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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Freeman versus "hardline Jews"

The nomination of Charles Freeman as head of the United States National Intelligence Council and the issues surrounding it clearly go beyond the statements or opinions of one man.

There is no doubt that Charles Freeman is a capable man with a great deal of experience and many contacts, who could be valuable in government service. After all, the King of Saudi Arabia is not a fool, and he would not have given a million dollars to someone who was an incapable nonentity. Rich and powerful people get rich and powerful and stay that way by knowing where to put their money.


Freeman versus "hardline Jews"

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Obama: Silly Season continues

Optimist that I am, I thought that with the end of the USA election campaign, the flood of silly season emails would dry up. (See Get with it: Obama hopes and fears. It has not dried up. It has in fact, gotten sillier if anything.

Mr. Obama is not yet president. He has done nothing at all about the Middle East. There is no real evidence on which to base any opinion of his Middle East policies, and yet these "Zionists" are going full speed ahead, pillorying Obama and his administration as allies of the Hamas.

Over the past few days I am sorry to say that the level of accusations made against Barack Obama has deteriorated. I have gotten mail claiming that Obama uses hypnosis to convince people, and there is a "story" out there in "Zionist" publications claiming that Obama is the son of Malcolm X.

Barack Obama has announced one appointment. It was not Louis Farakhan or Robert Malley or Rashid Khalidi or Jesse Jackson. It was a Palestinian though, just as the doomsayers have been predicting. A Jewish Palestinian, though. He appointed Rahm Emanuel to be the White House Chief of Staff. This is not a policy position, but as the presidential gatekeeper Emanuel will have a certain amount of power. In some administrations, this post is more important than others. Emanuel's family has an interesting history. Their uncle, Emanuel Auerbach, was killed by Arabs in Jerusalem in 1933, and the family took the name "Emanuel" in his honor. Emanuel's father was a messenger for the Irgun. As can be expected, this was not pleasing to Electronic Intifada editor and supposed Obama friend Ali Abunimah.
Continued here:

Obama and Israel - first signs

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Livni: I oppose Olmert's peace plan

Livni says what everyone knows: Neither Israel nor the Palestinians are ready to make a deal.
Last update - 01:50 06/10/2008
Livni tells France's Kouchner: I oppose Olmert's peace plan
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent and News Agencies
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told her French counterpart Bernard Kouchner that she opposes the agreement in principle that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has offered Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
"I do not believe in far-reaching proposals and an attempt to expedite matters, especially in light of the political situation," Livni, the prime minister-designate, told Kouchner on Sunday.
In the morning, Kouchner met with Olmert, who said he was frustrated that Abbas had not accepted his proposal. "You've read what I said in the interview," Olmert told Kouchner, referring to his statements in Yedioth Ahronoth favoring concessions. "Still, the Palestinians do not want to sign."

Kouchner raised the matter later when he met with Livni and asked why she objects to Olmert's proposal. Olmert's plan proposes a comprehensive solution on borders and refugees and postpones a decision on Jerusalem.
Livni's explanation was a criticism of Olmert. "Abu Mazen [Abbas] in his present political situation cannot accept such an agreement," she said. "The political situation in Israel also does not allow it to be signed."
Livni also argued that blaming the Palestinians for refusing to accept Olmert's offer does no good. "We can say this is their fault - but what will that do?" she said. "We had the same thing after Camp David in 2000 and look where that got us."
Livni: Annapolis will continue, regardless of political upheaval
Earlier Sunday, in her first foreign policy address since winning the Kadima party primary, Livni voiced her commitment to continue peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
"Annapolis will continue," Livni said, referring to a U.S.-sponsored peace conference last November that restarted negotiations on a Palestinian state.
"Let us not allow dates or political changes to stand in our way," she said, in her address to Foreign Ministry conference on policy and strategy in Jerusalem.
"The point is to understand the required concessions in order to conduct a correct process," Livni said.
Sunday's conference marked the first of what is to be annual assessments of Israel's foreign policy, and was also attended by Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Israelis support "calm" but think it won't last.

The latest poll shows that a plurality of Israelis support the "calm" with Hamas but think it won't last. Interestingly, Kadima voters support the "calm", but are pretty certain it won't last. Knesset polls show a significant relative advantage for the Kadima party if Tzippi Livni is its candidate for Prime Minister, and a drop in the popularity of Labor and the Likud relative to other scenarios and previous polls. Still, the Likud is the party that gets the largest number of mandates in all scenarios.

Polls: 40.6%:32.9% support calm agreement with Hamas, 74.8% expect to last
Dr. Aaron Lerner Date: 19 June 2008

Telephone poll of a representative sample of 497 adult Israelis (including Arab Israelis) carried out by Shvakim Panorama for Israel Radio's Hakol Diburim (It's All Talk) the afternoon and evening of 18 June 2008 after the announcement of the "calm" in the Gaza Strip.

If elections were held today how would you vote (expressed in mandates - based on the 81.2% who indicated what party they would vote for)

Four scenarios:
[A] Kadima headed by Livni
[B] Kadima headed by Mofaz
[C] Kadima headed by Dichter
[D] Kadima headed by Shetreet

Actual Knesset today in [brackets]
22 18 09 08 [29] Kadima
14 17 19 19 [19] Labor
25 22 29 30 [12] Likud
11 11 11 11 [12] Shas
11 12 11 12 [11] Yisrael Beteinu
07 08 08 07 [09] Nat'l Union/NRP
06 06 06 06 [06] Yahadut Hatorah
06 07 07 07 [05] Meretz
04 05 06 06 [00] Green Party
03 03 03 03 [00] Social Justice (Gaydamak Party)
** ** ** ** [07] Retirees Party
11 11 11 11 [10] Arab parties
** does not get minimum votes for Knesset representation

Do you support or oppose the calm agreement with Hamas?
Total: Support 40.6% Oppose 32.9% No position 26.5%
Kadima voters: Support 38.1% Oppose 31.8% No position 30.1%
Likud voters: Support 22.3% Oppose 60.4% No position 17.3%
Labor voters: Support 69.2% Oppose 10.1% No position 20.7%

You think that the calm will continue for a short time (days) or a long time (months)?
Total: Short 74.8% Long 17.1% Don't know 8.1%
Kadima voters: Short 81.5% Long 5.3% DK 13.2%
Likud voters:: Short 91.4% Long 2.2% DK 6.4%
Labor voters: Short 59.6% Long 12.8% DK 27.6%

Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
(mail POB 982 Kfar Sava)
Tel 972-9-7604719/Fax 972-3-7255730

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Everyone should be a political party, right?

Under the Israeli system, everyone can be a political party. Didn't like the job you got? Start a party. Didn't get a seat in the cabinet? Start a party. Sneh, by the way means Bush. Sneh should remember that a Bush in the Knesset is worth two in the bush. So now we will have the Sneh party, perhaps with a fancy name like "Party of progress and renewal of the pioneering spirit and Zionist ideals of the workers of Israel" or just "Tafnit" ("turning point") or "From the foundations." Behind the fancy name, the content will be, "Party of Sneh and his cronies."  Ben Gurion initiated showed the way when he quit Labor and formed "Min Hayesod," which was really "Party of Ben Gurion and his cronies."
If Kadima had any future, no doubt Sneh would have joined Kadima, along with other discards and renegades from Likud and Labor. Someone should explain to Sneh that he is not Ben Gurion.
Ami Isseroff  
Labor MK Ephraim Sneh is to announce Sunday his intent to break from the Labor party and set up a new political party, Israel Radio reported on Saturday.

Labor sources said that Sneh's decision was made after party chairman Ehud Barak dismissed him from the position of deputy defense minister when he was appointed minister, and failed to assign him to a new function in cabinet.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Israel's 12 tribes, per Bradley Burston

Bradley Burston, the Haaretz columnist, sums up Israel as 12 latter-day tribes comprising "the magnificent muck-up that's now about to hit 60." His piece presupposes some familiarity with Israeli politics. Like much of his work, it is amusing and insightful.

Haaretz / Last update - 09:20 25/04/2008
The new tribes of Israel
By Bradley Burston

My life partner and I once found ourselves on a remote part of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. We got to talking with a calm, perceptive and unusually grounded woman who told us she lived there. When she then asked us where we called home, and we told her Israel, she responded with what seemed to her to be the logical, natural, next question: "Oh ... what tribe are you?"

While we, taken aback, groped for an answer, she told us in a manner as matter-of-fact as an observation about the weather, that she was of the Tribe of Ephraim. Everyone at her church, she continued, knew which tribe they belonged to.

Perhaps the question is harder for us to answer because we no longer see ourselves, as the first 12 Tribes did, as the children of the children of Jacob. The tribes that make up the latter-day State of Israel are, in fact, the remnants of revolution, of a surfeit of concurrent revolutions, in fact. Together those revolutions have built and battered Israel into the magnificent muck-up that's now about to hit 60.

A field guide:

The Tribe of Beitar
Tribal lore blends Polish-Jewish culture of nursing grievances as a way of life, with multigenerational Mizrahi rage at the ghost of Mapai (see below).

Political orientation: Raucously hawkish, but once in power, tends to give away occupied land (for example, Sinai, Gaza, most of Hebron).

Religious orientation: Beitar-odox, a fundamentalist belief in Beitar Jerusalem and the redemptive power of soccer. Sabbath observance may include participation in Orthodox minyan, followed by a chain-smoking convoy drive - yellow-and-black Beitar scarf flying from car windows - to the match of the week.

The Tribe of Mapai
Once the proudly dominant clan, running everything from the Israel Defense Forces to health care to steel production. Now splintered, anemic, rudderless, vestigial, yuppified - barely an extended dysfunctional family.

Political orientation: Once strongly social-democratic. Once strongly dovish.

Identifying characteristics: Equivocation. Nostalgia.

The Tribe of Maran
Named for tribal elder Maran (Revered Rabbi) Ovadia Yosef.

Aim: To restore pride to Jews of Mediterranean and Mideast origin, who often faced discrimination and humiliation at the hands of Mapai.

Political orientation: Tough on religious issues, hard-line though occasionally flexible on matters of defense and diplomacy.

Identifying characteristics: By far the best dressed (and groomed) among the ultra-Orthodox. Not to be confused with the Ashkenazi Tribe of Mamaloshen, too varied (think pro-Gush Emunim to pro-Ahmadinejad) to be detailed here.

The Tribe of Tech
One of the newer clans. Believes in the redemptive power of long hours, innovative ideas, Nasdaq and eventual sale of the company to a global corporation for mega-millions.

Political orientation: Vaguely centrist. Believes in stability and furtherance of peace talks as good for investment and the economy.

Identifying characteristics: Bluetooth implant, polo shirt, car with company logo on back fender and bumper sticker reading "How's my driving?" - but with phone number too small to read when vehicle is traveling at warp speed.

The Tribe of Yesha
Includes many of the some quarter-million Jewish residents of the West Bank, plus a huge number of settler would-have-beens in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Modi'in, Brooklyn and elsewhere.

Political orientation: Vanguard of the religious right, but drifting. Youth are having second thoughts. The disengagement from Gaza shattered faith in the government, the state, the Yesha Council and national Orthodoxy, giving rise to the hardal - the Haredi Leumi amalgam.

The Tribe of Bil'in
A small, poorly organized but vocal clan, with offshoots in South Tel Aviv lofts and elsewhere. Signature ritual is protest against West Bank fence near village of Bi'lin.

Religious orientation: Personal anarchism. Antipathy to Israeli governmental institutions and policies. Antipathy may extend to Zionism as a philosophy, and/or to bourgeois parents.

The Tribe of Kach
The rightist version of the Bil'inist. Feels compulsion to spend all Jewish holidays in Hebron. Feels compulsion to spray-paint "Kahane was right" on all available bus stops.

Political orientation: Far right. Fervent belief in expelling Arabs from Greater Israel. Often characterized by excessive interest in and carrying of large handguns. Tribe has many fellow travelers, notably Women in Green.

Identifying characteristics: Oversized kippot. Oversized earlocks. Oversized sidearms.

The Tribe of Tibi
Israel's Arab minority, perhaps the most difficult grouping to typify, as it is made up of numerous minorities and clans of diverse religions, cultures, and political and social attitudes.

These include Christians, Muslims and Druze, Negev and Galilee Bedouin, IDF officers and firebrand Islamists. Their position also makes them vulnerable to the simultaneous suspicions of fellow Israelis and neighboring Palestinians.

The Tribes of Sheinkin and Bombamela

Two sides of a similar coin, this group - largely native-born Ashkenazi in origin - may tend toward artistic/New Age/yuppie commercial ventures on the one hand, and patchouli-flavored hippie dropout status on the other.

The Tribe of Vesty
More than a million strong, "the Russians," as immigrants from ex-Soviet lands are collectively known, have created a subculture of their own. In some disciplines, notably music, they have brought a level of formality and seriousness, which may put them at odds with the more offhand approach of the native-born.

P.S. After almost two decades here, I still have little idea which tribe is truly mine. Perhaps a little perspective is in order. Perhaps another visit to Kauai.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Obama against meeting Hamas; criticizes Carter

 Last update - 23:38 16/04/2008       
Obama slams Carter for meeting Hamas, tries to reassure Jewish voters
By The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA - U.S. Senator Barack Obama on Wednesday criticized former U.S. President Jimmy Carter for meeting with leaders of the Islamic terrorist group Hamas as he tried to reassure Jewish voters that his presidential candidacy is not a threat to them or U.S. support for Israel.
The Democratic presidential candidate's comments, made to a group of Jewish leaders in Philadelphia, were his first on Carter's controversial meeting scheduled this week in Egypt.
Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting John McCain called on Obama to repudiate Carter in a speech Monday.
Obama told the Jewish group he had a fundamental disagreement with Carter, who was rebuffed by Israeli leaders during a peace mission to the Middle East this week.
"We must not negotiate with a terrorist group intent on Israel's destruction," Obama said.
"We should only sit down with Hamas if they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel's right to exist, and abide by past agreements," he added.
Obama has been working to reassure Jewish voters nervous about his candidacy in the wake of publicity about anti-Israel sentiments expressed by his pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
Obama's rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, also criticized him during a February debate, saying he did not immediately rejected an endorsement from black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan. Obama responded that he already denounced Farrakhan, but would reject his support as well.
Obama told the group that he had not been aware of Wright's more incendiary speeches before launching his presidential campaign last year, even though he had been a member of Wright's congregation for nearly 20 years. Obama said he had spoken to Wright and privately conveyed his concerns about some of his sermons once he learned of their content. But he acknowledged that he had declined to be more public in his criticism until recently, since Wright was preparing to retire from ministry at Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ.
"You make a decision about how are you going to handle it," Obama said. "Do you publicly denounce his comments? Do you privately express concern but recognize you are still part of a broader church community that is going to be transitioning? I chose the latter."
Obama has stepped up his outreach to the Jewish community in recent weeks after videos of Wright's speeches surfaced where he criticized Israel and expressed sympathy for the Palestinian cause.
Among other things, Wright has denounced Israel as racist and suggested tension between Israel and the Palestinians had contributed to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Obama also met privately with about 100 Jewish leaders in Ohio before that state's primary March 4.
Obama has been the subject of persistent Internet rumors suggesting he is a Muslim who was educated at a Madrassah in Indonesia and took the oath of office with his hand on a Koran. Obama did spend part of his childhood in Indonesia but attended Catholic and public schools there. He took the oath of office on a Bible.
Obama delivered a well-received speech last month addressing the Wright controversy, in which he criticized many of his former pastor's views. But the issue has continued to dog him.
Obama told Jewish leader he would work as president to diminish tensions between the black and Jewish communities, noting that both groups shared the experience of suffering discrimination.
Obama also said at the meeting that he is willing to make diplomatic overtures to Iran even though it has funded Hamas and other militant groups.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Anti-Semitic Event - Did it Happen??

Here's an account of an alleged anti-Semitic event and some rebuttals and denials. There must've been witnesses. What really happened? Before everyone gets excited about this, perhaps someone should establish what precisely was said, and what the link might be between the alleged anti-Semitic remarks and Barack Obama. If a white person makes anti-Semitic remarks, it is not automatically blamed on Hillary Clinton or John McCain, is it?

Text of Ziman's email

I have to tell you of an experience I had last night that was so anti semitic and frightening:

Last night I was honored by Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, for my work with Children Uniting nations with African American children who are living out of home care.

I have dedicated my life to saving these children from abuse, neglect and a life of crime. We created 'adoption day' and "Day of the child" determined to recruit caring adults to be mentors and life savers for our at risk children in the inner cities. The mayor was present and City council member Bernard Parks, assemblyman Mike Davis Senator Mark Ridely Thomas etc.

I was introduced as a children advocate and a leader in the Jewish community. I began my speech by talking about how I woke up in the morning and listened to Hillary Clinton's speech, in the spirit of Dr. King from Memphis, that moved me so deeply. I expressed to the crowd how grateful I was to listen to Sen. McCain apologize to the community for mistakes he has made in the past. I acknowledged Sen. Obama's speech from the campaign trail about Dr. King's mentorship.

After I spoke and thanked the fraternity and their members, Rev. Eric Lee, pres. and CEO of Southern Christian Leadership Conference of greater Los Angeles, was introduced as the key note speaker.

He began his speech by thanking Jesus for Obama, who is going to be the leader of the world. He continued by referring to other leaders Like Dr. King,being that this was the moment of celebrating Dr. King's spirit on the anniversary of his assasination, and Malcolm X.

It was right after the mention of Malcolm X that he looked right at me and started talking about the African American children who are suffering because of the JEWS that have featured them as rapists and murderers.

He spoke of a Jewish Rabbi, and then corrected himself to say "What other kind of Rabbis are there, but JEWS". He told how this Rabbi came to him to say that he would like to bring the AA community and the Jewish community together. " NO, NO, NO,!!!!" he shouted into the crowd, we are not going to come together. "The Jews have made money on us in the music business and we are the entertainers, and they are economically enslaving us"

He continued as to how now the salvation has come and the gates have open for African Americans to come together behind Barack Obama, because now is the time to show them.(meaning thejews). He continued to speak about ' White supremecy' vs the talents and visionaries in the core of African Americans. He demeaned being given freedom, by saying "To what?" to a country that kills women and children.

I could no longer be polite and sit in front of the crowd, so I walked out.

Members of the fraternity ran after me as did my staff, I was not able to contain my tears and I cried.

I cried for me and my family, who have tried so hard to help the African American community, because we adopted children from the same realities and wanted to give back to other children and people. We have been completely color blind, for us it was only helping those children in need.

I cried for our beloved country and the division that Barack Obama has caused with his Rev. Wright opening the gates to 'hate' against the Jews and whites. I grew up so looking at America as the land of Freedom.

I was honored to receive my citizenship accompanied by members of the Kennedy family. Now, I'm afraid for Israel because Barack sat there for 20 years listening and not standing up for what's right, why would he standup for Israel?

I cried for the Jewish community who are so blind that they can't see that there's a movement here that will destroy us.I cried because for the first time in my life I was afraid of the future.

I cried for our world that is moving backwards and not forward. Everyday, I see children so lost, and so deserving of hope and love. I look into their eyes, knowing that it is their lives that are in our hands. I'm crying now, so I'm going to stop writing because it is so painful.

I just had to share this experience with you,

thank you, Daphna

2. Denial (same source):
" In an interview, Lee emphatically denied Ziman's account.

"None of those words are what I said. Not a single word. My goodness," Lee said. "I look at the Jewish community as allies in our quest for advancement. For me, it doesn't do any good to indict anybody. I just need help in changing the characterization of African Americans through the entertainment industry, and whoever can help me is fine. And without question there are a lot of influential members of the Jewish community that may be able to help us with that.""

3. Second try at denial, published here
SCLC of Greater Los Angeles Statement

April 9, 2008

On the 40th Anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I gave a speech at a public meeting of a predominately African American fraternity on the theme of "Leaving an Inheritance to Our Kids and Our Communities".

Let me first state that at no time did I intend to offend, insult, indict or condemn any person or group of persons during any portion of my presentation. Furthermore, I did not make any statement that was offensive regarding the Jewish community and I completely deny and refute any accusation that I have done so. The accusations do not truly characterize the statements made during the presentation, nor do they accurately characterize my life or my position as President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles.

Additionally, I have an existing and ongoing collaborative relationships with the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Anti Defamation League (ADL) in which we are committed to the cause of justice for our respective communities.

In a very small part of my presentation, I referenced a meeting I had with Rabbi's [SIC] and other community leaders. A Rabbi stated in that meeting that the close relationship between the African American and Jewish communities had been disconnected after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. I further referenced in my speech that my response to the Rabbi was that the Black Power Movement emerged after the assassination of Dr. King and it was a direct response to the negative characterizations of African Americans through the silver screen, TV and the music industry, industries that are perceived to be influenced by many in the Jewish community. I then stated to the Rabbis that the Black Power Movement was our effort to define for ourselves our own identity rather than be defined by anyone else. I then indicated in my presentation that I told the Rabbis' [SIC] that before a genuine coalition could be rebuilt between our communities, there would have to be dialogue and efforts made to deal with the negative characterizations of African Americans.

The focus of my presentation was that African Americans should embrace our historical legacy as an "Inheritance of Measurable Value", and that we use our legacy to define ourselves. This message is no different than what Daphne Ziman wrote in the March issue of the Jewish Journal when she stated, "Please tell us who you are, Sen. Obama; don't let your enemies, or your friends, define you."

The Mission of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an organization founded by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is to redeem the soul of America. SCLC of Greater Los Angeles continues the legacy of our founder, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, by promoting the philosophy of non-violent progressive social change. Our roots extend deeply into the African American religious experience with its biblical vision of liberation of all humankind. Our goal is to realize the dream of freedom, justice, peace and equality for all by recognizing the inalienable dignity and worth of every human being.

The SCLC of Greater Los Angeles has as its mandate to organize and mobilize the strength of America's moral consciousness against the weakness of its social order. We accomplish this through the continued advocacy of justice for all people, regardless of social status, religious belief, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. We affirm nonviolence as the only reasonable basis for social change and interpersonal living. These two principles are reflected in our work.

Was it one "Rabbi" or many "Rabbi's"?? The above stilted and semi-literate masterpiece sounds like a parody from an old non-PC joke about African Americans pretending to be lawyers, but apparently it is genuine. The circumlocutions used in the SCLC denial are not very satisfying:
I further referenced in my speech that my response to the Rabbi was that the Black Power Movement emerged after the assassination of Dr. King and it was a direct response to the negative characterizations of African Americans through the silver screen, TV and the music industry, industries that are perceived to be influenced by many in the Jewish community. I then stated to the Rabbis that the Black Power Movement was our effort to define for ourselves our own identity rather than be defined by anyone else.
Tell us what what you said. not what you referenced in your speech. This sounds like a man saying, "I further referenced the divine attitude to the canine ancestors of the complainant and the legitimacy of his Hebraic ancestry," when what he really said was "You're a god damned son of a bitch Jew Bastard."
In a very small part of my presentation, I referenced a meeting...
"I only made reference to his canine ancestry one time. In the rest of our communication I was very friendly."
Still, there is no point starting a crusade about this issue unless the facts can be proven, and it doesn't seem to have much to do with Barack Obama.
Ami Isseroff

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Israel should prepare for change in US Relations

This observation is undoubtedly astute and valid:
The preference for a prolonged strategic relationship with the U.S. should not extend to an exclusive reliance on that relationship or preclude placing some eggs in other baskets - in Europe, in Asia, and yes, also in the Arab and Muslim worlds.
The problem neglected by Daniel Levy, is that it is not easy for Israel to develop a strategic defensive alliance with say, Libya or Saudi Arabia, and therefore Israel is not likely to develop deep ties with those countries. Likewise, Libya and Saudi Arabia, or even China, do not manufacture anything equivalent to the F-16. These are minor problems that do not interest great minds, I suppose.
However, India is a promissing partner for business and security ties, but even there, there is domestic opposition. There is also a good opportunity to pursue deeper ties with Russia. Playing hard to get never hurt. A really novel idea is independence, which has not really been tried in a while.
Ami Isseroff
 Hope for the best, prepare for the worst
By Daniel Levy

Here's something else to add to an Israeli's menu of worries: The United States presidential elections may produce change in 2009. Or so fear people like Malcolm Hoenlein, the professional head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who said on a recent visit to Israel that all the talk of "change" is an "opening for mischief," and not good for Israel.

Apparently the status quo is so idyllic for Israel that one should wish for nothing more than that it be perpetuated eternally.

Of course not all change is good, but the Israeli-American relationship could benefit greatly from a dose of new thinking - in terms of both the nature and the exclusivity of that alliance.

There are already two storm clouds looming over the blissful American-Israeli landscape, but they are the product of current, not possible future, policies. The first is that reality is forcing more Americans to take a closer look at the Middle East. They see the scorched earth left behind by their government's recent policies, and the investment of U.S. lives and lucre. As they begin to ask questions, the role of the bilateral partnership is inevitably placed under increasing scrutiny. Sometimes the scrutiny is unfair: Israel, for example, did not get the U.S. into Iraq. And sometimes it's more justified: Complicity in Israeli settlements and occupation carry a heavy toll for America's standing in the region and beyond.

The candidacy of Ron Paul, on the Republican side, has been a lightning rod for that sentiment. His campaign broke party records, raising $4.2 million in contributions in one day, mainly in online donations. Paul will not be the Republican candidate for president, but the tendency for people to ask, "What is going on with the U.S. in the Middle East, and why does our ally Israel make things more difficult?" should give cause to reflect. The business-as-usual approach of many of Israel's supporters is not sustainable over time.

Four or eight more years of aggressive, divisive, costly and failed American policies in the region - especially if supported by the so-called pro-Israel camp - will exacerbate this tension, perhaps exponentially.

The second cloud is that Israel is today hitched to an America that is weakened economically, stretched militarily, deeply divided at home and decidedly unpopular abroad. To the extent that the next president continues the policies that have contributed to those trends, Israel too will pay a price. When Israel is so dependent on the U.S., and the U.S. is wounded, we feel it.

The warm rhetoric continues to emanate from Washington, and that feels comforting. The problem is that its utility is diminished, and nice words are no substitute for the smart plans that would actually make the U.S. and Israel more, not less, secure. Israel should hope for and encourage a change that lifts America out of its current morass, while at the same time diversifying its ally portfolio.

Haaretz's "Israel Factor" notwithstanding (and most members of that panel look like the Israeli equivalent of the aging WASPs one tends to find on a platform alongside John McCain), it is Barack Obama who has best positioned himself to reverse these trends and thereby guarantee the U.S.-Israel relationship. An Obama presidency is more likely to be the antidote to further tensions than their source.

The response so far in Israel to the Obama candidacy has split between gevald and hatikva. The former has more to do with email slur campaigns and our own prejudices than with hard policy positions espoused by the Illinois senator. The latter is easily understood when set against the prospect in 2009 of a 1999 election redux, of Bibi (Netanyahu) vs. Barak (Ehud), yawn. Perhaps Obama's ability to mobilize young people and to transcend political indifference, and his audacity to hope, will be infectious here in the 51st state of the U.S.A.

But Israel should be looking beyond the election. Yes, an Obama presidency is more likely to reverse America's decline - internally and externally - and to correct the hubris, incompetence and adventurism of the Bush years. The same might also be true of Clinton and McCain, though it seems less likely. It is what Obama could do to reenergize America that is first and foremost the good news for Israel. And when he talks of "changing the mindset" that got America into the Iraq war, Obama implies a policy of realism and engagement that stands to stabilize the region and even advance genuine peace. Israel could well be a main beneficiary of such a change.

But what if the next president is all about more of the same or something very similar? Israel must plan for the possibility of an America that continues in its decline, that can deliver less, and remains militarily bogged down in Iraq and perhaps elsewhere in the region. Under this scenario, the special relationship with Israel will become an ever-more contentious issue. America itself might increasingly turn its gaze toward Asia.

So while following American developments closely, and hoping for change, Israel should also be more active out there on the dating circuit. Though efforts have been made to strengthen other alliances, results have been mixed so far, and our options will remain limited so long as the Palestinian issue remains unresolved.

The preference for a prolonged strategic relationship with the U.S. should not extend to an exclusive reliance on that relationship or preclude placing some eggs in other baskets - in Europe, in Asia, and yes, also in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Daniel Levy, a senior fellow at the New America and Century Foundations, is a former adviser in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office and was lead Israeli drafter of the Geneva Initiative

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Winograd report: a bigger failure than the Second Lebanon War

This is my take on the Winograd report at ZioNation Web log.
Ami Isseroff

The long awaited Winograd report on the Second Lebanon War (see text of press conference on Winograd findings) has finally arrived. The suspense, if there was any, has ended, not with a bang, but a whimper. The public part of the report noted strategic failures at the military and political levels, but the report is so vaguely worded that everyone can make any claim they wish.

We should put the failure of the
Second Lebanon war in context and understand its significance. Failures of individual operations are nothing new and plague every army. IDF has never been immune from such failures, from the Israel War of Independence and throughout each campaign, successful or otherwise.The political decisions made after every war have always likewise not been uniformly optimal, and the decision to go to war has sometimes been questionable. However, never before has Israel seen such a combination of failures at every level, inflated expectations, incompetent military strategy, failure to protect civilians, low morale, failure of national purpose, decisions that disregarded the value of the lives of soldiers and diplomatic and public relations bungling. The Israel government tried to match the most powerful army in the Middle East against an enemy whose main weapon is his mouth, and the mouth won.

The report itself is a continuation of the failures of the Lebanon war and the political reaction to the report is a further continuation of those failures. The report was obviously tailored to serve political interests and protect those in power, at least in the public version. The politicians are each interpreting the report in terms of their own interests. Hassan Nasrallah of the Hezbollah joined forces with Likud and other Israeli opposition leaders in claiming that the report indicates Olmert is a failure and has lost all credibility. Kadima party members insist that the report exonerates Ehud Olmert.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Why we hate Olmert

Ehud Asheri (see Olmert Hate) writes:
Anyone who has ever tried to put in a good word for Ehud Olmert knows the drill. In the best case, he receives questioning glances, as if his mind had slipped a gear. In the less-best case, he is considered an incorrigible coddler protecting a deceitful prime minister for political reasons. In the worst case he is branded a garden-variety sycophant, bought by the regime for some unknown favor. In all these cases one gets the sense that to support the prime minister, however insubstantially, is to commit an act of moral turpitude.
The polls confirm this perception. Even after the operation in Syria (which was supposed to rehabilitate his military image) and the disclosure of his cancer (which was supposed to provoke empathy), more than 75 percent of Israelis are dissatisfied with Olmert and think he is unfit to be prime minister. Israel has never had a prime minister who is less well-liked and whose rivals march well ahead of him in the popularity parade.
To find the deepest reason for the Olmert hatred, one must search the depths of mass psychology, in the general sense of the crumbling of the state's authority, the lack of vision - all the factors that make up a leadership crisis. Israelis may be content on the personal level, but they are depressed on the national one. They have no direction. Author David Grossman put it well: "The people leading Israel today are unable to connect Israelis to their identity .... [to] give some meaning to the exhausting and despairing struggle for existence."
Olmert is a victim of this dynamic, but he also contributes to it through his personal and political behavior. As a leader, he personifies the Israeli identity crisis - he lacks a clear vision, he is not built for greatness, he conducts small, shady business deals and is beholden to the techniques of survival. It isn't as if there are other great lights at hand, but when we look at him we see ourselves instead of who we could be. That's why we don't like him.
I confess that I believe it too. I don't hate Olmert. I despise him because he is a shopkeeper - a beancounter. He would not call up the reserves in the Lebanon war because he wanted to save money. He is the Jew who, when confronted by a bandit who says "Your money or your life," says "Take my life, I need my money for my old age."
But I know that a lot of people hate Olmert because he threatens their precious settlements. If they had a beancounter and a crook in charge who liked settlements, they would love him. They had no problem with Sharon's "moral turpitude" as long as he was for Greater Israel. They only discovered that it is not nice to take bribes when Sharon announced the disengagement plan.
And I also remember the other Prime Ministers who were hated. Remember when Rabin had an approval rating of about 25%? And there was one other guy who was a shopkeeper, a coward, hesitant and so on. He had no charisma. He stuttered. He made deals.  Remember him? He was Levy Eshkol, whose quiet leadership made possible a military victory that changed the history of the Middle East.
Olmert unfortunately doesn't seem to be a Levy Eshkol, does he? But having a beancounter PM is not the worst possible thing. The worst case scenario is that we will have a beancounter as PM and LIKE him.
Ami Isseroff  

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hagee at AIPAC: Is AIPAC veering to the right??

John Hagee will apear at AIPAC. Well OK, he is entitled to his opinion. Perhaps George Soros should be there too. What is more worrying than the appearance of Hagee, who is just one speaker, is the general background given here:
Pro-peace groups say they will not press AIPAC to soften its language about the Palestinians, as they have done in the past. Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), will come to the executive committee meeting loaded with amendments aimed at toughening them....

Kahn said AIPAC has also strengthened itself by aggressively "pushing the Orthodox community to engage. You have more and more Orthodox rabbis who are touting AIPAC and touting joining AIPAC. AIPAC understands that if you get the rabbis on board, they in turn will press the community to get involved."

That "dramatic shift," he said, may make AIPAC "less representative, but it also strengthens the group as voices on Mideast policy become more diverse.

I can't see how the group becomes "more diverse" if it is going to be run by orthodox Jews and John Hagee.

Hardline Pastor Gets Prime AIPAC Spot
Rev. John Hagee's appearance drawing criticism on eve of policy conference.
James D. Besser - Washington Correspondent

Growing ties between pro-Israel forces and a controversial, hardline "Christian Zionist" movement will move into the national spotlight at next week's policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel lobby.

One keynoter at the event, which annually draws hundreds of lawmakers, administration officials, diplomats and political hopefuls, will be Pastor John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), author of several books about biblical prophecy and an opponent of new territorial concessions to the Palestinians on biblical grounds.

Rev. Hagee, who will speak at a Sunday plenary, was also a leading backer of a controversial Christian broadcast venture in Israel that critics charge sought to convert Jews.

And a time when pro-Israel forces are being accused of beating the drums for war with Iran, Rev. Hagee seems to believe such a conflict is both inevitable and necessary. In his apocalypse-oriented book "Jerusalem Countdown," he predicted a nuclear showdown with Iran and said, "The end of the world as we know it is rapidly approaching ... rejoice and be exceedingly glad, the best is yet to be," according to a Wall Street Journal report posted on the CUFI Web site.

Last year, Rev. Hagee told the Jerusalem Post that "I would hope the United States would join Israel in a military pre-emptive strike to take out the nuclear capability of Iran for the salvation of Western civilization."

Israeli historian Michael Oren will also speak at Sunday's plenary.

Giving Rev. Hagee such prominence at the premier pro-Israel gathering of the year — he attended last year's conference — troubles some AIPAC supporters.

Rabbi Barry Block of Temple Beth El in San Antonio—the home of the John Hagee Ministries and to his 18,000-member Cornerstone Church—said he hopes the minister's presence will be balanced by "Christians who support Israel but who do not share the 'end of days' theology and extremist anti-Palestinian positions and anti-Muslim prejudice so often spewed by Pastor Hagee."

Rabbi Block, who said he is an "AIPAC supporter" and participates in local activities of the lobby, added that "there are those I love and respect in my community who believe we should work with Pastor Hagee on the important concern we share—the welfare of the state of Israel. However, despite what may be good intentions, I don't think Pastor Hagee's activism is good for Israel."

Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak, cofounder of a We site that opposes Christian right church-state policies, said that Hagee's AIPAC appearance will mark a "decisive point when the costs of a relationship with Hagee couldn't be clearer. AIPAC has to know that Hagee's push for an attack on Iran is not based on a logically constructed policy but on cherry-picked biblical verses. And it is only the first step to the end-times scenario that Hagee enthusiastically predicts will engulf Israel in a devastating war."

A former AIPAC official said giving Rev. Hagee a key speaking slot represents one more step toward an AIPAC embrace of the Evangelicals that began more than two decades ago, and warned that it has political risks.

"This sends out a message of an endorsement by AIPAC at a time when these Christian groups seem to be losing power in Congress—and when the Democrats, who have long opposed this cozying up to the religious right, are now in power," this activist said.

But many pro-Israel leaders believe Rev. Hagee and other Christian Zionists, representing a growing political force, are a critical addition to the pro-Israel coalition — especially as "mainline" Protestant churches continue to castigate Israel for its West Bank policies.

But Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a strong critic of many Christian right groups, said he is not alarmed about Hagee's role in the policy conference.

"I think there is a role for him," Foxman aid. "He has earned a certain recognition with the community because of his support for Israel."

Foxman said he expects Hagee will get a good reception. "It's a friendly platform," he said. "I'm sure an overwhelming majority may be pleased with what he says."

That reflects an annual conference expected to strike a hawkish note on a number of issues, starting with the threat of a nuclear Iran.

Other keynote speakers will include Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and—health permitting—Vice President Dick Cheney. The current Israeli government will be represented by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Ambassador Sallai Meridor.

Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, several sources said, will tell delegates that increased aid to Palestinian moderates is in Israel's interests—a call that may conflict with a major AIPAC theme.

In a show of both political clout and bipartisanship that has become routine for AIPAC, the conference will feature speeches by all four top congressional leaders.

AIPAC says "more than 6,000 pro-Israel activists, including 1,200 students representing over 390 campuses" will attend. "Lead by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and both House and Senate Republican leaders all speaking under the same tent, this year's AIPAC Policy Conference underscores the bipartisan nature of American support for Israel," according to AIPAC spokesman Josh Block. "The conference schedule also underscores the long history, breadth and diversity of America's centuries of support for the Jewish homeland in Israel."

Anxiety about Iran will dominate the conference, and it is a major element in the "action agenda" that, at least in theory, sets the group's goals for next year. Members of the executive committee will debate and vote on the statement on Sunday.

Proposed new language in the policy statement supports using "all means necessary for the United States, Israel and their allies to prevent Iran and other nations from developing nuclear, biological or chemical weapons and the vehicles for their delivery."

Lobbying for tougher sanctions legislation will also be a top priority for AIPAC delegates when they blanket Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

Protecting Israel's big chunk of foreign aid has traditionally been a top AIPAC priority, but this year the group will also emphasize "closely monitoring assistance to countries that are not supporting American objectives in the region."

At the top of that list: the Palestinian Authority. Congress has frozen an administration request for $86 million in emergency aid to boost Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' forces.

Pro-peace groups say they will not press AIPAC to soften its language about the Palestinians, as they have done in the past. Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), will come to the executive committee meeting loaded with amendments aimed at toughening them.

The AIPAC conference will be the usual display of political clout, but the group also faces some new challenges, including a new Democratic leadership that remains strongly pro-Israel but less in lockstep with AIPAC than their Republican predecessors.

Congressional observers say AIPAC remains a legislative powerhouse, "but more lawmakers will now feel free to ask questions, especially about routine and nonbinding resolutions praising Israel and criticizing the Palestinians," said a longtime pro-Israel lobbyist.

But AIPAC's influence on signature issues like Iran and foreign aid to Israel remains intact despite the partisan shift, said Kean University political scientist Gilbert Kahn.

"AIPAC has successfully maneuvered itself through Democratic and Republican administrations, Democratic and Republican Congresses, and there's no reason to think they won't do it again," he said.

Kahn said AIPAC has also strengthened itself by aggressively "pushing the Orthodox community to engage. You have more and more Orthodox rabbis who are touting AIPAC and touting joining AIPAC. AIPAC understands that if you get the rabbis on board, they in turn will press the community to get involved."

That "dramatic shift," he said, may make AIPAC "less representative, but it also strengthens the group as voices on Mideast policy become more diverse.

"It's a source of strength because this is a community that is comfortable with the direction AIPAC has taken in recent years," he said.

AIPAC also faces a rising challenge from Jewish groups on both the right and the left that take a different tack on Mideast policy, and that are increasingly active on Capitol Hill.

The Zionist Organization of America on the right and both Americans for Peace Now and the Israel Policy Forum on the left are expanding their lobbying, targeting areas where they feel AIPAC does not represent them.

None can come close to eclipsing AIPAC, although IPF, Washington sources say, is starting to build a network of campaign contributors who also support the group's perspective on Mideast affairs—a key element in AIPAC's strength.

Still, on the verge of the 2007 policy conference, they point to a changed lobbying environment for what remains the pre-eminent group on the pro-Israel scene.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Report: Olmert was not crooked enough to advance in the Likud

Ehud Olmert did personal favors to 115 of the Likud party faithful when he was Labor, Trade and Industy minister. This was not enough to advance his position in the Likud part, since others were crookeder:
The statement also maintains that Olmert was unsuccessful in advancing his placement on the Likud party list because he refused many requests from party members, and that the conduct of the Likud party is "contaminating Israeli politics."

Report: Olmert granted personal benefits to Likud activists in 115 cases

By Mazal Mualem, Haaretz Correspondent

An internal document written by an aide of the prime minister in 2005 and revealed Wednesday night by Channel 10 states that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his associates advanced the interests of Likud Central Committee activists in 115 separate incidents.

The document details various incidents in which Olmert's office was involved while he served as Labor, Trade and Industry Minister. The incidents included blocking the dismissal of employees in the Postal Authority, granting permission to employ foreign workers and promoting employees in public positions.

Other incidents detailed in the document include assisting in the advancement of land compromises within the Israel Lands Authority as well as other activities which advanced the interest of Likud members employed by Bezeq; the Employment Service; the Trade Ministry; investment centers, the Israel Small and Medium Enterprises Authority, and others.

The Prime Minister's Office confirmed Wednesday that at least some of the details in the document are accurate, but claims that any treatment given to Likud activists was proper and legitimate.

Some excerpts from the document read as follows: "Pini Sabah - a central committee member from Ashkelon - we arranged for his associates 21 foreign workers [for construction]" and "Freddy Mellick - a central committee member and chairman of the Nesher branch - a nurse to aid his mother."

In an interview with Channel 10, both Sabah and Mellick confirmed they had received these benefits, but denied the involvement of Olmert and his office in the matter.

Raviv Drucker, the Channel 10 journalist who revealed the report, said the document was intended to strengthen Olmert's ranking on the Likud list (No. 33) during his support for the 2005 disengagement from Gaza.

"The prime minister was introduced to the wording of the document for the first time [Wednesday] on Channel 10," the PMO said in response to the allegations. "The document was apparently written by a former political adviser, out of intent to elevate the minister and show his political achievements on behalf of the [Likud] Central Committee. There are clauses that appear to be correct; the righteous and fair handling of requests - mostly from party members - including appointments which were done legally and with proper disclosure, alongside clauses that are incorrect."

The statement also maintains that Olmert was unsuccessful in advancing his placement on the Likud party list because he refused many requests from party members, and that the conduct of the Likud party is "contaminating Israeli politics."

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Esterina Tartman withdraws candidacy

Following here racist remarks about Arabs, Estherina Tartman had become a national liability. That didn't deter the Olmert government from considering her for a postion in the cabinet. One wonders about the dialog in cabinet meetings featuring Tartman and Arab MK Ghaleb Majadleh, but Olmert and his crew were not dismayed.

However, after it was discovered that she had lied about her university education and collected disability payments, alleging that she can only work four hours a day, a mounting wave of public disgust and ridicule (she was dubbed "Tartarina") brought about the decline of tarty Tartarina Tartman.

Unfortunately, it is not a crime to lie about your education apparently or to make racist remarks about Arabs, so she will keep her Knesset seat.

Last update - 22:05 28/02/2007

Tartman withdraws candidacy for Tourism Ministry amid scandal

By Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondent

MK Esterina Tartman (Yisrael Beiteinu) on Wednesday withdrew her candidacy for the post of tourism minister, following recent revelations of her disabled status and false claims about degree qualifications.

MK Yitzhak Aharonovich, and not Esterina Tartman, would run as Yisrael Beiteinu's candidate for the post, party chairman Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday.

"I tried pleading with Esterina, from my point of view she is a candidate," said Lieberman, after announcing Tartman's decision in a press conference. "She decided to take a break in order to calm her family, her home, and her children. We have respected her will. I see no fault or problem in her decision to continue in her position. We accepted Attorney Dudu Rotem's proposal to presentAharonovich's candidacy."

Tartman blamed the media for bringing her down and adding her to the growing list of Israeli politicians mired in scandal. Party leader Avigdor Lieberman said he stood by her but respected her decision to withdraw. "I will not be broken by the media," she told a news conference, with Lieberman at her side.

Tartman told a press conference Wednesday night, "In the past few days, I have found myself in the center of a journey of incitement, ugly slander, half-truths and distortion of facts, and all in order to harm me and my good name. However, I did not break, even though m yspirit was within touch of death."

"Not once and not twice was I there," she said, referring to the unraveling of allegations against her over the last few days.

Only hours earlier, Lieberman had said that Tartman was Yisrael Beiteinu's sole candidate for the post of tourism minister.

The Yisrael Beiteinu leader slammed the media for "inflating" the issue of Tartman's false claims, saying that the media has become a "dictatorship." As far as he is concerned, the minister and party chairman said, the matter is "behind us."

The comments come after revelations that Tartman, the Tourism-Minister designate, does not hold a bachelor's degree from Bar-Ilan University or a master's degree from a Jerusalem institute, despite claims on her curriculum vitae.

"Nobody can cast doubt on our credibility," Lieberman said. "Yisrael Beiteinu is not the Shin Bet or the Civil Service Commission. I don't subject candidates to polygraph or security test."

"Sometimes mistakes happen, [but] there is loss of proportion here and intoxication on the part of the media," he said.

Tartman told the News First Class website earlier Wednesday that she didnot intend to relinquish the position of tourism minister. She also said she holds a bachelor's degree from Touro College and that she is studying for a master's degree.

Tartman told the website that she can understand what led former minister Avraham Ofer to commit suicide in 1977 amid suspicions of corruption.

"A person says unnecessary things sometimes in the heat of things," Lieberman said. "We are not rushing her anywhere. I didn't hasten my return from Russia and we aren't hiding."

Meanwhile, Tartman made preparations Tuesday for assuming the position of tourism minister, meeting with outgoing Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog. An assistant was scheduled to meet with the deputy director general of the Tourism Ministry, but the meeting was canceled.

Lieberman said he spoke with Tartman on Tuesday and Wednesday, and that "I have seen things that are completely unreasonable from the journalists' side. Keep things in proportion, guys, the soldiers are still in the field, and the Iranian nuclear bomb is still our foremost problem."

Members of the Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset faction on Tuesday expressed their "surprise and concern" at the revelations, but have refrained from issuing an official statement.

Tartman did not appear in the Knesset on Wednesday, and she was unavailable for comment throughout most of the day.

The Prime Minister's Office called the appointment "problematic" but said it would not intervene in the faction's internal matters.

"There is no known precedent in which the prime minister told another party who will be its minister," a statement from the office said.

Nonetheless, officials close to Olmert say they expected Lieberman to forestall further embarrassment and to ask Tartman to pass on the position.

In response to a request for a comment from Haaretz, a spokeswoman for Tartman said that the MK has decided not to respond to any questions on the matter at this time.

A probe by Yedioth Aharonoth into university records dating back to 1977 showed that Tartman was never a registered student nor has she ever completed studies there that would have awarded her a B.A.

It appears that Tartman had taken courses at the Center for In-Service Training, a private firm specializing in such programs. The courses are not academic and are not part of a B.A. program.

Yisrael Beitenu's Web site stated that Tartman holds "a graduate degree in economics and marketing from Hebrew University."

The Knesset Web site stated that Tartman holds an MBA with a specialization in management and marketing from the university in Jerusalem. An inquiry at the university showed that Tartman has never studied at that institution.

Once Yedioth Aharonoth reporters began their probe, however, the statement on the party's Web site was altered to say that Tartman had undertaken "graduate studies in business administration in Jerusalem." By Tuesday night, the mention of "Jerusalem" had also been removed.

Party officials said that one of the activists had made an honest mistake and wrote that Tartman is a graduate of Hebrew University, even though she had never made such claims.

But it is not only the Yisrael Beitenu activists who erred about Tartman's academic credentials. In an interview on the Knesset channel, after she was designated tourism minister, Tartman explained the reasons for which she was qualified for the job.

"Every minister needs to be knowledgeable in budgetary issues. I come with a management background... and a clear background in economics: I have a B.A. in accounting and finance, and an MBA."

Her academic credentials were also mentioned in the trial in which she sued for compensation for damages she suffered during a traffic accident a decade ago. The ruling, which appears to be based on her deposition, states that Tartman studied at Touro College in Jerusalem and received an academic degree with distinction, but does not specify whether this was a bachelor's or graduate degree.

Until recently Touro College was an extension of the New York-based institution and trained students mostly in Judaic studies.

Now the institution is a registered college in Jerusalem under the name of Lander Institute. However it is not authorized to confer MBAs.

An inquiry with the Council for Higher Learning showed that even when it was operating as Touro College the institution did not offer graduate degrees in business administration.

The Lander Institute refused to respond to Haaretz inquiries into the matter.

In an interview with Haaretz journalist Ari Shavit, aired on the Knesset channel, Tartman claimed that her ability to concentrate and her memory were harmed by the injuries suffered in the accident.

On Tuesday, the Knesset Ethics Committee decided not to take any steps against Tartman, despite harsh statements she previously made against Israeli Arabs and the ministerial appointment of Ghaleb Majadele.

The committee decided that despite the severity of Tartman's statements, there was no room for dealing with the matter any further on grounds that what she said constituted a personal worldview and did not undermine the Knesset, or its members.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Liars, More Liars, Damned Liars and Estherina Tarman

After she boasted about her professional qualifications for post of tourism minister, it turns out that Estherina Tartman lied about her academic career and has little academic training, and aslo collects disability insurance because the claims she can't work. Indeed, she is the perfect marketing person, who has no respect for truth.

Tartman holds no university degree, despite claims in her CV

By Tamara Traubmann and Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondents and Haaretz Service

Tourism Minister-designate Esterina Tartman (Yisrael Beiteinu) does not hold any university degree, despite claims in her curriculum vitae to the contrary.

Following reports earlier Tuesday in Yedioth Aharonoth that Tartman never received a masters degree, various media sources reported that the minister-designate had also never received a bachelors degree.

In her CV and on the Web sites of the Knesset and Yisrael Beiteinu, Tartman claims to have received a bachelors degree from Bar Ilan University and a masters degree in finance and marketing from Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Bar Ilan University spokesman Samuel Elgrabli confirmed that Tartman is not, and has never been, registered as a student. According to a university investigation, Tartman completed continuing education courses at an institution affiliated with Bar Ilan.

With regard to her claims to a masters degree, Tartman apparently completed a few courses at Touro College, an institution that does not grant degrees.

In an interview with Haaretz correspondent Ari Shavit earlier Tuesday, Tartman confirmed that her long and short-term memory and her powers of concentration are compromised.

Tartman also said that she would propose revoking the citizenship of Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews who refused to sign a declaration of loyalty to the state, and would require those who did, to perform a form of national service.

Tartman has been under growing scrutiny since her party chose her on Sunday to replace Labor cabinet minister Yitzhak Herzog as tourism minister.

One focus of the media glare has been a claim of disability stemming from a 1997 traffic accident. Following the accident, she claimed that she could no longer work more than four hours a day, a suit entitles her to an award of NIS 2.5 million by two insurance companies, plus a monthly stipend of a few thousand shekels from the National Insurance Institute. The NII found that she was 52-percent disabled.

But documents in the case have revealed that shortly after the accident, she was maintaining a busy schedule, including long hours of political activity.

In an interview with Shavit broadcast on the Channel 10, Tartman was asked if the disability claim was accurate, and, if so, how the disability might affect her work as a cabinet minister.

"The problem still exists, but I have acquired skills to deal with it, and to minimize it," she said.

"My level of concentration and my level of memory were harmed," she said. "I have a disability, there are areas of my memory of the past that were affected, I have a problem with long-term and short-term memory."

However, she added, in a reference to her freshman term in the Knesset, "Over the past year has anyone detected this? No. Not because I am not disabled, but because I learned to deal with it."

In the Tuesday interview, Tartman was also asked about her stance with regard to Israeli Arabs. Earlier Tuesday, the Knesset Ethics Committee decided against taking any action against Tartman for a January statement in which she called the appointment of Muslim Arab MK Raleb Majadele to the post of minister as "a lethal blow to Zionism," and said "we must destroy the affliction within us, with God's help, the Holy One blessed be He will help us."

Tartman said Tuesday that "Any citizen who is not loyal to the idea of a Jewish state ? his citizenship should be rescinded."

She said she opposed the idea of expelling citizens ? whether Arabs or ultra-Orthodox Jews - who refuse to sign a loyalty declaration, rather "to turn their status into one of a resident, without the right to vote or to run for office."

According to Tartman, Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews who do not perform IDF service would be required to do a form of national service.

Allegations of misrepresenting her studies
Meanwhile, concerns were raised within Yisrael Beiteinu over allegations published Tuesday in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, which indicated that Tartman had lied about her educational background.

In an interview this week to the Knesset television channel, Tartman stated that she held a master's degree in business administration.

Yedioth noted that on the official Yisrael Beiteinu Web site, Tartman's biography listed her as having a "Master's degree in economics and marketing from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem."

In response to queries from the media, which found that her graduate education was limited to several courses in a college that does not grant advanced degrees, the site entry was changed to read "Business administration Master's degree studies."

The Knesset's official Web site still lists her as having a Master's degree.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Peretz views the world through capped binoculars

Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz, who has been accused of incompetence in the past, was caught viewing a training exercise through capped binoculars. In Ha'aretz, Gideon Levy comments that the storm of criticism this raised is due to prejudice against non-Ashkenazy Jews. Actually it is probably prejudice against defense ministers who lose wars and can't use binoculars.

Everybody should have a chance to be defense minister, regardless of ethnic origin, intelligence quotient, esperience or aptitude, right? This can create a trend: Language teachers who cannot spell, Mathematics professors who cannot solve equations, finance ministers who cannot add and subtract...

Israeli Defense Minister Inspects War Moves Through Capped Binoculars

Friday, February 23, 2007

Israel's beleaguered minister of defense was blinded by criticism over photos taken of him watching military maneuvers through binoculars with the lens caps still on.

Various newspapers published photos of the in-the-dark Amir Peretz peering through the dysfunctional binoculars during an inspection of Israeli troops in the Syria-bordering Golan Heights, the BBC reported.

Israeli Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi pointed out the war moves and explained them to Peretz, who looked through the capped device three times and nodded, according to the BBC, even though all he saw was black.

"The outlook is dark for Peretz," joked top-selling daily Yediot Aharonot.

Photographs splashed across Israel's two major newspapers on Thursday, showed Peretz, lips set in concentration, face tilted to the light and eyes glued to binoculars ... with their black lens caps still firmly on.

Alongside him, his right-hand man, Ashkenazi, kitted out in battle dress, expertly adjusts his own binoculars to watch troops going through their paces on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Peretz, a former trade union chief whose own military experience is limited to national service, has been vilified in Israel for his perceived mishandling of last year's war in Lebanon.

A vast majority of Israelis want him to resign from the defense ministry on the grounds of chronic incompetence and military inexperience.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Muddled thinking about Israel, "Leftists" and Gaza

I generally like Bradley Burston's analyses, even if I do not always agree with them. They evince an intelligent, unhysterical, undogmatic and pragmatic humanism, reminiscent of the intellectual posture of Mark Twain.

Sometimes, though he is way wide of the mark. For example, here is a "legitimate" reason for hating Israel according to him:

"4. Because Israel, even in withdrawing from Gaza, has left it to die"

Perhaps Bradley has inadvertantly stumbled upon the root causes of anti-Semitism here. He is really on to something. For 2,000 years the Jews neglected the Holy Land, and left all those poor folk to fend for themselves. Palestinian Arabs lived here in peace and harmony, enjoing the benefits of illiteracy, trachoma, malaria and typhus. With no Jewish doctors and hospitals around, many of the poor Arabs lived lives that were short, nasty and brutish. There was no work other than agriculture, because there were no Jewish investors either. There were no Zionist irrigation works either, so there was no water. No wonder everyone hates those cruel Jews.

Consider the facts, friend Bradley. Palestine was traditionally the armpit (or an unmentionable part) of the Turkish Empire. The Jews of Jerusalem were the poorest among all those who dwelt in the land, and their main industry was begging. Even in 1920 the Jews of Palestine were so poor that they were leaving in droves. By 1936, greedy evil colonialist imperialist Zionist investment had made the Jewish community richer than the Arab Palestinian community, but the Arab community by then was also among the richest in the Middle East. Wages of Arabs in Palestine were higher than in most neighboring countries.

When the Peel plan proposed to give 25% of the land to the approximately 450,000 Jewish inhabitants, it was proposed seriously that the much larger and more populous Arab state would not be economically self-sufficient, and that therefore the tiny Jewish state with its small community, that was also expected to absorb millions of immigrants, would need to subsidize the Arab state in perpetuity! All this was due to Zionist investment, since except for a bit of money spent on the port of Haifa, the British did not invest anything in Palestine. All the wealth had to come from taxes. By the year 1948, the Arabs of Palestine had improved their status quite a bit more, thanks also to British investment during WW II. However, the Jews of Palestine now produced four times as much as the Arabs, and paid four times as much taxes, even though the Arabs were twice as numerous!

The Zionists built the national water carrier. British experts insisted that it would never be economically feasible to pump irrigation water from the Sea of Galilee. "Never" was about 30 years in coming. In onde day, the national water carrier pumps more water than was used in all of Palestine in the entire year of 1948. Without that water, it would not be possible to maintain 7 million people in Israel at a near-Western European standard of living.

Consider the next crime of the evil Zionists. In 1967, the per capita income of the West Bank and Gaza was in the neighborhood of $360. By 1993, it was over $2,400. Then the evil Zionists gave the Palestinians self rule. By 2000, the per capita income of the West Bank and Gaza was only $2,000. Still, it is a fact that Palestinian Arabs were crossing the border illegally from Jordan in order to live in the oppressive and evil Zionist occupation and work in Israel. I met some of those Arabs. Then the Intifada started. The evil Jews did not permit the Palestinians to import suicide bombers into Israel, and the Palestinian GDP plumetted.

Now the evil Zionists committed the crime of withdrawing from Gaza. Jewish philanthropists paid so that Palestinians could own the green houses that the greedy evil Zionists left behind. The Palestinian Arabs trashed the green houses or used them as termini for arms smuggling tunnels. Then the Palestinians voted for the nice progressive Hamas, which wants to make a nice progressive Islamic state in all of "Palestine." According to Bradley Burston, the Zionists have an obligation to encourage subsidy programs for purchase of Qassam rockets and pay the salaries of the people who launch them. As Bradley wrote:

It is not lost on leftists that many Israelis reap a distinct satisfaction from the Palestinians' inability to help themselves, govern themselves, save themselves.

I don't know many such Israelis. There are a few. Maybe Bradley moves in different circles. Mostly I found that the misuse of the green houses, the internecine fighting, the lost opportunities for peace and development, are all causes for alarm and concern. It may mean we can never have peace with our neighbors, and that would be really terrible.
Bradley continues:

Leftists may note that Israel has done everything in its power to convince the world to deny much-needed aid to a democratically elected government, and that Israel has not acted as a neighbor whose primary concern is an eventual peace.

According to Burston's logic, the Palestinian Arabs democratically chose genocide for the Jews, so the Jews must encourage subsidies for this program, because it is a democratic choice. Presumably, in World War II, the Jews should have encouraged Roosevelt to send railway cars to Eichmann to expedite the transport of Jews to Auschwitz.
How could subsidizing the Hamas bring eventual peace? Didn't the allies blockade Germany in World War II? Does that mean that they were not interested in eventual peace? Right now, the primary concern is immediate survival. If you are dead, eventual peace doesn't matter. Therefore, stopping the suicide bombers and the rockets is the first order of business.
The implications are clear. The assumptions of Bradley Burston and the unnamed "leftists," which are racist assumptions, are that if the Jews leave, the economy of Palestine will inevitably degenerate into something like that of Syria. The fate of the glass and steel towers in Herzliya Pituach and Ramat Gan will be as the fate of the green houses in Gaza, or as the fate of the farm buildings of Gush Etzion in 1948 or the Ruttenberg electric plant and the potash works in the north of the Dead Sea. The national water carrier will cease to function. It will all rot in the sun and be ravaged by vandalism, like the grandeur of Rome after the invasion of the Goths and the Vandals.

Under Arab rule, in the present state of development of Palestinian society, and under the racist assumption of Arab Palestinian helplessness that is built in to the viewpoint of the so-called "leftists," it is questionable whether this land could support more than one or two million Palestinian Arabs, just as the British experts predicted in the 1930s. Therefore, the course of action is clear. The evil greedy Jewish sons of apes and dogs will not be allowed to leave the Islamic Paradise. We will have to stay here and create wealth for our Islamist masters.

An alternative to consider is that left to their own devices, the Palestinians will in time become a people like any other. They will learn to stand on their feet. They will stop making suicide bomber belts and Qassam rockets, and start manufacturing goods and services that the world, including Israel, want. With freedom and democracy, come responsibility.

Here are two other reasons why "Leftists" are right to hate Israel, according to Burston:

1. Because Israel's policies are frequently marked by gratuitous
humiliation of and disdain for the Palestinians.
2. Because Israelis can live with this.

I have to dispute both assumptions. A great part of the humiliation suffered by Palestinians at checkpoints, or at the hands of settlers, is due to individual loutishness or to incompetence of IDF and border police officials. It is not policy. And many Israelis cannot live with it. That is why there is Peace Now, and Gush Shalom, and the Machsomwatch movement that reports on doings at checkpoints, and that is why there is the "Breaking the Silence" group, soldiers protesting against the occupation, and that is why there is Betselem, that is why there are refuseniks, that is why Zionist Kibbutz members go out to protect Palestinians harvesting olives from settlers, and that is why there is a very long list of other groups protesting the occupationn. What is peculiar, and what Bradley doesn't mention, is that no "leftists" are upset by the fact that Palestinian policies are often marked by gratuitous murder of Israeli citizens and by the fact that many Palestinians cannot only live with it, but rather celebrate the death of every suicide bomber who kills Israelis. There is no Palestinian "Shahid watch" that reports when a suicide bomber kills innocent children in a supermarket "gratuitously." There is no Palestinian Peace Now movement to protest against Palestinian incitement. How do we explain the fact that this does not upset any of these so-called leftists?

Ami Isseroff

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. Please link to this article and cite it. Do not copy it to your Web site without express permision.

Ten reasons the left hates Israel - five good, five bad
By Bradley Burston

A few thoughts engendered by the controversy over Alvin H. Rosenfeld's article "'Progressive'" Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism."

Five of the following are reasonable. Five are not.


Why does the left hate Israel? Here are five good reasons:

1. Because Israel's policies are frequently marked by gratuitous humiliation of and disdain for the Palestinians.

2. Because Israelis can live with this.

If the policies hinted at in 1. above are associated with a status quo which Israelis find tolerably calm and Palestinians find unbearable, even lethal, Israel's leaders often view this as a viable and even optimal outcome.

3. Because Israel, in practice, values settlements more than it values social justice.

The right will tell you that there is [Bradley meant to write "no" here A.I. ] contradiction between settlements and social justice. Which would be true if there were no Palestinians, and if the Palestinians did not view the land occupied by settlements as theirs, historically, legally, and morally. And which would be true if the same consideration offered settlers in fixing the route of the West Bank fence were applied to Palestinians, that is, were farmers not cut off from their fields, pupils from their schools, and close relatives from one another.

The right will tell you that the settlements are no obstacle to peace. But that same right will also argue that the settlements are the only real bulwark between the Palestinians and an independent Palestine.

4. Because Israel, even in withdrawing from Gaza, has left it to die.

It is not lost on leftists that many Israelis reap a distinct satisfaction from the Palestinians' inability to help themselves, govern themselves, save themselves. Leftists may note that Israel has done everything in its power to convince the world to deny much-needed aid to a democratically elected government, and that Israel has not acted as a neighbor whose primary concern is an eventual peace.

5. Because of the propensity of Israel's leaders to demonstrate arrogance, claim a monopoly on the moral high ground, set non-negotiable demands to which Palestinian politicians cannot agree, then condemn Palestinians for intransigence.


Here, then, are five bad reasons:

1. The Palestinian cause is inherently progressive.

As currently constituted, Palestinian governance is marked by institutional graft, widespread human rights violations, curbs on press freedoms, tribalism, blood feuds, murders of women on the basis of contentions of preservation of family honor, and celebration of the targeting and killing of non-combatants as a legitimate form of resistance to occupation.

2. Israel remains the sole root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the reason it remains unresolved.

As root causes go, both sides have demonstrated profound intransigence, both sides have violated agreements with abandon, both sides suffer from extremists whose power to destroy a peace process far outweighs their proportion of the population.

In addition, the contention that Israel is solely responsible suggests that the solution of the Mideast conflict is the dissolution of Israel. This brings us to:

3. Israel is a Jewish state.

For a vocal minority of leftists, this fact alone - coupled with the following two arguments - is enough to call into serious question Israel's right to exist. This argument, which holds that the formally Jewish nature of the state enshrines an unconscionable level of racism, dovetails with:

4. Israel is an apartheid state.

Occupation: It's horrid, but it's not apartheid

5. Israel's actions are comparable to those of Nazi Germany.

This contention may be the genuine litmus test for anti-Semitism on the left.

In the end, the compulsion to accuse Israel of genocide, while turning a blind eye to wholesale slaughter in Darfur and elsewhere, tends to say a great deal more about the accuser than the accused.

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