And the lesson is about more than cyclists. Just watch:
The Hedgehog Blog
Political and social observations from two aspiring hedgehogs who love the Isaiah Berlin essay.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
From Peggy Noonan's Declarations in the Wall Street Journal:
What struck me as the best commentary on the Bosnia story came from a poster called GI Joe who wrote in to a news blog: "Actually Mrs. Clinton was too modest. I was there and saw it all. When Mrs. Clinton got off the plane the tarmac came under mortar and machine gun fire. I was blown off my tank and exposed to enemy fire. Mrs. Clinton without regard to her own safety dragged me to safety, jumped on the tank and opened fire, killing 50 of the enemy." Soon a suicide bomber appeared, but Mrs. Clinton stopped the guards from opening fire. "She talked to the man in his own language and got him [to] surrender. She found that he had suffered terribly as a result of policies of George Bush. She defused the bomb vest herself." Then she turned to his wounds. "She stopped my bleeding and saved my life. Chelsea donated the blood."Everyone who has been following the Clintons for the last 16 years gets it.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
This Guy Really Can't Go Home Again--They'll Kill Him! Prominent Moslem Critic Converts to Catholicism
More Views on the California Home Schooling Ban
Once again Easter is here, and as before I'll post the words of my all-time favorite hymn, "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing:"
Come, thou Fount of every blessing,This biographical summary tells us a little about the author, Robert Robinson. The music is a beautiful traditional tune named "Nettleton," about which you can find more in Wyeth's Repostory of Sacred Music, Part Second, by John Wyeth. I've heard several hymns set to the same tune. As a congregational hymn "Come Thou Fount" is a little on the difficult side but most church choirs can handle it easily. My favorite arrangement is the one by Mack Wilberg, associate conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.
Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I'm come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.
O to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.
This is another favorite, from the late Neal A. Maxwell, of whom Hugh Hewitt is a great admirer. It's full of quotable nuggets:
The gift of immortality to all is so choice a gift that our rejoicing in these two great and generous gifts should drown out any sorrow, assuage any grief, conquer any mood, dissolve any despair, and tame any tragedy.Neal A. Maxwell, Wherefore Ye Must Press Forward, pp. 132-3
Even those who see life as pointless will one day point with adoration to the performance of the Man of Galilee in the crowded moments of time known as Gethsemane and Calvary. Those who now say life is meaningless will yet applaud the atonement, which saved us all from meaninglessness.
Christ’s victory over death routs the rationale that there is a general and irreversible human predicament; there are only personal predicaments, but even from these we can also be rescued by following the pathway of Him who rescued us from general extinction.
A disciple’s “brightness of hope,” therefore, means that at funerals his tears are not because of termination, but because of interruption and separation. Though just as wet, his tears are not of despair, but of appreciation and anticipation. Yes, for disciples, the closing of a grave is but the closing of a door that will later be flung open.
It is the Garden Tomb, not life, that is empty!
"Those who now say life is meaningless will yet applaud the atonement, which saved us all from meaninglessness."
I love that. Happy Easter.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Barack Obama, Jeremiah Wright, and Politics
I am one of those who thinks Barack Obama's problem with Jeremiah Wright is political, not racial or relgious. (See my comments here.) In that light, this video raises some provocative questions:
I do wonder why Obama does not place his hand over his heart when he is saying the Pledge of Allegiance. For a U.S. Senator, let alone a serious presidential candidate, that is a disturbing gesture.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
According to a new poll cited in the New York Times today, 84% of Palestinians support the March 6 attack on Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva by a Palestinian terrorist, which took the lives of 8 unarmed and defenseless students. The same poll, taken by a Palestinian polling agency, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, also showed that 64% of Palestinians support the firing of Kassam rockets into Israeli towns.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
The Talmud (Yoma 35b) relates the story of Rabbi Hillel, who as a young boy desperately wanted to learn Torah, but lacked the money to attend the Torah academy in his town. He discovered that by climbing onto the roof of the yeshiva and crouching near a skylight, he could hear the lessons given by the Sages, Rabbis Shmaya and Avtalion. One winter day he listened as the snow fell on the roof, nearly burying him, and he lapsed into unconsciousness as he nearly froze to death. The teachers and students happened to notice that something was blocking the sunlight throught the skylight, and when they investigated, they discovered Hillel and rescued him. Impressed by his dedication, Shmaya and Avtalion admitted him to the yeshiva, and he became one of the two greatest Torah scholars of his generation.
One is reminded of that story when one hears about Doron Mahareta of blessed memory, whose tale however had a tragic ending. Doron Mahareta was one of the eight Mercaz HaRav yeshiva students murdered on Thursday, March 8, by a Palestinian terrorist. Doron appears in the lower right-side frame of the photo of the eight martyred young Torah scholars. At age 26, the Ethiopian immigrant to Israel was the oldest of the eight.
Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein of Los Angeles passes on this story, which I understand to have been related by a person who paid a shiva condolence call to Doron's family:
Doron wanted to learn Torah in Mercaz HaRav, one of the best of Israel’s yeshivas. But, since his early schooling was in Ethiopia, he lacked a strong background in Talmud. The Yeshiva rejected him. He wasn’t discouraged. He asked, “If you won’t let me learn Torah, will you let me wash the dishes in the mess hall?” For a year and a half, Doron washed dishes. But, he spent every spare minute in the study hall. He inquired what the yeshiva boys were learning, and spent most of the nights and all of his Shabbatot with his head in the Gemara learning what they learned. One day, the “dish washer” asked the Rosh Yeshiva to test him. The Rosh Yeshiva politely smiled and tried to gently dismiss Doron, but Doron wouldn’t budge. He forced the Rosh Yeshiva into a Torah discussion; the next day, he was no longer a dish washer but a full-fledged “yeshiva student”.
On weekends, when Doron would come home to visit his family in Ashdod, he’d spend the entire Shabbat either in the Melitzer Shul or the neighboring Gerrer shtiebel learning Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) and its commentaries. Three weeks ago, he finished the entire Shulchan Aruch and principal commentaries. Doron achieved in his tender 26 years what others don’t attain in 88 years.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Ralph, who probably is about to put out an all-points bulletin for me, asks below:
"From the perspective of pure electoral politics, what does Mitt Romney bring to the table? Is he the best choice in order for the Republicans to retain the White House? If not, who would be better?"Here are just a few quick thoughts about the first question:
Temper. Romney brings a steady adulthood to the ticket. McCain's poor temperament is, well, tempered by Romney's even-keeled, patient, classy demeanor. Of course, this is merely psychological window-dressing for the McCain campaign, but is is worth something.
Money. Romney knows how to raise it, and he had the best fund-raising machine of anyone in the race on the GOP side, by far. All of Mike Huckabee's whining about how he lacked the funds to compete against Mitt ignored the fact that no Republican campaign organized its fund-raising effort better, worked harder at raising money, or actually raised more than Romney's. That's one reason the other campaigns disliked him so much: He had the money they wished they had. If McCain adds Romney to the ticket, he has that fund-raising machine. In fact, it's been reported that the Governor's top fund-raisers have already met with McCain's people.
Conservative credentials. Remember, Mitt got National Review's endorsement. Yes, his most ardent foes will want to talk about statements he made in 1994, but Romney has something no other serious candidate in the GOP race has: A consistently conservative record as an office-holder.
Values voter credentials. Some will scoff at this, but Romney consistently won the votes of this demographic, even against Huckabee, except in anomalous Iowa and the Deep South, where he still was close to Huck.
A candidate who could be president. Romney's qualified and has the gravitas to serve if a President McCain falters. Let's face it: The idea of a President Huckabee scares people. A President Romney scares no one, except perhaps Al Mohler, some religious extremists, and hard-core lefty politicos.
So there you go, Ralph. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!
Recently I enjoyed a new Broadway Comedy, "November," by David Mamet (photo at right). Nathan Lane, one of my favorite performers, plays U.S. President Charles H.P. Smith, a corrupt and venal man, who, one week before Election Day, realizes that he not only has a zero chance of re-election, but also lacks any slush money for his presidential library or for life after eviction from the White House. Laurie Metcalf heads the small but superb supporting cast, as President Smith's lesbian, ultra-liberal, idealistic speech writer. President Smith, needless to say (this is Broadway after all), is portrayed as a conservative politician. (Go here to learn more about this enjoyable comedy.)
Imagine my delighted surprise, then, to come across a column in the Village Voice, by November's playwright, the aforesaid David Mamet, entitled "Why I am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal.'" It appears that Mr. Mamet, in the course of writing his play, which, as he describes it, is "an argument ... between a president who is self-interested, corrupt, suborned, and realistic, and his leftish, lesbian, utopian-socialist speechwriter," found himself agreeing with the outlook of President Smith. Moreover, under the influence of his wayward muse, Mamet began to read "a host of conservative writers, and found that I agreed with them: a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism."
Read the entire interview. It is not what I would call an inspirational conservative call to arms. I can't even say that it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, since it is sort of a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Nonetheless, I am proud to say, Mr. Mamet, welcome to our encampment of Jewish former liberals. Dennis, move over and make some room for David near the fire.
What Would Mitt Romney Bring to a McCain Ticket?
Over at the Article VI Blog, (Lowell's other blog, the one where he still posts), the hot topic is the buzz over Mitt Romney as a possible vice presidential nominee. Karl Rove suggested it, and Governor Romney has said he would consider it, but as far as I know it's all quiet on the Western Front, i.e., in Phoenix, Arizona where the presumptive GOP Presidential nominee resides.
Lowell and John at Article VI are considering questions relevant to the special nature of their blog, such as the debate over whether Romney is "too perfect" to attract voters (which Lowell finds especially interesting in light of New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer's resignation today following a prostitution scandal); and why so there has so far been so little discussion of Romney's Mormon religion in connection with a potential Vice Presidential nomination. (My answer: it's too early. Just wait until Mike Huckabee revs up his vice presidential nomination campaign.)
However, I would be very interested in hearing what our readers (or even Lowell, should he happen to phone home) think on the more conventional issue of vice presidential selection: From the perspective of pure electoral politics, what does Mitt Romney bring to the table? Is he the best choice in order for the Republicans to retain the White House? If not, who would be better?
One opening consideration must be the source of the recommendation, Karl Rove. If there is a more astute or accomplished American electoral strategist alive today, I do not know who it is. If Karl Rove thinks Mitt Romney would be an excellent choice, that is a very weighty opinion.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Rabbi Yerachmiel Weiss is the head of the Yeshiva High School at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav in Jerusalem. Five of the 8 students murdered there by an Arab terrorist last Thursday night were his students; another was a former student and recent graduate.
Rabbi Weiss was interviewed this week by Israeli television journalist Ilana Dayan. Although I am told that much of the emotional impact of the interview is lost both in its transcription and its translation from Hebrew to English, the summary of the interview here at Israel National News is very moving, and provides an invaluable insight into how a person of faith who is an eminent Torah scholar confronts loss and grief. There is also a link there to a video of the entire Hebrew-language television interview.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Following the July 2005 bombings in London, committed by Islamic extremists, the British Home Secretary announced a list of particular activities that would result in a person being excluded or deported from Great Britain. The unacceptable activities include “writing, producing, publishing or distributing material; public speaking including preaching; running a Web site and using a position of responsibility” to “foment or justify terrorist violence in furtherance of particular beliefs; seek to provoke others to terrorist acts; foment other serious criminal activity or seek to provoke others to serious criminal acts and foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK.”
Recent actions by the UK's Home Office demonstrate the even-handed manner in which it intends to apply this policy. Israeli political leader Moshe Feiglin (photo above right), a member of the Likud Party's central committee, received a letter from the Home Office informing him that he was banned from Great Britain, even though he had no plans to visit there. No one has ever accused Feiglin of fomenting or provoking terrorism. His objectionable activities are his criticism of Islamic extremism and his advocacy of strengthening the Jewish identity of Israel.
On the other hand, earlier this month the British government granted permission to enter Ibrahim Mousawi, chief foreign new editor for Hizbullah’s Al-Manar television station in Lebanon, so that he can participate in political events in the United Kingdom. Hizbullah, of course, openly advocates the destruction of the State of Israel and the extermination of its Jewish inhabitants. Mousawi's television station aired a 29-part “documentary” in 2004 in which it depicted stereotypical Jews hatching a plot for Jewish world control and domination. Following the 9/11 attacks, Al-Manar alleged that 4,000 Jewish employees did not turn up to work at the World Trade Center that day and that the attack was masterminded by Israel.
I hope everyone in the United Kingdom feels a little safer knowing how the Home Office is looking after them. Read all about it at Little Green Footballs.
The victims of the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva. Top row: Avraham David Moses (16), Ro'i Roth (18), Neria Cohen (15), Yonatan Yitzhak Eldar (16); Bottom row: Yochai Lifshitz (18), Segev Peniel Avihail (15), Yehonadav Haim Hirschfeld (19), Doron Meherete (26).
The official newspaper of the Palestinian Authority and its President, the "moderate" Mahmoud Abbas, has declared the murderer of 8 Israeli yeshiva students to be a "shahid," a holy martyr. As reported by Palestinian Media Watch, Al Hayat Al Jadida prominently placed a picture of the killer, on the front page, with the caption, "The Shahid Alaa Abu D'heim." In a Page One article on the terror killings, his act is again defined as a "Shahada achieving" action. According to the Palestinian Authority's interpretation of Islam, there is no higher status that a human being can achieve today than that of Shahid.
In contrast, the Kingdom of Jordan, where family members of the slain terrorist live, moved to stop public mourning for him. Jordanian security forces ordered the relatives of Abu D'heim, who live near Amman, to dismantle a large mourning tent and to take down Hamas and Hizbullah flags that were hanging on rooftops and electricity poles. The Jerusalem Post quotes an uncle of the terrorist as saying that he decided to open a mourning tent as soon as he heard that his nephew had been killed in the attack. "We were hoping that people would come to congratulate us on the martyrdom of my nephew," he said. "This is a heroic operation that must be celebrated by everyone here."
A source in the Jordanian Interior Ministry stated that Jordan would not permit any group or individual to harm its national security by holding events that publicly supported violence against civilians. Jordan was one of the few Arab countries to condemn the massacre at Mercaz HaRav. Its forthright action gives one hope that sanity can prevail in the Arab world.
However, although Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack when speaking to Israeli and Western media, the published declaration in the PA's official newspaper that the slain terrorist is a holy martyr is glaring evidence of Abbas' hypocrisy, and certainly accurately reflects his true sentiments.
When one looks at the photos of the murdered students, including two 15 year olds and two 16 year olds, and then hears the praises that Hamas, Hizbollah and now the Palestinian Authority have heaped on Abu D'heim (may his name be erased) for his courageous heroism in shooting down unarmed teenagers, one can only shake one's head at how hatred can warp human minds.
The oldest of the murdered yeshiva students was Doron Meherete, a 26-year old Ethiopian Jew. Not only does the above photo of this African-born Torah scholar give the lie to the libelous Arab claim that Zionism is racism; but the entire horrific incident, and the reaction of the Islamic world to it (with the exception of Jordan), amply demonstrates which side in the Arab-Israeli conflict truly favors ethnic cleansing and genocide.
The Islamic world either has celebrated the massacre of the Jewish students, or has been silent in response. Contrast that reaction with the aftermath of the 1994 shooting of 29 Arabs in Hebron by the Jewish terrorist Boruch Goldstein. As Dennis Prager pointed out last week, while there were certainly Jewish right-wing extremists who did and still do praise Goldstein, the overwhelming reaction in Israel and the Jewish community worldwide was revulsion and condemnation, including at the largest public protest demonstrations in Israeli history. That, Prager concludes, sums up the moral gap between Israel and its enemies and detractors.
The Islamic and Arab genocidal inclination toward Jews is hardly a modern phenomenon that began in reaction to Zionism. The current era's Moslem Jew-haters look to the example set by Muhammad himself in the Seventh Century. At the time of the birth of Islam, several Jewish tribes lived in the Arabian peninsula, in the vicinity of Medina. They were systematically exterminated, enslaved or expelled by Muhammad and his armies. This genocidal program began with the expulsion of two tribes of Jews, the Qaynuqa in 624 C.E. and the Nadir in 625 C.E. It culminated in 627 C.E., when Muhammad exterminated the last remaining Jewish tribe in Medina, the Qurayza, killing all the men and pubescent boys, and enslaving all of the women and children. The estimates of the number of Jews killed ranges between 300 and 900, but there is no dispute that the entire Jewish tribe of Qurayza was wiped out. A full and well-documented account of this atrocity may be found here.
Friday, March 07, 2008
A shockwave rolled through the homeschooling community today in the wake of a ruling by the California Second District Court of Appeals, clamping down down on homeschooling by parents without teaching credentials, and leaving an estimated 166,000 children as possible truants and their parents at risk of prosecution. As reported by SF Gate, the San Francisco Chronicle's online service:
The ruling arose from a child welfare dispute between the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services and Philip and Mary Long of Lynwood, who have been homeschooling their eight children. Mary Long is their teacher, but holds no teaching credential.
The parents said they also enrolled their children in Sunland Christian School, a private religious academy in Sylmar (Los Angeles County), which considers the Long children part of its independent study program and visits the home about four times a year.
The Second District Court of Appeal ruled that California law requires parents to send their children to full-time public or private schools or have them taught by credentialed tutors at home.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger condemned the ruling,saying "Every California child deserves a quality education and parents should have the right to decide what’s best for their children. Parents should not be penalized for acting in the best interests of their children's education. This outrageous ruling must be overturned by the courts and if the courts don't protect parents' rights then, as elected officials, we will.”
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Calev Ben-David, writing in the Jerusalem Post, accurately describes the impact of today's attack on Mercaz HaRav:
"In striking the flagship institution of the religious Zionist movement, a Jerusalem landmark whose history is linked with the founding and fulfillment of the Jewish national home in the Land of Israel, the gunman aimed his weapon at the heart of the Zionist enterprise.
The death toll last night was nowhere near the worst of those attacks they have carried out in the past. But in bringing their war of terror right into the halls of Mercaz Harav, the institution founded by and embodied with the spirit of the Zionist's movement's most revered religious figure, the Yishuv's first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hacohen Kook, the terrorists struck with the most terribly precise accuracy they have demonstrated to date."
The above Israeli postage stamp, depicting Rav Kook, issued 30 years ago on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Israeli independence, underscores Mr. Ben-David's point about the significance of the target chosen by the terrorists.
Photos From the Massacre at Mercaz HaRav
Palestininan terrorists attacked Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav Kook, a Jerusalem talmudic college, Thursday evening, and a heavy loss of life is reported. Early news reports indicate that at least 8 people were killed and some 40 wounded when the Palestinian gunmen opened fire in a crowded dining hall. Two terrorists were reported killed, at least one by an armed Yeshiva student--whether the terrorists are included in the 8 persons reported killed is not known. At least one additional terrorist is being sought. Indeed, an e-mail I received from Israel indicates that police believe the remaining terrorist is hiding in the Yeshiva building armed with explosives. News reports on the attack may be found here from AP and here from the Jerusalem Post.
Mercaz HaRav is one of the crown jewels of Religious Zionism, the flagship of religious Zionist yeshivot. It was founded in 1924, as the world's first Zionist yeshiva, by HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, one of the most influential Rabbis of the 20th Century, and the first Ashkenasi Chief Rabbi of the Jewish settlements in Palestine ("the Yishuv"). While unquestionably loyal to Torah, he parted from many in the religious community in pre-Israel Palestine by enthusiastically supporting the Zionist enterprise. He even had close associations with leaders of the secular Zionist movement, who he viewed as unknowlingly furthering God's plan for the re-establishment of the Jewish Commonwealth in the Land of Israel. His philosophy dominates the Religious Zionist and settler movements of today, making Mercaz HaRav an appropriate target for Palestinian terrorists.
The present Rosh Yeshiva (Dean) of Mercaz HaRav is HaRav Yaakov Shapira, he should live and be well, the son of HaRav Avraham Shapira, the previous Rosh Yeshiva and former Chief Rabbi of Israel. Information about the Yeshiva may be found here.
YNET UPDATE as of 9:15 p.m: According to YNET there were only two attackers, one of whom was killed by an armed Yeshiva student. The search is continuing in the Yeshiva building for the remaining terrorist. A police spokesman said the dead gunman was wearing an explosives belt. He also wore a vest that at first was thought to be explosives, but turned out to be additional ammunition. Some 80 people were in the dining hall when the terrorists entered and opened fire.
FURTHER UPDATE: Later reports indicate that there was only one shooter, who was killed by a yeshiva student. Thank God, the toll of wounded was far less than originally reported--the later reports indicate only 11 were wounded. As I suspected, the attack was not on a dining hall, as originally reported. The Jerusalem Post now reports, "About 80 students had gathered in the library to celebrate the Hebrew month of Adar II, which begins on Friday evening." When I first posted this update, I speculated that what the Jerusalem Post called "the library" actually was the Beit Midrash, the study hall. However later reports confirmed the attack occurred in the yeshiva library.
A yeshiva is a place of worship as well as a place religious studies. Will any Moslem leader condemn this murderous attack on a Jewish place of worship, the way Jews almost universally denounced the attack by Boruch Goldstein on the mosque in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron in 1994?
May God avenge the blood of his holy ones.
Israelis follow the American Presidential election with keen interest, but naturally their real political interest lies closer to home. Dry Bones expresses the frustration of many Israelis with a Prime Minister whose popularity fell within statistical error range of zero percent, and still refused to resign, and with Knesset members so craven and desperate to retain power that they refuse to pass a vote of no confidence in a government in which the public has lost all confidence, because then the Knesset members themselves would have to face new elections. A recent poll in Israel showed only 19% of respondents in favor of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert not resigning. " And yet," Kirschner comments, "the disgraced and fumbling Israeli Prime Minister continues to hold onto power, trying to negotiate away Jerusalem to the Palestinians and unable to defend our civilians from the Hamas bombs."
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
The Aksa Martyrs Brigades, a militia affiliated with the "moderate" Fatah, has taken credit for the wounding of an Israeli man and the killing of an Arab in a shooting ambush set up by a sham business deal. The shooting occurred in the West Bank village of Idna, near Hebron. The terrorist group said that the Israeli man, who was lured into the Palestinian Authority-controlled Area B to conduct business with a local Arab, had in fact been targeted by the terrorists. The Israeli was sitting in his car with Muhammad Nufal when gunmen opened fire at them from a passing car. Nufal was killed, but the Israeli, who sustained a wound to his stomach, drove himself to the nearby Tarkumiya checkpoint. Some two hours after the incident, the Fatah-affiliated Aksa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the shooting. The Palestinian news agency Ma'an said the Aksa Brigades issued a statement in which it said that the "business deal" had been a trap. It was not reported whether the Arab victim, Nufal, was a participant in the ambush, an unknowing dupe, or an innocent victim.
Hillary World truly is Bizarro World. Tuesday evening, while claiming victory in the Ohio Primary, Senator Hillary Clinton declared, "We’re ready to end the war in Iraq and win the war in Afghanistan."
Genius, Senator Clinton, sheer genius. No doubt once we have abandoned Iraq to a resurgent Al Qaeda, their counterparts in Afghanistan will be easy to defeat. No way they might think, "If we can outlast the U.S. in Iraq, we can do so in Afghanistan as well." To the contrary, our flight from Iraq would no doubt completely crush the morale of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Monday, March 03, 2008
At Jewish Current Issues, Rick Richman notes that the U.S. State Department is feverishly working with Egypt and the Palestinian Authority (and thereby indirectly negotiating with Hamas) to reach a ceasefire agreement to end the current Gaza fighting. He collects blogosphere commentary questioning whether a ceasefire would benefit Israel.
Beyond the short-term ceasefire, there is the question of whether there is any advantage to a long-term ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, which Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has pushed for some years from now. What Haniyeh has offered is not peace, not recognition of Israel's right to exist, but that if Israel would pull back to the pre-1967 ceasefire lines, Hamas would observe a ceasefire of indefinite duration, reserving the right to begin hostilities again at a time of its choosing.
This is the Islamic concept of hudna. As explained in the Middle East Glossary of the Israel Project:
Arabic word often translated as "cease-fire.- Historically used as a tactic aimed at allowing the party declaring the hudna to regroup while tricking an enemy into lowering its guard. When the hudna expires, the party that declared it is stronger and the enemy weaker. The term comes from the story of the Muslim conquest of Mecca. Instead of a rapid victory, Muhammad made a ten-year treaty with the Kuraysh tribe. In 628 AD, after only two years of the ten-year treaty, Muhammad and his forces concluded that the Kuraysh were too weak to resist. The Muslims broke the treaty and took over all of Mecca without opposition.
Hamas, which states as its objective the destruction of the State of Israel, recognizes that it cannot now successfully confront Israel militarily. So it offers a hudna, a ceasefire that will continue until Hamas feels it is strong enough to defeat Israel in renewed hostilities. Is this a deal that any rational person would accept? If someone says, "I want to kill you, but if we fight now, you will win, so let's wait until I am strong enough to kill you," isn't the sane response to fight and destroy your sworn enemy now, while you still can?
In addition to that fundamental, indeed for Israel existential question, there is the quite practical consideration that for most of the period that rockets and artillery shells have reigned down on Sderot and Southern Israel from Gaza, Hamas has insisted that the sources of the attacks were Islamic Jihad and other terrorist militias over which it claimed to have no control. Yassir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah frequently have employed the same classic gambit in the past, such as when Arafat claimed to have no connection with Black September, when in fact it operated under his orders. So even if a ceasefire were reached on paper, it would not mean an end to terrorism aimed at Israeli civilian targets.
Yet several Israeli left-wing pundits, such as Uri Avnery and Amos Oz have argued that Israel should pursue such a ceasefire with Hamas. As long as Ehud Olmert continues as Israel's prime minister, there is a distinct danger that he will listen to such voices.
Saturday, March 01, 2008
Israel Finally Acts to Defend Itself
As I write this post, Israeli troops are fighting on the ground in Northern Gaza and Israeli planes are bombing targets there. At least 50 rockets were launched from Gaza at Israel today, including 12 at the city of Ashkelon, where 6 civilians were wounded. The rockets launched at Ashkelon included the Russian-designed Grad type Katyusha rocket, presumably supplied by Iran and smuggled into Gaza. It carries more explosives and is more dangerous than the Qassam rockets regularly launched at Sderot from Gaza.
In the ground fighting, two Israeli soliders were killed in firefights with Palestinian gunmen, Doron Asulin, pictured above left, and Eran Dan-Gur, pictured above right.
The Palestinians predictably are charging Israel with atrocities. Palestinian Authority President and Fatah Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (who earned his PhD from a Soviet university, with a treatise denying that the Shoah--the Holocaust-occurred) labeled Israel's defensive actions against the constant barrages of rockest and motars from Gaza "worse than the Holocaust." Since according to Abbas, the Holocaust never occurred, one supposes that Israel has not done very much at all.
When it comes to anti-Israel propaganda, Hamas and Fatah are united. Hence, speaking from Damascas, Hamas leader Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal described the operations as "the real Holocaust" on Saturday afternoon. He accused Israel of "exaggerating the Holocaust and using it to blackmail the world."
The Palestinians are reporting at least 70 dead, including 12 civilians. That in itself bespeaks of Israeli restraint and precision, since Hamas and Islamic Jihad launch their rockets from civilian areas, and it is their rocket-launching crews and equipment that are the targets of the Israeli raids.
Be prepared for world media to echo the charges of Israeli atrocities, however, accepting Hamas claims at face value and ignoring why the fighting erupted in the first place. Indeed, Hamas has already been caught in one lie. Hamas claimed that a baby, Malak Karfaneh, was killed and three civilians were wounded by an Israeli airstrike on Beit Hanoun, a northern Gaza town from which Palestinians regularly launch rockets at Israel. However, local residents told reporters that the baby was killed and the others wounded when a Palestinian rocket launched from the town fell short of its target.
The Palestinians, for months, have been indiscriminately shelling and launching rockets at Israeli civilian targets. To the extent that Palestinian civilians have been killed or wounded by Israeli counterattacks, they were unintended casualties of attacks aimed at legitimate military targets. It is the Palestinians who deliberately locate their rocket launchers in civilian areas, specifically for the propaganda value of claiming atrocities from Israeli counterstrikes. It is Hamas and Islamic Jihad, in a perverse distortion of the motto "women and children first" who send young children to retrieve their rocket launchers after an attack, so that if an Israeli airstrike is targeted at the launch site, they can claim that the Israelis have targeted children.
There is one truth to remember. At any time the Palestinians could stop the violence simply by ceasing their rocket and artillery attacks on Israel. Because they refuse to do so, they bear total moral responsibility for civilian casualties that may result.