Saturday, December 28, 2013

Arik Einstein, a story of Israel

The sudden and unexpected death of the Israeli artist and performer Arik Einstein, on November the 26th 2013, had shaken Israeli society to its very core. This icon of Israeli culture was famous as a singer, songs writer, and an actor. Israeli society hasn’t been this unsettled since the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhack Rabin, on November 5th 1995. Therefore it is not a surprise that Rabin Square in Tel – Aviv became the main center of spontaneous public displays of grief.

Arik Einstein.
January 3 1939  -  December 26 2013 

To the outside world he was explained as, “Israel’s Frank Sinatra.” This description might be true in the sense that both men are now immortals, but it is hardly accurate. Frank Sinatra represents the rise of urban America into its current status in the popular American culture. Arik Einstein on the other hand represents the final evolution of Israel’s secular culture into the normal popular culture typical to all western democracies. One that is independent from religion, nationalism, and military life, but not disconnected from them. There are many parents to this transformation, in the music scene Arik Einstein is one of its three main fathers.


The memorial in Rabin square

Until the 70’s the music scene of the Israeli secular culture was dominated by military bands established to provide entertainment for soldiers and civilians on the front lines, as well as at the home front. While the conformity of their material is far less from what many westerners would expect out of military entertainment, there was still a lot more freedom in the civilian life. And since the 50’s, under the wings of this freedom, an independent secular music began to grow. Centered mostly in Tel – Aviv, it reached its tipping point in the 1970’s.  Until then most Israeli performers had musical background in the military. Since then most of the Israeli musicians, and musical performers evolved outside of military life. In night clubs, cafes, weddings, and bar – mitvahs, as well as high-schools and youth centers; practicing their music wherever they could; be it their parents' basements or garages, or in unused bomb shelters that make up the underground floors of many of Israel's apartment buildings.  With a few exceptions these are familiar stories of musical careers, (and failures) from all over the world. And the late Arik Einstein, himself a veteran of a famous army band, is one the main agents of this normality. But alongside all this common ground his songs also contains the uniqueness of Israel. This is why I choose this title, “Arik Einstein, a story of Israel”. And these are some of the songs I believe demonstrate that.

Ani ve ata neshane et haolam.“Me and you, we’ll change the world,”
A song that speaks to the Don Quixote in many of us, myself included. “They’ve said it before us, never mind, me and you, we’ll change the world.”










Atur mitzkhekh zahav shakhor, “Your forehead is crowned in black gold”

This is one of the most powerful love songs in Israeli music. I wish I could translate it properly, even just one line. But I cannot.






Yoshev be San Francisco al hamayim, “Sitting in San Francisco on the waterfront”
The experience of living in a foreign land: everything is beautiful, but none of this mine. On t.v Dr J. is tearing the baskets and Kareem Abdul Jabbar is touching the sky. But I wish you were here with me….suddenly I want to go home. This is a loose translation.







Ima Adama, "Mother Earth."

A bond to an ever forgiving land
This is from a time it when was not considered unusual for a left wing peacenik to be connected to the land of Israel, and feel its embrace; and for a rightwing believer in the vision known as, 'The complete land of Israel,' to crave for peace.








Lama li lakakhat lalev,“Why should I take to heart”
But the simplest way to translate is to say, “Why should I care so much.” This is a voice from a young generation asking the older generation to lay off the heavy goals, so they could live their own lives and make their own mistakes.





Uf goazal, “Fly fledgling”
... and then this generation grow up, and their own children have left home. They knew this would happen, so with all the pain they wish them success. Just to be careful from the eagle out there.







Sa leat, “Drive slow”.
This song is a story of two guys and a radio in an old car driving during a wet night. Talking about what is wrong with their lives, worried about another terror attack from Gaza, and listening how their favorite soccer team lost another match, again. And to think, these were just the seventies.




Arik Einstein's has a far greater number of songs to his name than this skinny list.  All can be arrange and rearrange to tell a story of Israel. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

972mag, and the made up drama of Ami Kaufman and Mairav Zonszein, a critical analysis of the rational of demented fantasies

Earlier this July the internet was abuzz with a new story of an Israeli atrocity in the West Bank. A 5 years old child was arrested by the IDF for throwing stones. That was the image been pierced into people’s mind, the actual story was less dramatic.
A first sign of manipulation been made, was the gap between the headlines. In Ami Kaufman’s commentary the key word was ‘detention’ (originally it was the more incriminating word ‘arrest,’ as indicated in the web link and the correction at the end of his column). But the Hebrew title of the youtube clip was ‘icuv,’ a word in Hebrew that can be translated in two different ways. The first option is ‘detention.’ This word raises the association of an arrest because some forms of detention are acts of an arrest, but not all of them. Another possible translation is ‘delay’ as in, “He was delayed for a few minutes.” These are two different situations and two different images rising from the same title. In the first a child faces the powerful might of military system, which raises the concern for his rights as well as the frightening possibility of an abuse. In the second it is just a brief encounter, uncomfortable but brief, and therefore without the concerns that come out of the first possible translation.
Which is true?
None of them!
Because all the soldiers did, with the help of local civilians, was to take the child to his mother.
But since the main block of Ami’s and Mairav’s readership does not read Hebrew, this double gap, (between the two headlines, and between them and the reality of what actually happened), is irrelevant. They have all that they dim necessary in order to launch a scathing righteous rebuke, of Israel, the IDF, the occupation, and the soldiers themselves. As well as individuals engage in Israeli advocacy, Hasbarah, people such as myself for example. People Ami Kaufman does not know, never met, and never talked with about this incident. But that does not stop him from condemning and insulting all of us as racists. And that is before anyone of us had said a single word about this incident.
Now, why do that? Why open a new front before you finished your business with the first front? Which I suppose is the occupation, or isn’t it Mr. Kaufman? And why attack those that are not even involved, yet? Don't you have a case to prove first?
If we choose to protect whatever it is you are criticizing Mr. Kaufman, then by all means, fire away. Since we have actually said nothing before you printed those nasty accusations, it is this nothing that you are accusing of racism. Now, Mr. Kaufman, what kind of person accuses nothing for being racist? Did nothing also steal the jellybeans when we weren’t looking?

Superficial righteousness surpasses logic, and surpasses wisdom. Because Ami Kaufman throws his insults while engaging in a dialogue with imaginary Hasbarah persons, created by his own imagination. And since he opened the door to personal insults I can only step in and merely ponder the possibility that Ami Kaufman is a mentally unstable individual that talks to imaginary persons. After all, he only invented this imaginary Hasbarah folks just so he could tell them to shut up. (Surprise, surprise, 972mag Ami Kaufman is intolerant to other people’s views, even the ones he invented.)

But that is not the case. This fantasy dialogue is a literary device. Its purpose is to fill the gap between the reality on the ground and the severity of the accusations. In fact all of Ami Kaufman’s commentary is a collection of similar devices, with the same purpose. It begins with a heads up warning designed to create an expectation for something serious; thus planting in people’s minds the idea that something bad had happened. Followed by a battery of heavy accusations such as sickness, racists, and smug. Apparently for Ami Kaufman these insults are a substitute for making a case. And of course there is the famous “what if these were my children” line, aimed to create sympathy in any parent heart. Indeed what if it was your child? What if your child got into trouble with the law? (God forbid!) What would you rather have the police do? Arrest him? Lock him up? Or bring him home back to you? Because this is what the Israeli soldiers in the video actually did. They brought the stones-throwing child to HIS MOTHER.
You see, this is what real Hasbarah folks do, check the facts. And the facts are simple, this was not arbitrary, the child was throwing stones, even B’eteselm does not dispute that. And he was not arrested, since the soldiers TOOK THE STONES-THROWING CHILD TO HIS MATHER.
Checking the facts is one of the reasons it takes a long time for the truth to put on its pants before the lie travels across the world, but at least it is now out there. And the truth is that taking a child TO HIS MOTHER is not a violation of the child’s rights, it is not an abuse, and this is not an even arrest. It is most certainly has nothing to do with racism.  IT IS TAKING A CHILD TO HIS MOTHER, where he belongs. It is as simple as that. Otherwise is to suggest that there is something fundamentally wrong with the family unit all over the world. That is the logical outcome of Ami Kaufman’s, and Mairav Zonszein’s assertion.
But it is too complicated for Ami Kaufman, Mairav Zonszein, and their ideological clones to understand. Reading their account it is as if they are in two different universes at the same time. On one hand they give the actual run down of the events, soldiers, and civilians, taking a stones-throwing child to his parents’ house. On the other hand, their rebuke of this act by describing an act of an arrest, something that did not happen, since according to their own account the soldiers TOOK THE CHILD TO HIS MOTHER!
But the scale of Ami’s and Mairav’s fantasy is even bigger than that. Supposed their dream fantasy was true, and the child was been arrested by the IDF soldiers. Even this would not justify their vitriol. For the simple reason that the underline premise of article 40 of the UN Convention on the Rights of theChild acknowledges the right of authorities to arrest children when they break the law. And throwing stones is breaking the law. There are restrictions attached, of course, but the right/duty exists. If any of those restrictions were violated then they would have a case. But the mere act of an arrest is not considered a violation of the child's rights, therefore it is not an abuse, and has nothing to do with racism. And since no arrest was made in the first place, THEY TOOK THE CHILD TO HIS MOTHER, no restrictions were violated. True, IDF’s orders forbid the arrest of children under the age of 12, but that only show that the IDF is stricter and more vigil in protecting children’s rights than the UNICEF. Surprise, surprise!

Like I said, this is what real flesh and blood Hasbarah folks do, CHECK THE FACTS!
The fact is that fantasy is the underline thread of their entire commentary. As the video shows, the soldiers weren’t smug. They were thorough. They had their orders, and the orders were in conflict with one another. On one hand, keep order, on the other hand, do not arrest children under the age of 12. Solution: TAKE THE STONES-THROWING CHILD TO HIS MOTHER. 
And the local civilians were not indifferent. Indifference suggests passivity. But these civilians, mostly kids by the way, were very much active. They are engaging the soldiers, and at some point (around minute 2:03) are the ones that are actually taking the child TO HIS MOTHER.
And why wouldn’t they?
He is a Palestinian, they are Palestinians, and his parents are Palestinians. It is their obvious collective interest to keep him on the Palestinian side. And what better way to do this than taking him back to HIS PALESTINIAN MOTHER.

Yes occupation is bad; everything that has to with war is bad.
Yes in a state of occupation soldiers and civilians are at odds most of the time. But sometime mutual interests meet. Call it a rarity, call it surreal, call it a limited meeting of interests, call it whatever you like. Sometimes there can be a solution that serves both sides, in the narrowest sense of the word most likely. But it can happen and it does. It is evident at the climax of the story. There, after minute 3:20, one of the soldiers asks “Eifo hu gar?” “Where does he live?” and receives answers from the surrounding teenagers, each pointing to the direction of the child’s resident. And later those teenagers are the ones who actually take the child into the army jeep.
Yes, the child was screaming his lounges out, and our heart goes out to any child who cries that way, whatever the reason. But if this is to serve as an indicator of an abuse, then any sibling rivalry would constitute a Breaking News item for all the global news corporations. What constitute an abuse are the circumstances, not just the reaction. And putting a child in a jeep in order to TAKE HIM TO HIS MOTHER is not an abuse, even if it is against his will. There is no question he was afraid of that jeep that is perfectly understandable. But what were the soldiers supposed to do? Once they made the decision to TAKE THE CHILD TO HIS MOTHER, wasn’t their elementary responsibility to provide a vehicle for that purpose?  What would the critics have them do, force him to walk in a hot summer day? If the soldiers had a Segway with a parasol attached the child would have undoubtedly reacted completely differently. But armed forces are using jeeps. This may sound too cynical but it is the sober reality.
Since the perpetrators of this article are insinuating a gross child abuse, we should ask ourselves what is more likely to be considered a child abuse?
A child who is sitting in a jeep that has air-condition; or, a child walking in a hot summer day?
He might be crying in the first example, and cheerful in the second one, but his health will be compromise in the second example, but not in the first one.
Shocking! Isn’t it?
Not only do these Israeli soldiers keep the rights of this stones-throwing child, they also take care of his health.
So why is he afraid? Probably because he did something wrong such as throwing stones, for example.
Even if we, (again), go towards the gang at the 972magazine, and accept their demented fantasy that every crying child is an indication of an abuse. What of all the non-crying children around him? The two boys at the beginning of the clip, patting a dog before, and after the soldiers came, completely unmoved by their arrival.
The smaller boy with a similar shirt at the middle of the clip, bewildered at the hysteric behavior of the stones-throwing child. And what of all the elder teens around them, non-of them fearing for their own lives, non-of them fearing for the lives of the stones-throwing child. It seems that the majority of children view the Israeli soldiers as human beings to be reason with. There is not a lot of love in that relationship, but also absent is the fear sick racist smug soldiers supposed to generate. Shouldn’t the majority overrule the minority? Not really since the circumstances are also important. But the folks at 972magazine do not touch the circumstances, aka the facts, they’ve written them out. They are the ones who created the arbitrary criterion that every crying child is an evident of an abuse. They are the ones that must accept the logical outcome of their own criterion, that a child that does not cry is an evident for the lack of an abuse. And when we face one crying child and half a dozen that don’t, then majority overrides the minority. That is the logical outcome of their criterion. And surprise, surprise, they do not accept it. Worse than that, they’ve written out those kids completely. Instead Mairav Zonszein replaced them with non-existing indifferent adults. In doing so she expanded the fantasy into a complete fiction. The reality behind her fiction is the opposite; the Israeli army respects and observes the rights and well-being of Palestinian children. At least according this evidence provided by Be’tselem and 972magazine.

In the video below Israeli soldiers take a stones-throwing child to his parents' home using an air-conditioned jeep, while aided by local civilians. Later it was the father who actually got arrested. The whole affair was resolved at the offices of the Palestinian Authority.
For some this undisputable conclusion is a heresy so unacceptable every bone in their body shakes at 10 on the Richter scale. But these are the facts. This is what real flesh and blood Hasbara folks do, check the facts. And the fact is that the perception of reality shared by the pack of writers in the 972magazine is a complete fantasy; a strange and demented one to be precise.

Now why would otherwise rational human beings adopt such an irrational fantasy?
The reason is very simple and very rational, rational from a very ago-centric point of view. This fantasy serves them in one of the most selfish ways there is.
When it comes to liberal and progressive causes, (as with any kind of popular causes), there are various types of champions and advocates that fight for these causes. The pioneers of the cause and their successors are people who serve their declared causes. They fight against human rights abuses in order to end them. Or they fight against the occupation in order to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians. However the people behind the 972magazine belong to a sector of pseudo ideologists where the opposite is taking place. For them the occupation exists in order to serve them, to help portray them as champions of human rights and other Liberal causes. Some people wear fancy close as a status symbol, even if they cannot afford it. Others adopt social causes in order to wear them as lucrative ornaments. And the more devilish is the abuse they claim to fight against the more shining their ornaments become.
For the first group, the existence of situations were Israel and Israeli soldiers are not child eating monsters patrolling the West Bank, is not a problem. They have no problem in acknowledging the existence of human rights abuses made by the Palestinian Authority. They fully acknowledge the existence of incitement in the PA official activity, such as education, television, and diplomacy. Accordingly they recognize its destructive effects on the peace process. They also know that anti-Semitism exits among the loud voices of Israel's critics, and they confront it.
But for the later group such realities are a major inconvenience. If Israel is respecting the rights of children, as this story clearly reveals, then it is not racist, child abusing monster. That means that the folks at 972magazine cannot dwell in the splendor that comes with the position of protectors of abused Palestinian children. This keeps away the most sought of title that of glorious fighters against apartheid, which is one of the most ravishing and desired jewels on the shelf today. If, for example, they are to acknowledge the existence of anti-Semitism among Israel's critic, then this will taint the image of the integrity of Israel's critics, and with it their shining new clothes. They can always turn their attention to places where such atrocities do happen, but that will deny them the prestigious title of self-criticism. Therefore it is not surprising that they have turned to fantasy. But is it the only option, or just the lazy option?
The fact that even their collective fantasy is insufficient to justify their accusations, only demonstrates the pathetic state of their dandy liberalism. This condition however is not a unique one, whenever and wherever dandyism takes itself seriously, it comes out pathetic. And it does not matter in what field of life this takes place.
The main difference between real Liberals and dandy Liberals is in the fury factor. Real liberals will be upset when the authorities of the state do abuse the rights and well being of the people under their control, especially children. Dandy Liberals are upset when these authorities do the opposite, and take care and safeguard the rights and well being of the people under their control. Because this denies them the glamorous jewels, luxurious clothes, and smashing stylish hairdos that comes with the cause they claim to fight for. In their eyes they fight for all the suffering people on Earth, them being mostly and only the Palestinians. And like a spoiled rich girl that cannot take her tiara diamond everywhere she wants, they are furious. The reason they lashed out at the soldiers is not because they did the wrong thing, but because they did the right thing, TOOK THE STONES-THREWING CHILD TO HIS MOTHER!
For these folks the occupation will never end. Even when every Palestinian, every Arab, and every Muslim on Earth declare the conflict over and all grievances resolved. The Folks at 972magazine, and others like them, will continue to cry ‘occupation, occupation, occupation.’ Without it they are like Carrie Bradshaw in a world without shopping for the basic non-necessities.

This is not a stretch of the cynicism employed in this column. It is an accusation proven by none other than one of the leaders of the pack, his royal-highness Larry Derfner. Larry Derfner opposes John Kerry's peace initiative. That in itself is not unusual, due to past experiences and past tragedies, many people are skeptic, and I, myself, am no different. For those who want peace, skepticism, and past experience is insufficient to oppose the John Kerry initiative. There are heavy issues involved. Such as trust, the integrity of the process, the ability of each side to deliver, overcoming misunderstandings and different interpretations, etc. However Larry Derfner’s reason has nothing to do with the peace process.  He fears this initiative will terminate the European boycott of Israelis. His rational is a folly no less than that of his two compatriots, if not bigger. “Israelis need to be scared out of the occupation” he says. It is a good thing that he acknowledges that this boycott is about persecuting Israelis. The settlements are just the excuse. What Larry's logic has however is amnesia. Israelis do compare the grim economic prospect of a boycott with their current economic situation. But they also compare it with the reign of terror they were under during the greater part of the second intifada. As unattractive as dire economic conditions are, the fear of living under the constant presence of death, where in each day there is one or two mass murder attacks on Israeli civilians, is far worse. Like most people Israelis are not looking forwards to live under stressed economic conditions. But like most people it is preferable to horrific death. And the last time Israel was under a massive delegitimation attack, it coincided, not coincidently, with the wave of mass murder attacks on Israeli civilians known as the Second Intifada.
Larry lives in a separate universe where terrorism never happened. Likewise the boycott he supports will not end the occupation and is not meant to bring peace. It is evident by the hypocrisy that characterizes every aspect of this boycott.  For one thing there is no need to put Israel through a financial squeeze in order to get it to make concessions on settlements and on land it conquered in 1967. Israel proved that in 1982 when it delivered the Sinai to Egypt and evicted all settlements there. This was proven again in 2006 with the unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, of soldiers and civilians, and with the settlements freeze of 2010.  History has shown that if Israel’s concerns are attended to it will make painful concession for peace, or for even less. Any peace process must address these concerns, just as it must address the Palestinians concerns. A boycott washes them aside; hence the boycott is against the peace process. The second level of hypocrisy is the selectivity of this measure. We do not see any boycott of Morocco for its settlements policy in Western Sahara, nor of Turkey and its settlements policy in Northern Cyprus. And let's not forget the Chinese massive settlements policy in Tibet and Turkestan. This is not a universal principal; it is a selective one, aimed at targeting Israel. Why punish the one country that has cooperated on this issue?  Because that cooperation is not something the EU is interested in. This is a simple act of assault, and Peace Negotiators do not assault the negotiating parties. They work hard to build trust. And violence, and this is violence, does not built trust. Nor does it meant to be.
From the point of view of international law the boycott bases itself on one interpretation of the international law regarding the legal position of the settlements. One of the issues peace negotiations are expected to reach is an agreed interpretation of the international law, and not just over one issue. So, why does the EU do the opposite if they want peace? Clearly they do not want peace. For the purpose of peace one does not built machinery aimed at the economical persecution of each and every Israeli, no matter how trivial their connection to the settlements might be. For peace to succeed economic opportunities are to be increased not vanquished. But Larry Drefner would rather have the slightest chances for peace extinguishes, and the misery of both Israelis and Palestinians continues so this anti peace measure can be implemented. Totally irrational from the point of view of peace advocacy, completely rational from the point of view of someone who treats liberal values the way a fashionista treats cloth and jewelry. The EU is an important body in the international arena; therefore it can be treated as some kind of a judge. If it says Israel is a rough state then automatically it is. End of discussion before it begins. As demonstrated above, there is plenty to discuss but for Larry Drefner and his like this is an unnecessary distraction. With the EU as a seal of approval they can look oh so gorgeous fighters against this rough state whenever they look in the mirror. The mirror being the fantasies produced by their keyboard and displayed in their magazine. Someone like that, who wants to look high and mighty at the expanse of peace, at the expanse of those suffering from the lack of it, has a well known equivalency in the fashion world: Those that buy huge numbers of luxury goods and other status symbols that were made by child labor. This is a moral depravity, pure and simple.
For people who wish to rid their societies from liberal values, Dandy Liberals are a god sent. They ridicule liberal values more effectively than any right wing incitement. And alienate the majority of the public, including those inclined to support liberal causes. They put under a cloud every worthy liberal cause there is, as if the clouds are not thick enough already. And they make the two-state solution looks like the property of those insensitive to the concerns of every day Israelis, if not worse. For those of us wishing to understand and resolve the problems that incase our global society, among them the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, dandy liberals should be recognized and distinguished from real liberals.
At the same time we must also know the differences between dandy liberals and fake liberals. Fake liberals are those that are advancing certain causes that have nothing to do with liberal and progressive values but nevertheless modern society places them under the wider banner of liberalism. These are causes such as Marxism, Anarchism, plain old anti-Semitism, and in some places even Islamic Jihadism. The values of these causes are a sharp contrast to liberal values. Some of their advocates are true believers committed to these causes; others are more like the dandy liberals. For fake liberals the dandy liberals are also a god sent, because they are willing to buy everything the fake liberals have to say. Kind of like before the issuing of a new smartphone, but less useful. But they are not one and the same. Dandy liberals do not seek to destroy liberal society, fake liberals most certainly do. However, Just like the peace process liberal society will benefit from non-of them. They represent lack of integrity and abundance of ignores. Before human rights were a popular cause, these were the very thing the human rights movement sought to eradicate. Instead this strange and demented off spring of our culture of affluence threatens to reintroduce them into the main stream of liberal society. If we desire to protect the precious achievements of the progressive movement, dandy liberals, and fake liberals, should be recognized and marginalized. Starting all over again is a frightening prospect.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

President Obama's Jerusalem speech – A speech we can work with




I have to admit, I had my concerns prior to President Barak Obama speech of March 23rd 2013 in Jerusalem. Ben Rhods interview to the Israeli press was really frightening; even now I shiver slightly when I think of it. But after listening and reading President Obamabrilliantly planed speech, I am allowing myself a wider degree of optimism. The reason is simple, President Obama did everything he could to encourage the possibility of peace. And that puts the peace process in a far better place.

When it comes to advancing a peace process first thing, create a desirable image of peace. Describing Israel's success in the civilian eras of agriculture and high-tech, with the opportunities for social and economic prosperity, serve that purpose. Second, acknowledge the risks involved, it adds credibility, making the idea of peace look less like a dream and more down – to – earth; especially when acknowledging that there are threats to peace at the other side. Threats such as: terrorism, hatred produced by years of propaganda and incitement, and the very idea of rejecting Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.

"Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with anyone who is dedicated to its destruction." A line of truth aimed at non-other than the hard core left. For years Israelis have been hearing "you don't make peace with your friends, you make peace with your enemies." Israel implemented that logic with the Mubarak regime. For a while it worked. Egypt wanted the Sinai back and that was more important to them than the objection to Israel's existence. But the objection remind, manifesting in the form of incitement encouraged by the Mubarak regime and by opposition forces. As a result, all segments of Egyptian society are now hostile to Israel. And that is undermining the peace treaty. Today, minimal diplomatic exchangesare viewed as scandalous. There is a very simple universal truth behind this situation. Problems do not go away just because we ignore them. For decades critics of the settlements policy did just that. Constantly ignoring the incitement against Israel's right to exist; incitement that prevails throughout the Arab world, and does not stop with Israel. As a result they lost their credibility in the eyes of the Israeli public, and rightfully so.

Third step: security, security, security. Security means that the lives of each and every member of the audience and every Israeli out there are important.

But before all of that President Obama had to create a platform of trust in order to connect between him and the Israeli public. Reaffirming Israel's history, identity, connection to the land and the right of the Jews for self-determination, all did that. Humor and charisma helped too, a lot. To the annalists this trust is about getting the Israeli public to pressure the Israeli leadership. But trust is required for something far more important than this myopia. Trust is what keeps a peace process moving. Getting the leaders to act is only secondary to creating a trust between Israelis and Palestinians. The media, not surprisingly, ignored that, Obama did not, and that is for his credit. The story about Palestinian youth that want to get a lone just like Israelis do meant to do just that. Give Israelis a human face of the enemy. Was it naive as the right wing claim? Absolutely! One does not have to be a right wing to know that. Yet, it is essential, because peace is about getting each side to see the other as human beings! Whatever our political convictions may be, only those of us that are trying to find humanity in the other side want peace.

What was lost by all the annalists and commentators, left and right, is that all the merits of Israel listed by the president simply describe Jews as human being. As people that all they want is "the ability to make their own decisions and to get an education, get a good job; to worship God in their own way; to get married; to raise a family." And like all nations have the right for self-determination.

Not surprisingly a single voice of outrage came from the Arab world. As far as that outrage was concerned, getting Israeli Jews to see Palestinian as human being is insignificant. It is more important to deny that from Jews. The logic behind that outrage is very simple. If you deny one group the right to be human beings, the right to exist, why would you want them to acknowledge the humanity of your own group?

And yes, this proves the naivety in the president's request. Loudly!
But don't let that loudness hush what comes next:
 
       "One of the great ironies of what’s happening in the broader region is that so much of what people are yearning for -- education, entrepreneurship, the ability to start a business without paying a bribe, the ability to connect to the global economy -- those are things that can be found here in Israel. This should be a hub for thriving regional trade, and an engine for opportunity."

There is a message here to the Arab world. A message to that outrage, "You need Israel." Only those familiar with the frustrations involved when trying to improve the standard of living in the Arab world will know that. And there is nothing naïve about that. For obvious reasons Israelis are not familiar with this experience. This is criticism of the Arab world and it is long overdue. It is a call for the Arab world to make an outreach to Israel. And that is new.

Peace requires an effort by both sides. That effort requires a will. Will cannot be imposed, but it can be encouraged. That is the role of the international community. The job of the USA is to make sure the international community remains in that role and not become another battlefield between the two sides. When the USA gives reasons for both sides to want peace, security for Israel, and prosperity for the Arab World, it does both things. Encourages the formation of a will in both sides and maintains the integrity of the international community. Standing beside Israel blocks attempts to score points against Israel in that battlefield. Therefore, the framework in which a peace process can take place is there. But a framework is barely a corner stone. The Israeli applause to the president speech showed that on the Israeli side the will exist. If there is a will on the Arab side, the outrage that came from there hides it well.

This summation does not sound very optimistic, but before that there wasn't even a framework. And in a process that has been a major source of frustrations, even the possibility of hope is a progress worthy of our blessing. The only cloud is the apology to Erdogan. Being a possessor of fascist characteristics he will only use it for his advantage and not for the benefit of the region. The way he and his foreign minister, Davutoglu, have been bragging about this suggests they are planning another Mavi Marmara. And that will only increase the tensions that already exist.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Obama's visit to Israel, a disaster to come?


By the time this will be posted on my blog president Barak Obama will be in Israel, or just about to. His long awaited, not so long awaited, necessary, not necessary visit will finally take place.
If you follow all the discussions in media, from MSNBC to Fox, the visit is not about advancing the peace process. It is about winning over the Israeli public. As Jeffrey Goldberg puts it: "Crack the Israeli code".
Why is that important?
Popularity never hearts in politics, and without the backing of a popular figure the peace process cannot gain popular support. So it is about the peace process. It is just that other US presidents did not need to do that. They always enjoyed a strong popularity among the Israeli public; especially George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Obama on the other hand has the lowest popularity figures any serving US president ever had. Therefore, if he wants to push the peace process forwards, he need to increase his popularity among Israelis.
It is a separated discussion as to why his popularity so low. The more urgent question is, is it doable?
Yes, it is doable. Israelis like liking American presidents.
That does not mean it is going to happen. Judging from the remarks Deputy National Ssecurity advisor Ben Rhods gave to the Israeli press corps, optimism has little to hold on to.
All the damage is in this quote:

Presidant Brack Obama (right), and Deputy National Ssecurity advisor Ben Rhods (left).


"The US believes that Israel must show it is serious about its peace efforts. It must convince the general Arab public, if nothing more to maintain Israel's peace treaty with Egypt."

This statement is wrong on several levels. First it is patronizing. Friendly atmosphere cannot start with telling people they must behave themselves. Even if the patronizing is correct. The problem with this patronization is that it is neither. It is not correct it and it is not incorrect. Each side has its own ideas as to what is serious about peace and what is not serious about peace. In a peace process the peace broker is not suppose to give the two parties another reason to bicker.

And it gets worse, because the way Ben Rhods phrased his advice he already took a side in a dispute that has not happened yet!
He took the side of Egypt. This alienates Israelis because from their point of view they have already made a series of territorial concessions, with security risks attached. Some may not consider these concessions serious since the settlements continue to expand. Right or wrong this is precisely the kind of a debate a peace broker hopes to avoid.
But in peace making debates like this are nothing more than headaches. Now, these headaches are not fun, to say the least. Ask James Baker III; ask Madeleine Albright; ask Henry Kissinger. But broken peace accords are worse.

Right now Egypt is ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood. This is a popular political party that opposed the peace process vehemently. It is reality and American pressure that prevents them from breaking it. Since Ben Rhods took Egypt's side, he gave them a way out of the peace accords. With each side having its own ideas as to what 'serious about peace' is, all the Egyptian leadership has to do is to use Ben Rhods remarks as a go ahead is to constantly claim Israel is not serious about peace, back it up with mass street demonstration, which they can arrange easily. Until finally they have an excuse to break the Camp David Peace Accords. Needless to say, the Camp David Peace Accords are one the most important achievements of American foreign policy. Something both Democratic and Republican administrations worked hard to achieve and maintain.
None of these had happened yet, thankfully. All that is needed is for the most powerful man on earth to express this logic publicly. The impression from the discussions in the Israeli media is that is not going to happen. Let hope these impressions are correct since Ben Rhods is the one writing the president's speeches for president Barak Obama visit to Israel.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Palestinian propaganda, up close





The picture above is one of the more famous instruments of Palestinian propaganda. It is found on many Palestinian and pro – Palestinian sites, and had reached iconic levels even at leftwing circles. It was taken in 2002 during 'Operation Defensive Shield.' This was Israel's largest counter-terrorism operation, which ended nearly a year and a half of mass murder attacks on Israeli civilians.

It's suppose to be an Israeli soldier abusing a Palestinian family. According to the picture he is doing that from a kneeling position with a snipers rifle in his hand. Now, just the basics: In order to abuse someone the victims has to be completely helpless, and under total control of the abuser. And how does an abuser suppose to achieve that from a kneeling position?

He cannot – that simple, no one can. Basic anatomy of all assault crimes, the abuser keeps the victim close to the ground or the wall, never the other way around. If the soldier intended to abuse someone he would be standing. Instead he is kneeling with a sniper rifle in his hands. Why? Because he is a sniper, he is kneeling because that is what snipers do. When they are in the kneeling position snipers become smaller targets to the snipers of the other side.
So why is this soldier kneeling in the middle of a Palestinian street?
Simple, there are Palestinian snipers on the other side, away from the area captured by the photo.
And what do civilians do when a shootout is about to begin?
Get the hell out!

And that is exactly what the mother with the two children is doing. Look how she holds the hand of younger child. She is a responsible person. The rifle isn't even pointed at her. Look closely, it is pointed away from them.

Yes those two girls are afraid. Or do they?


The older one looks apprehensive, but also curious, peeping from behind her sister's back. The younger one is either surprised or was in a middle of a sentence when the photo was taken. One thing is clear, no one is afraid from the kneeling soldier, not the girls, not the mother. And one of the reasons they are not afraid of him is because there are not being abused by him. They simply passed by this sniper while getting away from a possible fire fight; a fire fight that probably didn't happen, since at the time most Palestinian gunmen preferred to leave and avoid confrontation.

Now it seems this photo did not serve the Palestinian propaganda machine as intended. So it was photoshoped. The mother was removed all together. And the soldier's rifle was rotated so it can point at the girls. But in the process it positioned the soldier in an unnatural way. No one can stand like that and maintain balance, especially with a rifle in the hand and weight on the back. Maybe an acrobat can, but with an effort.



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A nuclear Iran, answering Kenneth Waltz

In an opinion piece published in USA Today, under a title that can be mistaken for satire, Professor Kenneth Waltz of Colombia University suggests we shouldn’t worry about a nuclear Iran. His main argument, “Although it is impossible to be certain of Iranian intentions, it is far more likely that if Iran desires nuclear weapons, it is for the purpose of enhancing its own security, not to improve its offensive capabilities.

Professor Kenneth Waltz of Colombia University 

As to what those security concerns might be he does not speechifies, however, unlike Israel Iran has a huge strategic depth. Its geography, its huge population, and its level of economic development, all adds up to a formidable deterrence; without any need for nuclear weapons. In short, Iran is a country that doesn’t have to worry about its own security, as long as it does not infringe on the security of others. Once it does that, it gives other countries a good reason to make a special effort in order to infringe on Iran’s security. Unfortunately for Professor Kenneth Waltz’s argument that is precisely the kind of Iran we have today. In Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Egypt, the Gaza Strip, and elsewhere. If Professor Kenneth Waltz wishes to reassure the world about a nuclear Iran he should first reassure the world about a non-nuclear Iran.

At another part of his article he argues that Israel’s nuclear capabilities are responsible for the instability in the Middle East. How does Israel’s, supposed, nuclear capabilities relate to the huge social gaps within the Arab world? How does it affect the total GDP of 22 Arab nations? Without oil this GDP is lower than that of Switzerland. How is that Israel’s fault? And what about illiteracy, high unemployment, the Sunna and Shia split, gross gender inequality, and other recognized internal causes of instability. Are they all because Israel has nuclear weapons? Under this type of reasoning, the moon landing is to blame for all the major airplane crashes that followed.
According to USA Today, Kenneth Waltz’s article is a condensed version of a paper that will be published in the July - August issue of Foreign Affairs, so maybe the answers will be there.

Geography alone debunks Waltz’s argument.


 See also Ira Stoll at Commentary Magazine.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Arab Spring anyone?

So far, since this so-called Arab Spring had begun only about one person it can be said that his life has changed from winter to spring.


Gilad Shalit at Nokia sport’s stadium in Tel-Aviv 


As for the Arab Spring itself – more and more it looks like a fall. Not a fall in the sense of autumn, but in a sense of fall, decline and collapse. The deterioration of the Arab states that so tragically categorized them in the 20th century, simply intensified. And now entire societies are disintegrating.