Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Israel at 61, Beyond politics and stereotypes, 10 useless facts about Israel.

Today is Israel’s independence day, 61 years. The public image of Israel, whether favorably or negatively, is very narrow and very political, so here is a list of 10 useless facts about Israel, stereotypical and shallow but put together they are the more normal shallow stereotypes countries and people have.

Most of it is of the head recollection of information about Israel that was published in the Israeli press over the years. It ranges from the somewhat useless to the very useless. And I cannot vouch for its accuracy.

1- Israel has the highest number of cats per person in the western world. But the most common house pet is the dog.
2- Israelis are 30 times saltier in their choice of taste then the average westerner.
3- Around 250 million migratory birds cross the narrow sky of Israel each year.
4- It had been said that 94% of Israeli women shave their armpits.
5- Israel is home to Yosi the world tallest elephant to have been raised in captivity. He is 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) tall without raising his trunk. He could have made a whole new definition of the term ‘one man basketball team’ if he wasn’t the hockey type.
6- Israel is the only place in the world, were Crocs beach sandals became a heat.
7- There was never hostility in Israel between Rockin'roll and Disco, they have a nice co existence there, along side other types of music.
8- Contrary to popular beliefs in some parts of the world, Tel Aviv isn’t Brooklyn with camels. Camels hadn’t roamed the streets of Tel Aviv and it’s environs for nearly 50 years.
9- On the same note, Ari and Ziva are not common names in Israel, more common names are Ram, Imanuel, Jacky, Rachel, Ortal, Oshrit, Shirley, Gal, Sharon, Shay (which means gift), Matan (which means gift), Dorron (which means gift), Dror, Boaz, Assaf, Ronit, Nurit, Shirry, Osnat, David, Lilach, Tomer and many more. Which is more popular? That changes every year but the most popular is Muhammad.
10- We are not that bad as drivers. Generally speaking that is.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Holocaust Memorial Day – the numbers of the beast.

The number of the beast is not 666, its not even 6 million, it is 11 million, or somewhere above it. “Approximately 11 million Jews”, that is the number that sums up the Nazi death list made in the Wannsee Conference on January 20th 1942 headed by Reinhard Heydrich and Adolph Eichmann.

11 million is a big number, bigger the number of Jews that lived in all over Europe prior to outbreak of the war, which was about 9,377,000. Even if we add the over 1 million Jews that lived in nazis' plan of advance, (from North West Africa to India), and those under Japanese occupation, we won’t get that number. 11 million Jews is the number of Jews all over the world minus the USA. It is a number that includes, Israel, Yemen, and India, Ethiopia and South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Cuba and Mexico and all of Latin America, with all of Asia, Africa and of-course Europe.

It does not say so in the protocols, but in 1942 that what 11 millions Jews meant. How the numbers were distributed beyond Europe is a guess work. The term “unoccupied France” registers 700,000 Jews - far higher than the total number of Jews in Vichy France, North West Africa, Syria and Lebanon, and the rest of the French colonial empire. Russia on its European and Asian possessions had no more then 3 million Jews, and not 5 million, as the protocols suggest. The other 2 millions are more then enough to include all major Ashkenazi dominated communities in the old world outside of Europe, plus Canada and Latin America. When it comes to Italy the protocols mention 58,000 Jews with a strange reference to Sardinia. This is an exaggeration. The fact was that in 1939 there where only 45,000 Jews in Italy, and that number kept dropping. Who were the other thousands of Jews? The Jews of Ethiopia, which then believed to have numbered only 19,000?

It is an eerie division, one that reflects the current divisions of Israeli society.
Perhaps it is pointless and useless to dwell in the fantasies of the dead beast. But the beast ain’t dead, it has changed its name and excuses, and methods of brutality but not the fantasies. Fantasies that then as now are beyond their ability to chew but can still do a lot of harm.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Elucidating the Elucidation, Alex Stein’s guest post at Harry’s Place.

Today Harry’s Place hosted a member of the opposition, Alex Stein from I call him opposition and not enemy because he does acknowledge that throwing rocks can be lethal, and Israel is justified in its need for a security barrier, (though he wants it as close as possible to the green line, where it is very close to our main communities).
Alex claims he knows the IDF murdered Bassem Abu Rahmeh during the Saturday’s demonstration in Bil’in because he held a tear gas canister in his hand, similar to the one that killed Bassem, and therefore he knows how heavy it is. But what about the firing mechanism Alex, did you check that, do you know if it is easy to handle, especially with “recently introduced canisters’? Does it take a bizarre set of circumstances for a projectile to be fired at a lower height then intended? Or is it just very easy for your dogmatic thought process to find Israeli soldiers guilty of murder?
A “bizarre set of circumstances” Alex, is a stray bullet that went through corners before hitting someone, debris that misses everybody, a rain of fish.

Alex you hold every Israeli soldier guilty of murder due to actions you attribute to few. I don’t recall regular Wehrmacht soldiers been held to such a high standard, no wonder you’ve backed down from this statement in talkbacks. But if you still hold to that sweeping generalization, what that makes you Alex, You and your movement? For your failure in condemning terrorism and incitement, for not offering an alternative to the security barrier, you and your people weren’t even able to think of the idea of getting a single Palestinian from those living along the barrier route, just one, to call to those terrorists and say “not through my land”. By your own logic Alex you are just as guilty as Hamas and the other Palestinian mass murder organizations. You Alex are a butcher and a torturer of hundreds and thousands of Israelis, a slayer of families.

Friday, April 10, 2009

President Obama guests for the White House Seder. – A suggestion.

President Obama idea of making a Passover Seder in the white House is a welcomed initiative. Given the doubt many known personalities in the US and elsewhere have about the president’s commitment to Israel’s security, this is my suggestion for Seder guests.

As this shows, I’m not much of a painter, and this is not Photoshop.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

When ludicrousness stops being funny, the Guardian Gaza report.

I thought there is little more to add on the Guardian videos accusing the IDF of war crimes during the Gaza operation, given what has already been written in ZioNation in the Jerusalem Post, by the indispensable Melanie Philips, and more, and more. And more as these lines are been written, but apparently, there is more to add.

In the first video I was struck by the Guardian decision to go to the Israeli website ‘Shavuz’ for technical information about the capabilities of Israel's unmanned drones. Shavuz is Hebrew slang for ‘worn-out’ or overworked. The site serves primarily as a service for soldiers before enlisting and before rejoining civilian life. It gives advice on jobs, and academic courses along with social interactions in forums, exchange of war stories, and other army life experiences. IT IS NOT a supplier of professional information on Israel’s technological capabilities; there are plenty of other sites and publications for that, many of them in English. Using ‘Shavuz’ for information on technology is the equivalent of using the ‘London Employment Help Center’ for information on the electronics of the London Tube. It is simply ludicrous; unfortunately there is nothing here to laugh at.
This (Hebrew) link from ‘Shavuz’ would have given the Guardian part of the answer to their repeated question as to why so many civilians were hurt. In it Israeli pilots recall how Hamas operatives were dressed as women so the Israeli forces won’t fire on them.
This is either bad journalism or selective journalism on behalf of the Guardian.
What the Guardian does give us, unselectively, is an all out pseudo legal assault on our UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles).
The UAVs are one of the more successful Qassam hunters we’ve got, but contrary to what the Guardian implies, they are not foolproof; no technology is. And the more it is used the more likely it is to go wrong. Missiles can veer off, equipment can wear-down from overuse, and mistaken identification is likely to occur when conditions are not ideal: from the weather or from various structures that are blocking the view. An expert on those technologies can undoubtedly add a few more faults.
Problems exist also in the documented cases of death attributed to the drones. In the first one, members of a large family that was drinking tea in a confined space, closed by walls, were able to see the drone that attacked them as it did so. With their yard wall surrounding much of their view, how could they know for sure it was not a rocket or another projectile fired at the same time the drone was there?
In the other incident, where two young women were supposedly killed by a missile fired from a drone, the eyewitness had shown the reporter a small hole in the ground, supposedly from the missile but with no signs of fire around it. Is that what a missile attack looks like? What has the reporter done in order to find out from professional independent sources what such a missile attack looks like in the first place? Isn’t it puzzling that a killer missile will leave no signs of fire?
The problem in those two accounts is not the credibility of the witnesses but the quality of the Guardian’s research. Indeed the major hole in the Guardian credibility is their opening statement that in 3 weeks they had investigated numerous incidents. Just how much time they gave a single case, a day, an hour, or did they came to Gaza with an army of investigators? That claim is obviously preposterous, but it is a part of a very, vary serious matter.
An ominous question now arises regarding the Guardian's motives in going after a weapon that was able to help keep down the kill rate of the Qassam rockets, thus keeping civilian casualties low.

The second video dealt with the human-shields accusations. Some of the holes in its credibility were picked quickly by previous critiques. The idea that an intact copy of an Israeli journal from 2 years ago recording an earlier arrest of one of the family members testifying in the video, was supposedly forgotten there by Israeli soldiers, is indeed peculiar. A more likely explanation is that the family kept the old copy as a record of their son's ‘resistance’. And another peculiarity, according to the three brothers, the heroes of the second video, the Israeli army first used civilians as human shields, and then sent them into Israel for interrogation. Now, does that make sense? Why put the lives of the detainees at risk if they are needed later for interrogation? And could it be that that line of tanks was just a place to gather the detainees before deciding who will be released and who will be send to Israel for further inquiry? Remember, Gaza is mostly dense urban environment, ideal for guerrillas, where tanks have difficulties in maneuvering, especially as groups. Therefore if this was a line of tanks it had to have been located away from the main fighting. If that was the case, which is most likely given the conditions of fighting in Gaza, then the detainees were where human shields are less needed. Plus, tanks have their own shields.

The video also shows recorded cases of what is supposedly the use of ‘human shields’ by the IDF. This allegation is something, which the Israeli authorities failed to properly address. Most of the pictures failed to show where the threat to the soldiers comes from, and how the civilians in the pictures can become effective shields given the type of threats that can come in those mostly urban environments, and the civilian’s distances from the soldiers.
Most of those pictures come from the time of ‘Operation Defensive Shield’ when the Israeli army began cleaning the West Bank from cells of mass murder organizations. They refer to what was known as ‘neighbor procedure’. This procedure was labeled human shield by various groups, but when studied thoroughly, from Betselem's own accounts, it turns out that these civilians acted as negotiators between the IDF and Palestinian gunmen barricading inside homes. Those were negotiators by force, at gun point, and do carry their own set of moral problems, but at the same time they helped defuse many of those situations, cutting down the number of casualties on both sides. As problematic as the ‘forced negotiators’ cases are, they are not human shields.
One of the accusing pictures continues the Guardian line of preposterousness.

In the picture, which is a part of a bigger scene, a Palestinian detainee is pressed against a cement pillar by a sturdy Israeli soldier.

Now: a common sense question, if a grenade or a Molotov cocktail, were to explode over there, or large number of bullets fired at that direction, who is more likely to get hurt, the detainee, covered by cement on one side and a large soldier on the other? - Or the soldiers in his vicinity?
Another picture carries its own dubious history. It is a part of the Mohammed Badwan Myth using a name that had apparently recurred under similar circumstances in various times and places across the WB, since this picture was taken.

Three things do come clear from that picture:
1- That it is UNCLEAR where is the threat to the boy.
2- That it is UNCLEAR whether the boy is angry or crying.
3- That it is CLEAR that the jeep engine isn’t hot, or else the boy would have been in pain, since jeans are not known to be heat isolators. Which means the jeep hasn’t moved and isn’t planning to move.

As for the reporter's claim that no proof has been found of Hamas using human shields, perhaps he should check this BBC story with pictures, that records the use of human shields by Hamas.

The third video accuses Israel of deliberately firing on medical personnel. Here three unmentioned issues meet. One, the claim the IDF gave no explanation as to why medical personnel were fired at is as false as it could possibly get. Throughout the recent Intifada, including ‘Operation Cast Lead’ Israeli officials complained about Palestinian gunmen using medical transport and their personnel to hide weapons and fighters, and that includes during combat situations, about Hamas officials hiding in hospitals and pretending to be doctors, and countless other similar accusations. Second – this is another subject that sheds light on the key differences between a society that gives human lives high priority, Israel, and the one that doesn’t, Hamas. In Israel, bitter experience had thought to keep medical and fire and rescue personnel out of a battle zone until the area is secure. This is why no paramedics or firemen are allowed into burning buses, until the bomb disposal unit makes sure there are no more bombs in the bus. And that is why Palestinian and international medical personnel were kept from attending the wounded of the battle of Jenin, until the Israeli army dismantled all or most boobby-traps there. Third, a means for Palestinian medics to coordinate with the IDF the evacuation of wounded Palestinians had existed during the last Intifada. These were the liaison offices between the Israeli authorities and the PA, but they were cancelled by Hamas. So why did the Israeli army fire on medical personnel? Because it had no means of verifying their identity during on going battles and skirmishes, and they had no means of communicating their problems to us.
All these leave the Guardian report with shaky credibility and the aura of questionable motives.