Sunday, September 10, 2006

Burger King from Beirut to Tel Aviv

Amusing way to make light of a harrowing reality...

Friday, September 08, 2006

Shabbat of Trepidation

As we stand at the entry of the Shabbat that precedes the fifth anniversary of September 11, is Israel playing the role of light unto the nations in respect of the war on terror. Are we standing tough or stepping back from our own self-created obligations and conditions for quiet? Are we doing any better than the world that claims to defend our right to exist in peace and security?
Here my view on this Shabbat - click below.

this is an audio post - click to play

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Yesterday... Olmert & His Troubles

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away - and so did those of Ehud Olmert. How the dice has landed differently of late. Click below and hear my KICview on our Prime Minister's sudden change of priorities in the face of the widespread reevaluation of national security.

this is an audio post - click to play

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Prisoner Exchange - Pleasure or Pain?

I can not for a moment imagine the pain of the families of IDF soldiers who remain in the cruel hands of Hezbollah and Hamas enemies. Surely I have no right to deny the pleasure of a homecoming for their husbands, sons, brothers and themselves.

But at what price? Where do we strike a balance? Is it possible to find such a balance? Must we reward terror regardless and encourage it - for the sake of bringing our boys home?

Click below and hear my view on the issue and leave your comments. What would you do if you were sitting in Olmert's chair?

this is an audio post - click to play

Thursday, August 31, 2006

We Can Agree - Bring Our Boys Home!

Israelis can stand together, united and determined. Tonight in Kikar Rabin (Tel Aviv) at 730pm, we'll see a huge display of support for our kidnapped IDF soldiers, Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. I encourage all Israel-based KICreaders to go and join the 100000s of others.

There's are a few things all Israelis agree on. Hear my view in the KICaudio post below.

this is an audio post - click to play

Monday, August 28, 2006

Ron Arad alive?


With the return of kidnapped IDF soldiers scolding hot on the mind of every Israeli, suddenly photos are revealed and a video appears and rumors are rife of a full video to show on Lebanese TV shortly. Is the most well-known of Israeli missing sons alive?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Austrian Miracle Girl

A quite incredible true story broadcast on Sky News UK. You can watch the clip here and be amazed, saddened, angered and relieved. After being held for eight years in a basement in Austria, a teenage girl escapes and is remarkably reunited with her family.

It's stories like these that make you question humanity and yet thank G-d for small (and large!) mercies. When you see the father crying, one can't help but think of the tremendous pain and loss in our part of the world - of the Fox reporter and cameraman (a New Zealand citizen) held hostage currently by Gazan terrorists., for example.

Then of course I think of our Israeli soldiers (sons, brothers, husbands) who are, contrary to international law and all notions of human rights, being held, tortured no doubt, by Hamas or Nasrallah and their Iranian and Syrian cronies.

May we merit His mercy so that more families like these Austrians can live and laugh again.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Dead Sea Lessons

A day soaking in the minerals of the Dead Sea has taught me a thing or two about the good we must take from hard times and life's challenges. Listen to my evaluation of life after death...

this is a KICaudio post - click to play
And once you've listened, have a read of this - it perfectly illustrates what I was explaining in the above KICaudio post.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Mohammed, Horses & Heaven - 22nd August?

With Iran expected to give its response to the demands of the UN tomorrow, Tuesday 22nd August, some analysts have begun to play up the signifcance of Ahmadinejad's choice of date. This from Ha'aretz today:

While a response was required quickly, Tehran said that it would give its answer on August 22. Analysts originally explained the choice of dates as marking the month's end according to the Persian calendar.

However, the date has also led to speculation regarding its apocalyptic significance - this is the date on which Muslims commemorate Mohammed's ascention to heaven on a horse. The significance lies in the site where this supposedly took place: Jerusalem. The combination of the religious symbolism, the vitriolic statements of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regarding the "surprises" his country is preparing, his messianic statements and beliefs in ridding Jerusalem of infidels, and the ongoing five-week-long military exercise have led some to attribute earth-shattering significance to this date.


DEBKAfile has had its run with this Aug 22nd Apocalyptic speculation too:


DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report that information rated “highly credible” has reached US undercover agencies of a secret report presented to Iran’s supreme ruler Ali Khamenei by Abdollah Shabhazi, one of the heads of the Supreme National Security Council. He claims to expose a mega-terror plot against Jerusalem scheduled for August 22, which aims at killing large numbers of Jews, Arabs and Christians.

This atrocity will reportedly arm the United States and Israel with the pretext for hitting Iran’s nuclear installations, as well its capital, Tehran, and other big cities.

Shabhazi says the US and Israel need to launch a military campaign to restore the deterrent strength they lost in the Lebanon war.

The massive attack will reportedly focus on the Old City of Jerusalem and its eastern suburbs. The Iranian report claims that the plotters, who are not identified, are eager to recreate the divine white light whish spread over Jerusalem in the year 632. It does not rule out the use of a non-conventional weapon.



Any thoughts? In these days of no hand luggage flights...
Read more about Aug 22nd in this Haaretz article and in this Debka report

Sunday, August 20, 2006

UNIFIL & Lebanon unwilling - let's blame Israel!

The Europeans haven't turned up for duty and the Lebanese have made it clear that Hezbollah are their brothers-in-arms. It all makes the UN Resolution look like a bit of a joke in my mind. But maybe I'm a bit peculiar and in fact Israel still shouldn't have a right to stop the rearming of Hezbollah while world leaders and Lebanon decide which side of the 'war on terror' bed to get out of this morning.

Here's my audio view on the whole issue...

this is an audio post - click to play

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Jewish Hatred

Neturei Karta... arghh! We have tanks and F-16s, but how do we deal with Jews who spew forth more anti-Israel hatred than the average Iranian-backed Hezbollah boy? Read their latest filth and then dive straight in for more.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

And in the blue & white corner...


The Mike Tyson matches against Evander Holyfield always made a good Sunday afternoon's viewing in New Zealand. I can't help thinking that we've just witnessed a boxing match with all the twists and talk that could only possibly exist in the Middle East. Like so often in boxing, we're amazed at the decision of the ringside judges... and then we're shocked by the post-match interviews with the managers.

Hear my KICaudio analysis on the local boxing match that hurt us so much over the last month.

this is a KICaudio post - click to play

Monday, August 14, 2006

1 Wedding and 30 Funerals

As the region stands on the slippery doorstep to the Israel-Hizbollah ceasefire, my dancing at a Jerusalem wedding this evening had me contemplating far more than expected.

Have a listen to my thoughts on that uncomfortable Israeli fusion of mourning versus the need to continue life and to truly live.

this is an audio post - click to play

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Dershowitz & the United Nations

Jewish World Review July 26, 2006 / 1 Menachem-Av, 5766

How the UN legitimizes terrorists

By Alan M. Dershowitz

If the UN cannot or will not distinguish between terrorists who target civilians and a democracy that seeks to stop the terrorism while minimizing civilian casualties, it has become part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.

from --- http://www.JewishWorldReview.com

If anyone wonders why the UN has rendered itself worse than irrelevant in the Arab-Israeli conflict, all he or she need do is read UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's July 20 statement. Annan goes to great pains to suggest equal fault and moral equivalence between the rockets of Hezbollah and Hamas that specifically target innocent civilians and the self-defense efforts by Israel, which tries desperately, though not always successfully, to avoid causing civilian casualties. In his statement, Annan never condemns, or even mentions, terrorism, which is a root cause and precipitator of the conflict.

Even Annan was forced to acknowledge that "Hezbollah's provocative attack on July 12 was the trigger of this particular crisis"; that Hezbollah is "deliberate[ly] targeting ... Israeli population centers with hundreds of indiscriminate weapons"; and that Israel has the "right to defend itself under Article 51 of the UN charter." But he doesn't stop there. He goes out of his way to insist on equating Hezbollah's terrorists with Israeli military response, which he labels "disproportionate" and "collective punishment." He condemns both Hezbollah and Israel. He also criticizes Israel for its efforts at preventing Qassam rocket attacks against its civilian populations, noting that the Hamas rockets have produced no "casualties in the past month." (This, of course, is not for lack of trying.) He ignores Hamas' long history of terrorism against innocent civilians.

Annan then calls for an "immediate cessation of indiscriminate and disproportionate violence" on both sides, again suggesting a moral equivalence. Among the most immoral positions anyone can take is to suggest a moral equivalence between morally different actions.

Part of the goal of organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas is to gain moral legitimacy for their terrorist tactics by having them equated with the conventional military tactics used by democratic regimes. Only the morally obtuse or perverse cannot recognize the difference between a terrorist group that targets civilian population centers with anti-personnel weapons designed to maximize civilian casualties and a democracy that seeks to prevent terrorism by employing smart bombs designed to minimize civilian casualties.

Annan knows better than to suggest a moral equivalence. He is fully aware of the tactic employed by terrorists of launching their rockets from, and hiding behind, civilian shields, so as to make democracies have to kill some civilians to get at the terrorists.

But Annan heads an organization that is so anti-Israel that as the late Abba Eban, the early Israeli ambassador to the UN, once put it: "If Algeria proposed a resolution that the Earth was flat and that Israel has flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 120 to 3, with 27 abstentions."

Many such resolutions have been passed by the General Assembly, including the notorious one equating the Jewish national liberation movement with "racism." Other one-sided resolutions have been passed by the General Assembly legitimating terrorism. Only the U.S. veto — which does not operate in the UN General Assembly — has prevented one-sided resolutions by the Security Council.

If a space alien from a distant planet were to land at the UN, he would come away with the impression that Israel is not only the sole offender in the Middle East, but the worst offender in the entire world. He would single out Israel for condemnation and exclude it from membership on many UN bodies, on which Syria, Lebanon and Iran serve in positions of honor.

Annan himself has a long history of one-sided condemnations of Israel. In March 2004, Annan "strongly condemned" Israel's targeted killing of Sheik Ahmad Yassin, the terrorist leader of Hamas, without condemning Yassin for his murderous actions or his organization for the murder of Jewish civilians. In December 2003, Annan "strongly condemned" Israel's assault on a Palestinian refugee camp where two gunmen were thought to be hiding. And in 2005, he issued the most tepid of statements expressing "dismay" at threats by Iran's president to "eliminate" Israel, a member nation of the UN. The list goes on and on.

And even worse than the one-sided condemnations that ignore Hezbollah and Hamas are the numerous statements that perversely suggest moral equivalence.

The UN peacekeepers on the Lebanese border have turned out to be collaborators with Hezbollah, videotaping the Hezbollah kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers in 2000 and then refusing to release the video which could have helped in the rescue on the grounds that it might compromise their "neutrality."

This is a real test for the UN. If it cannot or will not distinguish between terrorists who target civilians and a democracy that seeks to stop the terrorism while minimizing civilian casualties, it has become part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Shavua Tov?

To the satisfaction of some and the dismay of others, the United Nations Security Council passed a ceasefire resolution on Friday night. Olmert's office expresses satisfaction at its wording. Yet does the resolution resolve any of the basic causes of the Israeli-Hizbullah conflict and where does that leave battered Israeli people and a capable IDF which is finally making progress?

Listen to the KICreport as recorded by Michael Lawrence shortly after Shabbat.

this is an audio post - click to play

Friday, August 11, 2006

KIC returns


After almost 8 weeks away from home, I am back at the KIC computer. I have been working full time for the Koby Mandell Foundation so time for KICing has been limited. I apologize to the faithful readers who were left KICless for so long.

Of course, there hasn't been a shortish of breaking news and controversy to keep you current when it comes to Israeli Current Affairs. Similarly, we've all had to work overtime to advocate strongly for Israel during this unwanted Hizbollah war.

From Friday, this KICblog will begin to broadcast again from Israel through KICaudio. We invite you to visit often, listen to my view on things and then leave us your comments.

Of course, you're always welcome to tell your friends about us so that they too can benefit from keeping it current - either here online or by inviting me to run a session for their group in Israel.

Let's continue to pray for better news,

Michael

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Where are our politicians hearts??

Twice in the last couple of days our senior politicians, ministers no less, have shown absolute callousness for people that they should be worrying about.
First came Shimon Peres' statement about Sderot. “What's the big deal? Kiryat Shmonah was shelled for years," said the veteran politician, "Kassams, shmassams, we're not leaving."
This is insensitivity at its highest! Firstly, because there are thousands of people who have to run to bomb-shelters every day and are living in a nightmare that the government doesn't seem willing or able to solve. However, more importantly last year a 17 year old girl Ella Abuksis died from a rocket that was fired from the Gaza strip. The Abuksis family should demand an apology immediately from the thoughtless and emotionless minister.
Some other good op-eds on this subject are from Ynet News and Ha'aretz.
Yesterday, Interior Minister Roni Bar-On told the Jerusalem Post bringing the remaining Falash Mura to Israel is not necessarily a priority and the delay of their immigration is not simply a matter of money. This is one of the biggest tragedies in Zionist history. There are Jews out there who are being brought to Israel in a drip-drip manner with a few hundred at a time while many die waiting.
Israel has brought many other communities to Israel regardless of the cost or accumulation process. During the early years of the state, Israel brought hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab lands without a thought for the cost or anything else. Then when the "Iron Curtain" fell and the Soviet Union let the Jews go Israel stepped up and took them in.
Why isn't the government responding the same way to the Falasha Mura?
Our politicians have forgotten who they are. They are there to serve the people's interests, not mock or dismiss the rason d'etre of their office. Israel is a safe-haven and home for all Jews, some of our politicians need to be reminded of that.

Sderot and the Zionist Congress

As the leaders of world Zionist organizations debate resolutions and make plans for the coming years, Israeli leadership has appeared to tied its own hands. Meanwhile, Sderot residents live in fear.

Michael Lawrence (KIC Founder) gives his view on the Zionist Congress irony. Listen now and leave your comment on the KICblog - www.kicisrael.blogspot.com

this is an KICaudio post - click to play

Sunday, June 18, 2006

KICaudio launched

Tonight we have launched KICaudio - our new way to Keep It Current for worldwide KICblog readers. Whether you've been in a KICsession in Israel or you're just a KICfan, now you can hear KICupdates on Israeli news and Israeli Current Affairs whenever you want.

We invite you to listen in and leave us a KICcomment with your opinion.

this is a KICaudio post - click to play

Enjoy!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Un-Annan-Believable

I'd laugh it it wasn't so tragically amusing. It's unbelievable in fact and something so unbelievable could only come out of the mouth of someone so UNbelievable, so United Nations!

What Kofi has Annan been drinking? Not the Israeli Elite that's for sure. Mr Annan finds it hard to believe that Hamas would plant mines or bombs on a beach populated by Palestinian civilians. What is so hard to believe about that, Secretary-General, sir?

For years, Hamas, Arafat and friendly others have placed their women, children and non-combatants on the frontlines and often used them cynically as human shields and protection of their own backsides from IDF anti-terror operations. Hamas the terror government, like Hamas the terror group have ruined the minds of a generation of young people and educated only toward hate, violence and martyrdom. Arafat did the same, only more quietly. Hamas follows the Iranian loud mouth theory of diplomacy.

So what's wrong with Kofi? It's hard to believe Olmert tour of Western capitals last week meant much even if we did witness of the backslapping, smiles and agreement on some issues. Should we all be excited that polls in Europe have done a flip-flop from 2004 when Europeans voted Israel (not Iran, North Korea etc) as the biggest threat to world peace? They say Europeans like Israel more now. They realize Hamas and the Palestinians have squandered a chance for peace or separation or agreement or something...

The 'protect the world from war" organization has again, via its leadership, failed once again to understand or to admit their understanding of Israel's enemies. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah - they all do it. They expose their friends and family to war for the sake of Palestine - a cause that loses more hope each day as a result. Whether its the smuggling of weapons into civilian homes through underground tunnels, shooting missiles from civilian areas, hiding in schools, ambulances and the like, transporting missiles (destined for Ashkelon) through crowded city streets or laying anti-IDF bombs across civilian beaches.

Whatever means, whatever it takes, Hamas has no problem sending families to die. Oh yes, for Palestine, a state that those dead civilians will never see. Their cowardice has never impressed me - pleased to pay 12-year olds twenty shekels to blow themselves up but never running for martyrdom themselves.

I am lying aren't I? KIC, lies and videotape? I must be lying because a man as intelligent as Kofi Annan couldn't really be as wrong and as naive (or skewed) as all this.

I wish I was wrong.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Can one be British and Jewish?


Here is an op-ed I wrote for the Jerusalem Post. The interesting thing is part of my article was picked up by the Independent newspaper. However, contrary to how it looks I was never interviewed or questioned for this article. The journalist merely took parts of the original article and inserted it into his article to make it look like I was being interviewed.
Very Cheeky!!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Patience Exhausted

We moaned and we groaned about him and his lack of experience but let's face it – having a left-wing 'land for anything' man as Defense Minister can be rather helpful. It does rather restrict the extent of the criticism heaved at Israel by other countries and by Israelis themselves.

Even when the Israeli Air Force has killed Palestinian civilians along with terrorists, like today, it's more difficult to waive the peace and human rights finger at Peretz and Olmert than it was once when Ariel Sharon (not a word about him anymore) and Shaul Mofaz (still kept tragically busy in the far less honorable, no less important Transportation Ministry).

Our Prime Minister is traveling Europe openly advocating Israeli withdrawal (bilaterally or unilaterally) from 90% of the West Bank. He is not promoting continued control over the lives of the Palestinians. He even approved weapons to Mahmoud Abbas as recently as last night. On Sunday, Amir Peretz rejected the IDF recommendation to "let the IDF win", wanting to give Hamas more time to come to its senses. I am sure they appreciated the extra time to mull things over. Iran's President is enjoying similar time to think. If only thinking was all these people do when we go into extra time.

All this, an Israeli leadership for separation and less confrontation and yet still a leadership, it appears… finally, that does want to fulfill its role of protecting the Jewish people from those who wish to hurt us. It's not an easy role and whether we are in fact the most moral army in the world as Olmert claims and whether we try our best to avoid civilian casualties – regardless - Israel, the IDF and Israelis will stand judged on the world stage by the harshest critics, the same armchair and other experts who judge American, British and other anti-terror action on a different diplomatic playing field.

Guilty before being heard? In the sad death of the family on the Gaza beach – yes! And now, when the media damage is done, will those who accused us stand up to withdraw those claims or at least pause and put away their knives until the case is closed? Muhammed al-Dura and Jenin revealed a world that requires no evidence in the court of world opinion. Will the world believe us when we say that only one IAF missie was fired, that the Kaytusha rockets themselves caused the civilian injuries after medics and civilians surrounded the van? Don't bet on retractions or apologies.

There are going to be more civilian deaths among Palestinians. It's unavoidable when terror cells transport, store and produce Qassam rockets and Kaytusha missiles in residential neighborhoods. We still have an obligation to do our utmost to strike only at those who wish to kill, injure and frighten our people. Those who do in fact threaten us should understand that even the Israeli left's patience has come to an end and that they, the terrorists will be responsible for the harm caused to innocent people, both in Israel and in their own hometowns.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Zionist Parties Awakening

Quite the academics aren't they! Terror stars of the Palestinian Authority have come up with a new line recently. "You see", they exclaim, "there's no difference between the Likud, Kadima and Labor. They're all occupying killers and murderers".
Duh! Why did it take you so long to come up with that prognosis guys?

Though in fact there are significant differences between these three Israeli political parties, those differences can appear to disappear more or less when what Israel faces is a renewal of 2002-like terror actions and warnings across the state. Already tonight we've seen the murder of an Jerusalem Arab near the main highway between Jerusalem and Modiin (injuring 4 other Arabs too). With at least part of Hamas deciding to end its peculiar ("let's spend the time building up an arsenal") 'calm time', Israelis await the very worst and hope for the best.

On Friday night, while cruising through the OU's Torah Tidbits, (this being before I knew of the tragic events in Gaza), I was rather taken aback by a notice inviting people to show solidarity through visits to Sderot and other Western Negev communities. Suddenly it struck me. The right were right.

Here we are, almost a year after Disengagement and now we're invited to solidarity trips for Sderot? Last year it was Netzarim and Neve Dekalim that we were asked to show sympathy for. Now the kibbutzim and small towns in the Negev. Ummm... oops! There's something wrong with this picture.

And Kadima and Labor (the foundations of the new government) recognize this picture very well. They've been having nightmares about it for some time but woken each morning happy to discover that it was all just a bad dream. Dream no longer...

There's room for criticizing the Sharon and Olmert governments' lethargic almost timid response to the constant Qassam and Katusha fire. That's not to say they've done nothing but Sderot and environs are now living a frightening existence. Hamas has declared its ultimate aim to make Sderot a ghost town and they are matching words with actions.

It's a shame that we are faced with an enemy again, the same enemy as 2002, that horrible year. Still, this realization may have finally awoken the Zionist giant and confirmed for the Palestinians what we pro-Israel folk always hoped was true - that is, that when it comes to Israel's right to exist in peace and security, each and every Zionist party will stand and deliver. While maintaining a sensible respect for Palestinian human rights, let's hope that Amir Peretz and crew let the IDF win - once and for all.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Confirmation, Panic Stations, Irritation

When I went to bed at 2am last night, it had become rather clear that indeed an Israeli had been kidnapped and taken away to Shechem (Nablus), terror town of the northern West Bank. Apparently the Hebrew University student had been statched from Jerusalem which was a touch worrying but not particularly surprising.

More shocking was to awake not only to the news that US citizen (non-Israeli) Benjamin Bright-Fishbein had been released and that he'd actually created this whole saga himself by visiting Nablus on his own volition, apparently with kippah (skullcap) and all. He sat happily(!) in a Nablus cafe smoking Nargila before being invited to make a video to the world, with special guest star, Mr Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.

Should I refrain from further cynicism?

Which side of his brain convinced him that Nablus is nice at this time of year? No Palestinian town is nice for any Jew or Israeli (or really for any Westerner) even on a nice day. While it's not illegal for non-Israelis to visit there, one must say that Benjamin's latter admission that he made a horrid mistake doesn't quite cover the explitives that the security forces are saying under their breath right now.

What kind of 'orientation' and introduction to Israel do they give to foreign Jewish students at Hebrew Uni. How could it be that he had no inkling of what awaited him?

He's a lucky boy and as someone noted in a ynet comment, thank G-d no IDF soldiers were injured in having to rescue him and that no Palestinian terrorists had to be exchanged for him.
I do hope he'll be asked to pay some of the bills for his adventure - a little deterrent for others considering visiting our friendly neighbors.

I've had contact with other foreign born Israeli Jews who venture to Ramallah and other pretty towns for social activities and even to have their haircuts and the like. When they end up starring in the next Zarqawi-style video, I'll feel bad for them but I'm unsure that wilful stupidity deserves IDF risk & rescue.

One thing that did come out of all this is just how disorganized and splintered these terror gangs are and in fact how frightened they can become. Though controversial in the eyes of some, I maintain that the assaisinations of Palestinian terror leaders does in fact make terrorists think twice or three times before carrying out an action. Additionally, international pressure appears to take its toll at times. As has been noted several times in past hours, it appears the tough terror guys suddenly crawled into a hole when realizing Benjamin was an American. As one Israeli official put it, maybe Zarqawi's end might have made the cafe kidnappers imagine their own 72 virginless fate.

Israeli kidnapped - as yet unconfirmed by Israel

West Bank militants say they kidnapped Israeli

NABLUS, West Bank (Reuters) - West Bank militants claimed on Sunday to have kidnapped an Israeli man who said in a videotaped statement that his captors would kill him if Israel did not free Palestinian prisoners.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which issued a copy of the tape, said the man was kidnapped near the West Bank city of Nablus. The group said he was an Israeli.

There was no immediate confirmation of a kidnapping and the Israeli army was checking the report. Militants have made false claims about kidnappings before, but have never produced videos showing abductees.
T
he man in the tape appeared to be in his 20s and held up an identity card from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem which gave his name as Benjamin Bright-Fishbein. He wore the skullcap of a religious Jew.

"If the prisoners are not released, they will execute me," he said in Arabic.
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is part of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

RE-KIC

After some months away from the KICscreen, I am back KICing online and for groups in Israel. I want to thank my colleague Ashley Perry for his insightful and thought-provoking KICcontributions over the last several months. He's kept things more than ticking over and helped those who rely on their daily KIC for Israeli news and opinion and for advice on facing Israel advocacy challenges.

Now that the long days and night of legal studies for the Israeli bar are over, I am looking forward to renewed Israeli news and Advocacy discussion here at the KICblog and to being a part of your educational Israel experience while your group explores this land.

I want to take this opportunity to welcome the newest KICmembers - a group of Scandinavian Bnei Akiva year program participants to whom I guided through Israel Advocacy issues and a leadership discussion 2 weeks ago. With the KICdiary filling up fast, I am looking forward to getting back to sharing my views and current affairs interest with others again.

Things are forever changing in Israel so don't forget to pass over buying the monring's paper because things do change sooo fast here that the print versions are quite literally yesterday's news by the time day breaks.

We'll try to keep it current for you and we welcome your comments on Israel today, the Jewish World and beyond.

Michael

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

For those who say Hamas is against Israel and not anti-Semitic


There have been many voices in the world who wish to white-wash Hamas and paint the terrorist organisation as peace-seeking or moderate. The fact is Hamas have never changed their line of absolutely no recognition of Israel. Western newspapers eat up the "occupation" line as they believe Hamas refers to the pre-1967 borders. When asked more specifically they say there is no room for any Israel, anywhere.
There are even those who paint Hamas as a liberation army who have no hatred of Jews, just of the Zionist occupation. Well, I think we can put all that nonsense to bed just by reading the Hamas charter.
For those who say it is out of date and irrelavent now Hamas have gained power it is interesting to note comments made by Jamal Abu Samhadana the newly appointed chief of the Palestinian security services to the British Telegraph earlier in the week.
Samhadana told The Sunday Telegraph: "We have only one enemy. They are Jews. We have no other enemy. I will continue to carry the rifle and pull the trigger whenever required to defend my people."
Note he uses the term Jew, not Israelis and not Zionists. This devout terrorist organisation seeks a religious war not based on boundaries. To Hamas there is no discussion of negotiations because they don't care about future borders, negotiating the status of refugees, water or Jerusalem. There is only one thing sought, to banish Israel and incorparet Palestine into a wider Muslim confederation. It is even a mistake to call Hamas a nationalist movement as they don't believe in national boundaries.

Israel must show self-respect


An interesting dilemna has risen again, and as it does so often it is in the realm of sport. Israel's Fed Cup tennis team was drawn to host Indonesia in the World Group II playoffs set for July - but the team from the largest Muslim nation in the world is not planing on coming.
The Indonesian Tennis Federation said it would contact the International Tennis Federation on Wednesday to request that the tie be moved to a neutral site. Indonesia, which does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, does not object to facing the Israeli side, but hopes to avoid needing to travel here.
Israel has met Indonesia twice before, winning both ties at neutral sites. In 1974, Israel Tennis Center CEO Janine Strauss made her Fed Cup debut, guiding the team to a 2-1 win in Naples, Italy, and Rakefet Binyamini and Orly Bialistozky teamed for a 3-0 sweep in 1981 in Tokyo.
Israel has conceded its position many times in sport. In recent years, the Israel national football team and local club teams were forced to play their 'home' games in Cyprus and other places in Europe. The reason behind the moving of Israel's home games was fear of terrorism, which could be understandable. However, no other nation under terrorist threat or subject to terrorism (like Madrid, London or Istanbul) had their games moved. Also, in basketball, Israel continued hosting clubs and fans from all over Europe during the worst times of the Intifada. The situation in football was partially rectified with Israel allowed to host home games, but only in the Tel Aviv area.
A worse matter was with the refusal by Iran’s world judo champion to compete against Israelis in Athens is part of the Jewish State’s long tangle with political hostility on the playing field.
The first time Israel was involved in a political boycott was in 1956. Several countries, including Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, boycotted the Olympic Games in Melbourne that year after Israel invaded Sinai.
After decades of being regionally homeless on the sports field because Asian and Middle Eastern regional sports bodies refused to include Israel, the Jewish State was accepted in European soccer and basketball leagues — as well as other sports like track and field — in the early 1990s, Galily said.Indonesia was banned from playing at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo for not inviting Israel to the Asia Games the year before. The last time Israel was invited to the Asia Games, held every four years, was in 1976 when the event was hosted in Teheran — before the Islamic revolution.Israel already had been kicked out of other Asian sports federations by 1973, following the Yom Kippur War.In the years following, Israel had to travel all the way to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji to find willing competitors.The reason there are not more flaps between Israeli athletes and their counterparts from Arab or Muslim countries is that they so rarely compete in the same arenas. It’s only in world gatherings like the Olympics or world championships that their paths cross.“It’s a matter of luck, coincidence, and the fact that there are not a lot of competitions where Arabs and Israelis meet,” said Haggai Harif, who teaches a popular course on sports and politics at Bar Ilan University.
So I hope in this instance Israel stands its ground and demands the Indonesians come to Israel for the Federation Cup. To give in to demands that the match be played at a neutral venue does nothing for Israel's self-respect and increases the chances of many nations following suit in the future.
Another disgusting example of Israeli sportsmen becoming isolated is when both West Ham United and Bolton Wanderers (English Premiership football teams) enjoyed breaks by accepting invitations for a few days R&R in sunny Dubai. All the players and management that is with the exception of the Israeli players, Yosi Benayoun, Yaniv Katan, and Tal Ben Haim. Dubai instructed the English clubs that the Jewish players would not be allowed entry into the Arab sheikhdom. So, the clubs complied with this discrimination and left their Israeli players behind. In a lame excuse, the press office of West Ham said that they had provided their Israeli players with a break in Spain. They might as well have sent them to Coventry
What happens on the field of sport has a massive bearing on how Israel relates to itself, especially as Israel is a very sporting society.

Israel's bloated government


We have seem many manifestations of Israeli politicians not understanding their post in the past. There are countless examples of Israeli politicians caring more about their own positions than the good of the country. What many of our politicos seem to misunderstand is that they are representing the people. There sole job is to do what is best for the nation and not their ambition. An elected official does not become some holy person who when they reach the top of the political structure should forget their place and do what they see fit.
Sadly, this is a pipe dream. There are few politicians who understand their role here in Israel. The days of a Menachem Begin who lived in a two bedroom apartment while leading the country are gone.
The greatest debacle in recent years is the number of ministers debate. There used to be a law dictating that no Israeli government could have more than 18 ministers. The government of Binyamin Netanyahu of just a decade ago stuck to the legal limit of 18 ministers. Ehud Barak subsequently asked the Knesset to override the law, allowing him to appoint a government of 25 ministers. Ariel Sharon at one point presided over a government of 28 ministers, but he "only" had 25 at the outset.
Now the Ehud Olmert led Government will have 27 ministers. If this seems reasonable then perhaps it is in order to compare this with other nations. The Chinese government seems to do okay with a total of 28 ministers, just one minister more than the number
in the government being set up by Ehud Olmert. The new government will place Israel at the top of the list of developed countries in the world with the lowest number of residents for every government minister. The Chinese ministers, for example, can be jealous of their Israeli counterparts: While in Israel there is one minister for every 259,507 citizens – every Chinese minister is "responsible" for 47 million residents.
China is not alone. A Yedioth Ahronoth check found that countries with large populations make due with a minimal number of ministers. The United States runs itself as a strong power with 15 ministers in total. Every American minister has around 20 million citizens. In Russia there are just 16 ministers: One minister for every nine million residents.
Among developed countries there are not many countries which have more than 22 ministers. Together with Israel the list has only six other countries: France (32 ministers), South Africa, Australia, and China (each having 28 ministers).
One must not forget that the Israeli legislature is only 120 people, so to have almost a quarter of them sit in the executive makes a mockery of the system. Also, each ministry costs the taxpayers billions of Shekels to fund the extravagant financial package that ministers recieve with their post. This at a time when poverty in Israel is such an important issue. If I'm not mistaken didn't at least three of the new members of the coalition run on almost purely social platforms??
To be fair, Shas party leader Eli Yishai Monday called on Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Labor party chairman Amir Peretz not to appoint Cabinet ministers without portfolios. Such appointments often are made to satisfy political party demands for Cabinet posts even if there is no ministry.Yishai said that Shas would forfeit Cabinet posts without portfolios if it joins the coalition and if other coalition partners do the same.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

An intersting PR ploy


Many people outside Israel have various warped views of Israel. Some think Israel is all desert and camels, some long bearded fanatics and some think of Israel purely in military war terms. Apparently one person at the Foreign Ministry wants all of these perceptions to change....
It has been going on for years. The Foreign Ministry invites journalists from abroad to Israel, shows them the Western Wall and the Knesset, and introduces them to boring and suited officials who tell them how hard it is to live here.
Finally, someone at the ministry decided to break out of the mold and show foreign journalists another side of Israel, the side they don’t already know: the Israel of fun and recreation, hot clubs, gourmet restaurants and sunny beaches.
A delegation of journalists that will be exposed to “the other Israel,” as opposed to the terror- and poverty-stricken country they see on their TV screens at home, is arriving soon from the United States.
The delegation will include ten relatively young journalists, who work for the media outlets most popular among 18- to 25-year-olds in America. Writers from MTV, Seventeen, Cosmogirl, Wallpaper, City Magazine, Stuff and Metropolitan News, among others, will be hosted here.
The visit will last eight days, during which the journalists will be exposed to the young, “cool,” energetic and flourishing side of Israel. The Foreign Ministry’s Public Relations department, in cooperation with the Israeli-American PR organization Israel21C, prepared a rich and diverse itinerary for the delegation, that hopes to leave them with pleasant memories and wanting more.
And what is on the busy schedule? Extensive tours in Tel Aviv, including a visit to Sheinkin Street, the Nahalat Binyamin Mall, Neveh Tzedek neighborhood, drummers’ beach, old Jaffa and the Army Radio headquarters.
The nights will be no less wild: the guests will be hosted in Tel Aviv’s hottest bars and clubs, such as Haoman 17, G Spot, TLV, and will enjoy dinner at the Manta Ray restaurant.
But they won’t be in Tel Aviv alone. The U.S. journalists will visit Beit Yanai beach where they will meet surfer Amit Inbar; they will tour Safed, where they will participate in Kabbalah workshops, and they’ll visit the Rosh Pinah home that songstress Madonna is looking into buying.
Jerusalem is on the schedule too: The group will visit The Lab, an experimental music and performance art venue, as well as other bars
and restaurants, and will have time to walk the city’s streets and cobbled malls. Instead of meeting with dry politicians and officials, they will meet rappers, directors, chefs, restaurant critics, representatives of the gay community and “The Ambassador” Eytan Schwartz.
They will also drop in on a few Israeli Hi-Tech companies, visit Yad Vashem, and see a length of the security fence.
Deputy head of the ministry’s Public Relations department, Zehavit Ben-Hillel, said the delegation represents a demographic which Israel has a hard time reaching.
“Our goal is to present Israel through a different and less known prism. We want them to internalize that Israel is a progressive place, modern and youthful, that in its essence is similar to the United States," she said.
"Our hope is that every one of them will find ideas for articles here on the ‘other Israel,’” Ben-Hillel said.

Dear European ambassadors...



The following is an excellent piece written by Tommy Lapid on why Israel acts as it does. Lapid explains to Europe and by extension the world that one only has to think of the Shoah, that is all...
'Why isn't Israel willing to take risks?" This question was repeated in numerous variations at a meeting with the ambassadors of the European Union held recently in Tel Aviv.
After all, they argue, Israel is so strong. And the Palestinians are so weak. And the threats voiced by Arab leaders are for internal consumption only.
Many countries take risks in order to settle disputes - why does Israel refuse to be satisfied with the guarantees supplied by the superpowers? Don't you know that if Israel does not agree to compromise there will never be peace in this part of the world?
When relating to Israel's actions or failure to act, you should factor in the same considerations you would be weighing were you in our place, I answered the ambassadors. That way you will understand how it is possible for a democratic, liberal and enlightened country like Israel to turn down offers of compromise from the United Nations, the Quartet and the European Union.
Quite rightly, you say that if you had received similar offers, under similar circumstances, you would have accepted them wholeheartedly.
We too would express confidence in them - were we in your place.
But there is one difference between us, and it is a difference that opens up an abyss. It does not permit us to rely on anyone other than ourselves, and it is the reason why we will not and cannot take chances.
That element is the Holocaust.
When you write reports to your foreign ministries, making an effort to explain Israel's position, when you seek to explain the difference between international logic and the behavior of Israel's government, when you try to understand the motives behind Jerusalem's insistence and suspicions, there is only one answer: the Holocaust.
If a new Holocaust were to occur here, you would surely protest and express regret and, in order to soothe your consciences, you would even establish an orphanage or two to take in the poor Israeli children that survive.
You might even set up a fund to commemorate the victims of the second Holocaust. You would shake your heads and cluck your tongues at the fate of the "poor Jews."
And, in your minds, you would be wondering why it's always the Jews that invite such catastrophes.
And after these sad thoughts about the Jewish fate, you would check your newspapers for the stock reports, have a last sip of coffee, drive off to work and forget all about the matter.
But we can't forget. We lost Six Million of our people in the Holocaust.
Israel currently has six million Jews living in it. We will not be deterred by the threats of our enemies; nor will we listen to the advice of our friends. We will not rely on anyone else.
For us, that is the most important lesson of the Holocaust. "

Monday, April 24, 2006

Hasbara Talk: The importance of facts




One thing I stress to any group that I am talking about Hasbara (Israel Advocacy) to, is know some facts. One does not have to be armed with an intimate and photgraphic knowledge of every UN Resolution, peace agreement and every fact pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, one has to be armed with a few facts that will turn the average person's argument on its head. Many people will blurt out statements like "Why doesn't Israel just abide by UN resolutions to get out of Palestine?" The trick is to ask them which UN resolutions they are referring to at which point they probably won't know. If they do know the exact resolution they will probably misunderstand the meaning of the resolution. Just by reading the important parts of the resolution will mean you have more in your Hasbara armour than assumptions.
To even explain to someone that there never was an independent entity in the history of man called Palestine will raise a few eyebrows. That is a simple fact which can not possibly be disproved, but how many 'average Joe's' know that?
Even in the US where support for Israel is higher and sympathy for the Palestinians is lower than most of the world, there is still general ignorance of the facts. James D. Besser writes an interesting article in the Baltimore Jewish Times called "A disturbing peek at the private conversations liberal Americans have about Israel and American Jews" which is about America's middle classes and their knowledge and assumptions about Israel.
"At a recent dinner party, I found myself with a group of middle-class, middle-of-the-road liberals — all non-Jews. They dislike President Bush and believe the Iraq war is a disaster. They think Israel is a big problem, although that did not translate into admiration for the Palestinians. They were well-informed about world affairs, but their perspective on Israel had giant holes.
These were all college-educated professionals who regularly read The Washington Post and The New York Times, and yet their views of Israel and the Middle East were highly impressionistic — a jumble of facts and images, catalyzed by their inherent belief that every conflict can be resolved through reason and that every conflict had a good guy and a villain. And in their view, the villain was almost always the one with the power.
This is hardly a representative sample. Still, our dinner conversation reflected biases and a surprising ignorance characteristic of a political segment that remains the Jewish community's most reliable partner on domestic issues.
Here are some of the points revealed in a politely heated discussion.
Information about Israel was paltry. Few knew anything about the Israeli political system, which they believed was entirely dominated by far-right settler groups. Told that a majority support Palestinian statehood, most were skeptical.
"Israel doesn't have a free press," one insisted, ignorant of the robust diversity of views in Israeli media.
Their view of the Palestinian Authority was hardly any more detailed or more positive. Pro-Israel groups focus much of their hasbarah efforts on educating Americans that the Palestinian leadership has sanctioned horrific terrorism; these Christians all knew that already.
Some had heard Palestinian Christians speak at their churches and found their stories about the Israeli occupation compelling. Most, however, said that their only exposure to Palestinian lives was through news reports that they said did not leave them particularly sympathetic.
They accepted that Palestinian leaders have led their people to disaster, but their sympathy was still with a people they saw as weak victims of an all-powerful Israel.
In the end, pro-Israel outreach officials are right in thinking that liberal Americans badly need more information about an Israel that is much more textured and complex than common stereotypes hold. But they're wrong if they think heavy-handed, Israel-is-always-right propaganda will work with a faction that is smart, politically sophisticated but suspicious of power and often woefully uninformed."
This last point is important. I always stress to groups that it is not a weakness in Hasbara to criticise Israel, but always explain what lead to a certain action in the first place. We can all agree that curfews, checkpoints and detentions do not serve the aim of peace and arouse anger. What we have to explain is that they may be necessary and these measures were not always there. There was a time before these measures where Palestinians had almost complete freedom of movement (noone, even in the most liberal democracy has total freedom of movement) and that all had to change when the Palestinians launched their Intifada, which by definition means the Palestinians began the violence.

Israel's helping hand: Israeli embassy aids hurricane victims


Every year in May, Israeli embassies across the world hold celebratory receptions in luxurious venues to mark Israel's Independence Day. However, the Israeli ambassador to El Salvador, Yonatan Peled, decided to mark the event a little differently this year, and instead
of spending the money allocated for the holiday on a fancy party, he chose to donate the event's budget to the victims of Hurricane Stan and the earthquake in the country.
The donation, as well as contributions by the local Jewish community, were transferred to the Medinat Yisrael school, which is attended by 1,600 students and located in the town of Nahuizalco in the Sonsonate region, an area that was struck by both the hurricane and earthquake six months ago.
"The order of the day in El Salvador compels us to mark our Independence Day in a different manner, in light of the serious socioeconomic distress in the country, which has worsened in wake of the natural disasters," Peled explained.
The USD 30,000 donation will be used to fund the renovation of classes and for building a roofed playground at the school. The Jewish community and the small Israeli community of El Salvador have also donated their engineering and architectural skills for the project.
The embassy's Independence Day ceremony will appropriately be held at the Medinat Yisrael school, and is set to be attended by the education minister, the governor, the mayor, local parliament members and other honoraries.

Do apologies for behaviour during the Shoah matter?



How does one apologise for killing six million people? Destroying one third of one of the most ancient and contributing civilisations around today is no easy task. Many individuals and governments have sought forgiveness and many have tried to make amends. Manfred Gerstenfeld attempts to answer the question' if apologies are still relevant...
More than 60 years after the Shoah official apologies from countries and institutions which collaborated with the Nazis during the Holocaust still trickle in. Eastern European heads of state have almost turned these into a ritual when they visit Israel.
Why are formal apologies for misbehavior during the Holocaust so important? Some critics stress that those who apologize are not the ones who misbehaved. While that is true, they do represent the same institutions. Other critics say that many of the apologies made - for instance those during the restitution negotiations - were not morally motivated, but rather represented political pressure or fear of economic boycotts in the United States.
Yet other critics of apologies say that the main thing is to tell the history as it was. Stressing the painful truth once again - earlier this month - Austrian President Heinz Fischer said that the 1955 Declaration of Independence of his country falsely represented Austria as a victim of the Nazis rather than as a co-perpetrator of crimes.
Despite all criticism apologies by governments, institutions and companies for their wartime behavior remain extremely important. Once these have not only recognized their guilt, but have also offered apologies, a common basis of what is normative has been established. They constitute a clear declaration of irrevocable guilt toward their Jewish counterparts. These apologies will remain well-documented for future generations, after all Holocaust survivors have passed away.
At a time when the president of Iran and others, not only in the Arab and Muslim world, unashamedly deny the Holocaust while at the same time promoting a new one, official apologies - and the historic mark they make - assume an even greater importance than in the past.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

No matter what you say or do you will always remain a Jew


It is a curious phenomenom that some Jews will always bend over backwards to besmirch other Jews and Jewish causes to attempt to find favour in certain gentile circles. They want to show the world that they are not "one of those Jews".
The interesting thing is that this has happened all throughout history and each and every one of them have never found favour in the eyes of those that they seek. To ceratin anti-Semitic circles, once a Jew, always a Jew. Karl Marx is a good example of this, no matter how much he lambasted Jews few forgot that he himself was a Jew.
One of the greatest examples of this today is that of Noam Chomsky. Chomsky is a Professor of Linuistics at MIT, but curiously is better known for his rabid anti-Zionism and even according to some anti-Semitism. There is even a good amount of evidence that Chomsky has agreed with many Holocaust-deniers and questions ceratin parts of the historical record on the Holocaust.
Recently there has been a big debate as to the role of the "Jewish-Lobby" in the US.
The brouhaha began in late March when two American academics published in The London Review of Books a paper critical of the Israel lobby. John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt argued that neither idealism nor hard-nosed practicality justified American support of the Jewish state. Nevertheless, a "loose coalition of individuals and organizations" has been steering US policy in that direction for years.
Writing in Z Magazine, the aging anarchist Chomsky commended Mearsheimer and Walt for their "courageous stand" but then attacked their notion of an informal, far-flung lobby as an empty label. "M-W focus on AIPAC and the evangelicals," wrote Chomsky, "but they recognize that the Lobby includes most of the political-intellectual class - at which point the thesis loses much of its content." However, this slight difference of opinion has won Chomsky few fans amongst his 'friends'.
Veteran pro-Palestinian activist Jeffrey Blankfort, has taken issue with Chomsky's early experiences in the Marxist-Zionist Hashomer Hatza'ir movement, saying that they somehow blinded him to the political machinations of his fellow American Jews.
Amazingly, Blankfort - himself Jewish - has lambasted Chomsky as "a boon for AIPAC" and, by extension, "Israel's position in the United States."
Like Blankfort (and post-Zionist historian Ilan Pappe), James Petras also disagrees with Chomsky on the M-W paper. In fact, the Marxist sociologist gets downright nasty in his critique, suggesting that Chomsky's analytic skills "are totally absent when it comes to discussing the formulation of US foreign policy in the Middle East, particularly the role of his own ethnic group, the Jewish pro-Israel lobby and their Zionist supporters in the government."
Once again, Chomsky is covering for the tribe.
One would think that the Jewish anarchist has already paid his dues. Chomsky has attacked Israel time and again; described French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson as "a relatively apolitical liberal of some sort"; commended the scholarship of the late Israel Shahak, author of the vile Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, and claimed that the charge of anti-Semitism is used to stifle criticism of Israel.
The fracas with Chomsky proves that, if you're Jewish, no matter what you say and do, you're always just one essay away from being labeled a pro-Israel lobbyist. In the eyes of many, once a Jew...always a Jew.

Israel's helping hand: Israelis even help Iran


Israelis have visited every corner of the globe to help those in need. Sometimes Israelis have even gone to places that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. However, one nation above all has gone out of their way to show extreme hostility to Israel, Iran. Yet even in Iran, Israelis are still willing to offer a helping hand where it is needed.
While the Iranian regime has been engaging in public displays of hatred against Israel in recent months, with the country's president calling for Israel's destruction and denying the Holocaust, behind the scenes the picture seems very different.
In recent weeks the Muslim republic has been enjoying the skills of Israeli experts recruited to help with rehabilitating the country after recent earthquakes have caused massive damages and devastation.
Three Israeli infrastructure consultants who returned to Israel at the end of the week from a secret visit in Iran on the invitation of
a Tehran official, told Israel's leading daily Yedioth Ahronoth they were stunned by their stay in the country.
"We were amazed to discover the gap between Israel's public conflict with Iran, and the depth of the commercial cooperation between the countries, estimated at dozens of millions of dollars a year. We were greeted warmly and felt no hostility on the part of our hosts," one of the Israeli experts said.
The Israeli consultants were sent to Iran on behalf of a Dutch company that is partly owned by an Israeli. The company recruited the Israeli engineers and advisors, who specialize in infrastructure rehabilitation works, and flew them to Iran with special travel passes, after leaving their Israeli passports behind in Holland.
The head of the mission, a 47-year-old Israeli who visited Iran five times in the last 15 years, recounted the visit. "Upon arriving at the airport in Tehran we were greeted by a government employee… from there we were taken to a luxurious hotel located near the Jewish district. We were escorted by a security guard during our entire stay."
"The grand infrastructure works Israel has carried out here made a huge impression on us… we got there with the construction plans that were kept in Israel until today," he explained.
"In recent years trade relations between Israel and Iran have blossomed in certain fields, mainly agriculture. The Iranians indirectly buy from Israel spare parts for machines, vegetable seeds, and water filtering systems," he stated.
According to the Israeli consultant, the most exciting part of the visit took place when the mission arrived in the Busher region, which made headlines recently due to the nuclear reactor located in the area. "Our escort, an English-speaker, told us: There is something else here in Busher, but this will be a surprise for you'."

Other Massacres


As we in Israel near the solemn day of Yom HaShoah it is interesting to note that it nearly coincides with another anniversary of a Jewish massacre. Last week was the commemoration of the 500th year since the Lisbon massacre of thousands of Jews. This in a time where a few thousand people was equivalent to tens or maybe even hundreds of thousands today.
The massacre took place in a most hoffific manner and the details that we have on record on that day are too grizzly to recount. Suffice to say the ovens of Auschwitz had a prelate in the massive bonfires in the Rossio Square in Lisbon where any Jew: Man, woman and child was literally flung onto the pyre. The commemorations garnered so little attention because there are so few Jews of Portuguese descent left in the world, to a large extent we can chalk this off as a victory for those that butchered, burned and literally ripped apart the Portuguese Jewish community; physically and spiritually. As a Jew of Spanish and Portuguese ancestry I am constantly met with blanks stares when I mention my heritage, history, culture and traditions.
My main point in mentioning all this is to garner attention to other massacres and events in Jewish history outside of the Holocaust. While we should not diminish the Holocaust one iota, time and space should be given to Jewish suffering in other places and other times. There is not a single monument in the whole of Israel to the massacres, inquisitions and expulsions from the Iberian Penninsular. One must not forget that before all these catastrophes, Iberian Jewry totalled over 80% of world Jewry and many vanished overnight. I have heard it mentioned from a few historians that the psychological effects from these events had greater reverberations for the Jewish people than the Holocaust.
Even leaving the travails of Sephardic Jewry aside, how many Jews are knowledgeable of the Damascus Blood Libel, the Chmielnicki massacres, the massacre of thousands in Fez, Morrocco and many many other sad and bloody chapters in Jewish historical suffering.
Throughout Jewish history there have been many expulsions and massacres and whole Jewish communities were wiped out within a blink of an eye. We would do well as a people to remember them because sometimes there were no survivors to carry the torch of memory.
As we enter the week of Yom HaShoah we should concentrate all our sadness to the attrocities of Nazi-controlled Europe, however it should behoove us all to spend a little time learning about the many other massacres and suffering of Jews not from our particular familial background.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

KICHoliday

Like the rest of Israel, the KICteam is taking a break for the week of Pesach. Israelis are out at the beaches and the national parks and frankly we all deserve to KIC back and relax just a little.

With coalition negotiations and battles between diplomatic and social policies in full swing, the IDF fighting off Gazan rocket fire, re-entering disengaged Gaza for the first time and Iran raising the stakes daily, there will be plenty for us to KIC you with come post-Pesach.

As well as Ashley-inspired analysis, Michael will be back at the end of April after months of law study. In addition, the KICteam will be back running sessions across Israel and have already received several invitations for the coming months. And if you want a bit of punch in your KIC, watch out for new online and session initiatives from the KICcrew which are due to be launched shortly.

We thank you for reading and look forward to your comments in the future. If you haven't subscribed to the KICblog you can do so at the top of this page. We would also welcome your placing of a KIClink on your blog or webpage.

Chag Pesach Kasher vSameach!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Mystery of Jewish Survival


Many people have pondered how the Jews, always remaining small in number have survived. I once heard the Jewish people described as an historical anomaly.
Dov Greenberg ponders the question further....
Imagine we could travel back in time and say to the great Pharaoh, “There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that one of the people alive today will survive and change the moral landscape of the world. The bad news is: it won't be your people. It will be that group of Hebrew slaves out there, building your glorious monuments, the Children of Israel.”
Nothing would sound more absurd. The Egypt of Pharaoh’s time was the greatest empire of the ancient world, brilliant in arts and sciences, formidable in war. The Israelites were a landless people - powerless and oppressed. The Egyptians believed that the Israelites were already on the verge of extinction. The first reference to Israel outside the Bible is an obituary of the Jewish people. It is inscribed on a huge slab of black granite, known as the Mernephta stele dating from the thirteenth century BCE, which stands today in the Cairo Museum. It reads “Israel is laid waste. His seed is no more.”
The story of Jewish survival is so exceptional that it challenges our imagination to the limit. In our own century, the two great powers that announced, “Israel is laid waste” – Hitler’s Third Reich and the Soviet Union - have been crushed. But the people of Israel live.
Many thinkers and social scientists have tried, and still try, to account for the survival of a people, a faith, and a heritage through three millennia of nearly impossible historical conditions. The Dalai Lama, leader of a group far removed from Judaism, who lives in exile with hundreds of thousands of Tibetan refugees, recognized that there is something unparalleled in the Jewish capacity to survive dispersion. Hence, in 1990, he invited a group of Jewish scholars to India. He felt that the Jews, experts in survival, would offer valuable advice to his own people.
Perhaps we can take our answer from the great empirical thinkers of our time, the scientists. They tell us that when a scientist seeks to ascertain the laws governing a certain phenomenon, or to discover the essential properties of an element of nature, he must undertake a series of experiments under the most varied conditions to discover those properties or laws which under all conditions are alike.
The same principle should be applied to Jewish survival. It is one of the oldest in the world, beginning its’ national history with the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai over three thousand years ago. In the course of these centuries, Jews have lived under extremely varied conditions. They were dispersed across the world. They had multiple languages, absorbed a diversity of cultures. For example, Rashi lived in Christian France. Maimonides was born in Islamic Spain. Rabbi Akiva lived under Roman rule; the Talmudic sages under Babylonian power. Their societies were utterly different. All that linked them across space and time was a faith, a Torah way of life.

Israel's brain breaks world record

Israel is the world champion in the ratio of the number of engineers per residents, with 13 engineers per 1,000 people compared to 10 engineers per 1,000 people in Japan and the United States, Israel's leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported Thursday.
The findings were reported during a conference on the topic of technological entrepreneurship which was held on Thursday at the Holon Institute of Technology (HIT).
Top professionals in the fields of manufacturing and high-tech participated in the conference.
Professor Avi Messica from the Management of Technology department at HIT, one of the conference organizers, said that "Israel is ranked third in the world when it comes to technological initiatives."
Messica pointed out that the ratio of engineers per residents in Israel is unique.
"The State of Israel's investment in start-up companies is one of the world's highest. The high-tech aspect in industrial exports in Israel is over 50 percent," he said.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Oblivious Peres


Shimon Peres somehow managed to worm his way into power again. After being unceremoniously dumped by his party of decades in favour of Amir Peretz, a relative outsider, Peres has managed to position himself in power again as Kadima's number two. The man who gave us 'The New Middle East' and Oslo seems to still have hands dipped in the power chest.
Just in case anybody thought that Peres had re-found his sense of proportion and reality he makes an astounding comment.
Peres said that in order to achieve peace Israel should negotiate with anyone, including the Hamas-led PA government.
Still, he noted that a dialogue with the organization would be difficult, since, according to Peres, Hamas was a religious movement that was nearly oblivious to what was happening in the rest of the world, Army Radio reported.
This was stated on a day when the Foreign Minister of the PA said "Israel must not be recognized and the Palestinian Foreign Ministry should aim to establish a Palestinian State from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, in place of the Jewish State."
While the vast majority of the world have labeled Hamas a terrorist organisation and cut ties with the PA, Peres wants to negotiate with a group who said there is no room for Israel AT ALL.
Who is "nearly oblivious to what is happening in the rest of the world"??

From union boss to top security post, feel safer?


The recent news that the Defence Ministry will be handed to Labour leader Amir Peretz has struck me as shocking. The person most in charge of our nation's defences has abolutely no security background and his biggest achievements to date have been to shut down the country at least once a year as his role as Histadrut (Union) boss.
This is made all the more disasterous as our Prime Minister designate Olmert also has absolutely no security background. I am not saying that any civillian can be defence minister but surely one whose whole raison d'etre was social should not be given a portfolio so inappropriate to his background.
Not everyone agrees with me, apparently. Ofer Shelah of Ynet says, "the nomination of a civilian figure such as Amir Peretz to the defense ministry is a step in the right direction. We must provide him with a strong decision-making apparatus – a strong National Security Council that would weigh each cog in the wheel – and especially intelligence – and that would present the government with real options, so that the army's worldview and operational proposals are not the only issue on the table."
At first it seems that Shaul Mofaz, who held this position and was a Chief of Staff of the IDF was not too impressed with Olmerts decision. However, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz distanced himself Wednesday morning from reports that his associates slammed the intention to hand over the Defense Ministry to inexperienced Labor Chairman Amir Peretz.
In a talk with Peretz, Mofaz said the headlines did not reflect his views, expressed his appreciation to the Labor leader, and said he was confident Peretz would perform well in any post assigned to him.
"The feeling is not a good one," one source was reported as sayingTuesday night. "How can the State of Israel have a prime minister without security and military credentials and also have a defense minister without any credentials for the post? This is irresponsible. This matter should very much disturb the public."
The associate said that the right thing to do is appoint a minister with proven experience at a difficult period on the security and diplomatic fronts.
"We're facing several serious threats, such as the Iranian threat and the Hamas regime, and are also facing the convergence plan in Judea and Samaria," the source said. "I have a feeling not enough thought is given to this move. It's a complex system. Amir Peretz will assume the post and they'll ask him to cut (the defense budget.) Does he know what to cut?"
Sometimes the politicians should stop and think about what they are doing. Is the nation's safety subservient to a stable coalition and appeasing certain members. Also, one has to ask what service Peretz will provide when he has promised his electorate a 'social revolution'. As we say in Israel....Y'hieh b'seder (it will be good)?!?!?!

Could you make Peace???


Many people fancy themselves as extremely knowledgeable of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the stalled peace-process. I have often heard the refrain "Why can't they just make peace, it's so simple!" well now everyone can have a go in a simulator video game.
A Palestinian suicide bomber blows up a bus, leaving the newly elected Israeli prime minister to puzzle over a response. A missile strike could ease security fears, or prompt more violence. A diplomatic approach might anger Israelis, leading to an assassination plot. The complex choices facing leaders in the Middle East have long confounded observers. But two graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University are hoping their video game based on the conflict will help players find solutions - and raise capital for their new company. Asi Burak and Eric Brown, along with a team of fellowr students, have spent more than a year building PeaceMaker, a computer game that attempts to simulate the violence and political turbulence of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. With graduation just weeks away, Burak - a 34-year-old former Israeli intelligence officer - and Brown - a 29-year-old game developer with a degree in painting - recently formed a company, ImpactGames, to try to take the game to market. But will a video game focused on a sensitive geopolitical standoff attract both players and investors? Proponents of so-called serious games, an emerging genre of interactive games that tackle real-world problems, think so.
Unlike most serious games, PeaceMaker aims to bridge the gap between education and entertainment and reach players from diverse backgrounds. Burak and Brown hope to do that in a market hungry for games featuring death and destruction, but also receptive to the nonviolent themes featured in best sellers such as The Sims and Myst. "We had a challenge to make a peace game engaging," Burak said. "What we see out there is all of those war games. There is a reason people are making them - because they're engaging, there is a challenge, there is a conflict." In PeaceMaker, players choose between the role of an Israeli prime minister or a Palestinian Authority president. They make policy decisions, communicate with the international community and monitor opinion polls while coping with "black events" - bursts of violence that threaten to throw the game off course. "They might happen at any time, like a suicide bomb or an Israeli military attack, and they can ruin your progress in one day," he said. "You make progress, you build trust and suddenly everyone is upset again and it's chaotic." The game's objective is peace through a two-state solution, but players can wage attacks at any time. "We're not trying to say these things aren't available," Brown said. "We didn't want to restrict the player." PeaceMaker incorporates news footage of actual events "to pull you in" and make players "understand that you're connected to the real world."

The Hamas honeytrap



The following is written by Zvi Heifetz, the Israeli Ambassador to London in the notoriously anti-Israel Guardian newspaper.
"Just a day after a terrorist atrocity in which four Israeli civilians were killed, an article appeared on these pages by the new Palestinian prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh. It was perfectly tailored for a liberal western readership, presenting his movement, Hamas, as advocates for peace. One should judge Hamas, however, by more than articles intended for western eyes.
Hamas's own charter declares that "liberation of Palestine is an individual duty for every Muslim wherever he may be ... Israel will ... continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it", while more recently Khaled Mashaal, Hamas's most senior leader, speaking in Syria after the Palestinian elections, had this promise for Israelis: "God willing, before they die, they will experience humiliation and degradation every day."
Which then portrays the more honest reflection of Hamas - a sugar-coated article in English, or a speech in Arabic in a Damascus mosque?
Perhaps, though, Haniyeh's more moderate message signals a genuine change in the Hamas position? If so, someone forgot to tell his foreign minister, Mahmoud al-Zahar, who remarked in an interview three days after Haniyeh's article: "I hope that our dream of having an independent state on the entire territory of historical Palestine will be realised one day, and I am sure that there is no room for the state of Israel on this land."
Hamas believes the land of "Palestine" is an Islamic waqf - territory once ruled by Muslims that must never be relinquished. This position leaves no room for compromise, and the sad truth is that even the "pragmatic" Hamas leaders' statements offer little hope of a peaceful solution to the conflict. The "moderate" Hamas rhetoric differs from the more extreme kind only in the method by which Israel is to be removed from the map. Haniyeh listed Hamas's non-negotiable demands: chief among these was an unconditional "right of return" of all Palestinian refugees and their descendants - not to a new state of Palestine, but to Israel itself. This is no blueprint for a two-state solution; these are the weasel words of someone who wants one Islamic state of Palestine from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean Sea. He did not say this openly, but the "just peace" he offers will mean the destruction of the Jewish state.
Haniyeh also called on the world powers to put pressure on Israel. But no such pressure is required. Last summer Israel voluntarily withdrew from the Gaza Strip and from four more settlements in the West Bank - a move that was applauded by countries around the world. Furthermore, last week Ehud Olmert clearly stated Israel's intentions for further territorial concessions: "We will try to achieve this [setting Israel's final borders] in an agreement with the Palestinians. This is our hope and prayer ... We are ready to compromise, to give up parts of the beloved land of Israel ... in order to create the conditions that will enable you [the Palestinians] to fulfil your dream and live alongside us."
This spirit of compromise and willingness to make concessions is consistent with the desires of the international community, but such sentiments were entirely missing from Haniyeh's remarks.
With his demands, he is turning back the clock decades, to the days before Israelis and Palestinians accepted the principle of a two-state solution realised through negotiation. This principle has been carried forward in the road map, sponsored by the Quartet and originally accepted by both Israel and the Palestinians. Hamas rejects negotiation, concessions, unilateral withdrawals and recognition of Israel. It seems the Palestinians are sticking to their tried and tested "policy" of never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity."