Saturday, March 31, 2007

I'd liked it better when Canadians were behind the curve

When I first read the headline at the Toronto Star, I assumed it was an early April Fool’s joke. Then my eyes spied the date:
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan–Members of the Wiccan religion celebrated the arrival of spring outside the Christian fellowship centre at the NATO military base here. Canadian Maj. Malcolm Berry smiles as he recalls being approached a few weeks ago by a group of soldiers of the Wiccan faith – a neo-pagan religion strongly tied to nature.
"They wanted to welcome the spring in a ceremony where they are very thankful to Mother Earth and the new moon with pagan prayers," said Berry, the senior chaplain for Task Force Afghanistan. "We had no difficulty with that. We just didn't want them to do it `sky-clad' (naked) in this environment because it would be too dangerous."

The six Wiccans – a Canadian and five Americans – were invited to hold their service outside the Christian fellowship centre. They were given water, candles and food that they were welcomed to eat inside the centre after the ceremony. The Wiccans were treated with the same respect as any Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist.

"We are way ahead of the curve in terms of adaptability, understanding others, being sensitive to the needs of all Canadians," said Berry, a friendly, talkative Anglican minister from Oromocto, N.B.

Three thoughts off the top of my head. The most common adjective used to describe Canadians is boring but really I think boring doesn’t quite cut it. The human capacity for delusion is practically bottomless, and thirdly, untreated mental illness is a terrible thing to behold.

I really hope this doesn’t get out among the locals. Can you imagine what a disaster it would be if the Afghans started to believe NATO forces employ witches as soldiers? And if that thought doesn’t drive them back to the Taliban/Al Qaeda it will be only sheer dumb luck on our part.

I can’t help but wonder at this rate how long before some enlisted men attempt to revive the military worship of Mithras and demand to be allowed to sacrifice a bull before patrol or battle. And if that happens, Veterans Day in this country will never look the same again.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Beit HaShalom – the House of Peace

Joe Settler is one of my regular reads for a variety of reasons. Joe posted one of the most coherent comment policy statements ever blogged. I don’t comment at Joe’s blog because I have only read 10 out of the 16 required areas of study; and to be honest rather than modest - I only have a rudimentary understanding of some of those 10. But at least I do know who Rabbi Chaim Zimmerman was (unlike another lurker who dared to comment). I will leave it to your imagination which combination of 6 I am ignorant of.

Anyway, I bring this up because Joe carries an update on a couple of posts I wrote about a few weeks ago concerning the purchase of a building and land in Hebron by the Jewish Community of Hebron.

For those link challenged with no short-term memory; two different Palestinian men each claimed to have separate sole title to the land/building; which they respectively accused the "settlers" of Hebron of stealing from them. I have to admit I feel a little odd writing the word “settlers” when referring to Jews in Hebron. I mean, for nearly 4 milleninums, Jews have lived continuously in Hebron (except for brief periods totally less than 350 years spread over nearly 3700 years). How many millenniums or generations have to pass before a settler (or their descendants) are no longer considered a bona fide settler?

Like most things in Israel, it was hard to figure out who was the alleged Palestinian land owner/victim. As far as I could tell, it really depended on which Israeli paper you read. Personally, I liked the guy from the Ynet/Jerusalem Post accounts. The guy had 4 wives and 33 children which was why he needed to build a home of approximately 37,500 square feet as - opposed to really bland character Ha’aretz’s picked.

At the time
, I suggested that the underlying rationale for charges of land theft (by whoever was the former Arab landowner) had more to do with the former owner wanting to save his skin and keep the money from the sale. Let’s face it, a man with 4 wives and 33 children needs every penny he can lay his hands on.

The Jerusalem Post carries this brief update on the fate of the former Palestinian landowner:
Fatah-affiliated Palestinian Authority Preventive Security Forces on Thursday arrested a man who claimed ownership of the controversial house in Hebron, taken over by right-wing Jewish activists on March 19, on suspicion of selling the property to settlers.

Joe rightly asks where are the man’s supporters from the left-wing radical groups Peace Now and B'Tselem? No doubt the silence from these groups concerning this man’s fate will be positively deafening, but if ever a man needed a friend - this guy does. They still lynch in the Palestinian Authority.

Ha'aretz is reporting that the Jordian government has arrested another man in connection with this land sale:
One of the suspects is being held in Jordan, and the other in Jericho. PA laws call for a death sentence for anyone found guilty of selling land to Jews.

Hebron's Jewish Committee condemned the arrest, saying, "The arrest exposes once again the anti-Semitic nature of the PA. We call upon the government to accept the racial hatred prevalent in the PA." MK Uri Ariel (National Union-National Religious Party) called on the government to act for the release of the arrested Palestinians.
I would just like to point out that Jordanian law also calls for the death penalty for anyone convicted of selling land to a Jew - not an Israeli, but a Jew. So who is the Apartheid State now?

Brings new meaning

to the phrase - number 1 with a bullet.

Appeasement Palestinian Style

The Jerusalem Post is reporting on Palestinian Appeasement:
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas agreed to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert twice a month only to appease the Americans, a top Palestinian official said Thursday. Meanwhile, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal declared that his movement would continue to launch attacks on Israel despite the formation of the PA unity government. Addressing supporters in Gaza City by phone, Mashaal said: "We will never give up our principles; anyone who thinks that Hamas is tired or weak is mistaken. Hamas has not stopped its military operations."

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced during her recent visit to the region that Abbas and Olmert would be holding biweekly meetings as part of the effort to "develop a political horizon" that will build confidence between the two sides.

"These meetings will be ineffective," said Yasser Abed Rabbo, a former PA information minister who is currently a close advisor to Abbas. "I don't see any point in holding these meetings. We agreed to them only to appease the Americans." Abed Rabbo said what was important for the Palestinians at this stage was not the meetings themselves, but their content. "We don't believe that Israel is serious in conducting political negotiations with the Palestinians," he added.

Commenting on the outcome of the Arab summit in Riyadh, Abed Rabbo welcomed the decision to re-endorse the 2002 Arab peace plan. He said the Palestinians were pressing for the establishment of a special committee of high-level Arab officials to persuade the international community to accept the plan.

Abed Rabbo also revealed that the Palestinians had requested that the Arab states launch a diplomatic offensive to convene an international peace conference on the Israeli-Arab conflict, like the one that was held in Madrid in the early 1990s.

Well then. I wonder how one says “bad faith” in Arabic. Hopefully, the US State Department has someone who does know.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

They hang retards - don't they?

I saw the video footage the Iranian government has released for broadcast of the British Naval personnel held hostage. I saw British captive, Seaman Turney, paraded out for the camera, out of uniform, and tussled up with a bleeding scarf wrapped around her head like a mullah’s wet dream of a woman rather than what she is; a female British Seaman in the service of Her Majesty’s Naval Forces.

You know what I kept waiting for Seaman Turney to do? I wanted her on camera to throw the bleeding scarf on the floor and tell them that she is a British Seaman of Her Majesty’s Navy and she will not wear their fracking scarf. I wanted her to demand they treat her as the British Seaman she is and not their trained poodle to perform tricks on command for Iranian home video.

I wanted to see that a female British Seaman would have a little of La Passionata’s spirit when she deliberately shucked off her chador not once, but twice, in the presence of the Grand Ayatollah Khomeini. If La Passionata, a middle-aged civilian woman of 5’1” and weighed all of a $1.50 wet, could refuse to submit to the dictates of the original Mad Mullah himself - is it so much to suppose that a British Seaman could show a little of the same?

One could say the Mullah’s displayed a better grasp of knowledge about ourselves, our culture and our history than we do of them. One could say clothes don’t matter and the more important value is to submit to any dictate and stay alive to live out another day - even under chains. But that would be a boldfaced lie.

Clothes do matter; just ask the IRA, who chose the dirty protest in Long Nesh for refusing to wear criminal prison garb. Just look at our long history and how fashion dictates our morals and shaped our very laws. Why does our dress matter in our courts, at our places of employment, or even our schools if appearance has no value or meaning within our society?

Just ask a soldier why he shines his boots and buttons on his dress uniform if clothes don’t matter. Ask any veteran on Remembrance Day when they dawn their regimental hats and medals to tell you why their uniforms have not value. If clothes don’t matter, why did the signatories of the Geneva Conventions implicitly state a uniform will govern the dictates of treatment an enemy soldier should receive if captured. Spies cloak themselves in the garb of their enemies and can expect no quarter under the Geneva Convention. They are completely at the mercy of the laws of the enemy state. If clothes don’t matter; why did the Mullah’s parade her in a change of garb from a British Seaman?

But clothes not only matter to us but to our enemy the Mad Mullahs of Iran. That’s right, I wrote our enemy. Let me very clear. The mullah’s of Iran are indeed our enemies and not merely misunderstood acquaintances waiting to be allies. There is no possibility of peaceful co-existence within an atmosphere of tolerance and mutual respect. There is no United States of the Middle East.

The Mullahs have one ultimate goal which is for us to submit our culture and our values to their 12th century theo-thuggery. The Mullah’s do not have a timetable and are prepared to fight and wear us down until each of us submits. One at a time or enmass – it simply makes no difference. They are prepared to fight a long war of attrition; so what concern is it of theirs whether we submit by committing cultural suicide one cartoon at a time if need be as long as we ultimately capitulate? They are resolved to win while we have so intellectually disarmed ourselves so that we can only offer appeasement to starve off the day of our submission and dress it up as an appeal to our higher more cherished values.

I don’t blame Seaman Turney. I blame us - as a society, for so thoroughly disarming ourselves intellectually that even those who are sworn to defend us cannot even mount the most token of defenses before our enemies.

Never Mind

Never mind if full Israeli acceptance of the Saudi peace plan ‘as is’ would wreck the Israeli economy or that almost a half million people would suddenly be ethnically cleared from their land and left not only homeless, but practically destitute as well. Never mind that Israel would suddenly become overnight a country with official Auschwitz borders. Never mind that a second Palestinian state would become the world’s leading exporter of international terrorism to the west. Ha’aretz is reporting that Palestinian Authority Chairman threatens Israel with “violence” if there is no acceptance of the Saudi/Arab peace plan as is:
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas warned on Thursday of violence if Israel rejected a Palestinian "hand of peace", and called for an international conference on achieving peace.

"I reiterate the sincerity of the Palestinian will in extending the hand of peace to the Israeli people... We should not waste more chances in the history of this long and painful cause," he told the closing ceremony of an Arab summit.

"The entire region will be under renewed threats of war, explosions, as well as regional and international confrontations, as a result of the absence of a solution or the impossibility of implementing one," Abbas added.
Never mind that the violence has never ceased. Never mind that Abbas sounds a lot like Arafat, or Hamas, or Islamic Jihad.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

David Miller, Dean of the Kamikaze School of Municipal Financing

I’ve lived in Toronto on and off since the late 1960’s. It was a wonderful place to live until around 1991. From then on, the quality of every day ordinary life took a nose dive south which it has yet to pull up from. I suspect the new right the city has acquired (to implement and collect taxes on goods and services sold in the city limits) will cause the quality of life to be fully pulverized on impact.

The current sitting mayor of Toronto, David Miller, has announced a number of taxation proposals for implementing the new rights of taxation which the Liberal provincial government of Dalton McGuinty has granted. Some days, I truly do wonder if lefties don't spend hours laying awake at night dreaming up new ways to shove taxes or laws which restrict our freedoms down our gullets.

If I wanted to drive residents and businesses out of the City of Toronto and into the suburbs of the GTA, or even out of the province; I couldn’t think of a more inspired plan than Toronto mayor’s David Miller latest kamikaze municipal 'resource tools' scheme. The Toronto Star carries the bloodletting:
The new City of Toronto Act gives the city a $340 million smorgasbord of possible new taxes and fees to draw on – and Mayor David Miller says he wants to tap some of them this year. On Miller's motion, city bureaucrats have been ordered to conduct a quick round of public consultations and report back in June on which new taxes should be levied.

And although the staff have said it could take a year or more to set up the machinery to collect many of the taxes, Miller said he wants at least some of money flowing in this year, "There are obviously going to be some difficult decisions when they come back," Miller said. "But I think it's important we start. It's important to act reasonably quickly. "The sooner we do that, the sooner we will be able to invest in city building."

Many of the proposed levies are "sin taxes" that would tack 5 per cent on to the cost of alcohol (at LCBOs or table service), tobacco and tickets at cinemas and live events. Parking lots would pay the city a yearly fee per space while an unspecified road toll is suggested for the Gardiner and DVP. Miller said he wants the money from any new taxes and fees – he insists on calling them "revenue tools" – to be earmarked for specific purposes such as new recreation centres, road repairs or fighting climate change.

This means retail sales taxes will hit a whopping 19% for every beer in a pub or a bottle of liquor/wine purchased at the provincially controlled outlet. Let us not even discuss the size of the hit the entertainment industry/ district will be asked to take.

But ask yourself; why should any resident shell out for the extra 5% tax when relief is less than a 20 minute drive away? And make no mistake, if this sales tax hike is even moderately successful, it will be only the first of a million and one new taxes imposed by the municipal authority.

And for all you non-Torontonians who are busy sneering and enjoying our pain - let me say this; if this tax grab is even moderately successful, watch how fast your mayors will be lobbying your own home provinces for the same means and rights of taxation in your cities. I wonder if Alberta takes refugee claimants from Toronto.....?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I imagine he can do to economy what he did to the defense portfolio

I have a confession to make. I adore Israeli politics. Nothing entertains me as much as the ins and outs of Israeli politicos. It’s like the Three Stooges come to life and run for political office. The really bizarre part is mostly they get to hold office, and in spite of their best efforts – the country is still thriving. It’s like watching a miracle happen. People still get grow up, go to school, get a job, fall in love, get married, have babies, invent useful things, write books, plays and create wonderful music - the whole time their politic leaders run amuck. I tell you it’s a bona fide miracle and it happens every day of the week in Israel.

Ynet News is reporting Amir Peretz, the current Minister of Defense, is in the fight of his political life to retain the leadership of the Israeli Labour party. He claims, if he retains the leadership, he will resign from the Defense portfolio and demand to take over the Finance portfolio.
Labor leader Amir Peretz said Tuesday that he would step down as defense minister in return for the finance portfolio should he be reelected as Labor head in the May primaries. “On May 28, the night I am reelected as party chairman, I want to tell Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that I intend on revising the coalition agreement and demand the finance portfolio,” he told his supporters at a special Passover gathering in Tel Aviv.

Peretz denied media reports that he had insisted on having the defense portfolio during coalition negotiations with Kadima after last year's general elections, saying he had wanted the finance ministry. "You don't know how much I wanted to be the finance minister. You don't know which effort we put in negotiations. When things didn't fall through I agreed to fill the most important post, that of defense minister," Peretz said, drawing applauds from his supporters. Turning his attention to the race for the party's leadership, Peretz said that his challengers were equally responsible for the army's "spiritual decline."

Although Peretz fell short of making a clear allusion to either of his main challengers – former prime minister Ehud Barak and MK Ami Ayalon – it was clear that he was referring to Barak under whose term of office Israel withdrew its army from south Lebanon.
This cracks me right up and you know what? If Peretz (who is running a lone third in polling for chairman spot) wins; Olmert will probably have to give it to him. The Labour party holds the key for Kadima staying in power. Olmert has only a 3% approval rating and Kadima is looking to be thumped in the electoral mud if an election were to be held in the near future.

Remember When?

Chris at Taylor & Company remembers when Britain faced similar crises as today’s Iranian hostage saga, but deployed a far different strategy than the current wait and beg routine.

Ho hum, ho hum

The Telegraph is reporting that British Prime Minister Tony Blair has warned the Iranians that if diplomacy fails; and the British service personnel are not returned Britain, the British government will try a “different phrase”.
"I hope we manage to get [Iran] to realise they have to release them," Mr Blair said today in an interview with GMTV. "If not, then this will move into a different phase."

The Prime Minister spoke as the US navy began its largest demonstration of force in the Persian Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, led by a pair of aircraft carriers and backed by warplanes flying simulated attack manoeuvres off the coast of Iran.
Asked about what he meant by a "different phase", Mr Blair said: "Well, we will just have to see, but what they should understand is that we cannot have a situation where our servicemen and women are seized when actually they are in Iraqi waters under a UN mandate, patrolling perfectly rightly and in accordance with that mandate, and then effectively captured and taken to Iran."

I remain unconvinced that this will get the Iranians to stand up and pay attention – let alone blink. It might have worked the first time in 2004, but in 2007 for the second time – no. Political chicken is all about street creds. The Brits had it once but it’s long gone. The only way the Brits will get theirs back is by doing what gave them creditability in the first place. Tony Blair needs to think what would Maggie do.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Now it's the children's mental health which is at risk

The Toronto Star advises readers that Canada ranks ‘dead last’ in early childhood education spending (code name for nursery schools & day care centres):
Canada ranks "dead last" among developed nations in its spending on early childhood education – despite overwhelming evidence of how crucial the first six years of life are, says a new study by the country's foremost expert in the field.

One problem is the country-wide "chaotic mess" of programs and assistance that exists now, says renowned child development expert Dr. Fraser Mustard, one of the co-authors of the report, which is due to be released today.

To replace it, Mustard proposes a system of community hubs, ideally located in schools, that would offer play-based preschool activities, help for parents, social service referrals and child care.

In Ontario alone, Mustard estimates the cost of behavioural and mental health problems triggered by problems in early childhood to be $30 billion; with programs in place, "that could get down to less than $15 billion a year, and probably even lower than that," he said in an interview last week from Adelaide, in South Australia. Mustard is advising the government there how to implement such a network of child and parenting centres.

Sheesh. Talk about having an ideological axe to grind. I am not going to rehash the home care vs. daycare centre debate. I have said almost everything I wanted to say in this old blog piece – My Womb is not at Service to the State.

But before we rush out and start cutting cheques like a drunken sailor on a night out in port; we should, for the sake of the children’s mental health, take a much closer look at studies like this UK one. Today’s British Telegraph gives a peek at it:
Children who spend a lot of time in nursery are more likely to be aggressive and disobedient throughout primary school - no matter how excellent the nursery, according to study published today.

Primary school teachers are more likely to say that such children - even at the age of 11 - are still "getting into fights" or "arguing a lot". The findings, from a continuing study of nearly 1,400 children, reignite the debate about whether working women damage their children's health by putting them into nurseries too young.
But there is an alleged compensation – children, who in their formative early years, spend significant time in child care centres develop larger vocabularies to be both problematic and defiant with.


The Financial Times is reporting that the Iranians are considering charging the 15 British naval men they are currently holding hostage:
Tehran has also said it might charge the 15 British personnel it seized on Friday with illegally entering its waters. Saturday’s UN resolution bans arms exports by Iran and freezes the assets of more than two dozen entities and individuals, including Iran’s Bank Sepah and commanders of the Revolutionary Guards, the elite force that the UK says was responsible for capturing the British personnel.
On Monday, Brent crude futures rose 73 cents to a three-month high of $63.70 a barrel on the International Petroleum Exchange in London. US crude prices rose 59 cents to $62.87 a barrel.

Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran’s foreign minister, said on Sunday charges against the sailors were “under consideration under the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran”. Margaret Beckett, UK foreign secretary, spoke by telephone with Mr Mottaki in New York in the highest level contact between the two sides over the crisis. Ms Beckett stressed the UK personnel had been in Iraqi waters at the time of their capture and repeated demands that they be given consular access and immediate release. A UK official said Mr Mottaki gave no commitment.
Show trials, imagine that. It’s not something the average British subject has seen in, oh say - the last 100 years – if not longer.

Slave trade winds only go in one direction

Maybe it’s me, but in all the various newspaper reports I read last week and on the weekend which attempted to examine and celebrate the 200th year anniversary of the abolition of the British slave trade there was one notable glaring omission. And quite frankly, no one ever wants to discuss it, which is the Arab role in facilitating the international slave trade.

It might not be as much fun as beating up on the Europeans, but if we gave it the weight it deserves, the events in Dafur might be given an entirely new perspective. Of course, it might cause also cause us to examine the not only the Arab role in the past but in the modern day slave trade.

But the sanest words I found on this subject were spoken by the Nevis Minister of Culture, who said, "We need to look at what happened and see the positive things that came out of the eventual abolition of slavery and what has transpired since that with our own development.''

The Last Amazon concurs wholeheartedly and is eternally grateful that she is not living in Ghana, West Africa.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Political Chicken

Iran claims the 15 British naval men have confessed to operating in Iranian territory illegally according to this Jerusalem Post report:
An Iranian military official said Saturday afternoon that the 15 detained British sailors "confessed" to illegally entering Iranian waters. The sailors, taken at gunpoint Friday by Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Al Quds soldiers were captured intentionally and are to be used as bargaining chips to be used for the release of five Iranians who were arrested at the Iranian consul in Irbil, Iraq by US troops, an Iranian official told the daily paper Asharq al-Awsat on Saturday.

In addition, a senior Iranian military official said Saturday that the decision to capture the soldiers was made during a March 18 emergency meeting of the High Council for Security following a report by the Al-Quds contingent commander, Kassem Suleimani, to the Iranian chief of the armed forces, Maj.Gen. Hassan Firouz Abadi. In the report, according to Asharq al-Awsat, Suleimani warned Abadi that Al Quds and Revolutionary Guards' operations had become transparent to US and British intelligence following the arrest of a senior Al Quds officer and four of his deputies in Irbil.

Yeah, like well, we all know the Iranians know the holocaust never happened either – and they had a conference to discuss it.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Will the Bush Administration turn over the Iranian operatives captured in Iraq to the British in order to facilitate an exchange for the British naval men? This is a real murky area and my gut says it’s unlikely - unless all practical information has already been gleaned from the Iranians.

But if that’s so, why would the Iranians be so anxious for their return? The only potential lever the Brits have with the US is by threatening to use their veto in the UN Security Council by voting against the Iranian sanctions issue. Of course, there is nothing to suggest that the Iranians may have already demanded the British use their veto as well as a return of their operatives in exchange for the British naval men.

Here's the real bottom line. The Mullah's have made a political career into hostage taking and faced no serious reprecussions or consequences. There is no motivation for the Iranians to change a behaviour that consistently advances their own interests. Until they are made to face the music these British naval will not be the last to be held hostage by Iran.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Nelson must be turning in his grave.

Not even 24 hours has gone by since the Iranians have forcible taken 15 British naval men hostage and already Sky News is running a video clip from Rear Admiral Richard Cobbold suggesting these situation are usually resolved “peacefully” but at least he has sense enough to admit these things often don’t turn out as you expect.

Of course, this may be the reason why Iran repeats these kinds of scenarios without end. I mean, if your past experience teaches you that the repercussions of such actions are relatively inconsequential - why not? As Julius Caesar was once said to have remarked – fortune favors the bold.

Britannia no longer rules the waves

Apparently, Iran is holding 15 British naval seamen hostage. A CTV internet poll is asking readers to vote on the appropriate next response by British authorities. Military action is leading with a solid 48% response the last time I checked.

Let me be the first to tell you what will not happen. There will be no military strike nor will the British government even raise the suggestion of the possibility of a military strike against Iranian interests if the naval men are not immediately returned to the British authorities.

This is a political game of chicken and the Brits will not only be the first to blink (just like the last time) but this time - the Brits will be forced to feed the Iranian crocs whatever outrageous entrées it demands for breakfast, noon and dinner before those men are freed.

Nelson has been dead for a very long time now, and the Baroness is too old and frail to govern. God Save the Queen because this parliament of whanksters cannot.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Math Issues

Apparently, basic math skills are not forte of the Peace Now membership. Joe Settler sums it up.

What's good for the gander looks good for the goose.

I think it’s hard not to read about Israeli politics and not notice an organization called “Peace Now”. There are some days when I think that almost all the motions which come before the Israeli high court are launched by this organization.

Apparently, it’s an Israeli human rights group but it seems most selective about whose human rights it will represent. I may be wrong or ignorant of all of Peace Now’s activities/history, but I get the feeling that the human rights of religious Jews has somehow never met the litmus test to qualify for Peace Now’s special brand of human rights support.

Anyway, the Jerusalem Post is reporting that the Hebron Jewish community is not disposed to give Peace Now a pass on their own special brand of rhetoric:
The leaders of the Hebron Jewish community sent a letter on Wednesday night to left-wing activist group Peace Now, demanding that they take back their claims that a group of settlers broke into a house in one of the city's Palestinian neighborhoods.

According to a report on Army Radio, members of the community demanded that Peace Now apologize for the accusations, and declared that if the organization did not retract its statements, they would sue for slander. A large group of Hebron yeshiva students moved into the house on Monday evening, saying they had bought the house from its Palestinian owner, and produced documents to prove it.

About time. In other news, Palestinian 'militants' target a school bus of Jewish children. I suppose this falls under the category of 'resisting the occupation'. I can’t wait to hear Peace Now’s position on this as I am sure it will be quite novel - providing Jewish school children meet the human rights litmus test used by Peace Now.

The Creative Genius of Bureaucrats

I should let this one pass but I can’t. I’m petty that way. Apparently, the conflict last summer between Israel and Lebanon has not only been officially designated a war but it will be now officially known as…….the Second Lebanon War. An absolutely an inspired choice.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

This is an economic boycott?

Maybe it’s because I plan to do my taxes later today - so I am feeling a little more fragile and/or frazzled than normal but this story really grinds my gears. According to this Jerusalem Post article aid to the Palestinian Authority reached the highest levels ever – EVER.
International aid to the Palestinians grew from about $1 billion in 2005 to more than $1.2 billion in 2006, despite a boycott of the Hamas-led government, officials said Wednesday. Much of it was emergency aid from Europe, the United Nations and the Arab world that was funneled to people outside the government to ease a humanitarian crisis largely triggered by the international sanctions.

As the world weighs whether to also shun the new Palestinian government, a coalition of Hamas and Fatah, critics say the sanctions have cost the donors more money while causing long-term damage to the Palestinian economy. Israel is pushing for a continued boycott, but Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Wednesday that "we wholeheartedly support efforts by the international community to upgrade support to the Palestinian people."
In the past year, the Palestinians received more than $1.2 billion, compared to $1 billion in 2005, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA. Mario Mariani, the head of the European emergency aid mechanism, said total European aid came to about €700 million in 2006, an increase of more than 30 percent from the year before.

Palestinian officials said it's a rough estimate, because it's not clear how much money came from the Arab world, particularly Iran, or was carried into Gaza in cash-stuffed suitcases by Hamas officials. The aid was delivered less effectively because - in an attempt to bypass the Hamas government - it went to multiple recipients, including Abbas's office and Palestinians' personal bank accounts, rather than to the Treasury.

So the Palestinian Authority received 1.2 billion representing a 30% increase over the previous fiscal year (in spite of the western boycott) in addition to X number of dollars from other unspecified Middle East regimes. I should be so boycotted.

Think about it for a minute. If most of the G-8 and the EU has provided only emergency funding, and yet, gives more than ever before; it’s safe to say we are being had – BIG TIME.

Speaking of being had, remember the common motif of the poor oppressed Palestinian Arabs who suffer from the brutality of the Israeli apartheid system – now check out these pictures of Arab homes north of Jerusalem and outside the surrounding the Shiloh area which I found at Shiloh Musings (Part One is here and Part Two is here).

I should be so oppressed. Please someone – anyone!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Documents, smuckuments!

In a follow-up to Who’s Land is it Anyway? It turns out there are now two competing and conflicting Palestinian Arab claim(s) of ownership for the building the Hebron Jewish community has bought. Arutz Sheva carries this tidbit in its report.
An Arab claiming to be the house's owner denies the house was ever sold to Jews. "The house is all mine," claimed Baez Rajabi, "and I have all of the documents proving it." However, another Arab man, Mohammed Al-Baradei, is also quoted in some media outlets as saying the house is his: "I handed all of the documents over to police after making copies," said Baradei.

Actually, this situation has all the potential of making a highly entertaining read. It seems that left wing Israeli daily Ha’aretz is trumphing Mohammed al-Baradei as owner; while the Israeli left-wing larger daily Ynet News is reporting Baez Rajabi as the alleged owner of the land & building in question.

As much as I would love to watch Ha’aretz and Ynet News slug it out in the press – maybe it would be just easier to rule out which Palestinians in Hebron do not currently hold in their possession a title to the land & building in question. But before we do that – does anyone know how accurate carbon-14 dating is nowadays?

Just who’s land is it anyway?

I have been keeping my eye on a story out of Hebron. Hundreds of Yeshiva students take over an abandoned building which the Hebron Jewish Community claims to have legally purchased from the owner in Jordan. A local Palestinian man claims to possess legal title to the building and maintains he did not sell it. The Jerusalem Post carries this rather account.
The Jewish community of Hebron celebrated Monday evening after 200-300 students moved into a house in a Palestinian neighborhood on the road between Kiryat Arba and the Machpela Cave. According to Hebron Jewish community spokesman David Wilder, representatives of the community purchased the building through an office in Jordan for the sum of $700,000.

Wilder said they planned on calling the house "Bayit Hashalom (house of peace), in the hope that it can be the bridge for better relations." "We feel it is a very important location... it can be a link between the Jewish community of Kiryat Arba and Hebron," said Wilder. He said that although they had not yet decided on the use for the massive building, "it's very, very likely that there will be families there." The building, he added, could also hold a school or offices in the future. Security forces were stationed around the building Monday night but the situation remained calm in the city, often seen as a tinderbox for conflict among Jewish and Arab residents and security forces.

But the occupant of the house, Fayez Rajabi, told members of the B'tselem organization that he did not sell the house to the settlers. Rajabi filed an official complaint with the police on Monday night. Judea and Samaria District Police said they were looking into the issue and checking the documents. Wilder confirmed that the community had turned over to authorities the legal papers documenting the sale and the transfer of ownership.

Since both parties claim to have produced title to the abandoned building - who has the right of it? It’s just not a simple question. It would be reasonably to presume that the alleged Palestinian owner’s (Fayez Rajabi) outrage was genuine if this were Canada. Frequently, there are absentee Jordanian landlords who own actual title to the buildings and land in the West Bank while ‘other’ locals claim the right of ownership by possession. Eventually, if enough time has passed, it is taken as a given in the community, that the one making the most noise has title when it is just not necessarily so.

But let’s make two assumptions. Rajabi did own title to building and land and he did sell it. What would be his possible motivation for launching a very public outcry against the actual sale and then deny all knowledge of it? He might want to keep protect his life and the life of his family.

Frequently, Arabs (both Palestinian and Israeli) who knowingly sell land to Jews are murdered in a very brutal fashion. Even the leasing of land for Jewish use in Israel has resulted in grievous harm. If a Greek Orthodox Patriarch is not immune from persecution by official Palestinian Authority thugs in Israel – what chance does an ordinary Palestinian Arab land owner have?

Let’s look at the other side. What are the odds that the Hebron Jewish Community has forged the papers and title for the land? While I found Palestinian accounts of small home invasions by individual Jews, I have found no evidence on this size or scale. Given the often explosive nature of the Hebron community between Jews/Arabs and relations between the Israeli government and Jews - I would suggest it far more likely that the Hebron Jewish Community would move very slowly to ensure all the ‘I’s’ were dotted and the ‘T’s’ were legally crossed.

The biggest fight the Hebron Jewish Community will have to maintain possession of this land and building will be launched from the Israeli government and by other Jewish left-wing extremist organizations. In fact, B’tselem (an extremist left-wing Jewish group heavily financed and supported by overseas governments) has already launched the opening salvo:
But B'tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli said it was not sufficient simply to check the documents' veracity, and that it was the role of the IDF to prevent the settlers from moving into the house, even if it was legally acquired. "Our opposition in principle is that these settlements should be evacuated anyway and that there shouldn't be these pockets in Hebron," said Michaeli, adding that "other than watching and making sure that [the sale] was done in a legal way, the IDF has the obligation to make sure that settlers don't take over more areas."

There always remains the possibility that the Hebron Jewish Community were the unknowing dupes of a former Jordanian landlord’s malfeasance. Why this story bairs watching in the coming days is because these are not your grandmother’s ghetto-ized Jews who will lie down and die with little resistance or run at the first sign of a struggle or fight. If I were to generalize, I think it would be safer to say characterize these Jews as the modern inheritors of the Maccabee tradition.


I received an email advising me that it is not a Yeshiva Student group which purchased the building, but rather the Hebron Jewish Community. Consider it duly corrected. By the way, the Hebron Jewish Community has a rather nifty video/display/slide show of the Beit HaShalom building in question.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Norwegians make the best dhimmies

The Norwegian government has decided to be the first western government to break ranks to recognize the official Palestinian Authority Unity government and revive diplomatic relationships with the Palestinian Authority reports Ynet News:

The western diplomatic boycott of the Palestinian Authority government was eased on Monday in a meeting between Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and the Norwegian deputy foreign minister, Raymond Johansen, in Gaza.

Norway announced Saturday that it recognizes the Palestinian unity government and plans to hold diplomatic ties with it. Johansen and Haniyeh discussed the relations between Norway and the Palestinian Authority and ways to lift the embargo that has been imposed on the Palestinians for the past year.

The Norwegian envoy also met with Palestinian Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr, and expressed his hope that the unity government would accept the Quartet's demands, make efforts to end violence against Israel and promote the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Monday's meeting marks the first time since Hamas ' rise to power in January 2006 that an official representative of a western country has visited the PA.

Before the Norwegian envoy had even left the Palestinian Authority The Jerusalem Post carried this report on what the Norwegian’s new best buds were up to:
Hamas's armed wing claimed responsibility for shooting an Israeli electrical worker near the Karni crossing on Monday, only days after the establishment of a new Palestinian unity government with Fatah. The 40-year-old worker was moderately wounded by a Palestinian sniper and was evacuated to Beersheba's Soroka Hospital for treatment. According to Israel Radio, Hamas claimed that the latest attack was in retaliation for Israel's "crimes in the West Bank."

Meanwhile Egyptian authorities announced they had apprehended an alleged Hamas suicide bomber reports Ynet News:
Egyptian authorities have detained a Palestinian man who they contend was planning to carry out a suicide attack inside Israel, an Egyptian security official said Monday. The man, Salah Adnan Saleh Abdel-Salam, 21, was arrested after he left a mosque in the border city of El-Arish in the Sinai Peninsula, police said.

An Egyptian official, Capt. Mohammed Badr of the North Sinai Peninsula police unit, said the man had confessed to belonging to the militant Hamas group and to planning a suicide attack in Israel. There was no way to independently confirm that.

Abdel-Salam was a student at al-Azhar University’s college of science and economy in the Gaza Strip, police said, before transferring last year to the same university in Cairo. The Palestinian recently donated a kidney to an acquaintance, who later tipped authorities to his plans, police said.

How about the next time Norway gets invaded - Allied forces ban any and all liberation attempts.

Fatah always makes such poor guests ll

Continuing on the theme on how Fatah has limited guest skills the Jerusalem Post carries this account since Saturday:
Lebanese troops on Saturday set up checkpoints and searched cars going in and out of a Palestinian refugee camp near the northern city of Tripoli where a militant group blamed for last month's deadly bus bombings is based, camp residents and military officials said. Soldiers searched all vehicles entering or leaving the Nahr al-Bared camp and banned media and Lebanese citizens from going inside.

Schools in the camp were closed and Palestinian students who study outside Nahr al-Bared were prevented from leaving, said camp residents reached on the phone. The residents declined to give their names because of the sensitivity of the situation. They said many shops inside the camp, which is home to about 30,000 Palestinians, had closed and that traffic was light.

A senior Lebanese military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said there were security "measures around the camp" because detained members of a militant group based in the camp had confessed to the bombings. "The case is continuing since we have people who confessed to have carried an attack," the official said without providing details how long the measures would last.

Earlier this week, Lebanese Interior Minister Hassan Sabei announced the arrests of four Syrian members of the little-known Fatah Islam group - an alleged offshoot of the Damascus-based Palestinian Fatah Uprising. The arrested, Sabei said, had confessed to being behind the Feb. 13 bombings of two buses on a mountain road northeast of Beirut that killed three and wounded 20 people.

Sabei also implicated Syrian intelligence agency in the bombings and claimed that Fatah Islam's alleged split from the Damascus-based group was a cover and that the two were essentially the same. Fatah Islam reportedly split from Fatah Uprising, itself a 1980s splinter of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's mainstream Fatah party. Fatah Islam rejected Sabei's bombings charges, as did Fatah Uprising and the Syrian government. In Damascus, Fatah Uprising said it has not links with Fatah Islam while Syrian Interior Minister Bassam Abdul-Majid accused Fatah Islam of being affiliated with the al-Qaida terror group and of allegedly planning terrorist acts in Syria.

Lebanese military involved in the security boost on Saturday at Nahr al-Bared was not expected to enter the camp - all 12 Palestinian camps in Lebanon are off limits to the Lebanese military.

It really doesn’t matter how many times Fatah splits itself as the root of Fatah always bears the same explosive fruit.

Fatah always makes such poor guests

As if Lebanon doesn’t have enough of its own problems. Arutz Sheva carries this report:
( Residents of the Lebanese village of Nahr al-Bared reported witnessing violent clashes between two rival branches of the Fatah terrorist group on Monday evening. The two groups, Fatah Islam and Fatah Uprising, began shooting at each other following an argument in the afternoon.

One member of each branch was injured in the initial gun battle, which lasted for several minutes. Several hours later the groups resumed their battle. Nahr al-Bared residents reported hearing several loud explosions.

Bureaucrats are the same everywhere

Apparently, the Israeli Ministerial Committee for Symbols and Ceremonies has officially decided that last summer’s war with Lebanon was actually a war; and consequently, the committee is in need of a name reports Ynet News:
The Ministerial Committee for Symbols and Ceremonies decided on Monday that last summer's conflict between Israel and Hizbullah in Lebanon will be defined as a war. The committee has not chosen a name for the war, and announced that suggestions for names should be transferred to the committee by Remembrance Day, at which time it will make its decision. It currently appears that the three final options which will be presented to the committee are: War of the North, Shield of the North War, and The Second Lebanon War.

It just strikes me as absurd that the Israelis have a ministerial committee to confer ‘warhood’ status on any conflict but it really goes a long way in understanding why daily rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip are not perceived as threat by the Kadima coalition. If the bureaucrats in charge of the Ministerial Committee for Symbols & Ceremonies do not recognize these attacks as war-like - why should the Kadima government?

As far as names go - I’m partial to "The Folly of the 3 Stooges".

Libya stirs the pot

Libya is threatening to expel all Palestinians refugees reports Ynet News:
Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi has decided to boycott the Arab League's summit, set to be held in Riyadh at the end of March, in response to what he considers as the Arab leaders' plan to "sacrifice" the refugee issue in order to please Israel.

Gaddafi is worried that in the framework of the Saudi peace initiative, Arab leaders would concede the refugees' right of return, and agree to have them naturalized in their countries of residence, in a bid to encourage Israel's cooperation with the peace plan.

Libyan newspaper al-Jamahiriya reported this week that Libya may begin deporting Palestinian refugees soon, in protest of the Arab plan. "Libya will never cooperate with a concession of the refugees' right of return, and will not allow for the settling of refugees far away from their homeland," the paper stated. "Libya is in negotiations to allow thousands of Palestinians who reside within its territory to move to the Gaza Strip through Egypt, before the plot to settle them in the Arab countries materializes," it added.

And before anyone thinks Gaddafi’s all bluster and noise; I should point out Gaddafi did expel thousands in 1995 once the Oslo peace accords were officially signed.

I have always had a problem with the so-called Right of Return because, well, there is no such right. The international rational for allowing the Jews to attempt to create a state in 1948 was to establish a Jewish homeland and while some may pretend it was a humanitarian gesture by the international community in response to the suffering of the Jews during the holocaust I am considerably more cynical.

I believe the idea of having to repatriate Jews back to their alleged countries of origin was a thought that most post-war nations found innately repellent. Better to allow them an opportunity to attempt to establish their own state within the Palestine Mandate.

Certainly, my own country (Canada) in 1947 held a decided preference for German immigration over any significant Jewish immigration. The phrase ‘none is too many’ comes readily to mind. I suspect that very few in the international community expected the fledging state of Israel to either survive its first few years - let alone to still be standing strong in 2007.

You can argue that the establishment of the state of Israel by the international community was immoral and a mistake. Not necessarily what I believe, but one can put forth that argument. What I find interesting in today’s debate, which is most often overlooked or discounted in debates in 2007, but most definitely wasn’t in 1947, was the need for creating a Jewish homeland. Not a secular democracy or an Arab Muslim/Christian state but a homeland for the world’s Jews.

When Transjordan was established within the Palestine Mandate it was resolved that it would not be open to any Jewish immigration. A complete ‘Jew free zone’ if you will was created within the Palestine Mandate. And odd as it may seem today, I have yet to hear any objections to the immorality of that concept or anyone questioning the legitimacy of the Jordanian state.

So if the underlying rational for the state of Israel is to be the world’s homeland for the Jews; why hasn’t a quick end to the alleged “right of return” for Palestinian Arabs occurred within the international community? I suspect if one were to ask Palestinians living in refugee camps if they wanted to live as a minority in a Jewish state the answer would be a resounding “no”. Even today in Israel, there is a noticeable sense of unease among even prominent Israeli Arabs with the idea of living in a homeland established for and by Jews.

And you know, I don’t believe translating a verse from Hebrew into Arabic and singing one refrain in Arabic from the Hatikva would make any Israeli Arab feel more comfortable within the Israeli state. Meir Kahane might be more right on this than most people are comfortably admitting or allowing.

For the right of return or even just compensation to be paid to those Arabs displaced within the Israeli state when there is no corresponding right or discussion of compensation for the Jews who were expelled from Arab countries since 1948 is unconscionable. The UNRWA never did establish permanent refugee camps in Israel for Jews - in spite of the fact that nearly a million destitute Jewish refugees were absorbed by the Israeli state since its conception.

It would have been reasonable to assume once the Oslo accords were signed by Israel and the PLO that a substantial return of Palestinian refugees among the various Arab refugee camps would be among the first orders of business by the Palestinian Authority but you would be dead wrong. The Palestinian Authority apparently believes the correct position is all or none.

According to the UNRWA figures, there are approximately 4.3 million Palestinians registered in refugee camps throughout the Middle East. Though, when one starts looking at those figures it becomes apparent that something is a little dodgy. Of those 4.3 million registered Palestinian refugees approximately 1.6 million are located in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Ask yourself why the UNRWA considers any Palestinian living in the Gaza Strip (an entirely “Jew free zone”) or even the West Bank as a bona fide refugee? Surely, if peace broke out and a second Palestinian state was established tomorrow; where exactly would those 1.6 million Palestinians return to? And it won’t be Tel Aviv. So how are they a refugees?

Ask yourself another question. Why does the Palestinian Authority allow the UNRWA to run refugee camps within the Gaza Strip and the West Bank? There really is one simple answer. Somebody else needs to pick-up the tab so the Palestinian Authority can continue ‘resisting the occupation’; otherwise, the PA might have to expend a great deal of time, energy and resources building the infrastructure of a state rather than just posturing a role. Furthermore, as long as someone else is picking up the tab, the PA can safely ignore the whole issue of returning Palestinians refugees from the camps in the Arab world and re-settling them in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

I suspect if the 2.7 million Palestinians were returned tomorrow to the West Bank or the Gaza Strip no one currently living in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip would be killing the fatten calf to welcome them back.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A personal message to her majesty's loyal opposition

There is a new budget being introduced in the House of Commons by the Conservative minority lead government of Canada tomorrow. Apparently, there is a chance we will once again be faced with a general election.

I am rather tired of Canadian elections, and while I recognize my $1.75 vote isn’t a great deal in the larger scheme of things - I just everyone to know I will be holding a grudge against any political parties who vote to bring the government down over the budget.

I will never go along quietly with the Israelization of Canada politics. I had to put up with almost 13 nefarious years of Liberal governance, and so, it’s long past the time for liberals to learn the two SS’s of life. Suck it up and shut up about it.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Ides of March

Last night the Last Amazon and I finally came home around 6pm to discover Montana sprawled and reclining in the lazy-boy with a dazed expression on his face and the television on mute.

Yesterday a horde of fourteen 12 year old boys invaded my home. The Last Amazon and I did what all real women do when faced with a similar situation. We left, leaving my oldest son, Montana in charge. A 14 year old male may not seem like the prudent choice for crowd control but I have never met a male who was so comfortable wearing authority. My mother and I have joked for years that Montana was born a man. I only regret that owing to our particular circumstances, the job of being the oldest male of the family has fallen on his shoulders so young. Momma would have liked to keep her boy - her boy a little longer.

Now Montana is not just tall for his age but broad with a deep rich baritone which seems only to grow deeper and louder with time. But it does come in handy for making his voice carry above the rabble. Just before I left the house, I did a quick survey of the room and saw that Montana stood a good shoulder above the pre-adolescent rabble, and was judicious exercising his authority well regulating the use of Xbox play time.

Isaiah Sender is the family social butterfly, and while I sometimes question his choice of friends; he has shown he will not hesitate to cut someone out of his circle when they cross the line of what Momma would consider socially inappropriate behaviour without any prompting on my part.

I have a rule in my house. One can have friends over whenever one wants - provided homework is done and the house is clean. This has managed to keep the crowds to a manageable level. The last birthday party I had in my home was my daughter’s 5th birthday. I swore never again would I host a children’s birthday, and so, birthdays became strictly an immediate family affair. Isaiah Sender was born in mid-July and as he usually travels to Nana’s house in the summer so consequently his friends are never around at birthday time. He cannot remember ever having a birthday party. Trust me, he had a few. I have pictures and scars.

This March break, I promised him he could have a party just to have a party. I made the promise back in December probably thinking March was too far off to concern myself with. Why I didn’t think March would ever come when it always does escapes me now. I suppose it’s because long ago, I learned the art of not worrying about tomorrows, and instead, learned to just concentrated in getting by one day at a time. If I lifted my head to stare too far into the future I would have given into despair. The children had already lost one parent so they didn’t need to lose another.

One of the hardest things about being the lone parent and mother to many is finding the time to spend with each child without a sibling hanging about. Years ago to compensate, I instituted a girl’s night and boy’s day – without the baby in tow. Boy’s day eventually morphed into Boys’ Night and was expanded to include the baby boy who conveniently fell asleep like clockwork at 8 pm every single time. This left plenty of time for me to party with my little man. With the passing of time the children’s social life and activities expanded - so girls & boys night was officially put on hold. I miss those times but I still treasure every minute that each child lets me come into their world and gives me their undivided attention.

The Last Amazon and I left the house to go watch the 300 and hang out together until it was safe to come home. Isaiah Sender promised the house would be cleared by 5:30pm but experience has taught me that nothing says dawdle like a boy. Besides, what’s time when you are having fun?

The Last Amazon loved the 300. She actually stood up, cheered and brought her fist down on the back of a chair in front of her when the Queen of Sparta stabbed a fellow Spartan in council chambers. My daughter is usually quite reserved and circumspect in public so I was somewhat taken off guard by her reaction, but you know, there is a reason I call her the Last Amazon - cross her at your own peril.

Afterwards, we spent time at the perfume counters and in the book stores. We ended our afternoon at a little bistro drinking gourmet chocolate and eating dessert. It was over dessert she let slip out that she had plans to meet up with some friends for a late lunch but ditched them to spend an afternoon alone with me. I was touched to learn that my fifteen (almost 16) year old daughter would still choose to spend time alone with her mother over an afternoon out with her friends.

But this state of grace didn’t end for me when we returned to walked thorough the door of our home. I came home to discover Isaiah Sender happy and content. Montana might have been dazed, confused and clutching a bag of chips in his arms, but I didn’t have a single dirty dish or glass. Montana had organized a clean-up crew before the rabble left. The floor had been freshly swept and the garbage taken out. In fact, my home was cleaner than when I left it. And so I ask; am I blessed, or am I blessed!

Thursday, March 15, 2007


The Last Amazon and I are awaiting the last two pizzas to come out of the oven to escape from the lunatic asylum my house has become. My home has been invaded by ten 12 year old boys and my son, Isaiah Sender, has just informed me there is another 4 on the way. Montana tells me I so owe him for chaperoning this affair. I reminded him there is a veal roast for dinner in honour of the Fifth Annual Eat a Tasty Animal for PETA Day.

I am now deaf and I am not sure my hearing will ever fully recover.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Iraq - the Iranian Military Drain?

Ynet News carries this report:
Three weeks ago the Iranian armed forces command in Teheran lost contact with a senior officer who had been serving in Iraq with the al-Quds unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to a senior Iranian official cited in the Wednesday edition of the London-based Arabic daily al-Sharq al-Awsat.

The Iranian source said that it is still unclear why contact with the officer, Colonel Amir Muhammad Shirazi, was lost. "It is possible that the American forces in Iraq arrested him along with a group of 13 Iranian military and intelligence officials," he said, adding that this is just one of the scenarios being investigated by Tehran.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat reported that a Tehran military court sentenced to death a colonel in Iranian military intelligence who recently returned from service in Iraq. The officer was accused of collaborating with American forces and providing them with details on the deployment and activities of the al-Quds unit and Iranian military intelligence operatives. He was also accused of providing the Americans with classified documents, photographs and maps related to Iran's nuclear program and armed forces.

The newspaper reported that over the past three years, dozens of members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards and military intelligence units have defected to the American forces in Iraq.
Sounds like staying the course has had a few fringe benefits after all.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bless the Toronto Star.

I haven’t seen the movie the 300, that’s on Thursday’s agenda, but the battle for the audience’s hearts and minds just won’t end.

The Toronto Star panned the movie the 300 as a Full Bore-Gore in its official review which has done absolutely nothing to turn the tide against this block buster. So I suppose the entertainment editorial department at the Toronto came to an executive collective decision to make the rounds of the Classics department at University of Toronto to locate an ‘expert’ to pronounce judgment against the 300 and by extension the ancient Spartans. I suspect international renowned classical historian, Victor Davis Hanson, wasn’t in their budget or their worldview. Anyhow, check it out:

Sparta? No. This is madness

An expert assesses the gruesome new epic
The battle of Thermopylae was real, but how real is 300? Ephraim Lytle, assistant professor of hellenistic history at the University of Toronto, has seen the movie and offers his view.

History is altered all the time. What matters is how and why. Thus I see no reason to quibble over the absence in 300 of breastplates or modest thigh-length tunics. I can see the graphic necessity of sculpted stomachs and three hundred Spartan-sized packages bulging in spandex thongs. On the other hand, the ways in which 300 selectively idealizes Spartan society are problematic, even disturbing.

What’s laughable is the full on politicization of this film and the deadly earnestness of its critics. The point that the critics and the good assistant professor seem to miss is that this is not the celluloid dramatizing of a historical event but the recreation of a comic book story come to life on the silver screen.

But it gets better.
No mention is made in 300 of the fact that at the same time a vastly outnumbered fleet led by Athenians was holding off the Persians in the straits adjacent to Thermopylae, or that Athenians would soon save all of Greece by destroying the Persian fleet at Salamis. This would wreck 300's vision, in which Greek ideals are selectively embodied in their only worthy champions, the Spartans.

This moral universe would have appeared as bizarre to ancient Greeks as it does to modern historians. Most Greeks would have traded their homes in Athens for hovels in Sparta about as willingly as I would trade my apartment in Toronto for a condo in Pyongyang.

But Lytle is right about history being altered all the time, and it does matter how and why it is altered. If one understands that, it’s easy to comprehend why so many “liberals” have their knickers tied up in knots over the success of this movie or any idealization of ancient Sparta. Victor Davis Hanson succinctly sums up the liberal moral unease with the 300 review.
But most importantly, 300 preserves the spirit of the Thermopylae story. The Spartans, quoting lines known from Herodotus and themes from the lyric poets, profess unswerving loyalty to a free Greece. They will never kow-tow to the Persians, preferring to die on their feet than live on their knees.

If critics think that 300 reduces and simplifies the meaning of Thermopylae into freedom versus tyranny, they should reread carefully ancient accounts and then blame Herodotus, Plutarch, and Diodorus — who long ago boasted that Greek freedom was on trial against Persian autocracy, free men in superior fashion dying for their liberty, their enslaved enemies being whipped to enslave others.

In truth, one good course on life in ancient Sparta would take the gloss off most male admirers of ancient Sparta though women might take a slightly different view. The Spartans granted their women access to education and property rights, as well as encouraging Spartan women to take multiple lovers in addition to their husbands. I suspect that would go a long way in easing life in the hovel.

As far as most ancient Greeks trading their homes in Athens for a hovel in Sparta - I defer to the judgment of Aristotle who once remarked; it was better to be a slave in Athens than an Athenian woman. Personally, I would take the hovel in Sparta where I could stand on my feet as a free Spartan woman. And woe-be-tide the husband or lover who incurred my wrath as I might just be inclined not to pay the mess hall fees.

I fart on your beard

Throughout the years I have developed a rudimentary knowledge of foreign languages – besides English. Mostly I know how to offend and make myself loathed and despised in about a dozen languages with great proficiency - while my basic vocabulary in any given language rarely reaches the 101 level.

So I was really thrilled when I watched this You Tube video and actually understood and recognized about a 30 of the non-swearing words without having to rely on the subtitles.

Now I can’t get the chorus out of my head.

H/T Israel Matzav

Monday, March 12, 2007

Brown Bagging It.

The mother of Palestinian terrorism may be long gone but that has not lessened one iota the amount of official thievery and financial shenanigans of the Palestinian Authority reports the Telegraph:
A former World Bank official who is about to become the Palestinian finance minister has warned foreign donors that he has no idea where much of their money has been spent.

In the 14 months since Hamas won elections, Palestinian finances have descended into such chaos that there is now no way to confirm whether aid is going to its stated purpose, according to Salam Fayyad, 54, who is poised to start his second stint as treasury chief once the rival Hamas and Fatah factions finalise a "unity" government.

An estimated £362.5 million has flowed into Palestinian government coffers from abroad since the election that brought Hamas to power and ushered in a period of internal conflict that came close to all-out civil war. The European Union alone provided £59.5 million last year and sent a far greater sum directly to hospitals, power generation projects and to families in need.

Now, Palestinian Authority spending is out of control, salaries are being paid to workers who never turn up, and nobody can track where the money is going, according to Mr Fayyad. There was no way to be certain that aid was being used as intended, he admitted. "Please write this: no one can give donors that assurance. Why? Because the system is in a state of total disrepair."

Five years ago, Mr Fayyad - who had worked at the US Federal Reserve Bank - was asked to create order out of Palestinian finances by the president at the time, Yasser Arafat. Now, he is confronting the fact that his accounting reforms have all unravelled, there is a ballooning wage bill, a yawning budget shortfall and an international financial boycott of Hamas.

Mr Fayyad conceded that until he assumed office he could not be sure of the depth of the crisis or how to fix it. He expected it to take weeks to regain enough control over Palestinian funds to restore oversight over new donations. It would take several months to begin reining in the inflated salary bill. Hours earlier, the World Bank had published a 197-page report warning the Palestinians to control a wage bill that totals two thirds of all spending, and of a "dire'' budget deficit, estimated at £57 million per month.

Hamas refuses to recognise Israel's right to exist and is widely viewed as a little more than a terrorist faction. Last year, a ban on funding it was enforced by the EU, the US, many Arab states and international banks.

Ironically foreign aid to Palestinians increased, either carried across the border into Gaza in cash-stuffed briefcases by Hamas officials, or through a special financial channel to the office of President Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the rival Fatah faction with whom the West is prepared to work.

As a result, Mr Fayyad said, incoming funds have been widely dispersed with no central authority to monitor them. Some have gone to people who do not appear on the Palestinian budget ledger. "Where is the control?" asked Mr Fayyad. "It's gone. Where is all the transparency? It's gone."

He said his first objective would be to make the finance ministry the sole conduit for incoming aid, and to reinstate proper audits. That meant no more financial back channels or border smuggling, he said. "It's not my intention to manage the Palestinian budget system through the brown bag." The Palestinian Authority's unchecked proliferation of government jobs - growing by 11 per cent a year - is another threat to its existence, the World Bank said. Mr Fayyad acknowledged that the problem of thousands of absentee employees was "serious", but said it would take up to five years to bring wages into line with income.

He was reluctant to say how he would do that, perhaps understandably, given that unpaid security forces have a habit of barging into government offices with guns blazing, and that gunmen recently shot up the outside of his office.

Stop for a moment and reflect on this.

The man who was appointed five years ago to reform the treasury of the Palestinian Authority has been completely ineffectual in this regard, and yet, he has been approved and appointed under the direction of the incoming unity government to carry on for another term.

There is an international financial aid boycott by major western countries to the Palestinian Authority, and yet, more money has flowed into the Palestinian Authority than at any other time. Meanwhile the plight of the average Palestinian has continued its ever downward spiral into chaos - unchecked and unabated. This sorry state of affairs is then blamed as the logical consequences of the international western aid boycott. Go figure.

h/t: National News Watch

Sunday, March 11, 2007

F words like Fashion lie in the eye of the beholder

I thought all the righteous indignation concerning Ann Coulter’s use of the new “F” word in a politically un-correct fashion in an alleged joke was lame.

Quite frankly, that was just Ann Coulter being Ann Coulter. Like geeze people, where have you been in the last 6 years? Quite frankly, the “rag-head” comment last year was so much further over the line of civilized public discourse. And it would have made a much worthier show of all the outrageous and offended sensibilities that were hyped. Now Dana Stevens at Slate uses for it in a movie review:
The Persian commander, the god-king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) is a towering, bald club fag with facial piercings, kohl-rimmed eyes, and a disturbing predilection for making people kneel before him.
Let the hyperventilating and heavy handed denunciations from both left and right commence. Oh, and another thing. For that time and place, it could be considered fairly accurate description, but don’t let that stop you.

Timing is everything

I like Ynet News, I really do, but there are days when the cheesy tabloid style of the online edition just cracks me up. Then there are times when I have to scratch my head and speculate if the editors have hired stringers from the Palestinian Authority to write their copy.
The operation is targeting thieves, drug dealers and even hardened criminals who talk on the cell phone while driving. During the last few days it has been evident that the presence of Palestinian police officers on the streets of Gaza and the West Bank has been reinforced. This operation is aimed at thwarting the Palestinian anarchy and improving residents' hopelessness and lack of personal security.

Palestinian police officers entered market places over the weekend and fined merchants who obstructing fair trade. In the West Bank city of Hebron, a special police unit raided an apartment where thieves who terrorized the neighborhood were staying.
Which could go a long way in explaining how clashes between Fatah and Hamas broke out during the weekend. But I marvel at the astuteness of the PA police who can distinguish between hardened criminal talking on their cell phones while driving and just your run of the mill Fatah/Hamas/Islamic Jihad operative talking while driving.

Ironically, the PA police are also going to crack down on illegal building and begin a program of home/shop demolitions within the PA. No word if Peace Now will be organizing protests or filing appeals to the Palestinian court system and Rabbis for Human Rights have yet to issue a statement on the matter.

Palestinian Unity Breaks Out - I dead, several injured

The problem with this article from Ynet News is that it inadvertently gives the impression that all has been calm and well since Hamas and Fatah signed the Mecca Accord which is not the case.
Fighting erupted in the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday and a Hamas gunman was killed, the first fatality in such clashes since the Islamist movement agreed with its Fatah rivals to form a unity government a month ago.

Explosions from mortar bombs and rocket-propelled grenades shook the town of Beit Hanoun in the early hours after a shootout for which each side blamed the other. Residents said at least one Hamas gunman had been wounded, along with two from Fatah.

The violence broke out just hours after Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of the Islamist Hamas movement said a unity government would be announced in the next few days. The coalition agreement reached in the Saudi city of Mecca on Feb. 8 had halted weeks of bloody factional fighting in which more than 90 people were killed in the Gaza Strip.

The man killed in Sunday’s shootout was identified as Mohammad al-Kafarna, a member of the Hamas-led government’s Executive Force. Hamas accused Fatah of ambushing his car. Fatah spokesman Abdel-Halim Awad said Hamas fighters had fired first on a car carrying members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, linked to President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction.

Fighting quickly spread in Beit Hanoun as Hamas forces attacked a Fatah office and a separate security complex. Fatah security forces declared a high alert in northern Gaza, ordering their men to reinforce their positions and set up checkpoints to intercept Hamas vehicles.

Talk about watching a train wreck happen in slow motion.

Duped by Bias

The Elder of Ziyon has all details on how The Electronic Inifada roped Carter in to promoting a fake Nelson Mandela letter slandering Israel with creating an apartheid system.

What a sad miserable excuse for a man. What a despicable excuse for a former president of one the greatest nations in the world today. Let us all be eternally thankful that the American public ditched his raggedly butt after one term.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Let’s see if the Mullah’s get more malleable now

By now, I suspect that most people have heard about the Iranian general who defected to the West but Ynet News reports on a new twist:
Former Iranian Deputy Defense Minister Ali Rez Asgari left Turkey for an undisclosed location in Europe with a false passport with the help of Western officials, the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported Friday.

A former colleague told the newspaper that Asgari took with him documents and maps that shed light on Iran’s military and the Revolutionary Guards' links to Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, the “Mahadi Army” and the “Badr Corps” (military forces of The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq).

The Iranian source said Asgari was also in possession of documents related to Iran’s ballistic missiles project and was privy to confidential information regarding the Islamic Republic’s plan in case of a conflict with the US. A senior American official said on Thursday that Asgari is providing Western intelligence agencies with information on Hizbullah and Iran's ties to the organization.

Saudi newspaper Al-Watan recently reported the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are instilling changes in the defense systems protecting the country’s nuclear reactors for fear that Israeli and US intelligence agencies are now in possession of specific information that may threaten the facilities.

This could be the intelligence coup of the new millennium.

Going to Movies

I intend on going to the movies which is quite a feat for me. I rarely watch anything outside of my home because I usually fall asleep within 20 minutes. What can I say? Most movies just don’t engage me enough to stay awake. The last movie I saw in a movie theatre was Serenity and I did manage to watch it from beginning to end without naps.

I want to see the 300. If I could choose to be any group of ancient women, I’d chose the Spartans. Forget the Athenian wanksters, as I have no desire to spend my life cloistered in the family home. I may love my jewelry and make-up but I would gladly give it up for the freedom Spartan women possessed as their birthright.

I had asked the boys if they wanted to go with me to watch the 300 and they both turned me down flat. They mocked the very idea of going with me. They want to watch the movie but just not with me. Now my daughter, the Last Amazon, just adores movies and television. There are three things in her life she is always up for – watching a movie, reading a book and going shopping, so I thought she would jump at the chance of going with me to see the 300.

Was I ever wrong. Apparently, the thought of going with the movies with her mother to watch 300 is a task worthy to be added to the labors of Hercules. I thought I could count on her passion for a story and her innate sense of loyalty since the boys had refused me outright. Eventually, guilt got the better of her common sense (her words – not mine) and she has agreed to go provided I agree to the following conditions:

I am not to talk or mumble under my breath even if the story is not true to Herodotus’ account nor I am not to even utter the slightest sigh of protest against the plot line.

If the style of battle is wrong, or armor, or weapons used are not historically true to the times, I am on no account allow to publicly protest or even sigh deeply.

If the Spartan women are shown in long gowns, wearing jewelry or make-up and/or shown to cry in public; I am not to make the slight sound. Nor am I allowed to make faces at the screen in the dark. Same goes, if the Spartan men don’t have long hair which they dress elaborately dress before battle.

Under no account am I allowed to throw popcorn or licorice at the screen as a sign of protest. I am not allowed to squirm in my seat. Apparently, this is a big distraction. Nor am I allow to curse in any language under my breath. If at any time my breathing becomes heavy or rapid she has the right to demand I leave the movie theatre immediately.

And she’s the loyal child.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Stephen Harper, Canadians everywhere, need to hear your plain spoken voice raised now.

I haven’t blogged about Mohamed Essam Ghoneim el-Attar, a former Egyptian national and now Canadian citizen, who had the misfortune of being arrested when he returned to visit his family in Egypt. Egyptian authorities have accused el-Attar of being a Christian-Zionist-Gay Mossad agent who was spying on the financial activities of Egyptian nationals while in Canada. But I should have. As a human being and a Canadian, I feel morally obliged to say something.

When I learned the first details of the case a few weeks ago I have to admit to being utterly stupefied by both the nature of the allegations and the alleged confession obtained under torture. What are the odds that the Mossad were able to recruit an Egyptian Christian-Zionist-Gay operative and place him in a position in Canada where he could spy on the financial dealings of Egyptian nationals in Canada? I mean really. If this isn’t the Protocol of the Elders of Zion time - what is?

It’s beyond farcical and it would be great laugh at the expense of Arab conspiracy theorists everywhere but there is a man’s life at stake. A Canadian man’s life. I voted for a change in government and I sincerely hope that Stephen Harper’s government is bringing all the pressure that can be brought to bear on the Egyptian authorities to arrange for this man’s release. The repercussions of this man’s arrest continue to ripple outward and it is not the sole the concern of this man’s family or his adopted land. Ynet News reports:
Some 2,000 Coptic and Greek Orthodox Christians in Egypt have been forbidden from making a pilgrimage to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in east Jerusalem this coming Easter. Egyptian travel agents have informed their Israeli counterparts that the authorities in Cairo have decided not to allow this year’s pilgrimage, Yedioth Ahronoth has learned.

The decision is apparently not related to the uproar in Egypt surrounding the Israeli documentary film "Shaked Spirit ", but rather to the arrest of Mohamed Essam Ghoneim el-Attar, who is currently standing trial for allegedly spying for Mossad.
Meanwhile, Ra'anan Gissin, a former advisor to prime minister Sharon, and now a strategic consultant at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center, told Ynetnews on Thursday that he did not believe Egypt would cut ties with Israel. "They have made a lot of noise to appease the Islamist opposition. But not much beyond that," he added.

Gissin dismissed the importance of the film. "This story is not news," he said. "It just shows how important it is that Israel carries out more complex, aggressive, public diplomacy. The truth must be shown. Israeli television, all channels, must show some responsibility, and check these stories before they spread."

If Cairo really does cut ties with Israel, it would be Egypt, not Israel that would suffer the most, Gissin argued. "The situation in the Middle East after the second Lebanon war means that Egyptians must decide on what side they are on. Does Egypt fight the Islamic tsunami or does it stand on the side?" "Cutting ties with Israel is more harmful to Egypt than to Israel," he said, adding: "Egypt is very influenced by US aid and support. They receive two billion dollars a year."

Gissin stressed that it was Israel, rather than Egypt, that had cause for complaint on relations between the two countries. "There's no doubt that there is certain deterioration in relations," he said, citing arms smuggling from Egypt to Gaza as the main cause of that decline.

I find it an intensely interesting pretense that the Egyptian authorities use this bogus arrest as a pre-text to suggest Egypt has just cause to exhibit hostility towards Israel. As far as I am concerned, no Canadian citizen should ever be allowed to be used as a unwilling pawn to further a foreign government's political agenda.

The Forward Plummet

Arutz Sheva carries a report on the latest poll numbers from the Israeli electorate and I have to hand it to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as he is the one leader who makes even George W. Bush’s poll numbers look good:
( In probably the lowest show of support for an incumbent in the history of political polling, only 3% of the populace feel Olmert should continue to serve as Prime Minister.

The "New Wave Institute" poll, first reported on Channel Ten, shows that 57% of the respondents feel that new elections should be held. If elections were held now, the survey shows, Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu would receive ten times more support than Olmert - 30% of the electorate.

Front-runner Netanyahu is followed by Labor's Ami Ayalon, with 18%. Only 1% support current Labor leader Amir Peretz for Prime Minister. Ayalon is the current favorite to win the race for leadership of the Labor Party, in a primaries vote to be held in May.

Netanyahu and other Likud members have been promoting the message that the Olmert government is all but doomed. "Most of the country has lost confidence in the government," Netanyahu told reporters on Wednesday. "The nation wants either new elections, or at least a major change in the composition of the government." MK Gideon Saar (Likud), asked today what could save the Olmert government, said, "Nothing."

Netanyahu said that several former Likud members who joined Kadima now wish to return to the Likud. He refused to name them, but said that contacts are underway.

Some key non-politicians have also lost faith in Kadima - and some have re-joined the Likud. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's nephew Ya'ir Olmert has left Kadima, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livny's brother Eli - a Galilee surveyor and a Lt.-Col. in the reserves - announced this week that he was leaving Kadima and returning to the Likud.

I am not a big fan of Netanyahu for various reasons (think Wye River for starters) but Israel badly needs a change of government. In my opinion, the only government which could possibly be worse for the country is a Meretz majority lead coalition. At this point in time, it is not in the interest of the left of centre parties to let the Kadima coalition fall in the Israeli parliament.

If the government fell tomorrow, the major political leftie players (Kadima, Labour, Meretz, Pensions) would be consigned to electoral perdition and they know it. Only the “rightwing” (and I use that term loosely as Israeli “ring-wing” parties are still considerably left of the Canadian NDP) stand to make massive gains.

Masada endangered - and this time not from the Romans

One of the places on my 'must visit' list when I bring the Last Amazon to Israel is Masada. At first, she was reluctant to add it to the list, as no shopping mall is adjacent to the hilltop fortress but I worked my mommy magic and she’s now officially hyped so imagine my chargin when I read this report in Ynet News:
Masada and other ancient fortresses may collapse if additional funds are not allocated toward their preservation, experts say. Masada’s condition began to deteriorate four years ago due to torrential rains, as the accumulated water seeped into the 1,400 meters (4,593 feet) of walls surrounding the site. A few hundred meters of the walls were reinforced, but the remaining parts are still in danger of collapse. Structures inside the fortress have also eroded due to rain and wind.

Masada, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001, is located in an area that is prone to earthquakes, which experts say may destroy the site entirely. In addition, vandals recently detached a large part of a fresco from one of Masada’s walls, causing large stones to fall to the ground. “We have preserved the parts that may endanger human lives, but the rest of the fortress may collapse,” Israel Nature and Parks Authority official Ze’ev Margalit said.

I can understand why an Israeli Kadima-Labour coalition government would be reluctant to pony up the funds necessary to preserve an ancient historical site which represented the last stand of a group of religious Jews against the “lawful” governing administration of Syria Palestinia. Just think about the implications of a historical precedent being applied Olmert’s convergent plans.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Lost in translation - I hope

I am not sure Ynet News really meant to suggest that the IDF has been busy chasing down Palestinian activists but it would go a long way in explaining the lack of an IDF response to the continous kassam fire on Sderot. Taken from Ynet News:
Twenty-one-year-old Anaas Subhi Hashaash is tired of playing cat and mouse with Israel Defense Forces soldiers every night. After talking to his family and friends, Hashaash, an activist from the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades from Nablus, packed a little bag and turned himself in to IDF soldiers at the Hawara checkpoint.

Hashaash family said that they were constantly afraid for Anaas' life and that their house was raided by the IDF several times in the last few months. They added that they encouraged him to make the decision. Hashaash also seeked advice from his friends. Salah al-Jarami, a Fatah activist from the Balata refugee camp told Ynet: "I told him that it might be a wise decision. He'll go to jail for a few years, but he'll save his life and stop his family's misery."

Al-Jarami said that other activists, including his own brother, have been surrendering themselves recently. "I tell all of these young men in their 20s that if they have not gotten into real trouble yet, nobody will be angry at them if they turn themselves in. I tell them: 'You are young and you have your whole life ahead of you. It is your right to save yourself.'"

A high-ranking commander of the al-Aqsa Brigades told Ynet that the life of a wanted man was full of hardship, unbearable at times and not everyone is up to it. "We back our activists, whatever their choice may be," he said.

Maybe it’s just one of those weird cultural/linguistic things whose meaning gets lost in translation. On the other hand, I have been using reading glasses in the last few years, so I am unsure if it’s the words or the lines which have just gotten blurred. Somebody please explain to me what constitutes an al-Aqsa Brigades activist and how does that differ from an al-Aqsa terrorist – preferably using the Queen’s English.