Friday, September 06, 2002

Tonight is Rosh Hashana - the Jewish New Year. Here's wishing everybody a Shana Tova and a happy, safe, and peaceful year.

Thursday, September 05, 2002

What planet did Per Stig Moeller arrive from? The Danish Foreign Minister is here in Israel to promote the EU's Middle East plan - which calls for immediate declaration of a Palestinian state (without borders), and a full-fledged state by 2005. No strings attached. (report)

Yasser Arafat, who is never averse to getting something without having offer something in return, said "in principle, we accept the ideas you brought. We will study them closely and give our response soon.".

Moeller said he was "encouraged" by Arafat's "positive acceptance of the ideas" - so pleasant for him to deal with someone who will enable the EU to expand its sphere of influence. Moeller said the aim of the plan is "putting the peace process back on track". (a statement which no doubt perplexed most Israelis - a "peace process" demands mutual trust of which there is currently none; and what's "back on track"?

Saeb Erekat said "we have nothing to fear from the European initiative". Of course you don't. The initiative doesn't make any demands on your side (eg. you're not required to arrest Hamas and Fatah operatives).

"We think the [Palestinian] suicide bombers must be stopped, of course, but the answer to that cannot be that you kill civilians," Moeller told reporters. Did reporters ask Moeller why he thought that killing civilians was Israel's "answer to stopping suicide bombers"? Did Moeller reply "I know that Israel doesn't target civilians. But that line just sounded so deliciously glib and snooty that I couldn't resist"?

RibbityFrog responds:

This is not the first time that Moeller has implied that Israel deliberately targets civilians. While visiting the Saudi Prince Amir Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, on 2nd September, just after the spate of civilian killings by the Israeli army, he commented: "These killings might give the impression of a lack of Israeli desire for peace, as well as adding the danger of an Palestinian response in revenge".

Moeller's words are cited here in translation from Arabic from a report appearing in the Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar <>. I tried to find the English original but nobody seems to have reported this statement. Note that Israeli killings demonstrate a lack of willingness for peace; Palestinians merely respond in revenge. Who could blame them.

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

There was gangster rap.... now there's Islamofascist rap: The Soldiers of Allah (lyrics, downloads) are an Islamic rap group with songs that include: "Staring into the kafir's eyes", "Sleeping Giant", "They Can't Stop Islam". An upcoming CD is called "Salahudin: The Return of Palestine Soundtrack".
The following is a press release sent to me by David Weinberg (press officer for an organization called the Mosaica Center) :

Jerusalem .. At the first-ever "Islamic-Jewish dialogue on social justice", held yesterday (September 3, 2002) in Beersheba, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron and Israeli Arab Islamic Movement Leader Sheikh Ibrahim Sarsour tried hard to stick to the planned topic, but it wasn't easy.

The two clerics were brought together, at the initiative of Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Rabbi Michael Melchior, under the promising title "Religious Leaders Speak Out for Social Justice", by the Mosaica Research Center for Religion, Society and State. They managed to agree that "truly religious people ought to place social justice at the forefront of their agendas", as Sarsour declared. Bakshi-Doron added that "In the prophets and in our religious-halachic sources, social justice is paramount. I believe that we can bridge gaps between Jews and Moslems by working together on the social agenda", the Chief Rabbi said.

But the daily politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were never far from the surface. Sarsour bitterly attacked the Israeli Supreme Court for agreeing (yesterday) to allow the deportation from the West Bank to Gaza of two Palestinians who assisted family members in carrying-out terror attacks. "The Court is joining the Israeli destruction machine", Sarsour sniped.

"You should take example from British Chief Rabbi Sacks", he then told Bakshi-Doron. "Sacks is not afraid to speak out against Israeli injustice", said Sarsour -- referring to a controversial interview with The Guardian given by Jonathan Sacks last week in which he decried the immorality of Israel's presence in the territories.

Sarsour went on to condemn Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians, saying that "he who attacks the People of the Book chips away at the holiness of Allah himself". Bakshi-Doron was not satisfied with Sarsour's declaration. "I no longer know which Sheikh to believe and when", lamented Bakshi-Doron. "Last year in Alexandria I signed a joint religious declaration against terrorism with Sheikh Tantawi, the senior-most Egyptian Islamic cleric. But under pressure from Islamic radicals, he backed away from the declaration as soon as I left Egypt and the media cameras left with me".

"Tantawi never repeated this religious commitment against terror in Arabic when speaking to his own people", accused Bakshi-Doron. "I would like you, Sheikh Sarsour, to do so; speak out against terror in Arabic in your mosque! We have to ask -- who sets the tone for the Islamic world? Sarsour speaking Hebrew, or Tantawi, Yassin, and Nassrallah?!", demanded Bakshi-Doron, referring to the clerics that head Hamas and the Hezbollah.

Mosaica Center Chairman Adv. Aviad Hacohen summed-up session thus: "This seminar is part of a wider effort, spawned by the Mosaica Center, to build a new language of trust between religious leaders of both faith communities. We have no illusions that it will be easy. But this event was significant in the very fact that it happened, and we will keep at it". Rabbi Melchior was hopeful too. "We must break the dangerous linkage between religiosity and radicalism. Religion can, and should be, a force for peace", declared Melchior.
The "relocate-ees" (brother and sister of suicide bomber Ali Ajouri who knew of the bombing plans) are on their way to Gaza. The PA has said that they won't be accepted in, so they might end up stranded at the crossing point.

This article discusses the Israeli Supreme Court's determinations on when such expulsions are justifiable. The criteria are quite fuzzy in the end - with the net result being that only people who are "clearly and convincingly" threatening can be expelled.

The court's decision also neutralizes an initial intent of the expulsions: expelling the families of Islamikazes to Gaza is thought to dissuade a future Islamikaze who might think twice before exchanging his family's comforts for his own 72 virgins, as well as making shaheed-rearing parents a little less proud. The court's decision also leads to the question: why should we expel such people instead of just prosecuting and jailing them? The answer would seem to be that in some cases doing so would compromise sources of intelligence.

This article explains the Court's determination that the West Bank and Gaza are part of the same territory, so that the expulsions constitute a relocation rather than a deportation.

The PA official Saeb Erekat called this a "black day for human rights" ... are there really people who believe that the PA has any real interest in human rights or rule of law?
Former Palestinian Authority cabinet minister Nabil Amer published publicly blamed Arafat for the disarray in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and accused him of missing an opportunity to reach a deal at Camp David (report).
It was bound to happen. The encyclopedic Israeli music site Mooma (Hebrew link) is shutting down in a couple of days.
Channel 2 news tonite showed a building in Gaza that it preparing to receive the 2 West Bank Palestinians that Israel is sending there tomorrow. It's the same place where the exiles from the Church of the Nativity standoff are now living. According to channel 2, the IDF sent another 2 Palestinians who were previously being held at Ketziot prison (this would be problematic because there had been no Court ruling permitting it - IDF spokesmen said that they were unaware of the 2 from Ketziot).

Palestinians that were interviewed said that they thought that the policy (ie. of exiling abettors of violence against civilians to Gaza) is actually just a tactic to remove all Palestinians from the West Bank.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Today's Haaretz has an article about blogs (Hebrew article - not yet on the English site). And it includes an interview with me.

If you are coming in from Haaretz (or Walla!), please feel free to leave some comments or send me email

Monday, September 02, 2002

Zeev Schiff writes that Syria has enabled 150-200 al-Qaida men to take refuge in a Palestinian camp in Lebanon. Schiff says that there are other new indications of cooperation between al-Qaida and Syria.
The BBC's Caroline Hawley previously wrote a fictional report that claimed Israel was planning to eject all Arabs from Jewish cities (see here). Now, in article on the difficulties faced by Palestinians returning to school while curfews are enforced, she writes that:

Mr Abu Homos said he was also worried for the safety of pupils after more than 200 schoolchildren were killed and more than 2,500 wounded last year.

and a photo caption says:

Hundreds of schoolchildren were killed last year

Where do these numbers come from? This study says that from Aug 2000 to Aug 2002 (ie. a two-year period) there were a total of 40 non-combatant Palestinian deaths under age 10 and another 80 between 10 and 14. All deaths of noncombatants are tragic, but the BBC has the duty not to pass on Palestinian exaggerations.

Also, this BBC article says:

Environmentalists warn the salt lake, which is sacred to Christians, Muslims and Jews alike, could vanish by 2050 if nothing is done.

The Dead Sea is not in any way "sacred" to Jews.

Allegations that the 4 Palestinians killed near Hebron had been detained first will be shown to be absolute nonsense.

PA officials have been driving stolen Israeli cars (report).

Sunday, September 01, 2002

I'm too tired and occupied with various things to write about the latest events.

Ribbity writes that British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks "almost addresses" the meaning of covenant in the absence of belief in divine revelation... Leo Strauss already demonstrated in "Philosophy and Law" that that's a question not really worth addressing. Gershom Scholem essentially agreed in "On the Possibility of Jewish Mysticism in Our Time".

In a similar vein, here's an interesting essay by Mark Lilla on the Counter-enlightenment.

Mark Lilla and Tony Judt were both interesting-to-read Europhiles who had a certain amount of disdain for America. After Sept 11, Judt seems to be even more of a Europhile, and, in his periodic "Fisk-me-please" articles in the NY Review of Books, identifies heavily with the EU approach to the Middle East. I had been wondering if Lilla, who has visited Israel periodically, had become more sympathetic to the USA - I just recently came across this piece from February that criticizes Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech. Lilla's remarks are interesting; but somehow it always works out that attempts to be "nuanced" and subtle with respect to Saddam or whomever just end up being appeasements. Lilla is also very critical of Yoram Hazony.

Friday I was walking around in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City and saw a group of 4 Arab kids, all probably under the age of 10, playing Cops and Robbers. Actually, maybe it wasn't Cops and Robbers. This boy wrapped a black bandana over his head and covered his face with it as he used his elbow to hold his sister[?] around her neck and placed a toy gun to her head. I regretted not having my digital camera with me, and realized I would have thought twice before photographing someone holding a gun that looked so real. They all seemed to be having fun.

This is interesting: Teddy Katz, an Israeli affiliated with the leftist Meretz party, claimed in his Masters thesis that a Jewish militia (called the "Alexandroni Brigade") committed a massacre during the 1948 war of independence.

When veterans of the brigade sued Katz for libel, the PLO supplied him with money for his legal defense (report). Katz seems to have backed down from his accusations.
This is the site for that Birmingham Islamic Conference that the Swedish hijacker was supposed to be going to. The Islamic radical kids at Clearguidance say that the sponsoring Salafi Publications is Saudi-backed and not serious enough about Jihad for their tastes.

This is a hacked Islamic site (cache of original page)