Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Pittsburgh leaders use grief to score political points?

On October 27, 2018, a gunman  entered a Jewish house of worship in  my hometown, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania's second largest city). In that synagogue, the gunman cried out for the death of Jews--and proceeded to murder 11 Jews during their weekly Shabbat prayers. 

A house of worship is a sanctuary. It's a place to 'speak to G-d'. It is not a place to murder. 

In our Jewish tradition, our Houses of worship are likened to our Holy Temple. It is, we learn, a substitute for the Temple that we lost. Our Houses of Worship have 'sanctity'. 

So here it was, in the beautiful home town I left to make aliyah, that the worst antisemitic attack in American history took place on  that October Shabbat. Americans everywhere were shocked--and rightly so. To be murdered as you pray in your place of prayer seems especially heinous to everyone who appreciates the concept of prayer.

If ever there was a moment for a President of the United States to pay his respects to murder victims, this Pittsburgh attack was it.  After all. this was no random killing. It was unspeakable genocide not only against Jews, but also against America's commitment to freedom of religion. 

Make no mistake. This was indeed a genocidal attack. In Pittsburgh, 11 people were murdered not for what they had done. They were murdered for what they were--Jews. To be murdered because you are Jewish is a very good working definition of 'genocide' (here, page 11).

For a sitting US President to refuse to visit a place where so many Jews had been murdered in one day would have been a slap in the face to all Americans who believe in the freedom of religion.  That refusal would instead signal that Jews do not qualify to participate fully in the nation's basic principles of freedom. 

Clearly, Trump understood this. He came to Pittsburgh. He did the right thing.

Just as clearly, however, the Pittsburgh leaders who refused to meet Trump's plane when he arrived--or to accompany him in his solemn duty--did not understand this. 

For them, the President didn't belong in Pittsburgh. The President's presence in Pittsburgh was a slap in the face, all right--to Democrats. 

These local leaders apparently cared little about respecting the dead. They cared only about respecting their political hatred.

CNN presented a report of almost 9 minutes to show Trump visiting the crime seen--the Tree of Life synagogue (here). In that report CNN spent little-to-no time talking about how all of Pittsburgh grieved over these victims. It spent a lot of time reminding us (repeatedly) that protesters were shouting against Trump only a block away. 

Local Pittsburgh leaders showed the greatest of disrespect to the dead. CNN echoed this disrespect: as CNN showed the President and First Lady moving from one memorial marker to another (set up outside the synagogue), CNN ran a caption that said, "[local Democrat] officials stay away as President is accused of incitement". 

Incitement? The President wasn't in Pittsburgh to incite (here, on the 'Trump incites' trope). He was there to fulfill his responsibility to express a nation's grief for the dead.

Pittsburgh's leadership insults the Jewish community. CNN insults them. too. At a time of grief, these 'leaders' (and this mainstream media outlet) can think only of how little they respect the country's leader? 

They ignore the grief of Pittsburgh. They ignore those killed. They ignore the tragedy of the attack. They can think only of scoring political points against their hated President.

Have they no compassion for grieving families? Have they no respect for the murdered? Have they no shame?

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Pittsburgh massacre: a personal view

I made aliyah (emigration) to Israel from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I had lived in Pittsburgh more than 45 years before moving to this holy land. 

For 39 of those years in Pittsburgh, I lived in just one neighborhood, Squirrel Hill. For the final 27 years before aliyah, I lived across the street from my brother, who had come to Squirrel Hill some 4 years before me.

My wife and I began our married life together in Squirrel Hill. We bought our first-and-only home in Squirrel Hill. We raised our family in Squirrel Hill. We worshiped, shopped and educated our children in Squirrel Hill. We got to feel we knew the streets of Squirrel Hill as well as we knew the back of our hand. 

 Squirrel Hill streets were peaceful. They were clean. They were beautiful.

I once received a Community 'Volunteer of the Year' award. When I went to the ceremony to be honored, I was stunned, twice: first, I was stunned to see more than 200 people in the audience; and second, I was stunned too see so many of my Squirrel Hill neighbors both in the audience and among those being honored.

For me and my wife, Squirrel Hill wasn't just a place to live. It was a special place, where many individuals made contributions to our communal well-being.

The Jerusalem Post has called Squirrel Hill an "idyllic Jewish neighborhood" (here). Newspapers often get things wrong when they write about far-away places, but not this time. The Post is right: Squirrel Hill is indeed a happy, peaceful place to live.

But now, there's a change. Now, Squirrel Hill has become famous for a reason few would wish upon anyone. Now, Squirrel Hill has become the place of the greatest anti-Jewish attack in US history (ibid).

Just before 10 am, Pittsburgh time, on Shabbat, October 27, 2018, a gunman walked into a Jewish house of worship
called, Tree of Life. He arrived during worship hours carrying an AR-15 assault rifle and 3 (perhaps 4) handguns. He called for death to the Jews. He shot  dead 11 worshipers. He wounded 6 others, including at least 2 police officers (possibly 4) who had rushed there after a '911' call for help (here). 

Suddenly, Squirrel Hill is no longer 'idyllic'. Instead, it's now an answer to a gruesome trivia question: where did the worst anti-Jew massacre in US history occur?

As this story unfolded during a Pittsburgh Shabbat morning, Shabbat in Israel had already ended. When I sat down after Shabbat in Israel to check the day's internet news, 'Pittsburgh' was everywhere. Within seconds, I was watching a 10 am (Pittsburgh time) video replay broadcast from outside that synagogue. 

I recognized the street, the foliage, the buildings, and even some of the people on camera being interviewed. This was a place I knew, intimately. It was just blocks from my house. 

I had taught at a nearby college, the entrance to which was right across the street from the 'Tree of Life'. One of my children went to that same college almost every weekday for four years. 

I knew that corner. I remember the colors and shapes of the rain-dampened trees on that wet street-corner. 

In the news, I saw the names of people I know--Michael Milch, Seymour Drescher, Rabbi Yisroel Rosenfeld, Laura Horowitz. One news still photo showed a former colleague of mine (and long-term Squirrel Hill resident) hugging another woman on  the street outside the 'Tree of Life'. I know these people. They're 'my' people--and their pain is my pain, even as I sit some 6,000 miles away.

The Associated Press interviewed a friend of mine, Richard Walters. I don't know if the AP printed his comments. But they're worth repeating.

This is perhaps a poor paraphrase, but he said 3 things:

-this horrific event should be labeled for what is--Jew hate;

-the best defense [against such attacks] is Strength;

-[the phrase], 'Never Again' is a Negative Affirmation. 'Stronger Together' is a positive affirmation...we must stand together United in Strength.

He's right. Jews must always understand that we can be strong only when we stand united by a common purpose--and act on that purpose in a focused way. 

We aren't always united today. Too often, we're not focused on a common purpose. We don't always act with one voice.

One pro-Israel blogger has put these deaths in Pittsburgh into a Jewish context (here, essay for 28 October 2018). Her connections are chilling.

She notes that we are now in the Jewish month called, Marcheshvan. This month is associated with 'mar'--that which is bitter.

She reminds us of the bitter historic events that have occurred this month:

-this is the month the Biblical Rachel died;

-it is the month the flood (during the story of Noah) began, a disaster that destroyed the world;

-it is the month when the pro-Israel advocate Rabbi Meir Kahane was assassinated in Brooklyn, NY;

-it is the same day on the Jewish calendar (18 Marcheshvan) when both Rabbi Meir Kahane and the Pittsburgh 11 were murdered.

-the synagogue where the murders took place was called, the 'Tree of Life'.

This blogger says there is meaning in these 'coincidences'. In the Jewish world, Saturday's date was the 18th of the (current Jewish) month. For many Jews, the number 18 is associated with the word, chai, which means life. The blogger believes that, to have so many Jews murdered in America on a day whose date means life, at a place called the Tree of Lifeis to suggest that death has come to Jewish life in America: Jewish life in America can no longer be sustained both because of massive assimilation (her idea) and an antisemitism which increases in number-of-incidents and violence (my idea). 

While Jewish life in America may well be past its prime, one thing is for sure. After the massacre, Jews in Pittsburgh came together. They united. They stood together

Thursday, October 25, 2018

This is the real problem with Israel

If you read the news, you'll read about Israel. Typically, news about Israel is rarely good. 

For example, someone's always claiming Israel has 'a problem'. Sometimes, the problem is, Israel is 'Apartheid'. Or, it's 'an occupier'. Or, it doesn't want peace with those it oppresses ('Palestinians'). The newest problem is, Israel isn't a 'Jewish democracy' (here).

Who knew?

Everyone says Israel has a problem. But few get it right. At best, they're just nibbling at the edges of Israel's real problem. At worst, they're telling lies.

The real problem with Israel is, there's a New World Order spreading across the civilized world. It's a World where Israel will never, ever fit in. 

That's Israel's problem. It's a cultural dinosaur. Its culture is completely foreign to the 'DNA' of the New-dawning World.  

The vocabulary of the New World is strange to Israel. This New vocabulary includes Social Justice, multiculturalism, gender choice, racism, and racial choice, among other words.

By comparison, Israel's cultural vocabulary is obsolete. Its vocabulary includes the Rule of Law, the 'Jewishness' of our nation-state, gender as determined by biology, race as determined by parental DNA, and freedom of speech, among other things. 

Consider the differences. Social Justice and the Rule of Law are complete opposites. That needn't be true. But it is.

The Rule of Law is predicated upon restricting an individual's ability to do whatever he wants, using well-defined and established legal precedent. Social Justice seeks to redefine law. This redefinition aims at making sure that, in essence, there's a redistribution of wealth and privilege from the rich and almost-rich to the poor. For Social Justice, Law doesn't exist to create order. It exists to make sure that that redistribution occurs. 

Most Israelis prefer to live by the Rule of Law. This is due partly because the overwhelming number of Israeli Jews--both religious and secular--believe in the Jewish Torah, where the concept of Rule of Law originated. 

For Social Justice activists, racism is everywhere. It has to be eradicated (here). Israel itself is racist (here). The inference is that Israel also must be eradicated. 

Israel rejects that. It says that calling Israel racist is racist (here).

 Then, there's the issue of multiculturalism. This concept posits that all cultures (and religions) in a society are equal. No one group is more important than any other. All are 'equal' in every way. 

Israelis live cheek-by-jowl with Islam. Most Israeli Jews understand that Islam is a Supremacist religion which prefers to rule, not share. Jews learn this lesson from news reports of Muslims in Israel killing Jews while shouting 'allah hu akbar'--a declaration of the Supremacy of Islam. 

For Social Justice, gender is "not limited to just two possibilities" (here). Gender, like race (below), isn't determined by biology. It's determined by how a person sees himself/herself (here). In the New World of Social Justice, gender is a matter of choice. Indeed, gender choice may well be the purest expression of freedom in America (here). 

Most Israelis see gender as determined by biology. Most reject the notion that gender is a matter of choice. Most also don't link gender choice to political freedom.

In the New Order, race is, like biology, not guided by genes. Instead, both are 'social constructs'.  As proof, the US Census Bureau says that race is "a person's self-identification with one or more social groups" [my emphasis]. An individual can report as White, Black, African American, Asian...[etc]...Survey respondents may report multiple races" (here). 


These new cultural 'realities' mark Israel as disconnected from the Social Justice movement. Indeed, it is Israel's Jewishness--its foundation in the Jewish Torah-- that keeps Israel isolated. The Torah and Social Justice are not compatible. 

Some in Israel seek--with help from Leftist-New-World-Order American Jews--to divorce Israel from its Torah foundation. They want Israel to buy into Social Justice.

But Israel can't do that. The so-called humanism of Social Justice requires that Israel cannot defend itself by killing Palestinians who are trying to kill Jews; must keep open borders for murderous Gazans; and cannot fight the 'religion of peace'.

Israelis understand that the minute Israel stops protecting us is the minute that masses of Jews risk being massacred. Israelis know this because that's what aggressively anti-Israel Islam has been demanding these last 90 years. 

Some say Social Justice is the path to Utopia (here, pp.123 and 135). Their argument is, forget Nazism, Fascism, Socialism or Communism. They failed. This New World Order will be different. 


The issue of 'freedom of speech' points out how isolated Israel is. You see, under the Rule of Law, freedom of speech is one of several underlying principles which support a free society (here, under 'freedom of opinion and expression'). Social Justice would curtail freedom of speech (here). It demands that free speech be limited or stopped if it offends someone (here). 

Put another way, pro-Israel speech is not politically correct. It offends people. Therefore, it doesn't qualify as protected free speech (here). 

That may sound absurd. But this is where the West is going (ibid).

Israel can't board that train. The New World Order is designed to protect overly-sensitive people, to make sure their emotions aren't 'triggered' by offensive people. Israelis aren't accustomed to protecting the overly-sensitive.

Social Justice requires that Israel buys into this nonsense--or be rejected; and because Israel has the gall to reject the Social Justice requirement of 'equality'--by killing Palestinians as they attempt to kill Jews--Israel will always be rejected. 

For Social Justice, Jews are a 'trigger'. That is, 'Jew' triggers a traumatic stress reaction in people (here). Indeed, 'Jewish' is a 'trigger'. 'Israel' is a 'trigger'. 

This is Israel's real problem. For the Social Justice activist, Israel's very existence 'triggers' trauma. If you take Social Justice thinking to its logical end then Israel, like any 'trigger', must be eliminated. How else can a peaceful, calm Utopia be born?

Israel has a problem, all right. It's the same problem Jews in Nazi Germany had--only the ideologies are different.

Get used to it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Why do you support a Palestinian Authority that is cruel and repressive?

This essay isn't addressed to my readers. It's addressed to those who don't typically read this blog.

A title like the one above could be misleading. It presupposes that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is cruel and repressive. 

That's a difficult presupposition. From what one reads of the Arab-Israel conflict, one could easily conclude that it's Israel that's cruel and repressive. That's what the world's media claims, isn't it?

But the PA? According to the world's media, that doesn't seem likely, does it?

Well, it's more than likely. A new Human Rights Watch (hrw) Report has just concluded that these so-called innocent Middle East victims everyone loves to love aren't so loving after all. They're cruel--and repressive.

I don't know what people who support the Palestinian Authority (PA) believe about the PA. Perhaps they support the PA because they truly believe that Palestinians are victims of Israeli brutality. 

If that's what they believe, they should read this Human Rights Watch Report before they go to another pro-Palestinian march. They might learn something. 

This new Report reminds everyone that the PA is no democracy. Far from it. The PA is a repressive, brutal authoritarian state wannabee that seems to want to compete with North Korea for 'most corrupt, most brutal regime'. This hrw report puts the world on notice: the truth about the PA is ugly--uglier than many thought possible.

Here's the Report (here). The details are real. You can validate these details with this from 2015this from 2016 (with evidence of torture than predates the current hrw Report), and this from 2018.

Unlike most of what you've read about the PA, this Report minces no words: both Hamas and the PA have "established machineries (sic) of repression to crush dissent". These "machineries" (sic) include torture (ibid). 

Journalists, university students, social media users and peaceful demonstrators are subject to arbitrary arrest and detention. 'Security forces' routinely taunt, threaten and beat these victims both before and after arrest. PA security forces torture those they question. 

This doesn't sound like Palestinians-are-victims. It sounds like Palestinians-are-more-barbaric-than-not.

It took two years of investigation to complete this Report, which focused on patterns of arrest and detention conditions in the PA and Gaza. Investigators interviewed 147 victims of Palestinian abuse. Investigators also interviewed doctors, family members of the abused, lawyers and representatives of NGO's.  Pictures and videos were gathered. Medical reports and court documents were analyzed.

The sum of this two-year study is damning and ugly. Mistreatment and torture in Gaza and the PA isn't occasional. It's "routine"...habitual..deliberate". HRW concludes that torture is in fact government policy [emphasis  mine] in both Gaza and the PA.

Read the entire report here. You'll find hrw recommendations as well as specific evidence of a systematic commitment to arbitrary torture by Palestinian police.

Will anyone at the UN or in the EU take action against this horror? Don't hold your breath.

Will the UN Human Rights Council condemn the PA? I don't think so.

Will international aid be withheld from Palestinians until the PA and Hamas start acting less like North Korea and more like Britain? Will plans for peace be suspended until the PA and Hamas stop their torture and repression?

I don't think so. At least, don't bet on that happening.

If you promote and support the PA, you might want to do some rethinking. After all, if the PA is more like North Korea than South Korea, how will supporting such brutality bring peace? Do you really think peace accompanies those who brutalize, beat, repress and torture their own people? 

Why do you support such people?

Monday, October 22, 2018

Is this how Israel will deal with Russian S-300 missiles in Syria?

 The website middleeastmonitor ran a brief story at the end of last week that offers an intriguing look at how Israel might be able to destroy sophisticated (S-300) Russian anti-aircraft missiles in Syria--possibly, without harming its existing Russia-Israel relationship (here). 

We don't know if such a report is accurate. We don't know why such a report has surfaced just now. But one thing seems certain: the report has a good 'ring' to it. It might work to Israel's benefit. It might even suggest to Iran that it would be wise to be careful about shipping missiles and missile-equipment through Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon: this report, if true, suggests that the new S-300s may not protect either Iran or Syria from Israeli air attack. 

The report comes from a retired US General. He says he bases his declaration (below) on "his knowledge about the Israelis" (whatever that might mean). Specifically, he says that Israel "is to destroy the S-300 defence system offered by Russia to Syria".  

His words contain a somewhat peculiar construction: 'Israel is to destroy', as if it is Israel's destiny to do that. It's a phrase that suggests that this decision has already been made by Israel--with, we might infer, US approval. 

How will Israel destroy those missiles without harming its relationship with Russia? It appears quite simple: the former US General says that Israel will simply declare that the S-300 system in Syria is "owned by Syria" [emphasis mine]. This phrase seems designed to exclude Russia from any responsibility for the missiles--or their destruction. The suggestion is that, if these missiles are owned by Syria, then Syria--not Russia--is fully responsible for anything Israel might do to those missiles. 

The missiles arrived in Syria mid-October (2018). The Syrians are expected to begin training on how to use them "within three months" (ibid).

Could Israel attack these missiles as soon as Russian trainers leave Syria? Israel may not be able to wait that long. It appears that, at almost the same time the Russian S-300 missiles arrived in Syria, Iran stepped up its shipments of components that will turn Hezbollah unguided rockets (in Lebanon) into GPS-equipped precision-guided missiles (here). 

Will Israel sit still while Hezbollah converts unguided rockets to precision-guided missiles? That seems unlikely.

Perhaps it was this Iranian move that prompted the retired US General to send a signal that Israel isn't intimidated by the S-300's. Of course, why a former US General would send such a signal isn't clear. But then, this is the Middle East. There's often more 'smoke' than 'light' here. 

Who knows why people involved in the Middle East say and do what they say and do? Undisclosed motives lurk behind practically everything in this region.

What does all of this mean? Stay tuned. This deadly chess game isn't over.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Newsflash: Gaza situation normal; Israel now back to 'snafu'

(essay written before 0900 Sunday morning (Israel time), October 21, 2018)

Back in World War Two, ( called, WW2--1939-45), soldiers in combat lost their identity. They became, simply, just another 'GI Joe'. 'GI' wasn't a name. It meant, 'Government Issue'. That meant that a soldier in combat wasn't a human being, with a name and individual personality. He was an object--just another piece of 'government-issued property' the army used to kill its enemy.

That nameless, human-less condition hasn't changed for combat participants. If you listen to enough Israeli combat soldiers, especially during one of Israel's cyclic wars, you'll intuit the same self-identification issue. As in WW2, the only reality these young men have in combat focuses exclusively on their battlefield comrades. Everything else around them is confused, confusing--and dangerous.

Soldiers in war come ultimately to understand not only their nameless state. They also come to realize the deeper, perhaps 'psychic', reality of life as 'cannon fodder': the world around them devolves into chaos. As these humans try to understand their combat  environment, they seem all to come to the same conclusion. Their world is a complete mixed-up mess; or, as those WW2 soldiers used to say, everything was 'snafu'ed': "Situation Normal, All Messed Up".

Okay, so that one word, "Messed" wasn't in the acronym 'snafu'. The word they meant in 'snafu' was the proverbial 'F' word. Yes, that 'F' word. 

For combat soldiers everywhere, the deepest reality of life comes down to: 'Normal = F'd up'. Indeed, if you started reading Israel's mainstream media this morning at breakfast (0830 in Israel), you might  come to the same conclusion. Yes, you might conclude, the Gaza 'crisis' appears to be 'over'. Now, at last, everything in Israel is back to normal, which means, in essence, all messed up.

Is that too harsh a conclusion? Judge for yourself. Here are some top news stories from pre-0900 in Israel, Sunday morning, October 21, 2018  . Some of these stories were published before this morning, but still appeared at Sunday breakfast-time:

-Rioters tear down sections of Gaza border fence; rioters breach border fence at three locations; Israeli fighter jet fires at an incendiary balloon cell attempting to launch fire-balloons into Israel; Israeli soldiers wound more than 100 Arabs at Gaza fence riots, using live-fire (here).

-Israel reopens Gaza crossing station as relative calm prevails at the Gaza-Israel fence (here). See previous headline just above for definition of 'relative calm'. 

-Hamas rejects Egyptian demand to stop border riots (here).

-After international condemnations of Israel for issuing an order to demolish a small Bedouin community called Khan al-Ahmar, Israel announced today-late yesterday it will delay that demolition indefinitely (here).

-Oh, wait. Netanyahu has also announced that this encampment will be evacuated and demolished ("Netanyahu: Khan al-Ahmar will be evacuated" arutzshevanewsbriefs, October 21, 2018). 

-An Israeli NGO that fights to stop illegal Arab construction in Judea-Samaria (such as Khan al-Ahmar, above) attacked Netanyahu for capitulating to international pressure to stop the Khan al-Ahmar evacuation/demolition (here).

-Opposition leader Tzipi Livni scorches Netanyahu for policies that, she says, help keep Hamas strong--and the border fence rioting strong (here).

-Yair Netanyahu, the PM's son, gets himself into trouble because he's called an apparently anti-Netanyahu female TV newscaster a 'fat cow' (here).

-A story in the timesofisrael asks if Hamas and Israel can truly maintain 'calm' at the border fence (here).

-Hamas appears to answer this question above by warning Israel that if Israel continues to act 'aggressively' (presumably towards border fence rioters), Hamas will make certain that Israelis won't be able leave their bomb shelters (here).

 These stories are what's typically normal in Israel's daily media. If you spend too much time reading such reports, you might easily conclude that Israel is all messed up. 

What's going on over there in Israel? Nothing is right. The government is always wrong. Nothing is good.

Why is Israel so messed up? The answer is obvious. Israel lives with an existential threat. Every day, someone hates, attacks or wants to 'kill' Israel. Every hour of every day, Israel faces some kind of combat--terrorism, diplomatic war, economic war, legal war.

Our media, flawed that it is, is no different than any combat participant. It gets all messed up because the very air it breathes has been made toxic. 

At best, everything is confused. Sometimes, it becomes chaotic.

Our 'normal' isn't normal. It's 'snafu'd'. 

That's what life is like before the Final Redemption. We live with a daily battle with those who wish to condemn us, threaten us and/or destroy us. 

Get used to it. If you're in exile, keep your bags packed. If you're in Israel, make sure you keep your lines of communication with the Creator open.

For both of you, make sure you know what's expected of you. If you ignore this part of your life, you may find it difficult to reserve a seat for your trip home.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Israel's Gaza problem: Netanyahu just got lucky

On October 15, 2018, a news headline appeared that seemed to sum up where the almost 7-month long Gaza border fence rioting was headed: "Hamas turns Israeli border into '24/7' war zone in new bid to kidnap Israeli soldiers" (here). The story under the headline didn't say much about Hamas planning to kidnap IDF soldiers. But the context of that story was clear:  'unless Hamas backs off, Israel will hit back very, very hard'.

That could mean war. Bets are, that's exactly what it means.

By late afternoon October 18th, Israelis saw what Netanyahui had meant with those words. News reports-with photos--appeared in the press that showed Israeli tanks and other heavy equipment being transferred South to the Gaza border area. This is how Israel heard about a war build-up in the days leading to the 2014 50-day war with Gaza. It's what Israel was looking at again.

This kind of heavy military traffic on Israel's few South-bound highways isn't an everyday occurrence--at least, not to this extent. Such a large scale movement of equipment is normally no empty show-off  operation--it's too expensive for that. Normally, it means something serious. 

Now, 0930 am (Israel time) October 19th, war with Gaza seems to have suddenly been dropped from top Israel headlines. Just like that, war stories have fallen from first-ranked headlines to positions below first-in -order. 

While news for Netanyahu just four days ago wasn't  particularly good PR for him as Israel's top leader, this morning's news had him almost completely off the 'war-with-Gaza' story. He's gotten lucky. Israel's media suddenly has other things to write about. 

Note that war stories in Israel's media haven't completely disappeared. They've just dropped from, say, top-five on the banner-head, to lower positions. 

There are three new stories. While you'll have to decide for yourself which of these three stories is most important for Israel, one fact seems clear: these new stories grab everyone's attention--and give Netanyahu a break from a growing criticism over his hesitancy to act against Gaza.

The three new stories are these: 

-on October 2, 2018, a Saudi 'journalist' was apparently murdered by Saudis (?) in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey (here)--and still no one knows who did it; 

-Israel's Supreme Court has just ruled that a pro-BDS non-Israeli must  be allowed to enter Israel to study at Hebrew University for a year, notwithstanding her anti-Israel affiliations (here)--and an existing Israeli law giving the State the explicit right to ban such people; 

-the head of the anti- Israel Jewish/Israeli NGO, B'Tselem, has condemned Israel before the UN Security Council (UNSC) in a way that some in Israel say sounded more like a Hamas collaborator talking than an objective observer (here).

Here are the details of these stories, as they impact on Israeli interests:

The Saudi story has some importance to Israel because Saudi Arabia is, arguably, the most important Arab country to even hint at 'talking' with Israel on a regular basis. Israel wants this openness to continue--and to grow, not collapse. If the Saudis have indeed enticed a Saudi citizen into one of its Consulates to murder him, the US may revise its diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. The US may impose sanctions.  In theory, sanctions could impact Israel's ability to continue 'interacting' with  Saudi Arabia.  

Regarding Israel's BDS/Supreme Court story: Typically, when Israel's Supreme Court rules on the legality of, or application of, an existing law in Israel, it has a history of ignoring both legal precedence and the legal standing of the legislative or executive branches of Israel's government. Instead, the Court has often ruled only according to the personal beliefs of the judges. This dismissal of precedence and 'legal standing' angers lots of Israelis because, for some, this kind of 'dismissing'  behavior is not how a judiciary is supposed to work in a democracy.

Today's Israel Supreme Court is, in other words, very close to what some in America claim is the American Democrat Party's desire to have the US Supreme Court become--activist and Leftist; that is, a Court that drops a commitment to precedence and 'rule of law' in order to rule according to something called, 'social justice'. 

Many Israelis don't want 'social justice'. They feel that 'social justice' and democracy don't go together. 

Yesterday's Supreme Court ruling in this BDS case attracts much attention, for the Court has rejected the State's case against a charged BDS-supporter (here). Specifically, the Court has ruled that the State cannot deny the defendant's right to enter Israel, despite an existing law that gives the State the right to do exactly that.

Regarding the B'Tselem story, some in Israel say that an anti-Israel presentation by B'Tselem at the UNSC hurts Israel. That presentation, some argue, validates all the anti-Israel accusations that emanate from the UN against Israel. It defames Israel. 

All of these stories, appearing on the same day, are a bonus for Netanyahu. War-with-Gaza and 'let's-criticize-Netanyahu' have, at least during breakfast this morning, lost steam for Israel's media. For a few hours at least, Netanyahu is off the  proverbial media hot-seat. For the moment, the Gaza-Netanyahu story-line has gone relatively quiet.

How long will such luck hold for Netanyahu? Hey, today's Friday. This is the day of the week Gaza fence rioting usually explodes in a violent tantrum of hate, black, acrid smoke from burning tires, explosions at the fence and fire-kites launched into Israel. 

Yes, Hamas has said it will calm things down for a few days. But will it? Yes, Israel has said it will hold back attacking Gaza if the fence riots and 'launchings' (kites and rockets) stop. But will Israel really hold back those attacks if the rioting and 'launchings' don't stop?

Stay tuned. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Newsflash: Israel's leaders have met to discuss what to do about Gaza!

(This report is dated 0945 Israel time, October 18, 2018)

On October 17, 2017, Israel's leadership met to discuss attacking Hamas (see yesterday's post, below). Our leaders met for more than 5 hours (here). After the meeting, none of Israel's leaders had anything to say. 

That silence meant only one of three things: first,Israel had decided to attack Hamas; or, alternatively, Israel had decided not to attack ; or, possibly, to make no decision, but to alert the IDF, in some way, to get ready to act. 

Today, the morning of October 18, 2018, Israel's political leaders appear to be still scratching their collective heads over what to do about violence against Israel coming out of Gaza. Israels' IDF (Israel Defence Force) still seems less than eager to take advice from its titular head, Israel Defence Minister, Avigdor Liberman. Liberman has wanted the IDF to attack Hamas immediately (here). But the IDF won't do it. Instead, it's sticking to what it's already declared: it's better prepared to fight than ever before (here).

For many in Israel, such talk doesn't 'cut it'. Many Israelis want more. They want the fence rioters, the fire-kite launchers and the missile launchers bombed--yesterday.

Meanwhile, as those same Israeli leaders were meeting to discuss options in Gaza, a report appeared in Israel that Egypt had successfully brokered a cease-fire between Gaza and Israel (here). However, this report also said that nothing had been corroborated by either Egypt or Israel (ibid). The news report said nothing about Hamas' opinion on this matter.

When this report came out October 17th, no one knew if it was true--or if, as some suspected, it was a fake report floated by Israel as a way to give Israel's leaders an excuse not to act. Certainly, at least one reader commented on this hesitancy to act against Hamas by calling Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the 'Appeaser-in-Chief'. 

That could be a too-harsh judgment. But it's the kind of epithet that's been hurled at Netanyahu in reader comments for weeks.

Now, as of October 18th, an early morning report hit the news wire: there's a Palestinian news outlet in London, England that says a group in Gaza called, the 'Supreme National Authority of the Marches of Return and the Lifting of the Blockade'--the name given to the 6+-month long rioting at the Gaza-Israel border fence--has decided to reduce confrontations for at least 'the coming days' ("Report: Gazans to reduce  confrontations at the Gaza fence", arutzsheva newsbriefs, 07:26am Israel time, October 18, 2018). 

Apparently, Israel's leaders were off the hook. They didn't have to act. Their previous decisions--to target Hamas infrastructure as a simple punishment for pushing the rioting too far--appears to have worked, at least for the moment.  Hamas has been persuaded to back off--for now.

This may not be good news for Netanyahu. Israel's opposition is increasingly condemning him for inaction, for 'talking tough with empty threats'. It remains to be seen if this 'backing off' at the border fence means anything good for Israel. 

Will Netanyahu be the hero or the fool for holding back the IDF? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Is Hamas driving Israel to war?

For a week now, online news headlines having been suggesting Israel is, once again, about to go to war. As in 2008, 2012 and 2014, the combatants in this new war will be the same-as-before, Hamas vs Israel. The question this time is, will Hamas be able to convince others to join in against Israel? 

The most likely candidates to join Hamas against Israel are the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Iran. Will they join? Don't hold your breathe.  

But then, maybe the headlines are wrong. Maybe there won't be war.

After more than six months of border riots at the Gaza-Israel fence, and fire kites getting launched into Israel from Gaza, Hamas has ramped up its border-fence violence. On October 12, 2018, Arab rioters at the fence used explosives to blow a hole in that fence so Gazans could rush into Israel (here). IDF troops fired warning shots at about 20 such Arabs (ibid). Most turned around and rushed back behind the fence. But three kept rushing towards an IDF post. They were shot dead. 

As one headline suggested on October 15, 2018, Hamas has now turned the Israel-Gaza border into a 24/7 war zone (here).  Now, October 17th, it seems increasingly clear that Israel slides ever closer to war. But is this correct? 

Seems so. Between the hours of 3:30 AM-10AM (local time) on October 17th, rockets and/or reports of rockets being fired from Gaza into Israel appeared as news alerts. One rocket destroyed a house in Be'er Sheva. 

At least two other rockets were reported to have landed in Israel. One landed near a ranch. Another landed 'in the sea'. 

Miraculously, no one was seriously injured. Two or three residents (reports differ) from the house destroyed in Be'er Sheva were taken to a local hospital suffering from shock. No one else was reported hurt.

Several more sirens went off in Israel's South. At least one siren was termed a 'false alarm'. By 10 AM local time, Israeli fighter jets had bombed several places in Gaza--each one empty (here). The guess is, those attacks on empty outposts,etc, were deliberate. Is Israel bombing what's empty in an attempt to keep the lid on?

In early July, 2014, Israel held its breathe while Hamas and affiliates in Gaza fired 100's of rockets into Israel before Israel finally responded. Israelis are now far less patient. They want action, now. 

They want to stop Hamas from attacking. They're fed up. They want Israel's leadership to fight back. 

Israelis also don't want Israel to bomb empty buildings. They want Israel to bomb the border-fence rioters.

In Israel, a building anger and a call for action pushes Israel's leadership forward. Already, the two most important people in Israel (regarding war)--the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister--have warned that, if Hamas doesn't cool off, there will be a 'harsh response'. 

Hamas' response to such Israel talk--and to the Israeli air attacks? It didn't call for war. Instead, it declared its operatives did not fire a rocket into the Be'er Sheva area (here). Its leading opponent/partner in Gaza, the Islamic Jihad organization, said the same thing (ibid). Both disavowed responsibility.

In addition, a "Senior Hamas official" was quoted as saying that both sides don't want war (here) despite the harsh rhetoric coming from both sides. Sounds like an attempt to keep the lid on, right ?

Maybe not. There's a problem with conciliatory talk from Hamas. Hamas is  not a monolithic organization. It's got two 'arms'. One is a political camp. The other is 'military'. 

Both of these 'arms' often appear to make opposite statements when it comes to aggression against Israel. Often, the political 'arm' talks about backing away from war. The military 'arm', on the other hand, often continues with its aggression against Israel. 

Here's a clue as to who's word counts the most in Gaza: when it come to war, the Hamas military 'arm'  typically carries the day, not the Hamas political 'arm'. Reporting to Israel that both sides don't want war may be closer to fake news than hard reality. We don't know.

Hamas is like that. It wants Israel to hear war and quiet. Hamas understands Israelis. Hamas knows how easily Israelis take the bait of 'we don't want escalation'. 

While Israel waits, the Gaza border fence looks more and more like a war zone. 

Israeli citizens want the fire-kites to stop. They want the border-fence riots to stop. They don't want to see fire-Blimps over Israel (Hamas has announced it's starting to launch fire-Blimps; I'm not sure any have actually been launched). Israelis want quiet restored, not more fires.

Is Hamas trying to push Israel to war? Israeli leaders aren't certain. But--to paraphrase an online reader comment--if Hamas doesn't want war, why is it blowing up the  Gaza-Israel border fence? Why is it using fire-kites to burn Israel to the ground?

Stay tuned. This deadly game isn't over.