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Friday, May 06, 2016

Ouch! Foreign Policy slams @rhodes44

It's worth clicking through this link to see the headline in the ordinarily staid Foreign Policy Magazine.
Perhaps the key sentence is this: “His lack of conventional real-world experience of the kind that normally precedes responsibility for the fate of nations — like military or diplomatic service, or even a master’s degree in international relations, rather than creative writing — is still startling.”
Rhodes comes off like a real asshole. This is not a matter of politics — I have voted for Obama twice. Nor do I mind Rhodes’s contempt for many political reporters: “Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”
But, as that quote indicates, he comes off like an overweening little shmuck. This quotation seems to capture his world view: “He referred to the American foreign policy establishment as the Blob. According to Rhodes, the Blob includes Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates and other Iraq-war promoters from both parties who now whine incessantly about the collapse of the American security order in Europe and the Middle East.” Blowing off Robert Gates takes nerve.
I expect cynicism in Washington. But it usually is combined with a lot of knowledge — as with, say, Henry Kissinger. To be cynical and ignorant and to spin those two things into a virtue? That’s industrial strength hubris. Kind of like what got us into Iraq, in fact.
Rhodes and others around Obama keep on talking about doing all this novel thinking, playing from a new playbook, bucking the establishment thinking. But if that is the case, why have they given so much foreign policy power to two career hacks who never have had an original thought? I mean, of course, Joe Biden and John Kerry. I guess the answer can only be that those two are puppets, and (as in Biden’s case) are given losing propositions like Iraq to handle.
Fact check: Obama’s hasn’t been an original foreign policy as much as it has been a politicized foreign policy. And this Rhodes guy reminds me of the Kennedy smart guys who helped get us into the Vietnam War. Does he know how awful he sounds? Kind of like McGeorge Bundy meets Lee Atwater.
Ouch.

Shabbat Shalom everyone. 

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.@rhodes44: 'So I lied'

In an article appearing in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine, White House speechwriter Ben Rhodes (@rhodes44) admits what Israel supporters claimed all along: He lied to Congress in order to sell the nuclear sellout to Iran.
Rhodes’s innovative campaign to sell the Iran deal is likely to be a model for how future administrations explain foreign policy to Congress and the public. The way in which most Americans have heard the story of the Iran deal presented — that the Obama administration began seriously engaging with Iranian officials in 2013 in order to take advantage of a new political reality in Iran, which came about because of elections that brought moderates to power in that country — was largely manufactured for the purpose for selling the deal. Even where the particulars of that story are true, the implications that readers and viewers are encouraged to take away from those particulars are often misleading or false. Obama’s closest advisers always understood him to be eager to do a deal with Iran as far back as 2012, and even since the beginning of his presidency. “It’s the center of the arc,” Rhodes explained to me two days after the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was implemented. He then checked off the ways in which the administration’s foreign-policy aims and priorities converged on Iran. “We don’t have to kind of be in cycles of conflict if we can find other ways to resolve these issues,” he said. “We can do things that challenge the conventional thinking that, you know, ‘AIPAC doesn’t like this,’ or ‘the Israeli government doesn’t like this,’ or ‘the gulf countries don’t like it.’ It’s the possibility of improved relations with adversaries. It’s nonproliferation. So all these threads that the president’s been spinning — and I mean that not in the press sense — for almost a decade, they kind of all converged around Iran.”
In the narrative that Rhodes shaped, the “story” of the Iran deal began in 2013, when a “moderate” faction inside the Iranian regime led by Hassan Rouhani beat regime “hard-liners” in an election and then began to pursue a policy of “openness,” which included a newfound willingness to negotiate the dismantling of its illicit nuclear-weapons program. The president set out the timeline himself in his speech announcing the nuclear deal on July 14, 2015: “Today, after two years of negotiations, the United States, together with our international partners, has achieved something that decades of animosity has not.” While the president’s statement was technically accurate — there had in fact been two years of formal negotiations leading up to the signing of the J.C.P.O.A. — it was also actively misleading, because the most meaningful part of the negotiations with Iran had begun in mid-2012, many months before Rouhani and the “moderate” camp were chosen in an election among candidates handpicked by Iran’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The idea that there was a new reality in Iran was politically useful to the Obama administration. By obtaining broad public currency for the thought that there was a significant split in the regime, and that the administration was reaching out to moderate-minded Iranians who wanted peaceful relations with their neighbors and with America, Obama was able to evade what might have otherwise been a divisive but clarifying debate over the actual policy choices that his administration was making. By eliminating the fuss about Iran’s nuclear program, the administration hoped to eliminate a source of structural tension between the two countries, which would create the space for America to disentangle itself from its established system of alliances with countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and Turkey. With one bold move, the administration would effectively begin the process of a large-scale disengagement from the Middle East.
...
The person whom Kreikemeier credits with running the digital side of the campaign was Tanya Somanader, 31, the director of digital response for the White House Office of Digital Strategy, who became known in the war room and on Twitter as @TheIranDeal. Early on, Rhodes asked her to create a rapid-response account that fact-checked everything related to the Iran deal. “So, we developed a plan that was like: The Iran deal is literally going to be the tip of everything that we stand up online,” Somanader says. “And we’re going to map it onto what we know about the different audiences we’re dealing with: the public, pundits, experts, the right wing, Congress.” By applying 21st-century data and networking tools to the white-glove world of foreign affairs, the White House was able to track what United States senators and the people who worked for them, and influenced them, were seeing online — and make sure that no potential negative comment passed without a tweet.
...
When I suggested that all this dark metafictional play seemed a bit removed from rational debate over America’s future role in the world, Rhodes nodded. “In the absence of rational discourse, we are going to discourse the [expletive] out of this,” he said. “We had test drives to know who was going to be able to carry our message effectively, and how to use outside groups like Ploughshares, the Iran Project and whomever else. So we knew the tactics that worked.” He is proud of the way he sold the Iran deal. “We drove them crazy,” he said of the deal’s opponents.
Yet Rhodes bridled at the suggestion that there has been anything deceptive about the way that the agreement itself was sold. “Look, with Iran, in a weird way, these are state-to-state issues. They’re agreements between governments. Yes, I would prefer that it turns out that Rouhani and Zarif” — Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister — “are real reformers who are going to be steering this country into the direction that I believe it can go in, because their public is educated and, in some respects, pro-American. But we are not betting on that.”
In fact, Rhodes’s passion seems to derive not from any investment in the technical specifics of sanctions or centrifuge arrays, or any particular optimism about the future course of Iranian politics and society. Those are matters for the negotiators and area specialists. Rather, it derived from his own sense of the urgency of radically reorienting American policy in the Middle East in order to make the prospect of American involvement in the region’s future wars a lot less likely. When I asked whether the prospect of this same kind of far-reaching spin campaign being run by a different administration is something that scares him, he admitted that it does. “I mean, I’d prefer a sober, reasoned public debate, after which members of Congress reflect and take a vote,” he said, shrugging. “But that’s impossible.”
But it wasn't just Congress that was told lies. So was Obama's Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta. 
One of the few charter members of the Blob willing to speak on the record is Leon Panetta, who was Obama’s head of the C.I.A. and secretary of defense and also enough of a product of a different culture to give honest answers to what he understands to be questions of consequence. At his institute at the old Fort Ord in Seaside, Calif., where, in the days before he wore Mr. Rogers sweaters, he served as a young Army intelligence officer, I ask him about a crucial component of the administration’s public narrative on Iran: whether it was ever a salient feature of the C.I.A.’s analysis when he ran the agency that the Iranian regime was meaningfully divided between “hard-line” and “moderate” camps.
“No,” Panetta answers. “There was not much question that the Quds Force and the supreme leader ran that country with a strong arm, and there was not much question that this kind of opposing view could somehow gain any traction.”
I ask Panetta whether, as head of the C.I.A., or later on, as secretary of defense, he ever saw the letters that Obama covertly sent to Khamenei, in 2009 and in 2012, which were only reported on by the press weeks later.
“No,” he answers, before saying he would “like to believe” that Tom Donilon, national security adviser since 2010, and Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, had a chance to work on the offer they presented.
As secretary of defense, he tells me, one of his most important jobs was keeping Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, from launching a pre-emptive attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. “They were both interested in the answer to the question, ‘Is the president serious?’ ” Panetta recalls. “And you know my view, talking with the president, was: If brought to the point where we had evidence that they’re developing an atomic weapon, I think the president is serious that he is not going to allow that to happen.”
Panetta stops.
“But would you make that same assessment now?” I ask him.
“Would I make that same assessment now?” he asks. “Probably not.”
So another victim of the lies was Israel - specifically Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. Except that in Panetta's telling the story, he didn't know he was lying to them. And Panetta now admits what everyone in Israel felt at the time: There was no way in the world Hussein Obama was going to use military force to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Read the whole thing. You'll never trust another politician. 

PS I left this out, but it turns out that Laura Rozen - likely the biggest cheerleader for the Iran deal on Twitter, is described as the White House's RSS feed for the deal. Think about that the next time you read something in al-Monitor, which she edits.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Why are there still 'Palestinian refugees'?

It's been seven decades since the 1948 Arab-Israeli, and yet there are still an estimated 4 million Palestinian refugees...and zero Jewish refugees. With so many nearby Arab allies of the Palestinians, how did this happen? What does it say about Israel? What does it say about its Arab neighbors? Dumisani Washington, Diversity Outreach Coordinator for Christians United for Israel, explains.

Let's go to the videotape.



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Sunday, May 01, 2016

Lebanese political analyst speaks the truth about Aleppo

Lebanese political analyst Nadim Koteich has spoken the truth about Aleppo: Its residents would be better off living under Israeli annexation like residents of the Golan Heights rather than living under the ruins of Assad's bombardment of Aleppo.
In a comment he wrote on his Twitter page, Koteich expressed dismay over the absence of an Israeli move to annex Aleppo.

"If Israel would have annexed Aleppo, it would have been safe today, like the Golan. Aleppo's citizens would have been better off living under occupation than living under ruins," Koteich wrote.

Israel took the Golan Heights during the 1967 Six Day War, and in 1981 extended Israeli law to the region, thereby de facto annexing it.

Koteich's comment came shortly after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel would never renounce the Golan, infuriating Syrian politicians. Thus, many Syrian social media activists began wrangling with Koteich for voicing pro-Israel opinion.

A Twitter user affiliated with the Syrian opposition said: "the carnage in Aleppo increases our hatred for Zionists, because without Israel, Assad would have gone."
Moron. Whom does he think has been treating the Syrian wounded
Koteich anchors DNA, a daily show broadcast on the Lebanese Future Television Network. On his show, he tends to criticize Iran and its involvement in Lebanon, calling Lebanon "a mafia state" controlled by Hezbollah.

The northern Syrian city of Aleppo has been witnessing endless bombardments by the Syrian air force in the last week, in a bid to oust rebel factions from the city's outskirts. Since the city was excluded from the truce forged by the American administration and Russia on Friday, airstrikes continue hitting the city, causing hundreds of civilian causalities.
All of Syria would have been better off annexed to Israel. But it's too late for that now. 

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'Palestinian' flag banned from Eurovision

Eurovision is a song festival in Europe that is televised and voted upon internationally. Israel is a participant. The imaginary country of 'Palestine' is not. (They don't need to be - a couple of years ago, the Israeli entrants showed up carrying Syrian flags).

Last week, Eurovision published a list of banned flags. The banned flags included the 'Palestinian' flag, and 'Palestinian' chief negotiator bottle washer Saeb Erekat howled in protest.
Palestinian leaders are blasting the Eurovision Song Contest for preventing their flag from being flown during the event this month.
Palestinian official Saeb Erekat voiced his dismay in a letter to Jean-Paul Philippot, the head of the European Broadcasting Union which oversees the yearly contest. In the letter, obtained by The Associated Press Sunday, Erekat says the decision is "totally biased and unacceptable." The Palestinians do not compete in the contest.
The EBU published a list of banned flags last week. Among them were the flags of Northern Cyprus, Kosovo, Spain's Basque region and the Islamic State group's flag.
In a Facebook post , the EBU apologized and said it removed the list of flags. An updated policy says flags of an "offensive, discriminatory, unsuitable, political or religious nature," are banned.
But the 'Palestinian' flag is certainly of an "offensive, discriminatory, unsuitable, political or religious nature." So they're still banned. Here's Eurovision's apology from Friday morning:
"On Thursday afternoon, a draft version of the flag policy for the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest was published on the website of the Globe Arena and ticket agency AXS. The document included a non-exhaustive list of examples of flags that under the flag policy are prohibited in the venue. This document was not intended to be published.
The organisers understand and acknowledge the sensitivities of presenting a selection of flags of organisations and territories, each of them of very different nature. The organisers apologise to everyone who feels offended by the list.
The EBU has asked the Globe Arena and AXS to immediately remove the document that includes the flag examples, and to publish the official document, without the examples, instead.
The official and final flag policy document will be published on the official website, Eurovision.tv, later today, along with a full explanation."
So these are now the permitted flags:
Official national flags of the 42 participating countries, or from one of the countries that have recently taken part (e.g. Turkey, Portugal, Romania).
Official national flags of any of the other United Nations Member States (see http://www.un.org/en/member-states/ for an updated list).
The European Union flag.
The rainbow flag, as a symbol of tolerance and diversity.
And if you follow that list  of United Nations Members States.... Israel is in. 'Palestine' is not.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

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The Left: Where anti-Semitism is in style

A good week and a good summer to all of you.

You'd have to be living in a cave not to have heard how the British Labor Party has been overrun by anti-Semitism, and how that's come to a head in the last week or two.

But Britain is not the only place that's happened. Anti-Semitism, politely described as anti-Zionism, has become synonymous with the Left in every Western country.

Two important weekend pieces look at this phenomenon. The first is Stephen Pollard in the London Telegraph. Pollard concentrates on what's going on in his home country, Britain, and says that he's scared of what he sees. He also sees that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.
But on another, more visceral level, it chills me to the bone. And it’s not the terrorists. They threaten me, of course, as they threaten us all. Yet to me, the real chill comes from their fellow travelers – the useful idiots of the terrorists and Jew-murderers who say they do not have a racist bone in their body, but when it comes to Jews, a blind spot emerges.
The likes, to be blunt, of the now suspended Ken Livingstone, who claims never to have come across a single example of Anti-semitism in the Labour Party. He clearly has never looked in the mirror. Much has been written – especially by the brilliant Nick Cohen – on the "Red/Green Alliance"; the phenomenon by which a swathe of the Left has linked up with radical Islam, leading to the bizarre spectacle of Leftist feminists supporting Islamists who would cut off the hands of women who read books.
With "anti-Western-imperialism" as part of the glue binding the alliance, everything else falls into place. So Hamas and Hezbollah might have as their defining goal the elimination of an entire people from the face of the earth, but that unfortunate consequence for Jews is by the by, because Hamas and Hezbollah are freedom fighters.
And because Israel is part of the Western imperium, as well as a key target for Islamists, it is also enemy number one for progressives. So an obsessive preoccupation with the Jewish state becomes the default position of the Left. China, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia – pah! The focus must be on Israel and Israel alone. From that springs an entire worldview that encompasses "Zionist" control of the media, of business, of everything. And we can’t be accused of targeting Jews because we don’t use the word. We say Zionist, not Jew.
So deep does this warping of what it means to be Left and progressive now run that it is almost prosaic to assert Zionist control. But now, to cap it, we have a Labour leader whose entire political career has been in this milieu – feeding it, growing it and pushing it.
...
Should I admit that I am afraid? Because I am. I don’t go about my life in fear. I wouldn’t be writing this or doing my job if I did. But how, quite rationally, can I not be afraid when Jews are being murdered on the streets of Europe simply for being Jews; when anti-Semitic tropes and discourse is becoming part of the mainstream of political debate; and when one of our main political parties is led by a man who does not merely let this fester, but actually describes representatives of terrorist groups as "friends"?
If this is the level we have reached today, I fear not just for myself but far more for my children. History shows that when anti-Semitism takes hold it does not wither; it grows. Yes, Britain is a wonderful home to Jews, as it is to all minorities. Yes, we have the full backing of the law and the authorities. But yes, I do look over my shoulder. Wouldn’t you?

Read the whole thing.

Over at the National Review Online, Kevin Williamson has a more American and universal perspective.
In the United States, the Harvard Law Record went to some lengths to conceal the identity of a law student who attacked a visiting Israeli dignitary as — in the classic anti-Semitic formulation — “smelly.” That student was Husam El-Qoulaq, a Palestinian leftist. The campus Left has, to no one’s surprise, rallied to his defense. Among those defending him were a number of Jewish law students, who insisted that El-Qoulaq couldn’t possibly have known the anti-Semitic history of “smelly Jew” rhetoric, in spite of his having been reared at the world center of such nonsense.
Others insisted that the Harvard case and the Labour cases are — this, too, will be familiar — not at all about anti-Semitism but about anti-Zionism.
That argument does not stand up to two seconds’ scrutiny, and never has. One of the fundamental stories of history is that people move around and bump into each other. It is true that most of the current Jewish population of Israel descends from people who were not precisely sons of the soil they now inhabit. But then, neither are the so-called Palestinians, who are Arabs. Arabs famously come from Arabia, but they are located all over the world. No one talks about the need to get the Arabs out of Egypt or Libya — or Palestine, for that matter — any more than anybody seriously thinks about returning the Americas to the descendants of the aboriginal population, which, of course, wasn’t aboriginal, either, but merely the first to emigrate. The Irish are descended of people not native to Ireland, as indeed ultimately is every population in the world, including those in the African cradle of humanity.
And it isn’t because the establishment of Israel is, relatively speaking, fresh in the historical memory, and therefore an open wound. Before the end of World War II, there was no Pakistan, and to the extent that there was an “India,” it was a geographical rather than a political term, much like “Palestine.” There was no independent Ireland until the 1920s and no Republic of Ireland until 1948. There was no People’s Republic of China until 1949. There was no Zimbabwe until 1980, no Czech Republic until 1993, and no modern Democratic Republic of the Congo until 1997. Israel is an ancient state compared with geopolitical newcomers such as the 30-odd countries created since 1990.
...

For those who learned at the feet of that old fraud Edward Said, the Jews are the colonialists, the European modernists inflicting capitalism and technology upon the noble savages of their imaginations. The Israeli Jews commit the double crime of insisting upon being Jews and refusing to be sacrificial victims. They were okay, in the Left’s estimate, for about five minutes, back when Israel’s future was assumed to be one of low-impact kibbutz socialism. History went in a different direction, and today Israel has one of the world’s most sophisticated economies.
For the Jew-hater, this is maddening: Throw the Jews out of Spain, and they thrive abroad. Send them to the poorest slums in New York, and those slums stop being slums. Keep them out of the Ivy League and watch NYU become a world-class institution inspired by men such as Jonas Salk, son of largely uneducated Polish immigrants. Put the Jewish state in a desert wasteland and watch it bloom, first with produce and then with technology. Israel today has more companies listed on NASDAQ than any other country except the United States and China. The economy under Palestinian management? Olives and handicrafts, and a GDP per capita that barely exceeds that of Sudan.  
The Arab–Israeli conflict is a bitter and ugly one. My own view of it is that the Palestinian Arabs have some legitimate grievances, and that I stopped caring about them when they started blowing up children in pizza shops. You can thank the courageous heroes of the Battle of Sbarro for that. Israel isn’t my country, but it is my country’s ally, and it is impossible for a liberty-loving American to fail to admire what the Jewish state has done. 
And that, of course, is why the Left wants to see the Jewish state exterminated.
Read the whole thing.

I've written about the Red-Green Alliance many times before. You may want to start here and here.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

60 years after a terrorist murder and Israel's Gettysburg address

Moadim l'Simcha.

It's just a few minutes until the holiday starts again, and then I will be offline until Saturday night.

60 years ago today (on the secular calendar), a young security guard at Kibbutz Nachal Oz on the Gaza border was murdered by Arab terrorists (Wikipedia and the Times of Israel notwithstanding, there were no Arabs who were known as 'Palestinians' in 1956). Roi Rotberg HY"D (May God Avenge his blood) had moved to Nachal Oz from Tel Aviv. He was eulogized by the IDF Chief of Staff, Moshe Dayan, in what Wikipedia calls Israel's Gettysburg Address.
In 1956, Israeli Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan gave a eulogy for a Roi Rotberg, a kibbutz security officer killed near the Gaza Strip,[1] calling upon Israel to search its soul and probe the national mindset. Dayan's eulogy is considered one of the most influential speeches in Israeli history,[2] and has the importance in Israeli collective memory that the Gettysburg Address has in American memory.
Nahal Oz became a kibbutz in 1953 and was frequently in conflict with Arabs who crossed the nearby armistice line from Gaza to reap crops and conduct petty theft.[3] The previous few months had been relatively quiet on the Israel's borders with Egypt and Gaza, but escalated with several cross-border shootings in early April.[3] On April 4, three Israeli soldiers were killed by Egyptian forces on the Gaza border.[3] Israel responded the next day by shelling the center of Gaza City, killing 58 Egyptian and Palestinian civilians as well as 4 Egyptian soldiers.[3] Egypt responded by resuming fedayeen attacks across the border, killing 14 Israelis during the period 11–17 April.[3][4]
Rotberg, the Nahal Oz security officer,[3][5][6][7] was regularly involved in chasing off infiltrators, sometimes using lethal force.[3] On 29 April 1956 he was caught in a prepared ambush; Arab harvest workers began to reap wheat in the kibbutz's fields in a spot where Rotberg would see them, he did, but as he rode toward them to chase them off others emerged from hiding to attack.[3][8] He was shot off his horse, beaten and shot again, then his body was dragged into Gaza.[3] According to Jean-Pierre Filiu, Rotberg's attackers included, "an Egyptian policeman" and "a Palestinian farmer."[9] The body was returned on the same afternoon, badly mutilated, after United Nations intervention.[3][10][11]
Yes, even in 1956, before there was an 'occupation,' Arab terrorists mutilated his body.

Today's Times of Israel includes a translation of Dayan's speech by Mitch Ginsburg. There is a lot here with which one could disagree (Dayan demonstrates far too much sympathy for the Arabs, and we know historically that he did not follow through to reach the conclusions he should have reached). But I have no time to discuss that right now. I'm just throwing it out there for you to think about.
Yesterday with daybreak, Roi was murdered. The quiet of a spring morning blinded him, and he did not see the stalkers of his soul on the furrow. Let us not hurl blame at the murderers. Why should we complain of their hatred for us? Eight years have they sat in the refugee camps of Gaza, and seen, with their own eyes, how we have made a homeland of the soil and the villages where they and their forebears once dwelt.
Not from the Arabs of Gaza must we demand the blood of Roi, but from ourselves. How our eyes are closed to the reality of our fate, unwilling to see the destiny of our generation in its full cruelty. Have we forgotten that this small band of youths, settled in Nahal Oz, carries on its shoulders the heavy gates of Gaza, beyond which hundreds of thousands of eyes and arms huddle together and pray for the onset of our weakness so that they may tear us to pieces — has this been forgotten? For we know that if the hope of our destruction is to perish, we must be, morning and evening, armed and ready.
A generation of settlement are we, and without the steel helmet and the maw of the cannon we shall not plant a tree, nor build a house. Our children shall not have lives to live if we do not dig shelters; and without the barbed wire fence and the machine gun, we shall not pave a path nor drill for water. The millions of Jews, annihilated without a land, peer out at us from the ashes of Israeli history and command us to settle and rebuild a land for our people. But beyond the furrow that marks the border, lies a surging sea of hatred and vengeance, yearning for the day that the tranquility blunts our alertness, for the day that we heed the ambassadors of conspiring hypocrisy, who call for us to lay down our arms.
It is to us that the blood of Roi calls from his shredded body. Although we have vowed a thousand vows that our blood will never again be shed in vain — yesterday we were once again seduced, brought to listen, to believe. Our reckoning with ourselves, we shall make today. We mustn’t flinch from the hatred that accompanies and fills the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs, who live around us and are waiting for the moment when their hands may claim our blood. We mustn’t avert our eyes, lest our hands be weakened. That is the decree of our generation. That is the choice of our lives — to be willing and armed, strong and unyielding, lest the sword be knocked from our fists, and our lives severed.
Roi Rotberg, the thin blond lad who left Tel Aviv in order to build his home alongside the gates of Gaza, to serve as our wall. Roi — the light in his heart blinded his eyes and he saw not the flash of the blade. The longing for peace deafened his ears and he heard not the sound of the coiled murderers. The gates of Gaza were too heavy for his shoulders, and they crushed him.
There's more here. Chag Sameyach and Shabbat Shalom. See you on Saturday night!

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Freedom House puts politics ahead of human rights

It's embargoed until midnight tonight US time, but since I didn't get it directly from them, I'm not subject to the embargo. Freedom House has issued its annual report on freedom of the press, and has downgraded Israel because - wait for it - Israel HaYom hands out newspapers for free!
Israel declined due to the growing impact of Yisrael Hayom, whose owner-subsidized business model endangered the stability of other media outlets, and the unchecked expansion of paid content—some of it government funded—whose nature was not clearly identified to the public.
For the uninitiated, Israel HaYom is owned by that villain Sheldon Adelson, and is handed out for free on street corners and at traffic lights throughout the country. It lives on advertising, and has become the number one circulating hard-copy newspaper in the country, much to the chagrin of Haaretz (which has almost no hard-copy presence and exists as a web site for foreigners) and Yediot Aharonot (previously the top-ranking tabloid). In fact, the Freedom House report reads like Haaretz talking points

Every newspaper in this country has 'paid government content' - legal notices and the like. There are many more here than in many other Western countries because every government tender and every public offering of securities (among other things) has to be published in two newspapers. But the people issuing the tender (local authorities) and the issuer of the securities (to stay with those two examples) have the right to choose in which newspapers they will publicize. Moreover, Freedom House gives no indication of how the 'paid content' in 2016 compares to past years, nor does it give any indication how much more (if any) 'content' goes to Yisrael HaYom than to any other newspaper. 

The result is that while Israel is still the freest country in the Middle East and North Africa, Freedom House has downgraded our press from 'Free' to 'Partly Free' and our worldwide rank has declined to 65 (62 countries are rated 'Free') - behind countries like Chile and Uruguay and most of Europe (Norway is ranked #1, Belgium, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands are tied for #2, the US is ranked #28 and the UK is ranked #41). Ghana was the only other country that declined from 'Free' to 'Partly Free' this year.

Israel's downgrading reeks of politics. Politics should play no role in this type of ranking. Shame on Freedom House!

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'Freedom of worship' on the Temple Mount (video)

Moadim l'Simcha (Happy Holidays).

I have written many times on this blog that I do not ascend the Temple Mount because my rabbis here in Israel have ruled that it is forbidden to do so until there is a sacrificed red heifer's ashes that can make us pure from the impurity of coming into contact with the dead (yes, that's the reason).

However, others do ascend to certain parts of the Mount, and this morning, two Jews had the audacity to prostrate themselves before God on the Mount in order to fulfill the command to bow before God on the Temple grounds on the three holidays (Pesach, Shavuot and Succot). Watch what happens.

Let's go to the videotape.




Can you imagine any other country in the world where everyone but the majority would have freedom of worship?

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