Monday, March 29, 2010

White House and State Department Demand That Israel Delete "Next Year In Jerusalem" From Passover Seders

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced today that President Obama was deeply distressed to learn that millions of Israelis were planning to conclude their Passover Seders this evening with the words "B'shonah Ha-Ba'ah B'Yerushalayim," Hebrew for "Next Year in Jerusalem." "This is precisely the sort of provocative behavior that endangers the peace process," Gibbs stated. The U.S. State Department also issued a press release, stating that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was gravely concerned about the concluding line in the Passover Hagaddot, the text designated for use at the Israeli Seders, because it conflicts with stated U.S. policy regarding the future status of Jerusalem, and could potentially embarrass Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and prejudice future peace negotiations. She also urged Israel to delete "Next Year in Jerusalem" from the Passover observance.

Yes, reader, that is a hoax, but, as pointed out by Avi Davis at The Western Word, like every effective hoax, it has an element of truth. Read his entire column, entitled "Next Year In Occupied East Jerusalem," here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

UNICEF Supports Anti-Israel Boycott and Anti-American Ad

As a child, I would sometimes proudly forgo trick-or-treating for candy on Halloween, in order to trick-or-treat for donations to the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). In those days, UNICEF was known for providing food, clothing and medical care for the world's impoverished children.

That was then, this is now. Palestinian Media Watch reports that UNICEF money was used by PYALARA (Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation), a Palestinian Authority youth organization, to pay for Arabic-language advertising supporting an anti-Israel boycott. The UNICEF logo appears right on the advertisement. The reader will note the anti-U.S. aspects of the ad as well--the ax is splitting a Star of David which is lined with the Stars and Stripes. On the ax that splits the Star of David is the Arabic word for "Boycott." The ad calls for Palestinian youth to watch a television program calling for a boycott of Israeli goods. The program producers acknowledge during the program that the boycott is illegal because the Palestinian Authority is party to a number of agreements with Israel that prohibit advocacy of an anti-Israel boycott; however, this official Palestinian Authority organization nonetheless urges all Palestinian youth to observe a total boycott of Israeli goods.

This is just one of many examples of how U.N. resources are used to sponsor official anti-Israel and anti-Jewish propaganda by the Palestinian Authority. We breathlessly await the strong condemnations of incitement that no doubt will follow from the U.N. Secretary General and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Perhaps we will also hear condemnation from Vice President Joe Biden, who was personally insulted when an Israeli housing agency announced an approval of the construction of new apartments in a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem during his recent visit to Israel, but expressed no concern that his visit coincided with the Palestinian Authority naming a town square after a terrorist who killed 38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children.

3/23/10 Update: To its credit (although probably motivated by the political embarrassment), UNICEF issued the following statement:


NEW YORK, NY; MARCH 23, 2010-UNICEF does not endorse the use of violent imagery and abhors the inappropriate use of its logo to suggest otherwise. The use of violence runs counter to UN values and principles.

UNICEF was not consulted by PYALARA about the use of its logo in a poster announcing a youth broadcast and it condemns the use of its logo to imply endorsement of political opinions. Neither the poster nor the television program it advertises reflect UNICEF's policies or its views. UNICEF's partnership agreement with PYALARA ended in January 2010.

As soon as this incorrect use of the logo came to its attention, UNICEF contacted PYALARA to demand an explanation and to seek rectification. UNICEF has also demanded clarification as to the actual process and context in which the logo was used.

UNICEF's policy is clear on the use of its logo. Standard agreements with partners require prior approval in writing for the use of the UNICEF brand. PYALARA did not follow this process and UNICEF approval was not sought or granted.

PYALARA has since presented its apologies to UNICEF and has given us assurances that it will conduct an enquiry to avoid similar incidents from occurring.

Prior to this, UNICEF had worked with PYALARA from 2000 to provide children and young people with a forum to voice their ideas and reach out to their peers. UNICEF's support was for media training, video documentation and peer-to-peer counseling, both in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.

Until this year, UNICEF provided approximately US$100,000 a year to PYALARA. In light of the latest development, UNICEF will be carefully reviewing any proposed future partnerships with PYALARA."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Is the White House Sending Healthcare Propaganda to Federal Employees?

This CBSNews Opinion piece by Richard Grenell is picking up momentum. A few paragraphs:
The White House Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle has been feverishly sending out unsolicited email messages to federal employees in an effort to build support for President Barack Obama’s health reform package over the last several weeks.

DeParle’s unsolicited emails have been regularly coming to some federal employees’ official government email inboxes for weeks without permission or request, causing some federal employees to feel threatened by the overt political language.

The Department of State employees, who receive hundreds of official government emails every day, have complained about the annoying and partisan emails but are nervous to go public for fear of retribution. The emails are addressed to the federal employees by name and use the official .gov address.
This is no mere rumor. Grenell is a serious person, having served as the spokesman for the last four U.S. Ambassadors to the United Nations: Zalmay Khalilzad, John Bolton, John Danforth and John Negroponte. Imagine what we'd be seeing if a G.W. Bush aide had done something like this.

Instapundit has picked this up, and so has JammyWearingFool, with additional commentary.

Dry Bones Proposes Building Freeze in Occupied Mexico?

The scary party about this proposal from Dry Bones is that the Obama Administration might actually adopt it, as a gesture of apology for past ill treatment of Mexico by the United States.

Actually, Mexico has a much stronger case than the Palestinians for a return of occupied territory. The United States seized Texas, New Mexico and Arizona (as well as much of California) from an independent sovereign Mexico that lawfully obtained those territories when Mexico gained its independence from Spain. The United States obtained those lands in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, imposed on Mexico after a frankly imperialist war of aggression launched by the U.S. with the patent objective of territorial expansion ("Manifest Destiny").

In contrast, there never was an independent, sovereign Palestine. No sovereign Arab state ever lawfully possessed any portion of the land of Israel. After Great Britain conquered Palestine from the Turkish Empire at the end of World War I, the League of Nations awarded Britain a mandate over Palestine (comprising what is now all of the internationally recognized State of Israel, the Kingdom of Jordan, Judea and Samaria [the so-called "West Bank"] and Gaza) for the express purpose of creating a national homeland for the Jewish people. Nothing in the League of Nations mandate suggests that any portion of the mandate territory was to become a Palestinian Arab State.

In a blatant violation of the mandate, Great Britain then carved out some 80% of the territory covered by the Palestinian mandate to create a client state, the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan (later called Jordan). When Israel declared its independence in 1948, it was promptly invaded by Transjordan (led by the Arab Legion, commanded by British officers) and Egypt, as well as by Lebanese, Syrian and Iraqi forces. Transjordan occupied Judea, Samaria and the eastern half of Jerusalem, including the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, whose residents it expelled. Transjordan renamed itself Jordan after that conquest and annexation, which no nation of the world, Arab or non-Arab, recognized as legal. The ceasefire left Gaza occupied by Egypt. The 1949 ceasefire lines, and under international law they are nothing more than ceasefire lines, are the so-called 1967 borders to which the world now demands Israel return.

Israel conquered Judea and Samaria and unified Jerusalem as the result of its victory in the June 1967 Six-Day War. (It also conquered Gaza, from which it has since withdrawn.) Unlike the Mexican War, the Six-Day War was a defensive war that Israel did not seek but was compelled to wage when its existence was again threatened by Syrian, Egyptian and Jordanian armies massing on its borders and by the Egyptian blockade against Israeli shipping in the Red Sea. (Those who accuse Israel of attacking first in 1967 blithely ignore that a blockade is considered an act of war, and that Syria and Egypt massed troops on Israel's borders, expressly stating that their goal was the extinction of the Jewish State.) Under the terms of the League of Nations mandate for Palestine, and because Israel conquered those lands in a defensive war against a nation--Jordan--that unlawfully occupied them, Israel's possession of those territories is completely legal, despite continuous claims that Israel's occupancy violates international law. Those territories are in no sense occupied Arab land. Unfortunately, norms of international law are dictated by politics.

So if any nation should declare a building moratorium in its occupied territories, it is the United States. But, Mr. President, please don't take me up on the idea.

Obama Revealed

As we move into a historic weekend for the nation's healthcare system, here's the quote of the day, from Jennifer Rubin:
This was the candidate who created a cult of personality, who told us he represented the “New Politics,” who was going to eschew politics-as-usual, and who would be post-partisan, post-racial, and post-ideological. Now he’s a handful of votes away from a humiliating defeat. No wonder it’s desperation time. His possible failure would not be a mere political failure; it would be the obliteration of his own mythology.

Should he squeak it out, Obama’s “victory” would come with a heavy price. Gone is the image of a policy sophisticate (try watching that Bret Baier interview a few times without wincing). Gone is the “moderate” moniker. And gone is the notion that he’d usher in a new era of less contentious and less corrupt politics. (It’s a new era, perhaps, but hardly a better one.) There is no mistaking now the depth of the campaign deception. The public has figured out what he is all about. And increasingly, they dislike what they see.
I think the Senate bill is going to pass the House this weekend and that any bill to enact "fixes" will be quickly mired down. So the Senate bill will become the law of the land.

Five years from now we will not recognize the health care system we have, and we won't like what we see there either. For the rest of our lives, unless this thing is repealed (and don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen) the debate will be like Social Security has been: How much money do we put into this program? That will take place alongside lie after lie about the program's sustainability. In fact, what we may have here is a government entitlement that is both unrepealable and unsustainable. The "unrepealable" part is what the Left wants. I'm not sure they care about the "unsustainable" part, unless we become Sweden (but I think the Left wants that too).

And yes, insurance companies are a big problem. But buying health insurance will also be a lot different in the future. By federal law, we will all have to buy health insurance, which is not such a big problem to me, but we will have to buy a one-size-fits all policy that meets government standards. Say good-bye to your choices in the matter. And if you think the cost of your health insurance is going down, you will probably be surprised.

This is a big deal, folks. And it's being passed despite opposition from a pretty large majority of the American people.

Then things are going to get very interesting.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Hurva Synagogue is Rebuilt and Rededicated, and the Palestinians Riot in Protest

The Los Angeles Times would have you believe that the Arab riots this week in Jerusalem were incited by the announcement of new apartment construction in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Eshkol. Don't believe it. That announcement primarily outraged and angered Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.

The real affront that occurred this week, from the Palestinian perspective, was the rededication of the Hurva Synagogue. That sparked the riots. In Damascus, Khaled Meshal, the exiled leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas, said the synagogue’s dedication signified “the destruction of the Al Aksa Mosque and the building of the temple,” according to Agence France-Presse. Calls by Palestinian Arab leaders for "days of rage" were answered with riots by Arab mobs.

What is the Hurva? Why does its reconstruction cause Arabs to rage?

In the early 1700s, the followers of Rabbi Yehuda HaChasid (Rabbi Judah the Pious) founded a syngogue in the the walled city of Jerusalem, in what is now called the Old City, but at the time was the entire city. Only a few years after its initial construction, it was destroyed by a fire, and lay in ruins for the next 140 years. It was called ha-Hurva, literally, "the ruin." Then, in 1860, the Perushim, descendents of followers of the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman (1720-1797), who had immigrated from Lithuania to the land of Israel in the early 19th century, rebuilt the synagogue on its original site. Although its official name was Beis Yaakov (House of Jacob) Synagogue, everyone called it Beit Knesset ha-Hurva (the Ruin Synagogue), or simpy, the Hurva. The Hurva, shown below in a 1920 photograph, quickly became Jerusalem's main Ashkenazi (Eastern European) synagogue.

Then came Israel's War of Independence. On May 27, 1948, the Jordanian Arab Legion captured and destroyed the synagogue, reducing it to rubble. One day later, the Jewish defense forces in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem surrendered to the Arab Legion. The Arabs expelled all of the Jewish residents of the Jewish Quarter, and pillaged and looted the area.

Despite constant charges against Israel of ethnic cleansing, the only incidents of ethnic cleansing in the modern history of Jerusalem were the anti-Jewish riots of the 1920's and 1930's, which forced Jews out of their homes and businesses in the so-called Christian and Moslem Quarters of the Old City into the Jewish Quarter, and the climactic destruction of the Jewish Quarter in 1948.

In 1967, when Israel recaptured the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordan (not Palestine--there never has been a national entity called Palestine), the Jewish Quarter was rebuilt and reinhabited by Jews for the first time in 19 years. Until recently, visitors to the Jewish Quarter saw only a memorial arch marking the site of the Hurva.

Now the Hurva has finally been rebuilt. A photo of the beautifully restored synagogue appears at the top of this post. It is not on the Temple Mount. It does not threaten the Al Aksa Mosque. The Jewish people have merely restored a place of Jewish worship that the Arabs had destroyed. And that is what incites the Arabs to riotous anger.

International Crisis--The Jews Are Building Homes!

As always, when I am confused and bewildered by events in the Middle East, I can go to Dry Bones for clarity. Yaakov Kirschen has given us two gems, one above, based on the outrage (or outrageousness) of the current U.S. Administration, and one "golden oldie" from 1990 below, to reassure us that this has all happened before and will happen again. I would surmise that Dry Bone's Biblical inspiration was Zachariah, Chapter 14.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Venus Williams Told Dubai That She Would not Play in Tournament if Israeli Shahar Peer is Barred

Last month in the Dubai Championships, a Women's Tennis Association event, Venus Williams defeated Israel's Shahar Peer (photo above) in a semifinals match. That was the widely reported sports bulletin--here is the rest of the story.

Last year, the Dubai tournament was fined $300,000 by the WTA when Dubai refused to grant Shahar Peer an entry visa so that she could compete in the tournament. This year, it appeared that the fine might not deter Dubai from again banning Peer. That is when Venus Williams stepped up to the net and announced that if Dubai did not permit Peer to compete in the tournament, Venus also would not participate. Faced with the loss of its defending champion, Dubai relented and granted Peer an entry visa.

At the Dubai tournament, Williams actually lauded the courage of Peer in coming to play in a setting where her life might be at risk. As quoted by AP, Williams said:
"I felt like I had to talk about her. I thought it was brave of her to come here and try and play despite knowing that it is not going to be easy for her. My dad grew up in an area where if you spoke too much, it was your life. So I felt I had a small opportunity to say something where everyone will listen."

Not so many years have passed since players of color were barred from competition in major sporting events. That ban would have fallen much faster had white players conditioned their participation on open access to athletes of color.

Incidentally, Venus successfully defended her title and won the tournament. [See photo below.] A WTA championship is always an accomplishment, but it pales in significance with the courageous stance taken by Ms. Williams in insisting that an Israeli athlete be allowed to compete. Way to go, Venus! You are now my favorite WTA star!
[Hat tip: Al Levine]

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Live-blogging Senator Ben Nelson's speech - Federation of American Hospitals annual meeting

I am curious to see what he will say about his Nebraska Medicaid deal. (Spoiler: he said nothing. Big surprise.)

Some bullet points from his remarks:

*We must "bridge the partisan divide." He is always asked when he returns home why there is "obstructionism" on the issue.

*We need to get away from "the inner workings of the Beltway." Like a special Medicaid deal for Nebraska? This is really the richest talking point I have heard yet, from anyone.

*"Starting over" is "code for doing nothing." This would be an effective talking point if the Republicans weren't offering alternatives (Paul Ryan, for example).

*Regarding reconciliation: (paraphrasing) We need to focus on the substance of the bill, not the process. The question is whether this bill deserves an up or down vote. The only people who complain about reconciliation are the people who are out of power.

(Really? I'd be curious to know how many times reconciliation has been used to pass sweeping entitlement legislation.)

*The public option is a bad idea and should not be in any legislation passed by the Congress.

*We must get past "the partisan divide." This one came up at least 10 times and is clearly a major Democrat talking point.

Live-blogging Steny Hoyer at the Federation of American Hospitals Meeting

I'm attending the Federation meeting in Washington, D.C., and Congressman Hoyer is addressing the attendees in a plenary session.  He begins by referring to past reform efforts (Nixon's, Carter's,  and Clinton's) would have reduced costs, and that the longer we wait to enact reform the worse costs will get.

Some of his comments:

*One American is bankrupted by healthcare bills every 30 seconds.  I wonder if this is true, but there's no doubt we have a huge cost problem.   Does Obamacare really address costs effectively?

*He shares an anecdote about a family devastated by a cancer battle and insurance gap.

*"The issue is far too urgent to start over."

*"58% of Americans say they would be disappointed and angry if we start over."  I feel a need to do some fisking of that statement.

*"It is a centrist healthcare reform plan."  Wow.  Clearly a talking point that the Democrats want out there.

*"We have exposed our bill to unprecedented public scrutiny."  Another talking point that raises eyebrows.

*"It is not a government takeover.  . . . It is much like the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan."  Really?  I don't see any of the consumer choice that the FEHBP offers to members of Congress.

The audience of health care executives and managers did not have a single question after Rep. Hoyer's 10-minute speech.