Saturday, September 30

Thoughts on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)

Every year it is the same ideas of fasting on Yom Kippur. The question I ask is whether fasting on that day and asking for forgiveness from one’s neighbours for the wrongs committed over the previous year is done in all sincerity. According to Jewish tradition, one may enter the synagogue on the Yom Kippur eve for worship and hear the Kol Nidre chant only after one has obtained forgiveness from one’s neighbours, friends and family for wrongs done to them. The question that crops up is “To how many people does this apply?”

Yom Kippur is meaningless to many of us. Its original meaning has become lost over the years as materialism, corruption, selfishness and greed has taken over. We need to look no further than the politicized, religious Orthodox institutions of Israel. Even the secular rulers are blemished as they form syndicates of self-interest at the taxpayers’ expense. The Orthodox establishment is concerned with wielding power in government, using their “authentic” interpretation of Halacha to coerce Jews into accepting their rulings. This may be fine with those who believe. What about those who do not? Tolerance towards those who are different is lacking. They will not accept pluralism in Jewish belief, delegitimizing Conservative and Progressive Jewish rights to worship and marry couples according to the way that they interpret Halacha. The orthodox Jewish argument is that there is one Halacha binding on all Jews, and the idea of Reform, Conservative or Reconstructionist interpretation is taboo and unacceptable. They threaten religious, Jewish pluralistic freedom of worship.

In Israel, there is no Conservative and Reform Jewish Rabbinate with quasi-legal powers attending to the needs of the non-Orthodox streams in Judaism. These streams have to bow to the Orthodox rabbis when it comes to marriages, britot (circumcisions) and even burials with the Orthodox Chevra Kadisha (burial society) monopoly. Surely, this is greed! The Orthodox political parties manage to tag onto parliamentary coalitions, blackmailing the government in order to further their own religious and financial interests.

The lack of sensitivity that establishment orthodoxy in Israel exhibits towards those whose Jewishness is in question according to their monolithic Halacha is despicable. It even borders on plain racism. What about mixed marriages? So much suffering was because of this! Why is there no provision for civil marriage for those who wish to bypass Orthodox religious rituals that are meaningless to them? Here in Israel, those who do not wish to marry according to Orthodox traditions have no alternative but to marry overseas. Are we all so naïve as to believe that these facilities are not available in order to prevent assimilation? Perhaps it is because of establishment Orthodox greed that does not wish to lose out on financial income as a result of “competition” from non-Orthodox streams in Judaism. There are “hell and brimstone” Orthodox rabbis who are very vocal and have great influence amongst certain sectors of the population. They are scared of their “holy” curses. There is a well-known Sephardic ex chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who is an expert at cursing his political opponents. How does that fit in with Orthodox monolithic Halacha that is God’s word? I wonder if his fasting on Yom Kippur has any meaning in the eyes of the Almighty (assuming that he does exist)! His disciples have his portrait in their homes where he serves as a reminder of “holiness and goodness”.

Naturally, we should give some thought to the wellbeing of the Arab minorities in Israel. Are the authorities addressing their interests fairly?

Unfortunately, some Israeli soldiers in the territories abuse innocent Palestinians. Those who are caught are punished. However, it is questionable as to whether the punishment fits the crime. B’tzelem, the Israeli Information Centre on Human Rights in the Territories is doing an excellent job in exposing these abuses.

Fasting without purpose is pointless! It has become a mechanical once-a-year-tradition. Most people fast “in order to identify”. Identify with what? Many say that it makes one feel Jewish. Many sit at home and fast while they read or maybe watch TV. It is their choice but it is odd. I do not fast, as that is my choice out of personal conviction. Orthodox synagogue worship for many, is a once a year mechanical function of identity with one’s Jewishness without any depth or understanding. It is not a spiritually uplifting experience for many but a bind. It is a day whereby religious coercion reaches its climax. The absence of cars on the road for fear of stonings by religious hooligans is an outstanding example. This brings me to the haftarah of the Yom Kippur, which to me has much meaning. It really states the obvious. According to this haftarah, the ritual of fasting is pointless if one’s heart is not in the direction of self-improvement. This applies to most once-a-year-worshippers and many religious Orthodox politicos as well.
Isaiah 57:14-58:14: Fasting Is Not Enough
The haftarah for Yom Kippur morning

57:14. [The Lord] says:
Build up, build up a highway!
Clear a road!
Remove all obstacles
From the road of My people!
57:15. For thus said He who high aloft
Forever dwells, whose name is holy:
I dwell on high, in holiness;
Yet with the contrite and the lowly in spirit-
Reviving the spirits of the lowly,
Reviving the hearts of the contrite.
57:16. For I will not always contend,
I will not be angry forever:
Nay, I who make spirits flag,"
Also create the breath of life.
57:17. For their sinful greed I was angry;
I struck them and turned away in My wrath.
Though stubborn, they follow the way of their hearts,
57:18. I note how they fare and will heal them:
I will guide them and mete out solace to them,
And to the mourners among them
57:19. heartening, comforting words:
It shall be well,
Well with the far and the near
-said the LORD-
And I will heal them.
57:20. But the wicked are like the troubled sea
Which cannot rest,
Whose waters toss up mire and mud.
57:21. There is no safety
-said my God-
For the wicked.

58:1. Cry with full throat, without restraint;
Raise your voice like a ram's horn! Declare to My people their transgression,
To the House of Jacob their sin.

58:2. To be sure, they seek Me daily,
Eager to learn My ways.
Like a nation that does what is right,
That has not abandoned the laws of its God,
They ask Me for the right way,
They are eager for the nearness of God:
58:3. "Why, when we fasted, did You not see?
When we starved our bodies, did You pay no heed?"
Because on your fast day
You see to your business
And oppress all your laborers!
58:4. Because you fast in strife and contention,
And you strike with a wicked fist!
Your fasting today is not such
As to make your voice heard on high.
58:5. Is such the fast I desire,
A day for men to starve their bodies?
Is it bowing the head like a bulrush
And lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call that a fast,
A day when the LORD is favorable?
58:6. No, this is the fast I desire:
To unlock the fetters of wickedness,
And untie the cords of the yoke
To let the oppressed go free;
To break off every yoke.
58:7. It is to share your bread with the hungry,
And to take the wretched poor into your home;
When you see the naked, to clothe him,
And not to ignore your own kin.

58:8. Then shall your light burst through like the dawn
And your healing spring up quickly;
Your Vindicator shall march before you,
The Presence of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
58:9. Then, when you call, the LORD will answer;
When you cry, He will say: Here I am.
If you banish the yoke from your midst,
The menacing hand, and evil speech,
58:10. And you offer your compassion to the hungry
And satisfy the famished creature-
Then shall your light shine in darkness,
And your gloom shall be like noonday.
58:11. The LORD will guide you always;
He will slake your thirst in parched places
And give strength to your bones.
You shall be like a watered garden,
Like a spring whose waters do not fail.
58:12. Men from your midst shall rebuild ancient ruins,
You shall restore foundations laid long ago.
And you shall be called
"Repairer of fallen walls,
Restorer of lanes for habitation."
58:13. If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,
From pursuing your affairs on My holy day;
If you call the sabbath "delight,"
The LORD'S holy day "honored";
And if you honor it and go not your ways
Nor look to your affairs, nor strike bargains-
58:14. Then you can seek the favor of the LORD
I will set you astride the heights of the earth,
And let you enjoy the heritage of your father Jacob-
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Will there be a National Unity Government in Gaza?

President Mahmoud Abbas and PM Ishmael Haniyeh are trying to find ways of forming a National Unity Government. Hamas has failed as a responsible ruling party. Ishmael Haniyeh gives the impression that he is a moderate (this is doubtful). The conditions required for establishing a national unity government, namely recognizing Israel, ceasing violence, promising to respect past peace agreements signed with Israel and releasing Gilad Shalit are not acceptable to Hamas at this stage.

Hamas would like to have a national unity government. The Palestinian economy is weak and the Palestinian Authority is virtually bankrupt because of sanctions imposed by Israel, the US and EU since the electoral victory of Hamas in January this year. They are in a crisis and need foreign capital urgently. There are many basic food shortages. Palestinian civil servants and public employees have not received their salaries for many months. Many feel that sanctions would be lifted under a national unity government. President Mahmoud Abbas met President Bush when he visited the US recently. President Bush described him as a “man of peace”. Abbas promised Bush that any future government of national unity would recognize Israel, end violence and uphold all outstanding agreements between the PA and Israel, thus meeting the conditions set by the Quartet (US, Russia, EU, and UN) for an end to the boycott.

The Hamas government could underplay its dominance and replace it by a moderate façade called the National Unity Government under Mahmoud Abbas who enjoys the legitimacy that Hamas does not. The benefits to Hamas are obvious under these conditions. As the situation is now, the talks between Hamas and Fatah have stalled. Haniyeh reminded Abbas that the Prisoners’ Document would form the conditions for a national unity government

Mahmoud Abbas knows that a national unity government (as far as he is concerned) is dependent on Hamas recognizing Israel’s right to exist, ceasing violence and terror against Israel, releasing Gilad Shalit the Israeli kidnapped soldier and respecting all past agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.

Much depends on the resilience of Hamas towards US, British and EU demands of recognizing Israel’s right to exist. So far, there are still no signs that Hamas is willing to change its stance towards Israel or agree to the conditions outlined by Mahmoud Abbas. The question that remains is whether Hamas is prepared to change its charter and show pragmatism towards Israel’s existence or not. It is obvious that if there is a change in the Hamas position, Israel will also have to make concessions such as the release of Palestinian security prisoners in exchange for Shalit’s release. There does not seem to be any progress in negotiating Shalit’s release.

Unfortunately, the focus on the Palestinian – Israeli Conflict is not so much on the occupation anymore. Hamas, essentially a religious organization, has never agreed to recognize Israel though Hamas leaders have indicated on numerous occasions their willingness to accept outstanding agreements that themselves implicitly recognize Israel, a strategy that aims to allow the movement to claim it has resisted US and Israeli pressure, unlike its rival Fatah.

According to Al Ahram, the Egyptian weekly of 28th September-2nd October:

“The majority of Palestinians remains opposed to Hamas recognizing Israel, for both religious and ideological reasons, but also because Israel has not indicated any willingness to recognize a viable Palestinian state on all the Palestinian land it occupied in 1967. Israel has also consistently rejected the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes in what is now Israel. Repatriation and indemnification for refugees is a key clause in the Prisoner Document on which any national unity government will be based.

Another factor militating against recognition of Israel by Hamas is the widespread suspicion that Israel is only using the issue as propaganda tool, something Israel's treatment of the PA during the Oslo years (1994-2000) confirms. Despite the fact that the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat formally recognized Israel and agreed to annul the Palestinian National Charter, which called for Israel's destruction, successive Israeli governments continued to build Jewish settlements in the West Bank, effectively killing any prospect for the creation of a viable and territorially contiguous state.

Hamas believes Israel and the US are attempting to undermine the movement's credibility with its supporters by forcing it to walk in the footsteps of Fatah and adopt the very Oslo path that led to more Jewish settlements and now the gigantic apartheid wall which has turned Palestinian population centres in the West Bank into detention camps”.

It appears that a national unity government will be formed eventually despite the stalling of talks. However, this government initially will stop short of recognizing Israel and abiding by the requests of the Quartet. A proviso may be added to side step that thorny issue. It is a matter of speculation as to what that proviso would be. There could be a de facto unwritten recognition of Israel. This will make Israel’s recognition conditional on some form of a hudna, which means a long cessation of hostilities towards Israel dependent on the whims and fancies of Hamas. It is unclear as to whether the future national unity government will accept the US, EU and Israeli conditions. Much depends on the economic situation in the Palestinian territories that will determine future strategies by Hamas. It seems that Hamas has incredible determination not to give in to conditions laid down by the Quartet and Israel despite the dire economic straits of the Palestinian People.

President Mahmoud Abbas could dissolve parliament and build a cabinet of national emergency rather than unity. He could muster support for a referendum in order to dissolve parliament. This is his only option, as he does not have wide grass roots support. By doing this he could make the formation of a national unity government dependent on the Quartet and Israel’s conditions.

Monday, September 18

Ramadan Kareem

Wishing all Moslem readers and friends Ramadan Kareem and peace.

 Posted by Picasa

Rosh Hashana Greetings

Wishing all Jewish Readers a Happy New Year and Well over the Fast. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 17

The Speech of Pope Benedict xvi and Muslim Reaction

On September 12th 2006, Pope Benedict xvi delivered a speech to scientists at Regensberg University where he was professor and vice rector from 1959 to 1971. If one were to read the speech in its entirety one would not interpret it as being anti-Islam. After all, the Pope had quoted the opinion of Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. He did not express any opinion on the statement made. He used the opinion as an anecdote – a historical occurrence. True, it was not sympathetic to Islam, but then again one must judge the anecdote in the context of the speech that was not anti-Islam at all. If anything, the speech was conciliatory towards all faiths.

This was not the main point of the speech anyway. The Pope made the point that conversion by force to the ways of God is not desirable and is against religious preaching of all faiths.

What happened after the speech was a tremendous reaction by Muslim communities all over the world. They viewed the anecdote as a condemnation and an insult to their faith. The hysteria resulting from the speech caused many extremist Muslims to demonstrate and burn churches as a protest. The Pope had no alternative but to issue an apology to the world Muslim community for using the historical anecdote that in practice turned out to be a “hysterical” anecdote.

This incident illustrates the irrational attitude of many Muslim leaders that provoke violence. Why are Muslim clerics so quick on the defensive when they feel that the Pope had insulted their faith? Where were the Muslim clerics when Muslim terrorists carried out terror attacks in various parts of the world? Their voices were silent! They never condemned terror against innocent people. Examples of Islamist terror have occurred so often that one cannot in all honesty claim that Islamist terror is not a threat to the world. This being so, the conclusion that any reasonable person who views Islam objectively, is that Islam is not strong in its condemnation of terror against innocent people. Many of their clerics have made statements supporting terror for spreading the “holy word by the sword.”

Many people rationalize Islamist terror and try to justify it. I wonder if they would have the same rationalization if they, themselves, lost dear ones in an Islamist terror attack!

Saturday, September 16

The Prospects of Peace between Israel and the Palestinians

The war against Hezbollah ended abruptly because of a UN imposed cease-fire. This resulted in a certain amount of inconclusiveness. Nobody won the war despite the heavy damage inflicted on Hezbollah. Hezbollah heads are high and their aggressiveness is untamed. When one talks about peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the Lebanese-Hezbollah track must also be considered. This has wider ramifications because it includes Syria and Iran. As the situation stands, there are signs of cooperation between Hezbollah and Hamas that will increase in the near future.

Israel is on the eve of establishing a governmental committee of enquiry into the conduct of the war against Hezbollah. The committee, headed by retired judge Eliyahu Winograd, will examine how the government and defense establishment dealt with the Hezbollah threat in the years preceding the war, as well as how they conducted the war after it broke out on July 12. This enquiry will show up the weaknesses of the Israeli defense establishment and will apportion blame onto those responsible for carrying out military operations that resulted in loss of life. One thing certain is the delay in sending in ground troops into Lebanon earlier on in the war. There was hesitancy on the part of Israel to make this decision earlier rather than relying solely on air warfare. The aircraft pounded Hezbollah positions but made no dent in the ability of Hezbollah to fire into Israeli settlements in the north of the country. This continued unabated until the UN brokered a cease-fire between the warring parties.

Now the fragile cease-fire is in place and a multinational force is replacing Israeli positions in Lebanon. It is doubtful if the situation will remain calm for any length of time. Hezbollah needs the cease-fire more than Israel. They need time to plan future strategy against Israel. They will also not agree to disarm. The multinational force will also not enforce Hezbollah’s disarmament. Hezbollah, despite its weakness, has increased its prowess by creating a dent in Israel’s deterrent military power. Hezbollah believes that they achieved a victory over Israel even though they paid heavy price.

Despite these developments, there is some misplaced optimism in Gaza in the prospective coalition of Hamas and Fatah under President Mahmoud Abbas in gaining recognition of Hamas by the US and EU. However, the US and EU have underlined three conditions before they consider a change of policy towards Hamas –
  1. Recognition of Israel,

  2. Cessation of violence and disarming of militias

  3. The freeing of the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit

It is unlikely that a national unity government with Hamas and Fatah will change the intransigence of Hamas towards recognizing Israel’s right to exist or ceasing the violence. It is a well-known axiom that Muslim extremists will never recognize a non-Muslim power in its midst.

They will strive for its destruction when they have the power to achieve that goal. Until they achieve that goal all kinds of temporary agreements or hudna will be signed.

Iran will become more involved in achieving the goal of destroying Israel.

According to Professor Moshe Sharon, Israel will never achieve peace with the Muslim World. The Iranian government is seeking nuclear weapons in order to bring about an apocalypse, Professor Moshe Sharon, a professor of Islamic studies from the Hebrew University, told the annual conference at the Counter-Terrorism Institute in Herzliya Thursday 14th September 2006.
Sharon said there was "no possibility of peace between Israel and the Palestinians whatsoever, for ever," since the Arab and Islamic world viewed the establishment of Israel as a "reversal of history," and would never accept Israel.
He described peace agreements with Arab Muslim states as "pieces of paper, parts of tactics, strategies," adding that they have "no meaning."
"The root of the problem between us and the Arab world is Islam. Islam is not only a religion. It is a culture, politics… a state, Islam is everything. It has been like this, and it will be like this for the foreseeable future," Sharon said.
"Islam is a messianic religion… from the very beginning, it talked about the end of the world," Sharon said. In Islam, "Allah is the king of the end of days," Sharon explained, before addressing the Shiite Islam guiding Iran .
According to Sharon, the Iranian regime genuinely believes that the Shiite messiah, the twelfth Imam (also known as the Mahdi), "is here. In addition, he will come. First, he will establish the Shiite house of Ali. This is a time of messianic expectation."
"What moves today the Iranian government, prime minister, is first and foremost the wish to bring about the twelfth Imam." The power of the ayatollahs in Iran came from the grassroots and popular belief that they can "contact the Mahdi. Everybody believes," Sharon said.
"How will they bring him? By an apocalypse. He (the Mahdi) needs a war. He cannot come into this world without an Armageddon. He wants an Armageddon. The earlier we understand the better. Ahmadinejad wants nuclear weapons for this," Sharon declared.
Israel was a side issue for Iran, the professor said, adding that Iran was using Israel as a means "to enter the Islamic world" and dominate it. "But they cannot bluff the Saudis; the Wahabbis… the Shiite are hated by the Sunnis. The Saudis are far more apprehensive of nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran than Israel," he said.
Speaking to Ynetnews about the possibility of a military conflict with Iran, Sharon said, "The only way to avoid military confrontation with Iran is to leave this military confrontation to powers bigger than Israel."
"I'm not so sure that the business with Iran will be finished without confrontation, but it's not an Israeli business," he added.
If one reads “Agenda of Islam – A War between Civilizations” by Professor Moshe Sharon, it may help to understand the psychology of Hezbollah, Hamas and the various Islamist terror groups that operate against the West and Israel. This may also explain the silence of Muslim clerics when it comes to condemning Islamist terror against Israel and the non-Muslim west. Unfortunately, in the case of the future unity government under Mahmoud Abbas, there will be a two-pronged approach towards Israel under one umbrella. The Hamas approach, which will show no sign of change in attitude towards Israel, and the pragmatic Mahmoud Abbas approach, which will show readiness to negotiate a two state solution and recognize Israel. How these two opposing ideas will exist within a unity government including Hamas will be a big question.
The ending of the Israeli occupation of the territories will create a vacuum that will be filled by Hamas and their terrorist allies who will see this as a victory. It will result in further violence against Israel as occurred in Gaza and Lebanon. This has nothing to do with occupation! It has plenty to do with an attempt to destroy Israel and create an Islamic state in its place. Unfortunately, there are increased signs that Hamas and Hezbollah, the proxy of Iran, will see this as an attainable goal and the road to peace between Israel and the Palestinians will not be achieved for many years to come if ever.

Saturday, September 9

The Aftermath of the War against Hezbollah

These days there is controversy as to whether Israel had achieved its object of defeating Hezbollah. It is very difficult to come out with any positive conclusion as to whether Israel achieved this. The UN enforced a cease-fire on Israel that was premature. Perhaps Hezbollah had gained a Pyrrhic victory. Israel had a very simple goal and that was the prevention of Hezbollah from carrying out aggression on Israeli territory. Israel waged a fierce war against Hezbollah after the guerrilla group carried out a cross-border raid, capturing two Israeli soldiers and killing three others. In the 34-day war, 120 Israeli soldiers and 39 civilians were killed, along with 854 Lebanese, most of them civilians.
Now there is a debate as to whether Israel had conducted the war efficiently or not. There are demands from some Knesset members to the establishment of a Commission of Enquiry into the conduct of the war. It remains to be seen what kind of Commission of Enquiry will be established, if at all, and whose heads will roll as a result.

However, what is clear is that Israeli Intelligence or perhaps the authorities who received information from the Israeli Intelligence Services about Hezbollah’s strength, had failed to act on the information. Since the unilateral Israeli Army pullout from Lebanon in 2000, the Hezbollah saw this as an opportunity to re-arm and threaten Israel’s northern border. They had six years grace in order to build up their strength. Israel was involved in combating severe security problems because of the regular suicide bombings carried out by Palestinian terrorists. This resulted in the Hezbollah threat from Lebanon being put on the back burner.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had imposed three conditions for a ceasefire in Lebanon:

  1. Release of the two kidnapped Israeli soldiers.

  2. Cessation of hostilities by Hezbollah and its disarmament.

  3. The Implementation of UN Resolution 1559.

None of these conditions was implemented and despite that, Israel accepted the cease-fire and the defeat of Hezbollah was not total. Surely, Hezbollah gained time by the cease-fire declaration! The kidnapped soldiers are still in Hezbollah hands and Hezbollah remains armed. Israel dealt Hezbollah a heavy blow but Hezbollah had won a Pyrrhic victory. Lebanon will not disarm Hezbollah. PM Fuad Seniora of Lebanon has no desire to disarm Hezbollah. In this respect, he is in a similar position to President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority – weak and ineffectual! Hezbollah has become an integral part of Lebanon and it will remain a formidable foe for Israel in the near and distant future once they have licked their wounds of “quasi-defeat”. Sheik Nasrallah, (whose whereabouts are unknown) is still alive and kicking despite the fact that he has been weakened temporarily. Israel’s deterrent power took a beating by the war against Hezbollah!

The arrival of a multinational force in stages under the auspices of the UN will remain ineffectual and it will be a matter of time before Hezbollah rearms and will renew its threats on Israel militarily as well as verbally. As the multinational troops arrive, Israel will remove its blockade on Lebanon. This will weaken Israel even further. The history of UN troops in the Middle East between Israel and her enemies has never prevented wars or maintained peace. There is nothing to indicate that the situation in the future will be any different from the past. Lebanon is Iran’s military playground and Hezbollah is Iran’s proxy. It may be true that Hezbollah has failed its master, Iran, but this is temporary. Iran will return to the drawing board and work out a new strategy to create instability and widen its influence in the region. Iran will have nuclear weapons in the future. The Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinajad, is once again throwing wool in the eyes of the UN by refusing to meet the deadline to cease her nuclear programme. Ahmadinajad was even “blessed” by UN Secretary General, Kofi Anan, with a handshake! He made a “polite request” to Ahmadinajad to cease his country’s nuclear programme. Once again, there is a feeling of déjà vu as history repeats itself, but with different players. Appeasement of the “Hitler of Iran” – Ahmadinajad - by the EU and the UN brings back memories of appeasement of Hitler by PM of Britain, Neville Chamberlain, in 1938 before the Second World War broke out. Appeasement of Ahmadinajad will work in his favor. It will allow him to carry out his dangerous nuclear programme almost without hindrance! Even if the UN declares sanctions against Iran, the chances of sanctions being effective are low.  

Ahmadinajad is a dangerous leader. Much of what he says, including his statements of hate for Israel and the Jews, may be bluster and wild rhetoric. However, dictators of his ilk are a danger to world peace because of their unpredictability. The UN and the EU should take a more aggressive stance towards halting Iran’s nuclear programme.

There will be further cooperation between Palestinian Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and Syria in the future. It would not be surprising if Al Qaeda will also establish terrorist cells in this region and become allies in the common goal of destruction of Israel. While these organizations refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist, fail to negotiate any form of peace settlement and cease hostilities, there will never be peace in the region. For all those who condemn Israel for the destruction of much of Lebanon’s infrastructure and the killing of innocent civilians must bear in mind that the blame for the sufferings of the Lebanese people and the cruel use of children as human shields in this war must be laid at the door of Iran and its proxy – Hezbollah!  


Saturday, September 2

Imaginative Comments of Comrade Ronnie Kasrils, Minister of Intelligence, South Africa

Comrade Ronnie has done it again with his article “Rage of the Elephant” of 1 September 2006 in the South African Mail & Guardian. He is hell bent on his anti-Israel platitudes. He is selective in the facts that he wishes to portray and ignores the reasons why Israel attacked Lebanon now and in the past. He twists the truth to suit his personal ideologies. He quotes Dr. Raanan Gissin out of context. I was present at the forum and heard the speech. Raanan Gissin stated that the Jews are an “endangered species” who wish to live in peace. He used the comparison of the Kruger National Park being a “reserve” for the elephants as Israel is a “reserve” for the Jewish People, where they could live in peace with their neighbours. However, when they are attacked they will fight and retaliate in order to ensure their survival. They will make it tough on their attackers in order to deter them from seeking their destruction meaning that their attackers will pay a heavy price.

Kasrils chooses his words selectively, leaving out Israel’s claims and falling into the trap of Hezbollah propaganda. No mention is made of the period before the war on Hezbollah.

Kasrils wrote, “As the world has seen, Lebanon -- half Israel’s size -- has just experienced the wrath of the behemoth: its people, capital, towns, villages, highways, bridges, power and water utilities ground into the dust.”

Kasrils does not view Hezbollah as a terrorist organization as it flouts his world view on “Islamic liberation movements” which in reality are Islamo-fascist movements threatening not only Israel’s right to exist but also western civilization and democracy.

Typical of Kasrils, he does not mention the constant border incursions that Israel had endured prior to the “final straw that broke the back of the camel” when Israel retaliated. When Israel attacked Lebanon in 1982, there were reasons. Starting in 1968, Palestinian groups in southern Lebanon raided northern Israel, and bombarded Israeli towns with Katyusha rockets.
Secondly, Israel argued it could derail the establishment of a base of operations for the PLO, from which they could mount assaults such as the 26 December 1968 attack on an Israeli civilian airliner in Athens.
Another reason given for the invasion was as an intervention in the ongoing Lebanese Civil War to counteract Syrian influences in Lebanon, and possibly enable the establishment of a stable Lebanese leadership from the Christian population, which would strengthen a central Lebanese Army, restore security and agree to diplomatic relations with Israel.

According to former chief of Israeli military intelligence Yehoshafat Harkabi, the 1982 invasion of Lebanon was accompanied by deceit at the highest political levels. Harkarbi cites misleading statements to the cabinet by Ariel Sharon and Begin, inaccurate announcements by Israel's military spokespersons and the Likud government's exaggeration of terrorist acts conducted from Lebanon. Defense Minister Rabin admitted in the Knesset[citation needed] that during the eleven-month ceasefire preceding the war, Israel's northern settlements had been attacked only twice and that during this period Israel had suffered a total of two killed and six wounded from terrorist attacks. These attacks had been preceded by Israeli strikes in response to the planting of a bomb on a bus and the attack on Shlomo Argov.

Kasrils continues, “For a Hamas attack on an Israeli army post two weeks previously -- and the abduction of a soldier -- the people of Gaza paid a price of 200-to-one killed and vital infrastructure flattened. The death toll in Lebanon is more than 1 200 to 150 Israeli dead, 120 of the latter being soldiers. One third of Lebanon’s dead are children. Thousands more have been mutilated, their homes razed to the ground; one quarter of Lebanon’s population were displaced. The country remains blockaded.”

Kasrils fails to mention the use of human shields by Hezbollah. Hezbollah had hidden weapons such as rockets and anti-tank weapons in the homes of innocent Lebanese people by force. They knew that Israeli intelligence would discover these weapon caches and the Israeli Army would blow them up, including innocent civilians, whom they had prevented from leaving their homes after Israel had issued warnings that Lebanese people living in “Hezbollah land” must vacate in order that these arm caches be destroyed with minimum deaths to innocent people. Hezbollah knew that a high death rate amongst innocent Lebanese citizens would serve their propaganda cause. There are also no bomb shelters for Lebanese citizens and if there were, they probably contained Hezbollah weaponry.

A salient characteristic of the shallow depths of Kasrils articles is his total failure to write the whole truth. He justifies Hamas terror and believes in the stereotype phrase “occupation and Palestinian suffering” as a so-called reason to attack Israel. He overlooks the fact that Hamas was responsible for wide scale suicide bombings against innocent Israelis in the heart of Israel during the period of the second intifada in the 2000s. He never mentioned the heavy rain of Qassam rockets into Sderot in the south of Israel even before the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. This had resulted in heavy casualties and damage to property.

Here is another example of Kasrils’ ignorance, “And how telling it was that when the missiles fell on Haifa, among the victims were Israeli Arabs whose government does not bother to provide them with shelters!”

This is a blatant lie! Does Kasrils not realize that Katyusha rockets do not distinguish between Arab Israelis and Jewish Israelis? Shelters are available to all Israeli citizens irrespective of race colour, creed or religion. There are many Israeli Arabs living in Haifa and their casualty figures were low as was the case with Jewish Israelis living in Haifa.

The reason for the relatively low casualty rate in Israel is that many Israelis living in the northern towns that were under Katyusha rocket fire had hidden in bomb shelters. In addition, many Israelis left their homes in the north and stayed with family and friends in the centre of the country.

Kasrils also does not mention the history of the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers after Israel had withdrawn unilaterally from Lebanon in 2000, which in itself is a casus belli, and Israeli did not attack Hezbollah.

The extreme left as usual never sees any justification for Israel’s war of survival. It is always the “Palestinian just struggle for freedom from Israeli occupation” or the “suffering of the Lebanese people” as a result of “Israeli aggression” that is the just cause for terror. Kasrils, in his shallow writings illustrates his total ignorance of the history of the establishment of Israel and the Zionist movement. He is a disciple of the extreme left who paradoxically are allies of the neo-fascists in their hate for Israel.

Friday, September 1

A Visit to South Africa and Attitudes to the Lebanese War

(Owing to a family visit to Cape Town, South Africa during August 2006, my blog slipped into dormancy for a few weeks. Now that I have returned, I hope to resuscitate it once again.)

While I was in Cape Town, I did manage to speak to a few people, black as well as white, about attitudes towards the Palestinian-Israeli-Lebanese Problem. A friend of mine organized a group visit to the SA Parliament on 17 August when MPs discussed the passing of a resolution condemning Israel for the Lebanese War.

Cape Town (where I was born and educated) is a very vibrant city. The amazing character of its people and the total absence of apartheid are incredible. It is a very different South Africa to the one I remembered. There is a feeling of reconciliation between the various races as they are all fraternizing and mixing socially. The draconic laws of apartheid are no more and there is a sense of confidence in the future. This does not mean that there are no problems. Crime is rampant and wherever one goes, there are many beggars and homeless. The authorities cannot keep pace with the increasing housing problems. Shantytowns such as Crossroads and Kayalitcha stretch for many kilometers giving us a reminder that there remains much work to be done in providing housing for a large economically deprived population.  Parking attendants, official and otherwise, appear from nowhere the moment you park your car and promise to look after your vehicle for the duration of parking (for a fee of course). The AIDS epidemic remains a great problem and the ANC attitude towards solving this crisis is inadequate. Many say that the blacks have won their freedom but many are losing to AIDS.
The debate in the SA Parliament on passing an anti-Israel resolution condemning Israel for its actions in Lebanon was poor and irrelevant. At least that was the feeling that many of us had. The knowledge of many of the MPs on the Middle East was scanty and many statements made showed this very clearly. One ANC Member of Parliament dropped a mini-bombshell of untruths. He stated that the Palestinians fired rockets into southern Israel from Gaza because the Israeli Army had kidnapped a Palestinian medical doctor and his son. This was a form of retaliation. That incident was not reported anywhere and nobody was able to verify where the Honorable Member of Parliament received this information!  The ruling ANC (African National Congress) has many Muslim members who are anti-Israel and this does introduce a total lack of proportion in the debate. One could sum up the debate as being a mixture of naivety, irrelevance and half-truths. There were no cabinet members present, which could be an indication that this resolution was not considered important enough to warrant their presence. Here are the minutes of the proceedings and I quote:
10. [15:40] The Chief Whip of the Majority Party moved: That the House -
(1) noting -
(a) with grave concern the developments in the Middle East;
(b) Israel's collective punishment of both the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples;
(c)  the disproportionate response of Israel and the use of military force against civilian targets, resulting in hundreds of deaths and injuries, mainly of women, children and the elderly, the massive destruction of vital life-supporting infrastructure, and the displacement of over a million people;
(d) the catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Gaza and Lebanon, for which Israel's aggression is responsible;
(e) the anger and concerns of many sectors of our people - including political parties, trade unions and religious leaders; and
(f)  the commencement of a UN mandated ceasefire on Monday, 14 August 2006;
(2) believing –
(a) that the threat of a regional war might become a reality, which will seriously endanger regional and international peace and security;
(b) that the actions of Israel are against international law and the Geneva Convention;
(c) that the Palestinian people have the right to self-determination and independence in the State of Palestine and that the State of Israel has the right to exist alongside the State of Palestine, within secure borders; and
(d) that a negotiated final status agreement would best serve the peoples of Israel, Palestine and Lebanon, and more generally the cause for peace and security in the region; and
(3) resolves -
(a)  to call upon all parties to desist from any actions which may exacerbate the conflict;
(b) to call for the maintenance of a ceasefire by all sides;
(c) to call for a negotiated solution of the Israeli, Palestinian and Lebanese prisoner issue;
(d) to call upon the UN Security Council to discharge its responsibilities and act with urgency to enforce and maintain the full cessation of hostilities and Israel’s withdrawal of its troops at the earliest;
(e) to call upon the UN, on the basis of various UN resolutions, to seek a peaceful comprehensive solution; and
(f) to call upon the international community and the South African government and people to respond to the catastrophic humanitarian tragedy in the region.
  The Chief Whip of the Opposition moved as an amendment: To omit all the words after “That the House -” and to substitute with the following:
(1) noting -
(a) with grave concern the recent developments in the Middle East;
(b) the devastating loss of life of both the people of Lebanon and Israel;
(c)  the support of Hezbollah and its terrorist activities by Syria and Iran;
(d) the right of self-determination for the people of Palestine and the sovereign right to self-defence of Israel;
(e) that South Africa’s official foreign policy in the Middle East is the acceptance of a two-state solution and that any attempt to abandon this position will undermine our international credibility; and
(f) the commencement of a UN mandated ceasefire on Monday, 14 August 2006;
(2) resolves that -
(a)  both sides must desist from any actions which may exacerbate the conflict;
(b) Hezbollah must disarm in line with UN Resolution 1559 and Israel must withdraw its troops from southern Lebanon once this has been achieved;
(c) Syria and Iran must be condemned for financing, arming and inspiring the conflict;
(d) a lasting two-state solution must be respected by all parties in the region;
(e) the UN Security Council act with urgency to enforce and maintain the full cessation of hostilities by both sides; and
(f) the South African government must focus more on the immediate humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, rather than a conflict over which it has little or no influence. 
Mr M B Skosana moved as amendments to the motion of the Chief Whip of the Majority Party:
      In paragraph (1), to omit subparagraphs (b), (c) and (d); and
      In paragraph (2)(b), to omit “Israel“ and to substitute “the belligerent parties”.
  At the request of the Chief Whip of the Majority Party, House Chairperson Ms C-S Botha interrupted the debate.
11. The House adjourned at 17:15.
Towards the end of the debate, there was an attempt to give a sense of balance to the resolution by an attempt to omit paragraphs that referred to “Israel” as the aggressor and substitute the phrase “the belligerent parties” instead. However, there was no mention of the reason why Israel entered Lebanon nor were there any mention of the Katyusha rockets that Hezbollah fired into Israel and the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers patrolling within Israel’s borders. The debate was adjourned and at the time of my departure from South Africa to Israel, no date was set to continue this rather strange and biased debate. No vote was taken on this resolution. Had a vote been taken, the resolution would have been passed overwhelmingly. Many members kept on referring to the South African example of reconciliation that could form the basis of a settlement between Israel, Palestinians and the Lebanese.  
The salient difference between the South African situation and the Middle East is that all South Africans, irrespective of their race, colour or creed, had a common desire to solve their race problems by ending apartheid and live together in a multiracial South Africa on a basis of total racial equality. In the Middle East, the Palestinian Hamas regime and the Lebanese Hezbollah – the proxy of Iran – have a common desire to destroy Israel and never negotiate Israel’s right to exist. How can there ever be peace in the Middle East when these attitudes still prevail?
I had spoken to some Black and Colored Christian clergy who show understanding of Israel’s existential problems with her Palestinian neighbours. Many have even pledged their support for Israel and told me that they pray for peace in Israel and her Arab neighbours. Some did mention that there was a lack of information from the Israeli side, which leaves the field open for much fundamentalist Islamist propaganda that justifies terrorist acts against Israel’s citizens.
Much work needs to be done in South Africa to counteract the hostile propaganda against Israel. The public relations work to increase understanding of Israel’s existential problems in South Africa is inadequate according to my experience in discussions with people of all races.

Robben Island

This is a view of the prison on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first democratically elected president served 18 years of his 27 year sentance.

A view of Robben Island from the top of Table MountainPosted by Picasa