Corbyn only has himself to blame

It’s this kind of behavior, from the man at the top, seen as acceptable within the Labour party, that has seen them play host – welcome host – to bigots and haters. Given how endemic antisemitism appears to be within the Muslim community, it’s not easy to see a durable solution for those who might actually want to fix the problem.

Oh, and it’s possible it might get worse. Labour have put a pyromaniac in charge of putting out the fires.


Working does not contradict Torah

I wasn’t online much during the Pesach week, so I am only now catching up on the Globes piece published on 27th April 2016 about ZAKA chairman Yehuda Meshi Zahav.

ZAKA is a haredi organization that “rescues, identifies, and traces Jewish disaster victims in Israel and all over the world.” Zahav is a former anti-Zionist militant, which adds somewhat to the message conveyed in the interview, and to the sense of selflessness and of pure charity given by the man and his helpers.

Zahav was asked about the recent incident of an 81 year-old female passenger on a plane, asked to switch seats because a haredi man refused to sit next to her. Here’s his very quotable response:

“Things are so crazy here that everyone thinks how to be more strictly observant, how to show that he’s stricter… I don’t believe in all this nonsense. I’m rational. I don’t believe cult-like religious leaders and other foolishness. They taught us respect that the worst thing you can do is humiliate someone in public. It’s better to be thrown into the furnace than to humiliate your fellow man. There are stories about Rabbi Auerbach, one of the greatest religious authorities, when he would travel on a bus and a woman sat next to him. He didn’t get up. He said that respecting a person, respecting your fellow human being, took precedence over everything. God will forgo the respect due him if the purpose is to honor your fellow human being. To injure a woman, and for what? That’s not cleanliness, holiness, duty, or a commandment. It’s lack of respect for your fellow human being. Yes, there’s a non-ending argument among haredi Jews. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was asked once if it was permitted to extend a hand back to a woman who puts her hand out to you. He ruled that it was permissible. That’s the way of Judaism. Respect takes precedence over Torah; that’s no slogan or cliche.”

I certainly learned that respect was more important than personal pride. And his comments ring all too true with me. Unfortunately, there are too many religious extremists who seem to have learned differently. Of course they are wrong, but…

As for the whole working or studying situation, Zahav says this:

“There’s something strange here that happens only in Israel. People work in all Jewish communities. The most extreme Jews in the US, the Satmar Hasidic Jews, work. All of them. The lay leader of the community, the most highly respected man, who sits next to the Satmar rabbinical leader on Sabbath eve, wears blue overalls and works in a printing firm during the week, and then wears all the Hasidic trimmings on the Sabbath. Only here in Israel do haredim not work. Why? They say that after the Holocaust, after the world of Torah was destroyed, the rabbis were unwilling to listen to anything before the world of Torah was rebuilt. Even if that were true then, however, it looks to me like an excuse later. In any case, the state of Israel owes a great debt to my dear friend, (former Minister of Finance and MK) Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid). He broke the direct connection between the yeshiva and the labor market. Before, anyone who left the yeshiva was automatically drafted into the army, but not now. The haredim have realized this, and one day, they will praise him. The result is that more and more haredi men are going to work. I don’t understand how it can be otherwise.”

Quite an eye opener. You will see that he, at least, recognizes the need for work, and the benefit of Lapid‘s policies which, nevertheless, were so denounced and hated by the haredi establishment.

In summary, Zahav is a real mensch, doing unbelievable work of which I suspect the Globes piece (which you can read here) only gives a tiny hint. How he went from anti-Zionist to national hero is especially poignant.

We are fortunate there are people like him in Israel.


Replacing lawyers?

Globes has some financial news about an Israeli startup that caught my eye:

Israeli online contract review platform LawGeex announced today $2.5 million in funding from Lool Ventures and LionBird and angel investors Eilon Tirosh and Rami Lipman. The startup has also launched its online contract review solution free of charge for consumers. Using machine learning, the Israeli startup sets out to “out-lawyer” the lawyers.

And how do you “out-lawyer” lawyers, according to the report?

LawGeex allows consumers to upload any type of contract to its platform and receive, within 24 hours, an in-depth report of what’s good, bad and even missing from their contract. Currently reviewing over 20 types of contracts, the free solution begins with employment agreements, with more contract types to be offered for free in the near future.

Here’s more by way of context:

LawGeex cofounder and CEO Noory Bechor said, “The driving force behind LawGeex is the belief that no one should sign a contract that they don’t fully understand. An astounding 33% of Americans need a lawyer every year but do not hire one, either because they can’t afford to or did not know where to turn. This ultimately leads to one-sided negotiations and unfair results. LawGeex has already earned the trust of thousands of users while ensuring quality and transparency, leveling the playing field when it comes to contract negotiations. Our machine learning platform has already reviewed over tens of thousands of contracts, many of which are employment contracts from some of the world’s largest tech companies such as Apple, Google, and Facebook. We make sure all employees get a fair deal.”

An interesting concept. So, you get a contract, and you give it to LawGeex to review. LawGeex tells you what is wrong with the contract.

(I have assumed the system is somehow able to tailor its advice taking into account jurisdictional issues. For example, just sticking to employment contracts, there are differences between USA and UK law about what is required, what is the normal standard, and what is legal and illegal.)

That’s very helpful. But what then? How do you fix the contract? It doesn’t appear if LawGeex is going to give you the contract wording required to address whatever issues arise. And, knowing what needs to be added to a contract, and actually adding it – making sure all the angles are covered – is no trivial task. To do it properly, you need to have some experience or training. You know, like being a lawyer…

I’m poking fun at the concept while recognizing that they do not promote it as a complete legal solution. But that’s not exactly an up front message. So, I question how useful LawGeex might be without proper legal skills to back it up. I have not seen anything to suggest LawGeex will provide the missing text, nor am I aware of any technological solution. For sure, there are online contract providers, but they are all offering templates, and not individually tailored contract revision advice. For that, at least for now, you need a human being. (A bit of a stretch when it comes to some members of my former profession, I know, but let’s live with it for now.)

It will be interesting to see how LawGeex does. Perhaps it will be a fit for someone else active in this field. But for now, I’m skeptical it will be successful, long term.

The Globes report is available, here.


Earthquake about to hit Tel Aviv

Not a real one, of course. But this has the potential to be devastating:

Bicyclists to be fined for riding on Tel Aviv sidewalks

Cyclists will be fined up to NIS 1,000 for more severe violations starting May 1.

The Tel Aviv municipality today [17 April 2016] announced that starting on May 1, Israel Police will begin enforcing the law banning bicycle riding on sidewalks.

Tel Aviv is swarming with bikes – electric and standard. And while there is some bike path infrastructure, most bikes are ridden on the pavement. Unfortunately, many bikes – especially electric bikes – are ridden in a manner that is dangerous to pedestrians, as well as the riders. It is a plague. This action is long overdue.

As Globes’ report continues:

Before enforcement begins, the Tel Aviv municipality, the police, and the National Road Safety Authority will conduct a major public relations campaign, to begin this Sunday. The campaign will include billboards, a video clip, and green graffiti on sidewalks. During campaigns, explanations will be given by policemen, municipal inspector, and stewards, who will distribute information sheets about proper riding and enforcement measures to bicycle riders and pedestrians.

When enforcement begins after the Passover holiday, policemen will begin enforcing the law against riders of bicycles and electric bicycles riding on sidewalks instead of on marked bicycle paths. Enforcement measures will also be taken against severe violations, for which the fine will vary from NIS 100 to NIS 1,000, including going through a red light, riding in the wrong direction, using a mobile phone while riding, and disturbing pedestrians in crosswalks.

Punitive measures will include fines, taking the air out of bicycle tires, and confiscation of batteries (for children under 16 illegally riding electric bicycles).

I just wish they would do the same in Ra’anana. The plague of electric bikes is terrible. And Pesach seems like a good time to sort out a plague!


Past postings catch up with Zimmerman

By way of follow up to For Blumenthal read Zimmerman, see this: Sanders suspends Jewish outreach director who blasted Israel, Netanyahu.

Although one can never tell if this is a political move to limit damage, rather than the right move because it is the right thing to do, let’s be optimistic: somebody has talked some sense into Bernie Sanders.



For Blumenthal read Zimmerman?

Hillary Clinton has a close relation with Sid and Max Blumenthal, taking advice from them about Israel that could have been penned by the enemy outfit Haaretz. Bernie Sanders, competing for the Democrat nomination, has Simone Zimmerman, his newly appointed Jewish outreach coordinator. She seems to be cut from the same cloth as the Blumenthals, as the Jerusalem Post notes:

“We’re paying attention to what’s happening in Israel — and we are angry,” Zimmerman said in a column on her fellow millennials in Israel’s daily Haaretz in February.

“The hypocrisy of expecting feel-good social justice projects to offset millennials’ deep outrage at the grave injustices committed by the Jewish state is almost too much to bear,” wrote Zimmerman, who is in her mid-20s. “No public relations trick can save Israel’s image. The problem isn’t with the hasbara [public relations]. The problem is nearly 50 years of occupation. The problem is rampant racism in Israeli society. The problem is attacks on human rights defenders by extremists and by the state. The problem is a Jewish establishment that ignores or justifies all of this.”

Maybe I am reading too much into it, but I found this significant:

Zimmerman declined JTA’s requests to be interviewed for this story.

She writes for Haaretz, but won’t be interviewed by a JTA journalist?

The article is here.

In short, she has bought in to the Palestinian narrative. Everything is Israel’s fault, and never mind what Israelis think, she knows better.  She is no friend of Israel. Her appointment adds further context to Sanders’ recent statements about Israel, and the friction therefrom.

I’m now not sure if it is appropriate to hope for a Trump win (unlikely) or mourn the fact that maybe Obama will turn out not to have been the worst president in modern times, so far as dealing with Israel is concerned. It looks like either of the Democrat hopefuls could be worse. There may be dark days ahead.


A 40 year anniversary worth remembering

From the Jerusalem Post:

PARIS – French and Israeli dignitaries gathered at the National Assembly’s Victor Hugo Amphitheater on Wednesday, to commemorate 40 years since then-Israeli envoy to the UN Chaim Herzog delivered a historic speech to the General Assembly, condemning the UN’s resolution that said Zionism is racism.

In this speech in November 1975, Herzog symbolically tore up a copy of General Assembly Resolution 3379, pushed through by the Soviet and Arab blocs.

There are many reasons to remember this black day in history.

One, for example, is to mark the wisdom and force of Herzog’s words:

“For us, the Jewish people, this resolution based on hatred, falsehood and arrogance, is devoid of any moral or legal value. For us, the Jewish people, this is no more than a piece of paper and we shall treat it as such…”

Another reason, is to have it in mind when any anti-Israel person mouths off about Israel being in breach of UN resolutions. That 40 year old resolution underlines, emphasizes and clearly demonstrates the moral bankruptcy that, sadly all too often, is at the heart and soul of the UN’s planning, decisions, and resolutions.

Read the coverage here. And, for related coverage of current UN developments, also at the Jerusalem Post, Isi Leibler has the following which is worth reading: The United Nations sanctifies evil.


Surprise of the week

From Globes:

Treasury: VAT cut not fully passed on to consumers

The VAT cut in Israel last October was aimed at lowering consumer prices and increasing consumption.

Hopes that lowering VAT would result in lower prices and boost consumption have been confounded. A senior Ministry of Finance source told “Globes” that the drop in VAT from 18% to 17% at the beginning of October 2015 had been passed on to the consumers only partially.

What a surprise! You could have knocked me over with a feather… (And, I can offer you a new, lower price on that feather.)

The cut was from 18% to 17%. So, not a large reduction, and one more likely to show up in big ticket items like cars. With lower cost items, there should have been some changes, however.

It appears the Treasury was naive. It also appears that the Israeli economy does not have the consumer pressure that seems everywhere in the UK. If a VAT cut happened there, and prices did not fall, there would be a media storm about it, and a backlash against the greedy businesses. It doesn’t – or hasn’t – happened here. Even a modest 1% reduction would be carefully watched as to its effects. A definite cultural point of difference. Without that market or consumer pressure, it is tempting to consider whether price controls, and a more regulated consumer environment, would be worthwhile. Or, perhaps there needs to be a sharper VAT decrease.

Read the whole piece here.


Kingdom of Jew Hatred

Yesterday, I blogged about a sharp cartoon in the Jerusalem Post about Saudi Arabia, and the west’s attitude to it. (Think ‘disconnect from reality,’ or see the cartoon.)

Today, the incomparable Elder of Ziyon has an amazing post about what happened in Saudi last month. And it could not be more demonstrative of western blindness, or a head in the sand attitude. Check it out.

Isn’t it about time that the USA behaved like a mensch and actually did something about this antisemitism?


Keeping it in the family

A Globes report from the data presented at the Government Companies Authorities human resources conference, which took place earlier this week at Neve Ilan, includes this shocker:

Ashdod Port is the company with the highest rate of employees related to one another, at 42%. It is followed by Rafael, with 33%, IEC with 27%, and Haifa Port with 26%. At Israel Railways the figure is 3%, while at NTA [building the Tel Aviv light railway] it is zero.

How the hell do you get 42% of the employees of such a large business related to one another? That is mind boggling.

If the apparent clear cut cases of nepotism were not bad enough, the article discloses some of the big salaries bonus payments being made. A sensible observer would not criticize these payments without knowing the context: what were they paid for, how do they compare to other payments, and so on. But, you do get the impression, to put it mildly, that corporate governance is not exactly operating at the highest level in some of these organizations.