Wednesday, June 29

Media Bias is in the Eye of the Beholder.

The international media such as CNN, BBC, Sky News, CBS, Al Jazeera and many other TV news companies report news as their reporters view and experience it. Those who accuse reporters of not being objective are those who are connected one way or the other, usually emotionally, with the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Yardsticks of objectivity are unknown by the average reading public and their judgment is subjective rather than neutral or objective.

The Middle East arouses many emotions and it is very difficult to be objective. TV News services may give factual reporting, such as Al Jazeera, using terminology to suit their listening audience. A classic example is the word "terrorist". Those who carry out terror against Israel are termed "freedom fighters" or "guerrilla fighters" by TV news services that are opposed to occupation of the territories or are hostile to Israel.

Bias on the news services may be a catalyst in influencing people but it does not is biased to the other.change the basic viewpoints of most people. News audiences are selective in what they want to hear or see on TV. If they see or view things that are against what they believe, they will consider that news report biased even if the news is factual and objective

There are no real effective ways to limit bias. Perhaps an international news reporting committee could form criteria on which honest, objective reporting could be based. Reporters are human beings with subjective outlooks and this could influence the way they report a situation. In any case, what may be objective to one side of the conflict.

The Anti-Disengagement Forces on the Right

Those settlers and their vicious allies who oppose the pullout are the creation of the various Israel Governments since Israel's victory after the Six-Day War of 1967. Lack of foresight and a certain amount of Israeli xenophobia had blurred many issues that could have brought peace with Israel's Arab neighbors were overlooked.

Time has proved once again what a terrible mistake Israel had made in her occupation policies. She had created a monster in her midst. That monster is the settlement movement beyond the green line. It had shattered the myth of Israel being the David amidst Goliaths. Had Israel developed the territories she had conquered, encouraged foreign investment to improve the living conditions of the Palestinians, rather than squander the taxpayers' money and oversea donations in establishing settlements beyond the green line, our situation would have been different.

Zealous, right wing, religious Zionists intent on colonizing Palestinian lands was the fatal result of the Six-Day War. Arik Sharon, with some pressure from the US, has seen the fatal mistake over the years. He is now risking his political future and creating divisions in his party by adopting the policy of disengagement from Gaza and with it the Gush Katif settlements.

The descendents of right wing religious Zionists are opposing the disengagement plan with all their might. They are closing down roads, breaking the law and causing damage to cars by throwing nails in the street as part of their demonstration tactics. They hope to gain sympathy for their lost cause.

The fact that Israeli soldiers have lost their lives defending these fanatics does not leave any impression on them! They wish to remain in Gush Katif at all costs! Apart from that, many lawbreakers have seized this anti-disengagement battle as an excuse to vandalize and create havoc.

It has now become fashionable to identify with these settlers by wearing orange ribbons and garments.

The right wing extremists are using democracy to force their will on the public. They are not democrats but fanatics who are only interested in their own partisan interests of keeping Palestinian territory that does not belong to them and is costing the lives of many people.

There is no doubt that the right wing settlers are responsible largely for the bloodshed that both Palestinians and Israelis have suffered. They have usurped Palestinian lands, destroyed Palestinian crops and made their home amongst Palestinians who do not wish to live amongst them. They have also exploited the Palestinian worker by paying him less than minimum wages. They have also treated them badly.

Many people have no sympathy for these right wing settler fanatics and rightly so. They have cost Israel dearly. If they do not wish to return home to Israel within the green line as many of them have demonstrated, they should be allowed to remain under Palestinian rule if that is their wish. The days of colonialism are ending.

Saturday, June 25

Shimon Z. Klein at Zichron Yakov with a view of the Mediterranean Sea in the background. Posted by Hello

The Difficulties of Negotiations

Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas have had their summit talks on Tuesday 21st June 2005. It seems as if Ariel Sharon had adopted a rather paternalistic approach towards the Palestinian leader according to a Haaretz Report.

"We heard a long lecture from Sharon on fighting terrorism and comments preaching morality, but nothing was achieved," one of the officials was quoted as saying.

When there is the backdrop of extremism on both sides, this is bound to add an element of strain on any form of negotiations between the two sides.

Islamic Jihad gunmen near the northern West Bank city of Tul Karm opened fire on a car carrying two Israeli civilians in an ambush early Monday, killing the driver, identified as Yevgeny Reider, 28, from Hermesh, and lightly wounding his 15-year-old passenger. The day before, gunmen in the southern Gaza Strip killed an Israel Defense Forces soldier.

Later on Monday 20th June 2005, IDF soldiers arrested a female would-be suicide bomber at the entrance to the Erez crossing on the border with the northern Gaza Strip.

Apparently, the female suicide bomber wanted to make her way to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba to carry out a suicide attack. If these incidents occur, the Israel Army has a perfect excuse for stepping up security even towards the Palestinians who are in need of medical care. There are extremists who are prepared to take advantage and hide behind sick Palestinians in order to carry out terror against Israel. This is an untenable situation.

If Israel helps Mahmoud Abbas in his fight against Hamas and Islamic Jihad; they in fact weaken his position. It would not be productive if the Palestinians viewed Mahmoud Abbas as someone cooperating with Israel to neutralize Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror.

Israel has a large problem with her right wing extremists who are against the disengagement at all costs. What has happened is the extremists on both sides are going to create a situation that will make the disengagement very difficult to accomplish without violence.

It is obvious that there are many on both sides that wish to destroy every peace effort.

The situation between the Palestinians and Israelis is deteriorating. The expectations that many had of the Sharon-Abbas meeting was high. At the end of the day, both sides hold positions, which are not conducive to pace making.

If the Palestinian terror groups are going to make cynical use of the terrorist to infiltrate a hospital in order to carry out a suicide bombing, they have to bear the consequences for having crossed a red line.

This will result in increased suffering for Palestinians in need of urgent medical attention in Israel. How can they expect not to be subjected to increased security checks because of attempts to send suicide bombers?

The Palestinians accuse Israel of delays in allowing seriously ill Palestinians from crossing the roadblocks to Israel to get medical attention. Hardly a word of condemnation for those who attempt suicide attacks on a hospital. There is a pointed lack of balance in this accusation.

All these incidents have occurred during the Sharon-Abbas summit meeting. There is no doubt that the ball is in the Palestinian court to stop the terror attacks on Israelis. Mahmoud Abbas does not seem capable of disarming the unlawful terrorist militias in Gaza.

Israel has to be tougher with the militant anti-disengagement right wing groups. These right-wingers are creating a severe problem by breaking the law and demonstrating with blocking roads and setting tires alight.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad and elements of Fatah seem to have much in common – more than meets the eye – with the right-wing anti-disengagement demonstrators. Both wish to upset the disengagement plans, both are fanatic in their own way and both groups wish to create a fiasco of the disengagement each for their own warped reasons.

The activities of right wing anti-disengagement Israeli demonstrators and the Palestinian terrorists could result in the disengagement plans being postponed indefinitely.

A View of Bat Chefer from the road surrounding the periphery of the settlement Posted by Hello

The Relevance of Aliyah to Israel is Questionable

Israel during its formative years was in need of aliyah. Today the situation here is different. Israel has absorbed a mixed bag of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Many of these immigrants had come from dubious backgrounds and their link to the Jewish people is questionable.

Apart from that, many social problems, previously unknown in Israel had come to the fore. Alcoholism, drugs and violence has increased. Education and values are on the decline as society becomes less caring and more materialistic. The youth are losing direction and adolescent violence is reaching proportions previously unknown in Israel.

Israel is not the welfare state that it once was. A capitalist society is incompatible with the welfare state and this is the direction that Israel is moving. The first few years after Israel's establishment, everybody was in the same boat economically. Today we are a society of "haves" and "have-nots". If this trend continues, the successful absorption of new immigrants is at stake.

If I may be cynical for the moment and say that society in Israel is divided into two main groups and each group has their subdivision. These two groups are:

1. The "Combinot".


2. The "Friarim".

The latter usually works for the former and remains subservient less he be replaced and be reduced to an unemployed status. The former usually prospers at the expense of the latter. "Friarim" never die - they are only replaced is an old saying but still rings true.

After spending over 30 years in Israel, and having been through many phases in my relationship with this country, I have concluded that Israeli Society is becoming less caring and considerate. This is reflected in reckless driving and inconsiderate behavior in public places. Bad manners have always been a problem in Israel since its establishment.

Many of the problems, such as salary erosion and not paying salary on time to many sectors of society, is a practice that ought to be condemned in no uncertain terms. Firing of teachers, which will result in the already faltering educational system deteriorating even further, should be a major concern. As it is, we are witnessing adolescent crime and violence that seems to be on the increase. The police are so busy gearing up for disengagement that there is no police force to combat juvenile crime. Family violence - hardly reported a generation ago has become prevalent. Much of it is due to stress. Damage to public and private property is on the rise. Police never catch the culprits. Patrolling police officers, who could act as a crime deterrent, are not there.

We cannot live on idealism alone and Israel, like every country in the world, is no different. Zionism has lost its meaning today and there are remnants of it in armchair and intellectual discussions in the Diaspora. Its relevance in Israel is small.

The immigrants that arrive in Israel come from countries with weak economies and they themselves are poor financially.

Israel is in dire need of professional people, but their salaries are not competitive enough to encourage them to stay. Those who get high salaries are usually people connected with the political hierarchy and are members of a "combina".

Those who make it in Israel are those who come with a big fortune and can invest it to make an even bigger one. One has to be prepared to battle with overdrafts all one's working life, as salaries for professionals are poor.

Another serious problem is the migrant worker. These people come to Israel under various contracts to do much of the work that Israelis dislike. The foreign worker is employed in agriculture and building in Israel. These foreign workers receive poor salaries and their living conditions in many cases are intolerable. They are subjected to harassment by the Immigration Police. There have been many cases of these workers being kept in special prison cells awaiting deportation once their time is up. Some of these workers have children born in Israel and they are separated from their parents in a very cruel fashion because of deportation.

What has happened to Jewish values in Israel? Religion in Israel has become the monopoly of two main groups:

1. The ultra-Orthodox, who have much influence in political deals.

2. The Right wing Zionist National Religious many of whom are extreme in their political outlook and believe in colonization of the occupied territories.

Mainstream moderate Judaism, with its history of tolerance, is not the name of the game in Israel. All these groups have one main aim in common and that is dislike of the non-Orthodox streams of Judaism such as the Conservative and Reform movements. Pluralism in Judaism as well as tolerance for those who are different is not part of mainstream Orthodox Judaism as practiced in Israel. These people are paternalistic towards the Arab Community at best or racist at worst.This has resulted in many people becoming estranged and moving towards total secularism. Many of us have no spiritual home in Israel because of establishment Judaism and its practice.

There is a certain emptiness and sadness because the values that we held in the Diaspora have become eroded and has been replaced by a struggle for survival. Israeli-style Orthodox Judaism does not have any common language for many people. It is full of doctrinarism, outmoded rituals and drives many people out of the fold.

Those who decide to come on Aliyah will find that their expectations in the social and religious sphere will be thwarted. They will have to adjust to a rough and ready society, less caring than a generation ago.

Wednesday, June 22

What Motivates Sharon to Carry Out Disengagement?

Nobody can say what Ariel Sharon's true motives are concerning the disengagement. Whatever people say is speculation. It is not likely that his motives have anything to do with the Greek Islands Affair of which the court found him not guilty.

Speculation that is more realistic would be the pressure that the Bush Administration has put on Sharon to disengage. Who knows what promises Bush had made to Sharon if he carries out the pull out? None of us had the privilege (including reporters of course) of being flies on the White House walls where Sharon and Bush had their four-eyed meetings. Much of the time, the public had to be satisfied with terse press statements.

It is very unlikely that Sharon – the father of the settlement movement - would do such an about turn on his ideology had there not been the full weight of U.S. pressure on him. He has taken very heavy risks that has eroded his power base and caused a severe schism in his party because of the disengagement and settler removals. There are factors influencing his decisions of which we are unaware. Sharon had contributed much and encouraged the settler movements in the past.

It is likely that he seeks a place in history when his tenure as prime minister ends. A leopard never changes his spots; he may cause them to be fainter. Sharon has not publicized his motivation for disengagement. This could mean that he has an ulterior motive not to antagonize the US. When Israel never abided by US decisions, she usually came off second best. A case in point occurred under George Bush snr.when he withheld loans guarantees to Israel while James Baker was foreign secretary over 12 years ago. Maybe Sharon had a feeling of deja vu behind closed doors.

Wednesday, June 15

This is the highest point in Bat Chefer. The view from here is quite interesting with the Emek Chefer landscape on the horizon.  Posted by Hello

Monday, June 13

Children in Militant Movements – Palestinian-Israeli Style

The place of children, whether Palestinian or Israeli, is not on the battlefield of conflict. There is no justification for the cynical use of children in disputes between warring parties.

The Palestinians have been exploiting children by brainwashing them to become suicide bombers. They have deprived them of the basic right to live and be children. The Islamist extremists who pump them with the most vicious propaganda by promises of 70 virgins in heaven are cheap, cynical and cruel. There has been a lack of the Islamic clergy taking a strong stand against this so-called "tactic of warfare". The use of the terms "tactic of warfare" and "collateral damage" because of a legitimate fight for the Palestinian cause in the eyes of the occupied turn this terror into form of martyrdom. Where are the parents? How can they allow their children to engage in this form of terror? What normal parent would condemn his child to a "martyred" death for the sake of a cause no matter what that cause is?

On the other side of the coin, we have the Israeli right wing extremists who are against the disengagement from Gush Katif and Gaza. They also make cynical use of their children in order to achieve their object of opposing the disengagement. Parents support their children in their illegal actions against the police and the soldiers who are carrying out their duty. These children are also in danger of serious injury. There have been many arrests of children for their illegal activity. The parents are no less to blame for encouraging their children's illegal activity.

At the end of the day, the children of both Palestinians and right wing Israeli anti disengagement supporters are victims of a situation for which they were not responsible.

When one hears the utterances of the children of both sides, it is obvious that they have been brainwashed by their parents and extremist religious leaders - Jewish as well as Moslem. There is no difference in concept between the two sides when it comes to the exploitation of children for militant purposes. Each side justifies their fight according to their own demented ideologies when it comes to the use of children.

Wednesday, June 8

The Security Fence separating Bat Chefer from Tulkarem. There were many incidents of firing into Bat Chefer as well as theft. Unfortunately this wall had to be built to prevent terrorists from infiltrating.Hopefully, if there is peace, this wall will come down. Posted by Hello

Entrance to Bat Chefer - the community settlement. Posted by Hello

A view of Bat Chefer Posted by Hello

The Pullout

The future pullout is a two-edged sword pointing at the underbelly of Israel. Whatever happens, there does not seem to be any indication that the firing of Qassam rockets will cease irrespective of disengagement or not.

Abu Mazen does not seem to be able to have the ability to reign in the extremists. He has postponed the Palestinian elections because he knows that his Fatah Party is losing support in favor of Hamas whose uncompromising attitude towards Israel's existence is well known.

One cannot underestimate the importance of Hamas as key players in the future of the success or failure of disengagement. While the logic of transferring the settlers from Gush Katif and the Gaza Strip to within the green line is sound as they are a source of friction with the Palestinians because of their close proximity. Whether the Palestinians, according to Ayalon will perceive Israel's withdrawal from Gaza as an act of choice or flight is irrelevant. What is important is whether there will be escalation of terror after the disengagement.

If there is no further momentum towards withdrawal from the occupied territories after disengagement, the chances of terror will increase. The firing of Qassam rockets into Ashkelon is a strong possibility. If this scenario occurs, the Israel Security forces will return to Gaza very soon.

However, if there is a chance of peace and the cease-fire maintained, Israel should return territory and help the Palestinians economically so that they can receive a viable state.

Prospects of Peace after Disengagement

The prospects of peace are dependent on whether the Palestinian mainstream will be satisfied on the way the disengagement will take place. If there is no further momentum towards withdrawal from the areas occupied in the Six Day War of 1967, there could be a renewal of terror. There is a strong risk of terror attacks whether there is disengagement or not.

The prospect of future peace between Israel and the Palestinians rests on ability of the Palestinian Authority to reign in terror. As the situation stands now, there is still the firing of Qassam rockets into Sderot. If this is a prelude of what is to happen after the disengagement, there is very little prospect of any future peace. The Qassam rocket fire will more than likely threaten towns like Ashkelon and possibly Ashdod.

Israel could become more vulnerable to terror attacks. There is no hint on the Palestinian side that Hamas and Islamic Jihad have changed their attitude towards Israel. This will be a very important factor in determining whether there will be peace or not and a desire for negotiations. The situation in Palestinian street does not leave much room for optimism. Abu Mazen's political stance is showing signs of weakening as Hamas show signs of gaining popularity.

If there is calm, Israel should be willing to continue with the Road Map and encourage investment in the future Palestinian State in order to improve the economic situation there. At the same time, Israel should make it clear that she is willing to make bold decisions including withdrawals from occupied areas.

If terrorism does occur, the Israeli Army should be prepared to return to Gaza and reoccupy it once again in order to combat the terror.

Wednesday, June 1

The Occupation and Humiliation

There are certain facts on the ground, despite Israel's attitude to cover up certain brutalities to the Palestinians that should be borne in the mind of the reader in order to gain further insight into this conflict. This includes possible reasons for animosity towards Israel by the Palestinians. At the same time, one cannot view the occupation as the only reason. There is no refuting the fact that Israel's problem with her neighbors is existential, but the settlers in the occupied areas aggravate the situation even further.

Since the intifada of 2000 which, to all intents and purposes, has reached a certain uneasy halt with apparent cessation of terror. Is this the lull before the storm? Only time will tell.

Most of the settlers living in the occupied areas after the Six Day War are legal from the Israeli point of view, as the previous governments had legalized their settling in these areas. The term "illegal settlers" is a misnomer in this context. This does not apply to those who have unilaterally occupied various areas within the occupied areas without permits.

However, having said that, the question remains as to whether these settlers have a moral right to establish settlements in the occupied areas in the past and expanding them in the present and future.

The reason for all Israel's wars is well documented. Israel just cannot afford to lose even one war. This would mean her total destruction. However, having occupied these territories because of the Six Day War of June 1967 has compounded a problem, which could have been avoided.

Had Israel not encouraged Jewish settlement in the occupied areas and declared these settlements illegal, Israel's case against her Arab neighbors would have been stronger.

It is very difficult for Israel to maintain that she does not seek to occupy another people when the facts on the ground prove the opposite. Settlers have occupied Palestinian lands. They justify their occupation because of their strong attachment to their faith, land and use biblical quotations at every opportunity. They see themselves as carrying on the wishes of their biblical ancestors. In their eyes, their attachment to the concept of the land of Israel (including the occupied areas) is an integral part of Jewish destiny in this part of the world.

The results have not worked in Israel's favor at all. The settlers have destroyed much of the Palestinian olive trees not to mention destruction of agricultural lands. They exploited them for cheap labor. They encroached on their lands with the religious zeal that only they are capable. Israel had done nothing to curtail settlement activity in the occupied areas. In fact, the government had been encouraging these settlements and offering benefits to those who wish to settle in the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights and even East Jerusalem.

Israel is a strong country militarily. The Palestinians are no match for them. A strong country like Israel, with its settlers in the occupied territories, cannot prove to the world that it is a victim despite the terrible suicide attacks against innocent Israelis during the last few years.

The record of accomplishment of the settlers in the occupied territories in their treatment of the Palestinian population is poor. The blame for the hatred of Israel can be laid at the settler's door. The Palestinians view them as heartless occupiers who usurped their lands. This being the case, in retrospect, and the catastrophic economic situation of the Palestinians has created conditions of hate for Israelis, which had tragic results for both sides. The Islamist terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad took advantage of the situation in order to release a cruel form of terror against Israel in the form of suicide bombings.

Prior to the intifada, Palestinians workers would stand in very long queues to get into Israel to seek work. Their day usually started at 3.00 a.m. The humiliation and the checks, which had caused incredible delays, had played its part in fomenting hate. Many Israeli building contractors also exploited these workers. Their wages were pitiful.

What about those many sick Palestinians who were in urgent need of medical attention? The delays to get to a doctor were unbelievable and caused much suffering. Pregnant women had difficulties in reaching hospitals to give birth. There were cases of women giving birth at check posts under humiliating circumstances. The treatment meted out to Palestinians, most not connected with terror, was disgusting and cruel. However, there is a faint sign of some hope. The Physicians for Human Rights Organization has tried to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian sick although their fight is miniscule. Israel, as an occupying power, should shoulder the responsibility for health service to the Palestinians.

When the soldiers at checkpoints were asked why he does not use his discretion, the answer was "The Palestinians are to blame for the situation because of the terror. If they stop the terror, their treatment would improve. Apart from that we are carrying out orders".

The biggest obstacle to peace and the establishment of a Palestinian state today is the settlers in the occupied territories. It is obvious that settlers have to return to Israel within the green line. The idea of creating settler blocs in the Palestinian areas will create a logistic problem that will be very difficult to solve if not impossible. The Palestinian state will be in the West Bank and Gaza.

The occupation has to end. It is eroding Israeli society and creating a situation whereby Israel rules the Palestinians. This is morally indefensible. Now with the calm existing it is important that Israel and the Palestinian leadership negotiate a just and lasting peace with security to both sides. Both peoples deserve a future of hope and promise of prosperity. Both nations have their destinies intertwined.