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For those who say it is out of date and irrelavent now Hamas have gained power it is interesting to note comments made by Jamal Abu Samhadana the newly appointed chief of the Palestinian security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


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."

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Saudi Ambassador to US lauds the IDF

It sounds pretty unlikely, but apparently Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States Turki al-Faisal expressed support for Israel's strike on the Iraqi Osirak nuclear facility in 1981.
Al-Faisal said that the destruction of the Iraqi nuclear reactor by Israel was certainly a positive step, during a speech on foreign relations in San Francisco.
The prince said that a region clear of nuclear weapons would also serve Israel and increase its security. He said that it was known that Israel had nuclear weapons, and that that Arab world felt threatened by Israel, rather than the other way around.
Faisal added that Israel possessed the best army, air force, and navy in the Middle East, and that these have been well used in the past.
After becoming aware that Iraq was planning to construct nuclear weapons, Israel launched a surprise aerial attack on June 7 1981 on the Osirak facility near Baghdad, and destroyed the Iraqi reactor.
The move was initially widely condemned, but was widely supported in subsequent years.

The Rotary Club and other Zionist plots

The following is a good opinion piece by Mona Charen of the Washinton Times.
In Israel and the Palestinian territories, two new governments are taking shape. The Kadima Party, which will (just barely) head Israel's new coalition government, seeks simply to separate and insulate Israel from the homicidal intentions of its Palestinian neighbors. On the other side of the fence, Hamas is settling into its duties as government of the Palestinian Authority. Let's consider what Israel is dealing with. The Hamas Charter (available in full at reads like a combination of Mein Kampf and the Unabomber's manifesto. Here is Hamas on the importance of women: "Her role in guiding and educating the new generations is great. The enemies have realized the importance of her role. They consider that if they are able to direct and bring her up the way they wish, far from Islam, they would have won the battle. That is why you find them giving these attempts constant attention through information campaigns, films, and the school curriculum, using for that purpose their lackeys who are infiltrated through Zionist organizations under various names and shapes, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, espionage groups and others, which are all nothing more than cells of subversion and saboteurs. . . . The day Islam is in control of guiding the affairs of life, these organizations, hostile to humanity and Islam, will be obliterated." Elsewhere in the document, Hamas explicates Israel's ambitions, as they understand them: "After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion,' and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying." Vladimir Putin may think that Hamas should be regarded as merely controversial, but he might want to consult their charter on the issue of negotiations. "There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors." As for the putative negotiating partner, "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it." And finally, "The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf (inheritance) consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgment Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: It, or any part of it, should not be given up." The "Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion" is, of course, a Czarist forgery that has been used by Nazis, communists and now radical Muslims to inspire Jew hatred. Israel is the only country in the world that faced trial in the International Court of Justice for attempting to defend itself from terrorists. The ICJ declared that Israel's security fence violates international law. Where, one wonders, does Hamas -- which calls for Israel's "obliteration" -- fall within the confines of international law? Israel's thriving democracy produces ironies. The Likud Party is now reduced to 11 seats in the Knesset. The combined Arab Israeli parties hold 10 seats. There is not a single Arab country in which Jews are permitted to serve in government. Israeli Arabs are not unhappy with their lives. Some Israelis have floated the idea of a sovereignty exchange; that Israeli Arab villages should be offered to the Palestinian Authority in exchange for Jewish communities in the West Bank coming under Israeli control. Israeli Arabs hate this idea. If Israel were truly the apartheid state of leftist propaganda, wouldn't the Arab population welcome an opportunity to escape? Meanwhile, Israel's freewheeling parliamentary system tosses up peculiarities that resemble the California recall election of 2003. Among those contending for seats in the Knesset were the Green Leaf Party, which favors legalization of marijuana, and the Meretz Party, which favors Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders and dividing Jerusalem. The former won no seats, but even now, even in the face of the Hamas victory in the Palestinian areas, Meretz won four of the Knesset's 120 seats. Liberty includes the right to be stupid.

Israel's helping hand: Israeli company invents robots to do your chores

Ok, so this isn't really a humanitarian thing (unless you are really dangerously lazy), but it definitely constitutes a 'helping hand'.
Slobs and housework-haters rejoice: If one company has its way, in the near future there will be robots to set the dinner table, clear it after dinner, shovel snow and mop the floor. In short, the robots will "move in and around the home, doing the mundane tasks that people don't like to do anymore," Friendly Robotics Chief Executive Officer Udi Peless told United Press International in a telephone interview. For its part, the Pardesiya, Israel-based company has already developed a lawnmower robot, the Robomow, and a vacuum-cleaner robot, the Friendly Vac. The other innovations are as close as five to 10 years down the road, Peless said, although he added that one of his company's competitors has already developed a robot to mop the floor. The Robomow barrels around the yard randomly, guided to stay on the lawn by a cable the user must install around the perimeter of his yard, similar to an invisible fence for dogs. At a hi-tech exhibition in Tel Aviv curious onlookers who wandered onto the demonstration patch of turf often had to jump out of Robomow's way. When the device does make contact with something, like a tree in the middle of the lawn, it backs up and changes direction. This may not be the machine for people who love neat stripes. Luckily, the newer Friendly Vac doesn't careen into furniture the way the Robomow bumps into obstacles. "Inside the home, it's done differently, to avoid contact," Peless said. The vacuum cleaner "senses furniture from a distance of half a meter." It also senses walls, meaning the Friendly Vac doesn't require a cable installment like Robomow.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Israel advocacy for the elderly

With the pensioners party doing so well at PR to receive so many mandates for the Knesset, it is time perhaps to turn to the elderly for Israel advocacy work.
It appears that anti-Semitism, both on the Internet and in general, is growing daily, and websites rejecting Israel’s right to exist are operating unopposed. Although one cannot hope to extinguish these many flames of hatred, an Israeli initiative is trying to halt their
spread and hundreds of Israel’s elderly have taken on the challenge
The pensioners, armed with a computer, keyboard and a lot of free time and goodwill, are running a pro-Israel propaganda campaign over the Web. And who knows, maybe the Pensioners Party’s surprising success in the 17th parliamentary elections will further encourage the public relations campaign initiated by the Israel Internet Association in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry.
On Thursday the project held its annual meeting in Jerusalem.
The campaign started two-and-a-half years ago proclaiming its intentions to employ the assets of the mature community (fluency in many languages, life experience, free time and goodwill) in an online public relations campaign.
“The State of Israel, a world leader in the hi-tech industry, has a weak and faltering operation when it comes to public relations on the Internet,” the Israel Internet Association wrote on its website in an effort to recruit the elderly to the project.
“Compared to thousands of pro-Palestinian Websites, there are only a few pro-Israeli websites. Despite their seriousness and depth, they do not put up an adequate fight in the virtual crossfire. It is necessary to create a deluge of Israeli sites that will show up in the top ten of every search engine.”
The flood rains haven’t fallen yet, but numerous elderly volunteers have completed training and have become involved in various aspects of the campaign, including translating PR material to various languages, responding to slanderous articles on-line, and writing personal memoirs to be posted on the Web.
Dotan Samhovitch, the Israel Internet Association’s project coordinator revealed that some 200 pensioners are participating in the program.
Shmuel Borosh, almost 90 years old, was born in Hungary. He had not touched a computer before joining the project, but now he emails regularly with his relatives, who like being updated on what goes on in Israel in order to answer anti-Semitism in Hungary. They also help him translate material into Hungarian.
What has the PR team done thus far? They have launched the "Israel Timeline" site, which boasts numerous articles translated by the volunteers into various languages containing information on Israel. The "Israel Technology" site exhibits the country’s successes in the hi-tech industry.
The volunteers also participate in writing a group blog called Land of Israel Stories, in which they relate personal tales of Israel throughout its history, in various languages.
“The site allows participants in the project to attain high quality information and materials in case of need, in order to present Israel to a public that doesn’t like us or doesn’t know us,” Samhovitch says.

A great story that shows that justice for victims of the Shoah should always be sought

In 1943, at the height of World War II and the systematic annihilation of European Jewry, Gitl Lerner, a 45-year-old Jewish woman, hid with five of her children in the home of a Polish farmer. The six managed to escape a transport to the Majdanek death camp and found shelter along with two Jewish youths. On the night of October 30, Polish farmers in the area stabbed Lerner and the five children to death. Sixty years later Roni Lerner, an Israeli businessman and Gitl's grandson, set out to track down his family's murderers. In the course of his investigation, Lerner, pretending to be a historian, met the sole surviving murderer and uncovered the horrific case, which the prosecution in Poland has now reopened as a result. Under Polish law, there is no statute of limitations on murders committed during World War II or the country's Communist era. However, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, who assisted Lerner in his contacts with the Polish prosecution, says that despite admirable Polish willingness to bring criminals to trial, the proceedings drag on and convictions have been exceedingly few, in view of the number of suspects still alive.
With the help of an Israeli film crew and local researchers, Lerner managed to locate the last remaining suspect in the murder. The suspect, Joseph Radchuk, a 92-year-old farmer, led Lerner and his people to the place where the victims were buried 60 years ago. Lerner is going to Poland today at the head of a delegation to exhume the skeletons and bring them for burial in Israel, alongside his father's grave. "I won't leave my family members in that cursed land of Poland," he said before departing Israel. Researchers from Poland's Institute for National Commemoration (IPN) are slated to meet with Lerner tomorrow and to be present for the exhumation of the victims' remains, if found, at the Catholic cemetery in Pashgalini. The eight victims are Gitl and her five children (Miriam, 22; Hannah, 20; David, 17; Zvi, 15; and Haim, 13) and two young Jewish men known only by their surnames: Zefrin and Pomerantz. They were stabbed to death at their hideout in the small village of Pashgalini, near the family's hometown of Komarovka in eastern Poland, not far from the city Lublin. The family arrived at the hideout in April 1943, after a Polish farmer named Jan Sadovski found it for them. While the family was in hiding, Lerner's father, Yitzhak, was living in Warsaw under an assumed identity. He heard of his family's murder from a Polish friend who lived in the village. In November 1944, after the Red Army had conquered the area from the Germans, Lerner went to the village to investigate. His testimony, preserved in the Jewish archives in Warsaw, states that the murder was perpetrated by Sadovski and four other farmers - one of them being Joseph Radchuk. The testimony stated that the murder had been committed to steal the Lerner family's possessions and those of their two friends, who were wealthy people. Lerner Sr. met with Radchuk, who said he had witnessed the murder and admitted taking many of the family's possessions. Lerner Sr. filed several complaints with the Soviet authorities, but later learned that aside from Sadovski, who was tried and executed, nothing was done to his accomplices. After the war Lerner Sr. fled to Sweden and from there immigrated to Israel. He remarried, to a Holocaust survivor from a neighboring town in Poland and lived with her in Moshav Hibbat Zion. Lerner began investigating his family's tragedy in July 2003, when he accompanied his daughter's school trip to Poland and tracked down his father's testimony at the archives in Warsaw. On returning to Israel, Lerner decided to commemorate his father's life with a book and a documentary film, and headed back to Poland. He kept Israel's ambassador, David Peleg, and his deputy, Yosef Levy, apprised of all his movements there. He also made contact with the local Jewish community and Monica Kravchuk, chair of the Jewish heritage foundation in Poland. Research led to the home of the Ozdovski family, on whose land the Lerners' hideout had been located. The family, whose father apparently participated in the murder, said that the bodies were initially buried near the hideout, but were moved a year later to an unknown location because neighbors complained the place had become haunted. Lerner says that during an unannounced visit to the family's home, he spotted a Singer sewing machine that had belonged to his family and was mentioned in his father's testimony. Last October the researchers located Radchuk, who showed them where the bodies were reburied at the edge of the Catholic cemetery in Pashgalini. If the skeletons are found there, they will be flown to Israel on Tuesday and the funeral will take place in Hibbat Zion at the end of the week.

UN Reform Requires Non-Governmental Organisation Reform

Israel advocates have long understood the problem with NGO's relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. KIC has frequently mentioned their inaccuracies inherent in a bias system of reporting which leads to more innocent bodies utilising information that is basically incorrect. NGO monitor is at the forefront of the fight against these organisation's and the lies that they proliferate. (If you are wondering the picture on the right is of a poster handed out at a UN NGO forum)
Yisrael Kasnett writes a good analysis this problem in the context of United Nations reform.
"On March 15, 2006, the network of powerful NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that includes Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, joined with recidivist human rights abusers such as Sudan, Libya, and Saudi Arabia to support the UN’s new Human Rights Council. These regimes vehemently opposed serious reform knowing this would expose them to close scrutiny; and the debate on this reform was intense, with some countries – primarily the U.S. and Israel – arguing that the proposal did not go far enough in ensuring that the failures of the old Human Rights Commission would not continue in the new body.

NGOs have played a leading role under the old and failed Human Rights Commission and have long enjoyed direct access and influence to the various UN bodies. Protected by the “halo” effect and their unaccountability, the NGO network was central to the disastrous 2001 Durban Conference on Racism, which was prepared under the auspices of the UNCHR. At Durban, NGOs largely ignored the issues for which the conference was called, focusing instead on intense anti-Israel advocacy, and initiating the “Durban strategy,” an NGO campaign to undermine Israel that continues to reverberate in calls for divestment, sanctions and boycotts.

As part of this process, the unverifiable and biased reports published by the multi-million dollar NGOs HRW and AI, contributed to the disproportionate Israel bashing during the annual sessions of the UNCHR. As detailed research by NGO Monitor has shown, these NGOs often use human rights rhetoric to pursue political campaigns, systematically stripping the context of terror from their reports, and relying on eyewitness claims that lack credibility. HRWÂ’s institutional bias was clearly demonstrated by its highly disproportionate allocation of its Middle East resources in 2004 to attacks against Israel.

In other words, NGOs are not part of the solution – they are part of the problem in the UN. With over 2,700 NGOs accredited with consultative status under the Economic and Social Council, the UN is a breeding ground for anti-Israel activity and bias. Guided by the superpowers such as AI and HRW, these influential NGOs use their consultative status in ECOSOC to disseminate false and unsubstantiated allegations against Israel. They highly misrepresent factual information and completely ignore the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict in order to promote their own ideological and political agendas.

It is therefore not surprising that these NGOs endorsed the new Council framework and failed to weigh in on behalf of serious UN reform. In criticizing the U.S. and Ambassador John Bolton for demanding more, Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, and a frequent contributor to anti-Israel bias in the UN said, "It obviously doesn‘t do everything we hoped for, but it is clearly better than the Human Rights Commission.”

Similarly, Amnesty International has also adopted this minimalist approach. The Secretary General of AI, Irene Khan stated "the U.S. administration should not jeopardize the best chance in decades to establish a more effective UN human rights body." Neither HRW nor AI showed any contrition regarding the role their organizations played in reinforcing the anti-democratic political biases under the previous UN Human Rights Commission.

NGOs fear diminished status in the UN and ultimately are afraid of losing the influence they currently enjoy. Thorough reform, NGOs argue, will hinder NGO efforts and lessen their impact on UN decisions and resolutions by reducing their accessibility to the various UN bodies. This may sound noble but in reality, NGOs have played a very negative role by exploiting the rhetoric of universal human rights to advance their own narrow ideological and political agendas. Largely as a result of campaigning by NGOs, Israel is consistently singled out for condemnation in the UNCHR, is the focus of disproportionate and biased resolutions in the General Assembly and is the only country in the UN that has not been given full membership to its regional group as obligated under the UN Charter.
Thus, the discussions on much needed UN reform must also include NGO reform. Serious NGOs can help the decision-making process in the UN in some cases but not when they merely exploit access to this body to promote conflict. Furthermore, NGOs must be held accountable and organizations that lack balance and use their funds for propaganda rather than for independent research, should not receive automatic access.
The NGOs most suitable for working in conjunction with the UN body and its subsidiaries are those that are objective, unbiased and have no ideological and political agendas. These organizations can positively contribute to conflict resolution in the UN, through fair and substantiated reports based on accurate knowledge using credible sources. The Human Rights Council will differentiate itself from its discredited predecessor not through minor inconsequential adjustments, but via a major break with the past and accompanied by serious NGO reform."

Hamas leader says 'There's no room for Israel on this land'

Israel advocates have to be wary of a growing trend amongst media outlets to attempt to paint Hamas as a moderate force willing to compromise and to distance Hamas from its terrorism roots. On Friday I heard on BBC World Service a BBC correspondent joking with a Hamas minister about his new job, willfully forgetting that he belongs to an organisation that might have some social services but is overall steeped in blood and hatred. The latest comes from CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour where she tries to redefine Hamas.
Israel advocates have to make people listen to the subtleties in an interview with a Hamas representative. Constantly we are being told that Hamas want an end to the occupation, the reporter will never ask further what does the Hamas person mean, assuming that he is referring to 1967 borders. Well the cat is out of the bag.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar was quoted in a weekend interview to a Chinese news agency defending Hamas' declared goal of eventually destroying Israel.Zahar, a prominent Hamas leader sworn into the Palestinian Authority cabinet last week, told the Xinhua news agency that he is certain the goal will be realized, because "There is no place for Israel on this land."According to the interview, Zahar maintained that Palestinians have no problem with the Jewish religion, only with the Israeli occupation, and said he does not rule out the possibility of Jews, Muslims and Christians living together in one Islamic state.
Reiterating Hamas' oppositions to negotiations with Israel, Zahar told his interviewer, "Israel doesn't want peace nor does it have any peace project. Therefore, we told our people and tell them that there will be no negotiations."
This is the crux that Israel advocates have to pay attention to. Zahar says Israel don't want peace and negotiations when he said earlier that there is no place for Israel at all. The problem is many news agencies will pick up on the "Israel doesn't want peace" part without mentioning it will be a peace without Israel. (Note: The actual article only mentions Zahar saying "I dream of hanging a huge map of the world on the wall at my Gaza home which does not show Israel on it," half-way through the article, while up to then the article has focused on Israeli recalcitrance.)

Leading UK TV personality: Israelis are far, far better at killing each other than Hamas

This is a very shocking statement, but sadly it is very true. Nick Ross, a leading UK television personality and a former chairman of the National Road Safety Committee of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in the UK, believes that Israeli drivers should be compared with Hamas.
Israel has deplorable statistics when it comes to road deaths per motorists in this country. Many more people are killed as a result of road accidents than terrorism or war. Israelis are very concerned over any death due to terrorism and we remain glued to the television screens to find out all we can about the victims, and rightly so. But there is a bigger killer out there we have to stop.
"If you want to get Israeli public attitudes more focused on the priorities of road safety, one has got to recognize that Israelis are far, far better at killing each other than Hamas," Ross told The Jerusalem Post.
"Hamas... is relatively ineffective compared to Israeli drivers," he said, noting that more people die in road accidents than in terrorist attacks.
Ross is the grandson of the country's first justice minister, Pinhas Rosen, and is here this week for a conference organized by road safety organization Metuna.
He has become a national institution on British television through his long-running and award-winning show Crimewatch UK, which appeals to the public for help in solving crimes. In addition, he presented a road-safety program called The Biggest Epidemic of Our Times in the 1980s and a series called So You Think You're a Good Driver! several years ago.
Ross used the word "epidemic" to describe Israel's road fatalities, noting that while traffic deaths in other countries have been halved, the figures in this country have dropped very little in recent years. This, he believes, is because Israel is forced to worry about security at the expense of other issues.
"Israel's security, in a grand sense, is the most pressing issue. But on a day-to-day basis, if you're worried about your kids, the real campaigning issue in Israel ought to be road safety more than any other disease. It is a disease as far as doctors are concerned. As a plague that can be solved, that is the one that ought to be concentrated on," he said.
"It is a paradox, because Israel, out of all the nations on Earth, treasures individual life. What Israel will do to save one life," he exclaimed. "And yet there's this extraordinary psychological blindness to all these lives that are being lost."One problem, he said, is that drivers have become unjustifiably fatalistic about road accidents. "We just assume this will happen," he said. "Nonsense. If accidents are about to happen, how come in the UK, with more traffic going faster for more miles, we've got our fatalities down from 6,500 to 3,400. We've just engineered it down. We decided that's what we were going to do."

Muhammed cartoons 'outrage' led to racism and intolerance

We witnessed many scenes of Muslim 'outrage' over the Danish cartoons depicting Muhammed, deemed offensive to Islam. Rioting, kidnappings and killing showed the world how sensitive the issue is to the Muslim world. One would have expected as a result of Muslim offense for many to better understand offensive imagery in the Muslim press. However this has been far from the case. As has been showed many times by certain parts of the Muslim world, if the West offends Islam or Muslims we will take it out on Israel and the Jews.
The Muhammad cartoon controversy greatly increased the amount of anti-Semitic material in Arab and Muslim newspapers, according to a report issued by the Anti-Defamation League over the weekend.
The report highlighted cartoons and opinion pieces that demonized Jews, Israel and the Holocaust in media across the Arab world and in Iran.
The publications cited depicted Jews in "outrageous and deeply anti-Semitic caricatures and themes, including anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of Jews plotting to control US foreign policy and dominate the world," the report said.
For example, in the government daily Al-Ittihad from the United Arab Emirates, a cartoon of a Jew holding the world at bay with a gun labeled "the Holocaust" was published on January 24. And, in an apparent reference to the Muhammad cartoons, on February 16 the Bahraini Akhbar al-Khalij ran a picture of an inkpot marked with a Star of David accompanied by a pen writing "cartoons harming Allah's messenger."
While anti-Semitic tropes have long filled the Arab media, ADL Israel office spokesman Arieh O'Sullivan said the intensity of such material "skyrocketed" when Muslim rage exploded over the controversial Muhammad depictions carried in the Danish press and elsewhere.
"Suddenly it caught on like wildfire and every newspaper started to print content that was anti-Semitic or Holocaust related," O'Sullivan said. He added that the worst of the conflagration seemed to be over, as the Muhammad cartoon uproar has died down.
The report also included content from newspapers published before the Danish cartoon controversy erupted at the end of January - though the Muhammad cartoons were published in early fall - but the turning point came when an Iranian newspaper aped the Danish newspaper's Muhammad contest by sponsoring a competition for Holocaust cartoons, according to the ADL.
ADL national director Abraham Foxman said that Muslim and Arab leaders have a "blind spot" and a "level of tolerance" for "blatant anti-Semitism" in the media.
"While the Muslim world acts out violently in response to the Muhammad cartoons and suggests that Western freedom of speech has gone too far, the plain fact is newspapers in the Muslim and Arab world continue to engage in vicious stereotyping of Jews."

Houmous v Felafel - The great debate?

An interesting story was brought to my attention this morning about a new course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for BBC staff, introduced by Jeremy Bowen. This is of double interest to me as I sat in the dentist chair on Friday right after Jeremy Bowen and my dentist told me that he was a very fair observer of the conflict here.
According to an article in the Telegraph, "if the BBC's Jeremy Bowen is to be believed, understanding the origins of houmous - mashed chickpeas with oil, lemon juice and garlic - and falafel - deep-fried chickpea balls - provides the key to unlock the Middle East."
Bowen says houmous and falafel are national dishes for Palestinians and Israelis. "They both claim to have invented them. There are two versions of the truth," he says.
"Now, what about the life-and-death issues here that really matter? Jerusalem; the Holy Places; the control of land and water; the future of Palestinian refugees? Well, just like houmous and falafel, there are two competing narratives."
One BBC employee said that the course was an insult to staff who risked their lives covering the conflict. "It has not gone down well with staff who have spent a lot of time in the Middle East. "
A BBC spokesman said the courses had seen a positive response. "The course on the Middle East introduces some very serious issues."
My reaction to this is that is a good attempt to give an analogy to the wider conflict, but at some point, unlike food there are answers. In the origins of food worldwide, many foods which are national dishes are actually created elsewhere and sometimes differing parts are taken from different previous recipes. Sometimes to claim any dish as native and home-grown is largely incorrect.
The wider Israeli-Palestinian issues do have a factual basis. Although history can be argued there are certain facts that are beyond refutation. Just as a example: Jerusalem has never been the capital of any other people since the Jews were exiled (apart from a brief Crusader presence in the Medieval period). I have never heard anyone seriously claim that Jerusalem; was ever a Muslim capital despite it being in Muslim hands for hundreds of years.
So as the great the great Houmous-Felafel debate continues, Israel advocates will understand that there are opinions, half-truths and assumptions but there are also stone-cold facts and these we have to bring to the attention to the outside world.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Israelis invited to join UN peacekeeping forces

Yes, you did read correctly.
The Israeli foreign Ministry has published for the first time an announcement on its website urging IDF and police officers to apply for vacancies at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at the United Nations Secretariat in New York.
The positions are intended for standing officers, who hold the ranks of captain to colonel, or alternatively for comparable ranks in the police service. The positions offered are relatively senior jobs at the U.N. forces, of ranks P-4 and P-5.
Each state's U.N. employee quota is determined in advance and is calculated according to the annual membership fee it pays, which is determined by the state's gross national product (GNP) compared to the global GNP.
According to this key, Israel should have 18 employees in the U.N. However, the "officer lending" procedure is calculated separately, and therefore the Foreign Ministry encourages officers to leave for the mission in order to enhance the number of Israeli workers in the U.N.
Ronny Adam, director of the Foreign Ministry's U.N. Department, told Ynet: "We would like our employee quota to be filled with Israelis. As far as we are concerned, every employee is in fact an Israeli ambassador to the U.N. Every country naturally desires its quota to be filled, and thus we encourage Israelis to take the tests and man the jobs."
"We also encourage this because of the fact that the 18-employee quota costs the State a lot of money and should be manned. We encourage those who are interested in the offered position at the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations to apply and propose themselves," he said.
"It should be mentioned that Israel has a relative advantage on the military issue in these specific jobs. Apart from that, we call on the entire public to visit the U.N. website and take an interest in open vacancies at the organization," Adam added.