Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'The Taliban is Here'

My friend Professor Shapir brought an opinion piece to my attention published in Maariv last week. The problem was that it was only in Hebrew. So the professor assigned some homework, and I guess I'm the only one to hand it in. So here's my translation. As always, feel free to call to my attention any mistakes. You get what you pay for around here. All kidding aside, this is a terribly important and frightening piece.

They Sold Us to the Taliban
By Ben-Dror Yemini

In every sphere possible - public education, conversion, the appointment of rabbis, women's singing - the government of Israel, and not only the current one, sold the State to the movement of Haredim-Nationalists.

The Bar Association selected this week two representatives to the Committee for the Appointment of Judges. There isn't a single woman there. As a result of the coalition agreement, the majority attorney Yuri Guy-Ron sold his soul to the Haredim faction that supported him. This means Haredization, further Haredization, of the rabbinical courts (for the office vote and the mistakes made Haaretz saw a different perspective at the end of the article). It is not only the Bar Association. Like this, the state is run. Rabbi Eliyakim Levanon called on his students to disobey an order so as not to hear women's singing. "It is unacceptable in any circumstance," he said. So it is.

Seemingly, there is no connection between these two events from recent days. But there is. Israel is marching slowly but surely to the darkest place in her history. The Taliban does not yet rule us. But it's on the way. Such is the process. We barely see the tiny steps. Another appointment. Another halachic ruling. Another step like this and another. Usually far from the public eye. And collectively like a great forest that comes and darkens us.

It's forbidden to compare. The Taliban, as part of political Islam, works by massacring its opponents, most of them Muslim. The Haredim-ultra-nationalists, among the Jews, are far from this murderousness. But the theological and political orientation is similar. Because every religion carries with it a wide spectrum of sources, and certainly interpretations. Muslim theologians composed a complete proof that the Koran calls, for example, for the full equality of women. But they were defeated. The Muslim Brotherhood, the Wahabi School, and the Taliban prevailed. This is also the story of Judaism. There are countless sources. In them, there is respect for the stranger, the foreigner, the orphan and the widow. There is in them humanism and enlightenment. But slowly, only the dark sources are taking over. Levanon has already declared that it is forbidden to elect a woman to the local council because of the "power." To whom is he closer, the Taliban or the National Religious Party of yore. Levanon is the new face of religious Judaism. He is the rabbi of Judea and Samaria. He is the rabbi that in the past declared that democracy is not required. He is the rabbi who called on soldiers to refuse orders. Rabbi Dov Lior expressed a similar position. Both of them belong to religious Zionism. Not Haredi. Levanon belongs to the Jewish home, the moderate party, and to the National Union, supposedly more extreme. The Taliban is already here and we refuse to see.

"The Voice of the Woman" is only a syndrome. After all, if we are governed by the Torah, we would find that women singing fill the Bible. Such as Deborah the Prophetess ("Then sang Deborah and Barak son of Avinoam.") Such as the women who flickered and danced before David and Saul ("the women came out from the all the cities of Israel to sing . . . Saul by the thousands and David his ten thousands"), and much more. But the Bible no longer interests them as a source. They then determine that a woman is not allowed as a member of council, even though they know about Deborah.The problem is not the abyss that separates the biblical model from the current model. The problem is the abyss between the state-religious model that ruled here only decades ago and the new national-Haredi model. Over decades rabbis participated in the squares at state events where women sang. They did not get up, they did not protest, they did not leave, and they did not need imams to issue fatwas that prohibited them from listening to a woman's voice. But here exists for us a new generation. And it does to Judaism exactly what the Muslim Brotherhood and the Wahabi stream did to Islam. Among the many and varied sources and a variety of possible interpretations - the choice is very dark. Thus the phenomenon of the Taliban. So too is it here. It did not happen in one day. We are in the process. The Haredi camp took control in connection to Jewish law, and the religious camp took over the Haredi camp in connection to nationalism. Every sphere of the State of Israel is becoming more Harerdi. Religious state education is becoming more Haredi. Less core studies and fewer hours of secular studies. More religious studies. A rabbi for every kindergarten. So too in conversion. The Haredi stream, the more clerical took over the branch. Also the religious have been excluded from the picture. Such as in the area of marriage. Revisionist Zionist rabbis, who are not suspected of deviation from the Orthodox stream, have been unacceptable. Already its forbidden for them to conduct marriages.

The Harerdization is not the result of enlightenment or new discoveries in Jewish law. It's the result of the reality where the State grants more and more precisely to the Haredim. This is the country that transfered to them control over the apparatus of conversion. This is the country that granted them control over the rabbinical courts that have become Haredi. This is the country that has granted them an exemption from core studies. This the country that granted more and more exemptions to those who shirk their civic responsibilities. The figures are frightening. Every year in first grade there is an increase of one percent Haredim. Approximately 25% now. Approximately 35% in another decade. The increase is not coming from births. The increase is a result of a transition from a state-religious education to a Haredi education, mainly from Shas voters.

The most significant change is in the State-religious education. It is becoming more Haredi. The end result is frightening. The graduates of this track come to the IDF sounding like imams not commanders. Or rather, this is not the State, this is the coalition. This coalition system that tramples the majority and democracy, and produces in Israel rule by the minority. It pays to become Haredi. Moderates are trampled. Imams are strengthened.

There is only one way to save Israel from this Taliban disaster. Establish a national-Zionist coalition - Likud, Kadima, Labor, with all the parties that will agree to basic principles that will include strengthening national education, removing conversion from the hands of the Haredi movement, ending funding for every school, Haredi or religious, that does not have at its base a wide range of core studies, the gradual limitation of exemption from military service, etc. In other words, the need to separate religion from the state. This will not be simple.This will cause a difficult conflict, perhaps unprecedented,among some in the nationalist camp - Zionist, religious and secular, among the nationalist ultra-Orthodox camp, whose power is growing stronger. But this is a war of survival. Israel exists and must of course remain a Jewish and democratic state. Because of the connection between politics and religion, because of the coalition system, and because of the permanent surrender to the Taliban camp, Israel is losing its Jewish identity in favor of an ultra-orthodox brutality, and its democratic identity in favor of fatwas issued from Levanon and his ilk. The Taliban is already here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dagan warns of regional war if Israel strikes Iran

Nothing too new here. But look at this from the same article:
It was announced earlier on Tuesday that Dagan will lead a group that will endeavor to immediately alter the system of government in Israel.
Maariv reported Tuesday that the group is operating without much publicity, backed by a group of leaders in the fields of business, culture and law that has already begun to raise funds.
Former IDF Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, businessman Gad Zeevi and Herliya Interdisciplinary Center President Professor Uriel Reichman have already joined the new group.

Happy Partition Day!

Sixty-four years ago the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 181, dividing Mandatory Palestine into two states, a Jewish state and an Arab state. Read it here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Is Israel at War with Iran?

With all this talk about whether Israel is going to attack Iran, could it be that the war has already started and they just forgot tell us?

An Israeli take on the last GOP debate

I wasn't the only one a bit queasy. Quoting Queen's Brian May - “too much love will kill you” - Haaretz's Chemi Shalev writes:
Herman Cain said the U.S. would “join Israel” in attacking Iran, as long as the Israelis came up with a credible plan; Newt Gingrich said the U.S. would bomb Tehran only as a “last recourse” but would be happy to team up with Israel in a “conventional” attack; Michele Bachmann has already indicated that the Pentagon should present “war plans” in order to rescue “millions of Israelis who are on the precipice of losing their lives”; Rick Perry said “if we're going to be serious about saving Israel, we better get serious about Syria and Iran”; Rick Santorum made up for lost time in the debate by declaring later, “I’d be working with Israel and be very clear with Iran that we are preparing a military strike"; Mitt Romney thinks that the answer to Iran is to go to Israel “to show the world we care about that country and that region”; and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, usually the most cautious Republican debater on matters of foreign policy, said “our interest is to ensure that Israel - that Iran does not go nuclear. Our interest in the Middle East is Israel.”
Not Saudi Arabia. Not the Gulf emirates. Not the Maghreb. Not the Horn of Africa. Not a stable Iraq. Not a moderate Egypt. Not the free flow of oil. Not containment of China and Russia. Not Islamic moderation, not even the fight against jihadist terrorism. Just Israel. 
Whole thing is here.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What Gershon Gorenberg says

Terrific piece by Gershon Gorenberg in the American Prospect, here. He examines a question, I've tried to answer in some form or another. Why are they so angry?

Gorenberg lays the scene:
"He's lying! He's lying!" the man at the back of the hall shouted, in a tone as desperate as it was angry. "He hasn't read the Geneva Conventions. You haven't read them, so you don't know he's lying."
The primary object of his rage was me. The secondary object, it seemed, was his fellow congregants, who'd allowed me to lecture at his New York-area synagogue. I'd spoken about threats to Israel's democracy, including those posed by ongoing expansion of West Bank settlements. This was the first time, I'd been told, that the congregation had hosted a speaker on Israel from outside a spectrum running from right-wing to very right-wing. During the question-and-answer period, I was asked about my statement that the legal counsel of Israel's Foreign Ministry had warned before the first West Bank settlement was established that it would violate the agreement of the Fourth Geneva Convention. That's when the man in the back came unstuck. The congregation's rabbi, who was moderating the Q&A session with the trained calm of a psychologist running group therapy for fractured families, slipped to the back of the room and talked him down.
Read the rest here.

Good news this morning from Israel

The Knesset's Mnisterial Committee on Legislation rejected Glenn Beck's friend's proposal to limit petitions to the Supreme Court. So we'll still have Dan Meridor to keep a watch on these fools.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Listen up, chevrai

It ain't just Zahav and the usual suspects saying it. Here's veteran Likudnik Dan Meridor:
There has been a wave of attacks aimed at making Israel different – less liberal and more nationalist. I think we’re fighting for the spirit of our country, for its existence, our freedom, our liberty, freedom of expression, freedom to protest, and for human dignity.
 He's threatening to quit if the latest bill directed at Israel's Supreme Court passes. Pay attention: keep defending the occupation and status quo and you'll wake up one morning and it will all be gone. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

אריק איינשטיין - שיר מספר שמונה Arik Einstein Shir Mispar 8

Had been looking for this for a while, and a couple weeks ago Rika came through for me! Just getting around to posting it now. Happy Thanksgiving all!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

GOP debates over who can fawn over Israel more

Just watched part of this evening's "debate." Absolutely excruciating on so many levels. But if you think that display was good for Israel or the US you are out of your mind. That kind of pandering will only erode the critical and legitimate support Israel does need. None of these people care about Israel. They are inviting backlash.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

In Which Popeye Makes His First Appearance

Ditto, Popeye. Not for the faint of heart. Click here if you dare to enter the dark twisted world of Caroline Glick.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Heckuva job, Congress!

We'll show those Palestinians! Who cares about literacy or education for young girls! From Ynet:
UNESCO won't take on any new projects until the end of the year, an official said Thursday, after the US pulled its substantial contributions from the UN cultural agency to protest its acceptance of Palestine as a member. 
UNESCO, which protects historic heritage sites and works to improve literacy, access to schooling for girls and cultural understanding, is clearly scrambling after the loss of its biggest donor. Canada and Israel have also pulled funding, though they donate far less. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tie goes to the runner

Romney and Bachmann each blast Obama over Liargate.You can understand that Cain has been a bit distracted, but where's Perry been?

By the way, do you think Romney or Bachmann realize that the US and Israel will be participating in the largest joint military exercise in the allies' history? Or that Obama also complained to Sarkozy over the fact that France did not give the US a heads up over its UNESCO vote and warned that the US would have to impose sanctions on the Palestinians?

What's really crazy is not what Romney and Bachmann said, but that they don't get laughed out of the room when they say it.

The expectedly absurd

Instead of voicing concern that Israel's prime minister has no credibility or asking why it is that world leaders think he's a liar, Abe Foxman calls on Obama to make amends. From Haaretz:
"In light of the revelations here, we hope that the Obama Administration will do everything it can to reassure Israel that the relationship remains on a sure footing and to reinvigorate the trust between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, which clearly is not what it should be," Foxman continued.
"What is sad is that we now have to worry to what extent these private views inform foreign policy decisions of the U.S. and France - two singularly important players in the peace process."
See it's not the liar that's the problem, it's Obama's refusal to cover for him.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Winner. . . John McCain!

From Politico:
Sen. John McCain said Tuesday that derogatory “hot mic” comments from President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are “indicative of the attitude and policies that this administration has had towards Israel.”
“I happen to be a great admirer of Prime Minister Netanyahu,” McCain said on Fox and Friends. “I’ve known him for years, and Israel is under more pressure and probably in more danger than they’ve been since the ’67 war and that kind of comment is not only not helpful, but indicative of some of the policies towards Israel that this administration has been part of.”
Well, he's really a former candidate, so there's still time to win! Cain, Bachman, Perry? Who's your choice?

Another day, another attack

Peace Now leader, Hagit Ofran, targeted again.

Breaking News: World Leaders Think Bibi is a Liar

Nicolas:  I cannot bear Netanyahu, he is a liar.

Barack:  You're fed up, I have to deal with it all day.

So what's the conclusion we will draw in the US? If you answered that Bibi is a liar, you  haven't been paying attention. The correct answer of course is that Obama is anti-Israel. Who will be the first GOP candidate to jump on this one? Feel free to make your prediction in the comments section.

Monday, November 7, 2011

I guess the left in Israel is a legitimate target

Earlier, Peace Now's offices in Jerusalem were evacuated after a bomb threat. And now Bibi and Lieberman are supporting a bill prohibiting funding of Israeli human rights organizations from international organizations. But hey, Obama hates Israel, settlements are not the problem, and besides we must deal with the Iranian threat. I pray for the day that we can look back at this period and feel shame. I fear that we may also look back and feel regret.

Friday, November 4, 2011

I don't f'ing believe this

While my blogging has slowed to a trickle over the past couple weeks, some of you may have noticed the reports coming from Israel that they are seriously - no, really - considering a military attack on Iran's nuclear sites. Today, President Shimon Peres made reference to the military option in an interview with Israel's Channel 2.

Yet, former Mossad Director Efraim Halevy says Iran is "far from posing an existential threat." He minces no words and says: "The growing haredi radicalization poses a bigger risk than Ahmadinejad."

It was about five years ago that I heard Michael Oren (who I believe was the IDF spokesman at the time) speak at an AIPAC lunch. He stated quite clearly that a nuclear Iran was a "red-line" that Israel would not allow to be crossed. I thought it was crazy then. I think it's crazy now. It's so crazy that even Moshe "Boogie" Ya'alon opposes it (at least for now). And yet it's within the realm of possibility.

A letter to Rabin

From a former aide to Yitzhak Rabin: 
It’s a little odd to write you a letter, Yitzhak.
When did I ever write you a letter? If I was truly emotional, as is the case now, I would just open your door and pour my heart out to you. As if you were an elder brother or a dear father. Yet you are not here and there is no door to walk through and share my thoughts with you. So I’m writing. Will you have time to read, up there?
Finally, after 16 years, I have a huge hope. Sixteen years after that villain shot three bullets in your back. Sixteen years after I thought that our country was finished. Sixteen years after the man you said was spineless became prime minister, twice. Sixteen years where we had another Intifada and failed wars. So many young Israelis were killed for no reason.
Read the whole thing.

רצח יצחק רבין Yitzhak Rabin

Sixteen years ago today, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.In some ways it seems like it was yesterday; in others a lifetime ago.