Digging ever deeper

Here’s an AP article as headlined in the Guardian today:


Put to one side whether the report is accurate. Assume you are responsible for the people of Gaza, and that it truly is the case that:

“…Gaza could be “uninhabitable” in less than five years if current economic trends continue.”

What do you do?

If you are Hamas, you dig deeper. You keep preparing for war. Because everyone knows that the best way to achieve safety, security, peace, prosperity, and quiet for your people, is to launch missiles and encourage terrorism.

And condemnation came there none.


I can see clearly now

I’m not sure if I will ever understand Obama and his foreign policies. As I have said before, even excluding Israel (where I obviously have a vested interest) it seems difficult to me to suggest that Obama’s policies have put the USA in a stronger place in the world than it was when he took power. Indeed, most would argue the USA is in a weaker position. But, on the assumption that was not Obama’s goal, where was he getting his planning, positioning, and opinions from? Thanks to Hillary and her email server, we have some new clues:

Hillary and her team are fans of Max Blumenthal, Peter Beinart, J-Street

The Hillary Clinton emails that were just released show that she and her team are far more to the left, and far more interested in promoting the leftist J-Street view of Israel, than she lets on publicly.

The Elder of Ziyon has the story, here.

Note his conclusion:

Based on the relatively narrow timeframe of last night’s email dump the overall tone is that Israel is obstinate and not interested in peace, the Zionist American Jewish community must be marginalized, the Palestinians are victims and not responsible for any of their actions, and that Hillary must still publicly cultivate the AIPAC crowd while working behind the scenes to undermine it. Haaretz is liberally quoted but no conservative analysis about Israel ever reached Hillary’s eyes through her handpicked, trusted advisers.

Does that sound like anyone else? Someone in an even more powerful position?

The problem may not (only) be with Obama. The problem may be with the advisers.

The bigger problem? Obama is on his way out. Hillary may be on her way in. I hope Bibi is paying attention.


Back to the future

Today is the first day of school for most Israeli kids, as the summer break officially ends. Here, it’s front page news. From Israel HaYom:


The middle headline and text is:

Good luck!

After the threat of a strike was lifted last night, 2,194,931 pupils will this morning start the academic year 5776. 157,477 will enter school gates for the first time, and 118,721 will be finishing twelfth grade. The bell ringing is for them.

And the story is continued on pages 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9…

Kids and the future are a central part of Israeli society and the culture. And long may that continue.

[The Israel HaYom English language website is here, but is normally a day behind the Hebrew print version of the paper. The Jerusalem Post has a bit more, here.]



Blinded by conceit

The BBC has a problem.

First, check out this report from BBC Watch.

Then, note the following, being part of the BBC’s response to a complaint:

“The BBC would never include what it considered to be anti-Semitic material in its comedy programmes; here the production team and Radio 4 took great care in reviewing the programme’s content to ensure this, especially in the satire concerning actions of Israeli governments past and present. No offence was intended by the jokes and satirical observations in the programme.”

As BBC Watch points out:

The key words in that sentence are obviously “what it considered to be”. As we learned from the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit’s response to complaints about remarks made by Tim Willcox during a broadcast from Paris in January 2015, the BBC does not use the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism…

As you can see from the full piece, the issue is that nobody knows what the BBC considers antisemitism (or antisemitic material) to be.

A cynic might argue that the lack of a definition gives the BBC wriggle room, so they can always argue – should they so desire – that a particular item is not antisemitic. On the other hand, perhaps a definition – any definition – would be too restrictive for the BBC.

How many Jews do you think would trust the BBC as judges of whether something is antisemitic?

But the BBC knows better, apparently. And that is because it is blinded by conceit.


No, minister!

By way of follow up to my Yes, minister? post, here’s the almost inevitable outcome as reported by Times of Israel:

Deputy Health Minister Litzman to become full minister

In response to landmark court ruling, ultra-Orthodox lawmaker becomes the first to receive rabbis’ approval to enter cabinet

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party on Thursday said that he had received rabbinical approval to serve as health minister in the cabinet.

“I accept the decision by the Council of Torah Sages and have answered positively the request of the prime minister, and will thus soon serve as health minister,” he said.

His announcement came following a ruling by the High Court of Justice preventing deputy ministers from fulfilling the role of ministers. Litzman, while nominally a deputy minister, held a minister’s authority in the Health Ministry. Lawmakers from his party have previously avoided ministerial positions due to their community’s reluctance to grant full legitimacy to a secular Jewish state.

On Thursday, Litzman said that he “respects” the demand of the High Court of Justice that he become a minister, saying, “As far as I’m concerned there is no change in my position.

“I served and will continue to serve the citizens of Israel exactly as I did in the past. In my view, a deputy minister in the capacity of minister is a health minister in every respect,” he added.

The court’s decision to ban the practice of granting a minister’s authority to a deputy minister came following a petition by the Yesh Atid party, which held the health ministership in the previous coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The petition demanded that the court prevent Netanyahu from taking on any cabinet roles beyond the premiership. In addition to being the nominal health minister, Netanyahu has also been serving as health minister, foreign minister, communications minister and the minister for regional cooperation.

On Sunday, the High Court of Justice ruled that Yaakov Litzman cannot continue to serve as deputy health minister with no presiding minister, and gave the government 60 days to fill the post.

In their decision, the five justices ruled that the current setup was “unlawful.”

“If you ask any hospital or citizen, they will tell you that the person governing the Health Ministry is Litzman and not Netanyahu,” Supreme Court Vice President Elyakim Rubinstein said during the hearing.

Let’s be clear. First it wasn’t right to be a minister. Now, faced with the option of staying true to their principles, and losing the post, or changing their principles, the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party and Yaakov Litzman changed their principles. What a bunch of hypocrites.

And what is worse, is that they knew it was illegal because the court had already ruled against the charade in a previous government. (See my earlier post.)

Yesh Atid hailed the court’s decision as a “triumph of the public interest over the political interest.

“The healthcare system is one of the most complicated and problematic in Israel, and it deserves a full minister with all the authority and responsibility required of a minister in the State of Israel,” the party said in a statement on Sunday. “Of course this is not meant as a war against the ultra-Orthodox, but rather against the culture of backroom deals.”

On this, I am 100% with Lapid. He called it right. Well done to Lapid and Yesh Atid.

Litzman on Thursday afternoon mocked the Yesh Atid petition, telling Channel 2 that “the only achievement of [Yesh Atid leader] Yair Lapid is that he added a little money to my paycheck.”

And that is rather nasty, isn’t it? It’s almost as if Litzman doesn’t like Lapid. Or fears him. Why might he fear Lapid?

Well, I suspect that part of it is that Lapid has long campaigned for a sharing of the burden, and UTJ and Litzman are opposed to that. What is worse, from Litzman;s point of view, is that Yair Lapid has principles. And he will stick to them. So the threat is not going away.

Besides, Yaakov Litzman, whatever happened to lashan hara? I may not be keeping up with the mitzvah, but you are not setting much of an example!

In any event, on the facts, Litzman is also wrong.

No, minister, it is not that your salary has been enhanced; instead it is that you and your party have been shown up to be hypocrites and a dreadful example of how not to behave.

Judaism? Not mine, it isn’t.


Yes, Minister?

Source: Wikimedia

Yaakov Litzman Source: Wikimedia

United Torah Judaism (UTJ) is an Israeli political party that, like all others, craves power. However, because its rabbonim do not want its members to vote on matters like the IDF and security – which they would have to do as full ministers – no UTJ member has served as a full minister. Instead, somebody came up with a trick: “deputy minister acting as minister.” Deputy ministers do not get a vote. (So, in the wonderful world of UTJ, their hands are clean. Like hell they are! What a dirty, hypocritical, immoral, trick.)

As I understand it, in previous governments Prime Minister Netanyahu allowed one such member of UTJ, Yaakov Litzman, to be in charge of the Ministry of Health, twice, using this trick. The High Court previously ruled that this was illegal, but Bibi ignored the court and nobody followed up. Litzman remained in charge. So much for the rule of law. UTJ was not part of the next coalition government, though, and the issue went away.

This time around, following the last elections, Bibi ran the same trick – for the benefit of UTJ and not Bibi, it has to be said. Litzman was appointed as deputy minister acting as minister.

Enter Yesh Atid. Leader Yair Lapid took the matter to court. The good news is that the High Court followed its earlier ruling. From YNET:

Supreme Court orders health minister appointment

The Israeli Supreme Court, in its capacity as High Court of Justice, ruled that Deputy Minister Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party cannot continue to serve as Deputy Minister with Minister powers.

In a dramatic decision handed out by a five-judge panel, the Supreme Court ruled Sunday that Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of the haredi United Torah Judaism party must cease to be a deputy within two months.

The court added that Mr. Litzman can legally be appointed as a full minister, which is the most likely course of action, though it would be a first for United Torah Judaism.

I’d rather we had no need to involve Litzman and UTJ (see here and here for further background) but at least there is some progress on reinstating the rule of law, and more normal civilized behavior. For now.

And if Litzman does become the full minister? Well, yes minister, it will underline how much hypocrisy there is the world of UTJ.

Well done to Yesh Atid.


Foot in mouth outbreak

This, from the Times of Israel, is dreadful:


I am not referring to the fact the government were discussing military options against Iran. Obviously they were. I am referring to the inability of Barak to keep his mouth firmly shut.

It seems that Barak was not intending the material to be disclosed:

The material apparently comes from conversations related to a new biography of Barak being written by Danny Dor and Ilan Kfir. The former defense minister, who was also previously prime minister and chief of staff, attempted to prevent the broadcasting of the recordings, but Israel’s military censors allowed Channel 2 to play them.

However, that is no excuse. He should not have been blabbing about bombing Iran to a biographer, a journalist, or anyone not constrained by official secrecy laws.

I do want to point out that, as somebody opposed to censorship, I’m pleased there was none exercised here. Pleased, but surprised. Presumably the military censors saw nothing that would harm Israel – militarily – in the disclosures. Or, is there some kind of game being played by the spooks? After all, a sensational set of soundbites like this will undoubtedly appear in the western media, and not in a way that puts Israel in a positive light.

Barak may have other troubles, but this episode does nothing for his image. Would you put your faith in a set of loose lips like his?

[Click the image to go to the TOI story.]


The hundred year old lynch


Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the lynching of Leo Frank.

The story, briefly, is that Leo Frank, a New York born, Jewish businessman in the south, was convicted of murdering one of his employees. The body of Mary Phagan (13 years old) was found in his factory, at a time for which he had no alibi.

The conviction is generally recognized to have been unsafe, to put it mildly. Antisemitism loomed large over the proceedings. For the sake of completeness, Frank’s lawyer was guilty of some dreadful racism too, in trying to shift the blame to the black janitor. It may have been the janitor who was the killer, but that does not excuse the dreadful (and possibly damaging) racist tactics used by the defense.

Convicted and sentenced to hang, and having lost all his appeals, the principled (and brave) Governor of Georgia, John M. Slaton, commuted this to life imprisonment.

“Feeling as I do about this case I would be a murderer if I allowed this man to hang. It may mean that I must live in obscurity the rest of my days, but I would rather be plowing in a field for the rest of my life than to feel that I had that blood on my hands.”

Then, Frank was lynched.

Haaretz has a pretty decent article on it, here, though their English proofreading and historical knowledge let them down:

Supreem? And who the hell is Olive?

Supreem? And who the hell is Olive?

One extract from the article is worth highlighting:

In the end, the outraged citizens went the way of tradition. The most famous convict in the country was taken from his cell in the dead of night. Not a single official there is recorded as having objected as Leo Frank was led away to his death, on August 17, 1915.

This was not some angry mob with pitchforks. These were the well-to-do of Atlanta, civilized people who drove up to the jail in their cars, at a time when few people in the city had cars. The lynch party consisted of upstanding members of the community, including a former county sheriff and a judge. The latter read Frank his original death sentence before he was hanged.

It was an establishment lynching. Chilling.

It was a bad blow for the Jews of the south. And it highlighted just how close to the surface in southern society – perhaps all American society, or all society – the dark demons of hatred and bigotry lay in waiting for the right moment. Has anything changed?

[For extra insight, here’s the Wikipedia page on that giant of the USA legal system, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.]


Economical with the truth

It may be a sign of the dumbing down of political discourse, that little – if any – of the British Labour Party’s leadership election race has featured a proper discussion of the economic theories and practices of the candidates. It’s slogans, sound bites, and general mumbling and mumbo jumbo. So, even if it is probably unfair to pick just one out (because it’s the only one I could find), I read Tim Worstall‘s piece at the Register – Hey, folks. Meet the economics ‘genius’ behind Jeremy Corbyn – and was hit by a proverbial breath of fresh air.

In brief, it’s an attack piece about Richard Murphy, the source of Corbyn’s thinking about economics. It is fascinating to see what is going on (or has been going on) behind the headlines, and largely ignored by the media. They are otherwise engaged, it appears.

Here’s an exert to give you a flavor:

He [Murphy] is rather proud of claiming that he ignored his university economics lectures because they were obviously all neo-liberal-inspired. So he worked the whole lot out on his own, from first principles. This rather reminds me of Bitcoin, for as I’ve said, the whole alt-coin scene has seen the fast-forward replay of every monetary and banking mistake, fraud, scheme and scam that humanity has managed to cook up over the millennia in a mere few years.

Murphy’s economics – ignoring, as it does, what tens of thousands of very clever people have found out over the past few hundred years, namely that we’ve really had “economics” – falls into the same error. It’s just too large a subset for any one brain, however large, to be able to encompass from first principles without error.

Even if economics bores you, and quantitative easing sends you to sleep, it is worth reading this piece. Then take a look at the coverage of the leadership race, and wonder when there is going to be a proper discussion of the issues. Shining some light on Corbyn’s dark places is long overdue.



Take a seat

You should be sitting down when you read this from the New York Times:

Red Cross Offers Workshops in International Law to Hamas

Yes, you read that correctly. Still sitting down? Then read on:

GAZA CITY — A new training regimen for fighters in Hamas’s armed wing employs slide presentations and a whiteboard rather than Kalashnikov rifles and grenades. The young men wear polo shirts instead of fatigues and black masks. They do not chant anti-Israel slogans, but discuss how the Geneva Conventions governing armed conflict dovetail with Islamic principles.

The three-day workshop, conducted last month by the International Committee of the Red Cross, followed numerous human-rights reports accusing both Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, of war crimes in their devastating battle last summer, and came as the International Criminal Court prosecutor conducts a preliminary inquiry into that conflict.

It was clear during the opening session that the Red Cross would face a steep climb to convince militant Islamists that international law should govern their resistance against Israel.

Steep climb? Does that qualify as the understatement of the year? There’s as much chance of Hamas conforming to any legal standards of making war, as there is of them participating in next year’s Tel Aviv Gay Pride march. Come to think of it, there’s more chance we will see Hamas in pink in Tel Aviv, than we will see them give up their terrorist operational methods. The rationale is in the article, though it is not presented as such:

But Red Cross leaders say they have seen an increasing commitment from Hamas leaders and linemen alike, if only because they now consider their international image a critical component of their struggle.

Hamas’ international image – or the image they want the world to see – is dead civilians, especially children, killed by Israel. Meantime, the brave fighters want to be able to add a new byline: and we follow international law! If you want further indication of how much this is pure propaganda, consider:

Mamadou Sow, who heads Red Cross operations in Gaza, said that in April he presented a critique of Hamas’s conduct during the 2014 hostilities to its top political and military leaders, and that they “welcomed it” and “indicated that they are a learning organization.” He said they also “challenged us to keep in mind the topology of the Gaza Strip,” one of the most densely populated patches on the planet.

There are two big lies there.

The first big lie is that there is plenty of open space in the Gaza Strip. Hamas choose to setup and fight alongside civilians. They knowingly and deliberately put their people at risk.

The second big lie, repeated so often by unquestioning journalists, is that Gaza is “one of the most densely populated patches on the planet.” The last time I checked, it couldn’t make the world’s top ten list of crowded places. But it is a convenient lie, and it seems to be an enduring one.

On the plus side, a discerning reader will note some of Hamas’ fatal flaws are exposed. For example:

During five hours of conversation, the fighters did not reflect on their own questionable activities or debate any situations they faced regarding risk to civilians while operating in Gaza’s urban landscape. Instead, they repeatedly turned the focus to Israel.

“You are dealing with an enemy that there’s not any difference between soldier and civilian,” insisted one fighter in a plaid shirt.

“Israelis violated everything,” another declared. “You say this also to the Jews?”

The BBC would have translated this as “Israelis,” but in this case the naked antisemitism is allowed out on its own.

Or how about this:

“What was your role when the massacre in Rafah happened?” one fighter wanted to know, referring to Black Friday, when Qassam fighters took the remains of a slain Israeli soldier after a tunnel battle, prompting an Israeli assault that killed as many as 200 civilians. “We were besieged inside the hospital — why didn’t the I.C.R.C. help us?”

This is an admission that they were operating inside hospitals. Remind me again about those civilian casualties? And note the somewhat interesting suggestion that if the IDF are blasting you to bits, who are you going to call? The Red Cross!

So, while the scenario of Hamas and seminars on international law is sickening, there are some nuggets that – inadvertently, so far as Hamas are concerned, I presume – expose them for what they are: Jew hating, hypocritical, terrorists.

Finally, consider the huge waste of money. Does anyone seriously believe that these seminars will change anything that Hamas does for the better?  I’d like to know where the money for this fiasco came from.

You can read the whole piece, here.