Thursday, June 21, 2007

Isn't it Ironic, Don't You Think?

The recent purge of the Fatah strongholds by Hamas in Gaza has definitely raised eyebrows all over the world. After sifting through the myriad of articles bashing Israel, it's rather interesting to read the comments of those invovled or affected by the coup.

Hassan al-Bazam, a 20 year old bodyguard for Ismail Haniyeh, talked in a recent Jerusalem Post article about his kidnapping and subsequent torturing by Fatah loyalists. He commented after luckily escaping with his life:

These people are real murderers, even the Jews did not do such cruel things to us.

The violence, which seems to be at a lull currently, has pushed many foreign nationals and injured Palestinians into Israel. One of the articles in today's Haaretz talked to some of the injured Palestinians. Shadi, a 23-year-old policemen, expressed his remorse for his voting decision:

I wanted to shoot myself for voting Hamas

While Zecharia Alrai, a 39 year old Fatah commander in the elite Force 17, blasted Hamas and their ideals:

That's not Islam. That's evil and hypocrisy. How ironic that Israel is rescuing us from our Muslim 'brothers'

Last but not least, today's reactions from Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas seemed to usher in a new era in this never ending conflict:

There is no dialogue with those murderous terrorists

And the world wonders why Israel refused from the get go to talk to Hamas ...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Crazy Zionists are at it again ...

By now I'm sure everyone has seen the rather pathetic London 2010 Olympics Logo:

Now at first I thought it was just a terrible artistic job, but I've recently seen the light. The reason why this logo needs to be dropped is presented quite simply by some paranoid loon:

Yup, I think I'll actually let you guys come up with the words to describe this ...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Istanbul Int'l Community School (IICS) - 1991/92

Can you see me? :)

When the Lid is Afraid of the Pot

A worrying article from Haaretz about our dear friends in Egypt:

When the lid is afraid of the pot
By Amir Oren

The year 2007 does not only include the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War; it also contains the 30th anniversary of Anwar Sadat's visit to Jerusalem. Israel's most glorious military achievement, the defeat of three states and the occupation of major segments of their territory, is set against an even greater diplomatic achievement, breaking through the wall of Arab hostility. In both cases, the enthusiasm gradually turned to disappointment and the promise held out by the short-term results never came to fruition.

The view that Egypt is a moderate, peace-seeking country is an optical illusion. Cairo, which purchased its ticket to Washington through Jerusalem, is once again not thrilled to be part of the camp affiliated with the Americans. The Egyptian people, who are not eager to get involved directly in a war, are instead encouraging war from the sidelines.

Israel's awakening from the illusion of Egyptian influence over the Palestinians has been taking place for seven straight years, from the Camp David summit in 2000 to the anarchy on the Egypt-Gaza border under Hamas rule. Even during its 19 years of military rule over the Gaza Strip, Egypt was more concerned about Palestine than the Palestinians. Contrary to the Hashemite Kingdom, which annexed the West Bank and undertook a process of "Jordanizing" the Palestinians, Egypt avoided adding the refugees from Jaffa and the residents of Khan Yunis to its own tens of millions of poor. In the prisoner exchange that followed the Six-Day War, the Israel Defense Forces released thousands of soldiers who served in the Palestinian brigades of the Egyptian army and sought to transfer them to the western bank of the Suez Canal. But Egypt refused to accept the released Palestinians and demanded that they be returned to the Gaza Strip.

The promising idea of an exchange of territory involving Sinai, the Negev, Gaza and the West Bank might have had a chance of succeeding in the Sadat era, or at the height of the Oslo process, but has since fizzled. Egypt will not contribute a grain of sand, a drop of sweat, or a drop of blood in order to further peace. In the best-case scenario, it will continue treading water in the current impasse. The more realistic scenario is that after Hosni Mubarak, the repressed hostility will become open and active.

Ironically, the reason for this is democracy - not the American model (since efforts to instill that in Cairo failed exactly as they did in Damascus, Riyadh and every other Arab capital), but the popular version found in political cultures where an authoritarian and rigid regime refuses to relinquish its exclusivity and privileges, but also will not challenge public opinion unnecessarily. That the regime, or parts of it, has come to terms with Israel is a diplomatic fact that the Egyptian public cannot erase. However, this public has great power to keep the relationship cool, limited to air-conditioned rooms where diplomats meet.

Opinion polls show that Egypt - the largest Arab state, with the most advanced and powerful military - is also the most hostile to Israel, the United States and the West. This is not a matter of hairsplitting interpretation or passing trends: The data are unequivocal, and as frightening as a storm of religious fanaticism and prejudice.

Last month, the American House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs received the results of an international survey conducted by the University of Maryland. The survey examined public opinion in four Muslim countries: Morocco, Egypt, Indonesia and Pakistan. On every questions, Egypt led - in opposing an American presence in the Middle East, in supporting attacks against it (more than 93 percent), and in accusing the U.S. of aggression against Islam in its entirety, as opposed to just the fight against Al-Qaida, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. Even those who expressed reservations about Al-Qaida's activities, particularly its targeting of civilians, supported the audacity of global jihad in confronting America and raising the flag of protecting "Muslim honor." Many doubt the American version of what happened on 9/11 and attribute what they saw with their own eyes, and what was described in tapes by Osama Bin Laden and his aides, to Hollywood special effects. Israel, of course, is derided as a collaborator and a protectorate.

The pot boiling under the regime is threatening - if it boils over - to throw the lid off, and with it, also the peace with Israel. The resulting security tensions will not immediately escalate or lead to a new war, a sixth war, between the two countries. But there will be no deeper, broader peace than the one that currently reigns on our southwestern border

I've long held the position that the 'Cold Peace' with Egypt would eventually lead to war. It just made sense. The Egyptian army has continually grown in numbers and quality thanks to Uncle Sam's wallet, which eagerly opened after the Cold Peace began. And their massive yearly military exercises in the Sinai? I highly doubt they're done because of a potential confrontation with Libya or Sudan.

Another worry is excellently summarized in this article, which also goes into great depth at the failure of this peace treaty to further a better relationship between the two nations:

The Israeli academic personality probably most friendly to Egypt, indeed a frequent apologist for Egyptian attitudes, wrote bluntly:

"Today the most dangerous impediment to relations between the two peoples is not, in my view, the absence of implementation of normalisation, as detailed in paragraph three of the Peace Treaty, nor in the absence of an Egyptian Ambassador in Israel, but in the unbridled incitement against Israel in the Egyptian press. "

He goes on: "Many journalists regard it as their national duty to serve as watch-dogs who protect Egyptian duty from any positive contact with Israelis. They denounce any connection in the cultural sphere as a cultural attack by Israel on the Egyptian personality. and any economic activity as domination of the Egyptian economy. Negative news from Israel is inflated to monstrous proportions, while positive moves are not published at all. Even a newspaper like El Ahram(1) permits itself to publish, for example, an article which tells readers that the Israeli soldiers in Lebanon operate ovens of "termination which they learnt to build from Nazis."(2)

1. Egypt's leading daily

2. Professor Shimon Shamir, (the head, until 1984, of the Israeli Cultural Institute in Cairo) in Yediot Ahronot 29 March, 1985.

Many will argue that a cold peace with Egypt is better than what we were enduring between the end of the Yom Kippur war and Anwar Sadat's famous visit to Jerusalem. However, looking at the radicalization of the country and the obvious advantages we've forfeited with this peace treaty, one cannot stop but be concerned about Israel and a potential confrontation with Egypt.

(Another mistake of this peace treaty was the destruction of the Jewish settlements in the Sinai. Here, for the first time, Jews willingly destroyed their settlements in an attempt to find a lasting, real peace. It set a dangerous precedent that is haunting us till this day. Its no wonder that Menachem Begin, according to one of his closest friends, spent the rest of his life regretting the treaty)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

12 to 12

Today I received a request from Ahuva after she received the following email from Dudy Stark of Nefesh B'Nefesh:

This coming Shabbat, the Torah portion , Shelach, that recalls the sin of the spies, is read. These were the 12 men that Moshe sent to scout out the Land of Israel before entering. When they returned, their reports were distorted and negative and caused a 40 year delay before the Children of Israel could enter.

Today despite the challenges that come with living in Israel, we are witness to all that is good and special about living here and it is in our ability to tell our family, friends and neighbors abroad what those things are.

Nefesh B'Nefesh is initiating a simple project this week called "12 to 12". We are asking every Oleh to compose a list of 12 great things you appreciate and love about living in Israel and email your message to 12 (or more) friends abroad.

If you send this out to your friends, please CC when you send it out.

Please send out your letter before Friday June 8.

My list of 12 things I love about Israel:

1. The Kotel/Western Wall. No words needed here.
2. The language.
3. HaTikvah. A national anthem that actually speaks to your soul. Now imagine singing it with 40,000 Israelis at sporting events ...
4. The IDF. A proud Jewish army which protects our precious land.
5. The Food. Unparalleled range of foods from every corner of the world. From Ethiopian to Yemenite to Polish to French to Greek to Argentinian, you name it, it's here
6. Golan. The serene greenery of the North just speaks to my heart and soul.
7. Ben Gurion Airport. Strange choice I know ... But I love seeing it when I arrive back home after a vacation. As you walk on the ground which welcomed your aliyah dream years previous, you just smile and think, "home"
8. Israeli national team (Football/Soccer). We may not be the best team around, but I love rooting our boys on.
9. Menachem Begin Heritage Center. No better place to learn about our country's greatest leader than here.
10. Our History. Goes without saying really ...
11. Negev.
12. Our Flag.

So now.... whats your top Twelve reasons for making aliyah?

Monday, June 04, 2007

This is not Britain's finest hour

The Day She Became Whole

Israeli army paratroopers Zion Karasanti, left, Yitzhak Yifat, centre, and Haim Oshri, right, stand next to the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, in Jerusalem's Old City after it was captured on 7 June 1967

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Pilling it

Static Friendships

It was nice to get to the base on Friday and start seeing familiar faces. I haven't seen any of the lads since October of last year, and it was obviously good to see them all doing well. What's strange about miluim and the friendships we all develop is that they stop after we finish the reserve stint. Life for each of us will obviously continue, but our friendships stop once we're out of uniform. The next call up arrives, and the paused friendships start blooming again, with non-stop chatter about recent news and the obvious friendly banter and laughs. Though unlike any other friendships I have, I enjoy the warmth and connection I share with these lads ... My brothers in arms.

The Pill Box

Most of us having seen these imposing structures across the landscape whenever we've been along the 'Green Line' or across it. Within it, 2-3 Israeli soldiers sit with various equipment making sure everything across the landscape is ok. I had the honor of sitting in one with Lior for 24 hours. Though the weather wasn't too kind, I had a really good time. The first few hours we caught up, chatting about our new jobs, aspirations about life in Jerusalem and the ladies in our lives. By the time we had done that, it was almost time for Shabbat. So picture two religious boys, one a Yeminite and one a Ladino Jew, welcoming in Shabbat singing ... Carlebach! Ha ha (Awaiting all the Ashkenazi jokes). Along with Carlebach, we sang some songs in the tunes from our homes and then ate the meal that was brought in from the base. The 24 hours passed rather quickly and despite the small surroundings of the area (Diameter of around 2.5 meters), we managed to comfortably eat, sleep and enjoy our guarding.

Defensive Shield

As many know, my favorite book is 'A Pslam in Jenin' which goes into the difficulties encountered by Israel in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield. One of my friends in my unit was in the 51 Battalion of Golani which fought in Jenin during the operation. I started discussing what he saw there and it's quite amazing how a (at the time) 21 year old dealt with his first taste of war. What I found interesting was how the fear we all endure evaporates once the first few bullets fly by. "Some bullets flew by my leg. There was no more time for fear after that, we were here to fight," he said, his face expressionless. He lost two friends during the operation, both covered in the aforementioned book. One of them, Shmuel Weiss, fell while pulling an injured friend from danger's way. "I saw them putting the blanket over his body. He saved that kid's (I forgot the name) life.The kid has yet to recover mentally from the event."

While those events have obviously left my friend scarred, he has no regrets about what he did there. "It was a war," he rightfully claims. But as he discussed killing and 'confirmation of the kill', it dawned on me on how much our kids are forced to see at such a young age. The responsibility on our soldiers is incredible, and yet time after time, they do what they have to do and do it well.