Sunday, July 29, 2007

Dude. Surf's Up on the Gaza Strip

A new wave of reporting from Gaza is decidedly more upbeat. Not only are residents who were stranded in Egypt being allowed inside today after weeks of uncertainty. On this odd shoreline, where shell-collecting is not quite the same as elsewhere, you can now find some smiles. Check out this Los Angeles Times article about surfing in Gaza Don your burquini, girls, and hang ten. Too bad the water's so polluted.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Striking Israelis

With a bit of trepidation, we are monitoring news about the general strike in Israel, and hoping that disputes get resolved before we take off for Ben Gurion airport this weekend. Usually, these work stoppages prove to be very pricey, very public posturings, and then the unions back down after 24 hours of defiance. There must be a better way to negotiate with the government bureaucrats...but then, a failure at dialogue and compromise is the root of so many problems in this country. Nowhere else seems simultaneously so ancient and stubborn yet so futuristic.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

One Quarter of eligible Israeli Army dodges draft

Maybe modern Israel is not as martial as we have been led to believe. True, the standing army for a nation of less than 7 million citizens numbers half a million, if you count all the reservists. (Able bodied men under age 45.) Both boy and girl teens are required to serve, and fit Zionist Jews from other nations are welcome to train and fight

Yet one in four Israelis eligible for national service last year dodged the draft, according to the Daily Telegraph, and these statistics were gathered before the disastrous summer war with Hezbollah, widely viewed as a failure inside Israel. In the history of the Jewish state, this is largest proportion of no-shows for the IDF . This has sparked worries that this year, draft-dodgers will increase again.

Not included in these statistics are religious jews, many of whom do not recognize the nation of Israel. These scholars are not required to pay taxes. COntroversially, under the Tal law, they are entitled to a deferment of five years, so they can delay military service until age 22

18-year-old yeshiva students will be allowed to postpone their military service every year until the age of 22, when they will be allowed to work or study for a year outside the yeshiva without joining the army.
After that year, each yeshiva student can choose between returning to the yeshiva or joining the workforce and serving in the army in accordance with his marital status, or perform national service for a year and a half.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Jewish 'Law of Return' loopholes raise concerns

The new Interior Minister of Israel, Meir Sheetrit, decries the number of "quasi-Jews" infiltrating the Holy Land. African refugees and Russians who lack traditionally Jewish roots make him jittery about demographics. There's a white-hot discussion about who should be allowed to make aliyah over on Ynetnews

"It's time to bring only Jews to Israel," newly elected Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit said Friday in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth, and called for a new discussion on the Law of Return. "If we don't discuss these issues now, within a few years Israel will no longer be the State of the Jews."

New immigration minister cites forgeries as reason for examining existing criteria. 'It's obvious that some immigrants haven't the slightest connection to Judaism' he says

Sheetrit said he was shocked to discover statistics about the number of non-Jews living in the country.

"Seventy percent of emigrants from the Former Soviet Union are not Jewish, the Falash Mura continue to pour in from Ethiopia, Jewish organizations roam the world and bring here quasi-Jews from all sorts of tribes, thousands of illegal residents from the Palestinian Authority live and work here uninterrupted, and thousands Africans infiltrate to Israel, when only a minority are Darfur refugees," he stated.

Sheetrit, who took up the position last week, said it was time for Israel to decide who it wants to see living here. "We retuned to our homeland after 2,000 years in exile in order to build a Jewish, Zionist state here, not a Foreign Legionaries country. Entrance to the country should not be automatic." His main concern, he stated, was that Israel might lose it Jewish majority due to reckless immigration policies.

According to Sheetrit, Israel should institutionalize a mechanism that would examine candidates for aliyah and make sure they are Jewish, and also that they have a clean record.

How would you decide who should be allowed in and who shouldn't?

"The way I see it, it is our duty to accept every Jew who wants to and is capable of coming here, on the condition that he feels he shares our destiny and wants his children to live here. Additionally, other criteria must be set, for instance 'criminality tests.' I don't want any criminal being imported here."

Sheetrit stated he was considering introducing citizenship tests in Israel, as well as obligating new immigrants to swear allegiance to the state. However, he added that he opposed using financial criteria, because "the Jewish and Zionist element is till the most important one."

Monday, July 16, 2007

Spy Blimp : how Israeli nerve center works

Izzy Bee is abroad for two weeks, but will attempt to keep a pulse monitor on Israel for loyal readers of this blog. Here's a post, by Anne Penketh of the London Independent, which details how the watchers can watch from afar. The "separation barrier", known as the "security fence" or "the wall", depending on your point of view, is supplemented by remote IDF eyes in the sky. Children under scrutiny view this pale albino guppy that hovers overhead with alarm. Here's how it functions, from an eye-witness:

The Israeli nerve centre watching Gaza's every move

A group of Israeli soldiers is gathered round a television screen. They are watching the grainy images of a youth crawling towards the perimeter fence that hems the Palestinians inside the Gaza Strip.

The dark form tracked on camera is placing a bomb by the fence. Minutes later, his body is shaken by tank fire. A second shot confirms that the militant is dead, and his bomb activated.

We are inside the Nahal Oz military base on the border with Gaza. With the help of a white blimp bristling with cameras, and remote-controlled drones that buzz overhead, the Israeli military have every square inch of Gaza under surveillance.

At Nahal Oz, the headquarters of the southern command which monitors Beit Hanoun and the rest of northern Gaza, the cameras watching the nearby fence pick up every sound.

Palestinians have been warned that if they approach within 300 yards of the fence they are risking their lives. The sensors along the fence can tell the difference between a human and an animal if it ventures into the no-man's land where Palestinian crops and orchards have been flattened. A low throbbing alarm goes off if the sensors are activated.

The moment a Qassam rocket is fired towards Israel, a siren sounds inside the army base. The soldiers know they have 12 seconds before the notoriously inaccurate missile reaches its target, usually in the town of Sderot.

"If a Qassam is fired, we don't fire back straight away because of the possibility of hitting civilians," says a second lieutenant who identifies herself as Hila. "It goes through a lot of levels before we have permission to fire."

On a quiet day, some seven or eight rockets come over the fence. But when tensions are running high, as during the Lebanon war, up to 70 missiles are fired against the Israelis. "They know where we can fire, and where not, so they deliberately choose places where we cannot retaliate," the officer says. In one case, Palestinians fleeing Israeli fire took refuge in a petrol station.

On the army base TV screens militants can be seen using children to place their home-made bombs in an attempt to avoid reprisal gunfire. The fighters are also accused of storing weapons on the first floors of houses, where civilians living in downstairs rooms risk bearing the brunt of Israeli missile strikes.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Israel as New Arcadia: the rich Russian rushin' to power

The Social Justice Party, a brand new right-wing political group launched this week, is the brainchild of the charismatic and flamboyant Russian billionaire, Arcadi Gaydamak. The Ukrainian, who is 54, settled in Israel 35 years ago, and has built up a huge following among Israel's one million Russian emigres. He also supports the interests of the country's Orthodox Jews and Israeli-Arabs, and appeals to the 20 per cent of Israelis who live below the poverty line.
Gaydamak, who owns one of Israel's leading football team, captivates pragmatists who are fed up with the blunders and excuses of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whose approval rating is in the single digits. Unsurprisingly, Gaydamak is a close ally of the opposition Likud leader and ex-Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Likud would be one of the main beneficiaries if Mr Gaydamak's party performs well in the next elections, almost guaranteeing Netanyahu's return to the top spot.
Gaydamak does not envision a national role for himself just yet. He wants to be the next mayor of Jerusalem and promote business. "I am the most popular man in Israel," he has boasted, after headline-grabbing stunts like safeguarding the rocket-rattled evacuees of Sderot in tent cities for which he paid out of his own deep pockets. Or proposing to ban pork products from supermarket shelves because selling such meat is "a provocation" to devout Jews and Muslims. (He later wiggled out of the lucrative Tiv Taam supermarket deal when it threatened to erode his political support maong secular Jews and Russian immigrants)
His broad appeal is reflected among the founders of the new Social Justice Party. These include a Bedouin Israeli army officer, the president of an association that helps the handicapped, and a apparatchik from the former Soviet Union. There are some questions looming over his rise to prominence.
Intriguingly, the well-travelled Mr Gaydamak (who alternatively spells his name Arkady Gaidamak!)holds Angolan, Canadian, Israeli and French passports and he doesn't speak a word of Hebrew. Wanted in France in connection with allegations of illegal arms sales to Angola in the early 1990s, Gaydamak emphatically denies any wrongdoing.
His office insists Mr Gaydamak "has not broken any laws in France or elsewhere. In Israel, Arcadi Gaydamak is not the object of any judicial investigations and all rumours are spread by the representatives of the French administration and [Gaydamak's] rivals in business and politics".
He definitely is the dark horse in Israeli politics.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Jerusalem nightlife revs up and gets reel for Film Fest

Even though the Jerusalem Film Festival
ends this weekend, it's been a revelation to see the throngs of secular Israelis drawn here by international cinema screenings and the art film scene.
Old-timers say it's like the good old days of Mayor Teddy Kollek, before ultra-orthodox strictures became such a dampening presence to night life in central Jerusalem. The city now bustles when the sun goes down, as swarms of students and middle class film-lovers trek in from the suburbs and Tel Aviv.(Such a contrast to the usual assortment of religious conservatives, tourists, bureaucrats, diplomats, journalists, and Jerusalem syndrome wackos that normally mill around West Jerusalem after dark.) There's live music and impromptu sidewalk beer gardens that cater to a bohemian, artsy crowd. An open-air moonlight cinema can accommodate 2000 people on bleachers, and there's half a dozen smaller screen venues. The redesigned Cinematheque and film archive is state-of-the-art. What a contrast to last summer when the Lebanese war cast a shadow over everything and refugees from the north walked around dazed between clumps of Jewish tourists from North America, all happy to be out of katyusha range.
The films run the gamut from avant garde shorts to earnest documentaries and Hollywood animation sensations: everything from Ratatouille to the Clash's Joe Strummer. There are seminars, contests, lectures, and even a double art installation projected onto both sides of the concrete security wall at Abu Dis.
One intriguing slice-of-life documentary by Disco Dog Productions of London was called "Slim Chance"
It examined weighty issues from a new angle. A group of women from warring communities who share a common struggle: fighting flab.
Director Yael Luttwak gathered fourteen women – Israelis, Palestinians, Bedouins, and settlers of American origin.

Ichsan, a TV actor and director from Ramallah, meets Dasy, a secular Israeli who practices yoga to deal with the violence. Ariella, a settler who was raised Catholic and begins the project with considerable doubts about the Palestinian participants, finds an affinity with Amal, a Bedouin from Beersheba, who also covers her head and is devoted to raising her family. Israeli Aviva finds that she comes from the same culture as the Palestinian women.
While the common desire to lose weight quickly reveals the humanity of those involved, the moment Hamas wins the elections to the Palestine National Council, weight issues are forgotten and political questions divide the women once again. The vitality of the participants coupled by the film’s wise direction and editing, make A Slim Peace a sparkling and unique allegory of the current situation.

Jordan's role as Palestine's pal is evolving

For a way out of their impasse, some Palestinians now look to Jordan, according to the International Herald Tribune. It's not the kind of two-state solution that once was envisioned.

Inside a drab cellphone shop, in the sprawling Baqaa refugee camp on the outskirts of Amman, Muhammad Khalil and his friends were as gloomy as the fluorescent lights that flickered on the ceiling."Everything has been ruined for us - we've been fighting for 60 years and nothing is left," Khalil said, speaking of the Palestinian cause. Just weeks earlier, he might have been speaking enthusiastically to his friends here, in their usual hangout, about resistance, of fighting for his rights as a Palestinian and of one day returning to a Palestinian state. Last Wednesday, however, he spoke of what he saw as a less satisfying goal for the Palestinians here, and one that raises concerns for many other Jordanians: Palestinian union with Jordan. "It would be better if Jordan ran things in Palestine, if King Abdullah could take control of the West Bank," Khalil said, as his friends nodded. "The issue would be over if Jordan just took control."

That's why some Israelis are troubled that Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is mulling whether to allow Jordanian forces to enter the West Bank.
Mahmoud Abbas is expected to ask Olmert to approve entry of Palestinian Bader Division forces of the Jordanian army to preserve his control over the West Bank. The Palestinian chief will also request Israel’s permission to transfer dozens of armored vehicles from Egypt to Palestinian territories. The two leaders are expected to discuss the matter on Monday during their meeting in Jerusalem.
One of Abbas's concerns is that Hamas keeps torturing and killing Fatah supporters, according to recent a wire report

Adham Mustafa's bullet-riddled and mutilated body, filmed in a morgue two days after he was taken alive by Hamas, belied the Islamic militant group's promises not to harm its Fatah rivals. So did Tarek Asfour's legs, punctured with marks from nails Hamas gunmen banged into him. Hamas declared a general amnesty for members of the vanquished Fatah movement of moderate President Mahmoud Abbas after sweeping to power in the Gaza Strip on June 15, following a week of fighting. But since then, at least nine Fatah loyalists have been killed, according to Mezan, an independent Gaza-based human rights group, which posted the names of the dead on its website.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Pope pooh-poohs Protestant churches & prays that the Jews convert

When the pope pooh-poohed protestant churches as defective, he riled Christian evangelicals and post-reformation High Church congregations the world over, particularly here in the Holy Land, birthplace of Jesus and Judaism. Church clerics are flabbergasted that the pontiff seems to be stirring the pot and encouraging rifts in Christian unity at a time when civilizations are clashing.

Pope Benedict XVI also has just revived the Tridentine Mass, a defunct liturgy, complete with a Good Friday prayer in Latin to convert the "perfidous Jews." Critics say an appeal to anti-Semitism to boost the ranks of Catholics is ill-advised. Appeasing traditionalists who years ago quit the Catholic church because they prefer the ancient services in Latin was the reason the Vatican spokesman cited. The number of Catholics in Europe are in decline.
The Vatican praised the old version for enriching faith and piety, and also the culture of many peoples.

"It is known, in fact, that the Latin liturgy of the Church in its various forms, in each century of the Christian era, has been a spur to the spiritual life of many saints, has reinforced many peoples in the virtue of religion and fecundated their piety."
In an explanatory note to the world's bishops, the Pope said he had seen in the post-Vatican II period "how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the church."
He added that it was clear that, in addition to older Catholics from the pre-Vatican II era, young people are also being attracted by the older form of the liturgy.

Meanwhile, the Catholic anti-defamation league has petitioned in Italy for the removal of "Miss Kitty", a looming statue of the formidable German pope dressed in blonde wig and fishnet stockings, and another artwork which has the face of Jesus Christ pixilated onto the body of a transvestite.

An artists' group insisted that the statues were meant to provoke thought and to defy "dogmatic and ecclesiastic censors."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

ticket to ride: intuit how to do it

How to act when a police cruiser stops you on the highway depends where in the world you happen to be, Izzy Bee has learned at a price.
In Israel, the policeman is not likely to leave his vehicle, approach and politely ask to see your papers. That is the way it works in Hollywood, not here. Best not to toy with traffic cops, and just intuit how to do it their way.

Recently, while driving towards Eilat on a nearly empty road with the music blasting, blinking blue lights suddenly appeared in the rear view mirror. At first we dismissed it as a desert mirage, some weird result of extreme heat causing vapors to come off road, and ignored it. That effect seemed no more farfetched than all the scary caution signs warning of sinkholes as we had cruised along the shoreline of the Dead Sea. After we turned off onto the southernmost part of Highway 90, the road no longer was threatening to collapse beneath our wheels, so optimism about our little daytrip returned. We felt lighthearted. And heavy-footed, apparently. The policeman wanted to cite us for speeding.

It took awhile to figure this out. Inside Jerusalem, cop cars tend to keep their flashing lights on at all times, so we weren't overly concerned . But when we pulled onto the shoulder to let him pass, the officer's car swerved too and he gestured menacingly. Gulp.
We'd seen many big signs in Hebrew and Arabic with the numeral 90 on them, and assumed they were handy reminders of which Highway we were on.
Nope: it turns out that those were speed limit signs, and we'd been pushing 110 kph. Obviously, I ought to have paid more attention to my language lessons. The Yeshiva student hitchhikers we'd picked up were nodding off in the backseat, listening to religious tunes on their I-pods, and were no help at all.

Sighing, I rolled down the driver's window and waited for the policeman to stride over and demand to see my license and car papers. It just didn't happen. It was at least a hundred degrees outside and this cop was not about to leave the air-conditioned vehicle to talk to us traffic violators. The three hitch-hikers finally woke up and told us were meant to go to the lone policeman, as he had no partner inside his car, and we better not waste his time. We were meant to stand beside his window and risk becoming roadkill while he grilled us and wrote out the ticket. So that's what happened. The cop remained unconvinced that any driver could innocently confuse a road number and the speed limit. He'd heard that one before, he said sternly, the sun reflecting off his sunglasses and making me squint like a shifty liar. It seemed an eternity getting scolded under that hot sun, and I lost no time returning to our rental car and heading for the sea.
Later on, we spotted an Arab driver squatting almost in supplication beside a different squad car. They sure do things differently here. Israelity bites.

Hamas returns snatched lioness, now on mincemeat rations in Gaza

Hamas has liberated another kidnap victim - Sabrina, a lioness stolen at gunpoint from a private zoo in Gaza City, press reports say.

Hamas security forces came across this malnourished feline -- defanged, declawed and missing part of her tail-- during a raid on a local clan of criminals. After a shootout, the force commander, Abu Hamam al-Deeb, said they also seized illegal drugs and arms.

Sabrina, who ought to devour four kilos of meat per day, was returned to the zoo skinny and bedraggled.

She was reunited with her mate, Sakher. The two lions, brought to Gaza from Egypt as cubs two years ago, were soon sparring and chasing each other around their cage as if they had never been parted.

The zoo's owner, Saoud al-Shawwa, told reporters: "We will start a long, arduous treatment to ensure she can survive. She will only eat minced meat from now on, so we feel sorry for her. They should punish the criminals who did this."

Hamas acted after a local arts and cultural society named the thieves. It lodged a complaint after the lioness was spotted in a Gaza photography studio during a Muslim holiday. Her captors were said to be charging a dollar for people to have their picture taken with her.

A scenario not exactly foreseen by reggae star Bob Marley, whose son Ziggy is a frequent visitor to Israel:

"I have to run like a fugitive to save the life I live...I'm gonna be iron like a lion in zion. Iron. Lion. Zion."

Monday, July 09, 2007

VII Photographer Alex Boulat in Coma

The world-class conflict photographer Alexandra Boulat, shown above on assignment in Iraq, suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm on 21 June. She had been covering the situation in Gaza and the West Bank. The dynamic French woman, 45, co-founded the photo agency VII and has inspired a generation of photojournalists with her intimate portraits of war's impact on daily life. By lifting the veil on Islamic women under duress, Alex's work evokes extraordinary empathy and has won prizes around the globe.
An outpouring of support from hundreds of colleagues and fans has reached Alex, who remains comatose and on life support in Israel's Hadassah hospital, under the care of some of the world's most advanced neurosurgeons. Courage, Alex.

one of Alex's favorite images, a Pakistani shell collection. ©Alexandra Boulat/VII

cross-posted on Feral Beast

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Cyber-diaspora starts to click

Ladies and Gents, presenting JewTube! Irreverent videos styled for the Jewish sense of humor are being uploaded as we speak. Funnny new websites have been running for a week, and Californians Jeremy Kosen and Sarah Lefton of "Chosen Couture" have tapped a niche for innovative Jewish youth who seek a virtual community unencumbered by elders. (The rapping rabbi featured on pre-dates all this fuss.)
Some of the joke items are rather iffy: like the toilet seat cover with a matzah pattern and the slogan "let my people go." Or a custom-made yarmulke for your pet dog. If you find this more Yuck than Yuk, download the US-Israeli star Nathalie Portman rapping or spoofs of Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen).

JewTube has already attracted interest from Beth Hatefutsoth, the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora in Tel Aviv. The museum's director, Hasia Israeli, met with Kosen and asked permission to use his site to upload footage from the 1920s and 30s taken by Jewish amateur photographers in East Europe. "Such a site would allow me to set up a virtual museum, accessible to all Jews all over the world," she said.

The new website was promoted at the ROI Global Summit for Young Jewish Innovators, in Jerusalem last week. It's a keeper.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Love Thy Neighbor

Portraits of Jerusalem, an exceptional radio broadcast on the BBC 4, touches on some of the problems of a righteous city which is holy to a trinity of faiths: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Land is scarce and scrapping over it becomes fierce.
Some hardliners see redemption in ratcheting up a Jewish presence inside the Old city walls, and Star of David banners are aggressively displayed in some of the newly-purchased upper story properties in the Christian sections.
The quotes from Father Jerry (Jerome Murphy O'Connor, professor at the Ecole Biblique) are quite poignant, as he copes with the decline of the Christian minority that he has witnessed over the past four decades.
With such a long history of rancour, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the city fathers of Jerusalem have done a quiet U-turn and scrapped the controversial bridge they were constructing up to the Temple Mount, which caused tensions to mount. The previous access ramp was damaged by an earthquake and a fluke snowstorm,and deemed to be dangerous. It overlooks the Kotel or Wailing Wall; this is the only entrance for non-Muslims to access the Haram esh-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, the third holiest site in Islam. An archaeological dig beneath the pillars, to protect or salvage any artifacts from construction damage, is about to wind up, too.
Had Jerusalem officials announced this decision any sooner, it would have been seen as a giving into international Muslim pressure. (see Unruly Bridge & Tunnel Crowd.) Clashes between 3000 Israeli security forces and throngs of irate Muslims, who were convinced that the Israelis' digging was designed to undermine their al Aqsa mosque, put the sacred space on high security alert in March and touched off protests around the world.

As can be seen in this photo, there is little room to maneuver in this holiest of hotspots. Israeli intelligence trumpeted the arrest of 11 Hamas operatives who they said were intent on wresting control of the Temple Mount from Jordan's Waqf authority and determined to fire up passions on this incendiary pilgrimage spot.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Highly Offensive? the Sabra shaheed drug warning issued by the government

The anti-drug abuse lobby here has come up with a disturbing spot, a mock suicide bomber video in which a slack-eyed Israeli druggie about to get wasted tells his mother "Don't worry, Mom. I am going to heaven."
Most broadcasters are refusing to air it because they feel it is in such bad taste. The heavy-handed public service ad is shot with all the stylistic hallmarks of a Palestinian suicide bomber's martyr video, down to the angle of the bottle, gripped like a gun.

Such shaheedi tapes and posters, as seen here, get plastered all over Gaza and the West Bank.
For many, they are a visceral reminder of the second Al Aqsa intifada campaign, which targetted Israelis between 2000-2005. Around 430 Israeli civilians died in blasts on buses or in cafes, and 83 IDF troops died inside Israel. (Contrast this with the more than 3000 Palestinians killed by the IDF in Gaza or the West Bank during the same period, according to statistics from the Israeli NGO Bt'selem)

The anti-drug authority's advertisement ran in Maariv and Yedioth, big-circulation newspapers in Hebrew. It reads: "The hero Omer Kendel, 16 years old, mixed vodka and ecstasy and went to blow himself up at a party in Tel Aviv." Along the bottom, in a curly font that imitates Arab calligraphy, it says "Drugs and alcohol taken together is suicide," and lists a crisis phone number.
The video is even more tasteless. "My name is Omer Kendel, 16-year-old from Ra'anana," the boys says. "I bid goodbye to my parents Vered and Shmuel and my sister Karen and go to a party in Tel Aviv. There's only one way to be truly free: To get drunk, take drugs, get hammered. Don't cry, mother, I'm going to heaven."

At least seven young Israeli teenagers have died this year from a lethal hard liquor/soft drug combination and authorities want kids to heed the government warnings. Haim Messing, who directs Israel's anti-Drug Authority, said:

"None of the campaigns we've done in the past proved effective. We understand this is a difficult clip but if we save someone – we did our job. We were too subtle in the past, today's youth is not interested in stories and lectures. I don't care if they'll be angry at me."

The government's spoof campaign tries to ram home the point that combined with binge drinking, taking drugs is self-destructive. Duh. Critics say that these ads are a travesty and upset the general public, because they insult the surviving relatives of hundreds of terrorists' victims. Certainly, this is the polar opposite of the approach taken by the US Office of National Drug Control Policy, which is contemptuous of drug-takers (ie You disappoint me!)
Many Israelis are disappointed in this tacky campaign that is paid for by their tax shekels.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

BBC Man Freed in Gaza after 114 Days

Alan Johnston's ordeal ended in the early hours of this morning when he was released unconditionally.

He appeared pale but in reasonable health after 4 months of solitary confinement and was articulate even during a chaotic press conference held at the home of the sacked Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniya. Colleagues in Jerusalem praised Alan, a 45-year-old Scot, as "superman" for his professional calm. Since March, the BBC had urged Hamas not to resort to a military rescue, and the reporter's release followed Hamas's exchange of prisoners with the Army of Islam faction, Jihadists who dooperate with the criminal Dogmush clan. Late Tuesday, Hamas militia on rooftops surrounding the windowless room where Johnston was held engaged in a firefight which killed a civilian in crossfire. Johnston survived captivity unharmed and finally is headed home.

Israelis anxiously await the release of the other Gaza captive, Corporal Gilad Shalit, siezed by the same renegade Jihadist faction more than a year ago, when they tunneled under the border into Israel. Poignantly, today marks the 31st anniversary since the Entebbe raid, a secret mission when Israeli special forces freed hostages held at Entebbe Airport in Idi Amin's Uganda. One Israeli soldier, 45 Ugandan soldiers, six hijackers, and three hostages were ultimately slain during the rescue action; 100 hostages were let go. Haniya, chuffed from the release of Johnston, told the press that "the ball is in Israel's court" and wants to swap prisoners.

Iran's Mahmoud the Mouth rants

If the world hears what he actually says, Iranian President Ahmadinejad is his own worst enemy. The disturbing bluster just keeps spewing forth.
(Hat tip to Simon Barrett of Realite-EU for dozens of alarming quotes.)

In light of the conference on Iran now taking place in the European Parliament, these utterances by The Islamic Republic of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad demand interest. For further information about Iran’s well-documented human rights abuses, its role as a major state sponsor of terrorism and its defiant stance on the international community’s insistence that the nation suspends its uranium enrichment program click here, on

Religious extremism and martyrdom:

*"We don't shy away from declaring that Islam is ready to rule the world.“
*"The wave of the Islamist revolution will soon reach the entire world."
*"Our revolution's main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the Twelfth Imam, the Mahdi."
*“Soon Islam will become the dominating force in the world, occupying first place in the number of followers amongst all other religions.”
*“Is there a craft more beautiful, more sublime, more divine, than the craft of giving yourself to martyrdom and becoming holy? Do not doubt, Allah will prevail, and Islam will conquer mountain tops of the entire world.”
*"What is important is that they have shown the way to martyrdom which we must follow.'' [President Ahmadinejad’s comments on an aircraft crash in Tehran that killed 108 people in December 2005].
*Ahmadinejad praises Iran for being able to recruit thousands of suicide bombers a day. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad praised his country's ability to recruit "hundreds of suicide bombers a day," saying "suicide is an invincible weapon. Suicide bombers in this land showed us the way, and they enlighten our future.“ Amadinejad said the will to commit suicide was "one of the best ways of life."

Iran, its nuclear proliferation and sanctions:

*“By the grace of Allah, we (will be) a nuclear power.”
Ahmadinejad fired off a fresh barrage of warnings to the United Nations, saying Iran did "not give a damn" about demands to freeze sensitive nuclear work.
*"Iran does not give a damn about resolutions."
*"The Islamic republic of Iran has the capacity to quickly become a world superpower. *If we believe in ourselves... no other power can be compared to us.“
*"Iran's enemies know your courage, faith and commitment to Islam and the land of Iran has created a powerful army that can powerfully defend the political borders and the integrity of the Iranian nation and cut off the hand of any aggressor and place the sign of disgrace on their forehead."
*"Our enemies should know that they are unable to even slightly hurt our nation and they cannot create the tiniest obstacle on its glorious and progressive way."13
*“In parallel to the official political war there is a hidden war going on and the Islamic states should benefit from their economic potential to cut off the hands of the enemies.”

Israel and the Holocaust:

*“This regime (Israel) will one day disappear.”
*“The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm.”
*Israel is "a disgraceful stain on the Islamic world"
*Israel is doomed to be "wiped from the map" in "a war of destiny."
*Ahmadinejad said that "the countdown for the destruction of Israel" has begun.
Zionists are „the personification of Satan.“
*"In the case of any unwise move by the fake regime of Israel, Iran's response will be so destructive and quick that this regime will regret its move for ever."
*Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared that the Holocaust is a “myth.”
“Them (the West) invented the myth of the massacre of the Jews and placed it above Allah, religions and prophets.”

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

All Domestic Cats traced to Middle East

Felines in my Jerusalem neighborhood have chutzpah that I have not encountered elsewhere. Typically, they spurn the great outdoors and the entire Hinom Valley just to use my potted plants as a private catbox. Forget bamboo spikes, aversion spray, chile peppers, and a campaign of stalking them with power squirt guns and tossed flip flops expressly to make them feel unwelcome. Each cat inevitably comes back. Their caterwauling drowns out the peal of churchbells, calls to prayer, and even the blowing of shofars-- or ram's horns--which my Christian Zionists neighbors are so keen on, as are devout Jews. Litters of itty bitty kitties have been emerging from dumpsters everywhere. Now it transpires that these feral cats of Israel are the real deal, clinging to the branches of the original family tree of Felis sylvestris catus .

Scientists say the DNA of all domestic cats can be traced to the first furry Fertile Crescent creatures,the wild Near Eastern Felis sylvestris lybica, who curled up to be stroked by human beings in Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus, Iraq, and Syria. Long before those cat-worshipping Egyptians came on the scene, these felines chose to rub up against people who had the bright idea to raise grain instead of gathering it. This practice had attracted fat field rats, and the cats sought access to happy hunting grounds, so they apparently tamed themselves! Maybe this news should not be so startling. Alongside the word's oldest profession, a cat house would have been indispensable. With such a long pedigree, no wonder cats act so aloof. A BBC science report says:

Progenitors of today's cats split from their wild counterparts more than 100,000 years ago - much earlier than once thought.
At least five female ancestors from the region gave rise to all the domestic cats alive today, scientists believe.

An op-ed piece in the International Herald Tribune ponders how cats who came in from the wild eventually prospered, but any who spurned human contact eventually fell upon hard times. Without wildness, it muses, we have no way of knowing who we are.
Let us prey.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Hamas battles Fatah via the airwaves

Better a ratings war on television than firefights with live ammo out on Palestine's mean streets. But if the latest battle on the airwaves between Hamas and Fatah is to have any impact at all, reliable electrical power is crucial, and Israel can pull the plug whenever it chooses. For now, the rival factions are slugging it out on the air. (Meanwhile, the IDF conducts airstrikes against rocket positions and tanks rumble into Gaza.)
In last month's spasm of streetfighting inside the Strip, Hamas gunmen stormed the torture chambers of the Fatah-controlled Preventative Security Service and also claim they seized incriminating videos from the Palestinian Authority headquarters, which presumably were on file for use in extortion or blackmail.

Hamas sources gloat that it's proof of "corruption, collaboration with Israel and a total lack of morals, including homosexual relations between officials."

Video can be an effective and subversive enforcement tool: in Peru, the spymaster Vladimir Montesinos used to keep thousands of such grainy and incriminating tapes filed away in order to exert pressure on government officials to do his bidding. When Vlad the Impaler fled six years ago, his sleazy stash was found, and it provided hours of reality programming for national broadcasts, far more gripping than the usual telenovelas. The compromised officials were humiliated.
Now Fatah, from its West Bank stronghold, is desperately trying to counter similar "dark smears" from Islamist opponents.

One slight victory for Fatah is the sudden announcement that Farfour, the infamous Martyr Mouse, will get no sequel. They had officially condemned Hamas's educational programming for promoting hatred. Predictably, the blatant Al Aqsa kiddie propaganda show scripted the demise of their squeaky-voiced Mickey-clone so the children would hiss at an Israeli villain. No surprise there. The cuddly rodent was beaten to death in a skit by an actor playing a land-grabbing Israeli, a "killer of children", as the comely teenage compere put it. I wonder if the real reason that they killed poor Farfour off is that the omnipotent Disney Corp, no Mickey Mouse outfit, was about to sue them for breach of copyright.

Cold Comfort: necro-paternity for fallen IDF warriors

With no sign of peace in the Middle East, some 150 Israeli soldiers and reservists have petitioned to put their sperm on ice so that, should they be killed or gravely injured in battle, the family line won't die off. Most pledge the frozen samples to their wives or girlfriends, but single fighters can sign living wills, giving ownership of their bodily fluid samples to their own parents and instructing them to find a volunteer surrogate willing to breed a grandchild.

As a parting present for a soldiers's sweetheart, it's rather Brave New World: a gift that keeps on giving. Not a war bond, exactly, but a pre-war deposit frozen in a sperm bank to ensure future generations will come into being. A potent popsicle for mama.

One IDF soldier, determined that his wife should be able to give birth to their child even if he does not survive a war, inquired privately into proxy insemination. "It costs NIS 2,000 (about $470) for the initial procedure and another NIS 700 ($165) a year to preserve the sperm," he told the press. "We have no idea what's going to happen and I want to make sure I can have children." During last summer's Lebanon War, about 100 soldiers asked that their sperm be preserved before battle.

Attorney Irit Rosenblum now urges the creation of a special national sperm bank for IDF soldiers:

Every man joining the IDF would be able to donate sperm, which would be kept until the donor is 45.

Because radical Islamists have vowed to annhilate the Jewish people in Israel, the idea of manipulating life after death seems comparatively less ghoulish here. Under these dire circumstances, a nuclear-proof bunker would be advisable for the army's genetic freezer.
Meanwhile, researchers at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem have developed the technology to extract and freeze the eggs of girls as young as five. They successfully produced the changes of puberty in the lab. Frozen ovum can be matured in the lab and defrosted years later and grow successfully into a so-called "test tube baby"; more than 100 people have been born from defrosted eggs since the mid-1980s. Presumably, IDF servicwomen would eventually be offered the same opportunities to put their future on ice as male soldiers, since they all face fatal risks on duty.

In January, a judge ruled for Ms Rosenblum's client, Rachel Cohen, and allowed her to be Israel's first test tube granny. See Seminal Decision on Israelity Bites
Even without the express permission of her dead son, Keivin, the grief stricken middleaged mother insisted after a vivid dream that doctors carry out a post-mortem extraction of his sperm. After her scheme to become a grandmother gained nationwide publicity, 50 patriotic women clamoured to be the one to carry this child.

It's a chilling trend, indeed. Izzy Bee is old fashioned enough to recall when we made love instead of war.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

'Israelity Bites' Back on JBlog

Buzz off?? Yo? No, SeƱor
Dialogue can work wonders. After the sudden and pre-emptive disappearance of blog postings, a webmaster at the Israel Forum replied and then reinstated Israelity Bites on JBlog Central, the mosaic of 400+ Jewish and Israeli blogs in English. Note that most are decidedly conservative.

His message?

"it's a little difficult to distinguish between certain far-Left views and plain old anti-Israeli, anti-American, and possibly anti-Semitic views. Put simply, I don't mind giving a platform to Leftist blogs/bloggers with whom I disagree vehemently on the issues, but I do mind giving a platform to anti-Israel, anti-American, or anti-Semitic blogs."

Ouch. My sometimes biting commentary was misunderstood, obviously. Izzy Bee is not anti-anything here in the Land of Milk and Honey except hypocrisy, despicable suicide bombers, and the hideous separation fence that instills hatred and hardship on the have-nots. Israelis live in a first world country built smack dab in the Middle East, one of the world's hottest and holiest places. We must come to grips with the myriad contradictions of life in a young Jewish state which mingles outlandish customs from all over the diaspora. Many residents seem to exist inside a bubble that distorts their view of all outsiders.

What I value is peaceful coexistence, and I find humor a way to deal with the fear and fatigue in working towards this. I cannot ignore the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs in our midst, either. Frequently, I am called a naive peacenik, but this is the first time someone questioned my patriotism or hinted that I am an anti-Semite.

Why not join the fray and JBlog Me?