Thursday, October 29, 2015

Perfection (Part 2) - A Dharma Talk

A news report that highlights some of the strangeness of Israeli and Palestinian relations

A very strange story that I reprint as is:

The irony of a Haredi paper’s ‘Please don’t kill us’ plea

What an ultra-Orthodox columnist’s strange Arabic plea reveals about Israeli-Palestinian violence

October 29, 2015, 2:02 pm
Illustrative: Haredi boys. (Rishwanth Jayapaul/Flash90)

A curious sight greeted the readers of the ultra-Orthodox newspaper Mishpacha on Thursday: a message printed by the editors in Arabic.

“Don’t be startled,” deputy editor Aryeh Erlich wrote in Hebrew beneath the Arabic script. “No Islamic hacker has taken over the newspaper’s computers. The strange text that opens this column is not an act of malice, or a misprint. You can relax. You hold in your hands the Mishpacha newspaper, which publishes in Hebrew and will continue to do so. This is simply an appeal to our cousins who live by the sword, rooted in the hope (a frail one, to be sure) that this magazine may find its way to some influential Arab. Here is a translation of our admittedly slightly bizarre appeal.” 

The translation of the Arabic appeal follows: “We, the Haredi public, have no interest in going up to the Temple Mount at this time. We vehemently oppose doing so. Even more: Jewish law severely proscribes such an act — on penalty of spiritual excommunication. Therefore you will never see Haredim ascending the mount, with the exception of one single family, acting on its own, which is condemned for the practice. So even if you have in your hand solid information about an Israeli desire to change the status quo at the Dome of the Rock — which is not true, as far as we know — this has nothing to do with the Haredi public. So please, stop murdering us.”

There is much to unpack in this strange editorial. For one thing, it sparkles with irony. It mocks its own “slightly bizarre” premise that printing such an appeal in Arabic might have an effect.

And despite the pretense that it is begging Palestinians to spare Haredi lives, it is not actually respectful of Palestinians, calling them “our cousins who live by the sword,” both stereotyping them as violent and painting them with a cultural vocabulary reminiscent of the Biblical Esau or the czarist Cossaks.

The final juxtaposition of politeness (“so please”) and morbid supplication (“stop murdering us”) ties together all of the odd appeal’s disparate elements, bringing the underlying irony to the fever pitch of sarcasm.

And yet, interviewed on Army Radio Thursday morning, Erlich explained that there was a very real problem he was trying to address.

“In their propaganda, the Islamists show [a Jew] in religious garb as seeking to build the Third Temple,” he explained.

Asked who “us” was in his request to “stop murdering us,” he said, “’us’ is anyone with a religious appearance.”

Israeli police stand guard at the entrance to the al-Aqsa compound on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
Israeli police stand guard at the entrance to the Al-Aqsa compound on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

The response on Thursday morning was immediate and indignant. Erlich was accused by some of urging Palestinian terrorists to attack non-Haredi Jews.

Yossi Elituv, Mishpacha’s editor and Erlich’s boss, both defended and distanced himself from the column on Twitter. “Aryeh Erlich tried in his way to emphasize the lie in the Palestinian cry of ‘Temple Mount,’ when in practice they murder any Jew, regardless of their view [on visiting the mount].”

Erlich “tried,” Elituv noted, “but I’m not sure he succeeded.”

The column “requires an unambiguous clarification,” Elituv continued. “There are no ‘Haredim,’ there are only ‘Jews.’ Islamic hatred does not distinguish between Jews of all types – Haredim, knit-kippa wearers and secularists.”

But Erlich himself, speaking in his own defense Thursday, pointed to a deeper impulse for what he now calls the “gimmick” that opens his column.

“The wearers of kippot have become the symbols of the current jihad,” he said. “The Islamic Movement tries to paint the struggle as a religious war and calls for violence against those with a religious appearance.”

That sense of special endangerment rooted in their religiously identifying garb lies at the root of his strange column, he explained.

And he’s right. The Haredi sense that they are more threatened by the terror than secular Israelis is very real, and it is rooted in one of the most interesting and least acknowledged facts of this violence: that it is surprisingly hard to tell Jews and Palestinians apart.

That is, when they are stripped of context and religious identifiers, when they meet in plain, Western garb on the street or in the workplace, the supposedly “Western” Jew is often darker-skinned than the “Eastern” Arab. Half of Israel’s Jews, after all, come from the Arab and Muslim world, while Palestinian Arabs are likewise a people of many skin tones, from dark Bedouin in the south to blue-eyed Christians in the north.

This challenge of physical similarity has been a recurring theme in the violence of the past month.

On the Jewish side, the dark skin of the Beersheba central bus station attacker, who was a Negev Bedouin, likely contributed to the mistaken assault by a Jewish mob on an innocent Eritrean asylum seeker at the scene. Similarly, a Jew in the northern town of Kiryat Ata stabbed an Arab man outside an Ikea furniture store – only to discover his victim was a Yemenite Jew.

On the Palestinian side, the problem of distinguishing Jew from Arab drives the basic behavior of the terrorists, who have taken care to direct their attacks at discernibly Jewish victims – either striking at uniformed members of the security services or at those whose religion-specific clothing leaves no doubt about their Jewishness.

Some Israeli commentators have taken this telling peculiarity of this ethnic clash even further, noting that the terrorists often strike the very Jews who support the cause they claim to be fighting for.

“A terrorist’s life is hard,” television anchor Linoy Bar Geffen wrote on Facebook in response to Erlich’s column.

“What does he want, after all? To arrive at the center of town with a sharpened blade and liquidate a few Jews. But in the moment before the blade finds its place, he has to start with the selection: that brownish fellow – maybe he isn’t even a Jew? That elderly religious man – maybe he only looks like a Bennett supporter but is actually a leftist whose death will make The Shadow happy? That wrapped woman – maybe she’s Haredi and opposes changing the status quo and ascending the Temple Mount?”

Erlich’s critics are wrong. He did not seriously call for terrorists to refocus their efforts on non-Haredi Jews. The evidence for that is as straightforward as one might hope: the Arabic text he printed at the top of his editorial is fake. Or, rather, it is the Google Translate translation of his appeal, which was only actually published in Hebrew.

The Arabic is, as one Arabic reader informed Erlich on Twitter Thursday morning, “atrocious.” It is not meant to convince any Palestinian would-be attacker; it is not really meant to be read at all.

Yet it conveyed a tension that is all too real in this conflict. It is not merely foreigners who cannot always tell the difference between “Middle Easterners”; Arabs and Jews in this land often struggle to tell each other apart. This fact pervades the fighting, and gently, persistently points to the tragic irony in its continuation.

Friday, October 16, 2015

A short history of the violence around Temple Mount - Al Aqsa - with a prescriptive/descriptive solution

In response to my earlier blog regarding  practice and the current violence between Palestinians and Israelis,the following article was sent to me - and I pass it on.

"In September of 1928, a group of Jewish residents of Jerusalem placed a bench in front of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, for the comfort of elderly worshipers. They also brought with them a wooden partition, to separate the sexes during prayer. Jerusalem’s Muslim leaders treated the introduction of furniture into the alleyway in front of the Wall as a provocation, part of a Jewish conspiracy to slowly take control of the entire Temple Mount.

Many of the leaders of Palestine’s Muslims believed—or claimed to believe—that Jews had manufactured a set of historical and theological connections to the Western Wall and to the Mount, the site of the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, in order to advance the Zionist project. This belief defied Muslim history—the Dome of the Rock was built by Jerusalem’s Arab conquerors on the site of the Second Jewish Temple in order to venerate its memory (the site had previously been defiled by Jerusalem’s Christian rulers as a kind of rebuke to Judaism, the despised mother religion of Christianity). Jews themselves consider the Mount itself to be the holiest site in their faith. The Western Wall, a large retaining wall from the Second Temple period, is sacred only by proxy.

The spiritual leader of Palestine’s Muslims, the mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, incited Arabs in Palestine against their Jewish neighbors by arguing that Islam itself was under threat. (Husseini would later become one of Hitler’s most important Muslim allies.) Jews in British-occupied Palestine responded to Muslim invective by demanding more access to the Wall, sometimes holding demonstrations at the holy site. By the next year, violence directed against Jews by their neighbors had become more common: Arab rioters took the lives of 133 Jews that summer; British forces killed 116 Arabs in their attempt to subdue the riots. In Hebron, a devastating pogrom was launched against the city’s ancient Jewish community after Muslim officials distributed fabricated photographs of a damaged Dome of the Rock, and spread the rumor that Jews had attacked the shrine.

The current “stabbing Intifada” now taking place in Israel—a quasi-uprising in which young Palestinians have been trying, and occasionally succeeding, to kill Jews with knives—is prompted in good part by the same set of manipulated emotions that sparked the anti-Jewish riots of the 1920s: a deeply felt desire on the part of Palestinians to “protect” the Temple Mount from Jews."

For the rest of this article see;

The concluding paragraph:

"The violence of the past two weeks, encouraged by purveyors of rumors who now have both Israeli and Palestinian blood on their hands, is rooted not in Israeli settlement policy, but in a worldview that dismisses the national and religious rights of Jews. There will not be peace between Israelis and Palestinians so long as parties on both sides of the conflict continue to deny the national and religious rights of the other."

And here are reasons it is difficult to move towards peace:

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Practice in the midst of violence: Media analysis of Palestinian attacks against Jews.

Our practice realm is the cause-effect violence in Jerusalem and nearby which manifests in the suffering, unsatisfactoriness and pain that is intertwined with fear, anger, sadness and more. 


Our reactions to events, beliefs about them and about what we can/should or can not/should not do, what is and is not ours, are this practice - experiencing this; and when noticing reacting looking, "who" is reacting ?


This week, my nephew, my brother's son, left for Jerusalem for a year of study. For some of the time he will be staying with family that lives there. The turmoil and violence there, as well as the media reportage and role in this, now has this additional dimension for me.

The following, which was sent to me this morning, are the opening paragraphs of a sad and interesting analysis of the events in Jerusalem and elsewhere and the media reporting of it: 



"If you’ve been following the news from Israel, you might have the impression that “violence” is killing a lot of people. As in this headline: “Palestinian Killed As Violence Continues.” Or this first paragraph: “Violence and bloodshed radiating outward from flash points in Jerusalem and the West Bank appear to be shifting gears and expanding, with Gaza increasingly drawn in.”

Read further, and you might also get a sense of who, according to Western media, is perpetrating “violence.” As in: “Two Palestinian Teenagers Shot by Israeli Police,” according to one headline. Or: “Israeli Retaliatory Strike in Gaza Kills Woman and Child, Palestinians Say,” according to another. 

Such was the media’s way of describing two weeks of Palestinian assaults that began when Hamas killed a Jewish couple as they were driving with their four children in the northern West Bank. Two days later, a Palestinian teenager stabbed two Israelis to death in Jerusalem’s Old City, and also slashed a woman and a 2-year-old boy. Hours later, another knife-wielding Palestinian was shot and killed by Israeli police after he slashed a 15-year-old Israeli boy in the chest and back."

The full article is,

"Palestine: The Psychotic Stage :

 The truth about why Palestinians have been seized by their present blood lust." 

For more on this matter see: 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Palestinians, Israelis and the United States - A new book: reviews and interview

With the ongoing conflict between Palestinians and Israelis heating up in violent attacks, there is a new book "Doomed to Succeed" by US negotiator and diplomat Dennis Ross on  the subject. Below are extended excerpts from and links to two reviews from different perspectives, the first  in the Wall Street Journal by Elliott Abrams, the second in the Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg.

"Mr. Ross’s portrait reinforces the recent account by Israel’s former ambassador, Michael Oren, in his book “Ally.” Six years of Mr. Obama get more pages here than eight years of Messrs. Clinton or Bush, and the author writes that “the president’s distancing from Israel was deliberate.” Though he credits Mr. Obama with deep sympathy for the Jewish state, the incidents he recounts contradict him.

For example, in 2009 the administration pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to undertake a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction in the hope of getting negotiations started, at considerable political cost to the Israeli leader. The moratorium brought the Israelis nothing from the Palestinians, so they refused to extend it. As Mr. Ross writes, “though [Palestinian leader] Abu Mazen had shown little flexibility and squandered the moratorium, President Obama . . . put the onus on Israel.”

Mr. Obama kept calling on Israel to take risks for peace. “But,” Mr. Ross adds, “he said nothing about what Abu Mazen had to do; the responsibility for acting was exclusively Netanyahu’s.” Even when Mr. Netanyahu accepted difficult American terms for a new negotiation in 2014 and then Abu Mazen rejected them, the administration “gave him a pass,” instead blaming the continuing construction of Israeli settlements. Mr. Obama believed that as the stronger party Israel could and should do more for peace. “But what if the Palestinians were not prepared to move? . . . He never seemed to ask that question,” Mr. Ross writes.

In Mr. Ross’s view, Mr. Obama fell for the oldest preconceptions about the Middle East, views that the State Department had been putting forward since 1948. There were principally three: “the need to distance from Israel to gain Arab responsiveness, concern about the high costs of cooperating with the Israelis, and the belief that resolving the Palestinian problem is the key to improving the U.S. position in the region.”

In chapter after chapter, Mr. Ross documents how these arguments affected policy over decades and failed to predict Arab behavior—yet were very rarely challenged. The reason they failed is simple, he says: “the hard truth is that [the Palestinians] are not a priority for Arab leaders. . . . The priorities of Arab leaders revolve around survival and security”—not Israeli-Palestinian relations or U.S. policy toward Israel.

What’s striking in this account, and in the history of U.S. Mideast policy, is why these three canards keep reappearing and gaining such wide support. When we move away from Israel, Mr. Ross observes, “our influence does not increase; our ties to the conservative Arab monarchies do not materially improve."

For the rest of this review see:

Here is the Ross - Goldberg interview/review:

"Ross spends a good deal of time refuting (successfully, in my opinion) the notion, advanced by the so-called realist camp of foreign policymakers, that Israel has consistently been a drag on America’s reputation and standing in the Middle East. Among other things, Ross expertly dismantles the “linkage” argument, advanced by generations of diplomats and analysts, which holds that an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty is a prerequisite for solving the Middle East’s many other problems. Reality, as Ross told me, has debunked this idea....

The most cataclysmic moment in their relationship may have occurred during a 90-minute phone call between the two men shortly before the interim agreement was announced. Ross writes that the call was so tense and uncomfortable that Susan Rice, the U.S. national-security advisor, told Abe Foxman, then the head of the Anti-Defamation League, that Netanyahu did everything but use the “n-word” in addressing Obama. Here is Ross describing the incident:
I was certain two leaders speaking the same language had talked past each other. I contacted Secretary [of State John] Kerry to let him know that the prime minister had formed an impression about the U.S. position that needed to be corrected. Kerry quickly followed up with a call. But the problem was a White House problem—and not one Kerry could easily correct. Had Tom Donilon still been the national security adviser, he surely would have understood from the call that there was a problem and he would have immediately spoken to his counterpart. If the misimpression was not corrected, he would have had President Obama make another call.
He had done precisely this in September 2012 when Prime Minister Netanyahu had made public comments challenging our position on the Iranian nuclear issue. Donilon arranged the call and the air was not only cleared but there was a meeting of the minds. By contrast, now there was no call from Rice, there was no follow-up from the president, and the prime minister did not soften his public criticism two weeks later when the actual Joint Plan of Action was concluded. Instead, Rice, reflecting her generally more combative mind-set, would say to Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, that in reacting to the Joint Plan of Action, Netanyahu’s posture was outrageous. In her view, the Israeli leader did everything but “use ‘the n-word’ in describing the president.”
Ross, in our conversation, said he does not believe Netanyahu is racist, and he also said that Rice doesn’t believe that Netanyahu is racist.

(I’ve asked Rice, through her spokesman, for comment, and will update this post when I get an answer. UPDATE: A senior administration official e-mailed me the following statement Friday morning: “Prime Minister Netanyahu’s opposition to the negotiations to prevent Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon long predated any conversation with the President. And Dennis Ross’ attempts to characterize Ambassador Rice’s ring hollow given that Ross had left the Administration by the time Ambassador Rice took on her current role. To be clear, they’ve never worked closely together in this Administration, and he’s making accusations from afar without firsthand knowledge. Finally, the whole issue of accusations of racism is, frankly, mystifying. We have legitimate policy disagreements with the Netanyahu government over the Iran deal, but those differences have nothing to do with the color of anyone’s skin. The alleged quote from Amb. Rice speaks to those differences after an especially frank phone call.”)

Ross went out of his way to praise Rice for vigorously defending Israel while serving as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, but he told me that he places her in the camp of foreign-policy experts who see Israel as a burden: “Susan represents a mindset and a constituency that has existed in every administration ... every administration has had within the national-security apparatus a constituency that looked at Israel as a problem.” Rice, he said, has been unwaveringly suspicious of Netanyahu’s intentions, and feels Netanyahu and his ministers tried to undermine Obama numerous times.

For what it’s worth, I disagree with Ross on his understanding of Rice’s suspicions in the following way: While I take his point that constant communication would help resolve most diplomatic misunderstandings between friends, it is hard for me to dismiss Rice’s suspicions that Netanyahu was out to damage Obama as the paranoid fantasy of an official organically hostile to Israel....

Goldberg: There is a belief on the part of some people around Obama that Netanyahu is very condescending toward the president—that he treats him as a naive, not very intelligent person. Do you agree that Netanyahu is condescending to Obama?

Ross: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think he’s condescending, and I don’t think he’s condescending towards Obama. Look, many of their meetings were characterized by a very high-level discussion—serious, intellectual, thoughtful. Oftentimes, each of them would walk out of meetings feeling that that was a serious meeting, and then one or the other would do something afterwards that would be perceived as, “Oh, there they go again.”

Goldberg: Do you think that Obama believes that Netanyahu has racist feelings toward him?

Ross: I don’t think so.

Goldberg: You’ve talked to the president about Bibi quite a bit—

Ross: Here’s the way I think he reads Bibi—he looks at Bibi and he thinks, “This is a guy who sees no possibilities in ever changing anything, and is kind of down in the bunker.”

Goldberg: They admire each other’s intelligence?

Ross: Yes.

Goldberg: Why did you report this in the book, if you don’t think that Rice is correct to interpret Bibi’s interactions with the president as insulting and condescending?

Ross: I did it for one reason only, because I was trying to encapsulate the anger that describes their reaction to Bibi’s view of the deal. In my mind, there were few ways to better encapsulate how angry they were over his reaction. And of course, he was angry, because he felt that Israel has been largely blindsided by this. I know this not just from Bibi, because I happened to be over there at the time. I know it from the security people on their side, including the intelligence people on their side, who were saying they were being briefed, but that there was no indication that the kind of deal that suddenly emerged with the Joint Plan of Action was about to emerge."

For the rest of this see:

And here is an additional review:

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Thought

I have previously spoken and written of how freedom of speech and freedom of thought are, in my opinion, fundamental to Buddha Dharma and Buddha practice. Here are a few examples of my comments:

Freedom of Thought, Freedom from Thought   5/22/15

Freedom of Thought, Freedom from Thought Part 2   5/23/15

There seem to be many instances where our society and polity is attempting to use political, financial and other powers to stifle and destroy these fundamental freedoms.

Freedom includes freedom for those with whom we disagree, those whom we think are "wrong", in our opinion.

Here is a report of a recent example of speech and thought control sent to me:

"Advocates of climate regulation are urging the Obama Administration to investigate people who don’t share their views.

Last month George Mason Professor Jagadish Shukla and 19 others signed a letter to President Obama, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and White House science adviser John Holdren urging punishment for climate dissenters. “One additional tool—recently proposed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse—is a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) investigation of corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, as a means to forestall America’s response to climate change,” they wrote.

In other words, they want the feds to use a law created to prosecute the mafia against lawful businesses and scientists. In a May op-ed in the Washington Post, Mr. Whitehouse specifically cited Willie Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who has published politically inconvenient research on changes in solar radiation."

For the full article and comments see the following with links therein:

Friday, October 9, 2015

A Palestinian State - and - An Israeli State

Having posted several articles about the ongoing violence between Palestinians and Israelis, I was sent a new article which further elaborated on a proposed solution. Realistic? It does not seem so to me. But still there is something to it. If you are interested, read this excerpt and see how it seems to you.

"The Palestinian Authority, despite being the recipient of many Marshall Plans worth of foreign aid, is a limping kleptocracy that is widely hated by the people it rules and is incapable even of holding a presidential election, a feat last achieved in 2005. Palestinian officialdom may fan and even fund sporadic violent attacks against Israelis, but try imagining anyone truly wanting to die for the PA. Hamas, on the other hand, has no shortage of homocidal maniacs —it was its men who murdered Eitam and Na’ama Henkin in front of their children—and no shortage of incentives with which to recruit more. There is also the prospect of Iranian patronage, now that Tehran stands to receive $100 billion in sanctions money from Obama in return for signing on for a strict regime of nuclear self-inspection. But Hamas can’t get too cozy with Iran, or else it will risk alienating its Sunni patrons in the Gulf, who see Tehran as a mortal enemy, and are currently fighting Iran and Russia in Syria. In turn, the Iranians need to worry about the Russians, whose help they need in order to keep Assad in power. The Russians need to worry about the Iranians, while the Islamic State worries everyone. In a climate of such wild uncertainly, the only one thing that is assured is more and even uglier violence.

The Israelis have their own mind-bending dissonances to contend with. Some still believe that the conflict is primarily about the settlements, or the Occupation, or any number of mantras that have been mumbled in the cafes and public parks of Tel Aviv since the late 1970s. Yet even the most devoted mantra-chanters realize that if the Palestinians have any real historical grievance, it began not in 1967 but in 1948 or, even, in 1882, with the first wave of Zionist immigration. If you truly believe the Zionists to be colonialist occupiers—and the secular Palestinian leadership clearly does, just as Hamas does, and just as some Europeans gladly and hypocritically do—why is northern Tel Aviv, erected on the ruins of Sheikh Munis, any different from Ariel or Efrat, or any other Jewish community in the West Bank? It isn’t.

Most Israelis grasp this point instinctively, which is why they have refrained, since the outbreak of the second intifada, from giving their support to political parties that  so much as hint that Israel’s primal sin began when Jews returned to Hebron. Most Israelis also understand that the Despair Defense—arguing that Palestinians are driven to violence because they can no longer see any possibility of peaceful coexistence, which is all Israel’s fault, because the Israelis are so relentlessly cruel and oppressive, and uproot so many centuries-old olive trees—is pure hokum. This argument may still be peddled by high-ranking Israeli doves and Palestinian propagandists alike, but it has relatively little to do with Israeli behavior in the West Bank: the despair that most ordinary Palestinians feel ought to be, and often is, directed toward Abbas and the others who purloined their future. Had the billions the PA received in foreign aid been directed toward schools, jobs, and the other staples of a healthy society, Palestinians might be easily able to imagine a robust future for themselves, regardless of whether Jewish bee-keepers and Torah scholars chose to also live in the West Bank, and spend their money there.

These realizations lead to a strange sense of clarity. If you believe that Israel ought to remain a democratic Jewish homeland and not some fantastical one-state monstrosity or the newest province of the Islamic State, you realize that this seemingly complex conflict has only two simple, practical solutions.

The first is to agree with Abbas that Oslo is dead, and act swiftly and mercilessly against the terrorist cells that launch or inspire those who stab, shoot, and blow up Jews. Israel has undertaken such operations before. Now, it ought to bulk up its list of targets to include anyone implicated in homicidal violence, and keep at it until the vile gunmen and martyr-manufacturers and terrorist paymasters who have robbed so many Israelis—and Palestinians—of life and limb and hope are brought to justice.

Even if such an operation miraculously succeeds with few Israeli casualties, however, it would still leave Israel intertwined with the Palestinians, which is very bad news for the Jews. As their leaders proved again and again and again, the real Palestinian project isn’t the establishment of an independent nation state living side-by-side with Israel in peace. That goal, which American Presidents liked to celebrate, and Arabs paid occasional lip-service to, could’ve been accomplished dozens of times in the past 21 years. But that would’ve meant making the kind of painful concessions that every grown-up routinely has to make, as well as doing boring stuff like building houses and roads and schools, which in turn might suggest that the half-loaf of “Palestine” was really the end of the game.

Instead, the Palestinian leadership has chosen to let its people waste their lives in squalid camps and prison while squandering the cash and the goodwill it has received for decades, squirreling away hundreds of millions of dollars in stolen aid money in foreign bank accounts, and throwing lavish weddings for their children—and then using pictures of the suffering they nurture to reinforce the narrative of Palestinian victimhood and Israeli guilt before an endlessly indulgent global community that apparently couldn’t give one fig about what actually happens to a single Israeli or a single Palestinian child. The entire purpose of “Palestine” as imagined by Arafat and Abbas and the other Brahmins of Ramallah is to serve as a gangrenous limb that will eventually kill the Israeli body to which it is attached.

Which brings me to the second practical solution: the unilateral disengagement plan that Ariel Sharon was working to accomplish before he suffered a massive brain aneurysm. Look at a map of Judea and Samaria, as Sharon did several times a day, and you’ll notice that the lion’s share of Jewish communities are neatly aligned in a way that allows them all to remain a part of Israel should Israel decide to unilaterally annex a thin strip of the West Bank. Annex it, and annex the Jordan Valley, too, a very thinly unpopulated area that is essential to maintaining Israel’s security if the neighboring Kingdom of Jordan falls, or the Islamic State makes further gains in Iraq—both of which seem at the moment like better than even bets. Israel could then erect a large wall—a practice that has proven successful over the past decade in stopping some of the most murderous Palestinian terrorists from reaching their targets inside Israel—escort all Palestinian prisoners currently held in Israel to the other side of that barrier, and wait.

If the Palestinians choose to celebrate their disentanglement from Israel by building a functioning democratic state with literary festivals, protections for religious minorities, decent colleges, and well-paved streets, Israel should be the first to massively support it, financially as well as diplomatically. If they opt for another Gaza and celebrate the Israeli withdrawal with missiles and terror tunnels, Israel should forcefully act against such aggressions the same way any other sane nation would.

Using bulldozers to effect a clear physical separation between Israelis and Palestinians is no one’s fantasy of peaceful co-existence. But it could be a start—and it’s certainly better than what Israelis and Palestinians have now. The fact that it doesn’t conform to what anyone imagined circa 1993 seems about as relevant to the situation as the rest of what people imagined back in those halcyon years right after the Cold War ended: a beneficent Pax Americana, the end of history, many more Nirvana albums, and other wishes that never came to pass.

Unilateral separation might also help end the confusion that some people on both sides of the conflict feel when contemplating their fidelities. Israeli Arabs who deeply resent living in a Jewish state—like the scum who sipped his soft drink as innocents were being stabbed in front of his eyes in Jerusalem the other day, or the shopkeepers who laughed and spat at a wounded Jewish woman seeking shelter for herself and her toddler—could opt to move to the other side of the fence, where they can live without a single Jew anywhere in sight. And those Jews who live in communities that would have to be abandoned—a tragedy, to be sure, but one that’s nearly impossible to avoid—would similarly have to decide if they’d rather remain in Hebron under Palestinian rule or abandon their daily communion with the ancient stones of the holy city of Abraham and Sarah for the safety and sustainability of life in a thriving, modern State of Israel.

These are difficult choices. And neither scenario I suggest is without major risks. But the current situation is risky as well, and it isn’t likely to get any better. Ideally, Israel could opt for option one followed by option two: Fight terror without compromise, and then disengage from the Palestinians while retaining as many of the Jewish communities in the West Bank as is humanly possible. Neither of these solutions would bring anything truly deserving of the word “peace”—which is an untenable goal unless both sides want it and probably unreachable right now even if they did. But either one would likely make walking down the street in Ashdod or Jerusalem or Petach Tikva a bit safer than it is right now, which is the kind of hard-headed practical achievement that Zionism once celebrated. And in a region where artificial states are collapsing into what is likely to be a decades-long series of wars fueled by religious hatred and manias and paid for with a seemingly endless supply of petro-dollars, which are used to buy still more powerful weapons, the value of small victories should not be easily dismissed."

Saturday, October 3, 2015

"The failure of Palestinian leaders to seriously grapple with the Oslo framework leads to more senseless deaths"

Can the following lead to peace or escalate violence?

"Eitam Henkin, a doctoral student at Tel-Aviv University, where he won the prestigious Nathan Rotenstreich scholarship, and his wife Na’ama, an accomplished graphic designer who ran her own studio, were driving back from a class reunion to their home in Neria, a small community of 250 families in Samaria. In the back of their white Subaru station wagon, four of their six children—the oldest one nine, the youngest four months—were dozing off.

 As they drove past the Palestinian village of Beit Furik, gunmen affiliated with the PLO approached the Henkins’ car and shot both adults to death at close range. The children watched in silence from the back seat as their parents’ torsos were torn apart by a hail of bullets. The children’s silence saved their lives: likely unnoticed by the murderers, they seemed to have been spared a similar fate.

The world’s silence in response to the murders of Eitam and Na’ama, and the spate of similar murders recently perpetrated by Palestinian terror organizations acting with the encouragement and oftentimes at the direction of Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian national movement, has no such silver lining. When asked by an Israeli news reporter how the Henkins’ orphaned children were responding to their parents’ death, a neighbor responded, “They are crying.” Those whose eyes are dry have something to answer for....

Western leaders and even a portion of diaspora Jewry justifies its refusal to notice or name the current wave of murderous Palestinian terror attacks on the grounds that the deceased are mostly “settlers”—a special category of civilians whose murder is always, if not justified, then easy enough for those who attended the right universities and who read the right newspapers to understand.

After all, what were Eitam and Na’ama Henkin doing in the West Bank in the first place, living on land that Palestinians claim as the territory of their future state—which has already been recognized by the U.N.? The fact that the land where the Henkins live is also holy to Jews, who have in fact lived there for millennia, is irrelevant next to the larger internationally-sanctioned truth that Israel is guilty of war crimes. What is the murder of two gentle people, or 12, or 23, or the current wave of stonings, shootings, and stabbings, or some ad hoc ethnic cleansing, or thousands of rockets launched against kindergartens and residential neighborhoods, next to decades of Israeli occupation and repression? The only sane response to such tragedies is a renewed push for greater tolerance and co-existence. And so forth, and so on.

This madness must stop. The man who commands Na’ama and Eitam’s executioners, PLO Chairman and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, was unambiguous in his speech this week at the United Nations that he intended to no longer hold himself accountable to the Oslo peace accords. His actions speak even louder than his words. The Henkins’s murder is proof, if any additional proof was needed, that the PLO remains nothing more than a terrorist organization that after 30 years of pushing and prodding and Nobel prizes and billions of dollars in international aide is unwilling to negotiate any kind of reasonable peace agreement, and has stopped paying lip-service to the goal of two states living side by side in peace."

The Palestinian Authority's responses is highlighted in the following:

"In a written communique published on the official news agency Wafa, PA government spokesman Ihab Bseiso called on the international community to intervene following “the killing of two young men in occupied Jerusalem and the series of incursions into cities and villages in the West Bank.” 

The statement made no mention of the fact that the two dead Palestinians had been killed while carrying out stabbing attacks against Israeli civilians.

On Saturday night Palestinian Mohammad Halabi carried out a stabbing spree in Jerusalem’s Old City, killing Nehemia Lavi, 41, and Aharon Banito, 21, and wounding Banito’s wife and 2-year-old baby, police said.

Hours later, Palestinian Fadi Aloon stabbed an Israeli teen near the Old City’ Damascus gate.

Both Halabi and Aloon were shot and killed at the scene.

“The only solution is the end of the Israeli occupation of our occupied Palestinian land and the establishment of our independent state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital,” Bseiso wrote.

The statement did not condemn or mention the killings of Naama and Eitam Henkin, who were shot to death in a Palestinian terror attack on Thursday in the West Bank."

Here is an account of the stabbing from one of the victims, after she emerged from surgery. Her husband was killed in the attack.

"On Sunday, the widow of 21 year-old Israeli Aharon Banita-Bennett—-who along with 41 year-old Rabbi Nehemia Lavi was murdered in a terrorist attack in Old City on Saturday night—-awoke from a medically induced coma and recounted how Arab witnesses “clapped and laughed” as she pleaded for help after being stabbed in the incident.

Israeli Media are reporting that Adelle Banita-Bennett relayed details of the attack to Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi David Lau who had made his way to the hospital after speaking at her husband’s funeral.

“I ran for dozens of meters with a knife in my shoulder, bleeding,” Adelle Banita-Bennett told Lau. “Arabs in the area who saw this horrible scene clapped and laughed, and told that they hoped for my quick death.”

“I felt I was about to faint,” Adelle said. “I tried to hold on to someone who passed by, and they just shook me off and kicked me, and said ‘die.’”

An Arab Israeli Member of Parliament explains the Palestinian responses:

Knesset member Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List party, told Army Radio that while he opposes armed conflict, he would not dictate to the Palestinians how they should fight Israel.
“I will not set red lines for the Arab nation; they will decide how to fight the occupation. I support the struggle of the Palestinian people to establish a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel. I will always hold the Israeli occupation to blame; I cannot tell the Palestinians how to fight their fight,” said Odeh."

Here is another report: 

Here is a review of the situation from another source:

And here is a Palestinian critique of Palestinian leaders:

"Illegal immigrants—along with other noncitizens without the right to vote—may pick the 2016 presidential winner."

  As regards US presidential elections, the following is an interesting and cautionary analysis. No, this is NOT about voter fraud.

" Thanks to the unique math undergirding the Electoral College, the mere presence of 11-12 million illegal immigrants and other noncitizens here legally may enable them to swing the election from Republicans to Democrats.

The right to vote is intended to be a singular privilege of citizenship. But the 1787 Constitutional Convention rejected allowing the people to directly elect their President. The delegates chose instead our Electoral College system, under which 538 electoral votes distributed amongst the states determine the presidential victor. The Electoral College awards one elector for each U.S. Senator, thus 100 of the total, and D.C. gets three electors pursuant to the 23rd Amendment. Those electoral numbers are unaffected by the size of the noncitizen population....
Since the census is used to determine the number of House seats apportioned to each state, those states with large populations of illegal immigrants and other noncitizens gain extra seats in the House at the expense of states with fewer such “whole number of persons.” This math gives strongly Democratic states an unfair edge in the Electoral College."

For the rest of this article see:

Violence and war as the religious world

The following is a fascinating and portentous analysis by Jonathan Sacks of the wars and human suffering which are arising throughout the world in the 21st century - with prescriptions for reductions of violence and war. I encourage you to read the article.

"The West was caught unprepared by the rise of Islamic State, as it was a decade and a half ago by the attacks of al Qaeda and as the Soviet Union was by the determination of the mujahedeen of Afghanistan in the 1980s. These are among the worst failures of political intelligence in modern times, and the consequences have been disastrous.

The unpreparedness was not accidental. It happened because of a blind spot in the secular mind: the inability to see the elemental, world-shaking power of religion when hijacked by politics. Ever since the rise of modern science, intellectuals have been convinced that faith is in intensive care, about to die or at least rendered harmless by exclusion from the public square.

But not all regions of the world have gone through this process. Not all religions have allowed themselves to be excluded from the public square. And when secular revolutions fail, we should know by now that we can expect religious counterrevolutions.

Religion has lately demanded our attention not as a still, small voice but as a whirlwind...the essential task now is to think through the connection between religion and violence.

Three answers have emerged in recent years. The first: Religion is the major source of violence. Therefore, if we seek a more peaceful world, we should abolish religion. The second: Religion is not a source of violence. It may be used by manipulative leaders to motivate people to wage wars precisely because it inspires people to heroic acts of self-sacrifice, but religion itself teaches us to love and forgive, not to hate and fight. The third: Their religion, yes; our religion, no. We are for peace. They are for war.

None of these is true."

For the rest of the article and comments, some of which are quite insightful and critical of the article, see:

Here are some comments from a critical review:

"But history warns us that the transformation could be very bloody. Jews didn’t abandon militarism until their disastrous first- and second-century rebellions against Rome—which were punctuated, Mr. Sacks tartly observes, by terrorism against fellow Jews. Christians didn’t embrace the separation of church and state until the horrific European religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries. “You do not learn to disbelieve in power,” Mr. Sacks explains, until “you find yourself using it against the members of your own people, your own broadly defined creed. That is happening within Islam today.”

The implication is jarring. Islam is wreaking havoc not because it is inherently more violent than Judaism or Christianity but because it is younger. It has decades of self-destructive warfare ahead. Eventually, the carnage will teach Muslims what it taught Jews and Christians. We learn the hard way."

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Brains and Genes - The more we examine, the more our assumptions are proven wrong.

 Recent research has indicted that the role of genes is much more complex than we thought.

"People talk about an individual’s genome as if it was a single consistent entity—but it isn’t. Every one of us actually contains a cosmopolitan melting pot of different genomes. Our 37 trillion or so cells all arose from a single fertilized egg, and as this progenitor divided again and again, its daughters picked up mutations in their DNA that distinguished them, and their descendants, from their neighbors.

Scientists can now detect the subtle differences between these dynasties and trace their lines of ancestry. That is, they can reconstruct the genealogy of a single body. And they’re finding that these family trees are more convoluted than anyone suspected...."

This article further explores some recent research with links to the original work.

“The assumption has always been that the genomes within every individual are identical,” says McConnell. “Now that we know that assumption is false, it's forced a rethink.”

For example, many neurological disorders like schizophrenia run strongly in families, but large studies have identified genes that explain just a small fraction of this heritability. Maybe that’s because “we’ve been looking at blood genomes to understand brain genomes,” says McConnell. By analyzing DNA taken from blood samples, we’re missing a lot of the important mutations that are hidden in neurons themselves—or in specific pockets of neurons. “Maybe the missing heritability lies in these brain genomes.”

Here is another review  of recent research:

And here are some of the original scientific articles: