Five for Friday

It is terrific to have another rest day off before the return to work. Even if Friday – especially during the early start months – is a bit of a strange day, dealing with loose ends is a better way of getting ready for work than going straight from holiday mode to desk mode.  Unfortunately for those observant Jews in the diaspora, they are enduring a three day chag and will not surface until motzei Shabbat. That is tough. For some, that alone is a reason to make aliyah!

I have not shirked my scheduled posting duty, so you will find a range of links for your interest, to kick the weekend off with something serious, sad, smile-inducing, or strange.

Shabbat Shalom!

Definition of a good break

So, last night we came home after a good Sukkot break. This morning I went out to do some errands. Everything went well until I returned home, to the front door entry system of the apartment block. A keypad. A security number.

Er, what was it again…?

Yes, that’s the definition of a good break: when you have relaxed so much, you cannot remember the security code for your front door.

Fortunately, while my brain was failing, the memory in my fingers came to my rescue by pressing on the buttons in the required order. Hardwired? Anyway, I made it home. And I’m going out again later to practice, just in case!

When an empty mind speaks

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has been speaking his mind, according to this Jerusalem Post report:

But Ban also had some choice words directed at Israel: “I fully understand the security threat from rockets above and tunnels below,” he said. “At the same time, the scale of the destruction in Gaza has left deep questions about proportionality.”

Unfortunately for Ban Ki Moon, proportionality is irrelevant. (It is worrying when someone holding such an elevated post is so out of touch with reality, and more comfortable with a biased narrative that is so thoroughly wrong – in many aspects. I wonder how much of his comments were driven by the Gaza protests against the man himself. No, they were not widely covered. But they did happen.) I suppose it’s further proof, if any more were needed, that the UN is a liability. It was a good idea, but it’s gone bad. And its Secretary General is an empty mind. Or, to put it another way, unfortunately for Ban Ki Moon, he is irrelevant.

Culture clash

Eilat. In the hotel. It has a pool. But there’s a problem if you want to swim:

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I waited, and waited. But the lifeguard never came, so I never went swimming. Well, that’s my story and I am sticking to it.

That was the chag that was

So how was Sukkot for you?

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We had a very pleasant break in Eilat before heading to Shosh and Michael Horesh’s for Simchat Torah.

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On the night of Simchat Torah, Michael and I went to a Bnei Akivah minyan. When it came to the hakafot, the young lads did only two before heading off to do a tour of other shuls and to complete their hakafot. (A hakafot crawl! Cool!)

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For schacharit, we went back to the same minyan. As they follow the sephardi tradition they do not do Yizkor. So, we joined in an ashkenazi minyan elsewhere for that prayer. It’s still the strangest part of being Jewish in Israel for me. You go from the heights of joy to the depths of remembering lost loved ones. From dreams to memories.

Eventually the melancholy mood passed, as always, and we could all take in that the chagim were just about over. That is also worth celebrating.

Be well one and all.

Hate speech no longer in hiding

As a follow up to my post about the UK’s recognition of Palestine as a state – a terrible state if you ask me, but that’s for another time – check out this post from CiF Watch:

Guardian fails to report antisemitic comment by Tory MP

Last night in London, British lawmakers passed a non-binding resolution recommending that the “Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution.”

While the most morally obtuse comment during the debate belongs to Sir Richard Ottaway, who said that Israel’s “annexation” [sic] of 950 acres of the West Bank outraged him “more than anything else” in his political life – suggesting that terror attacks by Islamists on Western civilians, mass slaughter and systemic repression of human rights in the Mid-East come are less outrageous than the ‘horror’ of potential Israeli homes on a small stretch of land near the green line – another MP’s comments represented an altogether different level of political pathos.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said the following, a comment unreported by the Guardian despite their otherwise extensive coverage of the UK Parliament’s debate over Palestine:

“Does my hon. Friend agree that, given that the political system of the world’s superpower and our great ally the United States is very susceptible to well-funded powerful lobbying groups and the power of the Jewish lobby in America, it falls to this country and to this House to be the good but critical friend that Israel needs, and this motion tonight just might lift that logjam on this very troubled area?”

Translation: Since US government policy in the Mid-East – even under a liberal Democratic President – is effectively controlled by Jewish money and undue Jewish influence, it is up to the UK, free of the yoke of such powerful Jewish lobbyists, to speak truth to power.

Bridgen is of course not the first British politician to advance such tropes, and it is indeed horribly dispiriting that, a mere seventy years after the Holocaust, with Jews representing less than 2% of the US population, the charge that organized Jewry is too powerful and is manipulating US foreign policy for its own nefarious ends is fashionable within certain circles.

The Tory MP from North West Leicestershire can now be counted among the herd of ‘independent thinkers’ in the UK who – behind the veneer of respectable, sophisticated British politics – proclaim in all seriousness, without in any way being haunted by the toxic history of such an idea, that Jews control Washington.

It should be clear – whether such smears against historically oppressed Jewish communities are uttered by Liberal Democrats, Labourites, or Tories – that the only honourable response by genuine anti-racists is a an unqualified and firm moral condemnation – which of course means we can expect the Guardian (despite their brief flirtation with moral sobriety in a recent editorial) to maintain radio silence on the crude anti-Jewish bigotry on display last night at Westminster.

I fear from what I read, see, and hear, that the bigotry on display is no longer unusual in everyday British society. It is acceptable. It is no longer toxic to spout this. It is common discourse. There will be excuses, protests of misunderstanding, and more. But the flow of antisemitism is well and truly in plain sight. Indeed, from the Guardian’s stance, it seems no longer to be even worthy of comment.

Recognition of what?

The UK’s vote to recognize Palestine as a state is another empty gesture. You can judge the significance at least in part by the low key reception it got on the Guardian site, the biggest pro Palestinian (allegedly) drum thumper there is. However, there will be consequences.

First, although it is meaningless, expect several pro Palestinian activists to agitate and make ridiculous propaganda statements about the vote, to try and use it as leverage to keep the issue in the public eye and Israel at the center of unwanted attention.

Second, if anyone in the Israeli government is paying attention, they will surely take on board some of the criticism from former supporters of Israel. The Guardian highlights Richard Ottaway’s contribution. Whether it is as they describe, his comments are notable:

In possibly the single most important contribution in an emotional debate, Richard Ottaway, the Conservative chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, said the recent annexation of West Bank land by the Israeli government had angered him like nothing else in politics.

The Conservative MP said he had been a supporter of the state of Israel before he became a Tory and had close family connections with the generation that formed the Israeli state. He explained: “The Holocaust had a deep impact on me growing up in the wake of the second world war,” adding that he had been a strong supporter of Israel in the six day war and subsequent conflicts.

He told MPs: “Looking back over the past 20 years, I realise now Israel has slowly been drifting away from world public opinion. The annexation of the 950 acres of the West Bank just a few months ago has outraged me more than anything else in my political life. It has made me look a fool and that is something I deeply resent.”

He said he was not yet convinced that Palestine was fit to be a state due to its refusal to recognise Israel, adding that “in normal circumstances” he would have opposed the motion. But, he said, “such is my anger with the behaviour of Israel in recent months that I will not be opposing this motion. I have to say to the government of Israel: if it is losing people like me, it is going to be losing a lot of people.”

I think Mr Ottaway is wrong, and is even more of a fool for falling for the sheep like line of least resistance. But, and this is where one has to be fair to Mr Ottaway, it would appear to highlight the key issue that Israeli diplomacy has failed at. It doesn’t matter if the settlement on Judeah and Samaria is less than 2%, or that it’s all open for negotiation, if people like Ottaway do not know that, see that, understand that, and say that.

Now, I have this fear that the hierarchy of the Israeli government and diplomacy crew do not care enough. But they should. This episode, if nothing else, is gold plated feedback.

Finally, check out this report about Sweden’s recognition. What a bunch of hypocrites!