Saturday, March 28, 2009

Doh! Leave it to Homer to forge peace between Israelis and Palestinians

Homer Simpson, the yellow skinned cartoon buffoon who sired Bart and married Marge with the blue beehive, has been on many animated trips over the years: on a peyote binge in Mexico, to see a guru on an Indian mountaintop, to England, to Brazil...and now word is out that the Simpsons are long overdue in the Holy Land. Here, Homer will achieve something Condi and Hillary and Tony have not been able to do. He gets Muslims, Jews, and Christians all to agree. (In this case, on not being able to stand Homer.)
It's is not clear yet whether the Simpson's evangelical neighbour Ned Flanders comes along, too, for added Christian Zionist flavour, or if Krusty the Clown, son of an orthodox rabbi, does aliyah. Plenty of celebs come through Jerusalem-- last week stars included actress Helen Mirren and Freida Pinto of Slumdog Millionaire fame, both for movies set here. But will Homer go to Yad Vashem? There's nothing comic about that placxe.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Burning Issue - Weapon or flare?

Or perhaps white phosphorus can be called a weapon with flare, if you are referring to the smokescreen artillery shells that the Israeli army deployed in Gaza. Since January, the use of "Willy Pete" in a densely packed battlefield surrounded by a fence has been contentious. Human Rights Watch and some UN members are calling for a war crimes trial. Israel calls for an internal (eternal?) inquiry.

White phosphorus, known as Willy Pete, ignites when exposed to the air. It is not banned by international law so long as it is used to create a smoke screen to protect advancing troops or to illuminate targets. However, the 1980 Geneva treaty stipulates it must not be used as an offensive weapon in densely-populated areas, where civilians can sustain severe burns.

Ugly outcomes result when this so-called precision munition is misused.

Meanwhile, three months after Operation Cast Lead dropped its first bombs, the Israel Defence Forces issued a body count of its own for Palestinian casualties during its latest Gaza offensive. Israeli tallies say that among 1,166 Palestinians killed, 709 had been identified as "Hamas terror operatives, among them several from various other terror organisations". Another 162 men have not been yet attributed to any organisation, while 295 "uninvolved Palestinians" had died, including 89 minors and 49 women.

These numbers are at marked variance with those collected by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. It says 1,417 Palestinians died, including 926 civilians – 313 of whom were minors.

Local press reports showed outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert absolutely gloating with pride about his air force taking out a smuggling convoy in the Sudanese desert, which was reportedly on its way to supply Hamas with long range missiles capable of striking Tel Aviv, via the tunnels.

Monday, March 23, 2009

How much land was promised? Come again?

The Christian Zionist map of Israel - it all belongs to them!

The map above comes from the blog, "Challenging Christian Zionism" and displays the Christian Zionists' Biblical concept of Eretz Israel. To quote the American secretary of state, this seems "unhelpful" in the extreme.

Alan Epp Weaver, a Mennonite writer, sounds a warning about the enraptured Christians who aim to hasten the apocalypse. (Last weekend Izzy noticed that there now is a drive-through McDonalds on the road to Armageddon. I'm lovin' it!!):

Christian Zionism of the premillennial dispensationalist variety tells a dramatic tale: the rapture of believers, the rise of the Antichrist, and Jesus’ violent, triumphant Second Coming. Within this dramatic narrative the return of the Jews to the Holy Land plays a pivotal role, and the modern State of Israel thus becomes a fact of great theological significance to Christian Zionists.

While Christian Zionism has become a global phenomenon, thanks to the influence of fundamentalist missions, it is in the United States that the political impact of Christian Zionism is felt most acutely. Congregations “adopt” illegal Israeli settlements, sending funds to bolster the defense of these armed colonies. Christian Zionists organize prayer vigils and letter writing campaigns in support of Israeli military offensives (such as the so-called Operation Cast Lead in January) and against any Israeli territorial concessions... Benny Elon, an out-spoken Israeli proponent of “transfer” (a euphemism for the expulsion of Palestinians) is a popular speaker at Christian Zionist gatherings.

[No flawless red heifer has been born inside Israel since 70AD, authorities say, but that does not preclude one who does Aliya from, say, Jerusalem Texas in Brazoria County...or the cloning of such a calf. Yee-ha.]

A rancher in Texas keeps trying to produce the red heifer whose ashes would be required for the purification rituals necessary for the Third Temple that both Jewish and Christian extremists hope to have re-established in place of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Without these ashes, it cannot become functional.

As the government of Israeli solidifies its occupation over Jerusalem and the West Bank, with the blessing of the United States, Christian Zionists actively support even more extreme positions on the Israeli political spectrum.

Israel violated medical ethics in Gaza: report

A respected group of senior Israeli activists, called Physicians for Human Rights Israel, called a blistering press conference today in order to spotlight the medical ethics violations of the IDF , who they say fired on ambulances and paramedics during the Gaza invasion. Wire services, like AFP quoted below, are carrying full damning details. The United Nations' Richard Falk is calling into question the legality of Operation Cast Lead.

Israel's army violated codes of ethics and international law during the war in Gaza by attacking medics and refusing to allow the treatment of wounded, a human rights group charged on Monday.

The actions reflect a "demonization of Palestinians (which) bears a heavy price for Israeli society," warned a report by Physicians for Human Rights that called for an independent body to investigate the military's conduct during its 22-day Operation Cast Lead in Gaza that ended on January 18.

Among the offences listed by the Israeli non-governmental organisation are "attacks on medical personnel; damage to medical facilities and indiscriminate attacks on civilians not involved in the fighting."

"Israel placed numerous obstacles in the course of the operation that impeded emergency medical evacuation of the sick and wounded and also caused families to be trapped for days without food, water and medications," the report said.

"The actions ... violate directives of international law which forbid attacks on medical centres and medical teams during fighting" and "blatantly violated codes of ethics."

During the offensive, Israeli fire killed 16 Palestinian medical personnel and wounded 25 others while eight hospitals and 26 primary care clinics were attacked, according to figures from the United Nations and the group.

Among the specific incidents cited is that of a Mr. Shurrab whose two sons were shot by Israeli forces while the trio drove toward the southern city of Khan Yunis on January 16.

"One of the sons died immediately, the other bled to death for 12 hours," it said. "All that time the Israeli soldiers were within a short distance from the Shurrabs but did not provide any assistance despite the father's repeated requests."

Such incidents reflect a general demonization of Palestinians, a process that "reached its nadir when soldiers in an army that flaunts its morality declined to help evacuate injured civilians and trapped families, when soldiers acted in a trigger-happy manner as they opened fire on ambulances, medical installations and medical personnel."

"We have noticed a stark decline in IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) morals concerning the Palestinian population of Gaza, which in reality amounts to a contempt for Palestinian lives," said Dani Filc, the chairman of the group.

"It is critical that the investigation of Operation Cast Lead is completed by a neutral, external investigator without ties to the IDF."

No comment on the report was immediately available from the Israeli military.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Soldiers blame callous conduct on loose rules and rabbis' calls for Jewish jihad

The conduct of gung-ho Israeli combat soldiers during the invasion of Gaza is being disclosed, candidly, and some testimony raise concerns over the indiscriminate shooting of Palestinian civilians. Complaints that Rabbis distributed pamphlets to young soldiers about to go into battle which urged them to win a religious war against the gentiles have caused an outcry. Misogynistic and racist t-shirts commissioned by some troops to wear on their days off are rather worrying. Tasteless cartoons of dead babies, mothers weeping on their children's graves, a gun aimed at a kid and blown-up mosque minaretss are typical.
Click here to read more of the "shoot and cry" testimonies from veterans of Operation Cast Lead, which so devastated Gaza. The Israeli military now are investigating the allegations, published in a military academy journal last month, and leaked to local newspapers after the top brass paid little attention to the matter.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

IDF Troops say lax rules of engagement in Gaza allowed lapsed ethics and brutality

How the Israeli army carried out its latest war against Hamas rocketeers, with a civilian population of a million and a half people corralled in the midst of hostilities, came to light at a prep school less than a month after the opposing sides called unilateral ceasefires. The newspaper Haaretz is disclosing eye-witness testimonies from soldiers who took part in Operation Cast Lead, and who claim they saw lead shot indiscriminately at Gazans and their private property wrecked on purpose. It makes grim reading indeed for a nation which supported a "defensive action" by the "world's most moral army," and the leftist paper is bound to get flak for its efforts. Fuller details will be published in tomorrow's newspaper, but it's chilling to read the initial scoop by Amos Harel, headlined:"IDF in Gaza: Killing civilians, vandalism, and lax rules of engagement."

The testimonies include a description by an infantry squad leader of an incident where an IDF sharpshooter mistakenly shot a Palestinian mother and her two children. "There was a house with a family inside .... We put them in a room. Later we left the house and another platoon entered it, and a few days after that there was an order to release the family. They had set up positions upstairs. There was a sniper position on the roof," the soldier said.

"The platoon commander let the family go and told them to go to the right. One mother and her two children didn't understand and went to the left, but they forgot to tell the sharpshooter on the roof they had let them go and it was okay, and he should hold his fire and he ... he did what he was supposed to, like he was following his orders."

According to the squad leader: "The sharpshooter saw a woman and children approaching him, closer than the lines he was told no one should pass. He shot them straight away. In any case, what happened is that in the end he killed them.

"I don't think he felt too bad about it, because after all, as far as he was concerned, he did his job according to the orders he was given. And the atmosphere in general, from what I understood from most of my men who I talked to ... I don't know how to describe it .... The lives of Palestinians, let's say, is something very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers. So as far as they are concerned they can justify it that way," he said.
Another squad leader from the same brigade told of an incident where the company commander ordered that an elderly Palestinian woman be shot and killed; she was walking on a road about 100 meters from a house the company had commandeered.

The squad leader said he argued with his commander over the permissive rules of engagement that allowed the clearing out of houses by shooting without warning the residents beforehand. After the orders were changed, the squad leader's soldiers complained that "we should kill everyone there [in the center of Gaza]. Everyone there is a terrorist."

The squad leader said: "You do not get the impression from the officers that there is any logic to it, but they won't say anything. To write 'death to the Arabs' on the walls, to take family pictures and spit on them, just because you can. I think this is the main thing: To understand how much the IDF has fallen in the realm of ethics, really. It's what I'll remember the most."

And to learn that during Operation Cast Lead, many women soldiers finally broke through the "mud ceiling" and took part in full combat is not a reason to rejoice, given the circumstances of this lopsided war. Israelity Bites.

This photo drew criticism for being a "glib image". On reflection, Izzy Bee has placed a more gung-ho photo at the start of the blog. Anyone else feel this photo is objectionable? To me, it shows the louche highjinx of an IDF unit and feels real.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Tough tasks for Post War Spin-doctors and Rabbinic court judges who rule on splits

Israel's Foreign Ministry has requested 8 million shekels --nearly $2m-- from the Finance Ministry for a Public Relations campaign to improve Israel’s international image after Operation Cast Lead sank the reputation of the Jewish State and the 'most moral army in the world'. The report, published in the Hebrew paper Yediot Aharonot, failed to mention how much money the Foreign Ministry would request for improving Israel’s image after Avigdor Lieberman, arch-right emigre, is formally appointed foreign minister.

In his recent news round-up, blogger Gershom Gorenberg marvels at the intricacies of law: A Jerusalem rabbinic court has ruled that the adopted son of the late, famed Canadian Jewish philosopher, Emil Fackenheim,(pictured left), was not Jewish, and had never been Jewish, even though he had undergone an ultra-Orthodox conversion at age 2 and was married under the auspices of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate in 2001. Ha’aretz reports that the court made the decision when Yossi Fackenheim and his wife went to the court for a religious divorce. You don’t need a divorce, the court told him, because you were never really married under Jewish law, because you are not a Jew, because you do not observe halakhah.

Under halakhah, however, someone who has converted remains Jewish even if he or she ceases to observe halakhah. Therefore, the court was not observing halakhah. Therefore, if one of the judges was actually a convert, he should by his own logic declare himself not Jewish, thereby negating the court’s decision and reinstating Fackenheim! Not exactly crystal clear, for the son of a survivot of Kristalnacht

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cat 'dozers, the IDF, and the Indo-Israeli Bollywood clip on strong partners

This is not the kind of clip Israeli weaponry usually produces! It should be a hidden weapon. The video has been the subject of much ridicule...and curiosity about why it's broadcast in English rather than Hebrew or Hindi. It was unveiled at an international arms fair in Bangalore. Let's ask the senior American sleuth Charles Freeman about this mystery, since he's just prematurely stepped down from other pressing concerns in Washington's National Intelligence Council and can get cracking. (Aipac of insinuations and leaked emails was his undoing, insiders say.)
Meanwhile, news that the Israeli army will draft civilian employees of Caterpillar for maintenance of their controversial armored bulldozer demolition squad has set up squawks of protest round the world, too. It's not clear whether the recent trio of bulldozer aggression by Palestinian drivers is inspired by the weaponization of these construction caterpillars into destruction equipment. The sequel to KillDozer looks set to return, folks.

Happy Purim

Boisterous celebrations and odder costumes than usual are spotted around Israel during the festival of Purim. This view is from the BBC's website. Viva Purim! From what I can see, it's the most fun of all the Jewish holidays celebrated in Jerusalem.
Izzy Bee was gobsmacked yesterday when an orthodox fellow, drunk out of his skull, cut her off at the crosswalk and headed downhill on a segway (segue?) through Abu Tor towards the 'City of David' and Silwan. He was going at quite a clip, side curls flapping and with no helmet to obscure his vision.

Wish I'd had a camera on me at the time! But this diagram of a nerd mounted on an upright segway (right) gives you some idea. Frankly, it looks so much more sinister when it's a slanted guy in black, which highlights the contrast of 21st century vehicle, 19th century garb, and ancient wisdom (?).
Happy Purim, folks.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Code Pink meets the Color Purple as western women activists get blue and tour Gaza Strip

Celebrity author Alice Walker, who won a Pulitzer for The Color Purple, is determined not to feel blue due to so many Code Red alerts in the Negev this week. The American writer, pictured left, naturally, has been delayed, waiting at Rafah, for a chance to enter Gaza with 60 other leftist activists from the "Code Pink" brand of femme-radicalism, to mark International Women's Day today.
The Code Pink intends to stay three days in the enclave and they have brought along some goodie baskets of hygiene care items for families affected by the 20 month trade blockade, the bombing of smugglers' tunnels, and the "wanton" destruction during Operation Cast Lead.
Militant rocket fire continues, still provoking airstrikes by the IAF, but these women are calm and determined to get inside to witness their US tax dollars at work.

How will Hamas celebrate Women's Day, I wonder...will they take advice from a kooky rad granny like this one?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Israel Spies on its Louche Youths in the Indian subcontinent

More than 40,000 Israeli tourists flock to India annually and, while fun in small numbers, they can often get aggressive in groups and intimidate the locals. The reputation is of macho Israeli boors letting out their post-Army aggro and bargaining relentlessly with very little humour or dignity. This is not the best diplomacy for Israel, officials have concluded, apparently.
Izzy Bee has learned about an Israeli spy stationed in the Indian highlands (Manali, Rishikesh, Parvati Valley and thereabouts). He spent a couple of years keeping Israeli backpackers under surveillance and reporting their doings to the government in Tel Aviv. He apparently tracked rave parties, hashish and ecstasy dealing, motorbikers stealing gasoline from village pumps and other petty crimes and nuisances. I imagine that others spies are posted in hotspots like Goa and Kashmir, too. Certainly, rabbis have been dispatched to Chabad centres in these hashish haunts in order to help curb the excesses. The upshot is that now, Israeli tourists will only be allowed to visit India for a three months in a period of three years. This is to discourage longer term stays that lead to disappearances, dropping out, or rehab

Rumours abound. Some say that a six month visa will be issued for first-time tourists, whose passports will be stamped "not to exceed 180 days", followed by a 3 year no visa period to be enforced, based on in-country behaviour. The policy also is contingent on the Israeli government's visa policies for Indians. The consequences of bad behaviour will be time out or stay out. Drug offenders will be prosecuted. Business visa-holders will be the one exception.

An Israeli government safe-haven programme which repatriates travellers in trouble recently was suspended inside India, due to abuse.

In some places inside India, according to a recent study,

"you can find Israeli enclaves where only Hebrew is spoken and Israeli music played, and restaurants with Hebrew signs serving only Israeli food.

"The Israelis are scornful of the locals, and, interestingly, in one of my studies, I found that Israelis in India compare the Indians to Arabs, using the same oriental stereotypes: both the negative ones - of dirt, primitivism and stench; and the positive ones - warmth and hospitality."

The comparison does not end there. Academics found that the backpackers tended to use military speech even in their most private diaries. Travellers write of "conquering another city and another site". Even romantic relationships had a whiff of khaki about them: one female traveller described how a male backpacker had carried her as if evacuating an injured soldier from the battlefield."

Closed Zone

Yoni Goodman, one of the creators of “Waltz with Bashir”, which won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award, today launched a new animated short film entitled “Closed Zone”. He created the short for “Gisha - Legal Center for Freedom of Movement”.

The 90-second film mixes animation with realistic shots to depict the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip by Israel since June 2007. Through a single character chasing a bird, Goodman seeks to evoke the empathy of viewers and get them to see the residents of Gaza for who they really are – a million and a half human beings who are being prevented from pursuing their aspirations because of restrictions on their movement.

According to Yoni Goodman: “It was important to me to create a human figure to whom everyone can relate. I hope that when people watch the short, they will be able to detach themselves from their automatic associations of good and evil.”

He began working on the short before the start of the military operation in Gaza, but the conflict eventually had a major impact on the film. Yoni needed to emphasize in the screenplay, as well as in the artistic design, the fact that Gaza residents literally have nowhere to run – even when their lives are at stake.

According to Sari Bashi, Gisha Director: “The unusual choice of animation as a medium is intended to help viewers understand who the real victims of the closure policy are – 1.5 million people who just want to live their lives".