Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hamas 'workplace' accident

Really, someone needs to write a workplace health and safety manual for these people – or at least issue a fatwa forbidding the storage and use of explosives in one’s home. Ynet News:
Health officials in Gaza City said Saturday morning that an explosion in the house of a Hamas gunman has killed the man and wounded 16 relatives and neighbors. The Palestinian Interior Ministry said it was investigating the cause of Saturday's blast at the home of Hamas operative Nader Abu Shaban.

Hamas sources said Abu Shaban was handling explosives when the blast went off. Doctors said two of the 16 wounded are in critical condition. Gaza gunmen frequently store and handle explosives in crowded residential areas. Such blasts have killed and wounded bystanders in the past.
Obviously, this guy has no concern for his neighbors, but this incident does make me wonder if you are a wannabe shahid and you are killed in a workplace ‘accident’ - do you still get your virgins?

Ministry of Swine

If you wondered why the price of bacon never significantly drops this Toronto Star article provides a rationale. Who knew there was a national swine cull? I remain positively astounded at the ways our government works for everyone but the Canadian consumer.
Experts say pig producers are actually losing money on each pig sent into the market. Though prices have been getting better of late, they still lose about $15 per head. The farmers are facing an ugly confluence of record high feed prices, a higher dollar making exports less attractive, and food labelling initiatives south of the border that will make Canadian meat less attractive for processors.

The government's solution was to pay farmers to kill their pigs – $225 per euthanized sow. The farmer must agree to keep their barn empty of sows for at least three years. The goal is to reduce the national sow herd by 10 per cent, which would mean about 3 million fewer hogs per year. Ultimately, the goal is fewer pigs, and higher prices.

I don’t have a swine in this fight as I do not eat pork or pork by-products in any form, but I really find it hard to comprehend why the Ministry of Agriculture sees this as a win situation – especially in light of how its stiffs Canadian consumers with the sow bill for this program, and then, we pay for the privilege with higher prices at the check-out counter of the grocery store.

One more little detail – apparently, the euthanized sows are to slaughtered and distributed to food banks to feed the ‘poor’….which makes it all good…unless you are poor and don’t eat pork…

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Is anyone really surprised Olmert won't go?

Ehud Barak, Israeli Labor party leader held his press conference and formally requested Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ‘detach himself from the day-to-day leadership of the country’ and a lamer request could not have been issued. And the result? The Jerusalem Post carries the response.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed Wednesday not to quit after Defense Minister Ehud Barak called on him to "detach himself from the day-to-day leadership of the country" in light of the Morris Talansky affair.

Olmert called Kadima ministers and MKs after Barak's press conference in Jerusalem, and pleaded with them to give him the benefit of the doubt that he did not commit any crime when he accepted cash from the American financier. He said he would give his side of the story in the coming days to try to persuade the public as well.
"I will continue to function as prime minister," Olmert told southern mayors in his first public comments after Barak's press conference. "There are those who believe that every opening of an investigation requires a resignation. I don't think so, and I do not intend to resign."

In closed conversations with Kadima MKs, Olmert lashed out at Barak, who he said did not really want him to quit but was forced to demand his resignation to quell internal pressure in his Labor Party.

Olmert's associates went further, calling the press conference "amateurish and stupid" and accusing Barak of learning nothing from the mistakes of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Sources close to Olmert said Livni had harmed herself politically when she called for Olmert to resign after the release of the interim Winograd Report on the Second Lebanon War and that the same would happen to Barak now. Olmert's associates expressed doubt that anyone in Kadima would take any action against him.

The candidates to replace Olmert in Kadima declined to comment after Barak's press conference. A source close to Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz said he "would not act according to Barak's dictates." An associate of another candidate said there was no reason to hurry, and an aide to a third said of Barak's press conference that "saying is not doing."

While Barak did not set a deadline for Kadima to replace Olmert, Labor secretary-general Eitan Cabel said he would ensure that an election date was set by the time the Knesset adjourned its summer session at the end of July. Barak allowed Cabel to submit a bill to dissolve the Knesset.

A similar bill, drafted by Likud MK Silvan Shalom, could be brought to a Knesset vote in as early as two weeks after Olmert returns from a planned trip to Washington. Shas chairman Eli Yishai told Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday that he preferred setting an election date to forming a new government with the current Knesset led by a new prime minister from Kadima.

I have been waiting for what feels like forever for this coalition to fall so I am having a rather hard time believing this government will actually fall – even in two weeks time. I wouldn’t be surprised if both bills don’t languish indefinitely in the drafting stage.

motes in the eyes or selective boycotts

Ha’aretz reports the UK academic union is attempting to undertake a motion to consider an academic boycott of Israeli professors and educational institutions.
Members of the University and College Union in England (UCU) passed a motion at their annual conference on Wednesday to consider severing ties with Israeli universities.

Tom Hickey, who teaches philosophy at the University of Brighton, says the motion highlighting the "humanitarian catastrophe imposed on Gaza by Israel" is just shy of a full boycott, The Telegraph said.

The UCU, the largest trade union and professional organization for academics and lecturers working throughout the United Kingdom, called on its colleagues to consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions, and to discuss the occupation with individuals and institutions concerned. The motion noted "the continuation of illegal settlement, killing of civilians and the impossibility of civil life, including education" as a result of the occupation.
I really could not care any less what a UK academic unions calls to boycotts or not; although I do find something deeply ironic in calls for the collective punishment of Israeli academics and educational institutions as a protest against the Israeli government.

Be that as it may, one of the reasons these kinds of motions carry charges of anti-Semitism, results from the very one-sidedness of the charges. The alleged ‘humanitarian catastrophe imposed on Gaza by Israel’ totally ignores the fact that Hamas run Gaza Strip has no authority under any international law to govern in the Gaza Strip but takes this right under gun as well as having more than one hand in the fire creating the alleged humanitarian crisis.

Furthermore, the deliberate omission of Egyptian academics and educational institutes to the boycott ignores the reality of the situation as the Egyptian government controls one of the borders of the Gaza Strip. No Israel boycott could be effective without the direct participation of the Egyptian government…but why stop there? The EU is still officially boycotting the Hamas run Gaza Strip as well as the Americans.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Not just another border protest

This time it is Israeli farmer’s protesting food deliveries to the Gaza Strip while Israeli civilians remain under kassam fire reports Ynet News:
A large group of farmers from communities in southern Israel under constant bombardment from Gaza's terror groups arrived at the Sufa border crossing and prevented the transfer of provisions into the Strip.

The farmers said they were demonstrating against Israel's policy of continuing to ship aid into Gaza while rocket attacks continue to emanate from the territory. The protest seemed to resound even louder when, with the demonstration in full gear, Israeli troops operating near Sufa came under attack from Palestinian mortar shell barrages. An IDF soldier was lightly wounded in the clashes.

The farmers blocked the road leading up to the crossing with their cars and prevented trucks from unloading their cargo for almost an hour. Due to the protest and the nearby clashes – several of the truck drivers backed away from the crossing. The group of farmers left a short while afterwards.

'It's inconceivable that while we are being attacked with Qassam rockets, we're also sending food into Gaza," said Itamar Gilad, a resident of Dekel in the Eshkol Regional Council. "We have no intention of sitting on our hands and just accepting daily rocket attacks on our homes. If there is no security in our lives, then the provisions will not pass through our regional council. "If the residents of Ashkelon and Sderot have no objection to the goods passing through their towns, then let the trucks make their deliveries to the Erez crossing (in northern Gaza) – but they cannot come in through our home."

There is something deeply ironic about Israel sending food aid into what once was the bread basket of Israel.

*Photo of Farmers demonstrating near Sufa by Tsfrir Abayov

Election call in Israel?

I have no idea if I will be able to blog about the latest potential turn of the screw in Israeli politics today or not. It really all depends on timing – not mine but Labor leader Ehud Barak’s. The NY Times sums up the possible scenarios nicely:
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Defense Minister Ehud Barak may call on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to step down from office or temporarily suspend himself after the latest testimony in a bribery case, Israel Radio reported on Wednesday.

It said Barak, a senior partner in Olmert's governing coalition, was due to make a statement after U.S. businessman Morris Talansky testified on Tuesday he gave Olmert cash-stuffed envelopes including personal loans that were never repaid.

Barak, leader of the left-wing Labour party, was considering forming an emergency government with the right-wing opposition Likud party that would leave out Olmert's centrist Kadima party, said the radio.
Or it may all be a big hoopla over it nothing because I do have some trouble believing Barak would chose elections at a time when his own party's support by the Israeli electorate is still rather weak.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Stop the Terror - Buy a Hybrid

This Honda commercial doesn’t have a hope in hell of ever airing in Canada but this is why there is You Tube.

h/tip Jameel @ the Muqata

From the audacity of hope to the primary season of scrutiny

I had no idea a democratic primary could be so much fun. From Hillary’s Bosian snipers to the 57 United States of America (if that isn’t a slip of manifest destiny – what is???) to imaginary presidential meetings with real foes, to Grannies thrown under the bus, and topped up by an uncle directly involved in the liberation of Auschwitz. And who knew Kenyans were in the Red Army? WHO KNEW!!! Geeze, Stalin was a sly dog.

Maybe Obama and McCain will get around to debating family history. Obama can discuss the exploits of his crazy uncle and McCain can claim his family was directly involved in fighting the war in the pacific theatre during WW2. Than Obama can raise McCain a Ho Chi Minh…anyhoo, I have to hand it to the Obamessiah… he has worked magic and finally done what no one else could do - which is to make Hillary look like the good candidate.

No Golan Be Gone Bill

A slim majority of Israeli Knesset members have back a bill requiring any future land for peace deals to have the support of at least 80 knesset members reports the Jerusalem Post:
A multi-party bill designed to make it harder for the government to cede the Golan Heights to Syria received an initial promise of 61 signatures Monday even before it was filed by MK Eliyahu Gabbi (NU-NRP). Sixty of those parliamentarians, including coalition minister and Shas party leader Eli Yishai, have already signed a petition in support of the bill on Monday. The 61st MK has promised to sign it Tuesday morning, at which point Gabbi intends to submit it to the Knesset.

While 61 signatures are required to pass the bill, Gabbi did not need that many names to file the legislation. But he gathered them nonetheless as a show of strength both in support of the legislation and against any governmental steps to return the Golan to Syria.

The proposed law would require a two-thirds parliamentary majority - 80 MKs - in order to approve any concessions on the Golan Heights. At present, the Golan could be given away with only a majority of votes.

Among those who have signed the anti-Golan withdrawal bill are Labor MK Yoram Marciano, Kadima MKs Ronit Tirosh, David Tal, Marina Solodkin, Tzahi Hanegbi, Otniel Schneller and Ze'ev Elkin. In addition, members of Likud, Shas, Israel Beiteinu, the National Union-National Religious Party and the Gil Pensioners Party, as well as its breakaway faction, have signed on.

To emphasize their opposition to the Golan withdrawal, almost 30 parliamentarians attended the first meeting of the newly convened pro-Golan lobby, which was held in the Knesset. The vast majority of those present were members of right-wing opposition parties, including Likud party leader Binyamin Netanyahu. But the meeting drew a number of coalition members such as Marciano, the lone Labor signer on Gabbai's proposed bill. "I came here to support the Golan. I signed onto [Gabbi's] bill," said Marciano. "I have signed onto your fight. I say "no" to returning the Golan."

Elkin, who lives in the West Bank and is among the more right-wing members of his party, said that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert lacks Kadima support for the measure. "There is no support for territorial concessions in the Golan, not in [Olmert's] party, not in the government and not in this Knesset." He said giving up the Golan is not part of the Kadima party platform and so there is no mandate to act on it. During the last elections, Kadima promised the people in the Golan to support them and secured many votes there as a result, including in Katzrin in the Golan, where Kadima won a majority of support.

Looks like negotiations with the Syrians are set to get a whole more challenging.

passing envelopes of just sounds so familiar

I have been watching the latest Israeli Prime Minister corruption scandal unfold. It has a decided made in Canada flavour with all the alleged suggestions of passing of cash in envelopes. Taken from the Jerusalem Post:
American-Jewish businessman Morris Talansky told the Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday that he met Prime Minister Ehud Olmert 10 times between 2002 and 2005, while Olmert was industry, trade and labor minister, and on each occasion, gave him envelopes of cash. Talansky stressed, however, that he did not do it for personal gain.

"I had a very close relationship with him for over 16 years. The relationship was one of great admiration. I never expected anything from him and never received anything from him whatsoever," said Talansky, testifying as a witness for the prosecution in the investigation into allegations that Olmert accepted illegal payments from the US financier.

Describing himself as someone who raised money for Israel on behalf of various organizations, Talansky said he wanted to help Olmert's progress since his ideology regarding Israel and Zionism was in line with his own. "We raised at least 100,000 dollars," he said. "We were not wealthy donors, there was nothing personal about it," he said, adding that it was "for the good of Israel."
The New York financier said he met the prime minister for the first time on a family visit to Israel around the time of the First Gulf War, in 1991. Talansky said Olmert asked him then for financial assistance, in cash, for campaign funding for the Jerusalem mayoral elections.

Talansky said that when he asked Olmert why he wanted the money in cash, he replied that this was the customary method in Israel. Talansky said he agreed, wrote himself checks, cashed them and gave the money to Olmert. The businessman also mentioned that on another occasion, about 10 years ago, he organized an event and received envelopes of cash from various donors, which he in turn gave to Olmert.

I just get this strange feeling Olmert would be right at home as a Liberal in Quebec…I really should learn the Hebrew word for “Liebral”.

Elder statesman and loose lips

The Times Online has quoted former US President Jimmy Carter saying this:
Israel has 150 nuclear weapons in its arsenal, former President Jimmy Carter said yesterday, while arguing that the US should talk directly to Iran to persuade it to drop its nuclear ambitions.

All of which is rather disturbing and not because he deviated from the Israeli line of nuclear ambiguity. The international community saw the Israeli Prime Minister do that approximately year ago, although to be fair to Olmert, unlike Carter, he did not specific the size of Israel’s nuclear arsenal.

What is disturbing is having a former president casually remarking in public security information which he was privy to only because of his role as a President about a current US ally. Jimmy Carter is an old man, who in recent years has been acting rather imprudently in public and cavorting with a whole host of rather unsavory international characters so it begs the question - just what information has he been sharing and with who.

I am not suggesting, no matter how odious I find Mr. Carter’s beliefs, that he is not a US patriot, but Mr. Carter has very definite ideas so would it be so outrageous to suggest Mr. Carter would act in accordance to what he judges is in the best interest of US foreign policy rather than leaving foreign policy decisions to any given duly elected US administration?

The Americans have never before been faced with an elder statesman who might being going senile in a very public way – perhaps its time to ground him by pulling his passport and monitoring his communications.

Red Cross Chutzpah

Isn't nice to see the Red Cross take such an interest in politics for an apolitical organization? Ha'aretz:
The International Committee of the Red Cross called on Israel on Monday to allow Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to visit relatives in Israeli jails, a practice suspended a year ago after Hamas seized the territory.

"While we acknowledge Israel's security concerns, we strongly believe that they alone cannot justify the all-out suspension of family visits to detainees," Christoph Harnisch, head of the ICRC's delegation in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said in a statement.

Israeli officials were not immediately available to comment. Israel has sharply restricted the passage of people and goods at its border crossings with the Gaza Strip since Hamas Islamists took over the coastal enclave in fighting against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction last June.

The Israeli closure also effectively prevented Gazans from visiting family members jailed in Israel, which holds about 11,000 Palestinian prisoners, about 700 of them from the Gaza Strip. "This measure is depriving both detainees and their relatives of an essential life line," Harnisch said.
Although, it is rather disappointing so see that in 2008 the Red Cross is still not willing to raise a large hue and international outcry on the behalf of Jewish prisoners being held. Really, it is almost like the 1940’s all over again. Think about it, when was the last time the International Committee for the Red Cross called on Hezbollah or Hamas to account for the Jewish prisoners being held? But by all means, take the Israelis to task.

Anyway, the by-words of the day should be fair play and reciprocal.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Iran’s Hezbollahistan

Lebanon swore into office a new president and the Toronto Star swoons:
BEIRUT–Backed by most of Lebanon's major communities and their international patrons, former army chief of staff Michel Suleiman ascended to the presidency of this volatile Mediterranean country yesterday.

The 60-year-old Maronite Christian general took the oath of office amid high hopes that he would help heal the country's festering political rift between the U.S. and Saudi-backed government and the opposition, led by Hezbollah, the Iranian- and
Syrian-backed Shiite militant and political movement.

Suleiman's election by lawmakers, viewed as a temporary fix to a months-long political crisis, came days after Hezbollah gunmen stormed West Beirut and subsequently won an agreement that it remain armed and have enough cabinet seats to veto major government decisions. Many people hope, however, that Suleiman, with strong ties both to Hezbollah and the support of Western-leaning groups, will be able to pull the country together.

AFP carries this report on Nasrallah’s speech:
BEIRUT (AFP) — Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed on Monday that his powerful militant movement was not seeking control of Lebanon, in a fiery speech on new President Michel Sleiman's first full day in office.

"Hezbollah does not want power over Lebanon, nor does it want to control Lebanon or govern the country," Nasrallah told tens of thousands of flag-waving supporters massed in his stronghold in southern Beirut.

Nasrallah pledged that his Shiite Muslim group would not use its weapons to achieve political gains, in a speech marking the eighth anniversary of Israel's pullout from south Lebanon following a two-decade occupation. "For we believe that Lebanon is a special, pluralistic country. The existence of this country only comes about through coexistence, and this is what we are demanding," he said via a video link.

The end result – The Jerusalem Post:
Security officials say at least nine people have been wounded, two seriously, in a gunfight in downtown Beirut between Hizbullah Shiite supporters and pro-government Sunni loyalists. Officials said the two sides traded insults before the shooting Monday night as Hizbullah supporters drove by waving flags and saluting leader Hassan Nasrallah shortly after he finished giving a speech.

I believe pluralism in this instance refers to both sides firing back…..

the numbering of days

I meant to post this report a few days ago when it first surfaced but better late than never. Taken from the Jerusalem Post:
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad has been trying to coordinate a meeting with Likud chairman and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu for the past several weeks, the Kuwait-based Al Jareeda reported Saturday.

Palestinian sources have told the paper that the two were scheduled to meet in Sharm e-Sheikh last week but the meeting was cancelled due to technical difficulties. A meeting between the two is expected to take place in the coming days.
The Jerusalem Post could not confirm the report.

According to the report, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and top Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei were also making efforts to meet Netanyahu. Netanyahu met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last week and discussed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations with him.
Even the Palestinians and Egyptians recognize Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s days are numbered but how to get Olmert to see it that?

Israeli cabinet cannot claim ignorance

The head of Israeli’s internal security director gives his threat assessment to the Israeli cabinet reports Arutz Sheva: The head of the General Security Services (Shabak), Yuval Diskin, told the cabinet on Sunday that Palestinian Authority terrorists in Gaza are already equipped with missiles capable of hitting the port of Ashdod and Kiryat Gat. According to Diskin, the enemy in Gaza must be defeated immediately if a greater escalation is to be avoided.

"Ever since the Philadelphi Route [between Gaza and Egypt] was breached, Hamas has
"The threat to the State of Israel is growing exponentially." -- Shabak head Yuval Diskin been bringing high-quality weaponry into the Strip, which has made it possible to fire beyond Ashkelon, as far as Kiryat Gat and Ashdod," he warned.
Ashdod, the fifth largest city in Israel, is home to over 200,000 residents and Israel's largest port, accounting for sixty percent of the country's imported goods. It is located just under 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) north of Gaza. The inland city of Kiryat Gat, in the Southern District, is located 56 kilometers (35 miles) southeast of Tel Aviv.

"They already know how to operate sophisticated weapons there," Diskin said of the terrorists in Gaza. "They have not yet shut the door on the Egyptians' efforts [at brokering a temporary ceasefire], but they are preparing for the next round." According to Shabak estimates, if Hamas does not obtain all its goals in a temporary ceasefire agreement, "then there will be an even greater escalation."

Diskin told the ministers that Hamas in Gaza currently has firepower that must be "dealt with immediately. If you don't take care of this problem now, then it will become more severe. The more time passes, the operation that will eventually be carried out will cost more casualties and more dead soldiers."
So the question becomes how much further will the Israeli Minister of Defense order the IDF to retreat - so the IDF will be safely out of harm’s way?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

IDF in Retreat

Terror pays and do not let anyone tell you otherwise. The Gaza Strip missile barrages and truck bombs have now worked their magic along the Israeli-Gaza border. The IDF has ordered the evacuation of an IDF base inside Israeli proper - reports the Jerusalem Post.
In a move that has the residents of communities near Gaza worried, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj.-Gen. Yosef Mishlav, decided Sunday to reduce the number of personnel from the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration based near the Erez crossing to the northern Gaza Strip. Part of the staff was moved to the Julis Base, some 17 kilometers from the Gaza border.

"It seems that the IDF has forgotten that its role is to protect citizens - not vice versa," said MK Arye Eldad (NU/NRP) in response. Eldad added that the IDF, which he said was evacuating soldiers "because they are close to an enemy," would "eventually forfeit the citizens, and misappropriate its obligations to defend the State of Israel."

The MK urged Defense Minister Ehud Barak to order the army to immediately "refresh the army's memory as to its obligations," and to remind them that "the best defense of all is offense." Also responding to the IDF's announcement, Likud MK Yuli Edelstein attributed the evacuation of troops to the IDF having "internalized the government's lack of strength," adding that the army "prefers not to pay with the lives of soldiers." He said that the move sends a "defeatist message" to Israel's enemies.

Officials said the decision was made following Thursday morning's car-bomb attack against Erez, but had been under consideration for several weeks. The attack caused serious damage to the Liaison Administration's offices. The base and the surrounding area have been the target of almost daily Kassam rocket and mortar fire from Gaza; in one such mortar shelling about a year ago, four soldiers were wounded.
There is just no good way to spin this. It is hard not to see this evacuation as anything other than an abandonment by the IDF for the Israeli citizens who live in the kibbutzim, moshavims, or outlying towns like Sderot and Ashkelon which surround the Gaza Strip. Perhaps, it shouldn't really be so shocking considering Labor leader and current Israeli Defense minister, Ehud Barak is best known for retreating. Time to deploy the Gush Katif refugees around the Gaza Strip and show the IDF how to fight rather than retreat in the face of terror.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

And don't let the door hit you on the way out!

Ha’aretz is reporting that disgraced US professor Norman Finkelstein has been denied entrance to Israel:
The Shin Bet security service detained and deported an American Jewish professor who is a prominent critic of the Israeli occupation when he landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Friday.

Professor Norman Finkelstein was interrogated for several hours and held in an airport cell before being put on a plane back to Amsterdam, his point of departure. Finkelstein said he was told he could not return to Israel for 10 years.
What are the odds that his refusal was linked to the hi-jinx he recently got up to in Lebanon?

Friday, May 23, 2008

dubious values

Maybe I am feeling a trifle overtly sensitive due to the after effects of a nasty root canal or it could just be I’m just not up on all the cool hip lingo...all of which are distinct possibilities. Anyhoo, I read this line at the usually painful to read bastion of politically correctness newspeak and nearly fell off my chair. Taken from Toronto Star.
One wag remarked that Israelis would quickly warm to a peace deal with Syria once they realize such a pact would make it possible to drive from Jerusalem to Paris.

WTF is a “wag”, and then explain to me how this is a term of endearment rather than a nasty epithet of an unsavory nature ‘cause I don’t get it. Of course, I do not get the whole concept of Israelis being able to drive from Jerusalem to Paris as a bonus or boon when one considers the risk of ending up being kidnapped by Parisienne Youth on the prowl or having to drive through the French suburbs with Israeli license plates on your car. There really are valid reasons why immigration from France to Israel is at an all time high.

Speaking of Carteresque

Jimmy Carter’s presidency will be forever associated with the Camp David Accords which saw the Israelis and Egyptians sign a formal peace agreement. Many hail this as the high light of Carter’s presidency, and with Obama speaking all so Carteresque, I thought this Jerusalem Post article would be particularly poignant to point out.
The Egyptian opposition is demanding the government renegotiates the price of gas being exported to Israel by June 5 or face public protest, the Egyptian newspaper The Daily News Egypt reported Wednesday. Protests will be held outside the pumping stations in Al-Arish and Damietta, the headquarters of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Company and the Ministry of Petroleum.

Egyptian MP Esmat Al-Sadat, who is the spokesperson for the campaign, was quoted as saying that exporting gas to Israel was a crime. A statement released by the organization states that, "After all this talk of national security and regional balance and the local need for energy, this gas exportation to Israel is a real catastrophe."

Al-Sadat also pointed out that Egypt would earn an additional $18 billion if the price agreed to in the original deal that was signed in 2005 were adjusted to current world prices, due to the steep rice in energy prices globally in the past few years. Ever since the signing of the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt in 1978, there has been stiff public opposition in Egypt against normalization with Israel, ranging from business to culture.

Ironic that after all these years - this is the best ‘peace’ could do?

What if a liberal state banned conservatives from having children?

I maintain a fairly constant attitude to Mormonism or LDSer’s which is characterized overall by a general apathy. Most Mormons seem harmless enough to me and generally appear to be a positive force for the communities they live in. Although, that annoying habit of baptizing the dead does creep me out, but again, it appears harmless.

Like most religions, Later Day Saints have their share of fundamentalist sects. Again, I more or less take a benign attitude towards them. I cannot claim to have an understanding or handle on the appeal to the return of ludditism, but each to their own.

The thing about letting adults have the freedom to choose their convictions and lifestyle means not only that they will choose things which seem strange and bizarre but they will probably choose to have children and attempt to pass on their values. Again, the bottom line becomes; either we live in a society where adults are free their convictions and lifestyles and free to pass on those values or we do not live in a free society.

And a funny thing about raising children and passing on those values; it doesn’t always work out the way you plan. One day the children grow up, and despite your best efforts, the children might just chose very different values. Trust me on this. I know - I am one of those children all grown-up.

I have been watching the news on the Texas state battle with the fundamental LDS sect with some interest. I first caught the mothers on Larry King’s show. I stiffer more wooden-cardboard-cut-out group you couldn’t find. The women all looked extremely shell-shocked, and although, I thought them more than a trifle weird I worried about the fundamental harm the state was doing by arbitrary removing all the children from their parents without showing apparent ‘just’ cause in court. Contrary to what a few so-called social workers suggested, I doubt the overall feeling the children experienced was relief from being removed from their home, siblings and their parent’s care.

According to this Globe and Mail report, a Texas court has ruled that the state authorities erred by removing the all the children from their parent’s home without proof the children were in immediate physical danger and ordered the state to return the children to their parents in 10 days.
SAN ANGELO, Texas — In a ruling that could torpedo the case against the West Texas polygamist sect, a state appeals court said Thursday authorities had no right to seize more than 440 children in a raid on the splinter group's ranch last month.

The Third Court of Appeals in Austin, Texas, said the state failed to show the youngsters were in any immediate danger – the only grounds in Texas law for taking children from their parents without court action.

It was not clear whether the children, now scattered in foster homes across the state, might soon be returned to their parents. A Canadian teenaged girl from British Columbia is reported among the children rounded up during the raid by Texas child-welfare authorities.

The court ruling gave a lower-court judge 10 days to release the youngsters from state custody, but the state could appeal to the Texas Supreme Court and block that from happening. The decision in one of the biggest child-custody cases in U.S. history was a humiliating defeat for the state Child Protective Services agency. It was hailed as vindication by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who claimed they were being persecuted for their religious beliefs.

“It's a great day for Texas justice. This was the right decision,” said Julie Balovich, a Legal Aid lawyer for some of the parents. She was joined by several smiling mothers who declined to comment at a news conference outside the courthouse in San Angelo.

Every child at the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado was taken into state custody more than six weeks ago after someone called a hot line claiming to be a pregnant, abused teenage wife. The girl has not been found and authorities are investigating whether the calls were a hoax.

Child-protection officials argued that five girls at the ranch had become pregnant at 15 and 16 and that the sect pushed underage girls into marriage and sex with older men and groomed boys to enter into such unions when they reached adulthood. But the appeals court said the state was not justified in sweeping up all the children and taking them away on an emergency basis without going to court first.

My great-grandmother was married at 13. She was won by my great-grandfather in a poker game. At 18, my great grandfather didn’t know what else to do with her so he married her. Their marriage lasted for 62 years and spanned two continents and produced five living children. My grandmother married at 15 and gave birth to my father two months after her 16th birthday. Her marriage lasted for 60 years. I think one would be hard pressed to prove my grandmother was sexually abused by my grandfather. All the men in my father’s family were groomed to grow-up to be husbands and fathers – am I suppose to believe this is a bad thing and borders on psychological abuse?

The state has no business breaking up a family unit, and doing potentially doing untold harm to the psychological health of these children without showing just cause in a court of law. But here’s a thought. Why are men with multiple wives and children more worthy of malicious state prosecutions, than say - an unmarried woman with multiple children from different fathers?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Who died for whose sins?

Best article I read in a long while on the Jesus for Jesus crowd and pigs must be flying because I rarely agree with this leftie. Taken from a Ha'aretz column circa 2006:
We were driving in the Galilee, waiting for a red light to change, when they came up to the car. Their smiles were engagingly open as they wished us a fine trip. Then they offered us the flyer.

Jews for Jesus. Who says that evil can't be imported, and delivered, free of charge, direct to your car door?

Don't get me wrong. The members of Jews for Jesus are pure souls. They are among the most wholesome, guileless, truly well-meaning, fundamentally lovely people you will ever meet
More's the pity, therefore, that there's a special place in hell just for them.

I would like to begin by saying that I have nothing personal against these people. But that would be a lie.

The reason is that, grinning all the way, they want to take something personal from me. My history, my belief system, my ancestry. The flyers say they are concerned for my soul, and I believe them with all my heart. It's precisely my soul they're after, all right, mine and as many others as possible.

They're out to harvest Jewish souls in the name of Christ. And they're out to do it right here.

Make no mistake, I believe that these Christians must have every freedom to worship Jesus as their lord and messiah, perform every ritual, celebrate every holiday that they see fit. If they want to do Born-again Kiddush and Last Supper Kneidelach and Savior Shalosh S'eudes - gezunterheit.

And if missionary activity is a commandment in their view, I wish them every success - just one thing:

Leave the Jews alone.

The world is a target-rich environment for the missionary, the Protestant Christian world in particular. There's no end of lapsed Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Anabaptists, whom you're free to try to cajole into Christ.

You don't need us. Jesus doesn't need us. Leave us alone.

It's a safe bet that the Jews for Jesus who may be reading this are rolling their eyes by now, classifying me as Unbeliever Type G-639-L and writing me off.

But bear with me for one brief moment, if only to read the next sentence, which has specifically to do with you, as well as with your Jewish prey, thousands of years of Jewish history, and evil:

Proselytizing is persecution.

Granted, it's not the same as burning us at the stake for Christ's sake, firebombing our homes for Christ's sake, staging apres-church pogroms for Christ's sake, ostracizing and terrorizing and beating our children for having killed Christ, lynching Jewish adults for church-distributed blood libels, torturing Jews to force them to convert, converting entire Jewish communities on point of death, deporting entire Jewish communities on point of death for having resisted conversion, or, after eliminating the conversion option, annihilating entire Jewish communities with the complicitous blind eye of the Holy See.

But there's more than one way to wipe out a people, and poison, like gas, comes in many forms. Sometimes it looks like a leaflet. Sometimes it looks like the Internet. Sometimes it looks like a smile.

It should have occurred to you by now that Jews in the post-Holocaust era have a mission, no less than you. We have some saving to do of our own. In ways which are as individual as each Jew in the world, it has been left to us to save Jewry itself - its faith, its culture, its values, its memory, its history - from extinction.

Look around. There aren't that many of us left. There are 2 billion Christians in the world, and nearly a billion and a quarter Muslims.

There are barely 14 million Jews left alive on this planet. In 1933, that number was 15.3 million. Leave us alone.

The true evil of Jews for Jesus, is the movement's readiness to take advantages of the weaknesses of Judaism in our day, in order to further weaken it. Judaism's agonizing inability to reach its estranged youth is the stuff of Jew for Jesus dreams, the fantasy that, in the end, they will succeed in converting us.
Can I get an "Amen" to that now?

h/t Shiloh Musings

Whose land anyway?

A particularly nasty tooth/root canal has kept me from blogging in the last few days so I haven’t felt much like commenting on anything beyond anything which required more than a nod of my head but I have been watching the alleged ‘peace negotiations’ with Syria.

Frankly, it is hard for me to take such discussions seriously considering the Israeli Prime Minister is under multiple police investigations for bribery – although, I would not put it pass the Syrians not to have stuffed and envelop or two in their day – especially, if the option existed to bribe the PM to give up the Golan Heights.

If Olmert thought announcing backdoor negotiations for a peace agreement with the Syrians would entice Israelis to raise his poll numbers to at least 2 digit support levels; he was greatly mistaken. Ha’aretz:
About two-thirds of Israelis object to withdrawing from the Golan Heights even for peace with Syria - more than those who object to dividing Jerusalem for ending the conflict with the Arab world, a recent survey finds.

The poll was conducted by the Maagar Mochot research institute headed by Professor Yitzhak Katz for the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation. The survey, intended to assess Israel's sovereignty and independence in its 60th year, was initiated by Dr. Udi Lebel of Sapir and Ariel colleges.

The section referring to the state's borders shows two main tendencies. One is harsher positions - 68 percent of the people surveyed want to preserve the existing situation including keeping the West Bank and Golan. The other tendency is to prefer the Golan to any other region.

Two fun facts about the Golan Heights is that more Israeli Jews live in the Golan Heights than Israeli Arab/Druze and the Golan Heights has been under Israeli control longer than Syria ever ruled the Golan. Another fun fact about the Golan Heights comes from the Jewish Virtual Library:
The Jewish presence on the Golan was renewed in 1886, when the B'nei Yehuda society of Safed purchased a plot of land four kilometers north of the present-day religious moshav of Keshet, but the community -- named Ramataniya -- failed one year later. In 1887, the society purchased lands between the modern-day B'nei Yehuda and Kibbutz Ein Gev. This community survived until 1920, when two of its last members were murdered in the anti-Jewish riots which erupted in the spring of that year. In 1891, Baron Rothschild purchased approximately 18,000 acres of land about 15 km. east of Ramat Hamagshimim, in what is now Syria.

First Aliyah (1881-1903) immigrants established five small communities on this land, but were forced to leave by the Turks in 1898. The lands were farmed until 1947 by the Palestine Colonization Association and the Israel Colonization Association, when they were seized by the Syrian army. Most of the Golan Heights were included within Mandatory Palestine when the Mandate was formally granted in 1922, but Britain ceded the area to France in the Franco-British Agreement of 7 March 1923. The Heights became part of Syria upon the termination of the French mandate in 1944.
Apparently, the original deed and title for the 18,000 acres which Baron Rothschild purchased in 1891 was transferred to the Jewish National Fund in 1957.

However, the one question no one seems interested in asking is why do the Israelis even need a peace agreement with Syria, and what tangible advantage would the Israelis receive or gain for giving up the Golan Heights?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Book burning but no fatwas

The last group of people one associates with book burning per say is Jews; although, it can happen. The Jerusalem Post:
Orthodox Jews set fire to hundreds of copies of the New Testament in a religious Israeli town. Or Yehuda Deputy Mayor Uzi Aharon said missionaries recently entered a neighborhood in the predominantly religious town of 34,000 in central Israel, distributing hundreds of New Testaments and missionary material.

After receiving complaints, Aharon said, he got into a loudspeaker car last Thursday and drove through the neighborhood, urging people to turn over the material to Jewish religious students who went door to door to collect it. The books were dumped into a pile and set afire in a lot near a synagogue, he said.

The Israeli Maariv daily reported Tuesday that hundreds of Jewish religious school students took part in the book-burning. But Aharon told The Associated Press that only a few students were present, and that he was not there when the books were torched. Not all of the New Testaments that were collected were burned, but hundreds were, he said. He said he regretted the burning of the books, but called it a "commandment" to burn materials that urge Jews to convert.

I really am rather tolerant and overall good natured to all kinds of various and sundry religious groups out on the prowl for converts, but there is just something about the Jews for Jesus crowd which makes my skin crawl whenever I run into them on the streets trolling for converts. I have often wished there was like a Chabad or Aish hotline number to call to report these people….and yet, I am fine with the born-again Christians, or the Muslims, or the Hari Krishnas…go figure. Anyway, it is near the end of the JPost article when the lawyer for the J4J crowd asserts his inner fascist and reminds me of somebody else.
Calev Myers, an attorney who represents Messianic Jews, or Jews who accept Jesus as their savior, demanded in an interview with Army Radio that all those involved be put on trial. He estimated there were 10,000 Messianic Jews, who are also known as Jews for Jesus, in Israel.

You have to put this into perspective. The mayor of a Israeli town gets numerous complaints from citizens about Christian missionaries knocking on doors and leaving missionary material behind. So the mayor gets in his car and drives around with a bullhorn telling people they can turn over all any religious 'offensive' material to 'students' which the mayor will be sending to knock on their doors to collect it. The students collect the books, and then, burn most of them….but the lawyer for J4J acts like he is the wrong partied and demands criminal charges be laid for burning his allegedly holy books….holy books which just happen to offend the religious sensibilities of those in the community he was trolling for converts in.

Good grief.

UN Resolutions – Much ado about nothing

The Arab League sponsored Lebanese talks in Qatar are going nowhere much due to the 'official' opposition position (Hezbollah) which is really not surprising given Hezbollah's protest tactics (laying siege to the streets of Beirut).

Nevertheless, am I the only one finding the lack of criticism or even a bare bones examination on UNIFIL's performance in Lebanon a little astonishing? If the UNIFIL was really up to snuff, how did Hezbollah have had the ability mobilize artillery in the Chouf mountain district or send heavily armed men in the streets of Beirut?

It must be time to call the Guinness people

I think Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is set to undergo an international record of dubious distinction. Arutz Sheva:
( Journalist Yoav Yitzchak, who has doggedly pursued the criminal suspicions against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for years, has now unleashed another one. Yitzchak claims Olmert received an unauthorized $300,000 when he was Trade Minister.

The investigative journalist says the police are now focusing their criminal investigation of the Prime Minister on new suspicions that Olmert received 300,000 dollars during the years 2002-2005, when he served as Minister of Industry and Trade under Ariel Sharon. These monies have nothing to do with Morris Talansky, newly famous for having given envelopes of cash to Olmert.

I stopped keeping count after #4 but I think this makes either #6 or #7 ongoing investigation into Olmert's conduct. It has to be a record for a world leader.

About those checkpoints

There are those in the international arena who prefer to think Israeli security concerns are rather dubious or frivolous by nature. Arutz Sheva:
( Alert IDF soldiers at a Samaria checkpoint on Monday night shot and killed a 20-year-old Arab man who had explosives strapped to his body. When soldiers spotted the explosive devices and the terrorist refused to comply with their orders, a commander on the scene opened fire to prevent what appeared to be an attempt at detonation. The man refused orders to lie down and began to lower his arms, apparently to set off the bombs. The incident took place at the Hawara checkpoint, 25 miles east of Herzliya.

And for those who believe turnaround is fair play – this link’s for you.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Refugees in their own land

Three years later and thousands of rockets 40% of the Gush Katif refugees are still without permanent housing reports the Jerusalem Post:
Close to three years since they were pulled from their homes, 40.2 percent of the Gaza evacuees are still waiting for lots on which to build their new homes, according to statistics released Sunday by the Sela Disengagement Authority at a press conference in Ashkelon

Out of those 547 families, 15.5% - 211 families - won't be able to start construction for at least another nine months due to infrastructure work in their new communities, according to the authority. Slightly more than 13% - 180 families - are likely to get their housing lots in a month, pending the resolution of a boundary dispute over the Nitzanim site outside of Ashkelon, according to the authority.

A lawsuit filed by the evacuees regarding the Lachish site has kept 8.1% - 111 families - from working on their new homes. And 3.3% - 45 families - are only in the initial stages of site development. However, according to Disengagement Authority head Tzvia Shimon, 43% - 586 families - have received housing lots and can start construction.

According to the authority, 1,941 families applied for housing compensation as a result of the August 2005 disengagement in which the government evacuated 21 communities in the Gaza Strip and four in northern Samaria. The cost of resettling those 1,941 families will total more than NIS 6 billion, NIS 4.3b. of which has already been spent. Included in the NIS 6b. figure are NIS 2.1b. for infrastructure and NIS 1.7b. in direct compensation payments to the families.

But in compiling their housing chart for the press conference, the authority only calculated the fate of the 1,359 evacuee families who are fully eligible for housing compensation and have 24 communal housing sites set aside for them. The 582 families not included in the authority's chart include those who had rented their homes in Gaza and second-generation settlers who lived with their parents at the time of the disengagement but who now need their own homes. Out of the 1,359 families, 16.6% - 226 families - chose to take individual housing options and have used their compensation funds to buy new homes.

A majority of the remaining 1,133 families want to rebuild in communal settings with their former neighbors and as a result are living in modular homes in temporary communal settings as they wait to construct their new permanent homes. Out of those families, only 586 can start to build.

But only some 60 to 70 have actually started work on their homes, according to the evacuees, who plan to hold a protest outside the Knesset at 4 p.m. Monday to protest the slow pace at which the government has moved to provide them with new homes. Initially, the government promised that the resettlement process would take two years, but after the disengagement backed down from that timetable.

At a price tag of 4.3 billion NIS and counting, with 40% of Gush Katif refugees still not relocated to permanent housing, three years and thousands of rockets later; can we now say the disengagement from the Gaza Strip was an unmitigated disaster? And this was only the relocation of only 9.000 Israeli citizens.

What never fails to amaze me is those who can watch this fiasco and still think the Israeli government can potentially disengage 18.000 Israeli citizens from the Golan Heights or 250,000 plus Israelis from the disputed territories. And what on earth makes anyone think that those people, having watched the fate of the Gush Katif Israelis that they would willingly leave their homes, businesses and communities and become the new refugees?

The idea which we all knew was coming

I think the only people who were surprised by the latest Palestinian demand are the Israeli negotiating team. Ynet News:
Despite previous understandings that a future Palestinian state would be demilitarized, Ynet has learned that in talks held behind closed doors, the top negotiator for the Palestinian Authority, Ahmed Qureia, is demanding the establishment of a regular army.

High-level Israeli and Palestinian officials confirmed the newly revealed developments on Monday night. According to the information obtained by Ynet, the new and surprising demand first emerged as the negotiations teams sat down in Jerusalem last Sunday to discuss security arrangements. Qureia told Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni that the Palestinian state would require a regular army to defend itself.

Livni, though perplexed by the sudden demand, made clear that all previous accords specifically spoke of a demilitarized Palestinian state. A senior Israeli source said that Livni sought to clarify if perhaps Qureia had meant a Palestinian police force, but the latter was reiterated that it was a proper regular army the PA was after.The source added that the new Palestinian stipulation incensed Livni, who ardently rejects the idea of such an army.

My only comment is “phased plan”.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Live Free or Die

Once upon a blog, a long time ago, I was a member of loose federation of Canadian bloggers knows as the Red Ensign Bloggers, and as was our tradition one member would host the carnival of Red Ensign Bloggers bi-monthly. I wrote this the last time I hoisted the Red Ensign Standard:
Fifty years ago, school children in Canada could have told you what it means to be a Canadian but the parameters have changed so radically that I fear we are in danger of losing not only our place in the world but our national will. Regionalism threatens all the ties that use to bind us. And sorry, I cannot rally around our healthcare system and do not see waiting patiently in line for years for a hip replacement or an MRI as a value that I want to pass onto my children.

We live in a land whose geography leaves its imprint upon our character early in life, and we were a nation forged and tempered by war from the Plains of Abraham, to Vimy Ridge, to the beaches of Normandy. Freedom meant something beyond an existential definition - which is all the value we place on freedom today. Here is the new Canada's truism; I am less free today by law than I was in 1985. In 2005, freedom is now measured by the quantity of law and by-laws that weighs down and restricts our daily existence.

The new Canada denies our warrior past and says we are a nation of peacekeepers with blue helmets. Frankly, I'll take Vimy Ridge and you can keep Rwanda and the helmets. For there will be no peace to keep if our leaders have lost the will to fight to keep the peace for freedom's sake.

We claim tolerance as a national virtue and yet we have Hate Speech laws. Tolerance in the New Canada seems to mean; think as I think, do as I do, speak as I speak, rather than allowing individuals the freedom to speak what they think or even reason - if that speech could potentially create division or dissonance in this new Canada. Our national tolerance seems a very shabby fragile thing.
After I wrote my little piece, a ferocious discussion broke out in the comment section of a fellow Red Ensign blogger (whose blog has since gone awol). I watched the discussion from sidelines for the sake of my mental health. I was appalled at the absolute ignorance and obtuseness of my critics, but what made me despair was the defense offered up by my so-called defenders. Moreover, here I thought I had made my mind so obvious and plain. Talk about a virtual comeuppance.

It appeared my critics had very little knowledge or perspective on Canadian military history. This nation was built on the backs of rugged and unruly individuals who more often than naught deliberately chose to exercise their own best judgment and then act, rather than blindly carrying out any command order which flew in the face of reason or was contrary to the spirit of the mission.

I deliberately chose the year 1985 as my reference point, as it was well after our constitution was repatriated. I did not want to get blogged down in any discussion on whether or not the repatriating of the constitution was a good or bad thing as it was not relevant to my point that - there are far, far too many laws regulating the most minutiae detail of our lives. This sorry state of affairs has not enriched us nor made us better people.

Why bring up all this old history? Because my new hero is a skateboarder from Fredericton, New Brunswick who displayed more sense than the asinine city councilors who passed these horrendous by-laws curtaining our freedom for our alleged own good. The Toronto Star carried the details:
A 25-year-old Fredericton man is behind bars today after surrendering to police. His crime? Skateboarding on the streets. Lee Breen was originally ticketed in the summer of 2007 for skateboarding on the streets of Fredericton. This was after receiving several warnings about Bylaw S-9, which makes it illegal to use a sled, toboggan, wagon or skateboard on the streets of New Brunswick's capital.

"I was skating on King St. in Fredericton (and) was actually going to buy my brother a skateboard helmet," he said yesterday. "(When) I saw the police car, I jumped off my board. The officer who pulled over and approached me had actually given me a warning the day before."

Breen, a local businessman who has no previous criminal record, said he politely told the officer he wasn't going to pay the fine or stop skateboarding. In April, a judge increased the fine to $100 and gave him the choice of paying it or spending five days in jail. Breen decided he'd rather be locked up. "I won't pay because I believe I'm following the Fredericton Green Matters campaign in finding alternative transportation with my skateboard," he said yesterday at a rally in support of him at city hall. "If I pay the fine, I would be admitting I was doing something wrong."
But a City of Fredericton spokesperson said it all boils down to the issue of safety. "It's a public safety issue," said Wayne Knorr. "It's not about a 12-year-old kid going through a neighbourhood, it's about an adult male, endangering himself and the motorists around him. "The bylaw itself is related to nuisances. When you're out in traffic, obstructing traffic, backing up traffic, you're creating a nuisance by endangering yourself and others."

Breen said he takes all the necessary precautions when skateboarding by wearing a helmet, staying clear of sidewalks and using hand signals – making it no more dangerous than riding a bike in the city.

Let me go straight to the point. I pay taxes, in fact, I pay a great many taxes. A fair portion of those taxes goes to the creation and maintaining of public roads. A public road does not mean it is for the exclusive use of anyone who drives an automobile or a truck. I have just as much right to drive my bike, my wagon, dog sled, or use my in-line skates on the public road as anyone else in their gas guzzling air polluting car. If concern for public safety turns your crank - why are you not lobbying for the banning of all motorized traffic from our roads? Cars, trucks, taxis, and motorized scooters (driven by unlicensed cripples) poise a far greater hazard to the public than a guy on a skateboard or a woman on her in-line skates.

But Breen's situation is just so wrong on so many different levels and is indicative of just one of the things which ails modern Canadian society. Why do we even allow city councilors to pass traffic by-laws which target and restrict the free mobility rights of citizens? Or elect councilors to pass by-laws restricting the use of a clothes line on one's own property? What kind of country are we, when a judge decides the refusal to pay a minor traffic ticket is an offense worthy of being incarcerated for five days, and yet, I know people convicted of criminal offenses who never spend one day in jail - let alone be sentenced to five days. Is there such a shortage of criminals that we need to start jailing minor traffic violators?

Why do we presume that the risk inherent in living can be legislated out of existence if only there are enough laws passed? Why are we so willing to let others define for us the quality or shape our lives should take or allow others to limit the measure of our freedom?

Because I am a brilliant closet economist and a Canadian

I thought I would wade into the whole carbon tax hoopla and offer Liberal leader Stephane Dion the benefit of my two cents of opinion.

I will not vote for any government which would suggest I pony up and pay another tax just for simply living, but more importantly, neither will most Canadians.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

In their own words

I have long been an opponent of the so-called two-state solution (which really is a three state solution) to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and not for any reasons of Zionist/Jewish supremacy because it is a completely unworkable solution in the real world. Even if tomorrow the Israeli Prime Minister gave Palestinian Authority Chairman 100% of the West Back and the Gaza Strip with absolutely complete control over all resources, borders and airspace; it would only be a matter of time before once again missiles were flying into Israel and people were imploding on the streets. Of course, this time one might see a more conventional type warfare and I get those kinds of ideas by looking at what the popular Palestinian leaders say. Ynet News.
Senior Hamas member Mahmoud al-Zahar spoke Wednesday at a Gaza Strip event marking the 60th anniversary of the Nakba – the anniversary of the 1948 events which led to the induction of the State of Israel – and promised his listeners that "the right of return is closer than ever."

The events of the Gaza pullout and the Second Lebanon War, he added, proved that the Israeli military is not beyond defeat. "The Palestinians and the Arabs have crushed the Jews' assumption of supremacy… The Zionist legend of invincibility has been destroyed.

"Now more than ever I tell you – we will never recognize Israel… We will form the Palestinian state on all of Palestine's territories and the sun of liberty will burn the Zionists. To them I say – you will lose. You will leave and we will keep hounding you. The blood of our slain sons will haunt you forever," he said.

There is just no concept of sovereignty or borders for Jews with these people.

Apparently Israel is the paymaster

So just how far has the anti-Semitism canards of the Mid-East spread? According to this Ynet News Sudan qualifies:
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir ruled out on Wednesday the possibility of holding peace talks with the head of the Darfur rebel group that staged a daring assault close to the capital that killed more than 200 people last weekend.
The UN and African Union have tried for months to open new peace talks between Sudan and Darfur rebel groups after a previous peace agreement failed to stem the violence. But most rebel chiefs, including Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) leader Khalil Ibrahim, have boycotted the initiative and security has further deteriorated.

JEM stunned the Sudanese government with Saturday's attack on the city of Omdurman, located next to the capital Khartoum. Ibrahim is still believed to be hiding there, and told AP by telephone Monday that his fighters would keep up their offensive.

They accused the Khartoum regime of stonewalling the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force that would try to establish security before peace talks. At a rally orchestrated by the government Wednesday in Khartoum, al-Bashir called Ibrahim "an agent...Who sold himself to the devil and to Zionism.”

"We are for peace and a peaceful solution, but there is no room for Khalil or agents like Khalil, who sold his cause, his people, his tribe and his region," Al-Bashir told thousands of supporters waving flags and chanting pro-government slogans. He also accused Ibrahim of receiving money from Israel to topple Sudan's government.
For a little country whose primary resource is the ingenuity of its people; how on earth did it get the reputation of being the paymaster to the world?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Where have all the Sabra's gone????

Some days, I wonder where all the Sabra's have gone? Could it be something in the water? Anyways, the Israeli response to the missile attack on a civilian mall inside pre-1967 Armistice lines Israel? Ynet News:
Israel's Deputy Permanent Representative Amb. Danny Carmon sent a severe letter of complaint late Wednesday to the UN Security Council following the rocket attack at the Ashkelon mall.

Israel demands the UN "to respond immediately and appropriately to the serious incident of harming one of life center of one of Israel's main cities, causing dozens of injuries in a commercial mall."

I wonder what the odds are that the Israeli Prime Minister was bribed by Hamas or even Bush to just look the other way whenever an attack is launched against Israeli civilians?

Death in the Mall

Ashkelon shopping center after attack (Photo: Amir Cohen)

This week has been hellish week for Israeli civilians courtesy of the Gaza Strip. Today, a rocket attacked was successfully launched against civilians attending a shopping mall in the Israeli town of Ashkelon – well within the 1949 Israeli armistice lines. Ynet News:
As US President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were sitting down to an intense two-hour meeting in Jerusalem early Wednesday evening, a Palestinian Grad rocket was launched from northern Gaza towards Israel.

The rocket crashed into a women's health clinic on the second floor of a busy shopping mall in central Ashkelon just before 6:00 pm, wounding 15 people and burying several shoppers under piles of rubble. MDA paramedics dispatched to the scene fought to extract those trapped under large pieces of debris, including four people who were evacuated in serious condition, including a mother and her 2-year-old daughter, and 11 more who suffered from moderate wounds.

Medical personnel also treated 62 people for shock at the scene.

The Salah al--Din Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, claimed responsibility for the attack. A spokesman for the group, Abu Abir, told Ynet: "This attack was intended as a message to Israel that if it continues to escalate the situation and reject the ceasefire proposal, Zionist residents of southern Palestine will continue to live under danger of mortal peril and this will be their own government's responsibility."

The attack, said Abu Abir, was dedicated to Palestinian refugees marking 60 years since the 'Nakba.' "We promise Palestinian refugees scattered all over the world - you will return to your homes that were robbed from Palestine in 1948," he said.

The Jihad Jibril brigades, the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, have also claimed responsibility for the attack.
Really, nothing less than the total of the destruction of the Jewish state, will ever satisfy these people.


While war and civil unrest usually hurts a country's economy there is apparently a segment of Lebanese society which profits greatly from the civil disray according to this Ha'aretz article:
For the cannabis-growing residents of eastern Lebanon, recent internecine fighting in the country has been a blessing - one covered in hash resin and dollar signs.

To these villagers, gunshots and warfare are good for business, and the last three years have been far too quiet for their taste, leaving the authorities more than enough time and resources to come for their crops.

Peace and quiet frees the Lebanese Army to help local law enforcement combat the drug trade, especially in the summer, when soldiers and police are deployed to cannabis fields to rip and cut the flowering stalks of marijuana set for processing and export to Israel, Europe and beyond.
The last time the cannabis farmers of Lebanon had such a bumper crop was during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, when the security situation in the country brought anti-drug law enforcement to a halt. With fighting flaring up again in Lebanon, the farmers can expect another marijuana windfall, especially if the army is deployed in force throughout the country's cities to quell the recent bloodshed.

Newspaper reports have stated that even in peacetime security forces are often wary of entering the cannabis growing areas, as many of the farmers and their security guards are heavily armed.

An investigation by the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat has found that over 25,000 acres of cannabis were planted in Lebanon this year, an amount that should yield an impressive amount of hashish for the area's farmers.
Well, I suppose one should look on the bright side - maybe Hezbollah will be too stoned to get up to much once the first crop is harvested - well, one can always hope.

Am Yisrael Chai

This being the month of all things Nakba, this response resonates in my Zionist Heart. Ynet News:
“Not a foreign land we took and not with foreign possession but a land that belong to our ancestors that was occupied without a trial. And when we had the opportunity, we took our land back.”

Simon the Hasmonean’s words, now directed at Sheikh Kamal Khatib and his comrades while speaking at an Islamic Movement ceremony to mark the “Nakba,” you, Mr. Khatib, said: “I emphasize this to the members of the Jewish people. We, the Palestinians, are here. We are the past, present, and future of this land.” And as I consider myself to be a member of the Jewish people, which you addressed, allow me to respond to your words.

Someone should have brought you up to date on this matter, Mr. Khatib. You may be able to sell your dubious merchandize in Gaza or on Tel Aviv’s Shenkin Street, but not to someone who studied history for more than 15 minutes. Or perhaps this was some kind of sense of humor, when you happened to speak at the location of two magnificent communities from the Second Temple era, Kfar Kana (today it’s Qana) and Zippori, while calling on me to recognize your right to this land.

If you visit the Louver, the British Museum, Chicago’s Oriental Institute, or any other place where historical facts speak, the ancient artifacts would surely shake their head with sadness upon hearing your words.

You should visit your brothers in Egypt. I am certain that they would be delighted to present to you the Merneptah Stele (also known as the Israel Stele,) which dates back to 1208 B.C. and commemorates Egyptian ruler’s Merneptah’s war against the tribes of Israel he encountered in Canaan.

Do you understand, Mr. Khatib? More than 3,000 years ago, there were Israelites at Canaan. And it isn’t me who’s claiming it, but rather, an Israel-hater called Merneptah. By the way, this Merneptah also claims that he exterminated Israel. Yet at this time, he is the one who happens to be lying in a museum, while we just celebrated our renewed independence.

But why go so far? At the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the capital of the sovereign State of Israel, you can take a look at the Tel Dan Stele and read about the “House of David.” Very surprisingly, this inscription was not found in Lithuania or in Poland, but rather, in the Galilee; and in this inscription too, the king of Aram boasts of victories over Judea and Israel. Look around Mr. Khatib, can you spot any Arameans around here?

Not far from there, in the very same Jerusalem, you can find the Shiloach inscription, made by the slaves of Judean King Hezekiah. Just like any other Israeli, I can read it easily because, wonder of wonders, it’s written in the Hebrew language. There you go, Hezekiah and I are linked through culture, religion, and language, despite the 2,700 years separating us. This, Mr. Khatib, will not be changing. And even if you turn the entire Temple Mount into dust, you won’t be able to find even one inscription written in Arabic that dates back to the period before 638 A.D. – the year of the Muslim conquest of the land of Israel. Yes sir, Muslim conquest, I’m not confused – 1,600 years after David, the King of Israel, was at the throne.

So, Mr. Khatib, go out there and learn from Merneptah and from the king of Aram. Learn about the destiny of the Assyrian kings, Rome’s rulers, Hitler, and his good friend, your very own Mufti al-Husseini. All of them wanted to exterminate us. Take a look at them, and take a look at us.
Assaf Wohl could have ended his piece by calling for an end to the occupation of Jewish lands, but he didn't.

Lost in Translation

In a follow-up to my previous post, Ynet News carries this little real life dittie:
Hizbullah's television station rushed to warn its viewers about the close ties between Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Israel, following a flawed interpretation of an article written by Yedioth Ahronoth columnist Nahum Barnea.

In his article, Barnea was aiming to criticize Israel's domestic political scene and used the situation in Lebanon as a metaphor. The essence of his argument was that the process undergone by Israel in recent years could lead to a situation whereby the government would not be able to exercise its power, as is the case in Lebanon.

"One day we will wake up and discover that our prime minister is Fouad Siniora," Barnea wrote, but then quickly clarified: "Maybe not Siniora himself, but rather, a Siniora-twin: Someone who orders the army to operate, but the army chief ignores him and the troops remain in their barracks…someone who needs to resort to tears, to outside help, or alternately to the mercy of God in order to exercise State authority."

Several Lebanese websites proceeded to translate a summary of the article, and used the first sentence about Siniora as the headline. This was apparently enough for the editor on shift at al-Manar, Hizbullah's television station, who rushed to post a breaking news bulletin at the bottom of the screen implying that Yedioth's story was an Israeli admission of the close ties between Jerusalem and Siniora.
Generally, in Mid-East politics, one just slanders a political opponent with the Israeli 'slur', so you can imagine how excited Hezbollah was to have a real life Israeli allegedly acknowledging an association and jumped the gun.

Is there nothing the Jews cannot do?

One learns early watching Middle East Politics that literally, anything and everything, can be blamed on Israel – and there will be no exceptions. I suppose the surprise factor is only logical due to how much of the anti-Semitic ravings/absurdities our press automatically filters out for our consumption in the West.

A great case in point is the speech given by Lebanese pro-government, Future Movement leader Saad Hariri yesterday. I quote from Naharnet online because you will not find any references to any of the allegations raised against Israel in any European or North American newspaper - although most international papers did touch on other aspects of his speech.
"We were expecting open war on Israel, but the open war was launched on Beirut," Hariri said.

"Did Beirut assassinate Imad Mughniyeh?" he asked.

Hariri said Hizbullah launched its attack upon instructions from Iran and Syria.

He charged that the Sunni-Shiite confrontation has started and called for containing it before it explodes into all out civil war.

The citizens, according to Hariri, "protected the army unity."

Hariri accused Hizbullah and its allies of "committing a crime under the pretext of defending the resistance and now they are using resistance weapons against the people."

"History would not have mercy on champions of the Sunni-Shiite confrontation," Hariri declared.

"The attack couldn't have happened without an Israeli cover," Hariri charged and asked: "how did thousands of fighters move from the south to Beirut?"

"This is the first indication to a Syrian-Israeli rapprochement," he added.
Righhhhhhhhhht. The Israelis gave Hezbollah cover at the Syrian's request. If you believe that I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale too.

Resurrection, and this time without a Jew in sight.

It really is hard for me to believe there are so few Palestinian Christians considering how often the dead resurrect from the grave. Ynet News:
Muhammad al-Harrani, a father of six from Gaza diagnosed with cancer who reportedly died while waiting for a permit to enter Israel, miraculously "came back to life." This was not the result of a miracle, but rather, just part of the tactics used by al-Harrani's family in a bid to secure a permit for him.

Al-Harrani is currently awaiting an entry permit into Israel, so that he can undergo head surgery at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and receive radiation and chemotherapy treatment. At the end of April he was summoned to a questioning session at the Erez Crossing as part of the permit process, but the session was postponed by a week.

On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, al-Harrani's story was published. His family reported to the "Physicians for Human Rights" organization that he died. "The sick man could not withstand the wait for the permit," claimed Ran Yaron, Director of the Occupied Territories Department who blamed the Shin Bet for adopting cruel policies against cancer patients.

However, the next day, the organization discovered that al-Harrani was still alive. Members of group estimated that his brother, who reported the death, "killed" him so he does not report to the questioning session."This is a rare case where a family member knowingly provided false information to the organization," Physicians for Human Rights said. "Usually, the organization receives information from the families and from the hospitals, but in this case the information was received from the family and was not confirmed by the hospital."

Physicans for Human Rights claims its rare, but according to this Jerusalem Post article, the Israeli Shin Bet has identified it as a new growth industry:
Palestinians from Gaza bribed local doctors to declare that they were seriously ill and required treatment in Israel, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) charged on Monday.

"Recently there has been an increase in the exploitation of Israel's humanitarian policy by way of fraudulent medical permits in return for bribes to doctors in the Gaza Strip," a Shin Bet spokesman told The Jerusalem Post. "This, plus the requests of terrorist activists to enter Israel for medical treatment, increases the danger to state security."

The statement came in response to the latest allegations by Physicians for Human Rights, which charged that since the beginning of April, the Shin Bet has been preventing 12 new cancer patients from receiving life-saving treatment in Israel. In addition to these 12, the Shin Bet had for several weeks been preventing dozens more, including cancer and heart patients, from passing through Israel on their way to treatment in Jordan and Egypt.

PHR charged that the Shin Bet response to requests for entry permits to Israel is complicated and takes a long time, and thereby ignores the urgency of the situation. The slow processing by the Shin Bet follows an already protracted process in the Palestinian committee that approves the requests and in the IDF Liaison Office, before the matter comes to the Shin Bet.

Geeze, and you know, nothing says fully vetted like Palestinian committee.

Can we just deny passports to stupid people?

There are some days when it is really hard for me not to think we deserve the fate which awaits us in the coming war. Apparently Iran has just received its 10,000th pledge for volunteers to act as human shields against the coming American launched attack. IfPayvand's News of Iran:
The Human Shield Movement to Iran today claimed its 10,000th pledge volunteer and warned President Bush that any attempt at military intervention against Iran would be met by a massive mobilization of human shields.

The human shield movement to Iran has been mobilizing for over three years now using online mechanisms such as Pledge Bank to secure volunteers willing to travel to Iran to position themselves around civilian infrastructure sites in order to try and prevent what they believe would be a catastrophic and unjustified attack. Whilst it is expected that most missiles will be directed at military installations the human shields are concerned that sites in the Iranian capital will also be targeted. Today Steven Morris from Birmingham was the 10,000th person to pledge himself as human shield volunteer. Volunteers from 22 countries have already pledged themselves to the mission and are currently in the latter stages of preparation in order to be ready to travel to Iran "at very short notice".

Today, a powerfully-worded warning was sent to the White House listing the shields who are willing to risk their lives to try and prevent further illegal military intervention in the Gulf.

Steven Morris, the 10,000th pledge member of the movement said today, "I am fully committed to going to Iran to try and stop an attack on Iran. I demonstrated against the Iraq war and it made no difference. Having ten thousand Westerners will make the war-mongers think twice before they attack Iran. I do not support the Ahmadinejad regime but if we ignore international law and start bombing a sovereign nation that has not deviated from its obligations under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and offers no direct threat to any nation, the world will be an much more dangerous place."

A spokesperson for the movement, David Tyler said today; "Travelling to Iran as human shields is the 'last resort' but it seems that an attack on Iran is not just a real possibility but an imminent reality. The military and political maneuvers all seem to point to one thing, The unproven allegations that Iran is arming insurgents in Iran, the labeling of the Revolutionary Guard as terrorists, the increased military spending, the build up of forces on the Iranian borders and the unverified and unverifiable claims about Iran's nuclear weapons program have left us in little doubt that time is running out. Traditional methods of protest are ineffective in the face of the neo-Con determination to implement their global vision.
Since the spring of 2005, I said there would be no US launched offensive against Iran. After 3 years of reading or listening to the hysterical claims of the coming 'imminent attack' being launched by the Americans against Iran - my patience has run out for the terminally stupid.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Jihad, 1948

May 10th in Toronto was Palestine's House commemoration of 60 years since the al-Nakba began. For those not up to the Pally-lingo 'Nakba' or the 'catastrophe' began when five Arab armies declared war on the nascent Jewish state in 1948. Call it the logical consequences of being on the perpetual losing side of war.

Not to be too coy about it - the goal of the five Arab armies was to destroy the Jewish state. If the Arab armies had been successful, Israel would not exist and one can be reasonably sure - neither would Palestine. I suspect the borders of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt would all be considerably larger than they are now. Think I am wrong? Then ask yourself just why Jordan did not establish an autonomous state in the West Bank? Ditto for Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Alternatively, you could just review the history of the Syrian adventures in Lebanon.

Anyways, Benny Morris (yes that Benny 'Zionist Headache' Morris) has a new book out which really sounds interesting called, Jihad, 1948. The Jerusalem Post offers this review to tempt me:
Morris's new book, called 1948, reshapes half a century's published research on the first Arab-Israeli war, vitalizes it with his own extensive archival forays and weaves a tale so gripping that even an informed reader feels he is learning about the country's early history for the first time. (Disclosure: This writer worked at the desk next to Morris's in the newsroom of The Jerusalem Post when the world was younger.)

Morris's book on the refugees, which brought him international renown when published two decades ago, made him a hero to the political Left, which saw him boldly acknowledging the plight inflicted on the Palestinians by Israel. It made him anathema to the political Right, which saw him gratuitously granting comfort and political ammunition to the country's enemies. In subsequent interviews, Morris made it clear that both sides had him wrong: The tragedy which overtook the Palestinians was something that merited an honest historical account, he argued, but not an apology. The Arabs had started the war with the intention of driving out or annihilating the Jews. Furthermore, he says, if a large, demonstrably hostile and fast-growing Arab minority had subsequently remained in place, a Jewish state would not have taken root.

Despite the new book's title, the story it tells begins in 1881 with the onset of modern Jewish settlement in Palestine; the chapters devoted to the pre-1948 years are among Morris's most absorbing. A sense of déjà vu that the book sometimes evokes comes from recognition that the underlying state of play a century ago and 60 years ago is often still the state of play today.

The 1948 war was a conflict between two national movements, but something else underlay the passions, says Morris. "It was also a jihad. 'To wipe out the infidel' - that's what drove the masses in the squares of Cairo and Baghdad to demand war and that's what drove the Arab leadership in making war. I don't know how much they were thinking about the Palestinians."

The Jews were divided into contentious political camps but it was rare for them to employ violence against each other and they proved able to achieve broad unity on major issues in orderly fashion. However, differences within the Palestinian camp - between militants led by the Husseini family and the more moderate faction led by the Nashashibis - were bloody and debilitating to the Palestinian cause, a theme echoed in the current Hamas-Fatah face-off. Lack of common purpose was in abundant evidence. The Nashashibis as well as the Husseinis publicly condemned the influx of Jews but both secretly sold land to them and hundreds of Arabs collaborated with the Zionist intelligence agencies.

MORRIS DIVIDES the war into two segments. The "civil war" between Jewish Palestinians and Arab Palestinians, the latter supported by volunteers from Arab countries, lasted from December 1947 to May 1948. The militias had initial successes in cutting roads to Jewish settlements and imposing a siege on Jerusalem, but when the Hagana went over to the offensive in April it was able to decisively crush them.

The major test came when 20,000 troops from the Egyptian, Jordanian, Syrian and Iraqi armies crossed into Palestine following Israel's declaration of independence on May 14. (The Lebanese army did not cross the border but provided some artillery support. Israeli troops did later cross into Lebanon.) On paper, the Hagana outnumbered the invading Arab forces, but half the 30,000-person Jewish army, says Morris, was made up of rear-echelon troops, while the Arab contingents were all combat units. No less important, the Jews had no artillery when the war began and virtually no tanks, while the Arab forces had both.

"At this stage, when the Jews didn't have heavy equipment, motivation was a critical factor. They really did stop tanks with Molotov cocktails at Deganya and elsewhere, and at Kibbutz Nirim 60 members and a few Palmahnikim really did fight off 600 Egyptians."

Although the dispatch of the four armies to the Palestinian arena was seemingly a high point of Arab unity, that soon proved illusory. There was no effective joint command and each army had its own agenda. The clearest was that of Jordan's Arab Legion. King Abdullah intended initially to seize only territories assigned to the Arabs by the UN partition resolution. He changed his plan so as to include Jerusalem - designated by the UN as an international enclave - when the Jews began attacks on the Old City and he feared the loss of the Muslim holy places, says Morris. But he never attacked areas assigned by the partition plan to the Jews.

"The Jordanians came into the war to take the West Bank. The other armies were out to destroy Israel if they could but, if not, then to take as much land as they could and also to prevent the Jordanians from taking too much." The Egyptians, driving up the coast toward Tel Aviv, sent a column northeast through Hebron to Jerusalem not to support the Jordanians but, says Morris, in an effort to prevent the southern part of what became the West Bank from falling into Jordanian hands. Israeli attacks forced the Egyptians back.

The Jordanians blocked the road to Jerusalem at Latrun not with the intention of cutting off and capturing the Jewish half of Jerusalem as the Israelis believed, but to prevent the passage of Israeli reinforcements that might enable the Jews in Jerusalem to capture the Arab half of the city. Although Jordanian armored cars were stopped, with Molotov cocktails, when the Legion attempted to capture Notre Dame monastery on the seam between the two halves of the city, it had no intention of risking a plunge into the built-up Jewish neighborhoods. One of the first things the Jordanians did, says Morris, was to disarm the Palestinian militias and incorporate the West Bank into Jordan in defiance of the UN resolution and of the Palestinian elite who wanted a Palestinian state.
Who knows, maybe I should buy a copy, read it, and then, donate it to Palestine House – Toronto Victim Chapter.