No

As the Herald puts it:

It’s No go: a record 84.6% turnout sees Scotland reject independence by 55%-45%

I hope the Scottish people can come together, and work together, for the benefit of all. And I also hope that amazing turnout translates into something (or some things) positive in the political arena. If more are involved, perhaps the quality of the argument, the representation, and the decision making will improve. Yes, I know. It’s another dream.

Be careful what you wish for

[Crossposted from the Jerusalem Post, here.]

It was June 1973. As part of the school English syllabus, I and my fellow Eastwood High School pupils had been dragged along to the Citizens Theater in Glasgow, forced to see the play, The Cheviot, The Stag, and the Black, Black Oil.

John McGrath’s groundbreaking musical and political drama sent shockwaves in all directions. One of those waves must have hit me, because that was the only explanation. I didn’t like the theater. I especially didn’t like musicals. They were all boring. So why had I been glued to my seat? Why had I laughed along with the crowd at the political jokes – that in truth, I probably did not understand? Why did I feel – yes, really feel – something special in the air?

I left that performance, giddy with the after effects of the play. However, I do remember, on the pavement outside the theater, greedily grabbing and devouring the literature that savvy members of the then tiny Scottish National Party were handing out.

That was my introduction to the SNP. That was the start of my belief in the idea of an independent Scotland. Then it was a dream. Recently, that dream has turned into a nightmare.

Let me explain.

I made Aliyah from Glasgow in the summer of 2009. I still have family, friends, and acquaintances in the Jewish community there, and have made visits for smachot, and to recharge my Irn Bru* taste buds. Inevitably, the topic of the referendum has surfaced in polite conversation.

Generally, my impression is that most members of the community are opposed to Scottish independence; there are some pockets of SNP support, but they are in a minority.

If you had asked me six months ago about the effects of an independent Scotland on the Jewish community, I would have (perhaps naively) answered that I would not have expected any material change. Things would continue, as they have for other small diaspora communities, with people largely free to follow their religion without interference or harassment.

However, then came the recent Gaza war.

Part of that war was fought out in the arena of social media. There, many of the pro-independence groups lined up, resolutely and completely, with the Palestinians. They were not all Hamas supporters, but there was little sympathy or understanding for the position of Israel and its citizens.

That’s being polite.

A less restrained version of events would be that the conflict unleashed a veritable online tsunami of bigotry, hate, and defamation towards, Israel, the idea of a Jewish state, and Jews. It was as if the poison had been bubbling away, hidden below the surface, waiting for the right moment to be pumped into the world outside.

Incidentally, I ventured into that sewer a few times and asked how a people struggling for their own state of independence – the Scots – could deny the right of the Jewish people to the same. The replies were full of delusional, incoherent, hate, and personal insults. It’s worth noting that it was clear many of the haters were ignorant about the most basic facts concerning Israel.

My memories of Scotland and the Scottish people did not include such vicious hatred. Sure, I had witnessed and experienced instances of out and out anti-Semitism. However, they were far from commonplace. And all the time I lived in Scotland, I never felt threatened or at risk.

But it appears the last Gaza conflict has sparked a real change.

For example, for as long as I can remember, on most weekends pro-Palestinian campaigners used to have a token presence – a table and chairs and tatty leaflets available for distribution – outside the Argyle Street, Glasgow branch of Marks and Spencers. But few noticed, they were mostly ignored, and I don’t recall any trouble.

Recently however, the Boycott Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement has surfaced for real. In Glasgow and Edinburgh it has launched what appear to be picket like activities, brimming with intimidation and bullying behavior, directed at stalls in shopping centers selling Israeli products, and their potential customers.

As another example, take the enforced cancellation of performances at the Edinburgh Festival by the Jerusalem-based Incubator Theater, after Palestinian agitators held intimidating public protests. With their safety at risk, it was no surprise the Ben Gurion University student dancers withdrew from the Festival.

As yet another example, take the decision of some Scottish Local Authorities to fly the Palestinian flag in solidarity with the people of Gaza. Despite some cogent representations from the Jewish community and other parties, noting the divisiveness of such action, the authorities could not be persuaded otherwise. No authority was willing to fly the Israeli flag.

All such cases and others adversely affect the lives of Jews in Scotland. They create an atmosphere in which people are fearful of identifying as being Jewish or as having connections to Israel.

And that’s before independence.

This sea change in the political arena in Scotland has ended my belief in the idea of an independent Scotland. I no longer see it as something to strive for. Quite the opposite.
Much as it pains me, I fear for the welfare of the Jewish community in an independent Scotland.

I expect those in political power to make all the right noises about protecting minorities, and respecting opposing opinions.

But at the same time, I would expect certain actions to follow independence.

For example, during the Gaza conflict, the Scottish External Affairs Minister Humza Yousaf made an offer to treat wounded Gazans. Personally, it looked to me like political posturing rather than any serious attempt to do some good. After independence, there would surely be more of the same, but probably going beyond gesture politics.

Perhaps it’s not unrealistic to expect the establishment of a PLO office in Scotland, to be greeted with continuing exchanges of fraternal greetings and joint condemnation of Israel.

For sure, the country’s foreign policy – laughably touted as being ‘ethical’ – will be hostile to Israel.

And I would expect BDS to be adopted as official government policy.

The referendum has succeeded in getting more people more involved in the political process than has been the case for a while. If there is independence, I expect some of that involvement to be used by anti-Israel interest groups outside the mainstream, to campaign for positions which are even more radical and anti-Israel. (Might an independent Scotland end up, unwillingly, mimicking Venezuela?)

I am hoping that outright acts of anti-Semitism will continue to be rare and isolated. But I fear that independence will bring about a drip-drip effect of measures that will increase the discomfort of the Jewish community.

I should say that the Jewish community has not been taking things lying down. There have been a number of grass roots and communal initiatives that have impressed me with their fervor and energy. They are fighting a much better resourced and numerous enemy. But they are putting up a good fight.

Unfortunately, while I hope I am proven wrong, the future does not look good. The bottom line is that, eventually, I expect the community – or those parts that are able – to get up and leave. It would be a sad ending for a community that has enriched Scotland with substantial contributions in the arts, sciences, medicine, the law, commerce, and elsewhere. But the realization of my dream of an independent Scotland, one that started with the swish of the curtain going up on The Cheviot, The Stag, and the Black, Black Oil, may ironically also signal the curtain coming down on the Jewish community in Scotland. Now that would be a nightmare.

[*Note: Irn Bru is a bestselling Scottish soft drink, often described as "Scotland's other national drink" (after Scotch whisky). It is not readily available in Israel.]

They lie, lie, and lie again

And gullible or lazy media in the west (especially) listen and repeat the lies.

Like the one about the power plant in Gaza.

Remember, the one that Israel ‘destroyed’?

Check out this stunning post by the Elder of Ziyon.

It’s a miracle. It will also be a miracle if there is any reporting – accurate, critical, and self searching – by the same media that positively rushed to embrace all information from the Hamas Ministry of Truth.

The Palestinian leadership, of all hues, lies, lies, and lies again. With no consequences. Why are they given a free pass? When will this end? Who will get into the international media arena and fight for honesty, truth, and real human rights? We cannot rely on Amnesty, or HRW. We cannot rely on anyone in the Arab world. Who will be a real champion?

Indyk’s connections

By way of follow up to this post (which is severely critical of one Martin Indyk), check out this story from the Jerusalem Post:

“Israeli government officials on Sunday questioned the impartiality of the prestigious Brookings Institution, the past and present employer of former US Middle East envoy Martin Indyk, following a New York Times report Sunday revealing that Qatar is a major contributor to that think tank.”

Qatar? The backer of Hamas? (And other terrorist organizations.) Yes, Qatar.

On the one hand it funds thugs with guns, and on the other hand it funds thugs with an axe to grind, judging by Indyk’s behavior.

Although the Jerusalem Post goes on about the effect on the apparent – ha! – impartiality of the Brookings Institution, to my mind it’s more important as a clue about the driving force behind Indyk. Looks like we are well rid of him. Looks like Obama has a problem.

One law

Let me make this crystal clear. Whoever is involved in these so-called price tag attacks – whether directly perpetrating them, or supporting or inciting them or even just turning a blind eye to the acts and the actors – should be punished to the full extent of the law.  For a recent example, see here.

It is not part of any Judaism I know or recognize. It is vandalism, thuggery, and the start of a slippy journey towards mob rule. It is wrong.

By words and deeds:

  • The head of each household must make it plain that such conduct is unacceptable.
  • The head of each community must make it plain that such conduct is unacceptable.
  • The rabbonim must make it plain that such conduct is unacceptable.

Failure to do so should amount to ostracism and exclusion. And since we know that these places are under the sway of rabbinic leadership, in the main, this is a test of such leadership. They could make it all stop.

Over to the rabbonim.

 

About those civilian casualties

The incomparable Elder of Ziyon reports:

The IDF held a briefing for reporters on Tuesday giving new details about Operation Protective Edge. The briefing was wide-ranging, covering Hamas’ professionalism, its rocket fire, the number of militants likely killed, and many other topics.

That briefing led Die Welt to publish this:

Not only Israel was said to have been in the crosshairs of Hamas [rockets]: A total of 875 [rockets] fired during the war and an unknown number of mortar shells fell in Gaza itself down. Many of them were duds – the weapons are chronically inaccurate.

Others were aimed at Israeli troop concentrations in Gaza itself. But a large part “were in my opinion deliberately fired by Hamas on densely populated areas in Gaza,” said the Israeli officer. Otherwise he could not explain their trajectory.

Yes, you read that correctly. Hamas fired its rockets at its own people. Check the Elder’s post with details, here.

I knew Hamas’ rockets sometimes fell short. But to see evidence that they deliberately targeted their own people, is something truly shocking. And where’s the coverage? Muted? It’s almost non existent.  Funnily enough, I have yet to see this on either the BBC or the Guardian websites.

What did you do in the Summer?

We had a war. How about you?

Meantime, it’s the first of September, and time to go back to school.

schooltime

Yes, it’s front page news – that’s Israel HaYom‘s front page, anyway – that the kids are going back to school.

As the Times of Israel reports online:

Some 2 million Israeli school kids grabbed their backpacks and headed back to school Monday, as a fraught summer closed with a mostly calm return to studies.

Tragically, Daniel Tragerman will not be joining them.

The report continues:

The opening of the school year in the south of the country had been up in the air until just a week ago, when 50 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza ended in a ceasefire.

In the south and around the rest of the country, much of which also suffered rocket fire, the Education Ministry stressed that it would help students work through the effects of the summer’s military operation.

In the aftermath of the Israel-Hamas conflict, which raged for most of the summer vacation, the first several weeks of the school year were to be devoted to activities designed to help returning students process and deal with their experiences over the summer, the Education Ministry said on Sunday.

Also, due to issues relating to incitement and hate speech that became apparent over the summer, the first two weeks of the school year are to focus on “a discourse on solidarity, the importance of the State of Israel and its value,” Education Minister Shai Piron said ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting, which was held in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council as a show of solidarity with the south.

Read it all, here.

Quote of the day

And a rather poignant quote, indeed.

From Eshkol Regional Council head, Haim Yellin:

“Gaza’s disarmament continues — through the massive fire on the Eshkol Council that is emptying the arsenals of Hamas,” he says, mocking the government’s demands that Gaza be disarmed even as over a dozen rockets hit the Eshkol region this morning.

Or, as the Times of Israel puts it:

Gaza is disarming — by firing at us!

The TOI coverage continues:

“Since the start of the escalation [on July 8], more than 1,300 rockets have fallen in Eshkol,” Yellin says. “Operation Protective Edge has now ended and the war of attrition continues,” he adds, a reference to years of rocket fire from Gaza, including during times of ceasefire.

And its finish is worth pondering:

“The government of Israel should wake up, stop talking and start doing. Hamas’s leaders are in bunkers and you are in Jerusalem,” he adds, addressing cabinet ministers.

Yellin calls on the cabinet to hold its weekly meeting in a community on the Gaza border. “I’m sure the decisions that will be made [in such a meeting] will be correct, fast and connected to reality.”

I feel for the southern folk.

Knowing better than everyone else

One of my pet hates, are the (especially) liberal critics – often Jews – who line up to give Israel a kicking. With that in mind, let me quote from a piece by Jonathan Tobin in Commentary. His contribution deals with a New Yorker article by Connie Bruck that is firmly aimed at AIPAC, and claims that group’s influence is on the wane:

But Bruck’s main point in a piece where she tries hard to work in quotes from the organization’s critics is not so much as to try and make a weak case about it losing ground on Capitol Hill. Rather it is to claim that AIPAC is out of touch with liberal American Jews who are increasingly distancing themselves from the Jewish state and who view Israel’s center-right government with distaste.

This is the same argument put forward over and over again by people like author Peter Beinart, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, and was rehashed in the same newspaper on Sunday in another lengthy rant by British analyst Antony Lerman. They believe Israel’s refusal to make peace and insistence on occupation and rough treatment of the Palestinians disgusts most liberal Jews in the Diaspora, especially the youth that has grown up in an era in which the Jewish state is seen as a regional superpower rather than as the one small, besieged nation in the midst of Arab enemies determined to destroy it.

But the problem with this argument is that no matter how many times liberal critics of Israel tell us how disillusioned they are with the reality of a Jewish state at war, they invariably neglect, as did Lerman and Bruck, to discuss why it is that the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews see things differently. The point is, no matter how unsatisfactory the status quo may seem to most Israelis, unlike their Diaspora critics, they have been paying attention to events in the Middle East during the last 20 years since the Oslo Accords ushered in an era of peace negotiations. They know that Israel has repeatedly offered the Palestinian Authority peace deals that would have given them an independent Palestinian state in virtually all of the West Bank, Gaza, and a share of Jerusalem and that it has been turned down flat every time.

A key point, not to be casually overlooked.

As is this observation about the state of American or diaspora Jewry:

It is true that American Jewry is changing in ways that may eventually cripple its ability to be a coherent force on behalf of Israel as well as its other vital interests. But, contrary to the liberal critics, that has little to do with the policies of Israeli governments and everything to do with statistics about assimilation and intermarriage that speak to a demographic collapse of non-Orthodox Jewry.

In other words, there may be a disconnect between Israel and some diaspora Jewry, but politics has little to do with that state of affairs.

Israel’s (so-called) liberal critics think they know better than anyone else. They know what is best for Israel more than the people of Israel. That’s an arrogance which is not backed up by facts, five star analysis, or blinding logic. So, they are in a bad way to start off with! Mostly their position is just backed up by rant after rant after rant. Tobin’s observation, at least in part, is that even the rants are wrong.

Read the whole thing, here.

Shooting themselves in the foot

To anyone who stops to think about the situation, it soon becomes pretty apparent that Hamas no more represents the interests of Palestinians, than it represents the interests of Alaskan fishermen.

From the Times of Israel:

Four Israelis were injured Sunday, two of them seriously, when a large rocket and mortar barrage hit the Erez crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The victims were Israeli-Arab taxi drivers, who were at the crossing to pick up wounded Gazans and bring them into Israel for medical treatment. The wounded were evacuated to Ashkelon’s Barzilai hospital.

An outraged Israeli-Arab Erez crossing official, who spoke to Army Radio from a secured area at the crossing during a subsequent rocket attack, lambasted Hamas for not caring about the well-being of the Palestinians in Gaza.

“This is an organization that cares about the [Palestinian] people? They’re shooting at the Palestinian terminal,” said the staffer. He stressed that, despite the rocket barrages, the crossing had not closed for emergency medical cases, and that two Gaza females were evacuated “20 minutes ago” via the crossing for life-saving surgery in Israel, and that other taxi-drivers were on hand, “as always,” to transport emergency patients.

Read the whole thing, here.

In a way, it’s kind of funny. That indisputable act of terror against its own people might as well be invisible.

If you dare to visit the comments section of any of the western media, the odds are that in response to a comment or news article about the situation in Gaza, you will see posts that – truly – rant and rave about Israel. Israel is committing genocide, war crimes, massacres, ethnic cleansing, land theft, acts of terrorism, and so on and on. And if you post a rejoinder to these defamatory, nonsensical, and often illogical allegations, with a suggestion that maybe Hamas bears a smidgen of responsibility for the suffering of its people, all you get it is repeat allegations. So, it’s as if Hamas fighters don’t exist and neither do their actions.

Rocket fire? What rocket fire?

Attacks on their own people? What attacks?

Attacks on their own aid supplies? What attacks?

Attacks on their own wounded? What attacks.

It’s also as if the western media was Hamas’ best weapon. If you want to get to the bottom of the picture, look beyond the usual sources. See here and here for starters. And remember that it’s not you who is going crazy; it’s the big, bad world outside. We cannot satisfy that world, so let’s stop trying. Advice Israeli politicians would do well to take on board.