Sunday, July 31, 2005

Bloody news cycle!

Am hoping this will be the last Israel/Iraq/London-related rant for a while. Confound the news cycle, with its constant dredging up of nonsensical opinions that get my goat.

So here's a little round-up of some decent articles and comments I have come across in the past week or so, which go some way to rebalancing the perverse "neutrality" of the reportage of the Axis of Evil (Independent, BBC, CNN).

Victor Davis Hanson's superb op-ed, "And then they came after us", really sticks it to those of us who thought that our little Treaty of Khudaibiya with the jihadis would prevent attacks on Londonistan. Hanson also points out that the jihadis have chosen their targets with the potential level of reprisal in mind:

"Meanwhile an odd thing happened. It turns out that the jihadists were cowards and bullies, and thus selective in their targets of hatred. A billion Chinese were left alone by radical Islam — even though the Chinese were secularists and mostly godless, as well as ruthless to their own Uighur Muslim minorities. Had bin Laden issued a fatwa against Beijing and slammed an airliner into a skyscraper in Shanghai, there is no telling what a nuclear China might have done."

I then found another Hanson article tucked away at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, entitled "The same-old same-old", which suggests that as the events of 7/7 recede in our memories, our indignance at being attacked on home soil will turn into resentment of Blair for exposing us to danger with "his" foray into Iraq (er, but we still voted for him, didn't we!).

On the same site, I came across Yossi Klein Halevi's excellent piece pointing out how the entire platform for debate has been tilted by the media, UN and Arabist foreign ministries across the EU, supported by any regime that gets paid off by members of the Arab League. Writing shortly after last year's ludicrous judgement at the ICJ in the Hague, he states:

"Israel's claim to territory over the Green Line is based on at least two compelling arguments. The first is that it won the land in the most honorable way that any nation ever reclaimed its historical heartland - a defensive war of survival. The second is that the territory itself has long been disputed: The Jordanian occupation of the West Bank was never recognized by the international community, and no subsequent claim has been legally endorsed - that is, until the Hague's decision."

He also shows what the underlying reasons why the Palestinians and their friends don't want the fence there:

"According to the new Bush Doctrine, Israel will not be expected to withdraw to the 1967 borders. And Palestinian refugees will return only to a Palestinian state. That doctrine undermines the two key elements of the Palestinians' long-term strategy to undermine Israel's viability: first, forcing Israel back to the Green Line, and then overwhelming the Jewish state with refugees... The fence puts a brake on both those processes. It marks the security line that may well become Israel's political border. And it prevents the infiltration of Palestinian refugees into Israel."

"But with a name like Yossi Halevi Klein, the author is unlikely to be impartial", I hear the fair-minded readers amongst you cry. OK, how about I balance it up with this interview with Sheikh Professor Abdul Hadi Palazzi, spiritual head of the Italian Muslim Assembly. Now this is the kind of guy who is a proponent of the kind of Islam that co-exists beautifully with Western democratic values. It is one of the most extraordinary interviews I have ever read. Here is an excerpt:

"Using Islam as a basis for preventing Arabs from recognizing any sovereign right of Jews over the Land of Israel is new. Such beliefs are not found in classical Islamic sources. Concluding that anti-Zionism is the logical outgrowth of Islamic faith is wrong. This conclusion represents the false transformation of Islam from a religion into a secularized ideology."

With challenges to Islam coming from every direction, Youssef Ibrahim asks in the Middle East Times whether "The Muslim mind is on fire". He asks for the moderates to remove themselves from the extremists not only on moral grounds (we have heard plenty of soundbites on that from Iqbal Sacranie and other moral degenerates who see users of Egged buses as more deserving of being blown to pieces than users of London buses), but on practical grounds. He points out the West's ability to rally and face down even the greatest of opposition as they did with Soviet Russia. He concludes thus:

"I fear those naïve Muslims who think that they are beating the West have now achieved their worst crime of all. The West is now going to war against not only Muslims, but also, sadly, Islam as a religion."

Meanwhile, the Grauniad managed to rain on my parade by publishing this glorious piece of ostrich-like opinion. In "Back to you, Mr Blair", Osama Saeed of the Muslim Association of Britain (an organisation of Jew-haters, and friends of Galloway), says it's not their fault and they shouldn't offer to help fight terrorism because this would imply they might be to blame in some way:

"By putting the onus on Muslims to defeat terror, the prime minister absolves himself of responsibility. Muslims are not in denial of our duties, but who are we meant to be combating? The security services had no idea about all that has gone on in London, so how are we as ordinary citizens to do better? It is not Muslims but Mr Blair who is in denial."

Good old Irshad Manji comes steaming in to expound on "Reality and Islam", and gets right to the crux of the matter. She pulls together a number of articles by Judea Pearl, Charles Krauthammer and others, and exposes the root problem which is being denied by the liberal appeasers and ignored by the conservative do-gooders. According to her, those who commit and support terrorism, wherever it occurs, need to be publicly excommunicated from Islam. That, she says, is the only way to provide assurance that Islam is a religion of peace. Unfortunately, even those clerics who concur are either fearful of speaking out or unable to find the juridical tools within Islam to perform such a thing. She quotes from a "piece about a clerically star-studded conference on Islam in Jordan this month" by Judea Pearl's op-ed in the Boston Globe:

"...using the Islamic instruments of fatwa, apostasy and fasad (corruption), Muslims would be able to disassociate themselves from those who hijacked their religion... Unfortunately, the realization of these expectations will need to wait for a brave new leadership to emerge. The final communique of the Amman conference, issued July 6, states explicitly: 'It is not possible to declare as apostates any group of Muslims who believes in Allah the Mighty and Sublime and His Messenger (may Peace and Blessings be upon him) and the pillars of faith, and respects the pillars of Islam and does not deny any necessary article of religion.'"

And if that wasn't enough, Manji writes in Time magazine about "When denial can kill", an exposé on how the only people who seriously think the suicide bombers are victims driven to their murderous finale by despair and oppression are Westerners who use the crutch of Christian logic and morality, and Muslims who cannot bear to admit that admit that "our religion might be motivating the bombers".

This leads me to two more articles which tackle the two halves of this denial.

In Mark Steyn's column in The Australian, he shows how well-meaning Westies have been "Mugged by reality". He points out that our political correctness and constant concerns about discrimination have left us vulnerable to attack, and have hardly created the multicultural utopia that we imagined would be the result of gambling security for civil liberties:

The more the Islamists step on our toes, the more we waltz them gaily round the room."

In Meg Bortin's article in the International Herald Tribune, we read about how Muslims lament Israel's existence:

"Muslims lined up strongly behind the opinion that 'the rights and needs of the Palestinian people cannot be taken care of as long as the state of Israel exists.' The conviction that no way can be found for Israel and the Palestinians to coexist is strongest in Morocco (90 percent), followed by Jordan (85 percent), the Palestinian Authority (80 percent), Kuwait (72 percent), Lebanon (65 percent), Indonesia (58 percent) and Pakistan (57 percent)."

Unfortunately, they don't seem to have a terribly good plan for what happens after they obliterate Israel and force Europe to its knees - what an outstanding line-up for the Khilafah; a glorious spiritual, political and royal triumvirate:

"Bin Laden was one of the three "leaders" most trusted by the nine Muslim populations surveyed, outranking even the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan. The Qaeda leader's confidence rating was matched only by Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia."

John Avlon's excellent anecdote on Real Clear Politics demonstrates "No evidence of moral equivalence" in Iraq. In fact, it shows exactly the kind of courage under fire and respect for the sanctity of all human life that demonstrates why George Bush's "crusader" rhetoric on axes of evil, with us or against us and so on, is most fitting for our time.

On our side, Abu Ghraib is the exception; but this, along with British troops removing their helmets in civilian areas to reassure the public at great personal risk, is the rule. On their side, the safe passage of the missing US airman granted by Pashtun tribes at risk of reprisal from the Taleban was a wonderful exception; New York, Moscow, Beslan, Bali, Jerusalem, Netanya, Tel Aviv, Sharm el Sheikh, Aden, Washington DC, Madrid, London, Casablanca, Djerba, Istanbul, Khobar, Mombasa and Dar es Salaam are the rule.

"Suppose that invading Iraq has made us more vulnerable — what then?" asks Gerard Baker in The Times. He drives home his points on how we cannot blame ourselves for the bombings on our doorstep. In fact, they are almost a demonstration of the fact that we are doing the right thing. He makes it clear that the enemy of all decent, freedom-loving people - Muslim and infidel - is the suicide bomber and his terrorist methods of imposing his beliefs:

"Above all we should point out that what we are fighting in Iraq is not some brave, popular “insurgency” struggling to free the Arab people from Western and Zionist oppression, but a coalition of some of the most vile individuals who have ever crawled the earth and who happily slaughter Muslim, Christian and Jew alike for their own ends."

It's been a long posting; thanks for sticking with me to the end. Two more op-eds from The Times to wrap up. Firstly, an echo of an earlier Freedmanslife posting in Ben Macintyre's probing "
How would Churchill have answered the Islamist threat?" He for one admires Churchillian qualities, and recognises them in moments of Blairite statesmanship in the past few weeks. He is also fairly certain of where Churchill would stand on this debate were he alive:

"For in the end, Churchill saw the Sudan campaign as a conflict between barbarity and civilisation. Of the battle of Omdurman he wrote: “Civilisation — elsewhere sympathetic, merciful, tolerant, ready to discuss or argue, eager to avoid violence, to submit to law, to effect compromise — here advanced with an expression of inexorable sternness.”

That, undoubtedly, would have been Churchill’s response to the suicide bombings in London: these are not disasters to be “tamely survived” but an immoral assault on civilised values, to be fought with “inexorable sternness”."

The last word goes to Libby Purves. In "The land that lost its pride", she points out that "much of the society that Muslims long for looks uncannily like the Britain we threw away." She not only dissects the current incidents and their effect on our society, but has spotted a deeper malaise that has been troubling me and many friends (especially the ones who have lived abroad) for some time:

"London has a steadying sense of its own long greatness. Yet Britain in general is losing that sense. Cynical reactions to the shooting illustrate how ready we are to proclaim our defects, calling our police trigger-happy just as we dismiss our soldiers as thugs to be turned over to civil lawyers rather than be court-martialled by people who understand war. We are swift in defeatism and expect humiliation (getting the Olympics was a shock). We neurotically shoulder guilt for colonial crimes of long ago."

She is equally perceptive that other aspects of British society, which have degenerated into a disgusting underculture in which mediocrity is accepted and thrived upon, are offensive to British Muslims - but should also be offensive to the rest of us. I do not believe that any country is perfect, nor for a moment would I suggest that our own repulsive behaviour has created the monsters within who blew up our Tube trains, but I do agree with her that a better society would present a real alternative for those who are caught in the middle ground between a pure but stringent Islam and a filthy but liberated Britain:

"Ziauddin Sardar wrote yesterday that “the moral values that guide (Muslims) do have a place in Britain”. Up to a point: on homosexuality and women’s place we will always differ. But many Muslim values are eerily similar to the lost social consensus that made Britain the open, generous, free country that it basically is. Bombast is not the answer. But neither is shrugging self-disgust. Muslims and Middle Britain could fight some good fights, hand in hand."


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

All about the oil

I would like to pre-empt the nonsense we had inflicted upon us last year about £1 per litre petrol (and that was when crude oil prices were way under $50 a barrel). That led to an unholy alliance of anti-capitalists, do-gooders and panicky petrolheads, in a bid to boycott BP and Esso - the bits in bold below are lifted from one such email (and slightly updated for this year).

So let me take a moment to point out to you why this is a completely stupid and worthless idea, canard by canard...

1. “We are going to hit close to £1 a litre by the end of summer”

This is not a foregone conclusion. The Saudis will use their “swing capacity” (unused space in their refineries) to bring extra oil onto the market and force prices to at least level off. On a smaller and more local scale, UK refineries switch production during the summer months to less heavy heating fuel and more road fuel. Most rises tend to be due to a government increase in duty. This would not be until Gordon Brown’s autumn budget, and there is already a considerable lobby, not least from the oil majors, to make an emergency cut in this levy.

Also Hurricane Dennis was less disruptive of supplies, Iraqi fuel is beginning to trickle through to the market, the Nigerian unrest has settled down, Chinese demand has cooled, so any rise in barrel costs is more likely to be due to speculation than shortage.

2. "The oil companies and the OPEC nations have conditioned us to think that the cost of a litre is CHEAP at 70p-80p"

This is patently untrue. Have a look at price per barrel trends in dollar terms and real terms (ie against inflation) and you'll find that OPEC, who have the only real "swing capacity" in the world, mostly in Saudi Arabia, use this extra to regulate the price of crude to a reasonable rate. They're just as unhappy when prices are this high; OPEC policy is a price range of $30-$40 a barrel.

The price of both crude oil and what you pay at pump go up in general because of three things, which are standard trend-setters in anything on an open market with fluctuating value:

a. We in the developed world use proportionally less than we have before - simple economics mean the producers need to charge a bit more to balance their books – for example, modern jets use 40% of the fuel used by equivalent planes in the 1960s

b. There's a finite supply that has probably peaked (lefty Greens take note that this still means another 50 years of commercial exploitation of oil, and 100 years of natural gas), so it becomes more expensive to explore and extract

c. Speculation, growth and inflation have impacts on all prices of any commodity from a Mars bar to a glass of water

3. “The only way we are going to see the price of petrol come down is if we hit someone in the pocket by not purchasing their petrol”

BP’s response to this has appeared in several media outlets – they’re not budgeting for any big dip in their profits due to a boycott, besides which it would have to be a virtual 100% stoppage to make a dent in their recent string of record profits in the billions bracket. And they made all of that on a strategy based around a $20 per barrel strike price. 1% of BP’s resources are involved in the retail side, out of which some stores make twice as much on the shop as on the fuel.

Not only that, but government regulations prohibit the oil companies from cross-subsidising their petrol stations with their very lucrative upstream and refining operations (that's where the billions in profit actually comes from). Supermarkets are allowed to though, so their operational overheads are absorbed into the adjacent store, thus giving them a larger operating margin which they can pass on to the consumer. Of course, this attracts you into the store, and they hit you in the pocket then. Boycott Tesco, anyone?!

4. “The two biggest oil companies (which now are one), ESSO and BP”

First I heard of a rather important merger. Any insider tips? I think our misguided chappy may be confusing with the merger of Exxon and Mobil to form Esso’s parent company, and British Petroleum’s mergers with Amoco, ARCO, Castrol and Veba among others to form the new-look BP.

5. “If they are not selling any petrol, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit”

Sorry, that’s not how it works. From your 85p-87p per litre being charged at most BP Connect stations (if it doesn’t say Connect, it’s a franchise, and you’ll be boycotting some poor little fellow’s livelihood, not a multinational oil company), the first 65p-68p or so goes on government duties and taxes. About 15p-18p will go on the basic cost of running the petrol station and the cost of the fuel. The oil company might take between 1p and 6p in “profit”, which it may have to reinvest in capital expenditure to find you the thirsty consumer, more oil. Not only that but oil companies have different overheads, supply and trading structures etc, and may choose to take a higher point in the market. That’s why there’s never really a petrol price war.

6. “Buy your petrol at Shell, Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrison's, Jet etc”

How smart! Give them a captive market so they can raise their prices too! OK, some education on exploration and production here. The best ways of avoiding high petrol prices are as follows:

a. lower the excessive duty on petrol – the aviation industry thrives even post-Iraq, 9/11, bankruptcies and big air crashes because there’s a worldwide moratorium on VAT for jet fuel. In this country it’s so high Eddie Stobart’s taken all his girly-named lorries to Belgium. In France, for every 2 Euro raised in income tax, 1 Euro is raised on fuel tax

b. help the non-OPEC countries and the 8 oil majors who can really afford it to explore more and build more refining capacity and strategic reserves to avoid price hikes. The big 8 by the way in roughly size order: Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell, Chevron Texaco, TotalFinaElf, Conoco Phillips (you know them as Jet), Agip, Repsol YPF. But wait - that would mean drilling in Alaska etc. Huh. Environmentalism and economics aren't great bedfellows.

c. note how Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s don’t feature in the list. They may be great at exploration and production of cheap white bread, value bourbon biscuits and milk that costs less than water, but the last time I looked, they weren't heading to the North Sea to hunt for oil they could put in a blue and white stripy box for you. Oh, and whichever moron wrote the original knows so little about the industry that he didn't know Jet was a retail brand of one of the nasty majors. See also myriad articles on Shell’s inability to correctly account for what it has in reserve. Also beware the supermarket fuels! They tend to be of a lower grade and can be bad for your car if used exclusively over a long period. This is how they get the fuel cheaper. It’s the equivalent of factory seconds.

7. Some simple truths…

a. you’re relying on a pyramid scheme to spread the word here. Ask an economist why these don’t work. Ask Albania, a country which went spectacularly bust because the state actually backed one. My guess is that you could cause the spread of a nice virus or maybe just overload a couple of servers

b. you’ve picked on two random oil companies, one of which is American, and has therefore little sway over the British government – as discussed, they’re the people who can actually make a decent price cut across the board – and the other of which has long held a strategy of pricing towards the top end of the market. If you really wanted to make a difference, you should boycott all of them, or perhaps go after Q8, Aramco etc – OPEC-based companies

c. even if you were successful and suddenly the majors either dropped their prices or lost loads of customers, the most likely effect would be a sharp drop in their share prices, which would cause lots of uncertainty and probably, um, trigger higher oil prices

At this point a disclaimer for legal purposes: the views represented above are not the official views of BP, certainly not those of Exxon Mobil, and should not be considered as a basis of recommendation for any kind of investment or trading activity. Nothing contained herein is commercially sensitive or confidential – all could be obtained with some thorough research of the industry.

Please feel free to pass on the link to this page to anyone who you feel needs re-educating.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Right to reply: Liberals crack freedmanslife

Following an anonymous tip-off that my blog was unreadable because it was so full of anti-liberal bile, I thought I'd redress the balance and post the views of a couple of intelligent folks from the other side of the spectrum.

Not that I consider myself right-wing or conservative - I simply look at the facts and draw logical conclusions. It's a bit alarming that doing so implies that I am heavily on one side of the ideological scale - this suggests that the other side must ignore the facts and draw illogical conclusions...

Stephen Pollard, writer and Fabian

Beyond the murder and the carnage inflicted by terrorists, there is a further insidious danger to our liberty, that posed by those whose words and deeds give support to the terrorists, and whose warped values lead them to side with those who murder above those who promote freedom.

The Guardianista fellow-travellers of terror, who stress its supposed causes, are the useful idiots of the Islamofascists. The terrorists are the operatives of an ideology which has no concern with Palestinians or Iraqis, whom they murder without compunction. They have no concern with anything but the destruction of the West.

At a time when Islamofascism seeks to destroy liberal, democratic civilisation and to replace it with theocracy, it is imperative that those of us who believe in democracy and liberty stand up and fight. Not just against the obvious enemy, but also against the enemy within - those who claim to be on the Left, but whose views have nothing in common with the decency for which the Left ought proudly to stand.

Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner and "out" socialist

We are witnessing one of the greatest betrayals by the left since so-called left-wingers backed the Hitler-Stalin pact and opposed the war against Nazi fascism. Today, the pseudo-left reveals its shameless hypocrisy and its wholesale abandonment of humanitarian values. While it deplores the 7/7 terrorist attack on London, only last year it welcomed to the UK the Muslim cleric, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who endorses the suicide bombing of innocent civilians. These same right-wing leftists back the so-called 'resistance' in Iraq. This 'resistance' uses terrorism against civilians as its modus operandi - stooping to the massacre of dozens of Iraqi children in order kill a few US soldiers.

Terrorism is not socialism; it is the tactic of fascism. But much of the left doesn't care. Never mind what the Iraqi people want, it wants the US and UK out of Iraq at any price, including the abandonment of Iraqi socialists, trade unionists, democrats and feminists. If the fake left gets its way, the ex-Baathists and Islamic fundamentalists could easily seize power, leading to Iranian-style clerical fascism and a bloodbath. I used to be proud to call myself a leftist. Now I feel shame. Much of the left no longer stands for the values of universal human rights and international socialism.

Nick Cohen, "erstwhile darling of the Left"

The Michael Mooronification of the majority of leftish opinion might not seem to matter greatly. Obviously, anyone concerned with upholding basic principles is going to want to oppose the apologists for the extreme right, mock their perfidy and correct their errors. Yet Britain still has a Labour government. It isn't going to be out of office anytime soon, however loudly its opponents scream, and its policies are generally sensible. Why bother with the battle of ideas?

The answer lies in the world beyond the polemics on the net and the hysterics in the media. What we have witnessed is a sinister attempt by liberal opinion to deny legitimacy to the very liberals, feminists and socialists who have a right to expect support. The authentic Muslim has become the blood-crazed fanatic rather than the reformer. The authentic liberator has become the fascist rather than the democrat. This is a betrayal on an epic scale which casts doubt on whether it is now possible to have a decent left.

Fighting back proves that a pulse still flickers. You can expect to lose a few friends and have many rows, but at least you will be on the side of best and the bravest. With a bit of luck you will enjoy the struggle and learn the truth of Lady Bracknell's words:

'On an occasion of this kind it becomes more than a moral duty to speak one's mind. It becomes a pleasure.'

Normal service (Gerard Baker, Irshad Manji, Victor Hanson et al) will be resumed in my next posting...

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Volte-face: let's leave Iraq

Having been an ardent supporter of the Coalition efforts to overthrow Saddam and introduce democracy to Iraq, I am saddened to have to say this. It's time for us to bring the boys home. It's not because I believe we should be intimidated by the bombings in London - anyone except the Lefties, Islamo-fascists and their apologists/appeasers understands that we'd have been bombed anyway - there aren't any Egyptian, Balinese or Turkish troops in Iraq, are there?

Here are the reasons why:

1. Muslims around the world have complained bitterly and sometimes violently about the Western crusader-style meddling in their territory. They have overwhelmingly stated their preference for the alternatives to the UK/US model of semi-secular free-market democracy that they are trying to install. The alternatives fit into two camps - a theocratic state as vocalised in the form of Al Sadr and co, achieved through their suicide bombings that kill ordinary Muslim Iraqis, and perpetuated through Koranic rule; or the previous model of a secular Ba'athist state that butchers minorities and opponents. Surely it is anti-Islam for us to foist our values on the Middle East?

2. The new Iraqi constitution looks remarkably like the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel ones of the surrounding dictatorships and pseudo-democracies. They have already decided not to recognise Israel as equal among the nations, and not to support any kind of right to return of Jews thrown out of Iraq in 1948 and 1967. So much for avoiding the "talons of fear and ignorance"... So we seem to be wasting our time - the benighted leadership, as elected by the people and approved by the UK and the USA, is just as blinkered as its Ba'athist predecessors (and I daresay Islamist successors).

3. Let's withdraw from Iraq and see if the attacks on London really do stop. Of course, they won't. But that might provide a bit more of a wake-up call to Guardianistas, well-meaning but brainwashed liberals, the peace-loving majority of Muslims etc, that they are targets because they are infidels and apostates. Short of becoming a meshuggene Talibanised state where we all convert or die, we'll be a target because we're 98% non-Muslim. UK Muslims are apparently 92% anti-suicide bombings in London, which by the way means there are over 100,000 who we should assume support extremism and terror. Apart from that 8% and those who join them (what about the 47% who have no qualms about suicide bombings in Israel and 13% who approved of 9/11?), the others are committing the apostasy of living in a secular kingdom, and will also be rewarded with death.

So I think our position should be clear. Let's just agree that problems involving Muslims are not the place for the West to intercede on. After all, Islam is a religion of peace, and if we imperialist oil-hungry neo-cons in the West weren't stirring up the conflict all the time, the problems would disappear. Bad Dubya, bad Bliar! No more crusading for you!

This also means the following:

- The Quartet of EU, US, UN and Russia should stop pressuring Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians; the Muslim nations should instead rally together to resolve this (ahem, think they may have tried this before and got stuffed).

- Western countries and NGOs should concentrate humanitarian relief on non-Muslim countries ie no helping Iran (rejected) or Turkey after the earthquakes, no helping the Maldives, Malaysia or Muslim areas of Thailand, India and Sri Lanka (rejected) affected by the tsunami. Instead, Israel, one of the first countries to offer assistance even to countries who hate it, should reserve its expertise for itself and its allies. Similarly the USA and UK should feel no obligation to help out; instead, the oil-rich Saudis and Gulf royals could dip into their pockets for their brethren.

- No pressure should be brought to bear on Russia for its often brutal battle with the Muslim Chechens. Instead, their brethren should lobby the UN and see if they can have a resolution put through to stop the conflict and grant independence. After all, if the UN was the only organisation that could give an invasion of Iraq legitimacy...

- The International Court of Justice should stop the trials of those accused of massacring Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo, and hand over the leaders to a Shariah court so that we can see Islamic justice dispensed in front of the eyes of the world. Furthermore, the UN and NATO should apologise for their war on Serbia and should withdraw from Kosovo, allowing them to fight with pride for their independence against an overwhelming majority of pissed-off Serbs.

- Oil being Allah's gift to the Arabs, we should let them enjoy it for themselves, whilst we infidels seek alternative and less holy sources of hydrocarbons, meanwhile investing heavily in different energy sources altogether. Naturally, Allah will provide a miraculous replacement for the enormous shortfall in petrodollars before the entire Arab world descends into bedlam. Or of course, they could learn from a small, democratic impostor state in the Middle East that has no oil but in 57 years of existence has achieved a higher GDP per capita, universal healthcare and education, and European standards of living... d'oh!

- Last but not least, those British Muslims who believe Western society is decadent and immoral, and should be brought to an end (32%), along with 1/4 who sympathise with and over half who can understand the perspective of the terrorists, should renounce their British citizenship. They can either stay in the country as resident aliens but not sponge off a state funded by immorality and decadence, or can take a one-way ticket to the Islamic state of their choice.

In a future posting, I will post something about the genuinely peace-loving Islam that I still believe exists, even if it has become obscured from view in the current climate. There are many sects and streams of Islam which are totally compatible with democracy and what we loosely refer to as Judeo-Christian values. It seems to me that those with more hardline beliefs cannot have it both ways - I reiterate that you are either with us or against us. This is a clash of civilisations, not if Islam versus the rest, but of Western ideals versus medieval Islamism. It's time for the so-called moderate Muslim community to get off the fence.

Friday, July 22, 2005

It's official; the terrorists have won

Ladies and gentlemen, well done! You, the well-meaning liberal majority (or perhaps it's just a media-controlling minority), have let the terrorists win.

Your appeasement of terror was evident this morning during a BBC Radio 5 Live debate, when I listened in amazement as people were permitted to spout nonsense about how we were defiant, were not caving in to them, but should think about our position in Iraq and Palestine. At the same time, they waffled on about building airport-style security checks at stations and shopping malls, rather than thinking about cutting the problem off at source.

And of course a pro-Israel speaker pointed out that the BBC's refusal to call the blowing up of innocents terrorism was playing into their hands and skewing the debate. As soon as he started saying that the BBC's pandering to Palestinian terror and highlighting of the rewards they have got from it (world sympathy, Disengagement, 72 virgins etc) only encouraged that behaviour here, they told him he was being factually inaccurate and cut him off the air!

So I say to you the following, you who consider yourselves first and foremost British, you who don't want to die in London for what Tony Blair is doing in Iraq, you who believe the overwhelming majority of British Muslims abhor terrorism against kuffirs, you who believe these attacks were aimed at the working class, you who would also become suicide bombers if you suffered humiliation and poverty, you who would sell out Israel at the drop of a hat in the hope of avoiding the next 7/7, you who believe what happened yesterday and two weeks ago was terror that should be punished but believe that 21,000 attacks in 5 years is still no justification for building a barrier between the victims and the perpetrators, you who voted for George Galloway, Tony Benn, Jenny Tonge and Neville Chamberlain;


I accuse you of a failure to recognise and condemn terror, whoever it kills.
I accuse you of wilfully refusing to see this as they do - a religious war, instead of a political choice.
I accuse you of throwing away your national identity for a minority who despise you anyway.
I accuse you of a readiness to sacrifice moderate Jews who share your values to appease radical Muslims who wish to destroy them.
I accuse you of cowardice and appeasement in the face of mortal danger that will remain until you formally accept your dhimmitude.

Daniel Finkelstein in today's JC says this:

"All Jews are horrified by the London bombings. But many believe that, in the respoonse to them, there are the first hints of a wider understanding that the suicide bombs in London and those in Israel are fundamentally the same: at last the suffering of the Israeli people and the evil of the terrorists are apparent. If only.

In the immediate aftermath of the bombing, as is only to be expected, there has been little political debate. Few have said anything beyond expressions of dismay and anger. But the debate will come; it always does. And sadly, I do not think that the consensus will be: 'they bomb our buses just like they bomb Israel's buses.' Instead, I think that the majority will reason thus: 'they bomb our buses because they hate Israel.'"

There should be no contradiction in being a British Jew, but prior to these attacks, I was slowly coming to the realisation that I am different. I would never express that difference, nor my revulsion at the British chav culture that revels in its mediocrity, by killing the rest of you.

But your failure to confront the real causes of the atrocities being committed against you means that not only am I different because I am first and foremost a Jew, but also because you make me ashamed to be British.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Saw this and thought it was gloriously appropriate, even though it was originally drawn in 1977 - during another era of appeasement of Arab terror and pressure on Israel to surrender secure borders. The original can be found here along with a collection of disgracefully right-wing articles which I am trying very hard to disagree with.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The future is not bright, but it is orange

Well, Arik Sharon seems to have got himself into a bit of a pickle over Gaza. He offers to unilaterally withdraw 8,000 settlers along with the 8,000 soldiers needed to stop the local Palestinians trying to butcher them, thereby freeing up a big slab of land in one of the world's most densely populated areas.

By doing so, he reneges on his previous understandings that he will not give away land that the Jews fought for centuries to get back, and paid for in cash (Kfar Darom was bought by citrus grower Tuvia Miller in 1930, and he in turn was bought out by the JNF in 1945), and in blood (Kfar Darom was the scene of a long and bloody siege by the Egyptians, who illegally occupied the Gaza Strip from '48 to '67 whilst the world, Arabs and Palestinians stood by and said nothing).

He is also giving up arable land developed from inhospitable sand dunes and shrubland. Israel has developed greenhouses and fields of crops at Gush Katif which employ 1,000 Palestinians on salaries 10 times as high as they would receive in Gaza City. In the peak seasons, this rises to 3,000 people. They don't want Israel to withdraw. Not only will they lose their livelihoods, but they recognise that the power vacuum will be filled by Hamas, who are not terribly interested in agriculture, science and progress.

In fact, Hamas are quite open about what the Disengagement means to them. Dr Mahmoud al-Zahar, Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, says:

"The withdrawal, if it is implemented, is an important achievement by the Palestinian people, its intifada and armed struggle, its determination and great sacrifice, and confirms the willingness, correctness and usefulness of employing an armed struggle and its ability to attain political objectives."

So Hamas are not pulling their punches; they know terror is working well for the Palestinian cause. The Israelis know terror is working well for the Palestinian cause. BB Netanyahu says that the unintended result of retreating from Gaza will more realistically be to embolden terrorists to "continue their tactics until the completion of their ultimate goal: the destruction of Israel."

People of all ideologies, not just meshuggene settlers, believe that Jews should have the right to reside in Gaza, and are flying orange flags and wearing orange bracelets to show their anti-Disengagement sentiments. The population has swung from being largely in favour of Sharon's proposal to a good majority against it. Sharon has pushed it through against his own party's referendum vote, and forced it past a hostile Cabinet.

What the world has been keen to ignore is that Israel has a historic claim over most of Gaza. This would be very inconvenient - much easier to take a simplistic view on how many Palestinians live there compared to Jews, how much land each side has, and make a judgement as to which side is the artificial implant. Here are a few reasons why:

- The Old Testament mentions Gaza a number of times, and considered it part of Israel. Abraham was punished for abandoning part of it; the tribe of Judah inherited it; Solomon and Hezekiah reigned over it; the Maccabees liberated it and resettled Jews there in 96BCE.

- After the Romans destroyed Jerusalem as a centre for Jewish pilgrimage and prayer, the rabbis substituted Tiberias and Gaza as temporary pilgrimage sites from the years 135 to 600CE.

- Kfar Darom was re-established on the site of a 4th century Talmudic Jewish town of the same name, and so its history stretches even further back; Constantinus the Great tried and failed to convert them.

- Gazan Jews were producing wine so excellent it merited a mention in the travel journals of Georgio Gucci in 1384 and Meshulam of Volera in 1481.

- A Jewish community was in Gaza in 1488, and was mentioned in the diary of traveller Ovadia of Bartenura. This community was bolstered by the arrival from Spain of a large group of Jews headed by the Castil family, expelled by the Inquisition in 1492.

- Throughout the Ottoman period, Jews were encouraged to settle in the area. the Chief Rabbi of Gaza in the 17th century, Israel Najarah, composed "Yah Ribon" there, and was buried in Gaza. In 1648, Shabbatai Zvi declared himself the messiah there.

- One of the most ancient synagogues in the Middle East was in Gaza until Egypt's Ibrahim Pasha destroyed it in 1831. The hill on which it stood is still known as Khart Al-Yahood ("The Jewish Quarter").

- 11 kibbutzim were founded in Gaza before the 1947 partitioning and 1948 war put them on the "wrong side"; land which was bought fair and square, and for which compensation was never given, partly because many inhabitants were butchered or forced to flee by the local Arab population.

- In 1967, Nasser triggered the 6 Day War, and Israel was able to take control of the Gaza Strip, which had been illegally occupied by Egypt since 1948, during which time they had maintained the Palestinians in a state of squalor. Israel returned vacant land to Jewish possession, developed farms and agricultural research projects, and by doing so created jobs and chances for cooperation with local Palestinians.

But all of this is to be given up because the world wants Israel to compromise again. The radical Palestinians have admitted that they see this as a victory for terror. The so-called moderates in the PA are OPPOSED to the Disengagement, despite having demanded action. Israeli society is being hopelessly divided on the issue.

And Israel is getting absolutely nothing in return.

There will eventually be some saving on manpower, and we hope a stabilising effect on the Israeli economy, but there will be a shortage of produce which will have to be made up quickly, a reduction in Israel's ability to prevent or pre-empt terror emanating from Gaza, and perhaps worst of all, several thousand Palestinians will lose their jobs, Hamas will fill the power vacuum because Abbas has failed to confront them, and Gaza will become a worse place to live.

Whatever hardship and oppression the world media likes to claim Israel causes, it is nothing compared to the conditions they were kept in by Egypt and Jordan prior to 1967, and further pales in comparison with the Talibanised pseudo-Islamic state that Hamas will try to create now.

Between 1967 and the first Intifada in 1987, the Palestinian economy was one of the fastest-growing in the world. Roads were paved, running water was introduced, sewage systems installed. Israel was the biggest donor to the UN Relief Works Agency, which looks after Palestinians who have a unique and indefinite refugee status conferred on them, until 1991 when Saudi Arabia was forced by the USA to grow a conscience and give more.

And then they blew it.

Arafat, may he rot in hell, caused a minor civil war with Hamas, openly admitted to tricking the Israelis at Oslo into letting the PLO Trojan Horse into Israel's "soft underbelly", encouraged terror, bought massive quantities of weaponry even after the Oslo Accords, and - perhaps worst of all - stole billions from his own people. They rotted in poverty whilst his wife shopped in Paris.

So Israel, as always, is damned if it does and damned if it doesn't. If we try to really help them by ignoring a leadership which is at best incompetent and weak, and at worst corrupt and wicked, and go straight to them with the offer of jobs, training, a future, then we are occupiers, impostors and destroyers of the dream of Palestinian independence. If we do nothing or just leave them to their own devices, we are ignoring their hardship, perpetuating a bantustan state, and destroying the dream of Palestinian independence.

There is a little more to the Disengagement Plan however. The original idea was to route the Security Barrier to incorporate all the main kibbutz blocs in the West Bank, include secure passages along the Jordan Valley, and most crucially, to have a safe access to Jerusalem by running the barrier along the north side of Route 443, the Modi'in Road. This road runs parallel to the main Route 1, but a few miles north and over the Green Line. It would have put 10 Arab villages on Israel's side of the fence. Altogether, 15% of the West Bank would have been placed under Israeli control.

We all recognise that whatever our ideological views, historical or emotional attachments to the land, or indignance at rewarding terror, if the other side continues to bite the hand that tries to feed it, a separation is the only way forward. On a practical level, this means surrendering territory so that a viable and secure border can be made. Most anti-Disengagement folk I spoke to said they would have supported Disengagement or at least not protested so vociferously against it, if this was the trade-off.

But Israel's legendary activist judges, supported by members of the Cabinet, intervened. Under the new route, the Modi'in Road will be protected but will be a causeway through hostile waters. Jerusalem will once more be isolated from the rest of Israel, with a single secure main artery connecting it to the rest of the country.

The new route, designed to reduce any hardship to the Palestinians, despite the added security risk to Israel, places 74% of the Jews and 0.3% of the Palestinians on the Israeli side, and takes up 5% of the West Bank, roughly what was envisaged by Clinton at Camp David. A futher 3% would be added by protecting the Ariel and Gush blocs.

In all, getting 92% of the West Bank and 100% of Gaza, without anything in return, seems like a pretty good reward for 5 years of Palestinian terrorism. Why stop now?

Friday, July 15, 2005

ICE up your phone

A Freedmanslife public service message...

Not something we ever wish to consider but the general idea is good, for all sorts of reasons, not necessarily connected to terrorism. Eight out of 10 British people carry no next of kin details. Yet 80% carry a mobile phone, most of whom have it on them all the time.

East Anglian Ambulance Service have launched a national "In Case of Emergency (ICE)" campaign with the support of Falklands war hero Simon Weston. There is no simpler way of letting the emergency services know who to contact should you be involved in an accident than by using ICE.

ICE will allow ambulance crews and police officers to quickly contact a nominated person who can be informed of the incident.

  • Type the acronym ICE followed by a contact name (for example, ICE - mum or ICE - David) into the address book of your mobile phone
  • Save their phone number
  • Tell your ICE contact that you have nominated them
Please email this to people in your address book and/or direct them to

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Neville Chamberlain lives!

London, 1938. The clouds of war are gathering in Europe. Germany has annexed Austria and is making a play for the Czech Sudetenland. The first concentration camp is already up and running. In the UK, the Establishment is failing to clamp down on Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts as they terrorise the Jews of the East End. The government is also limiting Jewish immigration to Palestine at the behest of the Arabs. Neville Chamberlain returns from Munich waving a piece of paper that the nice Mr Hitler has signed, declaring that we will have "peace in our time". Thus he condemns 6m Jews to their deaths and draws Britain into a long and appalling war, when strong action to nip Hitler in the bud might have averted it.

London, 2005. The clouds of war are gathering in Europe. British Muslims have blown up tube trains and buses, and Al Qaeda have made no secret of their desire for more infidel blood. Terror training camps are up and running in Iraq and elsewhere, helping radicalised Muslims to learn how to kill infidels and apostates. In the UK, the Establishment is failing to clamp down on those in the Muslim community who contribute to the terrorising of the Jews here, in Israel and around the world. The government is also refusing to limit the immigration of radical Muslims into the UK at the behest of the liberal left; they have come in such numbers and acted so brazenly in promoting their evil credo that Britain's capital is known as Londonistan. Tony Benn, George Galloway, peace-loving Muslim leaders, the liberal left and assorted other intelligentsia and the BBC, insist on a resolution to the conflict in Israel/Palestine and the withdrawal of Coalition troops from Iraq, declaring that this will bring peace in our time. Thus they condemn thousands of innocent civilians to their deaths, and draw Britain into a long and appalling war, when strong action to nip Islamist extremism in the bud might have averted it.

In the aftermath of last week's events, I was hoping to see a real evaluation of the causes of terror, rather than the usual platitudes about Islam and terror being two words that have no association, about Islam as a religion of peace, and about British Muslims being integrated into society and wishing it no ill (I will deal with this in a later posting - but in short, I suspect it's partly true, and partly wishful thinking on our behalf). I was hoping that this analysis would avoid the usual traps of blaming the Israeli "occupation of Palestine" (read "Israel's existence") or the Coalition's fight to free Iraq of its despotic leader and the nutcases trying to fill the power vacuum.

Naturally I have been disappointed.

Rather than blather on endlessly about this, I will instead direct you to some excellent articles by far better writers than I, which eloquently argue my case. Firstly, read this article by Salman Rushdie written after Sept 11th. 4 years on, and Al Qaeda have been on a world tour, yet still the liberal left don't get it. Secondly, here's a reason why it IS related to Israel-Palestine - just not in the way you have been brainwashed to think it is - Gaza rejoices in our misery.

Now David Aaronovitch has not always been a friend of Israel, but it turns out he's alright. In this article, he asks: "'If we don't provoke them, maybe they will leave us alone.' You reckon so?"Best of all, he raises the point that isolationism doesn't work, and retreat just encourages them. Another writer who I have had my doubts about has rocketed in my estimation - I commend you to read the articles of Johan Hari of The Independent.

Another excellent piece of reading is by Charles Moore in the Telavivigraph, entitled "Where is the Gandhi of Islam?" He asks the question that many of us dare not pose in case members of the PC Brigade are loitering in the vicinity.

Now make sure you are sitting down, and have some smelling salts at hand. Here is a superb op-ed in The Observer (that's The Grauniad's Sunday socialist sister, not the local ad-rag) by Nick Cohen, that asks us to "Face up to the truth".

Of course, the strongest-worded articles that point the finger of blame where we dare not, come from the USA. Thomas Friedman, writing in the Sun Herald, hits the nail on the head.

I will finish where I started, which is with the direct link between Jew-hatred and threats to civilised Western society. This piece was written by Jeff Jacoby 3 years ago and puts it succinctly as to why our persecution is your problem.

More of my own views to come, I want to give you a head-start before I hit you with them! Also please visit some of the sites linked on the right menu bar.

Monday, July 11, 2005

My shitty little country, part 2

On a lighter note than recent postings, allow me to bring to you the second part of the story of my trip to Israel. The week's events and some of the reaction (blame Mossad etc) continue to convince me that Israel is where Jews belong, and we are just on loan to the rest of the world. So to continue the story of my visit to "that shitty little country Israel", complete with photos (now I worked out how to insert images)...

Drowning in lemonana

On my first visit to Supersal, I bought a sack of mint and half a dozen big fat lemons for about a quid and decided to reproduce the lovely lemonana I had enjoyed in Orli in Temple Fortune (or was it just Inbal the stunning redhead waitress who made everything seem so sweet that day?). How hard can it be? Shove some lemon juice, fresh mint and ice in a blender with a bit of sugar, and pulverize until smooth. Well actually, there seems to be more of an art to it than that. Luckily we are having the flat repainted before mum and dad's next trip. Thanks to Vic for the "assistance", especially in stirring the green sludge in the sieve, to Ora for the real recipe, and to Anat, Kobi, Udi and Orli (his girlfriend rather than the cafe) for volunteering to try it.

Wokking around the clock

I decided it was time to invite some people over and finish the leftovers, I mean enjoy a delicious spread. So I invited people for 8pm, knowing it was Israel so they would show at 8.30pm, I could start cooking at 9.30pm and serve at 10pm. Unfortunately I was second-guessed by my friends, who arrived at 9.30pm, helped me to cook at 11pm, and finished dessert shortly after midnight. On a weekday. Still, they seemed to enjoy it, and it was great to see Udi and Orli again after 2 years. And nobody noticed that it was all made from dregs of salad-box. I particularly recommend fruit salad made with Galia melon, pink grapefruit, green grape and white sultana. Looks colourful, tastes exotic, and uses up random fruit. Speaking of hilarious fruit hybrids...

Putt in my place

One Saturday, I went for a BBQ at Abi and Noach's. A large steak and several chicken wings later, we headed off to see Zvi, where I met up with Itai and two of his sons. We had a splendid afternoon on the golf course (crazy golf, that is), where I narrowly avoided defeat to the kids, but could do nothing about Itai's expert putting. If you want a game, click here. Then the kids found space for a hummus dinner in Herz Pit marina, AND demanded a McDonalds potato-based frozen sludgie on the way home. Also they patiently taught me all the parts of the face and body in Hebrew, and took great pleasure in my constant confusion of the words for knee, belly and peanut (berekh, beten and boten in case you care). Speaking of which, dad likes to insert the odd Hebrew word wherever he knows one, which leads to things being ordered as "shtayim of these please".

Jefrey's special pancakes

Vic and fellow gourmand Mr Webber (he of some fab NY and BsAs meals and the J'lem curry) accompanied me to the excellent China Lee restaurant, which is as they say in Mandarin "gratt kosha" - not a sweet and sour pork rib in sight. We ordered a massive amount of food, including the exceptional ald London-priced crispy duck pancakes. Imagine our surprise and joy when a nice Chinaman with a big name-badge proclaiming him as "Jefrey" arrived, set up a little stand, laid out a tray of crispy shredded duck, assorted crudités, hoi sin sauce and neatly folded pancakes, and proceeded to individually wrap our delicacies one by one with a pair of chopsticks. After the first one, we expected him to bow politely and depart, but instead he remained for the full 20 minutes while Mr Webber and I went through enough crispy duck for a horde of hungry Manchurians. Then he bowed and departed, taking his little stand and tray with him. Jefrey, we salute you.

And finally...

When Golda Meir held the office of Prime Minister, she tried to encourage Henry Kissinger to make Israel a top priority. He sent her a letter: "I would like to inform you that I'm first an American citizen, second Secretary of State and third a Jew." She replied: "In Israel we read from right to left."

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Armed militants attack British convoys

From your Biased Broadcasting Company correspondent Orla Cretin.

Members of the militant group Al Qaeda are being subjected to targetted killing and arbitrary arrest by the British secret services and armed forces in a dramatic operation that will eventually sweep through the entire UK. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a man who stands accused of being complicit in war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, says that Britain will use "any means necessary" to eliminate those involved in Thursday's militant actions in London, including using the sovereign territory of other nations to prevent further incursions.

The International Sycophancy Movement, Travesty International and other human rights organisations have been quick to condemn Britain's use of force against civilians, and the ISM has pledged to send human shields to stand in front of the entrances to the caves in Tora Bora and elsewhere to protect the majority of Al Qaeda members who have not played any direct part in the militant uprising.

Friends of the Oppressed spokesmen George Galway and Tony Bennet were quick to point out that "the continued existence of Britain is understandably a cause of trauma to the vast majority of Al Qaeda supporters, who are really peace-loving people. The only solution is to immediately hold a conference to decide on the future of the United Kingdom and redraw the borders to take into account their years of pain and suffering."

Cherry Bliar, a former top lawyer now seeking a career in politics, added: "As long as young people feel they have got no hope but to blow themselves up, you are never going to make progress."

Insurgents chose to attack train convoys carrying commuters, many of them settlers from other parts of the world or the UK who have moved to London for ideological or economic reasons. Most had recently voted for Tony Blair, and were hence considered by Al Qaeda, a political and social welfare organisation, to be complicit in his war crimes and thus legitimate targets. They were travelling to work along tunnels dug deep beneath territory held by Britain since the Roman defeat of Boadicea in the year 61CE.

Al Qaeda insurgents also destroyed a bus commandeered by the commuters and diverted from its agreed route into the disputed Tavistock Square area of London in what was seen as an act of provocation.

In total, around 50 commuters died in Thursday's clash, whilst Al Qaeda have not said how many of its own members may have been killed.

The British government was offered a truce last year by Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda's political leader, but refused to consider any concessions or compromises. 100,000 Muslims and 4,000 Westerners have died since the beginning of hostilities in September 2001.

This man will have a fatwa against him by Monday

"The London attack, or invasion, is not the work of a small group of individuals. It is the bitter fruit of a religion that has been hijacked by a small band of extremists while the majority watches on with a mixture of anxiety and delight. Let's hear Muslims condemning these kind of attacks without ifs and buts... The true battle against this enemy of humanity will only start when the silent majority in the Muslim world raise their voice against these killers and those who brainwash, train and finance them."

Pan-Arab Al-Sharq al-Awsat, commentary by Amir Taheri

Friday, July 08, 2005

Interlude: if peace in the Middle East is the issue...

In a previous posting, I stated that 'every country in the civilised world must stand up to this threat, and stop claiming that it would all go away if the Israelis gave the Palestinians everything they wanted'.

OK, so let's play along with the fluffy lefties like Galloway and Benn, and pretend for a minute that Israel is to blame because of its ongoing conflict with the Palestinians (I will discuss later the conspiracy theories about Mossad and the CIA actually perperating the attacks in London).

What would they have us do? And why do I believe it's time for ordinary people to see the truth and understand that Israel's right to a normal existence is intrinsically tied to London's right to a normal existence?

My statement does imply that the threat won't go away if the Israelis gave the Palestinians everything they wanted, because this is consistent with the diatribes of Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hizbollah, several Arab governments, the hard left in the UK and elsewhere, members of the PA, some British MPs, and imams in mosques across the world.

The "three no's" of 1967 onwards - no peace, no negotiation and no recognition - are still in place. Their form may have changed, so there can be a hudna - ceasefire, there can be Oslo and other accords in English whilst back at home in Arabic the PA leaders tell their people it's a Trojan horse, and there can be a removal of explicit rejection of Israel's existence but no formal recognition, coupled with schoolkids' maps showing occupied Palestine from Jordan to Med.

Well-meaning, apparently civilised people talk merely of a return to the 1967 borders and a "right of return" for Palestinian refugees, either unwittingly or intentionally supporting what would amount to the demographic submersion and geographical strangulation of Israel. Others talk about a Utopian idea of a single secular state where Israelis and Palestinians co-exist.

I don't believe in a Greater Israel from the River to the Sea, hence I oppose the idea that I "might as well ignore Palestine's wishes and get rid of them altogether".

First, I will state that I would have happily offered the same as Barak did at Camp David in 2000. Now I might not because of the reaction received which has been 5 years of terrorism. But I will just focus on what Arafat claimed were the main sticking points - Palestinian nationhood, the right of return, Jerusalem and the final borders (ie the settlement issue).

Palestinian nationhood

Let's clear up the use of the word "Palestine", which refers to a geographical area which has never been independent, and has no indigenous population except for the Jews and a handful of Arabs - most Arabs now identifying as Palestinians were historically Bedouin who found themselves in British Mandate Palestine at the moment when the concept of borders was being artificially foisted on the region by colonial Britain and France. Before then it had been a region controlled by one empire or another.

The concept of a Palestinian nation is relatively new - so much so that the Palestinian cause's greatest political and academic leaders, Arafat and Edward Said, were not even from pre-1948 Palestine. In the 1970s, PLO leaders openly admitted that their development of Palestinian nationalism was merely a cynical tool for the destruction of Israel and had no historical merit.

Having said that, in the words of Bob Dylan: "how many years must a people exist before they're allowed to be free?" For right or wrong, there is now a Palestinian Arab national identity, and they should be granted a state, for practical reasons. I have met right-wing anti-Disengagement Israelis who say that whatever their ideological issues with a Palestinian state, they realise it is the only game in town as far as a peaceful solution is concerned.

So I clearly do not want to get rid of them altogether. What I do want is to put their cause in a historical context and give them a viable state within reasonable and realistic terms. The biased world media and international institutions have forgotten or chosen to ignore this context, because it is very inconvenient.

Right of return

If we choose to have a Palestinian "right of return" and/or appropriate compensation, given that most of the 700,000 left without seeing an armed Israeli, and did so willingly to give the advancing Arab armies a free run at wiping out the insidious Jews, then where is the equivalent offer of "right of return" for the 900,000 Jews kicked out of Arab lands? Which by the way would be far greater, because the Palestinians were mostly tenant farmers and the Jews were mostly in commerce and had vast businesses...

And it gets messier. The use of the phrase "right of return" is part of a cynical ploy to invert the phraseology that describes the history of the Jews, along with the expropriation of phrases and words like holocaust, massacre, genocide, David and Goliath etc. The right of return of all Jews to Israel was a founding precept of the state. In a later posting I will deconstruct the myth that it is in any way racist (I think the mere fact that its accusers support a Palestinian "right of return" demonstrates that either it isn't or they are).

The right of return has certain conditions attached, to do with ability to demonstrate Jewish parentage. If we applied the same standard to the Palestinians, the vast majority would be unable to prove lineage within the bounds of modern Israel of more than 2 or 3 generations before they left in 1948.

So I will ignore the claim to a "right of return" as being one not grounded in historic reality or practicability, and also one that would prove pretty expensive for the Palestinians and the Arab countries that threw Jews out. The net payment due to the expelled Jews would run into the trillions.


Going to keep this really short. When the Arabs were in charge of Jerusalem, they desecrated the shrines of all non-Muslim faiths, its leaders treated it as a provincial backwater, and it had little religious significance (the word "Jerusalem" is not mentioned in the Koran but is the most-mentioned place in the Tenach). East Jerusalem's Arabs now enjoy high standards of health and education, and of course their shrines are controlled by their own religious authority and are treated with dignity. They have historically seen themselves as culturally different to the Palestinians, I guess being city-folk rather than country-folk, and living alongside other cultures and creeds for generations. I'm not convinced they would definitely want to live on the other side of the border.

Oh, and even so, there was a plan to hand over a large part of East Jerusalem but it wasn't enough for Arafat. But because I'm a nice guy, I think there should be a plebiscite of Arab residents in East Jerusalem, and as many contiguous Arab neighbourhoods as possible should be placed inside the Palestinian border if they wish. Those who are stuck on the Israeli side against their will should be adequately compensated; equally, those Arab Jerusalemites stuck on the Palestinian side against their will should be welcomed by Israel and granted citizenship!

Settlements and borders

Just retreat to the Green Line like the UN says, right? Er, no. What the legendary Resolution 242 actually intends in the original English, as corroborated by the drafters at the time, is that Israel should not be forced back to the artificial and flimsy borders created randomly by the 1949 armistice - withdrawing "from territories" won in 1967. The Arab League has historically obfuscated by using the English translation of the French version, which talks about leaving "des territoires", which they have translated as "from the territories". Thus forms the basis for the oft-repeated claim that Resolution 242 calls for a complete withdrawal.

Also rather inconvenient, and never translated or quoted, are the bits in Resolution 242 that call on the Arab side to stop blowing the crap out of Israel and come to terms with its existence. Huh.

Not to get bogged down in legalese, but in brief here are some reasons why the settlements are not just alien, unlawful implants.

1. Israel administers the territories using British Mandate law as its basis for action as the Brits were the previous legal occupiers. When they left, the Jordanians invaded - but nobody complained about that! The Geneva Convention does not apply to Palestinians because basically they were not a nation state in conflict with Israel. So under local law, public land that lays fallow for 3 years can be used by the administering power as they see fit. Most of the settlements were built on this land or by purchasing it from the owners.

2. Much of the land for settlements (including Kfar Darom, smack in the centre of the Gaza Strip), and also land in what is now Jordan and Lebanon, was bought by the Jewish Agency and other groups under the Ottomans and British, but was stuck on the other side of the border from 1948 to 1967. This was reclaimed once the opportunity arose. Similarly, Hebron was continuously occupied by Jews until 1948, despite repeated massacres by the Arabs (which the British turned a blind eye to by the way).

3. Under international law, the Arabs started the 6-Day War in 1967 - Israel was the first to strike but had clear casus belli. Under these terms, any land they win does not have to be automatically handed back on cessation of hostilities. In fact, Egypt and Jordan were themselves occupying the Gaza Strip and West Bank respectively from 1948 onwards (unquestionably illegally and with less legitimacy than Israel now does). Israel was under no legal obligation to give it "back" as it didn't belong to the Arab countries in the first place. In fact, under its peace accords with the respective countries, they were more than happy to officially renounce any claim over them and leave the Palestinians (who are by the way loathed by much of the Arab world) for Israel to clothe and feed.

Now I do want to say a word here about those illegal settlement outposts and those extremist settlers whose abhorrent actions in attacking and intimidating their Palestinian neighbours bring shame on the Jewish people. Nothing excuses this malicious behaviour, and thank goodness the IDF has now started to crack down very heavily on them.

Also despite my points above, I do believe we should leave most of the settlements that are not close to the Green Line or in the recognised blocs, if that's what the Palestinians want.

Unfortunately, I think it may be a short-sighted approach. Allowing them to stay as legal aliens carrying Israeli passports and perhaps even granting a similar sovereignty to the settlements as embassies and consulates receive in host countries, would give the Palestinians a natural market for their products and services, a source of tax revenue, and an ideal middle ground for trade with Israel.

The reality is that pulling out involves demolition of everything the settlers have built, which causes huge frictions between Jews, and leaves nothing worthwhile as a legacy for the local Palestinians except a sadly misplaced sense of victory.

In summary

The core wishes of the Palestinian leadership and their misguided supporters worldwide are simply never going to come true, because the only way for them to do so would be for Israel to be destroyed.

If I were an ordinary Palestinian trying to build my country, I would want a few things:
- a viable, largely contiguous piece of land I could call my nation
- an economy that was robust enough to provide a livelihood
- improved standards of living so my children would be healthy and well-educated
- the right to free speech and full democracy
- access to my religious shrines in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the Holy Land
- some dignity and pride that these achievements were not at anyone else's expense

I do not believe that any of the demands being made today by the Palestinian leadership, Hamas, British "intellectuals", journalists, academics, politicians, well-meaning Hampstead liberals, self-hating Jews, and misguided Arabs in other countries, have much to do with achieving these things. In fact I think there is something more sinister under the surface which I will deal with in another posting.

My friend says "I'm all for peace and harmony with losses in pride on both sides for the sake of peace."

I too am all for peace and harmony, but I think there is no need to lose pride for the sake of peace. In fact, as soon as we think that, those who are too stubborn to compromise and lose face come to the fore, and we all lose.

What I am not all for is a zero-sum game where one side has to lose for the other to win. The Palestinians, in the words of Abba Eban, "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity". I think that in the rush to create a state in as much land as possible, the real goals have been lost.

Equally, I fear that the current debate that is dividing society in Israel has lost track of what Zionism is meant to be about. Some say we live in a "post-Zionist" era, and I understand this perspective. For me, Zionism is about the Jews' expression of national identity, a release of the pent-up emotion of thousands of years of exile, a yearning to be at one with our historic land.

And I think it is more than that. I believe it is the expression of our blessing from God that we should be the "light unto the nations".

That is why the world holds us up to standards that they themselves can never reach. It is a heavy mantle to wear, and we as Diaspora Jews wear it twice over. But it is a challenge we should accept - which is why we are not "post-Zionist" - in fact we must be more Zionist than ever.

The sense of defiance, courage and determination to rebuild Zion in the face of mortal and unrelenting danger, unflinching against the demands of others that we should change or retreat, must now be paralleled by the sense of defiance, courage and determination to rebuild London, New York, Bali, Madrid and elsewhere in the face of mortal danger, unflinching against the demands of others that we should change or retreat.

Hence I reaffirm that we are all Israelis now.

I believe that the vast majority of our Palestinian neighbours share our values, and we must provide them with all the support they need. We have to help them by sharing with them our vision and our experience of nation-building, and show them what the priorities must be for them to create the society to which they should aspire.

If I were an ordinary Israeli trying to build my country, I would want a few things:
- a viable, largely contiguous piece of land I could call my nation
- an economy that was robust enough to provide a livelihood
- improved standards of living so my children would be healthy and well-educated
- the right to free speech and full democracy
- access to my religious shrines in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the Holy Land
- some dignity and pride that these achievements were not at anyone else's expense

Sound familiar?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Counter-terrorism starts in the mind

Apparently in my last posting, my friend thinks I implied that "if we used more shock and awe tactics in Iraq and allow Israel to obliterate Palestine things are going to get better." Having re-read it, I don't really see anywhere that was implied.

However, I think there is a societal view that stretches across the world that if we used less shock and awe tactics in Iraq (ie left altogether) and allowed Palestine to obliterate Israel, then things might get better.

These are views espoused by countless British "intellectuals", journalists, academics, politicians, well-meaning Hampstead liberals, self-hating Jews, and misguided Arabs who blame their misfortune on anyone except their own hopelessly corrupt and evil leadership.

These apologists for the actions of Iraqi "insurgents" and Palestinian "militants" will believe that we brought today's attacks on ourselves for Blair's involvement in the "Crusader Coalition" and friendship with the "Zionist Entity", and we should cave in to their demands to avoid being attacked again. It worked in Madrid - they managed to swing an entire election and have policy changed to suit them.

And they managed to cause a schism in Europe and the UN between those who wish to appease them because they are scared, and those who wish to strike against them because they are courageous. Both sides of this divide are still their enemies - let us not be under any illusion.

So this is what I actually think we need to do to make things better. We should call these people terrorists, and I think we should eradicate them by whatever means necessary. Furthermore, I think we should make it clear that anyone who harbours them or supports them can also expect to be held accountable. I don't see why this is controversial. This is a matter of survival.

The best hope for a terror-free world is ultimately to do some of what Al Qaeda, Hizbollah and Hamas want. We should leave them alone. But we should do so by giving the peace-loving majority in the Middle East the chance to rule democratically in stable, independent countries. Until then, other countries have to defend themselves from instability and terror on their civilians by whatever means available, and they have to intervene at source to eliminate the threat, especially if the host countries of terrorists are unable or unwilling to do so themselves.

A quote from an article today by American progressive Patrick Doherty, which neatly draws on the stupidity of the terrorists in disrupting the G8 summit, which might have dealt with some of the very problems they purport to wish to resolve: "So now it is time for progressives to keep the focus on draining the swamp, not on counterproductive military adventures that will only reinforce Al Qaeda propaganda. Aggressive and innovative policies to address climate change and poverty are two of the most powerful ways accomplish this. So is a smart exit strategy from Iraq and a final settlement between Israelis and Palestinians."

The Israelis are voluntarily leaving the Gaza Strip despite it being a historically Jewish area (one of the oldest synagogues in the region was in Gaza City until it was obliterated; Kfar Darom was bought by Jews under the British Mandate, and was reclaimed in 1967), and have re-routed the Defensive Barrier to cause as little hardship to the Palestinians as possible even if this causes a security risk. They are doing this to give Abu Mazen the best possible chance to promote a peace agenda among his own people.

But instead, he is inviting Hamas to join his fledgling Palestinian government - instead of arresting them - is hardly conducive to this, and complaining that Israel's actions do not go far enough. He has yet to make any concessions of his own, or to act on his own obligations as stated in the Road Map.

He either thinks that Hamas can be de-radicalised, and can come to accept that a viable Palestine is contingent on acceptance of a secure Israel, or like Arafat he continues to hope for Israel's total demise and a Palestine from the Jordan River (or perhaps the Iraqi border) to the Mediterranean.

Despite his past support for terror, and MA thesis which supported the canard of the Zionist-Nazi Holocaust conspiracy, I think Abu Mazen may have become a decent man with decent intentions. He might just be one of those who aspire to the "Islam, religion of peace" catchphrase that politicians keep repeating whenever there is a fanatical Islamic attack on the West in the hope that it comes true (please read Irshad Manji's "The Trouble With Islam" instead of attacking me for saying that).

He should learn from the internecine fighting between various Palestinian terror factions that these people hate every group other than themselves. Similarly, British Muslims need to genuinely show that they abhor these attacks, instead of producing the same old platitudes we saw after New York, Madrid etc, and instead of diverting blame onto the Coalition's invasion of Iraq or Israel's "obliteration of Palestine" causing suffering and hardship that drives people to become human bombs.

The two Muslims from Derby who blew themselves up in a Tel Aviv bar last year didn't have Israeli tanks on their streets or Israeli checkpoints on the A61. They were sheltered in the midst of a moderate, peace-loving British Muslim community, even though their families knew or could have guessed what they were about to do (Sharon is accused of war crimes for failing to predict and prevent Sabra and Shatila - perhaps we could indict their families on similar charges).

Actually, any British Muslim who does not subscribe to the extremist credo should consider themselves a target. Al-Muhajiroun, Hizb-ut-Tahrir and co have long accused them of being non-believers because of the path they have chosen (how dare they live in peace with the infidel?!).

I wonder if it was a coincidence that one of the bombs was next to Brick Lane, home to many of London's Bengalis, another at Edgware Road, centre of the London Arab community, another on a bus from largely Muslim Hackney. Or did the terrorists want to show their contempt for their co-religionists, who have committed the ultimate apostasy of converting to democracy and capitalism?

So let the vast, hitherto silent majority of Muslims, who love peace and condemn violence against civilians, stand alongside us and condemn it with one voice, whether it occurs in London, New York or Jerusalem. And let us stand up for them against the extremists among their own people and the ignorant cretins who will no doubt tar them all with the same brush without giving them a chance to show their solidarity.

The streets of Tel Aviv are now the streets of London. We are all Israelis now*. The choice is to surrender or fight. Either you are with us or against us. There is no middle ground.

* By which I mean an ordinary Israeli citizen. Unless you walk a mile in their shoes, including thinking before getting on buses, having to recite the names of all your relatives to airport security, going through metal detectors just to get into the supermarket etc, sitting out those anxious moments after a bus blows up until all your relatives have safely called in, you cannot possibly understand their viewpoint on the Middle East conflict and the intrinsically related global Islamic terrorism that hit us today. I don't mean that you should all magically start supporting Sharon, right or wrong, but it's time the British public started to see through the shocking bias of our media and intelligentsia, and grasp the nettle of reality, instead of settling for moral equivalences that cheapen the lives of Israelis and ultimately do the Palestinian few favours either.

Safer in Tel Aviv

Firstly, to let you know that my family are all ok, thankfully none of us were in town this morning.

I thought today I would be writing the second missive about my trip to Israel; instead I am watching news of bombings on London Transport buses, not Egged buses.

I thought I would be giving my reactions to London's amazing success at winning the right to host the Olympics in 2012 against rival bidders Madrid, Moscow and New York; instead London takes its place alongside them as the host of horrific attacks at the hands of Islamic terrorism.

I thought there would be something interesting to write about the G8 summit, and the presence at Gleneagles of world leaders Blair, Putin, Bush et al ready to tackle issues of global warming and poverty in Africa; instead, the war on terror will dominate the agenda, some of the very people on whose behalf the terrorists claim to act will lose a historic chance to be helped by the West, and Blair joins Putin and Bush as a leader whose country is a direct target of murderers.

I thought the BBC might apply some consistent standards in their reporting by referring to "militant attacks" on London and that Cherie Blair might reiterate how young Muslims who carry out these attacks "feel they have got no hope but to blow themselves up", as she did on a visit to the Palestinian territories; instead, when it's Londoners involved, and the locations are Liverpool Street and the Edgware Road not Ben Yehuda and Allenby, they are terrorists, and nothing can excuse their actions.

Let's hope that the casualties and damage caused will be minimal, but that the message will finally be clear to the imbecile British liberal left-wing and the moronic leaders of "respectable" EU countries who follow policies of appeasement; every country in the civilised world must stand up to this threat, and stop claiming that it would all go away if the Israelis gave the Palestinians everything they wanted, or if the Coalition withdrew from Iraq, or if Russia gave Chechnya independence.

These terrorists - and their Western apologists - are enemies of our entire way of life. Unless we are willing to give that up, we need to make hard choices about how we contain and destroy the threat.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

My shitty little country

Hi all

Still here in Tel Aviv, having a glorious time in the beautiful weather. The longer I stay, the more I realise that Israel is where Jews belong, and we are just on loan to the rest of the world. In the words of the French Ambassador to the UK, "that shitty little country Israel" is MY shitty little country, and I love it, warts and all.

Some of the little anecdotes from my trip may shed some light on why...

The Velvet Katyusha

From this episode, we learn that my shitty little country is home to a remarkable cultural clash between old-style orthodoxy on which Judaism was built, and the hi-tech modernity on which the State of Israel has thrived.

I visited Jerusalem for a couple of days last week, taking in some sights and decent food, including the excellent Indian business buffet at the Kohinoor restaurant in the Crowne Plaza (thanks Webber, Brahms, Murray and Greg for the excellent company and for helping me through the second sizzler of chicken tikka - couldn't have done it without you).

Later in the day I joined my old friend Jamie in Mea Shearim, the ultra-Orthodox area of the city (via a bite of sabich, the latest Jerusalemite food craze). We were on a mission to buy some velvet for a laboratory experiment involving the transfer of yeast. Don't ask, I don't know any more.

Jamie called his lab to ask what the Hebrew for velvet was, and was told it was something like khatysha, not unlike the word for an old Russian rocket, modified for firing over the borders by Hizbollah freedom fighters at their Israeli oppressors working in the Zionist orchards of the Galilee. Incidentally the link shows why we can't "just give it back to them" as many of my well-meaning and totally uncomprehending liberal Anglo friends suggest. More of which in a future posting.

Anyway, we went into the first schmatter shop and asked for khatysha. The frummer didn't have a clue what we were looking for until Jamie pointed at a roll of velvet...

Jamie: This
Frummer 1: OK, how much of it do you need?
Jamie: About a metre
Frummer 1 (suspicious): And what do you intend to use it for?
Jamie: I'm a scientist at Hebrew U, I need it for some experiments
Jamie: OK, bye then

So we removed ourselves sharpish, spent 40 minutes trudging up and down to no avail until we found a poky little place selling velvet. By this point, having asked a number of people, we had realised that part of our difficulty in locating velvet was that the word was actually "k'tifah". Jamie went in to negotiate:

Jamie: Good morrow, shopkeeper. May I peruse your fine selection of velveteen cloth?
Frummer 2: 'Ere, wot you want vat four? It costs four 'undged shekels a metre.
Jamie: I am a distinguished scientist at the seat of learning known as Hebrew U, I require said material for some yeast experiments
Frummer 2: Oh, a stewdent? Well ewe can ave it fer fawty sheks den.
Jamie: Jolly-o! I shall fold it into my knapsack presently and be on my way.
Frummer 2: Why we tawking like this instead of in Hebrew?

So we got our metre of velvet at a staggering 90% discount and went on our way. On the way back to his flat, we stopped off to see Meir and Ruth Rigbi (see blogs passim), where Jamie talked science and I ate cheese crackers. Once Jamie had left, I stayed to chat to Meir about life in the Diaspora, and mentioned the planned book (The Trouble With Anglo-Jewry) which I intend to write as a series of short, provocative essays on this blog and eventually discard when I convert to Zoroastrianism.

All in all, a stimulating day at the crossroads of religion and secularism.

Cornflakes for lockshen

From this episode, we learn that my shitty little country is home to the Sabra.

The following day, after a great dinner and overnight stay with the Rosenweins (hi!), I went to visit grandpa's sister Deb in the sheltered accommodation in Gonen. Now aunt Dvorah is a character - she is very blunt and politically somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan (RIP). Helen still hasn't got over the time we visited her, when I got a gummy peck on the cheek and Helen got "you're looking rather fat". Having said that, we both remember as kids how exciting it was to be served Coke for breakfast at her flat.

Now aunt Deb has been keeping her sporting prowess from her family for all these years. For her legendary poo golfing incident, see this previous posting. On this most recent visit, I found that her ability with the shot putt or perhaps basketball has been overlooked. Also, she may have discovered the missing link between an American breakfast and a Yiddishe supper.

We sat down to lunch and the staff brought out chicken soup. Without warning, Deb opened her purse, rummaged about, then shied a full hand of crushed Cornflakes across the table and perfectly into my bowl. As I sat there in amazement both at the technical feat and the peculiarity of seeing little orange knobbly bits of corn dissolving in anything other than milk, she added a generous handful to her own bowl, gave it a little stir, and chowed down. I followed suit, and dear Reader, I can tell you that I will never go back to those grim yellow cubes of Osem mandeln in my soup again.

Deb is believed by some family historians to have been one of the causes of the 6-Day War. Contrary to popular opinion, this is not because she threw Cornflakes in Nasser's molokheya.
She wrote to Golda Meir in 1965 advocating a policy of pre-emptive strikes against the surrounding hostile regimes, who were launching regular terror attacks against Israeli civilian targets in border areas and routinely blockading Israel's only link to the Southern Hemisphere, the Straits of Tiran. I asked her if she ever had any reply - Deb said simply: "the response was the 6-Day War". All papers and correspondence on the matter are on file at the Israeli national archive.

After lunch, she showed me some wonderful photos of our family from as early as the 1800s, including one of grandpa looking very dashing in his WWII uniform, on home leave. She has promised me a copy of this if she has one!

We also talked about her childhood and her life when she first got to Israel. She is a doughty woman who has been through considerable adversity but throughout has retained a sense of purpose and has not compromised on her values. Despite her best efforts to hide it sometimes, she is thoroughly well-meaning, generous and kind.

To me, she epitomises the Sabra spirit. A sabra is a cactus-like prickly pear indigenous to the region, and representative of the Israeli national character. It seems coarse, thick-skinned and prickly on the outside, but once you get inside, you find it sweet and refreshing, all the more impressive given its battle for survival in the harshest of climates.

Pals on the phone

From this episode, we learn that my shitty little country is so small that we get our wires crossed with our neighbours.

On Thursday night, a few of us drove south out of Jerusalem on Route 60, to Efrata and Matthew & Ilana's sheva brachot at Scotty's in-laws. We got there without incident, and enjoyed a magnificent feast, merriment etc. Chanit, if you're reading, please can I have your mum's recipe for those chocolate squares?

I also got a text message to inform me my phone had located a new network:

Marhaba. Smell the jasmine and taste the olives. Jawwal welcomes you to Palestine. For Customer Service dial 111.

Given that at the time we were
driving along Route 60, known as the "Tunnel Road", a favourite hunting ground of Palestinian snipers until Israel lined the road with alternating concrete blocks, I was thinking "Marhaba. Smell the cordite and taste the fear. Fatah welcomes you to Palestine." might have been more appropriate. Nevertheless, there was something quite encouraging to see the bright green numberplates and mustard yellow paint of Palestinian taxis, harmoniously sharing the road with Israeli cars and vans flying the orange tassles of anti-disengagement.

Somehow I felt driving along that road a strange sense of hope that we can unentangle from each other in a mutually beneficial manner. On the one hand there was a small sense of fear given where we were and the continued level of hundreds of attempted attacks a month (mysteriously unreported by the BBC). Also, walking around Efrata and especially singing at the Sheva Brachot, I had a profound sense of what it was like to be a pioneer deep in uncharted territory, and a slightly better understanding of how painful it would be to give it up. On the other hand, I saw the contrast between the smart villas of Efrata and the dusty Palestinian villages on the surrounding hills.

But also I could see how each side might have the ability to help the other, if only they would treat us as an opportunity for betterment instead of as an enemy to dislodge from their midst, and if only we would do more to bring forward voices of moderation on both sides.

In the meantime, I believe that good fences make good neighbours...