Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Iranian Government Charges Family for Bullets That Killed Son

Ha'Aretz reports: Kaleh Alipour, age 19, died Saturday after he was shot in the head by Iranian security forces during an anti-government demonstration. Iranian authorities later told the family they would not turn over the slain man's body for burial until they received compensation for the bullets security forces used to shoot him. Shades of Josef Stalin, whose terror regime also charged families for the cost of the bullets used to execute their family members.
(AFP Photo: Protester in Paris displays victory sign in colors of Iranian flag.)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Father's Day 2009: Hallelujah: A Sestina

Here's my annual Father's Day post. Power Line posted this poem several years back. It's a by the American poet Robert Francis in a form called a sestina. I loved it so much that I think of it every Father's Day:
Hallelujah: A Sestina

A wind's word, the Hebrew Hallelujah.
I wonder they never give it to a boy
(Hal for short) boy with wind-wild hair.
It means Praise God, as well it should since praise
Is what God's for. Why didn't they call my father
Hallelujah instead of Ebenezer?

Eben, of course, but christened Ebenezer,
Product of Nova Scotia (hallelujah).
Daniel, a country doctor, was his father
And my father his tenth and final boy.
A baby and last, he had a baby's praise:
Red petticoat, red cheeks, and crow-black hair.

A boy has little to say about his hair
And little about a name like Ebenezer
Except that he can shorten either. Praise
God for that, for that shout Hallelujah.
Shout Hallelujah for everything a boy
Can be that is not his father or grandfather.

But then, before you know it, he is a father
Too and passing on his brand of hair
To one more perfectly defenseless boy,
Dubbing him John or James or Ebenezer
But never, so far as I know, Hallelujah,
As if God didn't need quite that much praise.

But what I'm coming to--Could I ever praise
My father half enough for being a father
Who let me be myself? Sing Hallelujah.
Preacher he was with a prophet's head of hair
And what but a prophet's name was Ebenezer,
However little I guessed it as a boy?

Outlandish names of course are never a boy's
Choice. And it takes time to learn to praise.
Stone of help is the meaning of Ebenezer.
Stone of Help--what fitter name for my father?
Always the Stone of Help however his hair
Might graduate from black to Hallelujah.

Such is the drama of boy and father.
Praise from a grayhead now with thinning hair.
Sing Ebenezer, Robert, sing Hallelujah!
Happy Father's Day.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What Wakes President Obama at 3 A.M.?

Remember the infamous television ad during Hillary Clinton's unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Who do you want answering the White House crisis phone at 3:00 a.m., the ad asked. Now Dry Bones takes a wry look at what kind of crisis it takes to disturb President Barack Obama's sleep.

Obama Administration Demands That Israel Open Gaza Crossings; Contests Linkage to Release of Gilad Shalit

Ha'Aretz reports:
"The United States has stepped up pressure on Israel regarding the Gaza Strip: Three weeks ago it sent Jerusalem a diplomatic note officially protesting Gaza policy and demanding a more liberal opening of the border crossings to facilitate reconstruction.

U.S. and Israeli sources say the note was followed by a verbal communication clarifying that the Obama administration thinks Israel's linkage of the case of abducted soldier Gilad Shalit and the opening of the crossings was not constructive.

The note was delivered to Israel after a decision by senior U.S. officials including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and special Mideast envoy George Mitchell.
The latter discussed the contents of the note during his visit to Israel last week. "

So let's get this straight. On June 26, 2006, almost three years ago, Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists tunneled under the border between Israel and Gaza and attacked an Israeli army post on the Israeli side of the border. They killed two Israeli soldiers and kidnapped Gilad Shalit (photo above right), a 19-year old Corporal who had been wounded in the attack. He has been held hostage by Hamas thugs ever since. Hamas has barred the International Red Cross from seeing Shalit, and has demanded the release of 450 Palestinian prisoners--many in prison for terrorist attacks in Israel--as ransom for his return.

Those who hold him hostage are the de facto rulers of the Gaza Strip. Israel's control of the Gaza crossings helps prevent the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists from launching more murderous assaults inside Israel. Israel interdicts money bound for the terrorist coffers, weapons, and the raw materials for manufacturing weapons. It is not enough effort to free Shalit and rid Gaza of the terrorist gangs, but at least it is something. However, the United States, under President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Special Envoy George Mitchell feel that Israel is being unhelpful.

I now feel great concern for the citizens of the United States who live near the Mexican border. Apparently, if drug cartels were to complete their current efforts to take over Sonora, Baja California and other northern Mexican provinces, and then launched a campaign to kidnap U.S. citizens, demanding as ransom the release of convicted narco-criminals, the Obama Administration would consider efforts to police the border and control infiltration of money and weapons into Mexico to be unhelpful.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bibi Got It Right!

In the opinion of the Kosher Hedgehog, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu got it exactly right in his Bar Ilan University policy speech on Middle East peace. In other words, his opinions conform with my own.

There has been criticism of Netanyahu's approval of a two-state solution, on the grounds that one of his key conditions--that the Palestinian state would be demilitarized--is unenforceable under international law and practically unenforceable as well. The critics include columns in the Jerusalem Post by Martin Sherman, Louis Rene Beres and even a longtime Netanyahu advisor, Caroline Glick. They are mainly concerned that by approving the concept of a Palestinian state, on the condition that it remain demilitarized, Israel will end up with the Palestinian state, but without the condition.

I suspect that Prime Minister Netanyahu views the situation this way: The reason for continuing strife between Israel and the Palestinians (and other Arab states as well) has never been settlements, or occupation (unless one considers the mere existence of Israel on any territory to be occupation). Rather, it has been the continuing rejection by the Arabs of the legitimate existence of Israel as a Jewish State. The world has lost sight of this fact, or perhaps has simply chosen to focus its sight elsewhere, preferring, especially in the case of the United States and the European Union, to blame Israeli settlers who add a bedroom or bath onto their homes.

Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech refocused the debate on the real issue. He knows that the Palestinians will reject his conditions of recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and demilitarization of any emergent Palestinian state--indeed, they immediately did so in their reactions to his speech. That rejection is itself instructive to the world, if the world is willing to pay attention. Either Palestinian rejectionism will continue, in which case there will not be a Palestinian state, or (perhaps only after a long time) the Palestinians will come around to accept Netanyahu's conditions on the creation of a Palestinian state, in which case the new Palestinian state would cease to be a threat to Israel.

I mentioned Caroline Glick's critique of the speech above. She also found aspects of it to praise. However, her most strident criticism was reserved for President Barack Obama. Both she, and Charles Krauthammer in an excellent column also appearing in the Jersusalem Post, identify Obama's moral relativism as the flawed foundation of his administration's foreign policy. Glick writes:
"But it is hard to see how [Netanyahu's speech] could have possibly had any lasting impact on Obama or his advisers. To be moved by rational argument, a person has to be open to rational discourse. And what we have witnessed over the past week with the Obama administration's reactions to both North Korea's nuclear brinksmanship and Iran's sham elections is that its foreign policy is not informed by rationality but by the president's morally relative, post-modern ideology."

She concludes by warning Netanyahu not to assume that his Bar Ilan speech has bought a permanent respite from American presssure to make dangerous concessions:
"On the other hand, if Netanyahu sits on his laurels, he will be surprised to see how quickly Obama - desperate for a foreign policy achievement after being laughed out of Teheran and Pyongyang - forgets his happiness at his address. In no time flat, Obama will try to force Israel make him look like he knows what he is doing. At that point, an open confrontation with the White House will become unavoidable."

Krauthammer notes to similar effect:
"Obama undoubtedly thinks he is demonstrating historical magnanimity with all these moral equivalencies and self-flagellating apologetics. On the contrary. He's showing cheap condescension, an unseemly hunger for applause and a willingness to distort history for political effect. Distorting history is not truth-telling, but the telling of soft lies. Creating false equivalencies is not moral leadership, but moral abdication."

Iranian Protesters Charge that Hamas Members are Assisting Government in Crushing Dissent

Two protesters tell Jersusalem Post reporter that Palestinians from Hamas are participating in the violent suppression of anti-government protests in Teheran.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Judea Pearl: Why Israelis Are Cool on the Obama Speech

On Wednesday, on this blog, I said the following about President Obama's Cairo speech: "[I]t took considerable courage to tell a predominantly Moslem audience in Egypt that the Holocaust occurred and any attempt to deny it discredits Israel's critics. Would that he had said the same thing regarding the historical ties of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel!"

UCLA Professor of Computer Science Judea Pearl is the father of Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl, who was murdered by Islamist terrorists. Professor Pearl is the President of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, founded in memory of his son to promote cross-cultural understanding. In today's Wall Street Journal, he makes essentially the same comment about President Obama's speech, and identifies it as one of two factors that have caused such a cool reception to the speech in Israel.

Professor Pearl first notes that while demanding that Israel end settlement activity, the speech made no demands on the Palestinians. In particular, President Obama did not call for the Palestinians to stop anti-Israel incitement in their media and schools.

But even more telling was President Obama's approach toward the legitimacy of Israel's existence. Like other commentators, Professor Pearl criticizes the implication in the speech that the sole historical rationale for the creation of the State of Israel was the Holocaust, as opposed to the millenia-old ties of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. Professor Pearl writes, "Who else defines Israel's legitimacy that way? Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does. Iran sees Israel as a foreign entity to the region, hastily created to sooth European guilt over the Holocaust. Israelis consider this distortion of history to be an assault on the core of their identity as a nation."

Professor Pearl views the failure of President Obama to publicly recognize the historical legitimacy of the existence of Israel to be a lost opportunity:

An affirmation of "Israel's historical right to exist," based on a 2,000-year continuous quest to rebuild a national homeland, is what the region needs to hear from Mr. Obama. The magic words "historical right" have the capacity to change the entire equation in the Middle East. They convey a genuine commitment to permanence, and can therefore invigorate the peace process with the openness and goodwill that it has been lacking thus far.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Doug Feith on the Obama Cairo Speech

Another must-read analysis, in today's Washington Times.

Are Settlements an Obstacle to Peace? And Just Who is Advocating Apartheid and Ethnic Cleansing?

If one listens to President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, or even to spokespersons in the George W. Bush Administration, to say nothing of the mainstream media, one might well conclude that Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria (the so-called "West Bank") are the main obstacle to an Arab-Israeli peace agreement. The truth about what really prevents Middle East peace is exposed by a story that appeared in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles last week, reporting on a ruling by an Egyptian Administrative Court that the Egyptian government must strip Egyptians married to Israelis of their Egyptian citizenship. This ruling is not aimed just at Egyptians who marry Jewish Israelis, but also at Egyptians who marry Arab Christian or Moslem Israelis. And the ruling was wildly popular in Egypt.

Now Egypt is an Arab nation that has been at peace with Israel for over 30 years. Israel does not occupy a single square foot of Egyptian territory. Indeed, it even gave back land in the Sinai that arguably was never part of Egypt in the first place. In doing so, it dismantled the Israeli settlement of Yamit and other Sinai settlements and displaced their Jewish population. (Some of the displaced Israelis moved to towns in Gaza, only to be thrown out again by their own government in 2005.) Yet Egypt is rife with hatred of Israel. Its press is virulently anti-Semitic, and attributes all sorts of conspiracies to Israel, including the 9/11 attacks. The Jew-hatred openly displayed in the Egyptian media is rivaled only in the Palestinian press. One Egyptian pop singer made his career with the hit song "I Hate Israel."

Please don't tell me that this all reflects Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. Egypt itself occupied Gaza from 1948 through 1967, and never made any effort during that time to create an independent Palestinian state. Indeed, it ruthlessly quashed Palestinian restiveness unless it was directed against Israel, in the form of fedayeen attacks.

Actually, I take it back. Egyptian hostility does stem from Israeli occupation of Palestine, but the "occupied lands" in question are all of Israel. As George Will has repeatedly quipped, "The problem is not that Israel is being provocative. The problem is that Israel's being is provocative."

The official policy of the United States is that Israel should stop even "natural growth" of existing settlements within their existing borders. In other words, if an Israeli family living in Efrat has, thank God, two more children, and wants to add on an additional bedroom to their house, or perhaps wants to make room for their aging grandparents to live in their home, that represents an obtacle to peace. Oh, please!

Both inside and outside Israel, talk of transferring any part of Israel's Arab population is quickly branded as racist, ethnic cleansing. Moreover, Israel's critics, including former President Jimmy Carter, accuse Israel of being an "apartheid" state. This despite the fact that Israeli Arabs live and work and prosper in Israel, with full civil rights that are in fact, and not just in theory, enforced by the Israeli courts.

In contrast, real apartheid and ethnic cleansing is both advocated and practiced by the Palestinians, and by the U.S. State Department. The life expectancy of a Jew who finds himself in an Arab village may be measured in minutes. The anti-settlement policy is predicated on the assumption that any future Palestinian state must be (to use the Nazi German term) "Judenrein," free of any Jews. All Jewish settlements must go. Yet what would be the reaction of the U.S. State Department if Israel were to state that in return for a withdrawal to its pre-June 1967 borders, all Arabs residing within those borders must leave?

This irony was illustrated (literally) by Yaakov Kirschen in a recent Dry Bones cartoon. The cartoon may disturb some who would wrongly assume that Kirschen's character is happily advocating expulsion of Israel's Arab population. However, what Kirschen is really doing is revealing the true nature world's anti-settler sentiments.

Anne Bayefsky: Obama's Cairo Speech an Insult to Jews, Israel and Human Rights Victims in the Arab and Muslim Worlds

Our readers may have noticed the absence of analysis on my part of President Obama's Cairo speech to the Muslim world. I frankly was biding my time, waiting for columnists who would write about it better than I could. I have already posted one such column, by my friend Jay Shapiro, in the previous entry.

Now I have come across another such column, this one by Anne Bayefsky, entitled "Obama's stunning offense to Israel and the Jewish people," which appears in Jewish World Review. I urge you to read the entire article.

However, I do have one quibble with Ms. Bayefsky's column. While she does not state that President Obama bears any ill will toward Israel, one might draw that inference from her litany of objections to the speech. Call me naive if you will, but I do not ascribe to President Obama any malevolent intent toward Israel. Indeed, it took considerable courage to tell a predominantly Moslem audience in Egypt that the Holocaust occurred and any attempt to deny it discredits Israel's critics. Would that he had said the same thing regarding the historical ties of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The History That President Obama Left Out of his Cairo Speech

Jay Shapiro lives in Karnei Shomron, Israel. He is an amateur historian, author and political commentator. He has a weekly online radio program at Israel National Radio, Arutz 7. Jay e-mailed me a column (which he has submitted to the Jerusalem Post)that provides an interesting historical perspective on one aspect of
President Barack Obama's Cairo speech. Here is the column:

Plus ça change plus c’est la mĕme chose
[The More That Changes The More That Remains The Same]
In his Cairo speech, President Obama noted that in the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797, Morocco was the first nation to recognize the newly established United States . This is historically incorrect and President Obama also neglected to describe the interesting background to this treaty that has implications for 21st century dealings between Moslem nations and the West.

In the late 18th century, piracy was one of the many risks associated with foreign trade. After gaining independence, American shipping was no longer protected by the powerful British fleet and many vessels fell victim to the Barbary pirates of North Africa who stole goods and sold seamen and passengers into slavery. Agreements were reached between the United States and rulers of the Barbary Coast in which in exchange for cash payments, the rulers pledged to guarantee the safe passage of American ships and to put a stop to the practice of maritime kidnapping. Before signing the treaty, the Pasha of Tripoli demanded and received a payment of "forty thousand Spanish dollars, thirteen gold watches, silver & pinsbach,five rings, of which three of diamonds, one of saphire and one with a watch in it, One hundred & forty piques of cloth, and four caftans of brocade,and these on account of the peace concluded with the Americans".

Indeed, Article 10 of the treaty explicitly states "The money and presents demanded by the Bey of Tripoli, as a full and satisfactory consideration on his part, and on the part of his subjects, for this treaty of perpetual peace and friendship, are acknowledged to have been received by him previous to his signing the same, according to a receipt which is hereto annexed, except such as part as is promised, on the part of the United States, to be delivered and paid by them on the arrival of their Consul in Tripoli; of which part a note is likewise hereto annexed. And no pretense of any periodical tribute of further payments is ever to be made by either party".

However, the amount of goods stipulated in the treaty was still deemed insufficient according to the Pasha of Tripoli and an additional $18,000 dollars had to be paid by the American Consul upon his arrival in April, 1799. It was not until this final payment was made that the Pasha recognized the Treaty as official.

In 1801, the Pasha demanded an additional $225,000 from the new Jefferson administration which, unlike the previous Adams administration, refused to pay any additional amount. Consequently, in May 1801, the Pasha declared war on the United States . Algiers and Tunis soon followed their ally in Tripoli . In response, Jefferson sent a fleet to defend American interests in the Mediterranean including the USS Constitution, famously known as "Old Ironsides," berthed until today in Boston harbor. The USS Constitution supported the landing of Marines “on the shores of Tripoli ” in an action that was subsequently immortalized in the Marine Corps Hymn. The Americans destroyed the harbor that served as the headquarters for the pirates and the Pasha signed a treaty which effectively ended the First Barbary War.

Michael Oren provides further background on the events leading up to the 1797 treaty in Power, Faith, and Fantasy, a study of relations between the United States and the Middle East since 1776. He describes a meeting held in Paris several years before the treaty was signed, attended by Thomas Jefferson and John Adams who met with a representative of the Bey of Tripoli in an attempt to resolve the piracy problem. The emissary repeated his demand for one million dollars and further declared It was…written in the Koran that all nations who should not have acknowledged their [the Muslims] authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon whoever they could find and make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Musselman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.

George Washington's attitude toward the Barbary blackmail was expressed in a statement made to Lafayette "Would to Heaven we had a navy to reform those enemies to mankind or crush them into nonexistence". He is further recorded as having said that "..he felt the highest disgrace" in seeing America "become tributary to such banditti who might for half the sum that is paid them be exterminated from the earth."

Those with some knowledge of American history can appreciate the fact that Mr. Obama’s reference to the Tripoli Treaty is even more appropriate to today’s situation than most people realize – including, perhaps, Mr. Obama himself. One can only hope that the Jeffersonian determination in the face of piracy and financial blackmail will serve as a model for the way to deal today with terrorism and nuclear blackmail.


Iran's Potemkin Election

In the Wall Street Journal, Con Coughlin explains why it does not matter who wins this Friday's Presidential Election in Iran.