Saturday, April 12, 2003

Wow, this is a nice story

Muslims Rescue Baghdad’s Jewish Community Center
Agence France Presse
Published on Sunday, April 13, 2003

BAGHDAD, 13 April 2003 — Iraqi Muslims came to the aid of Baghdad’s tiny Jewish community yesterday, chasing out looters trying to sack its cultural center in the heart of the capital.
“At 3:00 a.m., I saw two men, one with a beard, on the roof of the Jewish community house and I cried out to my friend, ‘Hossam, bring the Kalashnikovs!” said Hassam Kassam, 21.
Neither Hassan nor Hossam, who is the guard at the center, was armed at the time but the threat worked in scaring off the intruders. Two hours later, the looters returned again and Hassan Kassem used the trick once more.
The center is located in a freshly painted white house on a lane off Rashid Street in Baghdad’s old town. Two days ago, amid rampant looting in the capital, neighbors removed the sign reading “Special Committee for the Religious Affairs of Ezra Menahem Daniel” to make the premises less conspicuous.
On Friday at about 10:30 a.m., two men seized an opportunity created by the guard’s mid-morning break to try to force open the door in a first attempt to burgle the center. “We came over right way and asked them what they wanted,” said Abdallah Nurredin, 50.
They tried to explain that they wanted to talk to the guard, Nurredin said, “but when they saw the look we were giving them, they left without saying another word”.
Yesterday, Hossam the guard left to look for a real gun in case the persistent thieves returned.
“The Jews have always lived here, in this house, and it is only normal that we should protect them,” said Ibrahim Mohamad, 36, who works in a small undergarments factory near the center of town.
Although the majority of Jews fled the country in the early 1950s, many of their Muslim tenants come each week to pay their rent to an old woman at the center, Mohamad said.
He recalled that in October 1998, a Palestinian killed two Jews and two Muslims in an attack on the community center. “We raced help to the victims, regardless of whether they were Jewish or Muslim”.
In the Batauin district near the Saddun commercial artery, the entrance of a large synagogue is blocked by an immense iron portal. The way onto the street is obstructed by trees and chairs. A self-defense militia formed Friday to fight back against bandits.
“We are defending the synagogue like all houses on the street and we will not let anyone touch it,” said Edward Benham, a 19-year-old computer science student. The young Christian said Jews normally came each Saturday but because of the lingering security problem, no one came today.
Iraq’s Jewish community settled in Mesopotamia in the seventh century BC and numbered more than 100,000 before the creation of Israel in 1948.
Currently, about 50 Jews live in Iraq.
I Hate Cleaning, I Hate Cleaning, I Hate Cleaning

Blogging is light to non-existent today, because I am up to my ears in CRAP. It's not that my house is dirty, it's just cluttered. Really cluttered. I just spent four hours clearing out the closet where I throw things when I don't know where to put them. I had to figure out where to put everything. Did I mention that I hate cleaning?

Friday, April 11, 2003

Forget Chinese food: I ate "Iraqi" for dinner

Really, I did. And the funny thing is that I did it by accident. That's what happens when you live in Israel, a country with a mish-mash of cuisines due to too many immigrants from too many different countries. This is the way it happened: I spend the day dutifully sorting through my cupboards and freezer, isolating the "hametz" -- the leavened bread products, so that they would be easy to take away the day before Passover. I decided that Friday night dinner would be as many "hametz" products as possible in order to get rid of the maximum. So I pulled two packages off of the "hametz" shelf in the freezer and popped them in the microwave. It wasn't till we were eating that my husband asked if we were celebrating the liberation of Iraq with a special banquet.

The two packages were frozen "kubeh" -- a dish brought here by the Iraqi Jews that the whole country loves. They are basically Middle Eastern version of meat ravioli or kreplach or dumplings -- bulgur wheat wrapped around ground beef. The Lebanese version is fried, but the Iraqi version is served in soup or a sauce. Yum. I'm something of a kubeh connisseur: my first Israeli boyfriend's parents were immigrants from Iraq, and his mom made a wide variety of awesome kubeh; much better than the microwave version. Alas, the kubeh was much more reliably wonderful than the boyfriend.

If you're reading this from Israel or visiting soon, the best kubeh in the country is at a great restaurant called "Morduch" in Jerusalem on Agrippas Street, just before you get to the "shuk" -- the market. Actually, it's a Kurdish restaurant, go figure. They have another outlet in the Givat Shaul industrial area, also in Jerusalem, if you're too jumpy to get that close to the shuk, terror-wise.

Alas, I've found no equivalent closer to where I live. So that's why I had to settle for the microwave version tonight. It's too complicated a dish for an amateur like me to even contemplate making from scratch. So we're pretty diligent about always stopping their for food to take home whenever we are in Jerusalem. How diligent, you may ask? Well, four years ago, we were coming home from the Jerusalem hospital where I had given birth to my my newborn daughter, and yes, we just had to stop there before we brought the baby home....

I digress. Bottom line is that after I realized what I was eating tonight, I dedicated my Shabbat dinner to the future of the Iraqi people. And, of course, hoped that whatever government emerges there becomes a positive force for peace and reconciliation.
Palestinians: Watch the Iraqis and Learn

Don't listen to the Arab elites, the Iraqis didn't and they're the ones cheering today

By Amir Taheri

The fugitive terrorist Osama bin Laden, or whoever pretends to be him, issued a statement calling on Iraqis to commit suicide, presumably so that he could have a chuckle in his grotto. The sheikh of al-Azhar seminary in Cairo, and Hussein Fadlallah, the Hezbollah spiritual chief in Lebanon, issued fatwas for “jihad” which they mistakenly take to mean “holy war”, and then went to bed, leaving the fight to Iraqi “candidates for martyrdom”. The Iraqi people ignored them.

The Iraqis did not wish to suffer the fate of the Palestinians, that is to say to die in large numbers for decades so that other Arabs, safe in their homes, would feel good about themselves. The Iraqis know that had the Palestinians not listened to their Arab brethren, they would have had a state in 1947, as decided by the United Nations Security Council. The Iraqis know that each time the Palestinians became heroic to please other Arabs they lost even more.

Thanks, Laura

Thursday, April 10, 2003

The Man Who Can Whip Baghdad Into Shape

To open on a serious note, I'm still extremely concerned about chaos in Iraq due to a lack of authority and a lawless, anarchic atmosphere.

The Washington Post reports from Baghdad:

Within a day, the task of running a capital of 5 million people was becoming an urgent issue for a victorious U.S. military. In conversation after conversation, residents asked: What about electricity and phones? What would happen to currency, every bill emblazoned with Hussein's likeness? When would the Americans restore law and order?

On a slightly less serious note, Diane, a New York City resident, says she has the answer.

RUDY FOR MAYOR (of Baghdad)

We should crack down on this lawlessness immediately. And I've got just the man to do it:

Rudy Giuliani.

Think of it. He needs a city to run. He needs an overwhelming, hopeless, Sysiphean task. Iraq is like a giant Sicily, full of seething, contending clans, constantly burying the hatchet in each others backs. It is so Corleone. Baghdad is like New York on the Tigris. Gangs of Baghdad. (I'll bet the place is full of organized crime.) He'd be in his element.

What's this, you say? They've already gotten rid of one dictator....?

OK, bad joke. I'm serious; they need a strong hand, a tough guy, a proven enforcer/administrator, and I say he's the one:

Rudy Giuliani for Mayor of Baghdad. From Baghdad-on-the-Hudson to New York on the Tigris!

Run, Rudy, Run!

Interesting idea, Diane. Actually, I think Rudy would go for it. Problem is, I don't think Giuliani's girlfriend Judi Nathan is really going to be willing to move there.
Sex Tips From Donald Rumsfeld

Dear Secretary Rumsfeld: My friend told me you can't get pregnant if you have sex in a hot tub. Is that true? —Diane Macdonald, Sioux City, Iowa

Secretary Rumsfeld: There is an awful lot of misinformation out there. Diane, the reality is that you can get pregnant if you have sex in a hot tub. Are hot tubs fun? Yes. Do hot tubs make you want to have sex? You bet. But anybody who believes that you can't get pregnant is simply uninformed, misinformed, or poorly informed, and does not belong in a hot tub.

Dear Secretary Rumsfeld: My wife and I are happily married, but the spark seems to have gone out of our sex life. How can we spice it up? —Harry Blumenthal, Bakersfield, California

Secretary Rumsfeld: There's no great mystery here, Harry. It can't be that hard to understand. You get in there, you do your job, you develop an exit strategy, and you get the heck out of there. That's the way sex works. Why does everything have to be so difficult?

More funny tips in this Esquire piece via Andrew Sullivan's site.
"The News We Kept To Ourselves"

This NY Times Op-Ed by CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan will not only be the talk of the day in media circles, but it will probably be discussed in Columbia Journalism School ethics classes for years to come.

ATLANTA — Over the last dozen years I made 13 trips to Baghdad to lobby the government to keep CNN's Baghdad bureau open and to arrange interviews with Iraqi leaders. Each time I visited, I became more distressed by what I saw and heard — awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff.

For example, in the mid-1990's one of our Iraqi cameramen was abducted. For weeks he was beaten and subjected to electroshock torture in the basement of a secret police headquarters because he refused to confirm the government's ludicrous suspicion that I was the Central Intelligence Agency's Iraq station chief. CNN had been in Baghdad long enough to know that telling the world about the torture of one of its employees would almost certainly have gotten him killed and put his family and co-workers at grave risk.

Read it all...
David Bloom: Wonderful journalist, great person, tragic death....but not Jewish

The hits keep coming to this site from people searching for the key words "David Bloom" and "Jewish." Even more often than those searching for "Greg Kelley" and "hot" or "Rick Leventhal" and "hunk" (seriously, I'm getting at least ten a day like this.)

I think this is pretty definitive, from Bloom's hometown newspaper in Westchester County, NY

POUND RIDGE — While many television viewers came to remember the late NBC correspondent David Bloom for his reports from Iraq, friends back home yesterday recalled the famous reporter's local roots — of him flipping burgers at a church carnival in Bedford or shopping at Scotts Corners.

Bloom, who lived in Pound Ridge, was remembered as a personable friend dedicated to community causes. At St. Patrick's Parish in Bedford where Bloom was a member, fellow congregants were quiet and subdued upon learning at Sunday Mass that he had died, apparently from a blood clot, while covering the war.

"I think everyone who knew him here would have considered themselves a friend of his, because he's that type of guy. He's outgoing," Monsignor George Thompson, the church pastor, said yesterday. "He's the type of fellow you meet once or twice, and you feel like you've known him all your life ... He'll be missed."

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

"We Need Law"

I can't stop watching the news. Watching the people of Baghdad and Basra coming out onto the streets and realizing their regime is gone is as riveting as watching the Berlin Wall fall.

Just one scene: an older man in his fifties or sixties with white hair and glasses overwhelmed with joy in the streets of Baghdad. He was holding a banner of Saddam's face that had been ripped down and was passionately beating the picture of Saddam in his face with his shoe and yelling. The channel broadcasting it, Sky News had an Arabic-speaking analyst in the studio and he did free translation of what this man was yelling.

"Saddam has killed millions of us....this is the day we have been waiting for. We are Iraqis, but we are with the United States. We are Americans."

The scenes are euphoric, and frightening at the same time, particularly the scenes of looting and people running around with machine guns slung over their shoulders.

A CNN reporter just interviewed an Iraqi on the streets of Basra who spoke pretty good English, and asked him what the people of the city needed most: remember, this is a city lacking food, water, and electricity. The reporter clearly expected the guy to put out a call for humanitarian aid. But he was surprised. The Iraqi said: "We need law."

It's clear there is a big problem developing. The Iraqis are begging the soliders to be their police, to patrol their streets. The U.S. military doesn't want to get sucked into this role -- they don't want to be traffic cops, they don't want to get indefinitely bogged down in Iraq, and they don't want the world to see them as "occupiers." But if there is a true vacuum, they may not have any choice. Someone had better set up a civil administration QUICKLY.

All of my trepidation aside for a minute: as a self-confessed "chickenhawk" during most of this war (Tom Friedman-esque "I kinda sorta think that I support this war but I think Bush is going about it all wrong and maybe for the wrong reasons and I worry about the repercussions") I would like to officially concede this moment for the true believers to gloat. So take it away: here's Michele at A Small Victory, queen of the war supporters and den mother of The Command Post. You gloat, girl, and enjoy the moment.

I only hope, hope, hope that this is more than a moment: more than fleeting euphoria, and that it will be the beginning of something truly positive for the region. And that Bush doesn't squander this good energy by handing out too many fat oil contracts to his Texas friends.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Listen to Your Mom....or Else

I heard this on the radio news this morning. I was really shocked at first, (it took a while before they mentioned the guy was 26 years old, I was picturing this little kid) then thought about it and wondered why it didn't happen more often. There's much to be said for getting your own apartment once you reach a certain age.

Mother admits to stabbing her son to death

By Roni Singer, Haaretz Correspondent

A 48-year-old Holon woman confessed to interrogators that she had stabbed to death her 26-year-old son during an argument.

The woman told investigators that on Monday night, when she and her son were alone at home, she requested that he stop playing on the computer, after he had played on it for an extended period of time. The woman said that he did not respond, and went to lie down on his bed. She asked him to make his bed, but he did not respond, and cursed at her. "And then I saw black," she told the interrogators. She went to the kitchen, took a knife, and stabbed her son in his heart

Imshin noticed it and put it on her blog, too. Guess it's the kind of story that makes a mother sit up and take notice.
I Guess the War is Over For Us

I dropped my son off for Passover vacation camp this morning and the woman running it refused to take his gas mask kit. "I'm not taking responsibility for 15 of those things," she said. "Besides, we're going on a field trip: we'll be hiking in the middle of a forest. What good will they do there?" I think the boxes have become some sort of comfort objects for the kids. My son seemed kind of reluctant to part with his.
Skinny Bitch

When I started this blog a month ago, I linked to Virginia Postrel, because everyone else did. But she just lost me. Yeah, my heart is bleeding for all those poor size 2 women who can't find jeans at the Gap. Boo Hoo. Please. Bye, bye, Virginia. Go eat some cake.
Could Abu Mazen Really Be Bailing So Soon?

The Palestinian Authority's first Prime Minister might have a really, really short term in office, according to this Ha'aretz article. He seems to be getting fed up with Yasser Arafat already.

In the initial days after his appointment, Abu Mazen spread the word he wanted to appoint a government of technocrats that would lead to real change in the PA. But reality appears to have overruled him. In recent days, he has sent messages to Arafat and Arafat associates that he is considering giving up the effort.

Abu Mazen's travels throughout the West Bank and Gaza in recent weeks revealed to him a gloomy picture of what is going on in the PA-controlled areas. The various security forces are operating as private militias with criminal characteristics, the administration is corrupt, and personal corruption of several leading officials "astonished" him, say sources close to the prime minister-designate.

Wow, no kidding. So, like, before he was Prime Minister, he never noticed this?

If this report is true, it will be a big problem for the Bush-Blair road map planning team, who were banking on Abu Mazen to be the Palestinian address for the whole deal. Think that maybe they will try to apply pressure on Arafat by directing his attention to the recent fate of another guy who relied on corrupt and criminal militias to do his bidding?

(Hat tip, Expat Egghead)

Monday, April 07, 2003

No, He Wasn't Jewish

Memo to the continuing legions of curious people who keep getting to this blog by searching for the keywords "David Bloom" and "Jewish:" it appears that the late NBC reporter was not a member of the tribe. My sources in New York tell me that there will be a mass held for him at St. Patrick's Cathedral. So I think we have our answer.

Feel free to keep reading my blog, though.
Saddam Hussein Likes Violent Movies? What a Shock!

Paging Quentin Tarantino. Fox News reporter Greg Kelly, describing his tour of Saddam's presidential palace -- once luxurious and opulent and now quite battered and full of debris -- told viewers that he got a peek at the Iraqi leader's DVDs and mentioned that "Pulp Fiction" was among Saddam's collection.

I heard this gem in the wee hours of the morning, U.S. time, while I was manning The Command Post overnight shift. Usually, I don't post the stuff I do over there in this blog, but I had to record some of these gems for posterity.

While Kelly was touring Saddam's Baghdad digs, a CNN reporter gave a "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" tour of Saddam's Basra palace, far less battered, featuring intricately carved woodwork and amazing views -- on one side a view of the harbor and on the other, a view of downtown Basra. As the reporter noted, as with all prime real estate, it's about "Location, location, location."

Both homes were full of marble, high ceilings, ornate chandeliers, etc. The networks were most enjoying showing video of the bathrooms, which appeared to have gold or gold-plated fixtures.

Fox anchors reported that the soldiers were helping themselves to souveniers -- ashtrays, pillows, etc. -- and making use the fancy bathrooms. One would imagine that this would be fun for them after a few weeks in a tank.

In Baghdad, a smart commander stopped his soldiers from raising the American flag over the palace, recognizing it for the dumb public relations move it would have been.

Sunday, April 06, 2003

A Surreal Moment in War and Broadcast History

While many of you are sleeping: the Iraqi Minister of Information is giving a press conference outdoors, denying that U.S. troops have entered downtown Baghdad. Sky News and Fox cut away from the conference to reporter Greg Kelly with a soldier in the 3rd Infantry division in an adjacent part of downtown Baghdad. Kelly tells him that the Iraqis were denying that the forces was there.

The soldier pointed in front of him and said, "Oh, well, he's right across the street, we're going to have to go over there and have a little visit with him."

It is all extremely surreal. As if Brooklyn and Queens were full of columns of foreign tanks, and the NYC spokesman was standing at Gracie Mansion in Manhattan denying that enemy forces had entered New York City.

David Bloom

Oh dear lord, how awful. NBC reporter David Bloom died of a pulmonary embolism in Iraq. First Michael Kelly, now this. And to think I was just trading silly quips about whether or not Bloom was attractive. That's it -- I'm not making any more jokes about journalists in the field until this thing is over.

UPDATE: OK, it's apparent that many, many people want to know whether David Bloom was Jewish. I know this because Sitemeter is recording about a zillion hits to this site for people Googling for "David Bloom" and "Jewish." No one seems to be coming up with anything definitive, though it appears on the surface that he was. My one NBC inside connection says that she doesn't know whether he was Jewish. He was from Edina, Minnesota -- my friend's Mom is from there, she's checking for me. She's pretty sure he was, but waiting for confirmation

ANOTHER UPDATE: My friend's Mom, and her sources in Minnesota reveal that no one in the Jewish community in the area seems to remember the family, and there were very few Jewish families there when Bloom was born.

By the way, Michael Kelly, the Washington Post reporter killed in the jeep accident Friday was not Jewish, but his widow is, and his children were raised in both religions. A journalist friend sent me his favorite Kelly column about intermarriage and the holiday season. Here's an excerpt:

I am Catholic and my wife is Jewish, so in our house we celebrate both Hanukah and Christmas, which our sons, Tom and Jack, regard as an excellent thing. People sometimes ask me if it is hard to raise children in respect and love for two great faiths that have a slight doctrinal disagreement between them, and I say: Not if you give them presents every day for eight days of Hanukah and for
Christmas. The more Gods, the merrier is Tom and Jack's strong belief.

Like other parents, we try not to let the materialism get out of hand, and to keep the focus on the sacred. This year, on the first day of Hanukah, we gave Tom, 5, a realistic, detachable, revolving red police cruiser roof light, so that he may follow the ancient Jewish holy practice of impersonating a state trooper. He received the gift with appropriate reverence. We gave Jack, 2, some Silly Putty. He received the gift in his hair, and now he is in a fine shape to play the role in the Christmas pageant of the Wondering Child With a Bald Spot.

Actually, Jack has not been cast in a pageant. Tom has, though. He has a walk-on in the pageant staged by our local Unitarian church. There was a rehearsal the other Sunday after the service, which featured the lighting of a menorah (during which apologies were offered to anyone who might take offense at a lighting before sundown), followed by the traditional singing of the great Christian hymn "Oh, Mitten Tree" (during which the faithful paraded around a tree that was decked, in fact, with mittens). A Unitarian pageant turns out to be different from a Roman Catholic one. In Tom's pageant, Jesus Christ is celebrated as "a very special person" and "a great rabbi" and an all-around asset to the community. The Son-of-God debate, which has proved so regrettably contentious over the years, is not mentioned.

Here is a tribute to Kelly and Bloom by CBS News veteran Bob Schieffer.

Bad News For Jewish Women Everywhere

Not surprising, but disappointing nevertheless.

High Court rules women's group can't read from Torah at Western Wall

By Moshe Reinfeld, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service

The High Court of Justice ruled Sunday that "Women of the Wall" - a group advocating women's prayer in the Western Wall plaza - is not allowed to conduct group prayer with a Torah scroll in front of the Wall, but that the government has one year to prepare the nearby Robinson's Arch area for their use. The court accepted the government's position that prayer by the women's group at the Wall itself posed a danger to public safety, Army Radio reported. In a separate May 2000 decision, the High Court ruled that the women could pray in the Western Wall plaza as long as they did not wear prayer shawls (tallit) or tefillin, or read from a Torah scroll.
"Today proves that women are second-class citizens in Israel," said Anat Hoffman, head of Women of the Wall as well as director of the Reform Action Center and former Jerusalem city council member (Meretz).

Personally, I'm not extremely pious, and have no great need to read from the Torah at the Wall. But I respect those who wish to, and would love to have my daughter have that option of doing so for her Bat Mitzvah should she so choose. The "public safety" justification is ridiculous, since the ones who create a safety hazard are the crazed zealots who riot when the women try to pray. And the women have offered all kinds of compromises and solutions, going as far as to offer to do it only once a month, and alerting the ultra-Orthodox community as to precisely when they want to come pray, so that they can stay away so as not to be offended by the sights and sounds of Jewish women practicing their religion.

For those who haven't been following the whole controversy, here is the Women of the Wall website.