As you may have heard, Israel’s Mediterranean beaches have been devastated by a crude oil spill. The environmental damage is severe, the beaches closed, and there’s a ban imposed on seafood from the Med. In short, it’s a disaster.

Who is responsible? Well, as I type this there are several tankers under suspicion and presumably at some point we’ll be told the culprit who leaked the oil. But it turns out there is another culprit closer to home.

The Times of Israel reports (here):

“Way back in 2008, the government decided to formulate a National Plan for Preparedness and Response to Marine Oil Pollution Incidents. A cabinet decision, made in June 2008 when Ehud Olmert was prime minister, ordered that within three to five years from January 1, 2009, the ministry would fill staff positions and acquire all the equipment and sailing vessels it needed to prevent oil contaminations at sea.”

You can guess what’s coming, can’t you?

“The ministry was instructed to discuss with the Treasury any funding needs it could not meet on its own, in the run-up to the 2009 budget. And the environmental protection minister at the time (Gideon Ezra of the now-defunct Kadima party) was ordered to ensure that the plan was enshrined in law, along with the requirements of the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation, to which Israel is a signatory.

That sounded positive, didn’t it?


But the plan never made it into the law books. And the Finance Ministry effectively blocked the transfer of additional funds.

So, there was a plan, but it was never put into action. I’m sure we’ll get some waffle, but the simple truth is that our government failed us. Whether they were lazy, incompetent, or didn’t care about the issue is unknown. But the result is. A quick trip down to the beach – but be careful you don’t breathe in too many of the fumes – is all that’s needed.

According to Wikipedia, these are the responsible ministers:

I anticipate each will have a reason for public consumption as to why the plan couldn’t be executed. Perhaps the reason will include (other than for Gila Gamliel) the excuse that they were just about to take action when their term in power ended. Right…

But in the time we’ve had six or seven Ministers of Environmental Protection, we’ve had one Prime Minister.

One man, in power all this time, who surely could have enacted the plan, who could have put it into force. But Bibi didn’t. It’s almost as if the most important thing on Bibi’s mind was staying in power rather than doing the best for the country and its people.

If Bibi were a responsible adult, he would resign. This incident alone should shame him into falling on his sword. It won’t. He has to go.

Cowardice and the Final Lockdown

Times of Israel reports:

Government ministers voted Tuesday night in favor of tightening the current nationwide lockdown by shuttering schools and nonessential businesses for two full weeks, with the aim of cutting rising daily infections that have passed 8,000 a day.

The increased measures will come into force at midnight between Thursday and Friday and last for at least 14 days, according to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Health Ministry.

This lockdown underlines the government’s failure to deal with disease and, in particular, their cowardice. Their appointment as coronavirus czar, Ronnie Gamzu, put forward a traffic light scheme that was to be backed up with closure of the red areas – those with high levels of infection and positive checks. Then it became clear that most – not all – of the red areas were Haredi or Arab. Both communities pushed back against these closures. The Haredi threatened Bibi’s rule. That was it. The government caved.

In the weeks leading up to the supposed final lockdown just announced, there were reports that 25% of the positive tests were in the Haredi community. Arab communities were also not doing so well. And what measures were implemented there? None. It’s widely known that in the Haredi communities, observance of the social distancing, mask wearing, and hygiene regulations was not universal. Far from it. Schools operated when they should have been closed. Members of the community were even told, allegedly, not to report as being ill to keep the numbers lower. Not all Haredim were so stupid and selfish, but too many were. In the Arab communities, some continued to have large gatherings for weddings which might as well have been called ‘Get your coronavirus here’ parties! Not all Arab communities were so stupid and selfish. But too many were. Now, the whole country is paying the price. To be clear, plenty outside these communities were equally stupid and selfish, but at least with proper track and trace and enforcement and closure, these would have been identified and dealt with too.

We cannot be certain, but if the focus of the government had ben about fighting the coronavirus and not fighting to keep Bibi in power, Gamzu’s scheme would have been fully implemented and there probably wouldn’t have been any need for the current or the final lockdown. Personally, I’ll get through it. But I wonder how many will suffer unnecessarily? How many more workers will lose their jobs? How many businesses will never recover? How many people’s mental health will be damaged, perhaps irreparably?

Bibi, this is on your head. I hope the voters remember your cowardice when it comes round to election time. As for your fellow Likudniks, they are no less guilty.

European Parliamentary Transparency

This, from Guido Fawkes:

The EU has again blocked the publication of MEPs’ expenses, with Euro-judges today quashing a three-year battle by journalists to get the documents published after the European Parliament itself previously refused to hand over any details. The judges in the ECJ’s sister court ruled that the Parliament was right not to publish the documents as it would enable the MEPs to be individually identified.

Transparency? That’s so un-European

Read the whole thing, here.

The Paris attacks and the exploitation of fear

Bruce Schneier has an excellent blog piece entitled Policy Repercussions of the Paris Terrorist Attacks (which I have only just come across) that is the usual breath of fresh air about terrorism, security, and surveillance.

For example:

The politics of surveillance are the politics of fear. As long as the people are afraid of terrorism — regardless of how realistic their fears are — they will demand that the government keep them safe. And if the government can convince them that it needs this or that power in order to keep the people safe, the people will willingly grant them those powers.

In short, governments use fear as a justification to acquire more intrusive powers.

It doesn’t matter that mass surveillance isn’t an effective anti-terrorist tool: a scared populace wants to be reassured.

That point is worth emphasizing, too. For example, there already was surveillance operating before the Paris terror attacks. Increasing it wouldn’t have increased the chances of preventing the attacks. Mass surveillance does not work in this arena. It does work in terms of keeping tabs on your political opponents…

So far as the opportunities and politicians are concerned, Schenier writes:

And politicians want to reassure. It’s smart politics to exaggerate the threat. It’s smart politics to do something, even if that something isn’t effective at mitigating the threat. The surveillance apparatus has the ear of the politicians, and the primary tool in its box is more surveillance. There’s minimal political will to push back on those ideas, especially when people are scared…

…Terrorism is singularly designed to push our fear buttons in ways completely out of proportion to the actual threat. And as long as people are scared of terrorism, they’ll give their governments all sorts of new powers of surveillance, arrest, detention, and so on, regardless of whether those powers actually combat the threat. This means that those who want those powers need a steady stream of terrorist attacks to enact their agenda. It’s not that these people are actively rooting for the terrorists, but they know a good opportunity when they see it.

So, even though it does not work, the politicians are going to keep trying to secure more surveillance and other intrusive powers.

Do read the whole post (which includes some excellent links to other material on the same issues) here.

You don’t say

As you may know, Nachum Hofri the current Ra’anana mayor – is seeking re-election. Given his recent troubles (see this post) it rather puts a new perspective on his campaign strapline:


For those non Hebrew speakers, the bottom of the flyer text translates as:

“Nachum Hofri.
Says little. Does a lot.”

This may explain why his spokesperson appears to operate the other way around!

Local political mudslinging

We’re having an election for Mayor in Ra’anana. Judging by the large number of competing large billboard posters for the candidates, this is being hotly contested. But if I had been in any doubt, this Arutz Sheva report featuring the favored candidate, current Mayor Nachum Hofri, rather swiftly removes it.

Raanana Mayor Won’t Fire Staffer for Slurs on Judaism

Raanana Mayor Nachum Hofri won’t fire staffer who rejoiced in destruction of Temple and compared ‘settlers’ to Nazi youth.

Raanana Mayor Nachum Hofri has clarified that he does not intend to fire his campaign spokeswoman, Hana Beit-Halahmi, despite controversy over offensive comments she made about Judaism and religious Jews.

In response to rumors that he planned to fire Beit-Halahmi, Hofri wrote on Facebook that his spokeswoman “will be with us until 22.10.13.”

Beit-Halahmi most recently caused an uproar when she wrote that Tisha B’Av, the day of mourning over the destruction of the First Temple and Second Temple, “is essentially a cause for celebration.”

After her comments were publicized by Arutz Sheva, she offered a clarification, saying, “My post this morning was wrote jokingly, because the amount of violence and needless hate around the politics of force at the Western Wall raises questions about what would happen if it were more than a wall.”

“Gog and Magog,” she answered herself, referring to a massive war prophesied in the Bible.

Beit-Halahmi had previously caused offense in 2010 with serious criticism of Jewish youth in Judea and Samaria. In an article titled, “Berlin 1939, we have returned to you,” she wrote, “The hilltop youth, and settler youth in general, have taken the place of the Hitler Youth.”

“Fighting to replace the Brown Shirts are the Oz unit, right-wing organizations in the territories, and those 35 rabbis who signed a letter against renting apartments to Arabs,” she continued.

“So what do we have here? Nazis – settlers, Kahana Chai – Brown Shirts, Hitler Youth – Hilltop youth, Rabbis, Aryans – Pure Jews… Checking the purity of the Aryan race – who is a Jew… Jailing children of foreign workers – prison camps and concentration camps – prison for refugees in the desert – concentration camps… I opposed comparisons to the Holocaust, until they stopped being comparisons to the Holocaust and started being a remarkable similarity between people, ideas and processes in pre-Holocaust Germany and in Israel here and now,” she wrote.

Arutz Sheva has an axe to grind and a particular perspective to favor. However, the comments made strongly suggest that the words foot and mouth appear in close proximity in the same sentence in describing them.

And, given that, by some accounts, 40% of the Ra’anana population are dati (religiously observant) the comments made do not seem to have been made with delicacy, diplomacy, or discretion as any of the foremost points under consideration. Maybe there will be more fun to come.

Dafties of the week (so far)

Did you know that climate change can turn gold into lead? Or make speakers of Gaelic go deaf? No, you can stop panicking; I made these up. However, my imagination has nothing on that of some USA lawmakers.

From the Register:

CLIMATE CHANGE forces women into PROSTITUTION – US politicians

Yes, you read that correctly. Read on for the details:

Is there anything bad it doesn’t cause?

A group of American politicians has introduced a resolution into Congress saying that climate change (among many other bad things it does) forces women into prostitution, and that as a result the USA should use “gender sensitive frameworks” in battling the scourge of global warming.

House Concurrent Resolution 36 of the 113th Congress (“Recognizing the disparate impact of climate change on women and the efforts of women globally to address climate change”), dated April 26, can be read here.

It says:

Whereas women will disproportionately face harmful impacts from climate change …

… insecure women with limited socioeconomic resources may be vulnerable to situations such as sex work, transactional sex, and early marriage that put them at risk for HIV, STIs, unplanned pregnancy, and poor reproductive health …

So yes, women will be forced into prostitution by climate change. And something should be done:

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress …

… encourages the use of gender-sensitive frameworks in developing policies to address climate change, which account for the specific impacts of climate change on women …

A concurrent resolution – should it be passed in due course by the House and Senate – does not have force of law, and indeed this one merely “encourages” the President to “support women globally to prepare for, build resilience for, and adapt to climate change”. It will probably not have much impact on the US government or the climate debate generally should it be passed – except, of course, that it would become the official position of the US Congress that climate change doesn’t just mean crop failure, rising sea levels, death to polar bears etc: it actually forces hapless women into prostitution as well.

The resolution was introduced by a group of Democratic congresspersons led by Representative Barbara Lee of California.

Are these politicians with too much time on their hands, an overactive imagination, a tendency to exaggerate, or any combination of these? Or just plain daft?