occupation forces.

At least he died doing something he enjoyed, in the "playground of death."

This makes at least 7 "work accident" deaths this year.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Arab op-ed slams PA corruption

From Al-Arabiya:
The revelation of corruption and sexual harassment against Rafiq Al Hussieni, an aid to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas last week by a former Palestinian intelligence officer, was not the first charge of corruption against the Palestinian leadership that came to exist in the occupied territories as a result of the Oslo accords between Israel and the PLO in 1993. Corruption, within this ‘Oslo leadership ordinary Palestinians claim, is endemic.

The late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat used corruption as a tool to manage and control his chaotic Palestinian Authority, PA, and thus bred corruption as a way of life and a method of governance in the PA. President Mahmoud Abbas is no different according to many complaints against him by Palestinian intellectuals.

Furthermore, the manner of which the charges of corruption and sexual harassment were revealed on an Israeli TV station resulted in a public revulsion against the PA and its officials. Many commentaries in Arab press described the PA is a decaying corpse that it is better off buried to save the people its stench.

The damage this tainted Palestinian leadership is inflicting on its people due to its wanton corruption is immeasurable. True that Israel is decidedly responsible for the forced displacement and destruction of the Palestinian society and its civic institutions since 1948, but it is also true that this Palestinian leadership has, strange as it may seem, joined the enemy in destroying its own society and people.

Thin Mint Open Thread

I had a whole bunch of interesting, amusing and insightful posts in my head for today, but then an obstacle came up that I could not avoid:
Yes, I saw some Girl Scouts selling the sublime Thin Mints outside a supermarket, and that was that. All the posts flew out of my head as I became fixated on one supreme goal - eating these cookies.

The entire superstructure of the Elders could be toppled by a few thousand well-placed (and chilled) Thin Mint packages, throughout our secret complex.

So while I recover, here's an open thread. If you want to argue that Samoas or Tagalogs are better than Thin Mints, feel free; you are simply wrong.

Book Review: "Start-Up Nation"

Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle is a remarkable book by Dan Senor and Saul Singer. It details what has allowed Israel, a besieged nation with few natural resources and under political and military pressure from birth, to become an incubator for a hugely disproportionate number of successful entrepreneurial enterprises compared to any other nation. It also asks what other nations could learn from Israel's success.

Senor and Singer describe how Israeli engineers literally saved Intel by badgering its executives incessantly to change how they create their chips. The book details how a tiny Israeli firm showed PayPal a completely new method of fraud detection that did in a week what PayPal couldn't do with thousands of analysts in years. It reveals little known items such as the fact that Google Suggest, where probable search requests are shown in real time as you type into the Google Search box, was using Israeli ingenuity.

The book uncovers many factors that contribute to Israeli success in creating startups as well as being crucial to the continued success of giants like Microsoft, Cisco and Berkshire-Hathaway.

One major reason is the Israeli army. The IDF gives its soldiers an instant network across different parts of Israeli society, it actively pursues high-achieving students to join its most challenging programs, it provides cross-disciplinary training, it forces young soldiers to take responsibility for split-second, life-or-death decisions, and it does not punish failure as long as everyone can learn from mistakes. The IDF rewards creativity and frowns upon the rigid hierarchical structure that other armies make mandatory. Soldiers are expected to question everything they are told, and not to rely on the attitude that "this is the way it has always been done." Even more importantly, the IDF resume is critical to getting a job in Israel (something that hurts Israeli Arabs and haredim, a topic discussed briefly.)

All of these factors translate into a successful entrepreneurial spirit. While American companies often do not know what to make of a resume that mentions military service, Israeli companies know exactly how the skills learned on a battlefield translate into the business world. And while corporate America tends to punish people who fail in any new venture, Israelis do not look at failure as a negative; rather it is essential experience.

The army is not the only factor behind Israeli success. Other factors include Israel's embrace of immigration as a catalyst for growth, noting that immigrants are natural risk-takers, as well as government encouragement of the nation's start-ups. It took a group of forward-thinking people to create Israel's venture capital industry. The authors even mention that Jews, from centuries of studying the Talmud, naturally ask questions and challenge their teachers.

One factor that permeates the book, that would be more difficult to reproduce in other nations, is a deep-seated patriotism. Israelis don't just want to succeed, they want to davka succeed - they want to succeed despite, and in spite of, the obstacles that the world puts in their way. Israel's defense industries sprung up partially because Charles de Gaulle stopped sending French jet planes to Israel on the eve of the Six Day War. When Saddam Hussein showered Scud missiles on Israel, Intel Israel employees kept all their manufacturing deadlines at a critical time for Intel - even though the government asked people to stay home and employees all came voluntarily. They knew that for Israel to be taken seriously as a major player, it had to be perceived as a reliable partner for major corporations and divorce the reality of war from meeting commitments.

When Warren Buffett invested in Iscar, he didn't think that the possibility of the factory being destroyed by Katyusha rockets was a catastrophic risk: factories could always be rebuilt; his main investment was in the people.

Even back before the state was born, Palestinian Jews turned the Arab boycott against them into an advantage, as they opened up export markets and ended up doing better than before the boycott.

When Israelis think about how to solve a problem, they aren't only thinking about how it would help their careers - they are thinking about how it would help Israel itself, how it would help their companies, and, often, how it would help the world.

For Zionists, this is an exhilarating book to read; it shows how Israelis turn adversity into advantage. For businesspeople, it gives insight into how to reward risk-takers and innovators.

A look at a child marriage in Yemen

IRIN reports:
It was every little girl’s dream - she was to get a new dress, jewellery, sweets and a party for all her friends.

What 10-year-old Aisha* did not know was that after the wedding party she would have to leave school, move to a village far from her parents’ home, cook and clean all day, and have sex with her older husband.

“He took out a special sheet and laid me down on it,” Aisha told IRIN, wringing her small plump hands. “After it, I started bleeding. It was so painful that I was crying and shouting, and since then I have seen him as death.”

After a week of fighting off her husband every night, Aisha’s father was called. He had received 200,000 Yemeni Rial (US$1,000) for his daughter in `shart’, a Yemeni dowry, which he could not pay back.

“My Dad made a cup of tea and put some pills in it, which he gave me. The pills made me feel dizzy,” said Aisha. “My Dad told me to sleep with my husband, or he would kill me, but I refused.”

Instead Aisha broke a glass bottle over her head in a desperate attempt to stay awake. “My Dad hit me badly. I was bleeding from my mouth and nose,” she said.

After spending a few months in her husband’s home, where she said he would regularly drug her and beat her, Aisha managed to escape. Now, two years later, aged 12, she is unable to divorce him.

A bill passed in parliament in February 2009 setting the minimum age for marriage at 17 was rejected by the Islamic Sharia Codification Committee which said it was un-Islamic, according to local women’s rights organizations.

So, for now, there is no law protecting children against early marriages in Yemen.

”I don’t call it marriage, but rape,” said Shada Mohammed Nasser, a lawyer at the High Court in Sanaa. She has represented several child bride divorce cases in court, but admits she has lost most of them. Only a handful of child brides have successfully managed to divorce their husbands.

“The law on marriage stipulates that a girl should not sleep with her husband until she is mature,” said Nasser, which according to the law is the age of 15. “But the law is not enforced.”

A girl can be married at just nine, but cannot legally seek a divorce until she is 15 or older. The money paid by the husband for his “wife” is a further obstacle to divorce, while the case can only be heard in a court in the governorate where the marriage took place.

Just under half of Yemeni girls, 48 percent, are married before they turn 18, according to the Washington DC-based International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW). This is classified as underage, according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In some governorates as many as half of all girls under the age of 15 are married, according to an unpublished study from 2007 on early marriage by Sanaa University’s Gender Development Research and Study Centre.


”These are our traditions,” said Aisha’s father. However, he admits that Aisha might have been too young for marriage. Though she now has a lawyer, Aisha cannot divorce until the two men who control her (her father and husband) agree on how much money each will receive.

What Aisha wants is clear: “I’d rather die than go back to him,” she said, wiping a tear from behind her veil.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Terror supporters violently protest Israeli ballet

From YNet:
Pro-Palestinian groups headed by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel*, staged a protest rally outside an Israeli Ballet performance in the Flynn Theater in Burlington, Vermont, on Friday.

According to an Israel Radio report, four demonstrators eventually forced their way into the theater, waving signs saying that anyone who watched the performance was "supporting Israel's apartheid policy."

Company director Dan Rudolf alerted the theater's security personnel, as well as the local police, who promptly arrived at the scene and escorted the demonstrators outside.

The show resumed after a short intermission.
Actually, the protest was by Adalah-NY, a different group that happens to support terror and the total destruction of Israel. As their website says, " We also affirm the right of all people to resist occupation and oppression," which are codewords for terror attacks.

They are planning a protest of the same dance troupe in Brooklyn tomorrow.

UPDATE: In the comments someone is claiming that Adalah had nothing to do with this. Adalah-NY was in the forefront of publicizing the tour, so it doesn't seem like a very important distinction. Also someone from Adalah-NY took credit for the protest in the comments at YNet.

There is also a claim that the protesters weren't violent and they paid for the tickets. I saw another person who was there claimed that they did break in, and they did interrupt the performance (can't find that link now and, frankly, it isn't that important to me.)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Shahar Peer loses match, wins respect

From The Times (UK):
In the end Shahar Peer’s fervent determination to prove her point that sport and politics should not mix produced a noble effort but it was not sufficient to unsettle somebody she reveres as a true legend of tennis.

Peer had collected an impressive array of scalps as she moved into the semi-final; world no 3 Caroline Wozniacki, Australian Open semi-finalist Li Na and the controversial young Belgian Yanina Wickmayer who was initially banned from tennis for a year after missing drug tests but returned courtesy of her lawyers to win her first tournament back in Auckland.

All that counted for nothing as Williams, so supportive a year ago when the Israeli was denied the necessary visa for entrance into the United Arab Emirates, staged an initial onslaught of aggression that effectively intimidated Peer for the entirety of the first set.

Within just 22 minutes Williams was a set to the good with Peer’s serve broken three times in succession. Getting through to the finals depends so much on mental toughness and it suddenly seemed that so much of the 22 year-old’s had been spent dealing with the issues of the last week.

“I have to say that I was really focused on the match,” maintained the third seeded victor. “Really focused on trying to win. I definitely started well, and I felt like I was playing very aggressively and just basically taking a lot of time away from her.”

Things changed a little in the second set and Peer began to show the fighting qualities that had been so prevalent all week. She fought back from an initial two game deficit and then warded off five Williams break points in a marathon game that featured nine deuces and last almost as long as the opening set.

Williams certainly appeared to be tiring under the sweltering sun but finally Peer hit two impetuous forehands that proved costly, giving the experienced American the break that proved crucial.

“I’m sure I will learn and benefit from this experience,” insisted Peer. “This time last year I remember being at home in Israel watching Venus win the final. This week I have beaten some really good players and had to deal with a lot of things. I am really happy with the way I came through it and now I hope to come back next year.”

Now, that's Hasbara.

Israel and its supporters spend so much time being on the defensive, but Shahar Peer shows how it should be done. Unapologetically fight for your principles, take all of the obstacles as mere bumps in the road and ignore all the distractions.