Friday, September 18, 2009

Rosh hashanahs past

The New York Times has a couple articles about past celebrations of Rosh Hashanah.

In one article the Times tells about how Barbara Ann Paster relives what it was like to observe Rosh Hashanah in 1919 in Portsmouth New Hamphsire.

As Mrs. Shapiro, the wife of a pawnbroker with a 9-year-old daughter, Mrs. Paster cooks dishes that follow the rhythm of the seasons, and the Jewish calendar.

She may make strawberry jam for her strudel in June, or pickle cucumbers with dill from her garden, or put up Reliance peaches with brandy in August.

For Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, which begins on Friday evening, she excitedly pinched rolled-out strips of pasta dough into bowtie noodles to use with leftover kasha stuffing from her roast chicken, and made traditional honey and poppy seed cakes.

Mrs. Paster, 61, has been portraying Mrs. Shapiro since the Shapiro house opened in 1997. ?My entire life was made for this job,? Mrs. Paster said with a laugh. ?I married an Orthodox man. I?m Jewish from Russia, so I know the rules of kashrut and family purity. I am also a storyteller.?

The real Shapiro family arrived in the United States just a few years before my father's grandfather did.

And A soldier's voice recovered is the story of the first Rosh Hashanah service in Germany since the rise of Hitler - on Armed Services Radio with the sound of mortars in the backgound.

L'Shana Tova Tikatavu!

Results of National Journal polls

Bloggers on their favorite pundits. Krauthammer was most popular among right leaning bloggers. Here are the results of the political insiders poll.

Thomas Friedman? Even after he advocated for Chinese communist-style government? Yikes. I thought he jumped the shark with that one!

Plus the results of the regularly scheduled bloggers' poll about health care reform and the Tea Party Movement.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Watcher's Council Submissions are UP!

Weasely Submissions for a Blockbuster Week of Weasel Mania

Kemp vs. Goldstone

Why does an expert in fighting insurgencies who defended Israel get much less attention than a judge who tendentiously applies the law in service of an organization with a record of bias against Israel? Is it because the latter presented the narrative that the media wanted to hear?

Richard Kemp:

Despite Israel's extraordinary measures, of course innocent civilians were killed and wounded. That was due to the frictions of war that I have spoken about, and even more was an inevitable consequence of Hamas' way of fighting.

By taking these actions and many other significant measures during Operation Cast Lead the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other Army in the history of warfare.

See here too for an ealier video of the Colonel.

I previously wrote about Col. Kemp here.

Crossposted on Yourish.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Garlasco hits the fan

The New York Times finally covers the controversy over Marc Garlasco's hobby first reported by Mere Rhetoric and reports that he has been suspended from Human Right's Watch.

The article covers most of the aspects of Garlasco's collecting and summed up the controversy:

The suspension comes at a time of heightened tension between, on one side, the new Israeli government and its allies on the right, and the other side, human rights organizations that have been critical of Israel. In recent months, the government has pledged an aggressive approach toward the groups to discredit what they argue is bias and error.

The problems with this are that
1) The Israeli government with lumped together with "allies on the right." Human rights organizations are apparently without ideological bias.
2) It's suggested that the revelations about Garlasco are part of a campaign by the Israeli government, when there is no evidence that the Garlasco story was in any way pushed by the Israeli government.
3) The bias and error are real. Why not mention Sarah Leah Whitson's fundraising in Saudi Arabia or Joe Stork's ideological baggage?

These suggestions and omissions all blur the real issue. Is Human Rights Watch biased against Israel? The answer is unequivocally "yes."

Whitson, Stork and Garlasco are part of the story. Another part of the story are some of the members of HRW's board of directors for the Middle East. They include Helena Cobban, Anne Lesch, Phillip Mattar and James Zogby. All these four are anti-Israel (or at least anti-Zionist) to some degree. On the other side there are no members who can be said to be strongly pro-Israel. So there's no effective counterweight in HRW's Middle East Board of Directors against the documented anti-Israel biases of its staff.

This isn't about Israel and its "right wing" allies, it's about the corruption of HRW. The Times doesn't seem to get it.

For more please check Elder of Ziyon, NGO monitor and memeorandum.

Crossposted on Yourish.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Watcher's Council Winners 09/09/09

Weasels Exposed! Winning Entries for the Week of Sep 9, 2009

Still relevant after all these years

Michael Kelly from "When Innoncents are the Enemy"
If it is morally acceptable to murder, in the name of a necessary blow for freedom, a woman on a Tel Aviv street, or to blow up a disco full of teenagers, or to bomb a family restaurant -- then it must be morally acceptable to drive two jetliners into a place where 50,000 people work. In moral logic, what is the difference? If the murder of innocent people is for whatever reason excusable, it is excusable; if it is legitimate, it is legitimate. If acceptable on a small scale, so too on a grand.

Quote of the day

Fouad Ajami in the Wall Street Journal.

Eight years ago, we were visited by the furies of Arab lands. We were rudely awakened from a decade whose gurus and pundits had announced the end of ideology, of politics itself, and the triumph of the world-wide Web and the "electronic herd." We had discovered that on the other side of the world masterminds of terror, and preachers, and their foot-soldiers were telling of America the most sordid of tales. We had become, without knowing it, a party to a civil war in the Arab-Islamic world between the autocrats and their disaffected children, between those who wanted to live a normal life and warriors of the faith bent on imposing their will on that troubled arc of geography.

Our country answered that call, not always brilliantly, for we are fated to be strangers in that world and thus fated to improvise and make our way through unfamiliar alleyways.

Crossposted on Yourish.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Submitted 09/10/09

Council Nominations are up!

Council Submissions

Non-Council Submissions

Orde Wingate

There's a fascinating essay on the Zionism of Orde Wingate. Who was Wingate?

Traveling through Komemiyut in Jerusalem, at the intersection of Jabotinsky and David Marcus, one will see Kikar Orde (known also as Kikar Wingate). There are Wingate Streets in Be'er Sheva, Tel Aviv and Herzliya as well. In the Carmel Mountains, just south of Haifa, there is the Yemin Orde Wingate Youth Village, which serves hundreds of disadvantaged, at-risk and immigrant children from around the world. Israel's national sports and health education institute in Netanya is fittingly named Machon Wingate, the Wingate Institute.

One might be wondering why so much was named after this man. In his book on the history of the Israeli army, Ze'ev Schiff called Wingate "the single most important influence on the military thinking of the Haganah."[1] While a complete analysis of that influence would constitute an article of its own, Samuel M. Katz put it succinctly. "Wingate had a profound impact on the molding of Israeli military doctrine. Defense, when fighting a numerically superior enemy, meant offense, and offense meant fighting deep inside enemy territory where the opposition was most vulnerable."[2] To this day, that concept remains the core of Israeli military strategy.

What inspired Wingate to be sympathetic to the cause of Zionism?

But what actually led to that conviction? It is not only his critics who point to his early Bible-intensive education as a primary source. Yigal Allon referred to Wingate's "extraordinary Zionist ardour inspired by the Bible…"[11] while Shabtai Teveth cited Haganah archives as describing Wingate as "an eccentric, a genius, a man more religious than rational, given to great pathos, a firm believer in the Bible, and fired with a sense of the special mission of the Jewish people."[12] While describing Wingate as having a genius for "grasping and using new mechanical techniques," Lowell Thomas did not argue against the conception that Wingate was also "a Scripture-reading crusader."[13]

However, the complexity that formed the foundation for Wingate's remarkable genius does not readily coincide with the notion that his Zionism was simply based upon the Bible. As Luigi Rossetto wrote, "Wingate had one quality which stands out above all others and that was his ability to examine the situation objectively and to draw on that part of his experience which applied while rejecting that which did not."[14]

Perhaps the most objective and complete assessment of Wingate at that time was made by Derek Tulloch, who broke down the oft-noted facets of Wingate's psyche as follows:

One side effect of Wingate's unhappy experience at Woolwich was to incline him to take sides, invariably, with the underdog. He never forgot the sensation of all men siding against him. . . . The discovery, however, of this quasi-biblical cause in his life, which opened before him just at a time when he was expecting a cause to appear – to justify his existence and fulfil his destiny – explains his decision to take up the challenge.[15]

Tulloch set forth three components that, in his opinion, led Wingate to embrace the Zionist cause. In addition to the "quasi-biblical" nature of the cause, Tulloch added Wingate's inclination to side with the weaker party, and Wingate's need at the time for a cause in which his destiny could be attained. While the Biblical aspect is intriguing on its own accord, the latter two components call for further examination.

There's more on Wingate here, at what appears to be an official site. His terror fighting strategy is worth a mention:

Wingate envisioned carefully selected, small and mobile units of volunteers to fight aggressively and unconventionally. In a report (as laid out in a future, prepared report dated June 5th, 1938 and titled: "Secret Appreciation of Possibilities of Night Movements by Armed Forces of the Crown - With Object of Putting an end to Terrorism in Northern Palestine") he spelled out formally the need for a unique military force. "There is only one way to deal with the situation, to persuade the gangs that, in their predatory raids, there is every chance of their running into a government gang which is determined to destroy them, not by exchange of shots at a distance, but by bodily assault with bayonet and bomb."11 This new unit was to carry the war to the enemy, taking away his initiative and keeping him off-balance. And so it was, "to produce in their minds the belief government forces will move at night and can and will surprise them either in villages or across country."12

Crossposted on Yourish.

When meticulous means exaggerated

Helena Cobban writes about the recent casualty figures from Israel's war against Hamas released by PCHR and B'Tselem.

I dare say that when we see the final report in English from PCHR, they too will be specific about the methodology they used. I have great respect for the careful work and documentary objectivity of the PCHR, which is Palestinian and operates under extremely difficult circumstances from its downtown Gaza headquarters. I would imagine that its researchers have the opportunity to do even more meticulous fieldwork than that done by B'tselem, which is based in Jerusalem and has faced many obstacles placed by the Israeli authorities in being able to get its research teams into Gaza.

"Meticulous" is an interesting way to describe PCHR's approach. As Elder of Ziyon observed:

We've already demonstrated conclusively that literally hundreds of people that the PCHR called "civilian" casualties of Operation Cast Lead were, in fact, terrorists. (And the incredible team of t34zakat, PTWatch and Suzanne are still finding more.)

The problem is not only that PCHR was unaware of these people's affiliations. PCHR's weekly reports during Cast Lead detail a number of specific incidents that show that the organization knew quite well that the dead were terrorists - and chose to categorize them as "civilian" anyway.

"Meticulous" then, apparently means exaggerating the level of destruction caused by Israel. It isn't surprising that Cobban believes this as there seems to be no libel about Israel that is too silly for her to ignore. Cobban doesn't even seem to be bothered that the blurring of the lines between terrorist and civilian was a deliberate tactic practiced by her heroes of Hamas.

Daled Amos wonders if the funders of these groups feel that they're getting their money's worth. They certainly got their money's worth from PCHR.

Crossposted on Yourish.

Why are Jews liberal?

Norman Podhoretz:

But avowed secularists are not the only Jews who confuse Judaism with liberalism; so do many non-Orthodox Jews who practice this or that traditional observance. It is not for nothing that a cruel wag has described the Reform movement—the largest of the religious denominations within the American Jewish community—as "the Democratic Party with holidays thrown in," and the services in a Reform temple as "the Democratic Party at prayer."

David Wolpe:
Podhoretz’s book is meant to explain why Jews do not vote their self-interest. I would say it is because they vote their self-conception, which is a very different thing. Jews identify with those who see themselves as on the margins: African Americans, immigrants, various minority interest groups. The blue-collar poor may feel angry, but they also feel that America is in some deep sense “theirs.” They don’t need to claim it, although they may wish to reclaim it. But for all those who suspect deep down that no matter how patriotic they may be, no matter how much they may contribute, the Daughters of the American Revolution will always see them as arrivistes, it will remain attractive to make common cause with those on the margins.

Jonathan Sarna:
Why then should Jews in the United States uphold what Podhoretz calls “the ‘Torah’ of liberalism” so much more zealously than Jews elsewhere in the world? I would point to two factors that distinguish the American situation from what obtains elsewhere. First, Reform Judaism is much stronger in the United States than in any other country, and adherence to Reform Judaism strongly correlates with liberal voting behavior. Reform today is the largest of America’s Jewish religious movements, and all surveys agree that Reform Jews vote Democratic more reliably than any other large body of Jews. There is no need to seek out the “Torah of liberalism,” for Reform Judaism is the engine that drives the liberal train in the United States; additional explanations are unnecessary.

Michael Medved:
The liberal belief that Jews should be pro-choice and pro–gay marriage has nothing to do with connecting to Jewish tradition and everything to do with disassociating from Christian conservatives. According to this argument, Catholic and evangelical attempts to “impose” their values on social issues represent a theocratic threat to American pluralism that has allowed Judaism to thrive. The one segment of the contemporary community least concerned with this purported menace is the Orthodox—the less than 10 percent of the Jewish population that gives nearly as disproportionate support to Republicans as their Reform, Conservative, and secular Jewish neighbors give to Democrats. The reason for this contrasting response goes beyond the Orthodox tendency to agree with conservative Christians on most social issues and relates to their much greater comfort with religiosity in general. The Orthodox feel no instinctive horror at political alliances with others who make faith the center of their lives.

William Kristol:
God only knows.

Jeff Jacoby:
It is reassuring for liberal Jews to believe that all people are fundamentally decent and reasonable, and that all disputes can be settled through compromise and conciliation. It is reassuring to believe in a world in which nothing is ever solved by war, so that military force is unnecessary and expensive weapons systems are wasteful. It is reassuring to believe that America is a secular nation, that God and religion have no place in the public square, and that no debt of gratitude is owed to the Christians who created the extraordinary society in which American Jews have thrived. It is reassuring to believe that crime is caused by guns, that academia is the seat of wisdom, and that humanity’s biggest problem is global warming. It is reassuring to believe that compassion can be achieved by passing the right laws and that big government can create prosperity. It is reassuring to believe that tikkun olam—healing the world—is a synonym for the liberal agenda and that the liberal agenda flows directly from the teachings of Judaism.

David Gerlertner:
He describes today’s Reactionary Liberalism clearly. It is no political doctrine professed, as liberalism was, in rational hopes of a better future; it is a sort of religion that denies history, experience, and liberalism itself. In many cases, Podhoretz notes, left-wing politics took the place of a Judaism that felt to new American immigrants like a business suit on a beach: conspicuous, constraining, ridiculously out of place. In Eastern Europe, most Jews didn’t need to think much about Judaism per se: it was built into their homes and communities and daily routines—which made it easier to forget when those things were left behind. On this reading, emotional, facts-be-damned Jewish liberalism is a gravestone marking the death of religious faith, or a fossil where dead stone approximates the shape of a once living creature.

The j-blogosphere this week

Please check out this week's Haveil Havalim, hosted by my friend JoshuaPundit.

There must be a few thousand words in the latest J-Pix hosted by the first lady of Jewish blogging Batya.

And thanks to both for including links to Soccer Dad!

Mazel Tov to Badforshidduchim on winning the trip to Israel.

Council speak 09/10/09

This week's Watcher's council winners are up.

Joshuapundit had the winning entry with his retrospective of Sen. Kennedy's legislative career, Ted Kennedy Stumbles Offstage

This week's runner-up was Mere Rhetoric's Auto Industry Insider Explains How C4C Distorted The Market, Wiped Out Rebates, And Cemented Japanese Dominance.

On the non-council side the winning entry was Sherman Frederick @ Las Vegas Review-Journal's warning Enough is enough, Harry – Stop the childish bullying
There were three runners up: zenpundit's Apocalyptic Vision;
Big Hollywood's Mr. President, Please Don’t Bogart the Blunt; and Jerome Auerbach/WSJ's Remembering The Hebron Massacre.

Congratulations to all the winners.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Egypt's Jewish Problem

Michael Slackman explains why Egypt is rebuilding an ancient synagogue in Cairo:

So why the sudden public display of affection for Egypt’s Jewish past?

Politics. Not street politics, but global politics.

Egypt’s minister of culture, Farouk Hosny, wants to be the next director general of Unesco, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. In the context of this conservative Islamic society, Mr. Hosny, 71, is quite liberal, running afoul of Islamists when he criticized the popularity of women wearing head scarves, for example.

But to appease — or please — his local constituency, he said in 2008 he would burn any Israeli book found in the nation’s premier library in Alexandria. He has apologized, but that has done little to end the attacks on his candidacy to lead an organization dedicated to promoting cultural diversity.

So his subordinates sped up the restoration process. After a year of study, the work began in June. They pitched a blue tent, and held a news conference — two, in fact — right inside the old synagogue around the corner from Mr. Badr’s shop. Mr. Badr said that was when he realized that the building with no roof and cemented-over windows was a synagogue.

Roger Cohen, of course, approves the appointment:
Hosny stands at the crux of the cultural challenges confronting us. Let’s get him inside the tent rather than stoke the old anti-Western, anti-imperialist flames — reminiscent of what led the United States to abandon Unesco between 1984 and 2002 — by rejecting him.

And then, with the big U.S. contribution to the Unesco budget as leverage, let’s press him relentlessly to fight the anti-Semitic bigotry poisoning young Arab psyches; favor dialogue; open Arab minds to science and education; and embrace the peace that Unesco was set up to foster by draining the poisonous well from which his own now-regretted venom was drawn.

Hosny's declaration about Jewish books was no slip of the tongue. It reflected the thinking of the Egyptian elite. Egypt has been quite happy to reap the diplomatic benefits of peace with Israel without fostering any meaningful form of normalization. Does Cohen really think that giving Hosny the UNESCO job will give the West leverage to fight the official antisemitism of Egypt, he's hopelessly naive.

And for all the talk of Hosny's sympathy for the Palestinians, there's an easy to miss paragraph in Slackman's article that needs to be addressed:

That was the case for Jews all over Egypt, who with each Arab-Israeli war left or were forced out. There are fewer than 100, some say fewer than 80, Jews left in Egypt today, making the preservation projects all the more important, Rabbi Baker said.

"[L]eft or were forced out?!?!" That's much too casual. The Jews of the Egypt, like those of most Arab countries were forced out. Here's the scoop on Egypt:

Between June and November 1948, bombs set off in the Jewish Quarter of Cairo killed more than 70 Jews and wounded nearly 200.2 In 1956, the Egyptian government used the Sinai Campaign as a pretext for expelling almost 25,000 Egyptian Jews and confiscating their property. Approximately 1,000 more Jews were sent to prisons and detention camps. On November 23, 1956, a proclamation signed by the Minister of Religious Affairs, and read aloud in mosques throughout Egypt, declared that "all Jews are Zionists and enemies of the state," and promised that they would be soon expelled. Thousands of Jews were ordered to leave the country. They were allowed to take only one suitcase and a small sum of cash, and forced to sign declarations "donating" their property to the Egyptian government. Foreign observers reported that members of Jewish families were taken hostage, apparently to insure that those forced to leave did not speak out against the Egyptian government.3

When war broke out in 1967, Jewish homes and property were confiscated. Egypt's attitude toward Jews at that time was reflected in its treatment of former Nazis. Hundreds were allowed to take up residence in Egypt and given positions in the government. The head of the Gestapo in occupied Poland, Leopold Gleim (who had been sentenced to death in absentia), controlled the Egyptian secret police.

The sympathy for the Palestinian is simply a dodge. It's what Arabs use to justify their antisemitism. If displacement was so awful, Egypt would do a lot more than simply fix up an old shul to make things right for the Jews it expelled.

Quote of the day

Elliott Abrams in the Washington Post - in response to Jimmy Carter:

Most inaccurate of all, and most bizarre, is Carter's claim that "a total freeze of settlement expansion is the key" to a peace agreement. Not a halt to terrorism, not the building of Palestinian institutions, not the rule of law in the West Bank, not the end of Hamas rule in Gaza -- no, the sole "key" is Israeli settlements. Such a conclusion fits with Carter's general approach, in which there are no real Palestinians, just victims of Israel. The century of struggle between moderate and radical Palestinians, and the victories of terrorists from Haj Amin al-Husseini to Yasser Arafat, are forgotten; the Hamas coup in Gaza is unmentioned; indeed the words "Hamas" and "terrorism" do not appear in Carter's column. Instead of appealing for support for the serious and practical work of institution-building that the Palestinian Authority has begun, Carter fantasizes about a "nonviolent civil rights struggle" that bears no relationship to the terrorist violence that has plagued Palestinian society, and killed Israelis, for decades. Carter's portrait demonizes Israelis and, not coincidentally, it infantilizes Palestinians, who are accorded no real responsibility for their fate or future. If this is "the Elders' view of the Middle East," we and our friends in that region are fortunate that this group of former officials is no longer in power.

Daled Amos, by the way, provides many more reasons we should be glad that the Elders are no longer in power.

Musical monday #109

Well Baltiblogs is down, so I'm posting here, at least temporarily.

Welcome to Musical Monday #109. You know the drill: Every week, Elie alternate hosing ... players are invited to guess the songs, figure out the them but no "Googling." This week the theme is what the songs in each group have to do with the first one in the group. Later today check out Musical Monday #108 for results from last week!

Actually I'll allow Googling for one thing here. This is a variation on an earlier Musical Monday. So once you figure out the theme, if you want to find the earlier one for extra credit, you may search for that. (Hint: it's more than two years old.)

So with no further ado, here's Musical Monday #109. (I hope to update this tonight, so hold off on the bonuses until Thursday.)

1) There's a voice in my head that drives my heel
2) People all around but I don't hear a sound, just the lonely beating of my heart

3) Workin on a mystery, goin wherever it leads
4) Wishin' you were here by me, To end this misery

5) Elegance in eloquence - for sale or rent or hire
6) She's just a substitute, you're the permanent one

7) I'm so wired-up, dDon't need no coffee in my cup
8) Well, look-a there, look-a there, look-a there, look-a there, ooh wee!

9) These two lanes will take us anywhere
10) Maybe tomorrow, a new romance, no more sorrow

11) I bet you're singing proud, oh, I bet you'll pull a crowd
12) Don't punish me with brutality
13) My pillows never dry off

14) There's a spotlight waiting
15) Whatever it is, that girl put a spell on me.
16) But I'm gonna show you, baby, that a woman can be tough.
17) Watching the ships roll in
18) No time to wallow in the mire
19) Sat a girl named Doris
20) And it shows them pearly white

21) Who's gonna play the Opry?
22) And I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when,
23) A place where even squares can have a ball
24) I gotta go now gotta try to find a way to lose these memories of a love so warm and true
25) Slander my name all over the place
26) Well, I used to pull your pigtails
27) I chew my nails and I twiddle my thumbs
28) I stood alone in the cold gray dawn

29) ... rhythmic blues
30) All your hugs and kisses and your money too
31) You shouldve heard those knocked out jailbirds sing.
32) You've gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely
33) You're such a lovely audience,
34) And I howled at my ma in the driving rain,
35) Round the squares huddled in storms
36) I pulled my mouth harp, out of my dirty red bandana

37) I heard he sang a good song
38) The spinning don't stop when you leave the cradle

39) Lady take me, high upon a hillside
40) One more time for all the old times

PART II (updated 09/09/09

41) Play me a country song
42) I see a red door
43) Oh she left me without mercy

44) Focusing on nowhere, investigating miles
45) Before they're forever banned?
46) They had to count them all

47) I try to contemplate the cosmos
48) Does your memory stray to a bright sunny day
49) I wanna be famous, a star of the screen
50) No sweeping exits or offstage lines

51) Mugwumps, high jumps
52) I'll meet you tomorrow, sort of late at night
53) magic swirling ship

54) My daily dose of destiny, under my sign
55) I hollered, "I don't need you," ah but honey, that's a lie
56) She said I've got a 40-gallon stetson hat

57) little umbrella-shaded margaritas
58) All of those tourists covered with oil

59) I rather drive a truck
60) Pushing barriers, planting seeds,
61) I met a Mr. Grief - and he said

62) And in the cracks along the sidewalk nothing grows no more
63) Above us only sky

64) "Well, I made the big-time at last"
65) Someone to love, somebody new.

66) He's been writin' songs speakin' out against wealth and privilege
67) Oh, Mama, can this really be the end

68) And the white line's getting longer and the saddle's getting cold
69) You'd be better off to try and rope the wind,