Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Middle East Peace Agreement At Last!

[Mahmoud Abbas, Barack Obama, and Ismail Haniyeh after signing the Palestinian peace accords]
Fatah and Hamas Said to Reach Deal to End Schism Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Wed, April 27, 2011 -- 12:33 PM ET

Fatah and Hamas, the rival Palestinian movements, reached understandings on Wednesday to end the years-long internal Palestinian schism, according to Egyptian and Palestinian officials.

Citing an Egyptian official, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that delegations led by Azzam al-Ahmed of Fatah and Moussa Abu Marzouk of Hamas had agreed in Cairo on issues including the formation of a temporary unity government and the holding of Palestinian elections.
Fortunately the Palestinians will have the same good faith in keeping agreements with one another that they have had in keeping agreements with Israel. This should last as long as the Oslo Accords did in 1993.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Where Does the Word "Jew" Come From?

[Master Kung, Confucius, said that before there could be right rule there had to be right naming of things]

In Hebrew, our people are called Yehudim, after our country Yehudah. When the Romans came, they called our country Judea and its people Judeans. We were expelled from our country after two long wars of rebellion against the Romans, in the year 70 CE and again in 135.

The refugees in the Roman Empire were called Judeans. Over the centuries Roman Latin morphed into other languages and each of the new European languages adopted new words for the Judeans. German preserves much of the original spelling in calling us "Jude" and plural "Juden". Spanish calls us "Judio" and "Judios". Dutch is "Jood". Russian is "Yoodei". In each, both the sense and sound of "Judean" is preserved.

It is a meaning worth considering. The homeland of the Jews, even the right to a homeland of the Jews, can be, and was, debated at great length. But can one really debate what is the homeland of the Judeans?

But the long, long antisemitic tradition of denying and obscuring our right to our homeland was not to be brushed aside so lightly.

The lands of Judea and Samaria were called by their proper names on maps and in common usage until the 1980's. At which time they somehow became the West Bank. When I first heard of the West Bank, it took me a while to figure out what it referred to. it is a strange term. It means the western bank of the Jordan River.

The "West Bank" includes cities such as Qalqilya and Ramallah that are some fifty miles from the Jordan. It is as though San Francisco were said to be on the South Bank of the Russian River fifty miles north, or Boston to be on the East Bank of the Hudson. It is an entirely modern and invented phrase. There is no West Bankian people, no West Bankian language, no history of West Bankia, no tradition of West Bankian life under the British or the Romans or the Ottomans.

It is hard not to believe that expression was invented precisely to avoid calling Judea and Samaria by their actual names. And a moment's thought shows why one would want to do that.

If the headline reads, "Jews invade West Bank, Build Settlements", it is easy to be convinced that it is an atrocity and an aggression and that the settlements must be illegal encroachments on the rights of the West Bankians.

It would be ever so much harder for Arabs, leftists, and journalists to keep a straight face while protesting if the headline read, "Judeans return to Judea". Which is precisely why the name was changed.

Remember every time you see the phrase "West Bank" that you are being lied to, being manipulated for someone else's political agenda, an agenda that doesn't do well if things are called by their real names.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Spending Problem? Or a Revenue Problem?

[Click on the graph for full screen]

Almost all Federal expenditures are for Medicare, Social Security, and Defense. None of which anyone wants to cut. Remember this graph the next time you hear a Republican mouthing off about "Washington doesn't have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem." The real problem is that the Republicans are LYING. There is not a thing they themselves are willing to cut that is more than merely symbolic and politically, not economically, motivated.

If the economy is not to founder still more, the rich must pay more taxes. Simple as that.

More Arrigoni

Arrigoni's organizaton, the International Solidarity Movement reported Vittorio Arrigoni's death on its website with an article which concluded
Khaleel Shaheen, of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and a friend of Vittorio’s in Gaza says:

What has happened today is a black day in Palestinian history. The horrific murder of our friend Vittorio is totally condemned. We ask the local authorities to bring the criminals to justice as soon as possible. He is in our minds always. He is a hero of Palestine.

Since the Palestinians and their friends are obviously moral people who strenuously object to wanton murder, one wonders what the ISM said on their website about the Fogel murders.

The search term "Fogel" on the ISM website turns up only a denial that the police searches in the West Bank were related to the Fogel murders. And of course no mention that the searches quickly led to the arrest of the murderers -- whose DNA was found at the scene and who confessed to the murders without remorse.

Israel has no death penalty but the murder of the Fogel family has led to calls for legislating one for especially egregious cases of multiple murders like this one. It remains to be seen whether the rabbinate can restrain the public sentiment in favor of instituting a death penalty.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Terrible News, Your Excellency

[Vittorio Arrigoni]

The Times reports that a member of the hard-left pro-Palestinian group ISM (International Solidarity Movement) has come to a bad end. Vittorio Arrigoni went to Gaza to participate in protests against Israel. He wrote to a friend, "“I am very tense, exhausted, if they don’t kill anyone in the next 24 hours, I am getting out Thursday. Your V.” Which is to say he went there hoping someone would be killed in the fighting so that he could pretend to be angry about it.

Instead he was kidnapped by a Palestinian group named Tawhid and Jihad. T & J offered to trade him to Hamas for the leader of their organization whom Hamas had arrested earlier. (Though the line between arrested and kidnapped is a tad thinner in Gaza than in other places.) They gave Hamas a 30 hour deadline to comply.

The scandal, even by Gaza standards, is that T & J strangled Arrigoni with a plastic cord twenty four hours before their own deadline. Whether they never intended to free Arrigoni no matter what Hamas did, or whether they were afraid Hamas was onto them and had to get away fast, and murdered Arrigoni lest he identify them is not clear. But then, what is clear in Gaza?

What is so charming about all this is that the fundamental premise of ISM is its cynicism, its deliberate dismissal of fairness. And as cynical and cool as Arrigoni thought he was, he was nowhere near cynical enough to understand how murderous and primitive his hosts were. Arrigoni, as an Italian, was deliberately suspending his own notions of fairness and decency by participating in ISM. He assumed that his Palestinian hosts were doing the same. He didn't realize that people like Hamas and Tawhid and Jihad are not suspending principles of fairness and decency. By Western standards, they don't have any. By being in ISM, Arrigoni was defying Italian social norms. The Arabs who killed him were acting out Palestinian social norms, not defying them.

Arrigoni went to Gaza hoping Palestinians would be killed so he could use their deaths as propaganda for his cause. And the Palestinians who killed him did so to use his death as propaganda for their cause. The word for that is "justice".

But wait, it gets better. His captors didn't just kill Arrigoni. They tortured him first. According to the Palestinian doctor who performed the autopsy, while his hands were tied behind his back and before being strangled, Arrigoni was beaten above and behind the ear with a sharp heavy object. So the theory that he was being held as a hostage for exchange goes awry. Especially with his having been strangled six hours into a thirty hour deadline. So the line between political violence and random murders thins to invisibility for the Left's fair-haired boys?

After Arrigoni was kidnapped/arrested, T & J took credit for his abduction and sent an ultimatum to Hamas demanding the release of their leader. After Arrigoni's body was found, T & J denied having abducted him. Hamas, for its part, claimed Israel had kidnapped and killed Arrigoni. Since the alternative was to admit their control of Gaza appears to be slipping, that was the best Hamas could do.

Clearly these people need, deserve, and ought to have a state of their own in which to rationally and responsibly work out their destiny as a community. And I guarantee you that that is exactly what the UN General Assembly is going to vote to do some time this year.

For Jews, the temptation to laugh up one's sleeve at a European Israel-hater being beaten and strangled by Arab Israel-haters, the very people he supposedly had gone to Gaza to help, is strong. Fortunately we are too mature and forgiving to do that. (snicker) (chortle) (yuk yuk yuk) HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!


A Respite From All This Zionist Propaganda

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Stung by criticisms that I always take Israel's side in this blog, I have decided to include some views from the other side. Here is a video taken from Hamas' own website. It shows Hamas launching rockets at Israeli towns from in front of a school and a mosque.

The Goldstone Report refudiated Israeli claims that rockets were being launched by Hamas from Gaza schools, mosques, and hospitals. Now Hamas says -- and shows -- otherwise.

First Goldstone admitted the main premises of his report were false. Now Hamas agrees. Of course neither sees any connection between the admitted falsity of the report on the one hand and withdrawing it on the other.

Lil Buck and Yo-yo Ma

[click on video for fullscreen]


Wednesday, April 13, 2011


We are the second longest-lived mammals, after the bowhead whale. Bowheads are believed to occasionally swim for two hundred years. A human being, typically a woman, who lives a century is noteworthy. Every other mammal is gone sooner than we and the bowheads are. It is our great longevity which enables us not to be devastated by sunset and the end of day.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

La Paz

[Gray whales come annually to the Sea of Cortez to give birth and to mate]

La Paz is an interesting place. It stands in a hard desert like so many western cities, but does not have the diverted waters of the Colorado to sustain it. Instead there are natural springs in the nearby mountains which provide the city with a meager supply of brackish water. The hills around the town are peopled by huge saguaro cactuses but are uninhabitable to everyone else. So much so that there are no Indians indigenous to the area. Nevertheless it prospers, even flourishes.

La Paz is the state capital of Baja California Sur (BCS) and thus has the benefit of the state government offices being here. It is a port with a large ferry terminal connecting Baja with Mazatlan and the mainland. There is an army base here and a navy base, and a university. Which is to say there is substantial government spending here.

There is a substantial tourist trade as well. Various pale people come here as respite from northern winters to loll on soft warm sand beaches, to swim in the shallow aquamarine waters of the bahia. There is another group, who carefully distinguish themselves from the former, the expatriates. Contrary to the received notions of Yanqui imperialism, the majority of these settlers are Canadians.

One sharp dividing line between the two groups is how they feel about the new Home Depot on the edge of town. The tourists are aghast at the introduction of a big box store into their fantasy of quaintness. The ex-pats, particularly the handy Canadians, are delighted to be able to cheaply buy tools and materials to work on their casas, casitas, and villas. The Home Depot makes the ex-pats feel more connected to La Paz, the turistas feel less connected.

As a tourist visiting an ex-pat, I am staying in a lovely villa on a hillside with a vast view of the Bahia and the city, of the sunset and the city lights, from its four terrassos (verandas).

There is a wonderful architectural inversion here. Ex-pats look for traditional old-fashioned Mexican houses - with internal courtyards, breezeways, and ironwork. Those with the money, taste, and/or dedication for it, build or convert houses to the Mexican rustic style of fifty or more years ago. Here there are rich colors and textures, bougainvillea, cool terra cotta floors, vivid colored tiles punctuated by elaborately painted ones. Soft breezes cool the shaded rooms. Rough saw work with deliberately faded colors. In this villa the owner has assembled no end of Mexican folk art artifacts and art works -- here there seems little difference between the two.

The neighboring houses on this hill belong to middle class Mexicans. In La Paz, as elsewhere, higher incomes go with higher elevations. The Mexicans regard rustic Mexicana the same way prosperous Americans regard rustic Americana -- worth visiting but not something to live in. One wonders if there is not in their future the same transformation that changed San Franciscans' attitude toward Victorian houses from dismissiveness to adulation. It is not clear whether this ex-pat villa, named Luna y Mar, is behind the curve or ahead of it. Whether it is a breath of the past or an intimation of the future, Luna Mar is lovely. La vida es dulce y soave.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Our Palestinian Friends

Let it not be said that I consider all Muslims to be assholes because of the actions of a few. It's not as though large numbers of them are despicable subhumans who endorse the murder of children.

Hamas has already taken credit for the attack with the following statement:

Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza targeted with number of mortar shells the nearby Israeli settlements, bus driver and other Israeli settler were injured after a shell targeted their [plainly marked big yellow school] bus driving in the southern Israeli kibbutz of Sa’ad April 7, 2011.

Not that it matters, but the ‘settlements’ in question are inside the 1949 armistice lines, and ‘the other Israeli settler’ is 16 (some reports say 13) years old.

But you say, doesn’t it look bad to kill children?

Not to many Palestinian Arabs:

Udi and Ruth Fogel and three of their children – Yoav, 11, Elad, 4, and three-month old baby Hadas – were murdered in the Israeli town of Itamar on March 11.

“63% of the Palestinians oppose and 32% support the attack in the Itamar settlement in the West Bank in which a family of five was murdered.” [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, official PA newspaper, April 7, 2011] — PMW

Just one out of three! Imagine my relief.


Thursday, April 07, 2011

More from The Religion of Peace

Gaza Mortar Hits Bus; Child, Civilians Wounded
Reports of Ongoing Fire

Schoolbus hit by anti-tank missile

Jerusalem, April 7 - A projectile fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza hit a bus carrying Israeli civilians today, injuring three people, including a young boy. The driver is reported to be in critical condition. The 13 year old has serious head wounds and medics are fighting to save his life.

As many as 50 children had been on the bus as it made its way from a regional middle school to drop them at their homes.

Alon Schuster, head of the Shaar haNegev regional authority, said the bus had been completely destroyed and confirmed that a teenage boy was seriously wounded.

The driver was also injured.

“The bus was heading from Nahal Oz to the school, and only one child and the driver were left on the bus, and they were hurt,” said Yenina Banea, a local resident. “The other kids had just gotten off.

“We are all in shelters and hear bombing around us. Until two minutes ago (4:28 pm Israel time) we kept hearing bombs, but I didn’t know if it’s in Israel or in Gaza.

All the kids are in shelters,” she said.

Minutes later there were reports of a direct hit on a home in the Israeli community of Ein Hashlosha. No further details were immediately available.

The first mortar or anti-tank missile was launched at Kibbutz Saad close to the Gaza-Israel border, as children were returning from school.

178 mortars and rockets were launched from Gaza at Israel so far this year.

Residents in the area have been ordered into their bomb shelters.

"Hamas is responsible for any strikes that originate in Gaza," said Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak.


Tuesday, April 05, 2011

What's With the Glenn Beck T-shirt Guy?

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58th Century Hagaddah

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Friday, April 01, 2011

April Fool's?

The New York Times reported today that because a preacher in Florida threatened to burn a copy of the koran, a mob in Mazar-al-sharif in northern Afghanistan stormed the UN compound there and killed 12 people. Five were Nepali guards, two were Europeans, one of them a woman, and five were Afghans. It was reported that two were beheaded. No Americans, let alone any Florida preachers, were in the compound.

These are the people we have committed our soldiers and our money to protect from being ruled by religious fanatics. Does anybody see a problem here? Trying to keep Afghanistan from being ruled by religious fanatics is like trying to keep America from being ruled by the Republicans and Democrats.

The problem is that just when events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Syria create a small opening in the general impression that Muslims are assholes, the Afghans slam it shut. The notion that such people should continue to be allowed to enter the US becomes every day more and more far-fetched.

I have seen mobs shouting "Death to America!", not in some primitive mountain country, but at demonstrations in San Francisco. It is not racism or bigotry to want to them out of the country.

It is to be remembered that 9-11 was not an attack from outside the country. It was launched from Logan Airport in Boston. It was perpetrated by Muslims who were in the country illegally. They were allowed in and allowed to stay by INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) agents who didn't enforce the law because they were afraid of being accused of being Islamophobic. It is time for us and the INS to get over that fear.

Immigration quotas from Muslim countries should be restricted to somewhere around zero. It becomes more and more imperative that our immigration laws be strictly enforced and that those who can legally be deported be promptly sent home.

How many more massacres will it take before we realize that Islamophobia is a reasonable response? Restricting immigration is the very least we can do. There are plenty of law-abiding Chinese and Indians and Mexicans and everybody else who want to come here. Let's receive our immigrants from countries without public beheadings, let's receive immigrants whose religious faith does not include jihad against us.

Update: 3 April 2011
In the past two days 12 more people have been killed in riots in Afghanistan, making a total of 24.