In praise of Israel – Qatar Tribune

How did this one slip through? Although it has been noted that it does not appear in the Arabic version, this article by David Brooks, first published in the New York Times, appeared recently in the Qatar Tribune’s English language website:

The Israeli Identity

Tel Aviv’s economic leap will widen the gap between it and its neighbours

DAVID BROOKS | NYT NEWS SERVICE

JEWS are a famously accomplished group.

They make up 0.2 percent of the world population, but 54 percent of the world chess champions, 27 percent of the

Nobel physics laureates and 31 percent of the medicine laureates.

Jews make up 2 percent of the US population, but 21 percent of the Ivy League student bodies, 26 percent of the Kennedy

Center honorees, 37 percent of the Academy Award-winning directors, 38 percent of those on a recent Business Week list of leading philanthropists, 51 percent of the Pulitzer Prize winners for nonfiction.

In his book, The Golden Age of Jewish Achievement, Steven L Pease lists some of the explanations people have given for this record of achievement.

The Jewish faith encourages a belief in progress and personal accountability.

It is learning-based, not rite-based.

Most Jews gave up or were forced to give up farming in the Middle Ages; their descendents have been living off of their wits ever since.

They have often migrated, with a migrant’s ambition and drive.

They have congregated around global crossroads and have benefited from the creative tension endemic in such places.

No single explanation can account for the record of Jewish achievement.

The odd thing is that Israel has not traditionally been strongest where the Jews in the Diaspora were strongest.

Instead of research and commerce, Israelis were forced to devote their energies to fighting and politics.

Milton Friedman used to joke that Israel disproved every Jewish stereotype.

People used to think Jews were good cooks, good economic managers and bad soldiers; Israel proved them wrong.

But that has changed.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s economic reforms, the arrival of a million Russian immigrants and the stagnation of the peace process have produced a historic shift.

The most resourceful Israelis are going into technology and commerce, not politics.

This has had a desultory effect on the nation’s public life, but an invigorating one on its economy.

Tel Aviv has become one of the world’s foremost entrepreneurial hot spots.

Israel has more high-tech start-ups per capita than any other nation on earth, by far.

It leads the world in civilian research-and development spending per capita.

It ranks second behind the US in the number of companies listed on the Nasdaq.

Israel, with seven million people, attracts as much venture capital as France and Germany combined.

As Dan Senor and Saul Singer write in Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, Israel now has a classic innovation cluster, a place where tech obsessives work in close proximity and feed off each other’s ideas.

Because of the strength of the economy, Israel has weathered the global recession reasonably well.

The government did not have to bail out its banks or set off an explosion in short-term spending.

Instead, it used the crisis to solidify the economy’s long-term future by investing in research and development and infrastructure, raising some consumption taxes, promising to cut other taxes in the medium to long term.

Analysts at Barclays write that Israel is “the strongest recovery story” in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Israel’s technological success is the fruition of the Zionist dream.

The country was not founded so stray settlers could sit among thousands of angry Palestinians in Hebron.

It was founded so Jews would have a safe place to come together and create things for the world.

This shift in the Israeli identity has long-term implications.

Netanyahu preaches the optimistic view: that Israel will become the Hong Kong of the Middle East, with economic benefits spilling over into the Arab world.

And, in fact, there are strands of evidence to support that view in places like the West Bank and Jordan.

But it’s more likely that Israel’s economic leap forward will widen the gap between it and its neighbours.

All the countries in the region talk about encouraging innovation.

Some oil-rich states spend billions trying to build science centres.

But places like Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv are created by a confluence of cultural forces, not money.

The surrounding nations do not have the tradition of free intellectual exchange and technical creativity.

For example, between 1980 and 2000, Egyptians registered 77 patents in the US Saudis registered 171.

Israelis registered 7,652.

The tech boom also creates a new vulnerability.

As Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic has argued, these innovators are the most mobile people on earth.

To destroy Israel’s economy, Iran doesn’t actually have to lob a nuclear weapon into the country.

It just has to foment enough instability so the entrepreneurs decide they had better move to Palo Alto, where many of them already have contacts and homes.

American Jews used to keep a foothold in Israel in case things got bad here.

Now Israelis keep a foothold in the US.

During a decade of grim foreboding, Israel has become an astonishing success story, but also a highly mobile one.

One little quibble: Jewish achievement and Israeli achievement appear to morph into a single identity. Not all Israelis are Jews and not all Jews are Israelis. And why ‘Tel Aviv’s economic leap’? Surely ‘Israel’s’.

Maybe the Qatari English language editor is a covert philosemite.

Let the comments on how terrible Israel is and how it couldn’t do it without American tax dollars start rolling in.

Gingrich, MEMRI and the Islamic Center near Ground Zero

A friend recently sent me this quote from Newt Gingrich, former United States Speaker (Republican) of the House of Representatives (and I quote in full):

There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia . The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.

The proposed “Cordoba House” overlooking the World Trade Center site – where a group of jihadists killed over 3000 Americans and destroyed one of our most famous landmarks – is a test of the timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites. For example, most of them don’t understand that “Cordoba House” is a deliberately insulting term. It refers to Cordoba , Spain – the capital of Muslim conquerors who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by trans-forming a church there into the world’s third-largest mosque
complex.

Today, some of the Mosque’s backers insist this term is being used to “symbolize interfaith cooperation” when, in fact, every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of Islamic conquest. It is a sign of their contempt for Americans and their confidence in our historic ignorance that they would deliberately insult us this way.

Those Islamists and their apologists who argue for “religious toleration” are arrogantly dishonest. They ignore the fact that more than 100 mosques already exist in New York City . Meanwhile, there are no churches or synagogues in all of Saudi Arabia . In fact no Christian or Jew can even enter Mecca .  And they lecture us about tolerance.

If the people behind the Cordoba House were serious about religious toleration, they would be imploring the Saudis, as fellow Muslims, to immediately open up Mecca to all and immediately announce their intention to allow non-Muslim houses of worship in the Kingdom. They should be asked by the news media if they would be willing to lead such a campaign.

We have not been able to rebuild the World Trade Center in nine years. Now we are being told a 13 story, $100 million megamosque will be built within a year overlooking the site of the most devastating surprise attack in American history.

Finally where is the money coming from? The people behind the Cordoba House refuse to reveal all their funding sources. America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive
designed to undermine and destroy our civilization. Sadly, too many of our elites are the willing apologists for those who would destroy them if they could. No mosque. No self deception. No surrender. The time to take a stand is now – at this site on this issue.

There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia . The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.

The proposed “Cordoba House” overlooking the World Trade Center site – where a group of jihadists killed over 3000 Americans and destroyedone of our most famous landmarks – is a test of the timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites. For example, most of them don’t understand that “Cordoba House” is a deliberately insulting term. It refers to Cordoba , Spain – the capital of Muslim conquerors who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by trans-forming a church there into the world’s third-largest mosquecomplex.

Today, some of the Mosque’s backers insist this term is being used to “symbolize interfaith cooperation” when, in fact, every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of Islamic conquest. It is a sign of their contempt for Americans and their confidence in our historic ignorance that they would deliberately insult us this way.Those Islamists and their apologists who argue for “religioustoleration” are arrogantly dishonest. They ignore the fact that more than 100 mosques already exist in New York City . Meanwhile, there are no churches or synagogues in all of Saudi Arabia . In fact no Christian or Jew can even enter Mecca .  And they lecture us about tolerance.
If the people behind the Cordoba House were serious about religious toleration, they would be imploring the Saudis, as fellow Muslims, to immediately open up Mecca to all and immediately announce their intention to allow non-Muslim houses of worship in the Kingdom. They should be asked by the news media if they would be willing to lead such a campaign.

We have not been able to rebuild the World Trade Center in nine years. Now we are being told a 13 story, $100 million megamosque will be built within a year overlooking the site of the most devastating surprise attack in American history.

Finally where is the money coming from? The people behind the Cordoba House refuse to reveal all their funding sources. America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization. Sadly, too many of our elites are the willing apologists for those who would destroy them if they could. No mosque. No self deception. No surrender. The time to take a stand is now – at this site on this issue.

I referred my friend to a Wikipedia artcle which is, at least, balanced.

About a week ago I wrote to MEMRI because they had posted a video under the title “Feisal Abdul Rauf, Imam of Planned Ground Zero Mosque: One of Our Goals Is to Make People Understand What Islam Is”.

This is what I wrote:

I am a big fan of MEMRI but I’m not sure about this latest video of the Imam of the so-called Ground Zero Mosque.

I thought MEMRI was about revealing the truth. So why do you call a cultural center with a prayer room 2 blocks from GZ a Ground Zero Mosque in your title? This is a distortion.

I did not see a single objectionable thing in the Al Jazeera interview. I perceive no secret motives or malign intent. As far as I know, the use of the building as a Cultural Center is legal. What’s the wider context you are trying to show, here?

Please explain the ‘message’ behind your placing this on your website.

Back came the reply:

Dear Mr. Cook,

Thank you for your message. Regarding the Al-Jazeera interview, we certainly did not claim that there was anything objectionable stated in it. We translated it because it’s a media topic of much current interest. We follow the interest of the media, and do not seek particularly objectionable or commendable content. Indeed, there is nothing objectionable there, so on this we are in agreement.

As to the name “Ground Zero Mosque,” this is also the common name in much of the mainstream media. We can change it to “Islamic center close to Ground Zero,” but what we would not want to do it to close our eyes to its proximity to Ground Zero, strengthened by the fact that the initiators reject the very idea of moving it from that place, nor do we ignore the title that Imam Abdul-Rauf chose for the Indonesian version of his book, which is “A Call of Azan from the Rubble of the World Trade Center: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of America after 9/11.”

So on this, I guess, we disagree. I’m sorry for that.

In other words, they DID see something sinister or else why would they publish? Did Imam Abdul-Rauf choose the title for the Indonesian version of his book? And is it that sinister? Maybe if you are suspicious about the motives of Abdul-Rauf you can spin this as a triumphalist title.

My reply:

Thanks for the reply. That is interesting. I’ll check out the Imam’s book as I wanted to know the context of the MEMRI video and you have shown that. I am still unsure about the Islamic Center and I don’t know whether 2 blocks is near or whether 3 blocks is also near.

I still don’t like perpetuating the GZ Mosque title just because the MSM are freaking out about a non-existent mosque doesn’t mean that you have to go along with it.

So on this occasion we do disagree, sadly.

Thanks for all the work you do.

But then, a little later this arrived from MEMRI:

Thank you.

By the way, the AP just today issued a directive to its staffers to avoid the phrase “Ground Zero Mosque,” and to instead say “near” it. This is what I also thought, after reading your email.

So we will follow the AP’s lead on this.

This is the new title for the video: “Feisal Abdul Rauf, Imam of Planned Islamic Center Near Ground Zero: One of Our Goals Is to Make People Understand What Islam Is” (my emphasis).

I commended them for changing the title to a more honest one.

I have replied to my friend who sent me the Newt Gingrich quote and I repeat it here with a little editing:

In the matter of the Córdoba Center, I’m yet to decide. But I am not American, not a New Yorker, no-one I know was killed in 9/11.

Do I have any right to comment? Not sure.

I recently complained to MEMRI that a video of the Imam on their site included the name ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ even though it is not at GZ and is not a mosque. They subsequently changed the headline to say ‘Cultural Center NEAR Ground Zero.

If we don’t like misleading headlines about Jews and Israel then why should we tolerate them when they are designed to mislead about other faiths and groups.

An interesting question to ask yourself is: ‘How far from GZ would a ‘mosque’ be acceptable?

Another is ‘should the United States be making decisions based on a comparison to Saudi Arabia?’

Also, ‘how many Muslims are there in Lower Manhattan?’ Why do they need such a large building? Is this a symbol of Muslim tolerance or supremacism?

What laws are there to prevent this building from being constructed?

What law would have to be enacted to stop it? Would that law be in breach of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights?

So, how far do Western Democracies, the inheritors of the Enlightenment and over 200 years of the development of civil liberties, personal freedom, the freedom of the Press, free speech, freedom of worship etc. have to compromise these hard-won rights in order to protect those same rights from a religion which does not recognise any of them and, ultimately, believes in overturning them and replacing them with a medieval Caliphate?

By using Draconian measures to stop these perceived threats, do we damage the ability of Islam to reform itself and modernise and make it even more subject to fundamentalist ideology?

So I very definitely do not know what the answer is to this controversy, but I do know that listening to very Conservative Americans is not necessarily going to provide a balanced view.


Blog Wars

A couple of months ago I decided to start posting on the Jewish Chronicle (JC) Blogs.

I didn’t realise what I was about to discover; what I did discover was something of a revelation.

I don’t just post articles, I participate in the discussions which arise out of the majority of posts.

When I first arrived I landed in the middle of what I call the Blog Wars. Despite this being the JC, the blogs are open to anyone provided that they stick to some obvious rules. The blogs and their comments are moderated and it is not unknown for comments to be removed or even for bloggers or commenters to be banned.

What most surprised me was that I soon found there are two main camps: pro-Israel/Zionist and anti-Israel/Zionist. There are also one or two neutrals.

Almost every blog post can be the catalyst for some right old ding-dongs between these two camps. It’s a sort of Jewish version of the Guardian’s CiF (Comment is Free).

I actually found this very interesting, not only could I see how the ‘other side’ thinks, I could also challenge them,  be challenged by them, argue with them, but never, of course, persuade them. This is an excellent training and test ground to hone your own arguments, to make sure of your facts and sharpen your own polemics.

It is also, at least for me, as a bit of an old lefty, an opportunity to question your own views and convictions in the light of the counter arguments. But, I can honestly say, this self-examination has not fundamentally changed my views, but it has reinforced my commitment to balance and to avoid dogmatism.

Both sides in these Blog Wars tend to be unyielding, entrenched and assured of their own righteousness. Little quarter is given. Israel is rarely criticised by the Zios and the anti-Zios will continue to sympathise with Hamas and Hizbollah.

By far the most revealing of the anti-Zios is a certain representative of Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfjfP). I am not going to name names here; go and read the blogs; it’s unfair to mention any individual here who is unlikely to respond in person and I’m not going to discuss or reproduce the comments that have appeared in the JC. I’ll simply summarise what these discussions ‘below the line’ reveal.

The JfjfP representative is polite and seems to try very hard to be poised and restrained. JfjfP are part of the left wing bloc that organises demonstrations for Palestinians and Palestine and against Israel and Zionism.

This particular JfjfP member claims she is not anti-Israel and recognises Israel’s right to exist (well thanks).  She is, however, of the opinion that Israel is a colonialist experiment, that the Occupation is illegal and cruelly prosecuted, that Hamas are understandable freedom fighters, that it is Israel and Israel alone and its policies which are the cause of the conflict; if only Israel would seek peace, negotiate with Hamas and the PA, this peace would magically materialise and 100 years of strife would dissipate into thin air, no-one would attack Jews anymore and her ideal, presumably Marxist, certainly Socialist, state would rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of Israel.

In other words, socialist ideology colours her opinion of Israel which is demonised in her mind to the extent that it can never be right, can never be lawful, because it is an illegitimate state in the first place. And because of this ideological blindness she, like so many others on the far left, be it George Galloway, Alexei Sayle, Tony Benn, Gerald Kaufman and, indeed, a number of post-Zionist Israelis who take the same stance, she is prepared to overlook the anti-Semitism, the homophobia, the misogyny, the Islamofascist death culture of Hamas and its fellow travellers; for her, their charters are just pieces of paper and they can be persuaded to make peace and forswear their previous acts and deeds and policies and bigotry.

Thus the far left supports representatives of the most dangerous, religio-political movement of our times: fundamentalist Islam. They do this in the name of their own socialist vision of the world and history.

The level of self-delusion, double-think and self-deception involved in this world view is astonishing and frightening. It is anti-democratic, anti-liberal, anti-Enlightenment and it makes a pact with the real devil by demonising an imperfect state – Israel.

I am not saying that we Zionists and pro-Israel supporters never take an ‘Israel can do no wrong’ position. It does happen and it happens more when Israel is under mortal threat. What room is there for any self-criticism when your opponents are relentless in theirs. Yet I can never ever find the ‘other side’ critical of the Palestinians and their supporters. It’s as if they are perfect, blameless, beyond criticism because if they do anything wrong the Zionists forced them to do it. At the same time, I do find a very lively debate in the Israeli press and the Jewish World.

There is a big difference between fair criticism and an agenda of demonisation and delegitimisation.

It is very sad indeed to encounter Jews who see history only through a socialist or Marxist prism, even if it means contributing to the efforts of those who would destroy Israel and kill all Jews and, therefore, the very Jews who now support them.

I wonder why some Jews who claim to uphold true Jewish values through sympathy and justice for Palestinians must also simultaneously join in with the chorus of the demonisers of their own people.

Why do they have to create a soi-disant ‘Jewish’ group?
What is it that is so important for them about Jewish values that they have to group together as not-in-my-namers?
What is Jewish about denying the right to Jewish self-determination?
What is Jewish about sympathy, even tacitly, for those who would commit genocide of the Jews given half a chance.
What is it that is Jewish about demonising fellow-Jews?

I’m currently reading Howard Jacobson’s latest novel, The Finkler Question, I found a very apt and devastating paragraph which amusingly describes Jews who give succour to their would-be destroyers. In the book there is a group not too dissimilar from JfjfP called ASHamed Jews:

To be an ASHamed Jew did not require that you had been knowingly Jewish all your life. Indeed, one among them only found out he was Jewish at all in the course of making a television programme in which he was confronted on camera with who he really was. In the final frame of the film he was disclosed weeping before a memorial in Auschwitz to dead ancestors who until that moment he had never known he’d had. ‘It could explain where I get my comic genius from,’ he told an interviewer for a newspaper, though by then he had renegotiated his new allegiance. Born a Jew on Monday, he had signed up to be an ASHamed Jew by Wednesday and was seen chanting ‘We are all Hezbollah’ outside the Israeli Embassy on the following Sunday.*

*Howard Jacobson, The Finkler Question, Bloomsbury 2010, pp 138-9

On the wing and a prayer – Itay Shecheter scores for Hapoel Tel Aviv

Hapoel Tel Aviv player Itay Shecheter’s goal celebration seems to have upset the Portuguese referee.

Having scored  after running almost from the half-way line, he produced a Hapoel kippa from inside his sock.

Having donned said head-covering he proceeded to go down on his knees, cover his eyes and appeared to offer a prayer to the Almighty.

Why was he booked? Here’s the YouTube video of this event:

The manager said that when Christian players cross themselves when they score no-one makes a fuss. Muslim player also seem to acknowledge Allah.

Maybe there’s some FIFA rule about wearing items of clothing or something. Maybe he thought he was advertising.

Maybe he was just advertising his religion.

Salzburg slaughtered by Shecheter*!

*if you don’t get this joke, check a Yiddish dictionary.

BBC – well it couldn’t last

Hurray for Panorama!!

Boo!! to Paul Wood, BBC News reporting on Eden Aberjil’s disgusting Facebook images of her posing with Palestinian prisoners.

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-10997011)

Here’s why:

A great many young Israeli soldiers have photograph albums quite similar to Eden Aberjil’s ‘The army: the best days of my life’.

The only difference is that they do not post them on Facebook.

That explains her remark that she still did not “understand what was wrong” and the comment of Dr Ishai Menuchin of the Committee Against Torture in Israel that “she is a bad apple, but all the box are bad apples”.

The IDF likes to think of itself as the most ethical army in the world and so condemned the photographs in strident terms. (They are also no fools when it comes to public relations).

For most young conscripts, and young Israelis who have completed their military service, I suspect the reaction will not be outrage but a simple shrug of the shoulders.

Ouch!!

“No fools when it comes to public relations!? you gotta be kidding. But suppose they didn’t condemn it? Can’t win if you are an Israeli.

I’d like to see some of the UK soldiers’ picture albums.

Of course Dr Ishai Menuchim is a totally dispassionate observer. Where’s the evidence for all these sweeping statements? Did they do a survey?

“I suspect”, he says. I suspect that you are an extremely bad journalist, but at least I now have evidence to prove it.

Panorama – Death in the Med – credit where credit is due

When I saw that Panorama, one of the BBC’s longest running investigative programmes, was being fronted by Jane Corbin, I was not sure that Israel would get a fair hearing. The last time I saw Ms Corbin in action on this programme was to report on evictions and demolitions in Jerusalem which ultimately failed to deliver a lot of context.

This time Corbin managed to tell the Israeli side for a change and also interviewed key players on the IHH side. The IHH being a Turkish humanitarian organisation that behaved in anything but a humanitarian way and has links to Islamist groups, including Al Qaeda. There are calls for its being proscribed in the USA and Europe.

The programme did an excellent job of piecing together video into a timeline. This was interspersed with interviews of IDF soldiers who actually took part, received injuries and fired on their attackers.

Interviews with the IHH were predictably disingenuous, representing their actions as defensive and claiming the IDF fired first.

The accusation of firing first was, perhaps, the only disappointing feature in this documentary. Jane Corbin said there were conflicting accounts. In other words, she sat journalistically on the fence. She did say, however, the the IDF could not have fired a weapon and rappelled on to the deck at the same time. The IHH claimed that the IDF shot first so their attack with knives, iron bars, captured pistols and, according the the Israelis, another firearm not used in the IDF, was purely defensive.

This claim is demonstrably nonsense. Firstly, if you are standing on a deck waiting for soldiers to come down a rope and they are somehow managing to fire at you, and you are so defenceless, wouldn’t you get the hell out of the way? If you do not have firearms and someone is shooting at you, would you just wait to attack with iron bars and knives? It’s ludicrous.

The IDF admitted that once they had seen there was strong resistance they should have regrouped and considered more carefully their next move. Instead, they decided to land on the deck even though they had already seen that this would meet with violence. This was a blunder and the current enquiry in Israel will surely further reinforce that fact, already admitted by the military. Israeli intelligence as to the nature of the threat failed miserably. The Mavi Marmara was hijacked by about 40 IHH activists and their plans to attack the IDF, clearly shown from their own videos, were unknown to the majority of activists on the ship who were completely innocent of any intentions other than, perhaps, passive resistance; and this was what happened on all the other boats.

The conclusions any sensible person would draw are these: you may not agree with the boarding of the Mavi Marmara, but it was clearly demonstrated that the Israelis were using paintball guns before they landed on deck and that this was their ‘weapon’ of choice as a non-lethal crowd controller. Handguns were only used when the attack on them became lethal.

It is also clear there was considerable confusion and fear amongst the soldiers, some of whom were taken below and one reported that he believed he would be killed. One of the Turkish activists protected him and probably saved his life. In this respect, his actions are praiseworthy. Other activists seem to have tried to treat the injured Israelis.

There was still no explanation of how and when and where the 9 activists were killed. The fact that 50 were also injured demonstrated, to me, that the soldiers, in fear of their lives, with good reason (some had already been bludgeoned, thrown off deck rails, stabbed and even shot) did what any soldier would do, namely use enough force to stop the immediate threat and discourage further attack. One IDF soldier, when asked if he killed anyone, said he shot at his assailants’ legs and this was then reinforced with video of an injured activist with leg wounds.

I believe that the soldiers went for non-lethal shots, but as they feared being overwhelmed and being killed they used lethal force. Maj Gen (Ret) Giora Eiland, who carried out the IDF investigation, made the remark that, under the circumstances, casualties were low. He didn’t elaborate why, and such remarks don’t play well with international audiences. This was not a well-judged remark, but at least it was honest.

Jane Corbin herself concluded, having seen the remnants of the aid, that the whole flotilla was a political provocation, not a humanitarian one. The Mavi Marmara carried no aid whatsoever (a point not made in the film) and other items were of such little importance to Hamas that they either did not let them through as a form of protest, or they were out-of-date medicines. You can see details of the aid carried by the other boats and what the Israelis did with it on a previous post of mine here.

No doubt apologists from the Free Gaza Movement will simply say that the whole incident would not have happened had it not been for the blockade, the Israelis are liars etc. But I ask you, if the Beeb can’t find anything with which to beat Israel up then maybe the IDF did indeed enter a trap and protected itself from lethal force with lethal force.

Move along the bus – Israeli style

Here’s a little story I was told this shabbat which in a small but significant says a lot about the morality of Israelis.

This person was on a bus where passengers were entering through the front and back doors. The people at the back could not reach the driver to pay their fare as it was so crowded. As a result, those at the back passed their fare money down the bus, hand to hand until it reached the driver. The driver then passed back the tickets and the change along the same route.

A lone, very English voice could be heard to say, “You would never see this in England. Only in Israel”.

This scrupulous morality and honesty, although, of course not universal in Israel is, nevertheless, the norm. It comes from a shared national project, Jewish ethics, and a sense that everyone in this small nation is part of the Israeli family. And when you come as a tourist, then you too are, for a few days or weeks, part of that family.

The bus example, for me, shows the real face of the majority of Israelis; honest, generous, welcoming, and at their best where a community spirit and teamwork is required.

Without this spirit there would be no Israel.

Who Do You Think You Are? Echoes of Bathurst-Norman in Edwardian Ireland

The BBC genealogical series ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ has always been a favourite of mine.

As someone interested in my own family history and the many twists and turns it can take and also being fascinated in the detective work that discovers surprising facts about celebrities’ roots, I am a devoted fan of this programme.

Yesterday the celebrity in question was Dublin-born actress, Dervla Kirwan.

Looking at her (which is a pleasant task) and listening to her, you would suspect a long line of Catholic Irish ancestry.

And this is what we got – almost.

Having discovered she is the great-niece of Michael Collins, Irish patriot, founder of the original IRA, Dervla’s search moved to her father’s side of the family and the casual revelation that she had a Jewish ancestor.

In fact, it was her paternal great-grandfather, one Henry Kahn, a Polish Jew who fled the Russian Empire in the late 19th century and set himself up as a tobacconist and a sometime illegal bookmaker.

He also happened to marry a Catholic in a Church of Ireland (Protestant) church, which was some going for the 1890’s.

In 1902, we discovered, he was arrested for breaking the shop window of one Esther Marks and destroying in the process some ‘china ornaments’ and ‘assorted bric-a-brac’.

It appears that Henry was a bit of a character and possibly a somewhat unsavoury one at that.

But what happened next was very instructive; he was tried by a jury in Dublin and found guilty and sentenced to one year’s hard labour, which, for a man in his mid forties, was a terrible sentence.

Our attention was drawn to a newspaper article of 1902 which reports the sentencing and which makes sure we all know that the man in the dock was a Jew.

The judge, or Recorder, was Sir Frederick Falkiner, who had this to say in his summing up after stating that Henry deserved a whipping for one of the worst offences he had seen, or words to that effect. He broke a window and some china, if you recall:

You are a specimen of your nation and your race that cause you to be hunted out of every country.

On reading this, Dervla’s jaw dropped and subsequent enquiry revealed that Falkiner was then 71 years old, had wrongfully instructed the jury as to the verdict and also denied Henry the right to speak before sentencing.

Apparently, this patent anti-Semitism was a little out-of-date even in 1902, and the Jewish Chronicle took up the case and eventually Falkiner was shamed in the House of Commons by the MP for Stepney.

Marvellous to relate, James Joyce echoed this case in Ulysses (which happens to be my favourite book) in Leopold Bloom’s dream which takes place in front of the very same judge.

Genealogy certainly has the power to link disparate elements of our culture.

But don’t you see the echo of the Bathurst-Norman case where an elderly judge was brought out of retirement and dismissed the case against activists who trashed an arms factory in Brighton during Operation Cast Lead because it was supplying armaments to Israel.

In his summing up Bathurst-Norman directed the jury to acquit the accused on the grounds that although they were self-confessed criminals, they did what they did to prevent even more Israeli ‘war crimes’.

So over 100 years later English (Ireland was subject to English law at the time, let’s leave the Scots out of this, they have a different legal system) justice finds that Jews are a special case to be made an example of or to be subject to vilification in an English court of law.

In 1902, a petty crime committed by a Jew receives a heavy sentence (albeit he was reprieved after 6 months), in 2010 those with an animus against Jews defending themselves from murderous anti-Semites (Hamas) get off scot-free because jew-baiting is now a sanctioned pastime once again in England.

All this and the debate, today, about what President Peres of Israel said or didn’t say, meant or didn’t mean, in an interview with Benny Morris, where he may or may not have said that the English (read British) are anti-Semitic.

For a taste of the Peres controversy see No-win journalism and its comments in Melanie Phillips’ blog in the Spectator.

It appears that British anti-Semitism runs deep in certain sections of the English Establishment; so deep, that even after 100 years or more it can still resurface like a recessive gene to produce horrible mutations like Bathurst-Norman.

This is not to say that I believe Britain to be anti-Semitic in the 21st century, but it is certainly there lurking and mutating into different forms like anti-Zionism or anti-Israelism which often, but by no means always, are mere fig-leaves for anti-Semitism.

And poor Henry Kahn? He ended up in a lunatic asylum where he died four years after his release from prison. Isn’t it instructive how, in 1902, a judge could tell the court that Jews had been hunted out of every country they had ever been in.

Who do we think we are? Where do you think we should go? Well, in 1902, the Jews were buying land in Ottoman Palestine and laying the foundations for a Jewish homeland where they would be free of Falkiners and Bathurst-Normans and where they would not be ‘hunted out’ ever again.

They called themselves Zionists.

Israel will co-operate with UN Flotilla Enquiry

At last!! The Israeli government has seen sense and decided to show that it has nothing to fear from a UN enquiry which appears to be unbiased – for a change.

Israel Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, released the following today:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today (Monday), 2.8.10, informed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon that Israel would participate in the panel that he is establishing in the wake of the 31.5.10 events regarding the flotilla.

The announcement to the UN Secy.-Gen. was delivered following consultations with the seven-member ministerial forum earlier this morning and in the wake of diplomatic contacts that have been held in recent weeks in order to ensure that this was indeed a panel with a balanced and fair written mandate.

The panel will receive reports on the Israeli investigation by the Independent Public Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident of 31.5.10 chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said today, after speaking with the UN Secy.-Gen., that, “Israel has nothing to hide. The opposite is true. It is in the national interest of the State of Israel to ensure that the factual truth of the overall flotilla events comes to light throughout the world and this is exactly the principle that we are advancing.”

Having initially refused to co-operate, Israel set up its own internal enquiry which concentrated on exposing a group of Turkish activists with links to the IHH who led a flotilla intent on breaking the Israeli maritime blockade of Gaza.

This ‘humanitarian’ organisation has been shown to have links with terrorist groups, even Al Qaeda. 8 of 9 activists killed had links with dubious IHH activities and most had left evidence that they were determined to reach Gaza or become martyrs. Such an attitude itself reveals a hatred for Israel that is so great that they were prepared to die, and kill, for it.

Despite much documentary evidence taken by the Israelis and by many people on board the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship of the flotilla, there has not yet been a clear and detailed account of how and under what circumstances the 9 men were killed. All we know from the Israeli account and video evidence is that the commandos who landed on the Mavi Marmara were met with lethal force and a mob of about 50 men attacked a much smaller number of commandos whose main ‘weapon’ was a paint gun.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a web page dedicated to the events of 21 May 2010 here.

The terms of the Israeli commission are detailed here.

The main objectives were as follows:

1) Consideration of the security circumstances for imposing a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip and the conformity of the naval blockade with the rules of international law;
2) Conformity of the actions taken by Israel to enforce the naval blockade on 31 May 2010 to the principles of international law;
3) Consideration of the actions taken by those who organized – and participated in – the flotilla, and their identities.
The Commission will also consider the question of whether the inquiry and investigation mechanisms vis-à-vis complaints and claims regarding violations of the laws of armed conflict, as followed by Israel in general and as implemented with regard to the event in question, conform with the State of Israel’s obligations under the rules of international law.
Following the international outcry against Israel and its virtual pariah status, it’s about time Israel engaged at an international level to show that, indeed, it has nothing to hide.
Whether the UN panel will give Israel its first fair hearing at the UN for some considerable time remains to be seen.
Perhaps the UN might also want to consider Turkey’s role in aiding and abetting an organisation, the IHH, which may well be proscribed in the United States and which members of the Italian parliament are seeking to have proscribed in Europe.

Yes, it’s about time that Israel fought more pugnaciously to restore its reputation in the UN and find a platform to expose the hypocrisy of its enemies and critics.

Israel has already admitted operational errors. That doesn’t excuse those who would commit murder because they oppose an ideology. The would-be murderers were those killed who were intent on killing Jews/Zionists/Israelis – it was all the same to them.

Let’s see what the UN comes up with this time.

Update: Anne Bayevsky clearly does not agree with me and her opinion is too valuable to be ignored, so, for balance, here is a link. http://opinion.foxnews.mobi/quickPage.html?page=23976&external=394248.proteus.fma&pageNum=-1