Friday, May 23, 2003

See, Israelis and Palestinians CAN Play Nicely Together

"As the whistle sounded at the close of the 2003 Israeli professional indoor soccer winter league championship recently, the winners jumped for joy, hugged each other, and lifting their coach on their shoulders, crossed the field in a victory march.

More than 1,000 spectators cheered loudly, and all of the excitement was captured live by the Israeli sports channel.

The victory celebration was an important and unique moment in Israeli sports - the winning team was comprised both of Israelis and Palestinians. The victorious "Peace Team" created in order to promote a message of peace and co-existence, and to emphasize a peaceful alternative to the current tension by demonstrating cooperation and teamwork between Israelis and Palestinians."

Who wrote that? Well, I did. (I'm humming Billy Idol now "Linking to Myse-elf...") In my day job capacity, working for Israel21c I wrote this story last week, which offers a bit of inspiration and hope in the ability of Israelis and Palestinians to get together and do something positive. The team members are all young men aged 20-26, and instead of throwing rocks or shooting at each other, they are winning soccer games. They are a popular act, getting invited to all kinds of tournaments; this one is especially interesting: they were invited to Rome to play against a Rwandan peace team make up of Hutus and Tutsis. Yeah, it's a gimmick, but a good, positive one.

And I wasn't gonna blog it -- it seemed too masturbatory and self-promoting (a blogger? Self-promoting?) to link to ME. But then I was surfing some blogs and found one blogger that found and linked to the story on his own. So I decided that if it was good enough for him, it was good enough for me. And it is a story that should get out there. If you like what you see on 21c, please get the word out, and subscribe to the newsletter so you can get the stories E-mailed to you every week.
The Hollywood Treatment

Roger L. Simon has a good proposal as to how the rumored surrender negotiations with Uday Hussein should be handled. His readers in the comments section have some interesting ideas as well.
Alas....Alas Doesn't Have a Clue

Below is a recent post on "Alas, A Blog" with my comments beneath....

Israel is building a Separation Wall. They bulldozed Rachel Corrie to build this wall;

---- Um, the Rachel Corrie incident occured in Gaza nowhere near this wall. The house that she was "shielding" was believed to have tunnels in its shrubbery. Israel believed that the tunnels ---were used for smuggling transporting guns and drugs from Egypt. But that's not the point. Wherever one might stand on Rachel Corrie, she had nothing to do with the wall.

they've destroyed countless Palestinian homes to build this wall.

-- Facts, please. How many exactly is "countless?"

That's okay, we're told, because the wall will bring peace and security. The wall will keep Palestinian terrorists out of Israel; don't Israelis have the right to be safe?
--- Yes, as a matter of fact, we do.

As for the farms and homes destroyed (none of which belong to Israelis), ya gotta break some eggs to make an omelet.

-- Again, exactly how many homes have been destroyed? For the record, I think that the damage to Palestinian land and livelihoods caused by the building of the wall is terrible and tragic. I wish it didn't have to be this way. But I wish even less for me and my kids to get blown up. And by the way, it's no picnic for the Israeli border communities to have this huge ugly wall fencing in their community, either.

Well, of course. And that wall sounds like a reasonable proposition. But that wall - the wall for peace, the wall that would be built along the "green line" of 1967 - that ain't the Wall Israel is building. Instead, Israel is building a Wall that nakedly grabs more territory for Israel. Everything bad you've heard about the settlements? The Wall is a hundred times worse.

-- This Wall is the brainchild of the Left, of Ehud Barak and Haim Ramon and Shlomo Ben-Ami. It has nothing to do with settlements, and nothing to do with grabbing territory. It has everything to do with protecting Israeli lives. It has been declared again and again by the Israeli government that this is a SECURITY fence, not a political fence. Frankly, the right in Israel doesn't like the idea of this fence at all. If you believe in a "Greater Land of Israel," you don't want a fence running through it. You call it "Sharon's fence," yet, I Sharon is not crazy about the idea at all -- that's why he's been seriously dragging his feet getting it built, for which he has taken a lot of political heat.

(Alas then publishes a dubiously-sourced illustration of the West Bank presumably after the fence is built. Sorry, my blog doesn't carry images)

Look at the map on the right. If you were Palestinian, is this a deal you could agree to? If you were a Palestinian leader, could you ever face your people after agreeing to this?

--- Nobody is ASKING the Palestinians to agree to this. The fence is going up because the Palestinians have not seemed to be interested in agreeing to anything that involves aggressively stopping terrorists from crossing over into Israel and attacking them. The fence -- or what's known as "unilateral separation" is the boobie prize, the last-ditch alternative, the evidence of a failure to have a real peace agreement with two real states with two real borders living side-by-side happily ever after. And not for lack of trying by Israel.

If you were a Palestinian, wondering if the Israelis are prepared to negotiate in good faith, what would the map on the right tell you about Israel's intentions?

--- It would tell me that Israel is determined to protect its citizens from terrorists, no more, no less. And it should.

If you were an Israeli, would you propose this for a second if you were serious about peace?

-- YES. If you were both serious about peace and serious about staying alive.

But Sharon has done more than proposed it - he's already begun building it.

-- Actually, he's continued building it. Ehud Barak started building it. And yes, Sharon succumbing to right-wing political influences in where he is choosing to place it. And no, I'm not so crazy about his choices. But he's the Prime Minister (why is he Prime Minister? Because the past two years of terrorism have giving the Israeli political map a huge shove to the right. And it's not shifting back leftwards until the violence stops.)

It's an impediment to peace a hundred times worse than the settlements - but no one is objecting.

--- Well, yeah, in fact, Gush Shalom and other far-left Israeli peace groups are objecting to the location of the fence. They have every right to object. It's called democracy.

After all, the Wall is about peace, right?

--- NO, the Wall is about LACK of PEACE. It's about figuring out what the hell to do when your people are getting murdered and slaughtered day after day, and the international community doesn't want you to infiltrate the West Bank cities where the terrorists are preparing their attacks, doesn't want you to assasinate the terrorist leaders in their deck of cards -- in fact, has a whole list of things that you are NOT supposed to do to protect your citizens, but doesn't have a lot of suggestions as to what you can do. It's about figuring out what to do when the other side gets up from the negotiating table, walks away, and starts lobbing human bombs at you on a regular basis.

This wall is neither the first choice of the Israeli left nor the Israeli right. It's an act of desperation. I know it would be much more neat and simple to view it as an extension of some evil grand right-wing land-usurping plan, but that's just not the truth.
Help Wanted: Jewish Grandmas to Face Bulldozers

The ISM needs "older Jewish" volunteers who they hope will be less likely to be deported by Israel. Oy vey.
Very Important Article In the International Herald Tribune

Suicide Bombers Kill Arabs, Too

By Helen Schary Motro

Ghalab Tawil originally took a job as a cleaner in Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital so he could spend time with his daughter Iwan, 13, who has leukemia. Tawil often slept by her side. But Iman is no longer hospitalized, so Tawil spent Saturday night at his home in Shuafat, north of Jerusalem. Early Sunday he boarded the first bus to work. He never arrived, because at 5:45 a.m. a Palestinian detonated a bomb that killed Tawil and six other passengers. Tawil, like his murderer, was a Palestinian.
The next day, when a 19-year-old Palestinian exploded her bomb at the entrance to a mall in Afula, three people were killed. One was Hassan Ismail Tawatha, 41. After 15 years as an employee he had dreamed of opening his own electronics business. Tawatha was not at the mall to shop. He was there as a student, attending a preparatory electronics course run by a local college. The next day his entire village of Jissr al Zarka turned up for the funeral. Tawatha, too, was an Arab.
And so the list goes on, of Arabs killed or wounded in attacks perpetrated by Palestinians who see themselves as heroes, and who are often perceived as martyrs in the communities they come from.
What would the suicide bombers' answer be if they knew that some of their victims would be Arabs? Would they call it collateral damage, worthwhile for the cause they believe they are serving? What would Iman Tawil say to that, now that she has no father left? She and the other orphans?

Read the rest...then tell everybody about it. Somehow, this story just isn't getting out there into the foreign media. Why, why, why? Does it mess up the nice simple Jews vs. Arabs equation too much? Does it make the reporting look "unbalanced?" This shouldn't just have to slip in as an Op-Ed in the IHT. It should be a big fat front-page article in major newspapers.
What Really Happened?

OK, so Abu Mazen asked Hamas to stop murdering Israelis, pretty please.

The Jerusalem Post reported immediately afterwards that the answer was 'no way':

Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip have rejected a request by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to suspend terrorist attacks on Israel...Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the Hamas officials stressed that they would not agree to halt terrorist attacks. "We affirmed that resisting the Zionist occupation is a legitimate right of the Palestinian people for as long as the occupation exists and continues its aggression and war against us," he said.

But now the AP reports that the answer was "kind of, maybe, sort of, but not really":

The militant Islamic group Hamas indicated Thursday that it would be willing to begin a limited truce with Israel, but conditioned it on an end to IDF strikes on suspected Palestinian militants...Speaking after a 90-minute meeting Thursday with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) at his Gaza City office, Hamas spokesman Ismail Hanieh suggested that the truce would involve a halt in attacks on civilians in Israel, but not settlers and soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as long as Israel ends its policy of targeted assassinations.

Well, which is it folks? Frankly, I think that framing the Hamas "offer" as a "limited truce" is quite a work of spinning. Either you stop killing, or you don't. If Abu Mazen and Dahlan and the rest of their crew aren't willing to take off the kid gloves with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the Road Map doesn't stand a chance. They don't seem to be willing to do this.

I think this is the reason that Sharon is willing to roll the dice and accept the Road Map even though it is clearly not his favorite document in the world. He recognizes that the negative consequences of not accepting it and thus pissing off the Bush administration seem greater right now than whatever dangers could lead from going ahead with it. Doing this obviously involves trusting the Americans to stick by their word that they won't push Israel for major concessions until something real is done about the terrorism. If they do this, then I think endorsing the Road Map is a risk worth taking.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Please Stop the Bombings, Pretty Please with Sugar on Top?

The AP reports that Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen has "urged" Hamas to end their attacks on Israel. Maybe if he asks them really, really nicely, they'll stop, do ya think?
Let's Not COMMIT or Anything...

Well this is a pretty wimpy way to learn of a Presidential visit in the Jerusalem Post:

Bush, Sharon, Mazan plan Israeli summit

The Israeli Foreign Ministry hinted today that President Bush may coordinate a summit in Israel with Prime Minister Sharon and newly appointed PA Prime Minister Abu Mazan. Ministry sources stated that the visit would be planned for early June.

Anonymous sources hinted that sort of, kind of, maybe Dubya is headed this way?

Ha'aretz didn't bother with the "Ministry sources" baloney. They said straight out that the info came from Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom (he's a former journalist, and he just can't keep juicy info to himself, apparently)

I'll bet the White House is pretty pissed that Shalom can't keep his mouth shut. Welcome to Israel, George.
Paging Captain Steubing...

Amish Tech Support has a theme song for the boat that was just captured trying to smuggle arms to Gaza from Lebanon. OK, now everybody hum the Love Boat song....


Arms, exciting and new
Come aboard. Help us kill some Jews.
(and) Arms, Allah's sweetest reward.
Blood will flow, Allah commands you
The Arms Boat soon will be making another run
The Arms Boat promises new guns for everyone.
Set a course down to Gaza
We're helping the resistance
(and) Arms will kill everyone
It's an open sore on Gaza shore.
Welcome aboard it's ARMS-sssssss-SSSSSSSSSS!

Now that we've enjoyed that musical interlude...let's hand over some credit where credit is due. I do have my reservations about the views regarding the Palestinians expressed regularly on Little Green Footballs. But they had the scoop. Charles Johnson sniffed out the arms smuggling story yesterday. I saw it, considered writing on it and linking it, but timid little mainstream journalist that I'm trained to be, I backed off because I couldn't confirm it anywhere "respectable." Learned my lesson...
Not a Good Sign...

Today's Ma'ariv reports that Mohammed Dahlan, the Palestinian security czar, the guy that Abu Mazen fought so hard with Yasser Arafat to put in place has lots of plans, but clamping down on Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorism doesn't seem to be among them....

Palestinian Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan plans to recruit former terrorists into the ranks of the Palestinian security forces and purchase their illegal weapons as part of his battle against terror, Maariv reported today. Israeli officials are disturbed by Dahlan's plan to rehabilitate the terrorists, the paper said.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is scheduled to meet in the Gaza Strip with the representatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad this week, Haaretz reported. Abu Mazen has favored a dialogue with the terrorists in an effort to get them to rein in their violence. Recent talks in Cairo failed to achieve a one-year hudna, or temporary cease-fire. Dahlan and Abu Mazen have no plans to stage an all-out confrontation with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Maariv reported. "I cannot do these things at this stage," Dahlan has reportedly told Israeli officials. Shin Bet officials believe that Dahlan has enough troops and means to put a stop to terrorist activities in the Gaza Strip, if he wanted to. "The problem is not that he can't, but that he just doesn't want to," an official told Maariv.

The account above comes from the Israel Insider website. The original Ma'ariv story by Ben Caspit can be read in Hebrew here -- I checked it out and the Israel Insider translation is pretty accurate.

Any good news in the plan, you ask?

Well.....Dahlan plans to buy all the illegal weapons floating around the West Bank and Gaza. Not confiscate them, mind you -- BUY them.

and also, this:

" Dahlan has prepared a plan of action to combat terror, and the plan includes security cooperation with the Israeli army. According to the plan, the newspaper reported, IDF officers and their Palestinian counterparts would resume cooperation, enabling joint border patrols and the allocation of areas of security responsibilities. Dahlan's plan also calls for an end to Palestinian incitement and the arrest of terrorist leaders. Israeli officials who are aware of Dahlan's intentions believe that the Palestinian minister would not make mass arrests but rather arrest terrorists on their way to perpetrating terror attacks based on Israeli intelligence warnings."

Somehow, this plan just doesn't ring true to me.

I can see it now -- Israeli intelligence receives a report that a bunch of Hamas suicide bombers are heading out of Jenin in the direction of Hadera. The Palestinian Authority knew they were planning these activities, BUT doesn't do anything to thwart it until they get that all-important phone call from the Israeli intelligence. "Hey Mohammed, these terrorists are heading our way. Can you please send over some of your former terrorists to stop them and take care of the situation? We'll sit back and rely on you to keep us safe."

Then Dahlan's security men ride to the rescue and throw themselves in front of the suicide bombers, saving the day.

Yeah, right.
It's Yummy, It's Cheap, and It Gets You Drunk Fast...

Yes, folks, Arak is back -- according those who determine what is hip and trendy -- it's going to be the drink of the summer in Israel. At a time when all of us in Israel could use a stiff drink, and with the economy in the doldrums, it appears to be the beverage of the moment.

What is arak, you ask?

"Arak is a Mediterranean anise-based drink that originated in Lebanon. In the traditional Lebanese method of preparing arak, anise kernels are soaked in grape distillates and stored in clay pitchers. Although in Israel the Samaritans were already distilling arak thousands of years ago, it only found its way onto local palates after the immigration of Jews from North Africa and the Middle East."

Arak doesn't taste unlike Pernod -- it's very mixable, and it's the lowest-priced alcohol in any Israeli bar. And more importantly,

Another attraction of arak is the high alcoholic content, which varies from 40 percent to 80 percent. Ben Shlavin, owner of Clal, a Tel Aviv bar - which sells a glass of Ashkelon arak for a low NIS 8 - says, "Not only is it a cheap drink, but you can get totally plastered, too."

I've always liked arak with water, on the rocks. When I lived in the U.S., and had parties where I invited Israelis -- and Arabs -- I always made sure to have it on hand and it was the hit of the evening. But it didn't come with a load of cultural baggage for me. Since it was considered a "Middle Eastern" item, those Sephardim who were trying to be cool, hip and trendy Israelis felt a bit ashamed drinking it, because it had the image of a cheap and low-class drink. Apparently, with a new reawakening of Sephardic cultural pride -- and recession chic -- that is no longer an issue.

"It used to be," says Shlavin, "that a yuppie drinking (an expensive) drink was considered stylish. Today, simplicity is in, and the cheaper the drink you order, the cooler it is considered."

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

No Peace in Oslo Tonight

Apparently, the Norwegians are totally freaking about why Osama Bin Laden's deputy singled them out in his call for renewed attacks on the West, putting them in same category as those outposts of evil, the U.S., Great Britain, and Australia.

From the BBC (I tried to read the report in the "Norway Post" but couldn't get through to the server -- there must be too much interest at the moment)

Norway, meanwhile, says it has no idea why it was singled out by for attacks on its interests.

BBC's Lars Bevanger in Oslo says people there were baffled because Norway has a reputation for its attempts to bring peace to the Middle East.

Norway has some troops in Afghanistan, but analysts say it is small and other countries have larger numbers.

Our correspondent says the Norwegians are hoping al-Qaeda simply got its geography wrong but they are nonetheless taking the threat seriously.

"Got their geography wrong?" -- exactly which country do they think they got mixed up with? Sweden? Finland, because Nokia does business with Israel?

No, I think perhaps that the Bin Laden crew didn't think the Oslo Accords were such a grand idea, and this is some kind of bizarro way of sending a message that no country should dare "attempt to bring peace to the Middle East" because such endeavors might mess up their plans for jihad.

Poor Norwegians, trying to puzzle this one out. At least we Israelis KNOW why they hate our guts.
Jewish Kid Gets Bar-Mitzvahed in Israel...Alert the Media!

Well, I knew that everyone in the U.S. thinks that it is completely insane and unthinkable even to visit Israel, let alone live here, but sometimes it really hits home. This local news report from Rochester, NY is about my friend Karen Zivan's family (brilliant journalistic move -- the reporter renamed her "Kathy")

Family Still Plans Israel Trip

Noah Zivan is studying Hebrew. His mom hopes to make the words mean more to Noah and his four brothers.
“Israel is just so close to them but so far and we want to make sure it stays this close to them,” Kathy Zivan said.

So this summer they're taking a trip.

“We're going to Israel, and I'm excited,” Noah said.

Noah will mark his coming of age, in the same spot his mom saw a Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem five years ago.

Recent suicide bombings and violence in Israel haven't changed their plans.

“It may not be the safest place in the world, but I feel it's still someplace we should go,” Noah said.

Good for you, Noah.

A month or two ago, a group of 17 American students took off to participate in the Ben-Gurion University Overseas Student Program. They were considered so frigging intrepid that they received a certificate of merit, hand-delivered by Israel's Consul-General in New York Alon Pinkas.

Yeesh. Next thing you know, they'll be pinning a medal on my parents for coming to visit their grandchildren.
Mercedes and Nokia

Laurence over at Amish Tech Support notes that Nokia has no mention of Israel on its website. And there are plenty of Nokia cellphones in Israel, trust me.

What brought him to Nokia was the following article in the Arab News:

ALKHOBAR, 20 May 2003 — It might seem impossible for a telephone to be barred from import for political reasons, but that’s the truth. This ban put purchasers of E, S and M class Mercedes vehicles in a quandary. You see, some buyers of those vehicles, hoping to increase their safety on Saudi Arabia’s dangerous roads, ordered the optional car kit to make cellular operation hands-free. But when their beautiful new cars arrived, there was a problem. The only mobile phone that worked with the factory installed Mercedes car kit was the Nokia 6310i and the handset didn’t come with the vehicle. The phone’s firmware was politically incorrect in the Kingdom and so the handset was banned.

This situation had normally upstanding citizens engaging in unlawful activity to get hold of a handset. Either they had to pay inflated gray market prices to buy a 6310i handset in the Kingdom, or they had to have one smuggled in. It seemed insane to me that neither DamlierChrysler nor Nokia would be aware of the market sensitivities. This problem became ludicrous, with men getting their mothers and aunts, going on shopping trips to Dubai, to smuggle the 6310i phones into this country.

Hey, if phone handset smuggling is the worst "unlawful activity" that Saudis are engaged in -- that's just fine with me.

In any case, Laurence hypothesized -- and I tend to agree -- that the "political incorrectness" of the equipment causing the "market sensitivities" probably involved a connection to the good old State of Israel. And Nokia is probably trying to calm the waters by eliminating any sign of its business activity in the Zionist entity on its website.

The irony, of course, is that there are plenty of Mercedes on the road in Israel -- so somehow the Mercedes is kosher but the Nokia isn't?
Hey, I've Got a Lot of Leftover Duct Tape If Anybody Wants It....

So America is on Orange Alert, hmmm?

So what does that mean we are on here in Israel -- Flashing Neon Sign "DANGER DANGER DANGER" Super Duper Bright Red Alert?

A clear sign that these color coded alerts aren't being taken too seriously: Michele and her crew are mainly concerned about the implications for their wardrobe. After all, there are many people -- redheads for example -- for whom orange simply isn't their color. The government should take this into consideration, and offer more neutral alternatives like tan and navy blue.
Well, This is Refreshing to Read....

"In the Gaza Strip, residents of the northern town of Beit Hanun held a spontaneous demonstration against Palestinian militants who have used the town to launch missiles strikes against Israeli targets. The protestors blamed the militants for causing the IDF raid in the town over the past few days, which is aimed at stamping out the missile strikes."

May the number of Palestinians like these Beit Hanun residents who appear to have gotten a clue increase dramatically and may they continue to have the guts to speak up. Amen.

Good for them.

In the same article in Ha'aretz there is a report on the successful IDF raid on the casbah in Nablus, where the special operations troop located and destroyed an explosives lab.

"While searching the lab, the troops found six explosive belts, a suitcase containing explosives, and various materials used to make explosive devices."

I heard the commander of the unit -- a guy identified as Shmulik -- interviewed on the radio and he was so proud of the accomplishment -- his unit, for the past year, night after night, has been going to the most dangerous spots in West Bank cities and refugee camps searching for this stuff.

The radio interviewer asked Shmulik if it was frustrating to be charged with this Sisyphysian task -- knowing that for every weapon they destroy, another is built or smuggled in. He said no, that his soldiers were always highly motivated, knowing that everything they find reduces the chances of another terror attack, that it means fewer lives lost in a bus or at a shopping mall, that they knew they were protecting members of their own families. God bless these guys.

If anyone has any clue as to why Blogger turned all of the previous entries in this blog into italics, or any idea how to fix it, please let me know!

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

A Tale of Two Young Women

Hadar and Hiba

"And once more, the unfathomable occurs. 5 PM yesterday, two hours before the Lag B’Omer bonfires. Last-minute shopping at the Afula mall – pita bread, potatoes, marshmallows to roast in the fire. The shoppers were Israelis who are desperately trying, somehow, to keep up a normal routine under this unending shadow of death that has chased them for the past 48 hours.

Hiba Azam Dragma, 19, from the village of Tubas in the north of Samaria tried to conceal herself in the crowd and headed for the entrance to the mall.

There, next to another security guard, stood young Hadar Gitlin, from Moshav Cfar Baruch, who has been working as a guard at Afula mall for the past two weeks.

For a fleeting moment, the two girls eyes met. One would imagine that they looked each other in the eye. What went through their minds? Did Hiba think about the fact that Hadar was the last person on earth that she would ever see? Could it have possibly passed through her mind the inkling of the possibility of the tragic waste that their two young lives were about to be cut short in a terrible explosion? Or did her level of hatred and religious extremism completely blind her?

And what passed through Hadar’s mind at the moment that she saw Hiba? Is this the way she pictured a female terrorist? Is it even possible to visualize a suicide bomber?

In any case, with her sharpened sensitivity, Hadar suspected Hiba. And so, as a trained security guard, she decided to block the woman standing across from her from entering the mall.

Hiba had been determined to kill as many Israelis as possible crowded inside that building. But Hadar’s alertness ruined her plan. With her own young body, Hiba Assam Dragma blew up Hadar’s young body and the bodies of those around her, killing three people and injuring tens, including Hadar."

The article above appeared in Hebrew in today's Yediot Aharonot. It was written by Anat Medin: the translation is mine.
Why Is It that When I Saw This, the Old Saying Came To Mind About Wanting to Join Clubs That Won't Have You As a Member????

Israel considering applying for EU membership

"Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told a visiting European Union delegation on Tuesday that Israel was considering applying for membership of the bloc.

"Shalom said he is not excluding that this government will ask for full membership in the EU," said Marco Pannella, an Italian member of the European Parliament and president of the Transnational Radical Party."

Obviously, it would be amazing for the Israeli economy if we were to join the EU. But I'm not holding my breath. Somehow, I just wasn't shocked to read on in this article and learn that "there is little enthusiasm among EU member states for Israel to join."

We Badly Need the Laughs...

After the days full of depressing and terrifying news in Israel, there is some new much-needed comic relief at night. It's only taken 21 years -- he's been on the air since 1982 -- but we can finally see "Late Night With David Letterman." The weird thing is that it's not digital cable or satellite television that brings us Dave, it's the stuffy old government television station (Channel 33 to you locals.)

My late-night viewing now is actually better than it is when I'm in the U.S. My satellite service provides "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" at 10 PM -- I get to watch the monologue and the funny bits. Then when he starts chatting up/fawning over his guests, I switch over at 10:30, and catch Letterman's monologue before I go to sleep. Both shows are a few days delayed -- it takes time to translate the subtitles, but are still pretty timely. Back in the States, not only do the shows compete against one another, but they are both broadcast at 11:30 PM, when those of us with small kids jumping on us early in the morning, have usually passed out.

I'm enjoying both monologues immensely in recent days -- particularly the jokes at the expense of the New York Times....It's a fun and easy way for me to keep up with the zeitgeist in the United States.

Iraq Burn-Out or Cosmic Cooincidence?

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and Tony Blair's spokesman Godric Smith announced that they were resigning within hours of each other, with no apparent coordination. What would astrologers say about that?

Now that Ari's free, it will be interesting to see how many American Jewish organizations try to get him on their boards.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Gems Written Yesterday By Other Israeli Bloggers

Who Rides The Bus?

So who rides the bus from a Jerusalem suburb into town at 5:45am? 44 year old Marina Tsahvirashvili does, or used to, on her way to work in the kitchen of Shaarei Tzedek hospital; so did 63 year old Yitzhak Moyal, on his way to the sorting room in Jerusalem's Central Post Office; and 42 year old Ghaleb Tawil, also a hospital worker; 34 year old supermarket worker Ronny Yisraeli; 55 year old Nelly Frob, maintenance worker in the police station in the old city; 52 year old Olga Brenner, a cleaner in a new immigrants radio station; and even 67 year old Shimon Ostinsky, once an economics lecturer in Kiev, now a guard in a car park in Jerusalem.

Just ordinary, hard working people, scrambling for a living, ride the bus from a Jerusalem suburb into town at 05:45am.

Who would blow up such people? 19 year old Bassam Jamal Darwish Takruri, son of a well-to-do Hebron family, would.

I look at the pictures, on this side and on this side. Here - a good looking young warrior, from an affluent background, taking his fate in his hands, sacrificing himself for an exalted cause, to be remembered and revered forever as a hero; here - people who got up early day after day and worked hard and long to feed themselves and their loved ones, to pay the rent, to survive. Not striving to be heroes, not striving to be anything. Just people. Like you and me.

Where is the poetic justice in this? Why are the cold-blooded murders of these people seen by so many as fitting revenge of the weak? Why is this young, good looking, physically strong and economically secure kid perceived as being more desperate than a 67-year-old economics lecturer making his way in the soft early morning light to his dead end job as a guard in a car park?

-- By Imshin

and here's a second one:

Depressing Day

It's been another one of those days: one of those days when, as a simple citizen sitting at my table working, I feel totally powerless. I can imagine a sudden and massive strike, of perfectly accurate missiles flying through the windows of Gaza and knocking Rantisi between the eyes; of the F16 dropping its load on Arafat in his headquarters and finally putting an end to that monster; and, perhaps, of the hope, the whisper of hope, that one day the Palestinian street might rise up and cry, hold, enough.

But none of these things will happen. This war cannot be won in six days. It cannot be won fifty years. Because the fact is that the Palestinians still dream of waking up one morning and finding that the Jews that defile their land will finally have been driven into the sea. The Hamas and the Jihad and the Hizbullah and Al-Qa'ida and Abu Sayyaf and a thousand other organsiations with different names will not be satisfied until they have forced their religion upon the world with the edge of the sword. The Western appeasers who thought that they could be bought did not understand them. Because they believe in nothing themselves, they assumed that everyone can be appeased. Because the flame of religion does not burn within them they thought that flame dead. It will perhaps one day consume them.

Imagine this: the whole world awakes one morning to the cry of the Muezzin calling the faithful to prayer. The poor are lead by their spiritual leaders to the mosque where they give praise unto Allah and his last true prophet, Peace Be Upon Him. The rule of God's law is supreme, those rejecting that faith have been destroyed or subdued. Peace and harmony reigns under the all-mighty empire of God on earth. True justice has prevailed. Vengeace against the wicked has been wrought. Tranquility, harmony as the sun rises over the desert once again.

Enticing, no? A dream perhaps. Unless you happen to reject that prophecy, to disagree with the enslavement of non-believers, to want to dance your own dance and sing your own song and shave and wear purple clothes and educate your daughters and not cut the hands off thieves. Unless you want the freedom of thought and of ideas, the freedom to do as you wish, to eat what you want to eat when you want to eat it. Because if that's what you want, then I'm afraid this vision is not for you: you're one of the condemned, and you will have to die in the bloodbath. That's the tough reality, my friend

By Ribbity Frog -- who reads Arabic, and thereby knows of what he speaks. His blog has been great lately, calling the BBC to task on a number of issues, and rapping Reuters for releasing the horrific photos of the bus bombings.

Life in Israel

It's a beautiful day - the sun is shining, the birds are chirping. It's warm but not too hot outside. Everyone is busily gathering wood and buying hot dogs and marshmallows for tonight's traditional bonfires for the Lag B'Omer holiday. You think to yourself "Life is good."

And then you turn on the news, and feel horrible and guilty for having the previous thought. How in the world can you be going about your life so normally when such tragic events are occurring in your small country? Who will be next? Will it be you? Are you living in some kind of fool's paradise?

Then you think -- so what's the alternative? Sitting home listening to the news, feeling terrible, fearful and grieving won't accomplish anything, will it? In fact, isn't that exactly what the terrorists hope will happen, isn't it?

So with your heart a little heavier, with a little less optimism, a little less hope, you just keep on going, you do your work, you shuttle the kids around to their activities, and you live. And you try to enjoy and appreciate every moment of your life that is good. You look around you with admiration at the other parents and children who are standing tall and strong, going about their business and living good lives in the midst of all this. That's the best you can do.

As for the politics of the thing: whatever you may think of Sharon, whoever is writing his copy has got their finger on the pulse of the Israeli public. The statement released last night really said it all.

"The State of Israel will continue to operate in order to prevent any intention to murder its citizens until there is proof that there is someone on the other side who is capable of doing so."

Damn straight. It is a rare Israeli at the moment who would disagree with this statement. If you are going to look for tears from the Israeli public when there are Palestinians hurt or killed in the process of rooting out these terrorists from their lairs -- which will inevitably be nested within civilian populations -- you are not going to find many.

We're all cried out.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

This is How It Happens

"The sun was just rising on a regular workday as the No. 6 bus rumbled quietly along Sunday. A soldier dozed in the back with headphones on. From her seat, another soldier, like many edgy bus riders in Israel, eyed her fellow passengers, but saw nothing to cause alarm. As the bus neared a busy intersection, a nondescript man wearing the prayer shawl and skull cap of religious Jews detonated a bomb, blowing himself up and killing seven passengers. The force of the blast punched a gaping hole in the front of the bus and showered the pavement with glass. The gush of metal and fire tore through one of the driver's legs, and as he lost control of the vehicle its back end fishtailed, smashing a sidewalk bus stop shelter. The long, two-sectioned bus filled with smoke, and screams of panic and pain. The bodies of the dead remained sitting upright in their seats, including that of a woman with short dark hair whose head slumped back and whose legs were still crossed. One man's body, heaved by the blast, leaned from a broken window."

Pretty descriptive for an Associated Press story. I've been avoiding the television today, knowing that I won't be able to get the images out of my mind. But I then stumbled on a terrible picture here in the blogosphere. For those of you who can stomach it, Israeli Guy has an extremely graphic and haunting photo of the scene described above on display over at his blog.