100 day itch

If you want a taste of how upset the religious parties are at being out of government, read this.

How about this quote:

“The vote of millions who supported Likud and the ultra-Orthodox parties were cast aside as if their voices held no weight. “

And where, do you think, was the writer’s concern when the vote of millions who did not support Likud nor the religious parties held no weight? What a hypocrite. It’s noteworthy that the new government specifically said they were there to rule for the benefit of all Israelis. Did Bibi ever say that?

Criticism of the government’s treatment of the coronavirus pandemic may be justified, but surely no more than the previous dictatorial regime that Netanyahu imposed: attempted bribery of the voters and a total failure to take responsibility and shut down the red areas. Yes, Bibi did get the vaccine situation right. But even a busted analog clock is right twice a day.

This part was also pure misdirection:

“It is sad that the government is set on tearing apart the delicate fabric that holds us together and deprives millions of its citizens of their civil rights.”

Let me translate: It is sad that the government is set on tearing apart the delicate fabric of greed that holds the religious parties together.

The present government is not perfect, but I much prefer it to the preceding regime. As many commentators have pointed out, the poison and the fraught relationships have been removed from the corridors of power. The target is to focus on the policies that are for the sake of the country, not just the – alleged – Talmud scholars. Secular Jews have rights too!

The repeated behavior of many – not all – of the haredi communities strongly suggests that whatever they are teaching, they need to have a good, long, hard look at the syllabus, rip it up, and start again. I suggest lesson one be all about Hillel’s Golden Rule:

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”

So, how was your Rosh Hashanah?

Given the ever present covid warnings and the recommendation to pray outside, for Rosh Hashanah services, I went to the outdoor minyan that’s a short hop, skip, and jump from our apartment. The organizers had made a real effort to make it as comfortable as possible. There were even electric fans (on timers) to generate a decent cooling breeze. Still, at four hours plus, the first day’s service was too long. As one wit put it, “I wondered if they were actually planning on stopping for lunch.” On the second day, they shaved thirty plus minutes off that. So, long, but could have been worse.

Since moving to Israel, I have gradually ditched all the ArtScroll machzorim for Koren versions. The Rosh Hashanah machzor – the Rohr Family Edition – has a superb introductory essay by the late former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. What a great writer he was.

“These are days of reflection and retrospection when we stand in the conscious presence of Infinity, knowing how short and vulnerable life really is, and how little time we have here on earth. This can be, and should be, a life-changing experience.”

I cannot do justice to the essay here, but I do recommend you read it. Any Jew with a heart that reads the essay will be touched by it. It won’t turn a non-believer into a believer, but if read with an open mind, it will enrich your soul with an awe inspiring perspective on life, the universe, and our place on this planet. To put it another way, food for thought. And, for what it’s worth, I heartily thank the Rohr family for making the publication of that machzor possible. It’s a beauty. It played its part in spiritually enhancing the chag.

So, how was your Rosh Hashanah?

Whatever you did for Rosh Hashanah, I hope you weren’t part of the shocking breach of covid lockdown in Melbourne. What arrogance. What selfishness. And where is the rabbinic leadership? The offenders should be named and shamed and banned from receiving honors for a few years. Should be, but won’t. Somebody should force them to read Sacks’ essay in the Koren machzor.

So, how was your Rosh Hashanah?

[Echo warning.]

Whatever you did for Rosh Hashanah, I hope you weren’t part of the dozens of infected pilgrims caught returning from Uman with faked negative tests. What arrogance. What selfishness. And where is the rabbinic leadership? The offenders should be named and shamed and banned from receiving honors for a few years. Should be, but won’t. Somebody should force them to read Sacks’ essay in the Koren machzor.

It seems to me that there are too many elements of organized religious Jewry that have lost their way. Not all. Not most. Some. But even one is a disgrace and brings opprobrium down upon the larger Jewish community. Change is badly needed.

Shanah Tovah!

It’s almost time to say goodbye to the old and welcome in the new year.  To those celebrating Rosh Hashanah, I wish you all a year of health, happiness, and prosperity.

And thanks to Browzwear for a cracking seasonal box of goodies.

Beating them back with a carrot?

Carrot or stick? What works best depends on the situation. I happen to believe if that you reward bad behavior, that encourages more of the same. With that in mind, this Times of Israel headline did not fill me with an overwhelming sense of optimism about peace in our time.

[Click the image to go to the article.]

Why is Israel making goodwill gestures in response to the violence from Gaza?

One theory is that Joe Biden requested (ordered?) this. This would give Biden some clout with the Palestinians, but would only be of any value if he used it for something sensible. What might that be? Rewarding the Palestinians further by reopening the consulate in so-called ‘East Jerusalem’ would just be more carrot. What’s the end game?

Another theory is that it’s an experiment to see what happens – as other approaches have failed to make a lasting impact – and a (futile?) public relations exercise. For example, with the extended fishing limit, that could bring meaningful economic benefits to the fishermen. Would they then have any clout in holding back Hamas? Do Hamas care if the fishing limit is reduced? All very puzzling.

My pessimistic view is that this is all a waste of time. It’s not going to achieve anything. Peace? Don’t make me laugh. It’s certainly not going to bring back the soldiers’ remains or the Israelis held, presumably alive, in Gaza. All I can say is that if the captives were white former residents of Tel Aviv who had served in the IDF, the situation would not be as it is now. My guess – and, yes, it is a guess: more of the same. No real change.

 

Misbehaving?

What drives the behavior of corporations? Is it purely the pursuit of profit? If asked, many would confirm they are in business to make money, but they do have standards of behavior as shown by their mission statement or code of conduct.

Remember Google’s “Don’t be evil”? That justly famous piece of text was originally a motto, then part of their code of conduct. After the 2015 corporate restructuring, parent Alphabet Inc. declared “Do the right thing” to be its motto, also being part of its code of conduct.

A December 2020 article by the Register reports:

“On Thursday Google was hit for the third time in as many months in the United States with an antitrust lawsuit, once again focused on the internet giant’s alleged monopolization of the search advertising market.

The legal challenge was filed in a District of Columbia federal court by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser on behalf of a coalition of 38 state Attorneys General. The states claim Google has engaged in anticompetitive conduct to maintain its dominance of the search advertising market, denying netizens the benefits of competition and harming advertisers with lower quality results and higher prices.”

A July 2021 report from Bloomberg says:

“Alphabet Inc.’s Google was sued by three dozen states alleging that the company illegally abused its power over the sale and distribution of apps through the Google Play store on mobile devices.”

These pieces of litigation have a way to go yet, but if it were true that Google was illegally abusing its power, that surely would not be doing the right thing. How does that sit with their code of conduct?

Note that, according to the Register article:

“The EU began its own antitrust inquiry into Google’s search ad business in 2010 and eventually targeted three Google businesses – Shopping, AdSense, and Android. In the years that followed, those investigations led to over €8bn in fines.

You might argue that a company that’s been fined for antitrust activity might take care in its dealings. You might say that it’s business as usual today and, anyway, it’s all a matter of interpretation. But, even if you think there may be excuses for such behavior in that area, there are lots of corporations who have certainly not done the right thing in fields other than antitrust law. For example, take a look here.

In his excellent Locus piece Tech Monopolies and the Insufficient Necessity of Interoperability, Cory Doctorow says this:

“Corporate personhood is obviously a sham. In his dissent in Citizens United, Supreme Court Justice Stevens wrote that corporations have no claim to free speech rights because “corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires.” Companies may project a set of “corporate values,” but these values are a marketing strategy, not a set of deeply held convictions.”

As the author makes clear in his article, corporations rarely have your best interests at heart. Worth remembering.

Waiting

Don’t you just love the naivety and earnest effort of the young? They seem so convinced they are right. For example, people like these:

What offends me about these daydreamers is that they bang on about what they see as the problem, but do bugger-all about proposing solutions. They are happy – not to say ecstatic – to criticize Israel, but there endeth the effort.

It’s also interesting to see how casually they discard the safety of me and the other citizens of Israel. This is from the ‘Our Message’ part of their website:

“Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza is a system of violence and discrimination that infringes Palestinians’ freedom, dignity and human rights. For whole generations of Palestinians, occupation has meant a life of petty humiliations, gross injustices and all-pervading fear. For Israelis, it has meant enforcing an oppression which requires brutality, dehumanisation and a disregard for democratic ideals. The occupation is not just immoral and illegal, but is an affront to fundamental Jewish values of equality and human dignity, despite being conducted under the guise of Jewish safety. No Palestinian or Israeli deserves the status quo, yet it will continue and worsen until Israel’s military rule over Palestinians is brought to an end.”

The guise of Jewish safety? I guess I must have imagined all those terrorist attacks. No, you couldn’t make it up: a fragment of text is their fig-leaf cover for assaults on the Jewish State.

As part of their online activities, they attack Israel in all sorts of ways. For example, you may not be surprised to hear that they don’t like the IHRA definition of antisemitism. And so, here comes a tweet from their lofty perch.

According to them, the IHRA definition has been used to silence legitimate criticism of Israel.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I have never seen anyone criticizing Israel stop just because they have been accused – often justly – of antisemitism. I’ve never heard of anyone being silenced because they were accused of antisemitism. But maybe my experience is limited. So, I thought I’d ask the experts.

So far, no response.

I’m waiting.

I’ll do a follow up if they deign to reply. Don’t hold your breath.

 

Another Inconvenient Fact

Assuming this post by the Elder of Ziyon is accurate, it appears that the people occupying and claiming ownership of the currently disputed property in Sheikh Jarrah do not have the proverbial leg to stand on.

In summary:

  • In 1956, Jordan and UNRWA allowed Palestinian refugee families to live in newly constructed property
  • In exchange, the families gave up their refugee ration cards, but not their status as refugees according to UNWRA
  • The lease provided that if they returned to their original homes they had to return the property to Jordan
  • The lease ran for three years and three months after which it could be renewed  on the same conditions for 30 more years, after which they could renew it for another 33 years
  • Payment under the lease was nominal
  • There is NOTHING that gives the families any ownership right

Note that if they renewed the lease, they are tenants until 2022. However, it’s unclear if they did or even could renew the lease. Also, as I understand it, they have refused to pay any rent – peppercorn or otherwise – which undermines the rights they might have had as sitting tenants. But, the key aspect of this factual information is that it comprehensively demolishes the occupiers’ claims of ownership. False, false, false.

Damn these facts sure are tricky. They just don’t seem to stack up the way Israel’s critics would like. (Which is why such people ignore facts and promote emotional propaganda.)  But it would have been nice if the usual suspects in the media made a token attempt to mention the facts when stirring up their anti-Israel supporters.

Sheikh Jarrah in 1900 – Source: Wikimedia Commons

To close, let me make it crystal clear that I am not jumping for joy that anybody might be turfed out of what they see as their home because of the current eviction action. But by the same token, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. As a general rule, people shouldn’t live rent free and certainly shouldn’t expect to live rent free.

Glad That’s Over

We have a new government, finally. Yes, they are strange bedfellows. Yes, they do not have the strongest backing. Yes, the odds are stacked against them. But they do have much in common. And if they can focus on the key issues that are for the benefit of the whole country and make progress bit by bit, who knows how far they might get.

It will be good to have a government that tries to pass a budget and tries to govern instead of trying to hang on to power so as to free Bibi from the troublesome nuisance of three criminal trials.

I confess to being entertained by the haredi parties screaming about the end of Judaism in Israel. Losing power (and money) was never going to come easy to them. Bibi’s criticism about Bennett’s (alleged) inability is unsurprising. But Bibi forgets he too had to start somewhere and he too was grossly underestimated.

I confess to being particularly happy for Yair Lapid. He has gone from strength to strength displaying qualities of perseverance, endeavor, honesty, self-sacrifice, and leadership. If he does become Prime Minister, he will deserve it more than anyone else in the current Knesset.

As for Bennett, I wish him luck. I want him to succeed, to make a difference and show what we can achieve if we work together, to be inclusive for the benefit of all instead of exclusive for the good of the few.

The rockets with no owners

This, from who else but the Guardian, is another example of their drip, drip, drip bias and demonization of Israel.

The rocket fire screwed up the hopes of a ceasefire all on its own! Nobody fired them. They were autonomous rockets…

Oh, come on Guardian. There was room for “by Hamas” in that title. But you deliberately chose not to blame your terrorist friends. Shame on you.

(An informed reader might know it was Hamas. But I wonder how many uninformed or lazy readers will read that headline and subconsciously at least blame Israel.)