Friday, February 27, 2009

and the point is?


It occurs to me that since the kassam fire has yet to cease that perhaps now is not the most prudent time to divert funding or provide funding for a Gaza Strip reconstruction effort.

But hey, that’s just my opinion.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

When biology isn’t necessarily destiny at the gym

A St. Catharine’s fitness Club owner is being taken to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario for refusing (or for post-poning a refusal depending on your side of the issue)a pre-op transsexual man use of the women’s change room at his fitness club.

The Toronto Star:
The owner of a St. Catharines, Ont., fitness club says he has opted to go to a Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario hearing in a dispute initiated by a transsexual. The complaint alleges John Fulton denied a pre-operation transsexual access to the women's only areas of his gym. The transsexual – now a woman – was a man at the time of the incident two years ago.

Following a closed-door mediation hearing Wednesday in Toronto, Fulton said he has opted to go to the tribunal rather than settle. Fulton says he wasn't sure what to do when the pre-operation transsexual applied to join because his female clients might not be comfortable with a man in their changing room. Fulton, who denies ever refusing to allow the complainant to use his club, said a date for the hearing hasn't been set. "I have not said no," he said Wednesday. "The person, who is actually post-op now, is welcome to come and use the club."

Fulton said it all started when he decided to open a women's only section at his fitness club. A few days later, a woman came in, filled out all the paperwork and just before signing said she was a man, he said. Fulton said he called the tribunal and was told he had to let the man use the women's facilities, but he said he couldn't get an answer on what his rights and the rights of his female clients are. "I had to find out what my women's rights were," he said Wednesday.

This story went online at last night at 6:19 pm and comments were closed by 7:53pm. Gee, what a surprise.

This issue actually touches me indirectly. The gym I (sometimes) attend is located on the edge of an area in the downtown which is commonly referred to by the locals as ‘Boytown’. As such a great many of the local gay and lesbian community use the facilities. I don’t care who comes and it is a very clean well run facility. I use to go to an all-women’s gym but it was poorly run and the equipment was often in a state of disrepair. The deal breaker for my patronage was the decided lack of cleaniness and erratic opening hours. Nothing like standing outside in the middle of a Canadian winter at 6 am waiting for the slacker staff to show up to open the club.

I picked my new gym because it was clean, well-run and maintained a separate facility/space weight room set aside for the exclusive use of women. Women were free to use all areas of the gym but I appreciated having a separate weight room. Nothing says pinched back nerve like attempting to pull off 100 lbs weights off a bar.

This brings me to the changing facility. I would definitely object to sharing a change/locker room with a man(men). Call it my inner Taliban asserting herself but I am just not comfortable changing in a co-ed room or a gym where change/shower room facilities use was designated according to personal individual gender identification rather than a more traditional category of which physical sex you belong to. Although, once the operation was completed and said transsexual was a fully function woman per say, I don’t have a problem nor do I care.

So what to do? One can suggest dismantlement of the HRT but this issue won’t necessarily go away. Any potential plaintiff only needs to have the funds or backing of a larger organization to pursue this matter thru the civil courts and it is only a question of when and not if, before the matter comes before a civil court for litigation.

So again, what is the solution? Is it reasonable for club owners to offer three change/shower rooms with one designated as ‘co-ed’ at their fitness clubs or do away completely with sex-designated change/shower rooms? And what about patrons like me – do I have any rights in this issue? I suspect the only right I have is to patronage or not. That being said - anyone know of a well-run and maintained Muslim or Orthodox Jewish fitness clubs in downtown Toronto, because as far as I know - only religious organizations have the right to openly discriminate in Ontario.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dafur – blame the Jooooos.

My favourite international deep thinker is at it again. This time he’s blaming the Dafur crisis on Israel, yes – that’s right - Israel. Ha’aretz.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the current African Union president, on Tuesday accused "foreign forces" including Israel of being behind the Darfur conflict.

Judges from the International Criminal Court are due to announce on March 4 whether they will issue a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir over allegations that he masterminded genocide in Sudan's Darfur region. UN diplomats have told Reuters the warrant will be issued.

But Gaddafi, addressing a meeting on ways to expand cooperation between the United Nations and African Union, urged the Court to stop its proceedings against Bashir: Why do we have to hold President Bashir or the Sudanese government responsible when the Darfur problem was caused by outside parties, and Tel Aviv [Israel], for example, is behind the Darfur crisis?"

Gaddafi suggested without presenting any evidence that the Israeli military was among those stoking the conflict: "It is not a secret. We have found evidence proving clearly that foreign forces are behind the Darfur problem and are fanning its fire," Gaddafi said, according to the Libyan state news agency Jana. "We discovered that some of the main leaders of the Darfur rebels have opened offices in Tel Aviv and hold meetings with the military there to add fuel to the conflict fire."

Good thing ‘blame the Jooos’ is not a drinking game or I’d never spend a day in my life sober, but - my what busy people those Elders are.

And, just in time for Israeli Apartheid Week

The 18th Knesset has been sworn in and I would just like to post a picture of Kadima MK Shlomo Mula so the next time you read or hear the phrase ‘Israeli Apartheid’ you remember him.


MK Shlomo Mula has a rather poignant and compelling life story which only underscores why Israel was founded and must remain the Jewish homeland. I don’t mean to suggest Israel is a land free of prejudice or bigotry but it is also a land where the dreams and aspirations of a exile can be met with hope and opportunity.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

No pass for Amnesty International in World Affairs

Amnesty International has called for a world wide weapons embargo against Israel, and for good measure, tacked on Hamas as well. The Jerusalem Post has a decent opinion piece on it even if I do feel the calls of impending doom are a trifle simplistic:
Yesterday, Amnesty International, the world's premier "human rights" brand, called for the destruction of Israel. We're overdramatizing? Were AI to get its way, the UN Security Council would impose a comprehensive arms embargo on the world's only Jewish state - but not on any of the 22 member states of the Arab League, or on Iran. Over time, Israel would find it impossible to defend itself against conventional or WMD threats stemming from hostile states or Palestinian and Islamist terror organizations.

The pretext for the embargo call was the IDF's campaign in Gaza to compel Hamas to end its bombardment of southern Israel and cross-border aggression. Over the years, Hamas has killed hundreds of Israelis in terror attacks. Apparently spearheading AI's anti-Israel crusade is the group's "principal researcher on Israel/Occupied Palestine," the London-based Donatella Rovera.

Though Israel purchases arms from dozens of sources, AI's boycott call is really aimed at the Obama administration: "Israel's military offensive in Gaza was carried out [largely] with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with US taxpayers' money," claimed Malcolm Smart, AI's director for the Middle East.

Either to simulate evenhandedness, or perhaps because it really is blinded by moral relativism, AI perfunctorily called for a weapons embargo against Hamas. It thus appears incapable of distinguishing between Israel and Hamas, between victim and aggressor - between an albeit imperfect Western nation which values tolerance, representative government, rule of law and respect for minority rights, and a medieval-oriented Islamist movement which mobilizes Palestinian masses to hate, teaches its young to glorify suicide bombers, and inculcates a political culture wallowing in self-inflicted victimization.
The naivety of AI is what I find most astounding. This is an organization which allegedly investigates some of the most repressive totalitarian regimes in the world but has so little idea how real geopolitics is really played in the big world. Furthermore, calling for the defunding of the Israel by the US will not make the Israelis complacent enough to lie down and die while their neighbors arm themselves to the teeth. As far as I know, Hamas has not received even one AK-47 through legal channels. If Israel is not to be funded per say - why should the US taxpayers be forced to pick up the bill from the Palestinian Authority? How long does Amnesty International expect the Palestinian Authority to last once US support is withdrawn? And if Israel is to be subject of a world wide arms embargo, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Israelis take a very heavy hand approach in the disputed territories in order to neutralize the ability of the Palestinians to cause them any harm in both near and future. I know I would and I doubt it would even take a full seven days if the Israeli gloves came off.

Calling for the US to stop funding and supplying the Israeli military with arms would mean no more joint Israel-American military research projects and no more would the US have a stake and a ear on what the Israelis are coming up with. The United States would loose all her diplomatic trump cards; therefore, the US’s ability to apply heavy handed influence on any Israeli policy or arms deal would be removed. Hello India, bye-bye Pakistan. And with the US out of the picture, just who do you think will come calling to do deals? Even after the Turkish Prime Minister had his temper tantrum in Davos Turkey still wants a deal and Russia was most impressed on the effectiveness of Israeli drones and has been clamoring for a deal. Even if you could get past the American UN veto on the security council - what is to stop China or Russia from missing an opportunity to get a piece of the Israeli pie?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Awol

The Last Amazon came home from university for Reading Week. It’s been a joy for all for all of us having her home. Even her brother was so thrilled to have her back that he started to bring home little gifts from work…a box of strawberries, her favourite drinks, and trips to the movies on him. Isaiah Sender gave up his social life more or less for a week just to hang out with the ‘girl’. I cannot tell you how much it means to have had her home. There is a sense of ‘rightness’ when she’s here and when she leaves, she has a way of sucking the air out of all of us. Why she needs to go to university, I don’t know. Doesn’t the world have enough scientists and doctors? She left, but not before dropping a bit of a bombshell, what will come of it, I don’t know but the one thing I am sure of – is this; we all love her deeply and home isn’t home without her.

I don’t have a clue as to what is going on in the world as I haven’t watched a news report, read a paper and fully backed away from the computer this weekend. I expect I will now that she has gone but it will take me a while to catch up.

What I do know is that Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu is set to form a coalition government in Israel and kassams are still landing in Sderot but the good news is a family was rescue from Yemen.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fruit of the Poisoned Tree - Part 2

Last night was parent-teacher interviews. It was not one of my more stellar parenting moments. My son and I ended up in one of those parent-teen rip-roaring agruments which I have learned from experience just doesn’t go well for anyone. We were in one of his teacher’s office discussing what she felt was impeding my son from progressing academically in her class. She characterized his attitude towards the subject material as being one of constant mockery and ridicule. He claimed he was just expressing and exercising his critical thinking skills.

I made, what I thought was a rather benign statement, suggesting that mockery and ridicule, while critical in nature, is not necessarily observing any given issue with a critical eye. Mocking and ridicule are about taking sides or positions on any given issue while critical thinking requires an objective eye to observe and examine an issue from inside out, and therefore, requires one maintain a degree of objectivity. We haven’t had an all-out, rip-roaring argument like this since he took to reading the Talmud in secret last year and we got into an argument which lasted weeks concerning whether it was necessary to lie to be dishonest.

Yes, this kind of argument and hairspliting, which passes as standard fare at Chateau Kateland. Welcome to my family. Honestly, somedays its like living with the entire Law Society of Upper Canada contained within 8 rooms. So what brings this on? Well, Dr. Dawg, has this to say on his blog about something I wrote and I quote.

And do check out Kateland's riposte at Dust My Broom. I'd like to respond, but I'm banned there.* Suffice it to say that her account is flawed in a number of respects: it uses dubious testimony, and incidents elsewhere, to justify the suppression of a poster on the campus of Carleton University. One doesn't have to be a free speech absolutist to see where that kind of argument leads us.

Now to give the good Dawg credit, he does tack on a small note at the bottom of his post stating he is not banned from commenting at The Last Amazon where I run my own blog. But what irks me is how quickly he rushes into judgment and hints at mockery. For example, “dubious testimony” and “incidents elsewhere to justify the suppression of a poster”.

What dubious testimony? I hardly think two video links showing some pro-Palestinian demonstrators in action last month in Toronto and Montreal can rightly claim the mantle of dubious testimony – unless he means to imply one should never observe those tapes and make the mistake using one’s lying eyes and ears while watching.

Or perhaps, he is calling the eyewitness account of Sara Ahronheim who experienced the riot at Concordia University first hand and her experience as reported at Aish dubious. I did a summarily search this morning on Sara Ahronheim and found absolutely nothing which would cast doubt on her character or her experience at the Concordia riot or Aish. If anyone can find evidence to the contrary – do share.

So if there is no evidence to presume the character of Sara Ahronheim is dubious, I’m not quite sure what Dawg is implying here, unless it is because Sara Ahronheim is a Jew, and therefore, her character should be assumed to naturally be dubious or was it because her account was reported in a well-known Jewish online journal, and without evidence supplied to the contrary, is he suggesting the Jewish journal should be innately suspect and therefore judged dubious. Then there is the report carried in Hillel of Greater Toronto and penned by Daniel Ferman concerning recent events at York University in Toronto. It was also widely reported in other news outlets but I choose Hillel, because it is a well-known Jewish campus community group. It is Hillel or Daniel Ferman whose nature and character are deemed to be ‘dubious’, and again for what reason? Either way this doesn’t smell good on the Dawg’s behalf.

Now as far as the events from elsewhere charge goes, I decided to do a little online summary research into the state of relations for Jews at Carleton University and found this article at the Canadian Jewish News and written by someone who was a Jewish student at Carleton.
Staring at the swastikas drawn on my campaign posters, my first reaction was sadness and regret. It was February 2007, and I was running for student body president at Carleton University. Another one of my posters had a Hitler moustache drawn on my face. I had two options at the time. One, take the posters down and replace them without raising a ruckus. Two, lodge an official complaint with the chief electoral officer, go to the media and make it an issue. I chose the first option.

I decided from the outset that I did not want my religion to be an issue. I did not want my positive campaign for change in student leadership to be defined by anti-Semitism. It was a missed opportunity on my part to shed light on an emerging problem on campuses across Canada: a rise in anti-Semitism.

(…)Most of my colleagues at Carleton either don’t think anti-Semitism is truly a problem or don’t see the point of raising it as an issue. At one Shabbat dinner I attended with three members of the Jewish fraternity in Ottawa, I speculated about ideas for my next column. I suggested anti-Semitism on campus, and one friend immediately stated his opposition to the idea, before recalling his own brush with anti-Semitism in first year when someone drew a swastika on his dorm room door. The sudden flashback gave him pause.

The desire on the part of many Jewish students is to move on. Our society is for the most part accepted on campus, and quite simply, we are sick of playing the role of victim. Our community is so strong in so many ways, it almost feels like sour grapes to get up in arms over a piece of childish graffiti. Meanwhile, on campuses today, it is a fear of racism against Islamic students that dominates campaigns to end hate. But the truth is, the number of Muslim students is vastly greater than the Jewish population, and I have found anti-Muslim sentiment to be nearly non-existent on campus. In fact, Muslim students have their own prayer room at Carleton and have been allowed to use other spaces to pray and hold events. No such permanent space exists for Jewish students.

At Carleton, I constantly hear stories about how professors teaching Middle East history courses have started to make anti-Israel and anti-Semitic dialogue part of their lectures. I tell people who experience this to go to the university Senate, the top academic body at the school, and raise their concerns. But again for the most part I get shrugs, as if there is nothing we can do and this must be accepted as the norm. It’s suggested that these types of professors will simply always exist, and it isn’t worth our breath to protest because then all we will be seen as is a bunch of complainers. This is a dangerous view and must be disavowed by Jewish student leaders.

We are a small community on the campuses in Ottawa, and as a result some students, especially younger ones, are hesitant to speak up about their faith. After all, when you walk through the famous tunnel system linking all buildings at Carleton and see that it is the Jewish Students’ Association mural that is almost always vandalized, then what is one to think? (...)One day I want to come back to Carleton and walk through the halls and see a Jewish Students’ Association mural untouched, a symbol that we are accepted on campus.

So what would Dr. Dawg make of this account? And should we just make the blanket assumption that there is an innate dubious quality to the character of Mark Masters and/or the Canadian Jewish News? Or both? Are we to just sweep away this account under the ‘dubious testimony’ defense? But the larger question is; why Dawg and his ink do not believe a University Administration owes a duty of care to protect a small minority group on campus from unnecessary incitement and potential acts of violence and intimidation?



Reminder: Full comment moderation will commence from tonight until Saturday evening/Sunday morning.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fruit of the Poisoned Tree: Israeli Apartheid Week

Spring is in the air and once again the Israeli Apartheid Week is being held on university campuses throughout the country. This year, Carleton University has banned this poster from display.

Now this was brought to my attention by Dr. Dawg, and as a source, he quotes is Canadian Dimension, who subsequently quotes Carleton University administration which banned the display of this ad and I quote CD quoting CU, (the) “image could be seen to incite others to infringe rights protected in the Ontario human rights code.” So I am not vouching for the accuracy of the quote or even the article and am taking it all strictly at face value.

Less than two months ago we saw Palestinian supporters hit the streets of Montreal chanting death to the Jews and other timeless slogans at a pro-Palestinian rally, and in Toronto, a Palestinian supporter was quoted as saying Hitler did not do a good job, and when the videographer asked said individual to clarify his remarks - the videographer was physically attacked by the pro-Palestinian supporter for his question. And this was in an ' public setting' outside university control.

Now, it’s not as if Carleton University Administration doesn’t have a valid point or concern. Just think of the situation Concordia University found it self in when the pro-Palestinian fraction ended up rioting in order to prevent a speech by former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Sarah Ahronheim:
To enter the Concordia building we had to walk right through a volatile protest of hundreds of pro-Palestinians and their supporters in keffiyehs, with flags, screaming vitriolic hate. Once having run this gauntlet, we waited patiently outside the Bishop street entrance, held back at the gate by security and police. After about an hour they started admitting us inside, but it was too late because a huge group of pro-Palestinian 'demonstrators' had appeared in our midst.

I was fortunately right at the entrance, and as dozens of violent protesters pushed their way to the front, I tried to get through. Right next to me appeared the ringleader, who tried to push his way in. The cop in front of me punched him in the face while pulling me through the gate at the same time.

I rested against the wall and watched as at least a hundred (I think) red-and-green colored protesters attacked the barriers and tried to get in. Riot cops appeared, dozens of them, and went to the gate as I and a few others were herded into the building. There was yelling and chanting, drumming and fighting going on outside the doors, with hundreds of our people stuck behind the gate being abused by hundreds of violent demonstrators.

A few of us were waiting after the metal detectors for our friends to come through, when all of a sudden we heard loud chanting and yelling inside the building. The riot cops came storming in and up the stairs beside us, and we began hearing fighting, crashing, yelling, punching. Chaos broke out and riot cops made us run for the door to the auditorium -- I thought we were going to get killed, I swear. It was the scariest feeling, because I knew that these people wanted to hurt me and anyone who supports Israel or is Jewish.

Once inside the auditorium, we were told to be patient as more people would drift in from the insanity outside. We waited inside for three hours, as the commotion outside grew increasingly loud. We could hear chanting and yelling, and the protesters began trashing the university building. The police tear gassed and pepper sprayed the entire building and outside, and we began to feel the effects if we stood too near the doors.

After hours of waiting, and bomb searches by RCMP sniffer dogs, we were informed that Bibi Netanyahu could not speak after all -- too much danger to him and to us. This was an incredible disappointment and we were naturally upset. We however managed to maintain a kind of composure and instead of fighting, the 650 of us inside began to sing Hatikvah, the national anthem of the State of Israel. We sang peace chants and then just waited to be let out, in groups of 10, escorted by police.

The scene as we exited was disgusting. Benches were overturned, papers and garbage streaked across the hallways, and broken windows. We were shoved outside directly into a huge pro-Palestinian riot, where some of our people were apparently attacked... On their side, they threw bottles at people's heads, screamed hatred, and tried to break the barriers down to hurt us. They started tossing pennies and coins at us -- one of the oldest ways to taunt Jews by saying we're all "money-grubbing." While we sang Hatikvah arm in arm, they spat at us. Finally we decided to disperse and leave them to their hatred...
Or even the most recent disgraceful turn of events at York University.
For the second time in a week, Toronto police were called on campus as anti-Israel organizers isolated and threatened Jewish students. During a news conference held by a coalition of diverse students to impeach the York Federation of Students, anti-Israel organizers shut down the announcement, yelling anti-Semitic slurs and physically intimidating Jewish students. Shortly after, they barricaded Jewish students at Hillel’s lounge on campus, continuing to threaten students. Toronto police officers escorted the students out of the office to ensure their safety.

Among the slurs shouted by those barricading Hillel’s office were “Die bitch, go back to Israel”, “Die Jew, get the hell off campus”, “Fucking Jew” “racists off campus”. Last week, police were called during a physical altercation by an anti-Israel activist.
Is it the merest of coincidence that whenever Canadian universities allow unchecked and unfretted access to groups on campus promoting the Palestinian cause it eventually turns into a hate the-Jews-fest whereby Canadian Jewish students come under attack for the alleged crimes of the Israeli state? And don’t universities in Canada have not only the right but a duty to protect Jewish students from the tactics of intimidation and threats of violence?

There is an irony in this poster which seems to be lost on the Israel Apartheid crowd. The child in the poster stands on ‘Gaza’ which is depicted to represent the so-called state of Israeli apartheid, and yet, Israel left the Gaza Strip in 2005.

There is only one Jew in the entirety of the Gaza Strip and he is not even in charge. In fact, Hamas through the PRC had to abduct him in 2006 out of the 1949 Armistice borders of Israel to get him. His name is Gilad Shalit and he is being forcibly detained and held for ransom by the governing authority of Hamas who controls the Gaza Strip. The Red Cross has been repeatedly denied access to visit Shalit which is contrary to the umpteen international rules governing prisoner’s rights. In fact, no one in the international community knows with any measure of certainty if Shalit is alive or dead.

It occurs to me there is a deeper irony which the Israeli Apartheid supporters completely miss in their bid to demonize to Israel as a rogue state among nations; which is what occurs daily by either the Palestinian Authority or Hamas in the Gaza Strip is nothing less than the grossest of violation of human rights, but this is state of nationhood for which they are actively clamoring for. Go fracking figure.

Hitler can't find parking....in downtown Tel Aviv

Ha’aretz:
Holocaust survivors have called for the removal from YouTube of a clip parodying Adolf Hitler searching for a parking space in Tel Aviv.

The clip shows an excerpt from the film "Der Untergang", a 2004 movie about the fall of the Third Reich, with subtitles that show Hitler ranting about the dearth of available parking spaces in the coastal city, a problem familiar to Tel Aviv residents who own vehicles.

(…)The clip originally included Hebrew subtitles which were then translated into English due to popular demand. The blurb accompanying the English clip states that the jokes included may not be suitable for all audiences.



I don’t know but I find it hysterically funny. Watch it while you can and judge for yourself.

h/t Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Let's just not play Dubai

If you follow women’s tennis you probably already know that United Arab Emirates has denied an entrance visa to Israeli rising tennis star Shahar Pe'er from competing in a very lucrative world tournament hosted in Dubai.

While tournament officials issue the public tisk, tisk, shame, shame, and threaten to take action, possibly next year, the Wall Street Journal and The US Tennis Channel have a set of balls and is not afraid to use them. The Jerusalem Post:
The Wall Street Journal Europe announced Tuesday that it had revoked its sponsorship of a Dubai women's tennis tournament, due to the United Arab Emirates' refusal to issue an entry visa for Israel's Shahar Pe'er.

"The Wall Street Journal's editorial philosophy is free markets and free people, and this action runs counter to the Journal's editorial direction," the Journal Europe said in a statement. It added that it was also withdrawing its sponsorship of the men's tournament beginning next week. In the US, the Tennis Channel has said it won't broadcast the event.

The Women's Tennis Association has threatened to strike the lucrative Dubai tournament from the tennis calendar due to recent developments. Larry Scott, head of the WTA tour, said Monday that barring entry to Pe'er could have ramifications beyond tennis because it threatens the principle that sports and politics should not mix. The organizers of the Dubai women's tournament claimed on Tuesday that possible threats against Pe'er led authorities to block her from receiving a visa.

This isn’t an issue of sports and politics, although I can see why Larry Scott and the UAE would like to frame it that way and cite ‘security concerns’. The issue is sports and bigotry, specifically, the Arab world’s ongoing attachment to Jew hatred.

Is the UN now the weapons dealer for Hamas?

I would hope not, but If nothing else; the UN should be considering to be deliberately acting in ways as Hamas enablers. Ynet News:
Hamas has appropriated seven tons of weaponry and ammunition stored in UN warehouses in Gaza and intended to be destroyed by sappers, Israeli officials said Tuesday. Senior UN officials demanded the ordnance stockpile be returned immediately. With the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, Hamas and UN personnel amassed weapons and explosives – mainly unexploded tank shells – and moved them to a special warehouse guarded by Hamas security troops.

UN representatives examined the weaponry, and a delegation of UN-employed experts was due to arrive in Gaza in order to carry out a controlled detonation of the explosives. Over the course of the past two days, however, it was discovered that the weaponry had gone missing. The Hamas security officials charged with guarding the storage facility had also vanished.

Hamas' motive to appropriate the ordnance is unclear, although most estimate that the group believes the unexploded shells can be reused. Hamas has yet to officially comment on the allegations, though sources within the organization said it was highly likely that members of the military wing sought to reuse the weaponry.

Under Sharia law the punishment for theft is rather harsh, especially compared to western standards, but can anyone find an Imam to enforce it? And what on earth was the UN thinking by allowing ‘Hamas security forces’ to guard the weapons and explosives?

Of course, this begs the question – what will Hamas do with 7 tons of explosives? The easy answer is to use it against Israel. In the next conflict I expect there will be more instances of Hamas deliberately using the Israeli explosives to blow up controversial sites (like schools) and claim the Israelis did it, and of course, subsequent denials from the IDF will not be believed as the fragments found will all be of Israeli origin. Win-win for Hamas, lose-lose for Israel and the ordinary Palestinians caught in the crossfire.

The Palestinian Authority gets a free pass on Press Freedom

The names Samer Khawireh, Ahmed Bikawi, Tarek Shihab, Iyad Srour, Farid Hammad and Bassam al-Sayeh probably don’t mean anything to you, and in fact, to most of the world’s journalists I doubt there is the slightest ripple of recognition but what these six journalists have in common is that they have been arrested by the Palestinian Authority and are being held indefinitely in detention. The Jerusalem Post:
Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank have refused to release six Palestinian journalists who were detained in recent months on charges of "possession of weapons" and "membership in illegal organizations."

Palestinian journalists who appealed to PA President Mahmoud Abbas on behalf of their detained colleagues were told that the "suspects" would remain in prison because they "posed a threat to the national interests of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people."

The six journalists are Samer Khawireh, Ahmed Bikawi, Tarek Shihab, Iyad Srour, Farid Hammad and Bassam al-Sayeh. They are all being held without trial. The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, a West Bank-based body that is affiliated with the PA leadership, has refused to endorse the case of the six men under the pretext that they are Hamas supporters.

A Palestinian journalist from Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post that the PA's crackdown on the local media was aimed at intimidating Palestinian reporters and stopping them from reporting about financial corruption and human rights violations by Abbas's security forces.

"The Palestinian media is under attack by the PA leadership in the West Bank," the journalist said. "Many [Palestinian] reporters are too scared to express their opinion because of the crackdown." Last week the PA security forces released from prison Isam Rimawi, a news photographer working for the PLO's official news agency, Wafa.

Rimawi was arrested on January 26 by members of the much-feared Preventative Security Service in the West Bank on suspicion of possessing illegal weapons. He said that he was subjected to various forms of torture while being held in a prison cell in the Preventative Security Service's headquarters in the town of Betunia near Ramallah.

Ah yes, the moderates, or as I call them, the ‘good terrorists’ of the Palestinian Authority in action. What bothers me tremendously is free pass in the world press or among the so-called champions of Palestinian human rights for any abuses or crimes routinely committed by the Palestinian Authority. Certainly, the progressives were outraged when the IDF refused to allow journalists into the Gaza Strip free fire zone but there is nary a ripple of outrage when the Palestinian Authority abuses its own basic law with arbitrary detention and torture of journalists. It seems to me the alleged humanists only find their voice when it is alleged that an Israeli has been trampling on Palestinian human rights.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Overrated Novels

Earlier last week I was reading a list of the top 10 of the so-called most overrated novels. I was in agreement with most of the choices except I rather did like The Great Gatsby and the Lord of the Rings series. I cannot imagine why 100 Years of Solitude made the list unless the blogger read a horrendous English translation, but then again, I was only 17 when I read these books. Lots of things I liked at 17 I cannot abide now.

I cannot tell you how relieved I was to learn someone else in the world hated A Confederacy of Dunces. I loathed that book and only read it as a favour to a friend who insisted I needed to read it. I have no idea why it won a Pulitzer but I took it as a given that the committee members were all dropping acid on the day they read it. So I decided to come up with my own list of 10 with a bit of help from my two oldest teenagers. Here's our combined list.

1. Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. It's a good thing Salinger became a recluse not long after this book was published or his life could have been in serious jeopardy from the literally hundreds of thousands of teenagers who have forced to read this novel in the last 30 plus years. I was given the book at 14, and was told it would change my life and enhance my perspective on the world. My bad, I thought it was meant to be a life-affirming read. Sorry, I could no more relate to the Holden Caulfield's of the world than flying pigs licking their arses. It did make me question the judgment of all aging hippie types and that was 1976. My son concurs on both counts -the book has not gotten any more relevant or meaningful in 2007, and aging hippie types are still not trustworthy in 2009.

2. Lord of the Flies by William Golding. This is one of those strange books, which is far more enjoyable to discuss than to actually read. I was forced to read it in grade 9 and what a slow plow it was. I can still remember the ache. When I brought the book up for my list; my teens started to make these strange arm gestures while nasty retching sounds come out of their throats. The Last Amazon and her brother still feel the pain and their memories are obviously still far too raw to even be able to discuss it using spoken language.

3. Wuthering Heights by one of those Bronte sisters. My apathy is so great towards this book that I cannot even be bothered to look up which one actually wrote it. I was forced to read this in grade 12 and I have remained scarred by the experience ever since. I still utter the prayer mantra I learned from reading that book, "Lord, save and preserve me from whiney, sulky brooding men".

4. Ulysses by James Joyce. This book made me believe English were really onto something with the English invasion of Ireland. Best justification for ethnic cleansing of the Irish I have ever read.

5. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Never had I looked so forward to reading a book. Never have I been so disappointed once read.

6. Handmaiden's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Actually, I did seriously consider just putting down 'Margaret Atwood' on my list without centering out any particular book of hers. There are just so many worthy entries – who can really choose? Has any other author ever written so much which has been so outstandingly dull and staid? One of the highlights from my experience of reading the Edible Woman was when one of her characters hangs out at the laundry mat for entertainment. Every once in a while he tosses a colored sock in the dryer among his whites for his 'tv' viewing pleasure – that's the 'highlight' of the entire fracking novel. The Handmaiden's Tale has good idea behind it, and would have made a great book - if anyone else had written it. Once again, its one of those rare books which is better discussed than read.

7. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. While my mother read it to me I use to pray we would get to the point where Gilbert kills Anne and was disappointed to find out he never did. A free piece of advice - read Horatio Hornblower to your daughters instead. One day they will grow-up and thank you for it. I know mine did.

8. Who has seen the Wind by W.O. Mitchell. This book was read to the class by my teacher. I learned two things from this experience. I cannot abide being read to and it discouraged me from having even the remotest desire to live anywhere on the prairie.

9. The Diviners by Margaret Laurence. This book is reason why I have never been to Manitoba. This book is the reason my daughter swears never to visit Manitoba.

10. The Wars by Timothy Finley. Overall, I like Finley as an author. Not Wanted on the Voyage and Famous Last Words go down as two of my all-time favourite books but this story just blows – and often literally. The Last Amazon suggested this mind-numbingly boring book should be removed from all secondary school curriculum reading lists as it actively induces a rampant case of homophobia in all those who are forced to read the book.

My list seems a little heavy on CanLit side, but hey, this is what comes from having the government heavily involved in pimping Canadian literary culture to Canadians for the last 35 odd years.

What I can't understand, is how a country with so many wonderful first class writers, produces a literary bureaucratic class, which actively settles for promoting the most boring books going. Why choose Robertson Davies over Margaret Laurence? Why not choose Findley's Famous Last Words or Not Wanted on the Voyage over The Wars? And for frack's sake - why choose The Edible Woman at all?

The Poster Boy no journalists will ever champion

The Jerusalem Post reports on the young man who Amnesty International will not be going to bat for and apparently he is just one among many:
The boy was identified as Saher Ahmed Muhaisen, 15, from the Dehaishe refugee camp near Bethlehem. The incident occurred last Thursday while Fayad was in Bethlehem to attend a conference of Christian community leaders. Sources in the city told The Jerusalem Post that Muhaisen hurled his shoe and an orange at Fayad's car as his convoy passed through one of the main thoroughfares. No one was hurt. They said that PA policemen and security officers accompanying the convoy arrested the boy after chasing him through the alleyways of the camp.

The sources quoted eyewitnesses as reporting that the boy was severely beaten before being taken into custody. The boy remains in prison, and the motive for his attack on Fayad remains unclear.

A Palestinian journalist living in Bethlehem told the Post that he and his colleagues have been warned by the PA security commanders not to report on the incident. The journalist, who asked not to be identified out of fear for his safety, said that Fayad's convoy was attacked on two other occasions.

"Each time the convoy passed through the main streets, young men would throw different objects, especially vegetables, at the cars," he said. The journalist added that the PA police have so far arrested eight suspects, including Muhaisen, in connection with the assaults. He said the families of two other teenagers have refused to hand their sons over to the security forces for questioning about the attacks. According to the sources, all the suspects are minors.

A senior PA official in Bethlehem said the suspects were detained for throwing vegetables at vehicles belonging to the security forces in the city. He refused to say whether the attacks were directed against Fayad's heavily-guarded convoy. Asked why the PA has refrained from informing the public about the alleged incidents, the official replied, "This is not an important issue and we don't think there's a need to publish it. It's just a trivial matter concerning thugs."

One of the reasons this article is so intriguing is because it suggests there is a growing disconnect with the “Palestinian Street’ in the West Bank with the official Palestinian leadership. It does tend to make one wonder if training the Palestinian security forces really is a venture the Americans should be actively promoting/doing.

The mote in the Jordanian eye

According to the Jordan Times, Jordanian legislators have decided to pursue options to sue Israel for alleged ‘war crimes’ committed in Operation Cast Lead.
AMMAN - Lawmakers on Wednesday approved recommendations submitted by the House Legal Committee on several options to sue Israeli “war criminals”, following the three-week devastating attack on Gaza that killed more than 1,300 people.

Let us backtrack to September 1970 in Jordan’s own rather colourful history with 'militant' Palestinians.
Estimates of the number of the people killed in the ten days of Black September range from three thousand to more than five thousand, although exact numbers are unknown. The Palestinian death toll in 11 days of fighting was estimated by Jordan at 3,400, though Arafat claimed that 20,000 had been killed.[12] The Western reporters were concentrated at the Intercontinental Hotel, away from the action. Nasser's state-controlled Voice of the Arabs from Cairo reported genocide.

Let me guess it’s a case of - no genocide for me but of course for thee.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Introspection

The wheeling-dealing of coalition building continues on in Israel and I would not be surprised to see a Likud-Kadima-Labor or Likud-Kadima-Israel Beiteinu coalition formed as a national unity coalition – well national unity for everyone but the religious. In fact, there are already echoes of this surfacing.

I want to turn your attention to this Ynet News article written before the Israeli election because it’s a discussion which rarely surfaces outside of Israel:

The Arab-Israeli leadership is increasing pushing us into anti-Israel radicalism. This extremism climaxed with the “Death to the Jews” chants during Operation Cast Lead. Here is what I have to say to those leaders: Look at what you’ve done.

We did not cry out in the face of rocket attacks on southern residents that went on for years. We did not cry out in the face of the suffering of our brethren, Gaza residents, who have been brutally repressed by Hamas. Yet we cried out, of all things, in the face of an onslaught against the most radical element in the Arab world.

The Arab-Israeli leadership won’t connect, heaven forbid, to the moderate Arab elements such as Egypt, Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, or Jordan. These are of no interest to it. We saw Azmi Bishara, who left, and we saw where he went to. I don’t need to explain what Hamas is all about. The Egyptians and Palestinian Authority officials are doing it better than me. They ask Hamas how it can talk about victory when the war against Israel – which it sought and advanced – was managed on the backs and blood of thousands of Palestinians that were killed, wounded, or lost their property, while Hamas’ leadership stayed at fortified bunkers or in Damascus.

So now we can accurately measure the result of this conduct: 18. Why 18? Because this is the number of Knesset seats that the polls predict for Avigdor Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beiteinu. Apparently, we got what we deserve. If we, citizens of the State of Israel, which has a Jewish majority, connect to the worst enemies of the State, why are we surprised that this is what we get?

Lieberman and his party are not a marginal political element such as Meir Kahane’s party, Kach. We are dealing with immense political power that constitutes tangible danger to Israeli Arabs. He hates us and incites against us, and we can see that it’s going very well for him: The more he incites against us, the stronger he gets.


That is, we managed to make the Jewish public hate us so much that many are willing to support a racist party. If a party was similarly inciting against Jews overseas, those same Lieberman supporters would probably cry out “anti-Semitism.”

Our leadership, which for years had been leading us in a way that portrays us as the enemies of the State of Israel, while failing to take care of any of the real needs of Israel’s Arab residents, is now asking for our votes again. Yet we interest our leadership just about as much as the Gaza population interests Hamas. For this leadership, we are merely a political means that allows it to make its damaging voice heard again and again.

I turn to Arab residents of Israel: This is a moment of truth for us. We are facing grave danger, and don’t say that you weren’t warned. Eighteen Knesset seats for Lieberman is no longer a political game. For us, it’s genuine trouble. We cannot stand by and watch on, as if this does not pertain to us. We must enlist and massively support the moderate parties that will weaken Lieberman. We constitute 20% of the population in Israel and we have the ability to exert significant influence. We do not have the privilege to stay at home at this time and avoid the political game. If we fail to play it, others shall play it on our backs.

In other news, kassams keep on coming.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

another day, another deal

Varies groups of Israelis have yet to have their votes counted and it could change the coalition landscape when the result is released. Jerusalem Post:
Soldiers, sailors, prisoners, the disabled and government employees working overseas all vote in special polling places, and their ballots are submitted in a double envelope, with the outer envelope including personal information about the voter in order to prevent voter fraud. In addition to 700 polling stations at IDF and Border Police bases, double envelopes from 194 hospital polling stations, 1,319 stations for the disabled, 92 at embassies overseas and 56 in prisons need to be counted by Thursday afternoon.

An estimated 4-5 mandates are up for grabs behind the double envelopes, enough to afford a nail-biting finish for politicians waiting anxiously for the final results in such a close election. Soldiers' ballots are usually generally reflective of the overall voting trends, but with a slight turn to the right in recent years. Zevulun Orlev, who barely returned to the Knesset as Habayit Hayehudi's No. 3 candidate, expressed a hope Wednesday afternoon that the high numbers of "knit yarmulkes" among the soldiers would give his party a much-needed boost that, combined with a surplus vote-sharing agreement with the National Union, would afford them an additional Knesset seat.

At least one study, carried out by the University of Haifa's Dr. Tzvika Barkai, indicates that Orlev's hopes may not be in vain. After polling 800 soldiers before, during and after their military service, he discovered that the closer soldiers were to the time of their enlistment, the more right-wing they tended to vote. In general, he concluded, the popular assumption that soldiers' votes benefit parties from Likud rightward seemed to be accurate. Soldiers also frequently support smaller parties, but even so, the chances of any one of the small parties receiving the push necessary to make it over the minimum threshold are close to zero.

No one really knows where the IDF rank and file will put their vote although it is a given that the Arab parties won’t see any significant change in their mandate resulting from this vote. Some of the religious parties could see a slight change in their mandate given the number of religious soldiers or it could just be enough to put either Likud over the line or increase Kadima’s edge. Ha’aretz suggests the soldiers vote will end in a draw for Kadima-Likud. I am not so sure given the widespread feeling the Kadima coalition pulled the IDF out of Gaza before the job was done. And who knows how the crooks will vote.

In the meantime, the wheeling-dealing continues on with Lieberman suggesting he has made a decision on who he will recommend as Prime Minister to President Shimon Peres. The National Union are playing coy or shy according to this Jerusalem Post article suggesting Likud’s Netanyahu does not necessarily get their recommendation for Prime Minister.

It is still possible for Kadima’s Livni to form a wide coalition to include both Shas and Israel Beiteinu sitting together although the sounds coming out from the Meretz and Labor are suggesting they will sit this Knesset as opposition. I don’t see Shas necessarily having a problem with sitting in this coalition as it has before. Shas price is probably the construction/land development portfolios, no to the dividing of Jerusalem, and no to civil marriage which would put Kadima in a bit of a bind because other than offering Lieberman a high profile portfolio her other great pull would be civil marriage and election reform.

Two days after the Israeli election and the brass ring is still up for grabs. Oh yeah, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is suggesting the world ‘isolate’ any Likud coalition. Now that’s a peace partner!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

There is nothing left for it but to nuke Toronto - the update

Forget the Israeli elections, war, climate change and the sinking of the global economy. I have bigger problems. For all you who think living in the eye of the Centre of the Universe is easy, rest assured, there is no party going on here.

Yesterday morning as I was attempted to apply eyeliner in front of the bathroom mirror when I was startled by the banging and clinging noises coming from underneath the bathtub. I went near the tub to investigate, but when the screeching noises started, I dropped my eyeliner and hopped out of the tub. Obviously there was some kind of a critter fight happening underneath my tub around the facet area. And from the sound and fury, it was no little critters having a go.

It was at this point, Rogue – my predator and head of internal rodent security raced into the bathroom and jumped into the tub to hunker down in front of the facets in the ‘ready to pounce and torture’ position. This is Rogue surveying the home front.

I realize this picture does not accurately reflect his true size which is mammoth for his species. And don’t be fooled by his expression of docility. I have watched him take hours to torture a cornered critter before he moves in for the kill. Trust me, even Saddam’s finest internal security agents could learn a thing or two from the Rogue.

So I did what all gun-less women do when faced with a similar situation. I grabbed my eyeliner out of the tub, picked up my make-up bag and booked it out of the bathroom. I shut the door on my way out leaving the Predator trapped in the room and went to work. I called the youngest and advised him to open the door but to use the washroom with caution.

The only time that I can tell that Rogue has left the bathtub in the last 24 hours was when I kicked him out of the tub this morning so I could take a quick shower. Although, he did insist on standing guard on the side of the tub. I duly made the pointless call to the landlord’s office, and the super hummed, hawed and muttered something about getting around to check on it as soon as his work load eased up a bit. I expect nothing much will come of it until something dramatic happens - like the building burns down because the wiring has shorted out due to chewing.

A friend asked just how big the sound was and that got me to worrying that my predator might be too small for the job because the racket was enormous. This got me to thinking maybe its not sewer rats but…raccoons. The downtown is invested with them. I can’t leave my house in the early morning or in the evening and not see raccoons – usually big, huge fat ones who can barely move because they are so bloated in size from the endless meals found to be found in the green bins which are set out everywhere. I actually find this idea more comforting. At least, if its raccoons, there is always the possibility I will get a new hat or maybe even a short jacket out of this situation.

And if its rats, well the only good rodent I know, is a dead mink. Sewer rats just don’t have any kind of a decent pelt to make a hat or coat out of. And before anyone goes all squishy-touchy-feelie on me, let me say this – Bambi does not live in my world. Now I need a game plan – any suggestions?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Racing the devil or Israeli Exit Polls

The initial exit polls are in and Kadima is leading Likud by 2 mandates but here is the rub. Exit polls in Israel are unreliable most of the time and Livni cannot form a coalition from strictly ‘leftist' parties - without Shas or Israel Beiteinu. She brings in Israel Beiteinu, and she will in all probability lose Labor, Meretz, and the small the small Arab list. If Kadima and Labor agree to act as anchors, and she can bring Shas on side for points, Livni has a workable coalition.

Despite what you may have read today, Shas should be more characterized as a ‘left-wing’ party than ‘right-wing’. Shas comes down closer to Labor than Kadima and its vote can be brought for the ‘right’ funding and a promise not to negotiate over Jerusalem. Shas, may even make it a ‘principle’ to stand with Kadima and Labor in order to try to negate the leftward’s worst impulses - giving away Jerusalem and secular marriage. If anything, it buys Livni time to rule for at least the next 18 months or next war – which ever comes first.

But if Livni was really smart as she thinks she is; she would call up Ehud Barak and say here is my plan. I intend to make Bibi an offer to join my coalition and I will give him either Finance or Foreign Affairs with a rotating Prime Ministership. For Barak’s support, he gets to keep Defense and a few other high profile portfolios. So what’s the inner beauty of this plan? Livni can say to Bibi he can finally unshackle himself from owing the religious with their incessant never-ending demands. For Barak, he gets to join a coalition Labor can live with without the necessity of having to pander to the religious, and he keeps a high profile portfolio for himself. This also gives Barak time to rebuild Labor’s fortunes. It’s a win-win scenario for all three established parties, and gives Israelis the ‘broad tent national coalition’ as well as giving Livni the freedom to negotiate literally anything away. Downside – Bibi’s ego, Livni’s ego, Barak’s ego.

Now if Livni can’t get anyone on board, Netanyahu may approach Livni and Barak on the sly with a similar deal and by-pass Shas, Israel Beiteinu, National Union, Jewish Home party, United Torah Judaism et al etc. Of course, if Bibi’s offering; there would be no ‘rotating’ Prime Ministership but both parties get power and a chance to rebuild their political fortunes. Either two master national coalition scenarios would be good for Likud, Kadima and Labor but bad for Jews everywhere.

Election Day in Israel or the day when all deals with the devil are possible

Election Day in Israel dawns and the heavens open up with rain. In any other country this might be seen as a ‘bad thing’ but Israel has been encountering a drought so the rains should be most welcome. Will it discourage voters from going to the polls? I suspect only those who weren’t overtly interested in voting will be deterred. This is an election where every single vote could potentially be the one to keep a political party in play.

Once the returns come in and numbers start appearing start looking for elements of consensus. By that I mean, who received the largest mandate, who comes in a strong second and where does the two party platforms converge and where do they separate. How does the mandate of the third party (kingmaker) fit in with the other two? Do any of the special interest parties receive a strong mandate, and if so, where does the mandate fit in with the other two parties, and where does it converge? This will shape what will be possible to accomplish with a coalition government and by extension what will be left undone and unrealized in the party platforms.

I am going to use the Rosner’s poll trend at the Jerusalem Post and play a little game of ‘what if’ just so you can see the possibilities. One caveat, poll trends in Israel can be enormously misleading.

Likud – 26, Labor 15, Kadima – 23, Shas – 10, Israel Beiteinu – 18, Meretz - 6, Torah Judaism – 6, National Union – 4 , Jewish Home - 3, Meimad Green – 0, Hadash - 4, Arab List – 3, Balad -2

For example, a Likud first place and a Kadima second place would suggest voters are looking for a more centrist position. It suggests Likud should be strengthening the Palestinian economy while continuing negotiations with the Palestinians and the person to negotiate with the Palestinians is Bibi rather than Livni but here’s a rub. Livni has stated category she will not enter into any coalition in which her party does not lead. So will Livni live up to her alleged principles and settle for a stint on the backbenches of opposition or allow herself to be woed by Bibi? Does Bibi even need her?

Let’s say Kadima deals and joins Likud, who makes up the third – Shas, Labor or Israel Beiteinu and what do they get for joining? A Likud, Kadima and Labor coalition is definitely possible, and therefore it could by-pass not only Israel Beiteinu but the more religious parties which would flavour the coalition as more secular in nature. This would be a natural fir for the small leftist and Arab parties to join and we would have a big tent secular coalition with Kadima and Labor softening the hard right elements in the Likud party. If anything, Bibi’s juggling of the party list shows this is where he personally is inclined to go. It also has the advantage of not having to pay-out either Shas or Israel Beiteinu both of which will demand big concessions for inclusion.

Let’s say Kadima refuses to join. This leaves Likud with three possibilities for second. Shas, Labor or Israel Beiteinu? Lieberman is a big winner in this scenario and he won’t come cheap but neither will Shas. Will Shas sit with Israel Beiteinu? My best hunch is absolutely yes - despite the heavy rhetoric issued by Shas in the past week. If anything Shas will want to act as a counter-weight to Israel Beiteinu. But will Labor join both Shas and Israel Beiteinu. My gut says no, not if Labor has any hopes of resurrecting itself into a relevant political party come the next election. Labor joining a Likud/Israel Beiteinu/Shas coalition would be its political death knoll. Now a Likud, Labor, Shas, coalition has an advantage in that Labor can bring in the smaller more secular lefty parties to round out the numbers and makes a definite tilt towards the left or Bibi can use Shas as an anchor to bring in the smaller religious parties and save himself both a Livni and Lieberman migraine.

So what if Bibi decides to deal and pay off the devil first if Kadima won’t play? A coalition second with Israel Beiteinu rules out Labor and puts Likud at the mercy of not only Shas but the smaller special interest religious parties to keep his coalition going. Lieberman’s interests will always be clashing with the interest of Shas and the other religious parties. Of course, I could be wrong about Shas, and if so, Bibi does not potentially have the numbers with Israel Beiteinu if the smaller right-wing religious parties fail to carry the trend to make the magic 61 mandates needed to carry any vote in the Knesset. Although, personally this could be the most entertaining Israeli coalition of all time.

If the smaller religious parties fail to make the current trending, but Israel Beiteinu and Likud do, watch for a Kadima lead coalition signifying very little change from the ineptness in which Israel is currently governed.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Israeli Election Primer Guide - The Update

Can be found here.

marital peace

The Globe and Mail runs this lifestyle-like article on potential grooms choosing to forego diamond engagement rings due to the economic down turn, and instead, choosing other less pricey bubbles but it’s a comment from the thread which brings priceless sensibility and perspective to the whole report. King Kong from Canada writes:
I buy my girlfriend stuff from Tiffany's once in awhile, and she is in no way materialistic (it's my idea to buy and not hers). Is it a rip-off? Yes. Are there way better things to do with my money? Probably. Will men ever understand why we buy fancy rocks for 10000% markup? No. So why do I do it? It's the priceless look on her face when she sees that little blue box with the white ribbon, and then the constant admiring from her friends. It makes her happy for a long long time.

I stopped asking women logical questions about the usefulness of diamonds a long time ago. I just accept it and go with the flow. It's easier that way...
This is why King Kong from Canada will be and live a happily married man one day while other men struggle with a Sisyphus-like quest trying to find the ‘ever elusive’ peace in the home.

Israeli Election Primer

Reading the Canadian papers online concerning the Israeli election is like reading a primer on ignorance. So I will try to take a very complex election and make it simple. The Israeli (parliament) Knesset is based on representation by population. The number of seats any party receives is determined by the total votes cast for that party. Party ‘A’ receives 15% of the total votes cast and will therefore be allotted the equivalent of 15% of the total 120 seats available in the Knesset. Israeli political parties come up with lists detailing which members will represent them given the percentage of votes cast their way.

The party leader always has the first spot and how any given candidate assumes a place on the party list varies from party to party. Some do it by a membership vote by the party, others have the leader of the party appoint candidates, and still others use a mix of both. For instance, Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu got into trouble for allowing the Likud membership to vote on the list but when Moshe Feiglin was returned high on the list Netanyahu decided to circumvent the process rationalizing Feiglin’s nationalist stance would cause Likud to bleed votes to Kadima or Labor, hence the fudging of the lists.

Firstly, throw out everything you think ‘right-wing, left-wing, conservative and liberal stand for in a Canadian political context. Almost without exception, all Israeli parties fall on the left side of the Canadian political spectrum. Yes, even the so-called right-wing parties like Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu are still left on our political centre and are the Canadian equivalent of the Liberal party. What separates these two parties is not so much economic theory but their stances national security, the peace process, citizenship, and religious/secular values.

One of the true divides of Israeli political parties is religion or the lack of. Here’s an interesting tidbit. Shas stands approximately at the same point on the political left as the Israeli Labor party. The true separation between both parties has more to do with their belief in how religion should or should not determine how the state is run. Shas is an orthodox Charedi religious party while Labor is secular in nature. Shas’ political leader is Eli Yishai but Shas spiritual leader is Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. If Rabbi Yosef issues a directive, no one in Shas, including the party leader, will take a position contrary to Rabbi Yosef’s directive.

Traditionally, in western democracies Labor parties are said to represent the interests of working men and women but the Israeli Labor party today tends to attract the progressive intelligentsia of Israeli society while Likud, Shas, National Union, and Yisrael Beiteinu can be considered to more rightly representative of the interests of average working class Israelis. Here is another little quirk, communist parties, in most western style democracies are marginal groups at the best of times with a distinctly irrelevant aura; however, in Israel, not only is there one communist party but many and it gets more face time to promote its ideas in the Israeli media than you would find in ten years of Mondays in the media of any other western style country.

It’s been years since one political party has been able to capture more than 50% of the vote so coalition governments are the norm. The current coalition administration is lead by Kadima, the party Ariel Sharon founded after his break with the Likud party, although he never lead the party in an election. The Prime Minister is currently Ehud Olmert, but the leader of Kadima is Tzippi Livni, currently the Foreign Minister, who was chosen by Kadima to lead the party in Tuesday’s election.

Kadima was populated by a series of political opportunists drawn mostly from the ranks of Labor and Likud as well as a few other smaller parties in Israel. Kadima is commonly described as being in the political centre of Israeli leftism and Kadima was founded with much fanfare and excitement drawn from mostly secular ranks but its record of accomplishment has been hampered by general to rank incompetence and scandal upon scandal. It is committed to principle of establishing a two-state solution per the ‘Road Map’. The most important policy issues in this election are the continuing negotiations with the Palestinian Authority as per the Road Map, and instituting civil marriage and burial in Israel.

Currently, Kadima is trailing second in polls to Likud which brings me to the Likud-Ahi ticket. Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu is the current Likud-Ahi leader and this time round Likud has entered into a coalition with the Ahi party. Netanyahu, while a favourite for making Israel’s case aboard (especially in the Anglo media circuit) his record as Prime Minister was dismal and is credited for giving up majority control of the ancient Jewish city of Hebron, and second holiest place in Judaism to Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. Despite this, Likud remains a potent mix of the religious and secular elements and truly one of the last great tents in Israeli politics.

The party platform consists of being committed to negotiate peace with a Palestinian leadership ‘not compromised by terror’ which means I don’t know who they will actually negotiate with. An economic plan of fiscal well-being for the Palestinian Authority in the hope the Palestinians can be bribed from committing acts of political terrorism, and continued economic reforms of the Israeli government. Likud has also committed to the refusal to divide Jerusalem, the undivided capital of Israel, as well as any dismantlement of any major settlement blocs in the disputed territories. Currently, Likud-Ahi is favoured to win the election but what to watch for is how many seats over 30 Likud will win. Thirty is the current high for Bibi’s party which isn’t the strongest showing given the general Israeli malaise with both Kadima and Labor parties.

This brings me to Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) and the projected third runner up and potential kingmaker – a position usually held by Shas. Yisrael Beiteinu is lead by a rather brash and sometimes abrasive for Avigdor Lieberman. Check out my ‘Fun with Lieberman’ label which has been detailing the kind of antics that has sent progressive and Arab heads exploding in Israel for years. There are those who assume I am a natural Yisrael Beiteinu supporter being a self-declared Zionist but Yisrael Beitinu is not the natural home for anyone with religious sensibilities or a belief in Zion. Yisrael Beiteinu support traditionally was drawn from the Former Soviet Union citizens but in this election we are seeing support coming from outside the FSU community but still very little support exists from any of the national religious camps in the YB ranks.

I suspect his appeal lies in Israelis choosing to follow their basest instincts due to a number of converging factors such as a rather dramatic escalation in the number of attacks and a growing lawlessness emanating from the Israeli-Arab community. Israelis are tired of feeling like victims while their government twiddles its thumbs impotently and Lieberman is perceived as nobody’s victim and a tough guy able to stand up equally to the Israeli Arab and international community. One crucial party platform calls for a population/land exchange which would see the large settlement blocs in the disputed territories exchanged with large blocs of Israeli Arabs land within Israel. While the international community cringes at Israel Beiteinu peace and land exchange policies Kadima party leader Tzippi Livni is widely reported as saying the Israeli Arabs 'must find their national solution elsewhere’ last December.

All ties with the Gaza Strip will be cut and any acts of aggression would be met with massive retaliation. A citizen’s loyalty oath would be instituted and required of all Israeli citizens. His party would actively lobby for membership in the EU as well as NATO as well as allowing for civil marriage which makes him no friend of the religious.

The fourth runner up brings in Labor lead by Ehud Barak, current Israeli Defense Minister. My how the mighty have fallen can best describe the political fortunes of the current Labor party. Ehud Barak’s former stint as Prime Minister of Israel is perceived as an even greater disaster than Bibi’s. Even the current party platform reeks of yesterday’s half-baked ideas. A commitment to the Saudi peace plan (with revisions) as a basis for negotiating with the Palestinians and a promise to reach a negotiated settlement within two years as well as reaching a negotiated settlement with the Syrians. Labor will use all legitimate means to ensure Iran’s international isolation, with an eye to ending Iran’s nuclear threat. On the home front, Labor will work on behalf of senior citizens by increasing pensions and increasing the safety of long-term savings. Talk about blowing and sucking at the same time and so it is no coincidence that home of the traditional progressive intelligentsia has deserted Labor in groves to either hitch its wagon to Kadima or the Hadash party.

Time is short so I am ending my primer for now and will update it tonight with a profile on the smaller political parties ahead of Tuesday’s election result.

The Update:

Having highlighted the four major parties involved in Tuesday's election it is time to turn to the minor parties.

Shas – Former kingmaker of Israeli politics has been allegedly uprooted by Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu. Shas is described as an 'ultra'-Orthodox Sephardi community party officially lead by Eli Yishai but 'spiritually' mentored/directed by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Shas is a left-wing religious party whose whole rationale for being is to support and protect the Sephardic way of life. It is commonly held belief in Israeli politics that Shas' vote on any given issue can be had - provided one can meet the price Shas will extract.

Shas is currently against making any significant territorial concessions to the Palestinians or dividing Jerusalem. Shas believes all government policies should be based on strict adherence to Jewish law and is in favour of higher state pay-outs to large families as well as increased funding for religious schools. Recently, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has taken to issue a set of rather harsh directives against Yisrael Beiteinu, and he has even gone so far as to suggest it is innately sinful to vote Yisrael Beiteinu. Furthermore, if Yisrael Beiteinu is returned with any kind of strength the country's grocers will be forced to sell pork and Israelis of all stripes will be forced to pray in churches. While it would be easy to suggest Shas is undergoing a case of sour groups for being displaced as the kingmaker in Israeli politics, Shas does have a point, in that the incredibly secular Yisrael Beiteinu, is seeking a rather profound change in the nature of the world’s only Jewish state.

Meretz – no outline of Israeli political parties would be complete without mentioning the premier Communist party of Israel. Meretz is a completely secularly party which favors direct negotiates with the Palestinians, a dismantling of the settlements and a withdrawal from the disputed territories. It also wishes to accept any non-orthodox conversions and an acceptance of patrilineal descent as a valid determination as a source of ‘Jewishness’. It carries the traditional social justice agenda. Meretz has fallen on hard times lately among progressive circles and the ranks are now full of aging hippies while all the cool, hip progs have been increasing drawn to the ranks of Hadash and the Green party.

Since the Green parties world wide are fairly indistinguishable from each other and the current polling trend for the Meimad (Green party) is zero; I am not going to waste any more words on them.

United Torah Judaism. The Ashkenazi Anti-Zionist Charedim version of Shas without the political expertise, savvy or number clout to be relevant. Enough said.

Habayit HaYehudi – The Jewish Home party replaces the National Religious zionist party. The party platform is against any further withdrawals from the disputed territories. Stands against the creation of a Palestinian state and wants to strengthen both the state and religious education system. Not much to say really other than it could easily fit into a Likud lead coalition.

Gil or the Pensioners Party. The whole point of the Gil party is to increase funding and highlighting the needs of Israeli seniors. Gil burst on the scene in the last election and would be a fit with either a Kadima or Likud lead coalition. As far as I can determine, the pollsters are suggesting Gil will not be able to hold onto any of their current mandates.

The Hadash party is where all the cool, hip progressive leftie Jews go to hand out with progressive cool, hip Israeli Arabs who have left the traditional socialistic Arab parties. Standard progressive platforms, with the exception of wanting to completely dismantle the Jewish character of the Israeli state and replace it with a completely secular one. One Love people - except for religious Jews among us.

This brings me to the Arab parties. First off is the United Arab List which is a combination of 3 Arab parties. The A-List can be characterized as wanting the dismantlement of a Jewish homeland, the complete right of return for all Palestinians refugees from 1948, full withdrawal from the disputed territories and the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the capital.

Balad or the National Democratic Assembly. Honestly, the only difference I can see from the United Arab List is the name. The platforms are so similar that is might as well be the same party. Maybe the difference is some kind of a clan thingy.


Finally, my political home in Israel - Ichud Leumi or National Union party lead by Yaakov “Ketzaleh” Katz. This is where I cheat and post directly from the National Union website.
The Ichud Leumi represents a broad consensus of the Israeli public that believes in the vital importance of safeguarding the security and national heritage of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. Our list includes candidates from various sectors of the Israeli public united by a shared commitment to the national rights of the Jewish people and the territorial integrity of our ancestral homeland. As the only party that has remained true to the ideals that have always defined Israel’s national camp, we offer our voters a practical platform to continue the Zionist endeavor and create a brighter future for the State of Israel.



There is one more or less fast rule in Israeli politics – the polls are often deceptive. I know of more cases, when the pollsters got it dead wrong than called it right. Why this is, I am not sure. It could be there are far more Israeli voters who are like me. My natural inclination and political sympathies lie with National Union, but if I had a vote to cast in tomorrow's election, I would probably throw my vote at the Likud and hope I was strengthening the national religious element within the Likud party in order to counter Netanyahu's base and worse instincts. Having said that, did I also mention a number of leading Chabad rabbis have endorsed Ichud Leumi? Call it my inner Lubavitcher asserting herself.

Here is the real deal with tomorrow’s election. Likud could very well come in with the majority of mandates, and then, a bit of political hanky-panky goes on behind the scenes and the country ends up with a Kadima coalition lead by Tzippi Livni and backed by Israel Beiteinu. Realistically, and despite Lieberman’s alleged hard edge/right credentials, Israel Beiteinu has more in common with the secular Kadima than the big tent mix of religious and secular hawks in Likud. Of course, there is always the outside chance that Lieberman pulls a rabbit out of his kippah and we all end up saying, “Prime Minister Lieberman.” And that is the great joy of Israeli politics - anything can happen.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

much ado about nothing

The Toronto Star jumps into the fray with an article on whole ‘births averted’ issue for the sake of the environment. There is even an online poll at the Toronto Star where opinion is currently breaking fairly evenly for both the yea and nay vote.

Meanwhile, the idea that governments may one day limit family size (however offspring are conceived) has been thrown into the bear pit by Jonathon Porritt, chair of Downing St.'s Commission on Sustainable Development. "I'm unapologetic about asking people to connect their responsibility for their total environmental footprint – how they decide to procreate and how many children they think are appropriate," he said in an interview this week.

Porritt accused politicians and environmentalists of dodging the question: "It's the ghost at the table. We have all these big issues that everybody is looking at and you don't really hear anyone say the `p' word." His commission will release a report next month calling for the government to boost family planning, even if it means shifting money from other parts of the health system into contraception and abortion – or "birth averting," as Porritt generally calls it.

"`Births averted' is probably the single most substantial and cost-effective intervention that governments could be using," he has written. He's also said approvingly of China's notorious one-child family policy that "at least 400 million births have been averted ... that's the biggest single CO2 (carbon dioxide) abatement achievement since Kyoto."

Human rights critics note that the policy, initiated in 1979, has also led to forced abortion and sterilization, infanticide, child abandonment and a disparity between males and females: 118 boys to 100 girls overall; in some rural pockets, 165 to 100. A generation of so-called "little emperors" has led to increased crime, including rape and abduction of females for brides. (The vice-minister of China's National Population and Family Planning Commission said in London last year that "we want incrementally to have this change. I cannot answer at what time or how." Analysts estimate at least a decade.)

Editorial writers snorted at Porritt's attempt to open a debate on population control. A Conservative MP dismissed the idea as "absolutely barmy." But one reader wrote The Times: "If the future of our species is in jeopardy then it is the duty of our governments to do whatever is necessary to ensure our future."But was Porritt actually talking about the risks of over-population in the developing world?Absolutely not, says York University environmentalist David Bell. The amount of environmental damage caused by eight North Americans equals 160 people in the Third World, he says."The carrying capacity of the planet is limited. Our ecological footprint – how much biosphere it takes to support one individual – is 10 to 20 times higher here. If everyone lived at that rate, we'd need three or more Earths."

A debate on population limits is valid, says Bell, even in geographically wide-open Canada. But he adds that an attempt last year by the province to look at the implications of 10 million people crowded into southern Ontario collapsed amid charges of immigration control. What Porritt is suggesting is hugely controversial, Bell says, "but it's a reality." It took all of human history for the world to reach a population of 2.5 billion in 1950. A century later, in 2050, it's expected to be a staggering 9 to 10 billion.

Strange that this discussion is happening now when the population in most western countries (with the exception of Israel and US) is declining faster than it is reproducing, and the trend for the last twenty years has been couples choosing two or less children per family unit, and with a far greater number of couples now opting for childlessness than at any other time in human history.

It is even more peculiar given that the next 20 years western countries are going to experience the largest single population drop outside of war or natural disasters as the baby boomers die off. Even in Toronto, the public school board has been experiencing a steady drop in the number of children entering the school system. Far more young people are graduating out then children are coming in. If the earth’s population is actually going to reach 9 to 10 billion by 2050 I sincerely doubt you will find western countries leading the baby boom but even more annoying to me is this new kind of disaster mongering journalism which refuses to even examine an issue critically.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Odds & Ends before the blog closes shop for the weekend

I implemented full comment moderation for two reasons. Firstly, there are long periods when I am away from a computer and cannot effectively 'monitor' comments left by visitors. This became more of an issue as a matter concerning comments has now come before the courts in Canada.

While this situation has not been fully resolved in a ruling, and until it does, full comment moderation will be on whenever I am away for an extended period…like from nightfall on Friday until at least Saturday night/Sunday morning. At the urging of some long-time readers, who felt the commenting had become too cumbersome, I have lifted the moderation levels somewhat during the week.

I won’t alter comments but I will delete any comments left by spammers, or those which breach the criminal or civil code of Canada. In other words, my blog is not the place where anyone should feel comfortable for calling for the death of anyone – and that includes calls for my demise so you will have to satisfy your death urges the old fashion way via email.

Since there are a number of new readers to my blog I want to draw your attention to the the blog ad running on the side bar. Every click doesn’t represent money in my pocket but money in the pockets of various Israeli charities. More on that here - the last remittance went to Warm the Needy and I can state with confidence not a penny will go to Peace Now or other like-minded organizations.
- so ‘right’ click away.