Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The education of Thomas Friedman; or, why Americans should be careful about someone else’s home

   (Disclaimer: any reference here to Thomas Friedman’s private behaviour is 100% fiction. I know nothing about his personal life or his credit cards)

On May 22, 2012, Thomas Friedman published (in The New York Times) yet another essay placing full responsibility for peace in the Middle East (or the lack thereof) exclusively upon the shoulders of Israel. Poor man: he’s like a American businessman who went to a prostitute while travelling in the Middle East, got his pocket picked and doesn’t realize his American Express card is missing. Having become one of the West’s most ardent defenders of the ‘Palestinian cause’, he cannot repeat often enough how oppressed the Arab is and how terrible the Jew is. If love is blind, Mr Friedman is in love, for he consistently ignores the secret of dealing with the Arab: before you open your mouth, learn Arabic--or get a reliable translator. This is important because the Arab is not like Westerners. He is smarter.  He can, poetically speaking, pick your pocket before you realize what has happened. The Arab might look stupid; but if you have ever been to the Arab Shuk, you know that looks can deceive. Apparently, Mr Friedman hasn’t noticed this. As his appearance on the American game show, Jeopardy, reveals, his general knowledge-base is not exactly encyclopaedic. The same might be said of his knowledge of the Arab-Israel conflict.

Mr Friedman believes that the Arab is a victim of Jewish ‘colonialism’. Israel ‘oppresses’ the Arab—and thereby threatens her standing as a democracy. Israel must give the Arab what he wants. Peace will come only when the Jew surrenders land--immediately. Mr Friedman may not use these exact words to defend his ‘Palestinians’; but these words appear to capture the essence of his message.

It’s a good story, this tale of  ‘Palestinians’ oppressed by Jews.  Misleading pictures portraying Jews as Nazis are terrific, and lies-as-news sell extremely well. A writer can make a living defending the Arab. It’s a good deal for Mr Friedman.

There’s just one problem: that stupid-looking Arab you are helping isn’t stupid. He knows a good deal, too; and if (poetically speaking, of course) he convinces you to proclaim to the world the virtue of his town prostitute, he could then earn a commission on her increased business; so he will not silence you. Instead, he’ll tell you that the prostitute is his sister who once wanted to join a convent but couldn’t, because the Jews ruined her reputation.

Why wouldn’t he tell you that?  The more eagerly you promote his claims, the more he gains.

That prostitute is not his sister. He doesn’t have a sister. Instead, he has a lie: the Jews stole his ‘Palestinian’ homeland. How do we know this is a lie? We know because we do something Mr Friedman doesn’t do--or can't: we listen to what the Arab says in Arabic: Palestinians are not the indigenous population of modern-day Israel who yearn to regain their family homes (what they apparently tell Mr Friedman); rather, they are what Hamas Minister of the Interior and National Security Fathi Hammad (no minor functionary or ordinary Gaza citizen) recently told his Arab brothers  (h/t calevbenyefuneh.blogspot): “we all have Arab roots, and every Palestinian, in Gaza and throughout Palestine, can prove his Arab roots—whether from Saudi Arabia, from Yemen, or anywhere. We have blood ties…Brothers, half of the Palestinians are Egyptians and the other half are Saudis” (see also, Caroline Glick, Column One: the eternal liberation movement, Jerusalem Post, April 5, 2012).

The Arab knows the truth: there are no indigenous ‘Palestinians’. ‘Palestinians’ are Arabs who came from someplace else. ‘Israel is ours’ is a lie. Their ‘homeland’ is a lie.

When Mr Friedman refuses to do his homework well or honestly he ends up (poetically speaking) promoting the virtue of a town prostitute who, because the spotlight Mr Friedman gives her increases her business, supports that entire town. Her fictitious virtue becomes the town’s pride. His fictions turn her into a civic income source. Naturally, this being the Middle East, the more the men of her town promote her fictitious virtue to an eager Mr Friedman, the more money she pays them from her increased business—and the more they expect from her in return. It’s something like American capitalism, Arab-style.

This entire enterprise depends upon Mr Friedman’s Western friends who, the Arab understands, depend upon Mr Friedman. That’s a relationship the Arab men of town understand: everyone depends upon someone else—until the men with money get what they want.

The Jews are central to the success of this enterprise. Without Jews to play the role of villain, the town prostitute goes out of business; and if she goes out of business, the men with money not only lose their recreation, they lose their cash flow.

The prostitute and her handlers understand this form of capitalism. It’s simple. It’s personal. It works. Mr Friedman is the perfect American traveller. He brings to the Middle East a sharp eye for beauty, reduced inhibitions because he is out of country-- and little knowledge of local customs. He is the perfect customer for enterprising locals with a story to sell.

Too bad he hasn’t thought to look for his American Express card.

Friday, May 25, 2012

It is time for Mr Netanyahu to speak

Is Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a religious man? We don’t know.  He does not appear in public doing anything ‘religious’, other than the occasional photo-op for a religious audience or a religious holiday.

Why is he silent about his religion?

The Jerusalem Post reports (May 25, 2012) that Mr Netanyahu recently hosted a Bible-study group to analyze the Book of Ruth just days before the holiday of Shavuot. During that meeting, he spoke of the Bible as “a parable for humanity”.  Does this mean that he understands the connection between G-d and the Jewish nation? We don’t know.

We know very little about our Prime Minister’s religious belief. He certainly doesn’t talk about it. Besides a few remarks here or there, and some standard references we occasionally see, this Jewish leader of the world’s only Jewish state appears before the world completely silent about his G-d.


How many people in the world believe in G-d—three-an-a-half billion? Every one of these individuals believes that G-d exists. They believe that someday they will see miracles. They believe in prophecies that will, they hope, come true. They hunger for a G-d who is real. They hunger for a G-d like ours, One who literally turns His Prophesies into reality--through the miracles associated with modern Israel. Doesn’t it therefore make sense that the leader of such a people should speak to the world of such a G-d?

 Who else can offer so much proof that their G-d keeps His Promise?

The world hungers for such a G-d.

 As a result of the creation of modern Israel, we have become the world’s political focal point—and our Jerusalem attracts the attention of three-a-half billion G-d-seeking people. Both Israel and Jerusalem are universal icons. The nations cannot stop talking about either one.  They seem fully aware of what the G-d of Israel has wrought. They look to Israel. They look to Jerusalem.  We are the epicentre of their religious universe.

This is the pulpit that Mr Netanyahu stands upon. He commands the world’s attention. Why does he publicly ignore what is so obvious—his G-d’s majesty? Everyone waits to hear him speak-- and he is silent.

This is a problem for Mr Netanyahu because, whether or not he understands or accepts G-d, he is the spokesperson for G-d because he leads the Jewish nation. He represents G-d’s people to the world. He is, in other words, connected to G-d whether he likes that or not; and the world knows it.

Worse for him, the world will not let him forget his G-d.  The world obsesses over his G-d.  Some powerful people are offended because the Promises of the G-d of Israel have become reality. The G-d of Israel is a competitor. They believe that in the race for G-dhood, there is no second best.  There is room on the podium for only One—and they don’t want that One to be the G-d of Israel. They would like to destroy that competitor G-d. But they know they cannot do that—so they choose to do to the next best thing: destroy His people.

To wage their war against G-d, they war against Israel.

Others reject G-d altogether. They say He is not real. They proclaim Man to be the Master of the Universe.  G-d is a myth. Only Man is real. Their greatest competitor—their only competition, really—is the G-d who has proven He is real: the G-d of Israel. These people have the same goal as those above. They cannot destroy that G-d so they seek to destroy His Chosen, His beloved.

To deconstruct the G-d of Israel, they delegitimize the nation of Israel.

These two groups are eager to attack. Each believes he can achieve his goal by attacking in his own way. Each preaches his gospel with a religious fervour.

Whether Mr Netanyahu likes it or not, he defends Israel in a war against G-d. It really doesn’t matter what he believes about G-d. His job is to lead the fight for G-d. His problem is, while he may understand how to wage a political or diplomatic war, he may not understand how to fight a religious war.  The Prime Minister we see is politically competent; he has proven that. But is he spiritually competent? Does he understand the role G-d plays in this international drama against Israel? Is he ready to fight for G-d—or is G-d, for him, just another character in a parable?

The world watches us. Everyone wonders: why is the leader of G-d’s people so silent?

Deep down, three-and-a-half billion people understand that Israel fights in a war against G-d. They want to hear from the leader of G-d’s people.

They wait.

It is time for Mr Netanyahu to speak.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The King

In case you misunderstood what happened when Israel Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu united with his opposition, Kadima, America’s Time magazine can help you: it has placed Mr Netanyahu on its May 28, 2012 cover. It calls him, “King BiBi”.

The ink on Bibi’s agreement with Kadima is hardly dry. But the fallout from it has already begun. So far, three story-lines have opened: the international, the national and the Jewish. Time captures it all.

While many who discuss Netanyahu’s new unity government focus on its impact on Israel national politics, some look instead at its impact on Israel’s international status. For some, this alliance spells trouble. The Time story highlights the problem: now that Netanyahu has secured unprecedented power to act without opposition, will he adhere to Israel’s supposed intransigence, or will he write a new narrative for a Middle East peace? The implication is clear: with apparently no opposition to stop him, Mr Netanyahu has no more excuses for delay. Mr Abbas has recognized this, declaring almost immediately, ‘if I were him [Netanyahu], I would do it [sign with the Palestinian Authority] now, now, now.’

His emphasis is telling. The world believes that Mr Netanyahu can now do anything he wants any time he wants. There is no longer any reason for delay.  Delay will mean instant and intense condemnation. We have already seen the beginning of this intensity: just days after Mr Netanyahu’s alliance announcement, European Union (EU) Foreign Ministers harshly criticized Israel for behaviour ‘threatening the two-state solution’. That harshness was repeated two days later in remarks by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, that suggested an utter contempt, impatience and disregard for the Jewish State.

The pressure against Israel increases. Mr Netanyahu backs Israel into a corner, and the EU salivates. He can no longer claim the Knesset will not support him; he now controls a majority bloc. He may have actually narrowed his options with this alliance. For a politician who prides himself on his ability to keep options open, this narrowing could be disastrous.

The second story-line opened by the Time coverage concerns national Israel politics. When this alliance was first announced, Israel’s elite media supported it, claiming it would bring ‘stability’ to an otherwise chaotic Israeli political environment. With the Kadima-Likud alliance giving Netanyahu a new 94-seat majority in a Knesset where 61 seats control, they had reason to draw this conclusion. But while they might be right, this supposed ‘stability’ could also tear Likud apart. Likud is, essentially, a Rightist pro-Judea/Samaria Party. Kadima is Leftist and anti-Judea/Samaria. Netanyahu, despite his Likud home, already leans Left. Now he brings Kadima to his side. Why?  Rumours circulate that he might imitate his Likud predecessor, Ariel Sharon. Sharon turned hard-Left, abandoned Likud and surrendered Gaza. If Netanyahu makes a similar hard-Left turn—or tries a similar abandonment-- in order to surrender central Israel and part of Jerusalem, this could make Likud the victim of consecutive betrayals by its leaders. Would voters trust another Likud candidate in the next election? In addition to this problem, some in Likud believe that a cadre of members appear to hate Likud’s most powerful pro-Judea/Samaria leader, Moshe Feiglin. If Netanyahu chooses Left over Right, will animus towards Feiglin be the ‘straw’ that breaks Rightist Likud? What will that do to Israeli politics?

The third story-line generated by the Time article is ‘Jewish’. Raising the subject of a ‘King’, Time reminds us that our past and future are tied to Kingship. Read your Tanach. Our past—and our destiny-- is Kingship.  Moreover, to call a current leader, ‘king’, prompts some to recall from Tanach that, when Jewish kings in Israel commit to G-d, Israel is strong and honoured. When Jewish leadership rejects G-d, Israel receives contempt, curse and trouble (sound familiar?).  This is the formula that rules our Destiny. It is all in our Tanach which, if you have been counting, has a better track-record for accurate predictions than all those Leftists who pressure Israel by promising  ‘peace’ if only we surrender G-d’s land. How do we read this reference to kingship in the non-Jewish Time?  Is it simply a ‘cute’ essayist flourish; is it coincidence—or is it one of those ‘natural’ occurrences that remind us of our Destiny?

Israel faces its greatest existential threat. With this Likud-Kadima alliance, the nations’ contempt for Israel is energized: they can see their anti-Israel goals now closer than ever to fulfilment; their urgency increases; they become impatient for Israel to surrender for ‘peace’.

 What will happen if King Bibi decides to lead the Jewish nation with a commitment to his Jewish G-d? What will happen if he rejects that choice?

Perhaps “Time” means you should read your Tanach; then, you won’t have to wait for the movie to find out what happens.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Due to events here in Israel, I delay my essay on Thomas Friedman to a later date.

Stay tuned!

How Mr Netanyahu can succeed with a single choice

Early morning Tuesday, May 8, 2012, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a decision that seemingly guarantees to keep him in office at least another sixteen months:  instead of announcing an election date (as expected), he announced a union with his main political opposition, Kadima. With this decision, he co-opts a key opponent by inviting it into his government under his control. It seems a brilliant decision because he renews his power without the risks of an election campaign. In addition, this union helps Netanyahu push aside—at least temporarily-- a constellation of political problems: a Likud base that opposes him; a Moshe Feiglin who, increasingly, is described by the media as someone Netanyahu cannot defeat even when he defeats him; serious differences with the US and the UN over ‘Palestine’; and a Knesset which might rebel against plans for demolishing homes in Judea-Samaria. He strengthens his rule by appearing to create an unprecedented 94-seat majority in a Knesset where 61 seats spell control. This alone puts him into an historic position because it means that, for the first time in decades, a Prime Minister may not be forced to call for elections before the natural end of his term. With this single choice, he appears to create the greatest stability a modern Israeli leader has ever had.

What’s there not to like? Abbas has already signalled his approval and the New York Times approves.  For Netanyahu, it seems a choice with no downside.

Meanwhile, the Leftist dream of an Israeli government fully committed to 1949 borders and a Judenrein Judea-Samaria is now empowered.  What was once Kadima’s failed ‘surrender for peace’  could now become Israel’s chosen game-plan.

Unfortunately for Israel, this is no dream partnership. It is a nightmare.

Lest anyone forget, Kadima is the party of Ariel Sharon. As one online news reader suggests, this is the Party of surrender and retreat. If you want to know about Kadima, ask the Jews who live with bomb shelters in Southern Israel. Sharon left Likud to form Kadima so he could surrender Gaza. But after surrendering, he could not resettle, retrain and re-employ some 8,000 displaced Gazan Jews, many of whom still suffer more than 6 years later; and in case you haven’t noticed, Kadima’s  ‘disengage for peace’ has resulted in 12,000 rockets being fired into Israel. Kadima’s peace dividend looks like war against Israel.

Kadima now re- joins Netanyahu’s Likud just when the world demands that Judea-Samaria be surrendered to the Arab—and when the Arab demands that Judea-Samaria become as Jew-free as Gaza. To confront such hostility, Netanyahu has formed a unified government. It’s a good idea. But his unity partner promotes surrender, not strength. By choosing Kadima, Netanyahu creates a Knesset-proof Leftist coalition that has the power to shape Israel according to a ‘surrender’ agenda; the Leftist dream might now—once again-- leap forward (Kadima means, ‘forward’).

But the leaders of a Kadima-Likud coalition have no plan for a Leftist future. They are—and have been—completely unprepared for the day after they surrender.  We saw that with Sharon. We see it again now.

Did you enjoy last summer’s tent cities? Wait until you see the tents that  spring up to create the Middle East’s newest refugee camps—for 100,000-350,000 displaced Jews who have been forced out of Judea-Samaria.

Are you proud that Israel has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the developed world? Wait until 50,000-80,000 Jews are no longer allowed to work in ‘Palestine’.

What do you think will happen to Israel’s economy when the Jews of Judea-Samaria –and, possibly, parts of Jerusalem—can no longer afford to pay mortgages on apartments that have been taken away and given to Arabs?

Do you think Israeli schools are overcrowded? Wait until tens of thousands of displaced Jewish children show up for classes in cities where, as refugees, they pay no taxes.

This coalition will not bring stability. It will incite increased pressure against Israel. It will not bring peace. It will provoke the killing of Jews. Is anyone paying attention? This is an important question because the Left certainly isn’t. They call for peace but they mean surrender. They whisper ‘Palestine’ but promote a politicized pro-Arab bias in Israel’s courts. They talk of unity but announce that the first problem the new coalition must address is drafting the Haredi into the IDF-- while Leftist draft-dodgers laugh at the draft.  Kadima does not understand peace. It has no plan for peace. Ariel Sharon taught us that.

If Mr Netanyahu wants to succeed, he needs a better partner.  Kadima is not the answer.  He needs a winner. He should consider the examples of Judaism’s David and Solomon.  They knew how to win: they chose G-d, not surrender.

It’s a choice that has been more successful than surrender.