Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Wolf Blitzed!!

In Israel we are used to watching the international news channels and being left with an open mouth at the half-truths, lazy reporting and bias we see emanating from our screens. Two nights ago this was taken to a new low level.
Mahmoud al-Zahar, the top Hamas official in Gaza, appeared on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" hosted by Wolf Blitzer. The interview was full of evasion and half-truths which obviously let the world know that Hamas was a reasonable organisation and if Israel was not so belligerent then all would be peaceful in the Middle East. The usual terrorism=resistance and an offer of a truce if Israel basically gave up everything was the expected and received fare from this spokesman for terrorism.

The biggest problem I had with this interview went far beyond the usual shoddy kow-towing to murderous organisations for a decent interview. During the interview Al-Zahar listed Hamas' conditions to allowing a truce, the condition that sat apart from the usual was the demand that Israel change its flag. Al-Zahar explained "Israel must remove the two blue stripes from its national flag. The stripes on the flag are symbols of occupation. They signify Israel's borders stretching from the Euphrates River to the Nile River."
The most amazing thing about this part of the interview is that these statements went completely unchallenged by Blitzer. (For those who aren't aware,
the blue stripes on the Israeli flag were inspired by the stripes on the Tallit (Jewish prayer shawl). Blitzer must have known that what Al-Zahar said was blatantly false, Blitzer has spent almost 20 years working in Israel or working for an Israeli newspaper abroad.

Why did Blitzer not correct a statement he knew was blatantly false? Blitzer has regular columns in Israeli newspapers and has written a book about Israel, surely he knew one of the most basic facts of Israel. I think we have to summise that he did and he just let the comment stand. Even if Blitzer would have corrected Al-Zahar and explained the true reason and the Hamas spokesman denied it, at least another explanation would have been out there for viewers to hear. Left unchallenged the average international viewer is left with the impression that Israel is expansionist and is the true source of the problem, reflected in its national symbol.
Interestingly, in the CNN internet version of the interview, this segment is completely left out. I can only conclude that CNN were so embarrassed by these statements and the lack of decent interviewing standards that they left it out.

International media networks try so hard to get interviews with leaders like Al-Zahar, sometimes taking a lot of meetings, time and bribes. The networks will do anything not to jeopardise the interview, heaven forbid they should interrupt or correct him. They let these murderous people talk and postulate almost completely unchallenged. Compare this with how the international media press Israeli spokesman. They are interrupted and cajoled until the interviewer makes his or her point. This could be construed as good journalism, but why we ask do we have one rule for terrorists and one rule for spokespeople of a democratic state? Wolf Blitzer should hang his head in shame as he broke every rule of decent journalism as he allowed Al-Zahar to incite to murder, racism and homophobia all in the name of getting the story first.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Olmert sets the standards

If today's reports are correct, then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will not meet or negotiate with Hamas until they have agreed to certain conditions. These conditions are 'It must disarm, annul its charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel, and accept all the agreements signed by the Palestinian Authority with Israel.'
Although a lot of people will claim that Israel is trying to bully the Palestinians, these conditions are quite fair. All Israel is basically saying is, stop killing us and seeking our ultimate destruction, then we can talk. Any group one negotiates with, surely the first proviso should be the right to live of the two negotiating parties. What is there to negotiate after the first basic right, before any other rights, the right to life is even non-negotiable. It defies belief that there are people, organisations and even countries who are saying that Hamas can be a partner for peace in its current guise. The excesses of Fascism and Communism of the last century prove that there are people or groups you just can't negotiate with.
Let's hope that the Olmert will stand by these principles even against the inevitable pressure that will arise from the world community. I also hope that Olmert's words are not just electioneering and if he retains his seat after the elections there will not be back-channel negotiations, a la Oslo, until these demands are met.
The Israeli Government must never negotiate with our right to live. There will come a time when many items and boundaries will be negotiated over and both sides will have to make some hard decisions. Before this time Israel, and its citizens, have to know that whatever is decided our ultimate destruction is still not sought.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Israel, officially the root of all evil...

I thought I had heard it all.
Israel is responsible for the misery of the Palestinian lives.
Israel is responsible for the Iraq war.
Israel is responsible for international terrorism, or perpetrates it.
And now coming to a theatre near you...... Israel is responsible for GLOBAL POVERTY!!!!!
Yes, that's correct. According to an official World Economic Forum booklet titled 'Boycott Israel', there is "an organic link between the occupation and colonization of Palestine and diverse and pressing global issues ranging from the war on Iraq to global poverty."
This quote is taken from the first paragraph of a very long-winded diatribe against Israel. What is very interesting is that nowhere in the 22 paragraph pamphlet is this assertion explained, justified or even repeated. So it is left standing there, tantalising all who read it (and it was handed out to all delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos) that the real root of golobal poverty is Israel and if Israel wasn't being so belligerent the world would have food.
Apart from the fact that this is quite an amazing assertion and without even a shred of evidence, it is also a dangerous lie. There are exteremly pressing issues in the world connected to poverty like starvation, lack of immunization programs and epidemics like AIDS killing millions. The danger of this pamphlet lies in the fact that it may convince some people that there is a simple solution to world poverty and all the real root causes will be ignored.
Once again at a useful international meeting, there is an attempt to hijack an important gathering by an extreme element with a hateful aganda. Just like in Durban in 2001 and the UN (pretty much all the time), there is so much time wasted condemning Israel that real issues where millions are dying or are being oppressed are ignored.
This is not even an Israel advocacy issue, it is a global issue for those who want change and attention for the challenges the international community face today. If the world continues to see the end of the Israeli occupation (according to many including the end to Israel itself) as the link that will end so many other problems, then we as citizens of the world are in a lot of trouble.

Worldwide Exam Time

It's interesting actually living at the heart of the matter, rather than watching it through the 29" flat screen divine provider of all information. Yesterday, here in an area of Jerusalem populated largely by Jerusalem Arabs, the directors of my work place recommended we avoid walking outside the fences of our offices today in order to avoid finding ourselves in any predicament.

As the taxi driver said to be this morning as he 'escorted' me to work, "Isn't it strange? They vote and we are frightened".

It is rather peculiar that we should be afraid to walk some streets on Palestinian election day. Israeli security officials are aware of the risks of unrest and violence and hence the very noticeable increase in police forces in and around this area. To no surprise though, there's probably more concern (reflected in intelligence reports) that election rejectionists Islamic Jihad (among others) will try to turn the heat up by murdering Jews. Why not they say? What else is there to do on election day?

What else indeed? How about taking the opportunity to take an opportunity? A little wise, constructive and forward-looking voting might do the trick. Or not.

As regular KICreaders are aware, Ashley Perry has been keeping you current for the last few weeks while I prepare for the rather daunting law exams of the Israeli Bar Association. Still, I reasoned that it might be worth my while giving a quick KICpost seeing as it's exam time for others too - and not just law students.

These vital Palestinian elections lay down the gauntlet to the world (and in particular the Europeans). They might not have quite known what they were in for when they happily registered for the Middle East Craziness 101 course. Regardless, it's exam time now and we'll be waiting to see the results.

If Hamas gains much of the vote, and even more so if they become a party in the ruling PA government, the world must be seen to reject this result. Democracy - great! Hitler rose to power through democratic means, a means not dissimilar to Hamas' popularity, that also relies on and abuses citizenry desperation, poverty and brainwashed fanaticism. This most famous and most powerful of Palestinian terror groups has by no means changed its 'all of Palestine by all means' platform and like its friends Hezbollah, it continues to follow instructions and receive financial backing from Iran (remember them?) and others.

The Europeans (and even the Americans at times) have played with the idea of relations with these murderers. When it comes to the crunch, declarations of intent by world powers mean precious little right now. Their actions towards a Hamas-controlled PA will tell us much more.

In my books, any whif of 'the people of spoken' from world leaders would be a most revolting switch in the war on terror. It's a multiple choice question but there is, by definition, only one correct answer to circle. Failing this exam, not through lack of knowledge but by misguided and dishonest diplomacy, would be an international kick in the guts for the thousands of Israeli terror victims, the 3000 of 9/11, the 50 or so of 7/7, the 200 in Spain, the 200 in Bali, the thousands of Iraqi terror victims and those Palestinians who do desire true peace.

If all these people did indeed die so that we should learn and grow, the world must prove that here and now.

UPDATE (Thursday morning): Here we are Mr & Mrs World - here is your exam paper. You may begin. Good luck!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The disengagement is not finished

Five months have now passed since the harrowing and sometimes inspiring scenes during the disengagement from Gush Katif and northern Samaria. All right-minded and decent people for or against the plan must have felt a tug on the heart as they witnessed people leaving (or being symbolically dragged) from their homes. Many of those who were for the disengagement used the fact that they will be well compensated as a reassuring base to believe that things won't be so bad for the evacuees.

It would seem that after the camera crew lost interest in the evacuees, so did the public. The fact is that the compensation has not arrived for most of the former residents. Over 50% have not even received a shekel of compensation and only 3% of businesses have been renumerated in any way for their livelihoods. This is shocking, especially when you couple this with the stories of hotels charging the evacuees for their stay or moving companies stealing or losing the evacuees property.

The beaurocratic red tape that has been placed in front of the evacuees is disturbing. The Disengagement Authority has requested items like phone bills from decades ago. Even if this was unreasonable enough, any documentation that the evacuees have is still in crates in warehouses and the evacuees are told that if they break the seals on them they will lose their insurance.
This catch-22 situation is manifested in many other areas of the evacuees condition. The situation is untenable. The government conducted an excellent organisational plan during the disengagement but that is where it ended.

Those who speak of human rights and common decency must speak up and be heard. Many organisations talked of 'bringing our brothers and sisters home' but this is akin to inviting them to your home and slamming the door in their face and making them sleep in the cold.
The question of whether the disengagement was a success or a failure will be something for future historians to pour over. What is for us to decide is how we treat those who we politically postulated over for years. We talked about them as numbers and discussed their removal as if there were no human faces among them. They all have faces, families, needs and lives just as we do.

Compensation for the evacuees was an intergral part of the disengagement, just as their physical removal was. Their fate has not yet been sealed and we have to stand up and ask why the disengagement plan was not completed. We were constantly told that disengagement had a majority support of the people and the political support of the legislature, yet the people and the politicians have let a plan they supported remain unfinished.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Wishful Thinking

We are used to world figures coming to the region and giving Israelis and Palestinians all sorts of advice based on nothing but their own celebrity and wishful thinking. We have had to endure the likes of Richard Gere, Jane Fonda and Phil Collins to name but a few. People who are famous and talented in various arts and sports who suddenly believe their talent allows them to postulate about a conflict that was raging before they were born. Then they swan out of here with their egos intact, knowing that a UN or humanitarian award must be just around the corner.
The 'celebrity' who causes the greatest ire to many in Israel is former US President Jimmy Carter. As opposed to some of the other 'celebrities', Carter has a background in diplomacy and leadership in conflict resolution. This makes his comments even more infuriating.
Carter's latest comments come straight out of the top draw of wishful thinking. Carter believes that Hamas will be transformed into a non-violent group after the Palestinian elections.
Carter of course provides no evidence for this belief, in fact there is far more evidence to the contrary. Hamas has run on a platform which is familiar to the Palestinian electorate and part of it is to destroy the State of Israel. Hamas does some very important social work in the territories but it has a very bloody agenda that is at the forefront of its agenda. Why, having been voted in to power on a platform would they change directions? It has brought them success.
Other examples that would disagree with Carter's hopes are close to home. The world told Israel that if it left Lebanon, Hezbullah would go back to being farmers and leave their weaponry behind. Even though Hezbullah have a significant representation in the Lebanese parliament they still run a quasi-autonomous region in southern Lebanon and frequently attack Israel. Contrary to UN resolutions, the Lebanese have not lifted a finger to disarm Hezbullah and assert control.
Why does noone ask Carter on what basis he makes the assumptions he does? Carter who supports the unpopular and intentionally vague Geneva Accords is welcomed to forum around the world to espouse his views to all that will listen. Isn't it time we said enough?
We welcome all those who wish to come to Israel, celebrity or not, but enough of the posturing, the half-baked ideas, the ridiculous claims and above all the wishful thinking.

Friday, January 20, 2006

There's nowhere they'd rather be

A recent survey conducted by the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya tells us that Israelis are the biggest patriots in the West. This is interesting indeed, but what is far more enlightening is something hiding later in the report in relation to Israeli Arabs......
"77% of Israeli Arabs compared to 66% of Israeli Jews believe that Israel is better than most other countries, especially with regard to social welfare. Arab pride in the welfare system is three times as high as Jewish pride, with 53% of Arabs expressing pride in the welfare state compared to 17% of Jews."
This is astounding, especially for our foreign critics who constantly cry out about the unfair treatment of Israeli Arabs. It would seem that the Israeli Arabs themselves do not agree. Israeli Arabs are fully part of Israel's welfare system and receive their entitlement. They look East at their Arab brethren in other countries and they do not like what they see.
I remember a few years ago they did a poll in East Jerusalem where they asked the Arab residents if they wished to be Palestinian citizens or Israeli citizens. I seem to remember the number was close to 90% wanted to be Israeli.
While much of the world taints us with the discrimination brush, it would seem that those who are being 'discriminated' against do not agree. I am not saying the situation is perfect or even 100% equal. Can someone please name me a country on the face of this earth where a minority is treated exactly the same as the majority?
For all the cries of discrimination emanating from the Arab Knesset members, ask the Arab Israelis where they would rather live - many would be shocked at the answer.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Primary Obscenity

I have just finished watching the Labour primaries on TV. For those who don't know, primaries in Israel are elections to decide who gets what seat on a particular party list. Having just watched the spectacle that was the Labour primaries can only make one sick to one's stomach and is a good example of where the Israeli political system is failing its electorate.

I am not even going to bore you with the details of the wheeling and dealing that goes on before the primaries, that is politicking and is part of many systems worldwide no matter how shameful it appears. What sickened me was the fuss and fanfare associated with the event. It was more akin to the Oscars than a political event. As each member of the list was read out he or she made their way to the platform to be greeted by their new leader, Amir Peretz, with a big hug and a kiss. The new candidate would walk down the line of all those who came before them and proceed to hug and kiss them, enemies and friends alike.

This was all done while a WWF-like emcee would read out the names to a background of music, glitz and glare. What disturbed me the most was not the show but what it represents. A democracy is about having members of the legislature as representatives of the people. These people were cheering their own celebrity not considering in a sombre and befitting mood what challenges lay ahead of them while potentially serving the people.

The member of Knesset is supposed to be 'a champion of the people' not a champion of their own personality. The primary system has many detractors in Israel and I am not even going to speak of the advantages and disadvantages of the system. What appalled me and should appall every citizen is the image that the politicians matter and not the policies or ideals for which they pupport to stand for. But should I be amazed when the political landscape in Israel shifts with the movements of the sand and such a thing as ideology and principle is an outdated concept.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Jan 23rd - online Israel course


Register now for the next online eAcademy "Stating the Case" course. A course run by the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Jewish Agency for Israel, it is taught by well-known experts in the field. This is an opportunity to learn and discuss the topics at the heart of the Middle East conflict from the comfort of your own home.
The video lectures review the security fence, terror and Israel's responses, refugees, human rights, disengagement and beyond.

Join now!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Chevron Tales

At a session I gave to an AUJS Birthright group on Saturday night, we looked at Israel's relationship with the media. To a great extent, we looked at Western media but I did point out that even in Israel itself, each newspaper, TV station and the like present a different view on a specific event.

A case in point is Disengagement, where some news outlets demonized the Israeli residents of Gaza ("settlers", as the unhelpful label reads). Similarly, we have a situation unfolding now in Judaism's second holiest city, Chevron, where IDF police and soldiers are facing off against their brothers and sisters.

From one side of the Israeli media spectrum, we are receiving reports of egg throwing, rock hurling, Nazi salutes, masked crazies and extremist Jews who are being removed from homes occupied by Palestinians until a few years ago. From other sources, we are told of police abuse and brutality against excitable ideological Jewish teenagers and the subsequent loss of historic Jewish sites that extend back to before the 1929 murder and expulsion of Chevron's Jewish community by Arabs residents. And then there are the Palestinians who claim that the IDF is allowing attacks by Jews.

Still there are others like President Katsav and the Mafdal (National Religious Party) who have called for an end to any violence against IDF soldiers. Attacking an IDF soldier is a big major taboo in this country and there are Rabbis who are coming out strongly to warn against crossing those red lines and others. These are people who would tie orange ribbons on their cars and yet they educate to a more widely-appreciated tune.

What is clear is that what we are talking about, in the words of Police Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi, are "small groups of hoodlums," and that "we met them during the disengagement and we will continue to deal with them appropriately." He added that most Hebron residents were "law-abiding citizens".

We should not therefore allow ourselves to be taken in by any naive blanket condemnation of a certain people or group thereof.

All this is Israel's democracy and freedom of speech and press at work and I'm proud that such exists. Such a wide range of opinion never surfaces from (or is permitted to surface from!) Palestinian or other Arab societies. Yet it leaves the onlooker confused at best and judgmental at worst. It's not difficult to predict how the international media (and Joe Smith of surburbia) will make up his mind.

Having received these unique clips (below) from a man who also recorded Disengagement with his own video camera, I invite you to delve into his live take on Chevron and beyond. I took a tour of the Gaza Jewish communities with him before Disengagement and while he is a tremendous guy, I leave it over to each KICreader to evaluate Shlomo's commentary, footage and analysis.

I have to say that his Chevron footage as it stands does not indicate any horrific police treatment. In fact, what I can see is a sad repeat of Disengagement whereby we are sadly forced to watch Jew challenge Jew. Our political views aside, it's simply a KIC in the guts to watch it all unfold again and we all know who benefits the most from the internal strife.

Take a look at the video clips and so on through the link below and leave a comment on the KICblog to let us know your thoughts.

Michael and the KICteam

*************************************

URGENT UPDATE FROM CHEVRON FROM EDITOR SHLOMO WOLLINS

ARMY INVADES MAIN AVRAHAM AVEINU NEIGHBORHOOD IN CHEVRON

This is Shlomo Wollins reporting from the Holy City
of Chevron,which has just been invaded (contrary to promises
from security forces) and the army has taken control of the Avraham Aveinu
neighborhood...the army has locked down all the buildings and is going house
to house toforcefully evict the children...

I have posted massive update, with 13 video clips (ranging from 30 seconds

to 11 minutes in length--in streaming format) as well as 3 audio clips....
go to this link to view and listen

http://israelreporter.com/2006/01/16/exclusive-video-coverage-of-chevron-shuk-struggle/

This situation here is very dangerous.... pls forward this link to EVERY
person in America that cares about Chevron and the Jewish children here, who
with great bravery and injury are defending the land of ALL the Jews... also
pls post to blogs, forums, and forward to journalists...we must involve
American Jewry here, or Chevron will be entirely lost in the Olmert
regime, that misguided Israelis are about to elect in landside...

The state of Israel is in dire peril....pray for us...

Shlomo

CONTACT INFORMATION:
Shlomo Wollins, Publisher & Editor
http://www.israelreporter.com/
054-7388-054




Sunday, January 15, 2006

Israel allow Jerusalem Palestinians to vote

Israel has finally approved voting in East Jerusalem for the Palestinian Authority elections. The one caveat is as expected that no canvassing and no ballot slips of the terrorist group Hamas is to be allowed.
This situation has raised many questions for Israel's policies while finding inconsistencies in statements made by the upper political echelons. On the one hand, Ariel Sharon and his government always told reporters and visiting politicians that Israel will always be the united and eternal capital of Jerusalem. The second point is these same Arab Jerusalemites receive benefits and taxes from the Israeli government yet vote in foreign elections. The third, perhaps most important point is Arab Jerusalemites have resident rights given to them by Israel yet they have no vote in Israeli elections. Surely, a group of people shouldn't be prevented from voting in an election.
It is a sore sticking point for the Israeli administration but it is time they nailed their policy to a mast and stuck to it. Either Israel has to apply their own law to all residents of legally annexed Jerusalem or give up their rights in East Jerusalem with all that entails.
This duplicitous policy which allows such a grey area can not go on, a policy must be set and accept all of the consequences that arrives with the decision. It is a terribly difficult decision for Israel to make. In 1980 Israel enacted its "Jerusalem Law" formally declaring East and West Jerusalem together, "whole and united" to be "the capital of Israel". This surely contradicts the current policy of allowing residents of a part of the city to vote in one elections and another part in another. Doesn't sound very whole or united to me!
Also, if Israel were to cede East Jerusalem in a future agreement, what would be the status of the Old City and its residents. Is it conceivable that Israel would cede the Temple Mount and the countless other Jewish holy sites over the Green Line that Jews were barred from visiting when not in Israeli hands.
At this time Israel seems to have one policy for the ground and one for the people who live on it, this anomaly can not continue ad infinitum. Israel has to state with one voice what its policy is and stick to it regardless of internal or external opposition. Either Jerusalem and all of its residents should be part of a 'united and whole' Jerusalem which involves full and equal rights for all or it should stop its rhetoric and face the consequences of a divided Jerusalem in legal fact.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Enough words?

"Disappointed", "Serious concern", "crossed a red line" and "running out of patience" are just some of the responses by Russia, the US, El Baradei of the IAEA and Britain, realeased respectively in reaction to the latest Iranian actions. The Iranians have just broken UN seals at some of their nuclear research stations sparking suggestion that they are in the latter stages of acquiring the knowledge to obtain nuclear weapons.

All eyes now turn to the UN Security Council where many nations have said they will call for sanctions. The problems with this scenario are many. Firstly, nations like Russia and China have said they will use their veto to block any sanctions. Secondly, as we saw with Iraq under Saddam Hussein, sanctions in a totalitarian regime only affect the population and not the rulers and decision-makers. The sanctions and oil-for-food program were useless and even gave Saddam Hussein an extra revenue with UN workers implicated. The last problem is, once you have used sanctions and they don't work, then what? Again, looking at the Iraq model, we see that numerous last chnace UN resolutions were only worth the paper they were written on and even the threat of violence rang hollow as most nations balked at the idea they had signed up to.

So we are left at an impasse. Is there a possibility of force? Information would dictate the difficulties involved, the Israel Air Force would not have enough fuel to complete the mission. The nuclear stations are extremely well protected and spread out. This won't be a one-time raid on the Iraqi Osirak nuclear facility. If there was a huge international consensus on this issue then an attack would not just be feasible it would work. However, we know in the real world of realpolitik there will be no such consensus until it is too late.

The scenario could be that only after a nuclear launch on an enemy nation would the Europeans, Chinese, Russians, etc actually move from words to action. This is a frightening scenario, but we see time and time again it takes a massive loss of life to actually shake the tepid diplomacy to real action.

Why is it considered so unliberal and unhumanitarian to strike first at a nation with aggressive nuclear ambitions? Surely, a military precise strike with a wide international consensus is the most humanitarian scenario. There would be a loss of life but minimal compared to the millions of people soon to be within Iranian nuclear range. So there has to be a stop to the words, diplomacy and empty threats. The world can not afford a scenario where Iran joins the nuclear club, something has to be done now before it is too late.

Just as a side issue, the reason Iran is going nuclear could be due to the fact that the world can not stomach another fight. I was speaking to an Iranian analyst who grew up in Tehran and he asked me, why have the world not considered why Iran is so desperate to acquire nuclear weapons? He told me he remembers sitting at home as a young child cowering with his family while the Iraqis rained missiles, sometimes with poisonous agents, down on his city and many others. The world not only did not react, they gave tacit approval to Iraq in its war with Iran and supported Iraq financially and militarily. Iran, he said, does not want to be in that position again so must equip themselves so they can not be threatened. My friend, a Jew living in Israel said this still angers him to this day. He understands the nature of the Iranian nuclear ambitions. Have we ever stopped to think why Iran needs to acquire nuclear weapons. If we understand it maybe we can tackle the problem.

I'm not sure what the ideal solution to this issue is, but it is certainly food for thought.

Voting Now - Blog Awards

Voting stations are open for the Jewish and Israeli Blog Awards 2005. This KICblog has been nominated in two categories. (Sounds like the Oscars doesn't it?!!)

Put a KIC into our campaign in the Best Israel Advocacy Blog category and the Best Politics and Current Affairs Blog category or vote for others if you're that way inclined. Make sure to read the voting rules before jumping in to the fray.

If you're feeling extremely generous, send this post through to your fmaily and friends so they can get a KIC out of this blog as well and maybe they'll feel inclined to vote for us too.
Enjoy and thanks...

Sunday, January 08, 2006

In Sharon's Name........

While Ariel Sharon is still lying in his hospital bed fighting for his life, we are already witnessing a disturbing trend that we have witnessed before. While Sharon's health is being fought for, his legacy seems to have already been appropriated.

Just as we have witnessed in the last decade since the murder of Rabin, so we see with Sharon. Since the murder of Rabin, many Israeli politicians tried to gain extra prestige and authority by claiming their ideas as the continuation of Rabin's. The all too common, 'following in Rabin's footsteps' refrain was used by almost all of the 'Peace Camp' and even some on the right.

We must not allow politicians to rewrite history whichever side of the political spectrum. Already we see various politicians speaking to the media about Sharon's path. The facts remain that Ariel Sharon as a political leader was a pragmatist, he left Gaza not because of any great belief in a resumption of the 'Peace Process' but as a realistic response to the demographic and security situation. Sharon said on many occasions that he would not give up any security assets and would never give up Jerusalem, a statement he repeated in his last interview with the Japanese press.

Also using the Rabin example, Sharon must not attain unimpeachable sainthood. Since the Rabin murder any criticism of Rabin was akin to becoming Yigal Amir's accomplice. Rabin and Sharon were great heroes in the short annals of Israeli history but as leaders they were human and made decisions that we should all be allowed to openly criticise or commend.

Whatever the outcome of the medical treatment, Sharon has left his indelible mark on the Israeli political landscape. That mark should be left for all to comment, criticise or applaud. What we must not allow our politicians to do is become a prophet and claim their policies as Sharon's.

What we need now are bold visions, for a new generation of politicians to rise up and breathe fresh air into the political landcape with fresh ideas. The leaders of all parties have to create their own path and clearly enunciate it to the public and not rely on some vague notion of following a past leaders'.

However, the future does not bode well with pretty much only Meretz and Yisrael Beteinu clearly describing their vision of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Israeli voter needs to know what he or she is voting for, this would be the greatest legacy that Ariel Sharon could have left us.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Ariel Sharon, Until 120!!

As I write this Ariel Sharon clings to life after surgery. Press reports seem to indicate that even if Sharon does make a full recovery it may be unlikely that he will be able to resume full prime ministerial responsibilities.

According to Israel's Basic Law: The Government states that "if the prime minister is temporarily prevented from fulfilling his duties, he will be replaced by the vice premier. In the event the prime minister fails to regain capacity to function within 100 days, he will be considered unable to fulfill the post altogether."
So this begs the very real question, what comes next?

Kadima, the party that Sharon convened was due to win the spoils in the next election with a comfortable win. Kadima is Sharon's baby and it is unclear how much Sharon and Kadima are manifestations of the other. I think the average Israeli would be hard pressed to recall five Kadima members. Kadima is a hodge-podge of people from all walks of life, from university professors, ex-settlement leaders, people from entertainment and even the leader of the scouts.

In principle I do agree with bringing people in from different sectors other than politics. Their experience in other areas could prove valuable to a Knesset almost full of career politicians whose experience of other facets of life is minimal.

If Kadima do suffer as a result, then where will the votes go? Will people return to the Likud or swing to the social issues platform of Amir Peretz? I personally believe that as much as others would have it, this election is about security and shaping our future borders. The Likud position is far closer to Sharon's than Labour's and with liked expunging what they believe are extremist elements, the public may look to the next most experienced politician in Bibb neaten. neaten people may remember has achieved agreements with the Palestinians, notably WY and Hepburn.

While many of us may not be happy with sharing policies during his career and especially the way he went about implementing them, we should all wish him a speedy recovery. Whatever else we may agree on, we should agree that Sharon believed in his path and that whatever he did was for the good of Israel. Whether it be in the army or in politics, Sharon had his eye on the security of Israel.
With that said, we wish him the traditional Jewish greeting of 'Until 120', meaning may he live his full allotted time and make a speedy recovery.

Every Israeli Morning, A Different World

Like a cricket batsman run out without facing a ball, our Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appears to have been beaten by a ball that came from a direction he least expected... and that we least expected until a few weeks ago. We pray for his speedy recovery. May G-d reduce his suffering and give him strength.

World media is going mad, I mean, has gone mad. It's just incredible how very center of the world Israel is. Jews make news it appears. Post-disengagement sees Sharon as a respected and strong world leader with the courage to take tough decisions even against his own instinct and that of many Israelis. The way the media relate to him now is quite unrecognizable on days gone past.

It is no exaggeration that the Israeli political scene has just taken a big hit by an earthquake of Hollywood proportions and the aftershocks will continue up until election day and beyond.
Riding high (very high!) in the polls, Sharon is largely viewed as the only man able and willing (even if with heavy heart) to finally lead the Israeli people away from those who seek to hurt us. It isn't that he likes Palestinians nor trusts them. How could he? Still, he recognized their need for separation from us too and wanted to use his next term to draw the final boundaries of the Jewish state, with or without Palestinian goodwill and cooperation.

His recent UN speech saw him proudly stand and declare to the the entire world that this Land has enveloped Jewish history for thousands of years and that it is a land to which he feels utmost commitment and love. And yet, a few sentences later he recognized the right of the Palestinians to a State and to rights. He believed that regardless of wholesome Jewish rights to the land, modern realities led us to new understandings of what the future must be.

I'm not eulogizing him yet. Still, it's worth considering the fate of Kadima and its leaders who jumped from various ships to have a free ride on the Arik Sharon bandwagon to power. Noone holds the clout nor the respect that Sharon does, neither within Kadima nor elsewhere.

It's incredible when you think about it, that PM Rabin was murdered while pursuing a risky (proven to be very risky) 'land for peace' path. Many say that had Rabin lived, we would have had peace now. People trusted Rabin and believed that his strength would lead to quiet and growth.
Sharon, also a great military figure-come-politician holds similar (though not identical) aspirations. In his pursuit of separation (also a Rabin goal), Ariel Sharon has also been cut down in his prime.

Coincidence? Uncanny? Strange? Sad? Hmmm...

Even if many Israelis did not agree with him nor his methods, all MKs and citizens pray for his recovery. Sharon was a stable, solid leader and the ever-hungry neighborhood bullies are sure to remind us how much we will miss his Jewish-Zionist pride, his insight and experience.

I think I've said it before (yes, in several posts in the last month)... three months is a very long time in the life of the State of Israel!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Israeli Muslim Arab asks to join IAF

A recent development in Israel has gone largely unnoticed but could have far reaching consequences for Israel and its relations with its minority Muslim Arab community. According to Israeli newspaper Yedioth Achranoth, an Israeli Arab Muslim has requested to join Israel's elite pilot training course. As the situation stands the sole legal distinction between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs is the fact that the latter, unlike the Bedouin and Druze, are exempt from being drafted into the Israel Defence Forces.
There are Muslims who do volunteer for the IDF, but they are few and far between. Israel made this distinction so Israeli Arabs would not have to take up arms against other Arabs, perhaps even family and friends.
Many IDF officials have come out for and against the idea of letting this Arab teen join the pilots course. The Israel Air Force has an extremely vigorous examination process with motivation and loyalty very much part of the successful candidates necessary qualifications.
If he passes all of the usual tests I am fully in favour of him becoming part of our elite pilots unit. As a citizen of the State of Israel I was conscripted to the IDF and my job was to protect the life of all of its citizens regardless of race or religion. If an Arab Muslim wishes to do the same, I say let him and it may be a turning point in the history of the relations between the State of Israel and its Arab Muslim minority.
I do understand the reservation of those who are against this idea, as with all things it takes a while to adjust to change. How much more so when the change is something of a leap of faith that could compromise the security of one's state. It is a difficult decision and one that should not be taken lightly and perhaps this potential new recruit should be subjected to harder tests than others, such is the way with trail blazers, but if he succeeds then he should be treated the same.
I personally have met many Arab Muslims who feel a strong connection to the State of Israel and would have perhaps enlisted in the IDF but felt no opportunity to do so. For all those who have served in the IDF, we know it is the great equaliser in Israeli society. Ashkenazim, Sepahardim, Russian, Ethiopian, Druze, Christian, rich, poor, religious, secular, all serve together and gain a greater understanding of each other than in any other area of life. To add someone, and hopefully more, from another social group in Israel can only benefit all of us.
I say good luck to this teenager, I hope he succeeds for himself and for all the citizens of the State of Israel.

KIC...With a new face

As Michael will be busy for the next few months I will be standing in for him. My name is Ashley Perry and I am originally from London, UK. I made Aliyah 5 years ago and currently live in Efrat. I work as an Israel advocate, writer, researcher and journalist for numerous Israel and Jewish related organisations. I hope to follow in Michael's fair and honest footsteps by presenting to you issues of interest in Israel current affairs.
Just to give you an idea of my writing and my viewpoint you can view two opinion pieces I wrote. The first was written a while ago but I still think it is pertinent especially in light of the media attention the settlers receive. It is titled 'I am a settler'. The second was written after the disengagement from Gaza was completed and its title is 'I am proud to be an Israeli'.
I hope that my postings will be interesting but most of all will inspire debate and inquiry.