26
Mar
10

this blog has moved

to:

www.amikaufman.com

23
Mar
10

This Coming Friday

I’ll be relaunching Half & Half on Friday. I’ll have a new address, a new WordPress theme, and some Google ads.

I’ve wanted a new address for a while now, got kinda tired of the wordpress stuck in the the middle, so – I bought a domain. Also, I had some complaints about reading white on a black background, so I’ve got a new theme I’m going to try out (we’ll see if I stick with it…). And since my traffic is up a bit, I’ve decided to see if I can make a buck or two from some ads (hope that doesn’t tick any of you off…).

On Friday I’ll give out the new URL, where you’ll be able to read the special, first anniversary post. Yup, it’s been a year.

So, basically, this is my last post on http://www.shmookty.wordpress.com. Thanks shmookty, it’s been a hell of a ride!ūüôā

P.S. For those of you who didn’t know, “shmookty” is one of the first nicknames we gave our first daughter, Emma.

17
Mar
10

Izzie in HolyLand – Part 7

It’s 3 am in Jerusalem. Izzie’s just finished another consult with her ministers on how to get out of the mess Eli Yishai caused during the Biden visit.

She’s been crying the whole night.

Just as she finally begins to close her eyes, the phone rings.

Emanuel: Izzie?

Izzie: Yes, who is this?

Emanuel: It’s me, Rahm.

She can hear him smiling through the phone.

Izzie: Oh, I get it. So, you’re calling me to gloat now? Is that it?

Emanuel: Nah, of course not, kiddo! That’s not my style. I just wanted to check up on you…. hee-heee…pffffff¬†(he can’t control the giggling)

Izzie: Yeah, right. I’ll bet. Well, for your information, I’m doing just fine. Just! Fine! (The tears start to roll and mess up her mascara again)

Emanuel: Really? You’re fine? Pfffff heee-heee!! Sorry, sorry…. I don’t know what’s wrong with me…. I mean… ummm…. you don’t sound fine… heeeeeheeee!!!

Izzie: Stop it! I’m fine! So what if Barack’s a bit angry now? It’ll blow over.

Emanuel: “A bit angry”??!!!? PFFFFFFFFF!!!!! Did you hear that??

Izzie hears someone else laughing in the room with him

Izzie: Who’s there!?! Baracky baby?!?! Is that you?¬†

Axelrod: PFFFfffpfff sorry Izzie, it’s just me… David. Heeeee-heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee….

Izzie: Oh. The other –

Axelrod: – Yeah, Izzie, the other self-hating Jew! pfffff heeeeheeeee hoooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

She can’t control the sobs now

Izzie: Stop…(sniff) it… (sniff) please…(sniffsniffsniiff)¬†

Emanuel: OHHH G-d!!! OH! Feels so good!! Oh…. Sweet revenge…

Axelrod: Yeah, Izzie, I mean, you gotta admit: you had it comin’…

Izzie: I did not!

Axelrod: Oh, c’mon! What planet are you living on?! You’ve been lying to us ever since we took office!

Obama calls out for Rahm from the Oval Office

Izzie: Is that Baracky? Can I speak to him? Please???

Emanuel: Sure… If you want your head bitten off!!!! HEEEEE HHhooooo pffffff!!!

Axelrod slaps his knee and Emanuel grabs his stomach, the laugh is so hard it’s almost too painful¬†

Emanuel: Oh G-d, Oh G-d, so good…. so goood…. oh… oh… ohhh…. oh, someone stop the pain…. ohhhhhhhhhhhh

Izzie: Please… (sniff)… Rahm… (sniff)… Let me speak to Barack…

Axelrod: Izzie, I don’t think that’s such a good idea….

Izzie: Please!!! (sob)… I’ll do anything!

Emanuel and Axelrod grin at each other

Emanuel: Will you stop building in East Jerusalem?

Izzie thinks for second

Izzie: No…

Emanuel: HEEEEEE!!!! Hooo !!!! I didn’t think so!!! HAaaa… Oh G-d… stop it, stop it… oh please… I can’t breath… please….

Axelrod: Oh G-d, I haven’t laughed this hard since my Zeidi used to tickle me as a kid….heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

Emanuel: OK, OK, OK…. Listen, Iz…. seriously… we just wanted to try to cheer you up…

Axelrod: Yea Iz, seriously, we actually wanted to sing you a little song….

Izzie: Really? For real? Don’t make fun of me Rahm… I’m really not in the mood…

Emanuel: No, of course not! Just listen, OK?

Izzie: Well, OK…

Axelrod: OK. Let’s do this…

Emanuel and Axelrod look at each other, trying hard to keep the laughter in. They clear their throats simultaneously and go for it

Emanuel and Axelrod:¬†“Who’s sorry now? Who’s sorry now? Whose heart is aching for breaking each vow?”¬†

Izzie: You fucking bastards!

Emanuel and Axelrod:¬†“Who’s sad and blue?” PFfffff “Who’s crying too?”¬†Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Izzie: Fucking shmucks!

Emanuel and Axelrod:¬†“Just like I cried over you?”¬†HOooooooooooooHeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Izzie: Stop it! Get Barack on the phone! Now!!!!!!!!!!!!

Emanuel and Axelrod:¬†“Right to the end, just like a friend”

Izzie: You’re gonna pay for this Rahm.

Emanuel and Axelrod:¬†“I tried to warn you somehow”

Rahm: I did Izzie, I tried to warn you, I swear heeeeehooooooooo heeee pfffff

Emanuel and Axelrod:¬†“You had your way, now you must pay” ¬†pfffffffffffffffffffffff

Izzie: Asshole.

Emanuel and Axelrod:¬†“I’m glad that YOU’RE SORRY NOWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

They both collapse in their chairs giggling uncontrollably, as Obama walks in

Obama: Rahm! What the hell is going on in here?

Rahm sits up straight, wipes the tears of joy from his eyes

Emanuel: Sorry, Mr. President… We were just fooling around a bit with Izzie….

Obama: Oh… well… in that case…

He grins

Obama: Keep up the good work!

14
Mar
10

Oh My Gosh

I can’t decide whether I like this song by Efrat Gosh, or not. There’s something very cool about it, and yet extremely annoying at the same time…

But while searching for the video clip, I found out she made not one, not two – but seven different clips for it!

The Hearts:

The Promenade:

At home:

Night time:

Tel Aviv:

Strip club:

The tattoo:

11
Mar
10

I’m Dreaming of a White Intifada

I’m dreaming of a white Intifada

Just like good ‘ole Ghandi used to do

Where the protests in Bil’in

And demos in Na’alin

Do more than a suicide bomber or two

—————————

I’m dreaming of a white Intifada

With every blog post that I write

May your boycotts topple Bibi

And the Right

And may all your Intifadas be white

—————-

Music: Irving Berlin

Lyrics: Ami “Seriously Twisted” Kaufman

11
Mar
10

By George, I think They’ve Got It!

Cross-posted with The Huffington Post

With Bibi Netanyahu turning out to be just another Yitzhak Shamir – the one who doesn’t initiate, doesn’t lead and does nothing to get things moving – the ball has been thrown into the Palestinians’ court. And if we stick with the sports metaphors for a bit, what a pleasure it is to see that someone has stepped up to the plate, on the other side, and has decided not to wait for the Israelis.

But what’s even more impressive is the change of tactics, a change that might actually work. Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Prime Minister serving under Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen, is now leading what many around the world are calling the White Intifada: a struggle consisting of weekly non-violent protests against settlements and the separation fence, while striving for a declaration of independence by the summer of 2011. Fayyad, a former economist and technocrat, is also leading the ban on products from the settlements (seen below throwing products into a bonfire) and has shunned the use of Israeli VIP cards given to senior Palestinian figures so as not to be seen as collaborators with the occupation.

2010-03-11-x160.jpg

Overnight, Fayyad has turned from a dull official into a charismatic politician, enough for Shimon Peres to call him the Palestinian Ben Gurion. He’s also done much to rid Palestinian school books of anti-Israeli propoganda, and is getting good grades from everybody, especially the Americans, who are happy with the “yes to peace, no to violence” approach. As Aluf Benn writes:

“He is receiving enthusiastic approval from the U.S. administration as a successful manager. Some 2,600 Palestinian policemen have already graduated from the training course run by U.S. General Keith Dayton in Jordan and are back in the territories, expecting to serve an independent state, not as subordinate agents of an Israeli occupation.”

This new strategy from the Palestinian side was successfully set out in a recent op-ed by Ziad Abu Zayyad, a former minister and PLC member in the Palestinian Authority:

“There is a lesson to be learned here by us Palestinians: We cannot quash the Israeli repression machine with violence, because our violence will be used to justify and legitimize the brutality of the strong against the weak. Furthermore, Palestinians need to take into account the fact that they have allies on the Israeli side who share their rejection of the occupation and of discrimination; it is crucial to reinforce and nurture this relationship with them.

“Disseminating a culture of passive resistance against the oppression and atrocities of the occupation is the most efficacious method for fighting it: It should be promulgated and its circle expanded. It must not remain restricted to pockets of protest here and there, but should become a generalized modus operandi that encompasses all points of contact with the occupation and the settlements, which are trying to gobble up the land and obliterate all features of Palestinian identity. It must be clearly said that nonviolence is morally superior to force.”

This is a new kind of language coming out of the West Bank, and this new attitude and leadership from the Palestinian side is already bearing fruit on the diplomatic front. The foreign ministers of France and Spain, in a joint article recently published in Le Monde, called to expedite the establishment of a Palestinian state and complete its recognition by October 2011.

Fayyad and the White Intifada are the most refreshing and genuine attempt lately to get things moving in the right direction. As opposed to Israel’s long-standing policy of dunking its head in the sand, we’re finally seeing some true wisdom from the Palestinian side: mainly, that violence only makes Israelis react with more violence. The Fatah in the West Bank saw exactly where the violent struggle of the Hamas led to: the deadly Operation Cast Lead. Their biggest achievement since then has only been the Goldstone report, contested by many and supported by few.

The Europeans seem ready for a declaration in 2011. Will the U.S. be wise enough to not miss this train?

P.S. Just a few more words on Biden

There’s not much else to say about Israel announcing the construction of more housing units in East Jerusalem during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit. All the usual phrases have already been used: slap in the face, humiliation and so on.

As an Israeli, this is infuriating. The excuses make it even worse. When Netanyahu says that the “timing of the announcement was horrible”, what exactly was he thinking? That there’s a GOOD time to announce building in East Jerusalem? And what’s even worse than that, are the excuses along the lines of I wasn’t aware of the announcement”. A prime minister shouldn’t be too proud to show that he’s not exactly running a tight ship, to say the least.

But the most disappointing, maddening part of this was Biden’s light slap on Israel’s wrist. That’s all? We’re going to get away with it? Again?!?!

If I was an American watching Biden’s little reprimand on TV, I’d be mad at Israel – but even more embarrassed with the overwhelming weakness shown by the U.S. Vice President and the administration he represents.

07
Mar
10

If it Ain’t Right(wing), It’s Wrong

One of the most common slogans used by Israeli left-wingers is “the occupation corrupts”. Meaning, it corrupts Israeli society –¬†and even more importantly, it corrupts Israeli democracy.

But the damage that Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has done in its first year is so overwhelming, one can only wonder what will happen if he’s lucky enough to stay in power for a full four-year term.

When Netanyahu was elected, everyone knew that peace would have to wait a few more years. The right-wing government he formed sent out the message loud and clear: the Palestinian people are of no importance whatsoever. The Iranian nuclear program is what’s on our¬†agenda.¬†¬†
But no one could foresee that a message was also being sent out on a daily basis to those inside his own country who try to voice a different opinion to that of the government.
In Israel, if you’re a Haredi demonstrating on the streets against opening a parking lot on the Sabbath – you’re OK. Police will watch¬†from afar.
If you’re a right-winger demonstrating on the streets against a settlement freeze – you’re OK. Police will watch¬†from afar.
But think twice before you go to Sheikh Jarrah, you lefty. You traitor. Better watch your back before you decide to take to the streets against evicting Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem.

And if you’re a foreigner, careful. We’ll have you deported if you’re not on our side.

Oh, and you lefties, you high falutin’ intellectuals better not create any “art” that doesn’t conform to the official propaganda of the ruling body.
I’ve subtitled the following video clip, an excellent item shown about a month ago on Channel 10. It shows how Israeli moviemakers are having it tough these days, if they’re not in line with the government’s stance.
This a very good piece, and it probably would not have been shown on the more popular Channel 2. They wouldn’t have the guts to endanger their ratings. Channel 10 news is known to take a few more chances, to ask questions that aren’t always asked. And although the reporter Talya Peled Keynan tries to play the devil’s advocate, she’s brave enough to¬†come out against what she sees as an attack on freedom of speech.
One of the most difficult parts to watch in this clip is an excerpt from a movie called “Checkpoints”, where an Israeli soldier questions a Palestinian family on their way to Nablus. The family is sick, and needs to see a doctor. The soldier, probably 19 years old, doesn’t believe them. The occupation has turned this young man into a doctor at a checkpoint, analyzing Palestinian patients.
I sympathize with both parties. With the family going through a humiliating interrogation. And I can also understand the young lad. With the weight of the world on his shoulders, there probably isn’t a day that goes by where he doesn’t ask himself: “Did I just let a suicide bomber through?”. The pressure is unbelievable.¬†

He doesn’t believe anything –¬†or anyone – anymore. The occupation has corrupted him.

06
Mar
10

The Green Prince

This has got to be one of the most interesting stories I’ve read in a long time.

Avi Issacharof of Haaretz reveals that Mosab Hassan Yosef, the son of the leader of Hamas in the West Bank, was actually an Israeli agent working for the Shin Bet.

Apparently, the guy saved hundreds of lives and basically gave the Shabak access to the highest levels of Hamas.

The article is an excellent read, but Channel 2 did an interview with the guy last night (in English) – and pictures, of course, are worth a thousand words.

Take a look:

01
Mar
10

Just Some Random Thoughts

Not long ago Karen and I were watching a documentary where famous people in Israel spoke of their childhood. One guy remembered how mad he was about playing gogoim during recess. 
I specifically remember that part, because I was mad about gogoim, too, when I was in grade school. 
And it got me thinking like an old geezer. You know, those guys who tell you “When I was your age I walked to school in three feet of snow! Barefoot!”.¬†
I thought how innocent, how primitive it was – in the cutest and coolest way possible – that I was fascinated with a game, whose main objective was to collect as many apricot pits you can.
I can vaguely remember asking my parents back then to buy more apricots so I would have more ammo for the game. Although, they say they don’t remember it having any influence on my bowel movements. Maybe because I just opened ’em up, took out the pit and chucked the fruit. Shame, Israeli apricots rule (that is, unless they’re imported these days).
My friends and I would carry empty shoe boxes with holes of different sizes we carved out in them, and during recess we would aim hard (usually the one-eye-closed, tongue-out, right-foot-in-the-air stance worked best) and try to dunk those pits in the holes. The smaller the whole, the more pits we would get from our mates.
That was me back then.
The apricot-pit-chucker.
————————————————————————————————–

The Whole-Wide-World

Ehud Banai is my favorite artist. Not only in Israel – in the whole-wide-world. Well, maybe along with Stevie Wonder. But still…
For those who don’t know him, I would call him Israel’s Bob Dylan: Not a great voice, but a genius when it comes to songwriting and lyrics.
There are more than a few songs of Banai that can literally move me to tears.
Unlike those cheap, untalented singers claiming to be “Mediterranean”, no one accomplishes fusion between East and West better than Banai, playing Arab chords on his electric guitar.
One song that seems to do it even more for me lately, as the father of two gorgeous girls, is a lesser known single from 1996, “I will bring you”.
What shall I bring, My little girl
What shall I bring you, As a gift
What shall I bring, My little girl
What shall I bring you, As a gift
I will bring you a lover’s song
I will bring you Star-light
I will bring you Wind from the sea
I will bring you The whole world
I will bring you Children’s laughter
To scare off all your fears
I will bring you, in both my hands
I will bring you my whole life

I will draw the journey to you into a picture

And I will bring it to you, as a gift

I will write the journey to you as a song

And I will bring it to you, one bright morning

————————————————————————————————–

Shoulder-length Hair

Another song I love of Banai is Haknafe Metuka (The Knafe is Sweet, knafe being an Arab desert).

There’s a line in there that always gets to me, because I remember who he was talking about. He was talking about guys like me, age 18, growing our hair after high school and before our military service, before they were going to chop it all off. Some last moments of rebellion.
Who is sitting today, for hours
Taking it all in
‘Till this whole shuk
Looks like a hallucination
I buy some coffee, and olive oil
A wanderer for one day
Hair down to my shoulders
Draft notice in my hand
————————————————————————————————–

Home

I used to say to my buddy Shai: “How can I ever leave this country, when I know that the moment I hear Ehud Banai while abroad, I’ll break down and cry knowing I made the wrong decision?”
The sounds of Banai’s guitar, Yair Dalal picking on his ud, and even the grand orchestra accompanying that booming voice of Um Kultum as she belts “Inti Omri” – all those strum on different and special chords in my gut.
I realize that just as much as I am a product of the Western Israel and American parents – a guy who loves his cheeseburger and his rock n’ roll – I am also a product of this land I grew up in, the Middle East.
I curse in one of the oldest languages around, I make my kid a pita with hummus for a mid-day snack, at kindergarden she eats chopped vegetables with tahini.
It has nothing to do with the occupation-shmockupation. It has nothing to do with the religion that I have no connection to. It has nothing to do with the fact that I sometimes believe there is no hope for this place.
It’s only about characteristics ingrained in me and in my children.
It’s who I am.
25
Feb
10

Izzie in HolyLand – Part 6

Izzie: Oh my G-d, Ehud, I’m soooo stoked about Dubai! How cool was that operation?

Barak: Yeah, it was pretty good.

Izzie: Oh, and that death squad! SOOO smoooooth. Did you check out that Gail Folliard? How hot is THAT chic?! Oh my G-d, it’s like the Mossad must have some kind of Simon Cowell filtering out the ugly ones!

Barak: Yup, she’s hot, she’s hot.

Izzie: Oh my G-d, I HAVE to call our buddies and see what they think…

Ring-Ring!!!!

Izzie: Gordi?

Brown: Izzie? Is that you?

Izzie: Yeah! Holy shit, Gordi, did you see the pics coming out of Dubai?

Brown raises his voice, making sure everyone outside the room hears him

Brown: Oi! Izzie!!! Are you bloody mad?!?! Stealing identities of British citizens?!?!?!

Izzie: (Disappointed at Brown’s reaction) But Gordi, this guy was a mega-terrorist, he –

Brown hushes Izzie up and whispers into the phone, making sure nobody hears

Brown: Shhh, I know, I know… great job Izzie. Oh my G-d, I though I was watching a James Bond movie! Don’t listen to everybody ,it’s all a load of bollocks!

Raises his voice again

Brown: I’m summoning your ambassador, I hope you understand how serious this is!

Whispers again

Brown: Cheerio Izzie, keep it up! Gotta go!

Izzie: (Too happy for words) Bye Gordi!

———————————————————————————–

Ring-Ring!!!!

Izzie: Nicola?

Sarkozy: Izzie? Iz it vous?

Izzie: Oui, mi amor!

He makes sure everybody outside the room hears

Sarkozy: Merd, Izzie! Dis fooleesh operation iz a deezaster! It will not bring ze peace!

Izzie: (Once again, disappointed with the reaction) But Nicola, this guy –

Sarkozy: (Whispers) Shhhhh!! Shhh! Oh my G-d, Izzie! It was fabulous! Fantastic! I thought I was watching my favorite film, Nikita! How do you do it, tout-le-monde is so jealous!

Izzie: (Grinning widely) I know, it’s sooooo cool, huh?

Sarkozy: Oui, oui, beacoup cool!

His aide enters, so he raises his voice

Sarkozy: D’accord. I will speak to vous later! But je condemn this horribleh act of merder!!!

Izzie: Bye Nicola…

———————————————————————————–

Ring-Ring!!!!

Izzie: Kev?

Rudd: Streuth, Izzie? Is that you?

Izzie: Yeah, Kevin! How goes down under? Did you see the Dubai cam pics?

Rudd raises his voice

Rudd: Well, I’ll be stuffed! You’ve got some nerve using Ozzie passports, Izzie!

Izzie waits¬†for the whisper. Smiles as it comes…

Rudd: Shhh! Good onya Izzie! Wow, how you guys do it I’ll never know. Our guys can barely pick out a dingo from a dog pack, mate! It was a beaut, Izzie! See ya!

Izzie: Bye Kev!

———————————————————————————–

Ring-Ring!!!!

Izzie: José?

Zapatero: Izzie? Es tu?

Izzie: Si, mi caballero!

Zapatero raises his voice

Zapatero: Estas loca?!?!? Que cigarillo have you been fumando???? Dis operacion was ee-leh-gal!

Izzie: Anything else you wanna say, José?

He whispers

Zapatero: Ay, caramba! Izzie, your Mossad is grandioso! Felicitaciones on this maravilloso act against de terroristas de bandistas conquidistas maldistas gordistas sandinistas!

Izzie: Gracias, mi querido primero ministerio! Hasta luego!

———————————————————————————–

Ring-Ring!!!!

Izzie: Baracky?

Emanuel: No, Izzie. It’s Rahm

Izzie: Oh, it’s you. So, what now, you’re taking his calls?

Emanuel: No, I was just in the office.

Izzie: Whatever. Is Barack there?

Emanuel: Yeah. But he’s busy.

Izzie: (Whispers) Fucking self-hating Jew…

Emanuel: What did you say? What the fuck did you just say now, Izzie!!?!?

Izzie: Nothing! I said “I’m still waiting for my juice!” That’s all! I asked for some juice a minute ago, jeez!

Emanuel: Yeah, right.

Izzie: Just tell Barack I called.

———————————————————————————–

Ring-Ring!!!!

Izzie: Silvio?

Berlusconi: Izzie? Iz it tu? Come sta?

Izzie: Oh, Silvio, tell me you saw the pics from Dubai…

Raising his voice, so all the consiglieri outside hear

Berlusconi: Izzie! You steala de identities off de European a nationalistas! I shoulda shoot tu in dat bellissima face of yours!

Izzie waits for the whisper

But Berlusconi raises his voice even higher

Berlusconi: But it was fantastico!!!

Izzie: Silvio!!!! SHHHH!!!! They’ll hear you!!!

Berlusconi: Who will hear? I don’t give a de fuck who is a listening. Izzie, you can a give me de telefono numero of that Gail Folliard…? I’m a having a pool party tomorrow…

22
Feb
10

Squeezable Bibi

Cross-posted with The Huffington Post

The U.S. administration has played it all wrong with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. After one year with both Netanyahu and Obama in office, the only “success” America has chalked up is a “freeze” on settlement building in the West Bank which is actually only a temporary freeze, and isn’t really enforced to begin with.

The Mideast experts in the West Wing apparently think they’re up against one tough negotiator, a guy who stands up for his principles. But if anyone in the White House would actually bother to show a bit of interest in Israeli media and its coverage of the prime minister, they would be shocked at some of the headlines which repeatedly pop up. Some of the most popular ones go a bit like this: “Bibi Backtracks Once Again” or “Bibi’s Never-Ending Zigzag”, and that old favorite “Bibi Caves in to Pressure – Again”. Everyone in Israel knows that Bibi is what we call in Hebrew “Lachitz”; he’s as squeezable as a ketchup bottle.

But this important fact seems to have evaded those D.C. experts. Indeed, what Obama and his aides have apparently failed to see is that Netanyahu is one of the weakest prime ministers this country has ever seen. As Yoel Marcus wrote just this week:

“One of Benjamin Netanyahu’s critics said the prime minister doesn’t know what to fear when he gets up in the morning. Why? Because he’s afraid. Every issue on which he feels he is likely to lose or fail – he abandons. Fact: Since coming to power he has not lost a single vote in the Knesset. He doesn’t submit any proposal on which he is liable to fail.”

2010-02-21-netanyahu.jpg

Over the past year, Netanyahu has succumbed to pressure from coalition members and from his own party that has made him renege on so many of his initiatives, it’s hard to keep count. Here are just a few examples:

Value added tax on fruits and vegetables

Netanyahu backed down from a plan to impose a Value Added Tax on fruits and vegetables after he met strong opposition from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, a partner in his coalition. Shas Chairman Eli Yishai said that the tax would harm the weaker sectors of society. Eventually, Netanyahu claimed that “A central part of my job is to listen to the will of the people. I’ve reached the conclusion that now is not the time to impose this tax.”

The drought tax

The government had a great idea to hike up water prices to make people use less of this disappearing resource. But the huge public outcry meant that Netanyahu had to let this initiative go down the drain.

Expulsion of the children of foreign workers

Netanyahu’s government isn’t exactly known for its tolerance of minorities and foreigners. So, when he and his Interior Minister Yishai decided it was time to kick out the children of foreign workers in Israel, the public outcry worked once again. The deportations won’t begin until August 2010, assuming he sticks to his guns this time…

The Highway and Railroad Plan

Just two weeks ago, Netanyahu unveiled his plan to spend over 80 billion shekels ($20 billion) on new highways and railroads connecting the Galilee to the Negev. But officials in the Treasury got up on their hind legs and seem to have derailed this plan, as well.

National Heritage Sites

And just this morning, Netanyahu added two controversial sites to a list of sites that would be granted 400 million shekels (100 million dollars). After pressure from right-wingers, Netanyahu added the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem to the list.

The “Jobs” Law

This would have allowed municipalities across the country to appoint dozens of deputy mayors to public offices at a huge cost to the public coffers. The huge public outcry did it again (thank G-d for Israeli public outcry…).

The Absorption Budget

When Foreign Minister and head of the extreme right-wing Yisrael Beitenu party Avigdor Lieberman heard that the Absorption Ministry’s budget would be cut along with all the other ministries, he called a press conference and announced his party wouldn’t be voting with the coalition. Bibi quickly put in a call, and invited him in for a chat at his office to promise it wouldn’t happen.

Right to vote for Israelis living abroad

Netanyahu’s initiative to allow all Israelis abroad to vote will probably change drastically, if not vanish totally into thin air. The goal, of course, was to strengthen his fan base, since most of the several hundred thousand Israelis living abroad are known to lean to the right. Netanyahu has met strong opposition from his coalition partners, mainly Ehud Barak and the Labor Party. It now seems the privilege will be given only to those who left the country one year before elections.

And this is just a partial list, from one year in office.

So, why is it that small-town politicians, officials and public outcry can twist Bibi’s arm, but the leader of the free world can’t even beat him in a thumb-wrestling match? Simple. Everyone knows Bibi is “Lachitz”, and everyone knows his weak spots. Everybody knows he cares what people think of him, that he can’t take the pressure, and most importantly: all he wants is to do what most prime ministers never do – finish a full term without going to elections.

You might ask then, “Why is it that when it comes to Iran and the peace process he doesn’t give in”? Well, that’s because those are precisely the areas where he has no pressure to do otherwise – not from abroad, and not at home.

U.S. administrations have rarely put any pressure on Israeli governments. The last time Israel faced any real pressure was when Bush Sr. threatened Yitzhak Shamir that the U.S. would cancel loan guarantees – a threat which many analysts say made Shamir eventually attend the Madrid peace conference.

Obama has done nothing of the sort. Even when his envoy, George Mitchell, hinted about using the loan guarantee threat again, America failed to follow through.

And it’s a shame. Because the experts in D.C. obviously don’t know what a huge opportunity has fallen into their laps. They have no idea what a weakling of a leader Netanyahu is. He never leads. He never initiates. It’s all about survival for him.

If only they knew that with a bit of pressure, in just the right spot, they could have Bibi eating out of their hands.

19
Feb
10

Once Again, Israel Shoots Itself in Both Legs

Cross-posted with The Huffington Post

Israelis have been going on and on for decades about how nobody understands us, about how we’re fighting for a just cause, and how it’s always the other guy’s fault.

Over the years, governments in Jerusalem constantly changed their Hasbara tactics, but to no avail. (Hasbara, as Wikipedia points out, is “a term that has been used by the State of Israel and by supporters of Israel to describe their efforts to explain Israeli government policies, and to promote Israel to the world at large”.)

2010-02-18-YuliEdelstein_small.bmpJust today, The Minister of Public Information and Diaspora Affairs, Yuli Edelstein, the guy who’s basically in charge of Israeli Hasbara, told Prime Minister Netanyahu he’s swamped. Apparently, he’s so busy dealing with the repercussions of the Goldstone report and with the diplomatic effort to get sanctions against Iran, he asked Netanyahu to relieve him of some of his other duties.

Meanwhile, Edelstein managed yesterday to launch his new campaign, an ambitious attempt to enlist basically every citizen into the Foreign Ministry, by training the common Israeli in how to answer the tough questions posed while travelling abroad, or, G-d forbid, by some lunatic leftist who happens to be against the occupation (how dare they!).’

The campaign is now all over the place: Radio, TV, internet and more.

As you can probably imagine from the tone of my words thus far, I’m against such adventures. I prefer changing the policy itself to something a tad more, how shall I say, “correct”. It seems a bit more reasonable than explaining ridiculous existing policies like… “settlements”.

But when I first caught a glimpse of the campaign on TV, I cringed.

Talk about low standards… This stuff is something no advertising executive would ever want in his portfolio.

Take a look:

How pathetic is this ad? (And did you notice how terrified the “reporter” was of the camel?…)

It’s so pathetic, it’s actually mocking Israelis themselves. It shows that the Ministry believes Israelis are a bunch of ignoramuses who think that the rest of the world believes that we ride on camels, and worse: When I went into the official campaign site, I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry.

Apparently, the rest of the world thinks Israel is all one big hot desert, that we only eat falafel, that the country is ruled by a military junta, and more.

Here’s a taste from the “Myth vs. Reality” page on the site:

Myth: Israel is a primitive country.

Not true. Israel is known around the world for its achievements in the sciences, arts, technology and more.

Yes, it actually says “Not true” after each “Myth”.

Here’s one of my favorites:

Myth: Because of the settlements there is no peace.

Not true. … Tel Aviv and Jerusalem may also be seen as settlements by the Arabs…”

The pages about “Israeli History” and “Israel and its Arab Neighbors” are so conservative, they’re even more right wing than Likud policy. A very tough read.

But they certainly save the best for last, where Edlestein gives us a lesson in persuasion on the “Tips” page:

  • First listen, then speak.
  • Eye contact is very important. If you look to the sides, the person you are speaking to will feel uncomfortable.
  • Body language – Use large arm gestures, it shows that we mean well…. Smile only when you really mean it, make it an honest smile… Posture – the straighter you stand, the more confidence you demonstrate…

And it goes on, and on…

The first thing that came to mind, is that this ad blitz tells Israelis how to deal with exactly nothing. That’s right – nothing. Because people abroad aren’t going to ask Israelis on vacation how fast a camel can make it from Haifa to Tel Aviv. Instead, they might be asked something like: “So, how does it feel to live in an apartheid state?”, or “So, 1,300 Palestinians dead vs. only five Israelis during ‘Cast Lead’, how do you explain that?”. Edelstein doesn’t really give us any ammo for the tough ones, huh? I don’t know, maybe if I stand straight enough…

But then I got to thinking, how bizarre is it that this campaign coincided with the unfolding story about the Dubai killing of a Hamas militant, most probably by the Mossad. It’s just too good to be true.

Another case of Israel spitting in the face of international law, and here comes Edelstein telling us how to deal with our tarnished image abroad.

I’d pay a lot of money to see him practice what he preaches in front of UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, when he has to explain why Israel sent a death squad to Dubai and in the process stole identities of at least six British citizens to carry it out.

17
Feb
10

A Sight for Sore Eyes

Two nights ago Karen and I spent a few hours holding Emma’s hand at an emergency clinic in Tel Aviv. She had been vomiting the whole day, and by then she was quite dehydrated. Watching your kid cry her eyes out when a doctor sticks an IV drip into her wrist is as painful as it gets.
Thank G-d she’s OK now…
Another sight for sore eyes was a nice old lady sitting next to us in the nurse’s room.
Turns out it was Yael Dayan.
The first thing that popped into mind was: “Wow, she’s aged”.
She looked so frail. So tired.
I don’t know why she was there. I didn’t ask, of course. Although I must say, I was tempted to go over and tell her what a fan I am. Tell her that there’s really no one out there who puts up a fight anymore, like she used to. Like Yossi Sarid used to, like Shulamit Aloni used to.
But I knew better than that.
So, I just looked at her as she sat and held her cane while patiently waiting for the doctor.
“She shouldn’t be here”, I thought. As if she shouldn’t be here with all us common people. After all she’s done, after all the battles she fought. I felt like she should be getting the celebrity treatment. She deserves it.
“She looks like the Left does these days”, I said to Karen.
It sounded so cliché.
But that’s the thing about¬†clich√©s,¬†I guess, there’s always some truth to them…
09
Feb
10

Superbowling

1) Rituals

Last night I watched the Superbowl.

Watching the Superbowl in Israel is the epitome of being a Half & Halfer.

It takes dedication. 

Concentration.

And caffeine. In any form.

Why? Because the game starts at 1:30 am. Ends at 5:30 am.

Over the years I’ve watched the game in different settings.

First with Dad, as a kid. Then later as a teenager.

But then Dad started getting tired and never made it till the end of the game.

Then I was in the army. So, I missed 3 Superbowls. Now THAT’s Zionism.

In my 20’s I started hosting. Beers, nachos, guacamole – and during the pinnacle years: buffalo wings with Blue Cheese dressing. All home made.

When Karen joined the team, she tried to stay up – but never made it past the first quarter.

Just now, she admitted to me: “I was only in it for the nachos”.

But now, in my 30’s, it’s just me again.¬†

Me and my brand new La-Z-boy.

I look forward to this yearly ritual. Whether I’m alone, or with friends.

It’s a chance for me to connect to that other part.

That other Half.

2) Payback

I’ve used this platform to bash Israeli ad agencies for stealing ideas from American ads.

Superbowl 44 was payback day for the Israelis, when Coca Cola stole a 7-year-old Israeli ad for chocolate milk.

Couldn’t find a YouTube clip, so here’s the link to the news item on Channel 2 (interesting watch for English-speakers as well).

http://reshet.ynet.co.il/◊ó◊ď◊©◊ē◊™/News/Economics/Consumers/Article,37234.aspx

3) Congrats

The Saints deserved it. Mazal Tov. 

06
Feb
10

The Other Israeli Siege

Cross-posted with The Huffington Post

Next week, Bibi Netanyahu will be celebrating his first (and may it be the last) anniversary of his February 10 election victory.

After one year in office, Bibi’s got reasons to be fairly pleased with himself. Security-wise, 2009 was the quietest year in the past decade.

Diplomacy-wise, he’s staved off pressure from a once-adored President Barack Obama to permanently freeze settlements (instead, he “gave” Obama only 10 months – and yet still, while the clock ticks, the building goes on), and he’s managed to stall the peace process long enough for Republicans (his ole’ buddies in Congress) to get back into business in D.C.

2010-02-06-bibi06.jpg

Even economy-wise, things are looking up; the Governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer, is getting tonnes of kudos worldwide – even from the IMF itself – for getting Israel through the financial crisis practically unscathed.

In addition, a recent poll shows that although Netanyahu himself has lost some altitude among the public, his Likud party has gotten even stronger and would win a few more seats in the Knesset if elections were held today. Something he can definitely live with.

Meanwhile, Israel’s critics overseas have continued, and rightfully so, to denounce it’s continuing occupation of the territories, particularly the siege on Gaza. But what seems to have slipped under the radar overseas is a siege of a totally different kind: the siege on Israeli democracy itself.

Last year it began with full-blown Liebermanism (after Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman) – most notably with the “Loyalty Law”. Mr Lieberman of the Yisrael Beitenu party has done much damage to Israel on so many fronts, especially the diplomatic one, but if this law passes, MKs, who take an oath at the beginning of each Knesset term, will have to pledge allegiance to the State of Israel as “a Jewish democratic state”, instead of the usual “State of Israel and its laws”. That could pose a bit of a problem for, hmmm, let me think… MKs who aren’t Jewish?

But if January and the beginning of February 2010 are any indication, Israeli democracy will have taken a much more dangerous turn for the worse.

It is now official: Israel 2010 is a place where it’s dangerous to be a leftist, because you’ll probably be arrested for voicing your opinion in public; it’s a place where reporters and editors apply self-censorship at unprecendented levels; a place where government funding for culture is cut off if it doesn’t fit the government’s agenda; and last – but not least – a place where the second biggest (on its way to being THE biggest) newspaper is basically an extension of the ruling party.

Here are just a few examples of what has taken place in Israel in one month alone, January 2010. All of them are worth a blog post in themselves, but since events are happening so fast on the ground (as they usually do in Israel), I’ve decided to give you a quick wrap-up:

Growing Self Censorship
In early January, two major newspapers inexplicably shelved two stories.

* Ma’ariv wihtheld an interview with Mohamad Bakhri, the director of the controversial movie “Jenin, Jenin”. Bakhri made the movie after the bloody battle in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, where dozens of Palestinians and Israeli soldiers were killed. He was later sued for libel for how he portrayed the IDF, and has since been practically ostracized by Israeli Jewish society. Apparently Ma’ariv decided it would be better not to allow Bakhri to speak in its pages.

* Yedioth Ahronot completed an investigation into procedures of opening fire on Palestinians during Operation Cast Lead, and apparently found evidence that these procedures were considerably lax. But Yedioth never published the story, and eventually the British Independent got hold of it and did it for them…

Sheikh Jarrah Protests
Over the past few weeks, left-wing protesters have demonstrated in this East Jerusalem neighborhood against the outrageous, insensitive eviction of Palestinian families from their homes and replacing them with Jewish settlers.

Police showed a strong reaction to these protests, some say much stronger than they normally show during settler or Haredi protests. Also, police arrested dozens of peace activists claiming the protests were illegal to begin with, although the courts have decided (twice!) that this is incorrect.

The police handling of the protests is widely viewed as a severe infringement on freedom of speech in Israel, and the debate that ensued was reported extensively in Israeli media – especially on the net. Unfortunately, the debate over freedom of speech has recently overshadowed the real reason for the protests – the Jewish takeover of East Jerusalem.

Yisrael Hayom and Sara Netanyahu
The free daily newspaper, Yisrael Hayom, has long been considered by most in the Israeli media as a “Bibi-ton” (a mash-up of Bibi Netanyahu’s name and the word “iton”, which means “newspaper” in Hebrew). Founded by Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who has had a long and close relationship with Netanyahu, the paper is no less than Israel’s version of Fox News. “Fair and Balanced”? Yeah, right…

Since its foundation, the founder and staff have constantly dodged claims of favoring Netanyahu, but when word about the Prime Minister’s wife being sued by her maid was published in the main rival, Yedioth Ahronot, well, Yisrael Hayom didn’t even try to hide it. There was no question about who’s side they were on anymore. Anyone who still had doubts – especially after reading the headlines and analyses of reporters, going out of their way to protect the First Lady – had to be blind. Did I hear “Pravda”?

Cultural Boycott
In Israel 2010, if you don’t make movies like the ones the government wants you to make, forget about any kind of funding. In his excellent blog “Promised Land”, Noam Sheizaf wrote last week about the sad story of an Israeli film called “Lipstikka”:

Lipstikka was originally planned to deal with director Jonathan Segal’s mother’s experience in the Holocaust. Later on Segal decided to move the plot to Ramallah, and to tell the story of two girls struggling to end the Israeli occupation. Like almost all Israeli films, Segal received financial support for his film from the Israeli Film Fund (IFF).

Last Friday, Israel’s most popular columnist – and Channel 2 News anchorman – Yair Lapid quoted in his weekly column in Yedioth a passage from a pre-production brochure advertising Lipstikka, which compared Israeli occupation to the Nazism. As a result, Minister of Culture and Sports Limor Livnat (Likud) contacted the IFF, which immediately decided to freeze all support for Lipstikka. Director Segal claimed later that the brochure was written by a British PR woman who was sacked from the production two years ago – and that Lapid never contacted him to get his comment on the issue – but at this point, nobody really cared to listen.

Basically, what the IFF and the Minister for Culture did was little more than censorship. It is important to understand that it’s almost impossible to produce a film in Israel without the IFF’s help. Allocating funds according to the political message of films means that from now on only certain views will be allowed to be shown.

Deportations
* Jared Malsin, a Jewish reporter who was the English Editor of the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, was deported on January 20 after 8 days in police custody. He was arrested at Ben Gurion Airport for allegedly not cooperating with immigration officers’ questioning. But reports have since surfaced that Malsin was questioned about his critical reporting of Israeli policies in the West Bank.

* The notorious Oz unit of the immigration police, used on a daily basis to round up and deport foreign workers, went all the way to Ramallah on January 11 to grab Czech pro-Palestinian activist Eva Novakova and deport her to Prague.

The New Israel Fund
This is the biggest story in Israel for the past week or so. Israeli newspapers have run huge ads paid for by Im Tirzu, a right wing movement, claiming that NIF and its Chairman, Prof. Naomi Chazan, support Israeli NGO’s responsible for feeding Judge Goldstone false information and, basically, making us look bad abroad.

The caricatures in the ads of Chazan remind most people of dark times in Europe, and have really brought down the level of debate over Goldstone’s report to the UN. As a result, left-wingers have stooped down to their level and are now calling Im Tirzu activists “fascists”. What leftists should really be asking their opponents is: “Why is it OK for Americans to fund settlements, but not Israeli NGOs that do a lot of good for the country”?

Meanwhile, on Thursday Chazan was notified by Jerusalem Post editor, David Horovitz, that she will no longer be writing her weekly column in the paper, after 14 years. Which leaves Larry Derfner as the last voice of the left in that publication.

2010-02-06-NIF.jpg

American media has over the years shown interest in violations of human rights in China, in North Korea, in Putin’s Russia and more. There are enough foreign journalists in Israel to cover any story they want – it’s time they started reporting on the other, just as dangerous, siege taking place in the MidEast.

02
Feb
10

Maybe We Can?

Israeli leftists (those of us that are left) can be divided into two. Well, probably more than two, but stay with me a sec… Those who want to end the occupation for pragmatic reasons, and those who want to see an end to Palestinian suffering. There are, of course, many gray areas in between…
I won’t go into the different reasonings for both – that could take years. I will say, that for me it kind of depends on my mood. If I’m in a “Have-you-hugged-your-Palestinian-today?-mood”, and I’m all feel-good-lovey-dovey, then I can easily go for a one-state solution and let my kid marry a Palestinian. But the truth is, I haven’t felt like that for years.
Usually I’m in¬†a “Good-fences-make-good-neighbors-mood”. Which basically means, I want the occupation to end,¬†for all settlements to be removed¬†(now!), and that¬†I¬†wouldn’t feel too bad if I didn’t see another Palestinian for the rest of my life.
But every once in a while I get those peace-pangs, deep down inside. It happened again recently when I watched an interview on Channel 2 with Knesset member Ahmed Tibi. It brought back those good ‘ole feelings of “not only do I think I CAN live with Palestinians, I may actually WANT to live with them”.
I’m going to do an injustice to Tibi by trying to sum him up in just a few lines for those of you who don’t know him, but – it must be done. He’s an Arab MK, the leader of the Ta’al party. He is a trained medical doctor, and in the early 90’s before he got into¬†the Knesset, he was an advisor to Yasser Arafat.
Over the years, Tibi has been called every name in the book, from “traitor” to “terrorist”. But I’ve always found him to be a rather moderate MK, and a straight-talking politician. Very rare these days, as you know.
To¬†cut a long story short, last Wednesday¬†on International Holocaust Remebrance Day, Tibi gave a speech¬†from the Knesset podium. I guess that since it wasn’t¬†Israel’s official Holocaust Day, they didn’t mind letting an Arab speak. But lo and behold, Tibi took their breath away –¬†even Knesset¬†Speaker Reuven Rivlin¬†called¬†it one of the best speeches he has ever heard in the plenum.
I’ve subtitled an interview Tibi did with Yair Lapid (who I recently wrote about here)¬†¬†on¬†Channel 2’s flagship¬†Friday evening news show, about the speech.
Take a look (it’s only 5 minutes), and meet me later for a chat.
Now, some of my readers are probably saying: “Oh, Tibi’s just telling us what we want to hear”. Call me naive, but I thought he was very genuine.
First, for those of you who aren’t Israeli it¬†might be difficult to understand – but to hear an Arab with a thick Arab accent tell the story of a young couple who fell in love in Auschwitz, with all the German and Jewish names, and tell it as if it was his people that had been persecuted – all this is very new to Israeli ears. It had a strange affect on me, at least…
Lapid, being the usual drama-queen that he is, was actually asking the right questions. Not the questions that I would have asked, but the ones that the typical Israeli on the street wants to hear answers to: We’re here to stay because of the Holocaust, can you understand that?
I believe Tibi understands. I believe many Arabs do – though¬†I don’t know if all of them do. But the same can also be said about the understanding of the Palestinian’s pain on our side.
I do know that if we all lived by Tibi’s credo, of not wanting to beat each other – but to win together¬†– things might look a whole lot better around here.
31
Jan
10

The Protocols of the Elders of Zapato

Last week, somewhere, in a dark room in a dark building in Reston, Virginia, a meeting of the most powerful men and women of the world took place.
That’s right. You know who they are, you’ve heard of them¬†for years now. Some have told you that they’re just an urban myth, that they don’t really exist. But they do.
Yes, we’re talking about – of course – the order of the Elders of Zapato.
The Elders of Zapato meet every four years in a different location. Half & Half has been given exclusive entrance to this extraordinary meeting to give you – but of course – The Protocols of the Elders of Zapato.
Chairman of the meeting, Selcuk Ozbek from Turkey, pounds his gavel and orders silence from all the attending shoers. Ozbek was just recently accepted into the order in October 2009 after shoeing the director of the IMF, Dominique Strauss Kahn, when he gave a speech in an Istanbul university.
Ozbek: My friends, we have gathered here today to deal with two issues.
The first, accepting into our lines a new and distinguished member. And second, choosing our new leader after the order has deemed Richard Reid, also known as The Shoe Bomber, unfit to lead us as his actions do not constitute shoeing per se. We nonetheless wish Mr. Reid success in his future endeavors, shoe-wise or… or otherwise.
Let’s begin. I call upon Pini Cohen to enter the room.
Cohen enters. On January 27 2010, Cohen shoed the President of the Israeli Supreme Court, Justice Dorit Beinish, and successfully hit her smack in the schnoz.
Ozbek: Pini Cohen, you have been called to join the Elders of Zapato after successfully shoeing a high ranking official. To complete your joining of the order, repeat after me:
I, Pini Cohen, hereby promise to continue shoeing whenever I can, using all shoe brands and designs – except for Manolo Blahniks, they’re way too gorgeous.
Cohen: I hereby promise.
Ozbek: Good. You can come in. But take your shoes off, damn it! You rookies have to be barefoot the first time, I told you!
Cohen tiptoes in and joins the round table.
Ozbek: Now it’s time to go for the second issue.
Around the table, people started to move in excitement. Every one at the table knew the next leader was perfect for the job. 
Jarnal Singh: Oh, come on! Let’s do this already, can’t we skip the protocol?
Singh, a Sikh journalist, shoed India’s Home Minister, P. Chidambaram in April 2009.
Singh: I can’t wait! I’m practically jumping out of my Batas!
Ozbek: Dear Singh, all in good time. We must do this one step at a time.
Muntadhar al-Zaidi: I don’t know why you’re all so happy about this new leader. I shoed the leader of the West!
Al-Zaidi was of course referring to his famous shoeing of George Bush.
Cohen: But you didn’t hit him! You missed! All of you missed!
One of the attending yelled: “But I hit Ahmedinajad’s limo!”
Martin Jahnke: It’s not about hitting! It’s about how you throw! And let’s face it, our next leader has been an inspiration to all of us since 1996!
Jahnke had the balls to shoe Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in February, 2009.
Al-Zaidi: But at least I threw my shoes at politicians. This woman you are choosing threw it at her servant.
Just then, the doors to the room slam open, and Sara Netanyahu walks in to her infamous campaign song she’s been using over the past two years to excite the masses. It’s Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Sole of her Shoes”
The room is in awe. Even over the loud music they can hear the diamonds scratching on the wooden floor.
After holding in all his excitement, Singh decides to join along and… sing:
“People say she’s crazy,¬†
She’s got diamonds on the soles of her shoes!
Well that’s one way to lose those walking blues!
Diamonds on the soles of her shoes!”¬†
Sara takes her place at the head of the table. She takes off one of her Extreme Dior Gladiator Platforms and shows everyone the diamonds on the sole of her shoe.
All bow their heads. Even al-Zaidi knows who’s in charge now.
Netanyahu begins her acceptance speech in a low, almost whispering voice. Everyone bends closer to hear.
Sara: Thank you all for accepting me as your new leader of the Elders of Zapato. We have many things on the agenda… but first,

WHO THE FUCK CHOSE THIS DUMP FOR THE MEET? WE ONLY GET TOGETHER EVERY FOUR FUCKING YEARS, DID WE HAVE TO DO THIS AT THE HOLIDAY INN IN RESTON? WHO’S THE FUCK-FACE WHO BOOKED THIS JOINT??!!

Ozbek, head still bowed down, began to lift his hand. Sara shoes him with the diamond studded sole. One swing, goodbye. Instant death.
Sara: OK. Where were we?… ¬†Oh, right! The agenda.
29
Jan
10

Another Favorite…

29
Jan
10

A Quadruple Heads-Up

Sometimes I find myself reading an article about a politician who won an election or began leading a country out of nowhere. It happened to me recently with the Scott Brown fiasco in Massachusetts, and it happens to me often when it comes to other places around the world, too. But that’s the way things are for all of us, right? You just can’t stay on top of all the latest affairs, all the time.

So I got to thinking, maybe it would be useful for some Half & Half readers if I dropped some names and gave you a heads-up about some people, who in my eyes are the next superstars in Israeli politics. People you’ve probably never heard about – but who have at least hinted on various occasions that they want to reach the top of the pyramid. So, here are:

Half & Half’s 2000 n’ Teens Israeli Top Dogs:

Yair Lapid

Lapid is the son of Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, the former Justice Minister and head of the once-powerful centrist Shinui party. Tommy, who passed away in 2008, was a long-time journalist for Maariv. In 1999, his party got an astounding 15 seats in the Knesset. Like father like son, Yair is considering making his move into politics, too. And he won’t be the first, of course. In recent years, Israel has seen a virtual tsunami of journalists dropping their keyboards in favor of the ugly brown leather seats in the Knesset plenum.

Yair is one of the most familiar faces in Israel today. He’s starred in some of Israel’s biggest movies, hosted Israel’s most famous talk show, he writes the most read-column about his family and marriage in the front pages of the weekend supplement of Israel’s most-read newspaper (Yediot), was the main presenter for Bank HaPoalim’s advertising campaign (Israel’s biggest bank), and two years ago took up the position of anchor of the most watched TV station Channel 2’s flagship Friday night newscast. He’s written 9 novels, and is an amateur boxer. He is loved, adored, even worshipped. To many, he represents “The Beautiful Israeli (HaYisraeli HaYafe)”. Or what they want Israel to be: smart, witty, mainstream – and no less important – drop dead gorgeous (even if surprisingly short).

When asked in a recent interview if he had any intention of going into politics, the country stood still. And he knew we were all waiting for the reply. So before answering, he slowly looked down, paused (as if he really had to think about it, even though everybody knew that he knew that we knew that he knew that we knew), and then said: “I’ll have to decide one minute before the elections”. It was television drama at its best, made by Mr. TV himself.

So basically, if Bibi holds on long enough, we’ll have to wait around 3 years to see if (some say it’s only a matter of “when”, not “if”) Lapid jumps in. But there are already enough who are afraid of him. MKs Ronit Tirosh (Kadima) and Carmel Shama (Likud) have just proposed bills to impose a cooling-off period of 6 months for a journalist wishing to run for Knesset. They’re already calling it the “Lapid Law”.

Meanwhile, Lapid will keep interviewing on prime time TV politicians he might join forces with and transmit his agenda from behind the costume of a journalist.

Ofer Eini

You probably don’t know this, but Ofer Eini is one of the most powerful men in the Middle East. He’s a tax advisor. But he’s also the head of the Histadrut, the Israeli trade union congress.¬†

Eini climbed the ladder slowly – but steadily – in the Histadrut through the years. Not due to his abilities as a tax advisor, but rather through his skills as a leader and politician of the unions. In 2006, he eventually replaced the former head of the Histadrut, Amir Peretz, who went on to head the Labor party and serve Defense Minister in Olmert’s government (which didn’t end too well, as we all remember).

Since then, Eini has grown stronger by the day. The media has taken a liking to him, and he is often portrayed as the national mediator, the guy who saves Israel at the last minute from huge country-wide strikes, the guy who keeps Ben Gurion Airport open.

He’s a master negotiator – which in my eyes, of all the four people I talk about in this post gives him the best chances of reaching the top one day. As a powerful force in the Labor Party, he was the one who convinced Barak to join Bibi’s coalition last year, and he was the one who time after time since Bibi took office has forced the PM to renege on various taxes and regulations that would have damaged the interests of the unions.

Lately, over the past few months, his rhetoric has been changing. He’s heating up. He’s been warning Bibi and the Finance Ministry that he’s done being Mr. Nice Guy. He’s allowed various small institutions to strike here and there – but nothing major yet. It seems like he’s planning a big, national strike soon. Very soon. And strikes scare people in Israel, especially politicians.

People around Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) say that Eini is heating things up for his own political aspirations, which Eini and the Histadrut have since denied over and over.

But this is probably one of the only times I’ll ever agree with a Likudnik.

Shlomo Lahiani

Lahiani is probably the most charismatic mayor in the country. He was first elected mayor of Bat Yam, a suburb of Tel Aviv, as a Labour-backed independent in 2003 with 45% of the vote and re-elected in 2008 with an amazing 86.3% of the vote. To say that Bat Yami’s love him would be an understatement.

But lately, things have gone a bit sour for the Sherrif of Bat Yam. He was arrested by the police in late December 2009 on suspicion of fraud and misuse of public funds. The police made sure the arrest was caught on TV, with the footage showing how the cops confiscated his cellphone and entered his house while the kids were still asleep.

He’s since denied all the allegations, and can’t wait for his day in court to supposedly prove everybody wrong. Most Bat Yamis couldn’t care less if he’s a thief or not – all they know is that housing prices have gone up, streets have been paved, flowers have been planted, and Bat Yam has started to shed its mirror image of Newark, NJ.

On his latest TV interview he didn’t deny he has plans on being Prime Minister one day.

And if he turns out to be Ariel Sharon’s successor as Mr Teflon after the court case – his popularity will go sky high, nation-wide.

Gideon Sa’ar

Sa’ar, the Education Minister, has at times been considered “Bibi’s poodle” (the poodle title was first given to Yossi Beilin, who was dubbed Peres’ poodle). A former journalist and lawyer, Sa’ar’s popularity in the Likud has rocketed over the years, and is considered to be the top candidate of the next generation to take over the Likud.

In December 2008 he won the Likud primaries for their Knesset list, putting him in second place after Bibi himself. He’s repeatedly said that he will not compete against Netanyahu, but everyone is waiting for him to make his next move. And that’s all I’m willing to write about a Likudnik.

Apologies.

26
Jan
10

Not Evil All the Time

Last week, Ethan Bronner of the NYTimes wrote a very interesting piece about the mixed feeling Israelis have about the country’s aid to Haiti. No one was against the aid itself, but rather the discussion revolved around how the aid portrayed Israel in the world, and how it stands in stark contrast to the aid – or absence of aid – given to Palestinians just miles away. As usual in Israel, the divide was between right and left. Take a look, I think this is a real important read (and it’s not too long…).
Here’s a small excerpt:
But on the same page, another commentator, Larry Derfner, argued that¬†while Israel‚Äôs field hospital in Haiti is a reflection of something deep in the nation‚Äôs character, ‚Äúso is everything that‚Äôs summed up in the name of ‚ÄėGaza.‚Äô ‚ÄĚ He wrote: ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs the Haiti side of Israel that makes the Gaza side so inexpressibly tragic. And more and more, the Haiti part of the national character has been dwarfed by the Gaza part.‚ÄĚ
But, I have a problem with this discussion and with my leftist brethren on this topic. I think the aid to Haiti should be looked at just the way it is: Simply as aid Рnothing more. Israel should be proud of its rescue team, of the quality of its field hospitals and that they got to Port Au Prince way before the bigger and closer countries did.
The immediate comparison and/or linkage of this assistance to the conflict with the Palestinians is, in my eyes,¬† tiresome. Come on, give us a break lefties (me included!) – our guys were saving lives over there! And risking their own while doing it! These are apples and oranges. There’s just no need to connect EVERYTHING to the conflict.
Having said that, I do have a problem with the way Israeli media blew the whole Israeli rescue team story out of proportion. Almost as if they were a bigger story than the quake and the survivors themselves.
To give you a better¬†idea of how things are seen over here,¬†I decided to subtitle a skit from Israel’s most popular satire show “Eretz Nehederet” (A Wonderful Land) that kind of sums up how the media coverage was ridiculous, and it also touches on the need for so many Israelis to simply have someone pat them on their back and tell us: “See? We’re not always evil”.
I’ve always thought satire shows¬†are a great way to understand how the locals see things. So, just to get you up to speed, this particular¬†skit is with Roni Daniel, the military correspondent for Channel 2. Daniel is known for his right wing views and that he can never say anything bad about the army. They’re always right. In fact, he often urges them on television to do more, to be more ruthless towards the “enemy”. He was sent last week to Haiti with Israeli rescue team.
Enjoyūüôā
23
Jan
10

Yes, Mrs. Sara Netanyahu

It’s late at night at the Prime Minister’s residence. Bibi is comfortably seated on his La-Z-Boy, reading Glenn Beck’s latest novel. As his wife Sara walks in, he puts down the book, looks over the rims of his glasses at the title, looks back again at his wife, and grins. “Ah, the irony”, he thinks to himself.
He puts down his copy of¬†“Arguing with Idiots” and¬†takes his glasses off.
Bibi: Hey Sara…
Sara: Bibush, how are you sweetie pie? Can I get you anything?
She sits on the sofa. He cringes as he watches her heels dig into the expensive, leather cushions.
Bibi: Sara’le, we have to talk.
Sara: Oooo, that doesn’t sound good…
Bibi: Well, you’re right. It isn’t.
Sara stiffens. Bibi notices this, and takes¬†extra precaution. He knows any false move could result in disaster. His advisors have been calling him every minute since the papers got hold of their maid’s lawsuit against them for¬†alleged abuse, underpayment and forced¬†work on Shabbat. They told him he had to rein her in this time. Last time, in 1996, it was the nanny. Then it was the secretary, and now the housekeeper.
Sara: OK. I’m listening. Is this about the heels? I’m taking them off, see?…
Bibi: No, no… it’s not that Sara’le… well, that too. But, not only that. It’s about the lawsuit.
Sara: Oh… OK.
Bibi: Listen, I have to ask you something.
Sara: Shoot.
Bibi: Did you really tell our maid to only refer to you as Mrs. Sara Netanyahu?
Sara: Yes. Is there something wrong with that?
He noticed her lips quivering as she answered. He had to tread carefully here. He turned to her mustered up the warmest smile he could produce.
Bibi: Sweetie, Sara’le… It kinda comes off, how to say, snobbish…
Sara: I just like order and heirarchy, you know, Bibi? I mean, I just like it when they respect me? You know?
Bibi: Yes, honey. I know, I know…
Sara: So, why is it so difficult to call me Mrs. Sara Netanyahu? I mean, for God’s sake, I’m the freaking first lady of Israel!
He motions her to quiet down, he doesn’t want this conversation to get into the papers as well.
Bibi: Sara, listen… how many times do I have to tell you, you’re not the first lady of Israel.
Sara: But I am!!! I am!!!! And did you just motion me to quiet down? Did I actually SEE that?
Bibi: Sara’le, calm down sweetie…
Sara: No YOU calm down! (her voice starts to take on a certain shrieking sound, similar to sewer rats in one of those Indiana Jones movies)
Bibi: Sara’le…
Sara: That Lilian is lucky I didn’t throw a shoe at her like I did that other girl!
Bibi: I know honey, she’s very lucky. She really is.
Sara: And I’ll tell you something else, Bibi… You better be careful yourself. The last time someone shooshed me down like that¬†it didn’t end well.
Bibi: I’m sorry Sara’le…
He noticed she was running her index finger on the edge of her high-heel, over and over again. He felt very thirsty all of the sudden. 
Sara: They have to learn to respect me Bibi, they must! Now everybody thinks I’m crazy!!!
He doesn’t know how to react to that one, so he just shuts up for a second. Suddenly he understands that his silence¬†might be¬†interpreted as an agreement (which it was, of course), so he’s to quick to find words. Any words! Something!
Bibi: I know, I know. Look, I’ll take care of it…
Sara: How, sweetie?
Bibi: I told Sheldon about it, he said the paper will fix it.
Sara: Our paper?
Bibi: Yes, Yisrael Hayom.
Sara: So glad we have our own paper, Bibush.
Bibi: Me too honey-pie.
Sara: I’m so glad I’m a child psychologist, too. Aren’t you, Bibush?
Bibi: Yes Sara’le. It’s wonderful.
Sara: I wish people would at least respect me for that, you know? I mean, if you can’t respect me for that, then, like, grow up already! Right? Like,¬†fuck you! Right, Bibush?
Bibi: Yes Sara’le.
Sara: I mean, I’m a fucking child psycologist, Bibi! Don’t they know that?!?!?! I’m smart!!! I am!!!
Bibi: Yes, honey, you’re very smart.
Sara: Don’t you start with me, too!
Bibi: What? I was agreeing with you, Sara’le, calm down…
He breaks into sweat. He’s decided to do anything in his powers to keep this tantrum to no longer than 5 minutes. But she lifts her shoe, pointing it at him.
Sara: And don’t call me Sara’le! Call me Mrs. Sara Netanyahu!
Bibi: Yes Mrs. Sara Netanyahu.
She takes aim…
Sara: Good! Now, I want to hear you practice those answers I wrote down for you when Obama calls next time.
Bibi: Yes, Mrs. Sara Netanyahu.
He lifts his hands in front of his face, waiting for the shoe to land on his face. He keeps saying to himself, “G-d, why couldn’t you give me shoe-dodging reflexes like George W. Bush?”
Luckily, the only thing she hits is Glenn Beck’s right eye.
23
Jan
10

What? So Soon?

Remember what Thomas Friedman wrote a few weeks ago about the U.S. involvment in the Mideast peace process?
Let‚Äôs just get out of the picture. Let all these leaders stand in front of their own people and tell them the truth: ‚ÄúMy fellow citizens: Nothing is happening; nothing is going to happen. It‚Äôs just you and me and the problem we own.‚ÄĚ
Indeed, it‚Äôs time for us to dust off James Baker‚Äôs line: ‚ÄúWhen you‚Äôre serious, give us a call: 202-456-1414. Ask for Barack. Otherwise, stay out of our lives. We have our own country to fix.‚ÄĚ
And today I read that in your interview to TIME, Barack, you’re already frustrated? After one year in office?
“Both sides ‚ÄĒ the Israelis and the Palestinians ‚ÄĒ have found that the political environment, the nature of their coalitions or the divisions within their societies, were such that it was very hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation. And I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade them to do so when their politics ran contrary to that.¬†
I think it is absolutely true that what we did this year didn’t produce the kind of breakthrough that we wanted, and if we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high.
And Hillary, you too?
“Ultimately, as the president also said in his interview, this has to be between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The United States, the UK, the EU, the Arab League, everyone can work together to try to create the conditions for a resolution of the outstanding issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but at the end of the day, they must make that decision.”
As my good friend Mohamed pointed out to me, it started even earlier with a typical Rahm Emanuel outburst to an Israeli diplomat:
‚ÄúThe US administration is tired of you, the Israelis and Palestinians. You‚Äôre wasting precious time and are missing an opportunity to make peace. There is going to be a stage in which we‚Äôre simply going to give up on this endless conflict and leave you alone.‚ÄĚ
I don’t know. Either you guys are truly giving up, or Friedman is getting paid as an advisor to the White House… Whichever it is – it’s pretty lame.
20
Jan
10

How to Screw up an Omelette

While we were all watching the stream of pictures and videos of devastation coming in from Haiti, another huge seismic event was building up right under our noses, a 9 on the political Richter scale, in Washington D.C.
The Democrat’s loss this week in the Senate race in Massachusetts is a huge setback¬†for the Obama administration, but it’s repercussions¬†will be¬†felt worldwide, as well. That’s right, even the peace process in the Middle East is going to suffer from this.
One can only wonder what the Democrats were thinking when they let this one slip through. This loss shows how Obama’s people not only misunderstand deeply what is bothering the American public today, it also shows they have no political savvy whatsoever when they needed to put all their weight and influence behind one of their own.
The failure is so collossal, it will seriously damage Obama’s image as a leader who can make the right decisions at the right time. At the height of the NFL season, with the Superbowl just weeks away, this is much like the losing team making a sudden comeback and sacking the quarterback deep in his own territory. As the NYT wrote:
“States do not come more Democratic than Massachusetts, the only one that voted for George McGovern over Richard Nixon in 1972, a fact that older residents still recount with fresh pride.”
The timing couldn’t have been worse. One day before his one-year anniversary in office, Obama got such a huge wake-up call, he’ll probably find it hard to¬†fall asleep¬†the next few days. With the mid-term elections coming up this November, Republicans will use this momentum to their advantage easily. The Wall Street Journal reports that “Republicans are far more excited than Democrats to turn out and vote in November: 55% of Republican voters said they were ‘very interested’ in the election, compared with 38% of Democrats.”
The knee-jerk response in the news was how Obama’s health-care plan is now in jeapordy. But there’s more at stake. What are the chances now for a strong climate change bill, or¬†more regulations on Wall Street, or¬†that new tax on bankers’ bonuses, or a new immigration bill?
And it just gets worse:
“It will be lost on few in the House or the Senate that the Democratic defeat in an overwhelmingly Democratic state came despite a last-minute personal appeal from Mr. Obama, who campaigned here for Ms. Coakley on Sunday. This suggests that Mr. Obama may be of limited or no help to candidates in close elections. No less important, he may not have much leverage to stop them from defying him in Washington.”
Great. So now he won’t even be able to control his own team.
And let’s not forget Bibi. He must have hit the roof with joy when he heard the news. Aluf Benn from Haaretz summed it up nicely:¬†
“Over the past nine months, Netanyahu has managed to curb pressure from Obama, who enjoys a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. Now, however, Obama will be more dependent on the support of his Republican rivals, the supporters and friends of Netanyahu.¬†
If Obama’s popularity continues to dive and the Republicans recapture at least one of the houses of Congress in November, Netanyahu and his partners will be able to breathe deep and continue expanding settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”
Sure, it’s known that incumbents suffer losses in mid-term elections. It’s natural. But the Kennedy seat??? It reminds me of what my teacher at the Tadmor cooking school told us once in class: “You have to be pretty ‘talented’ to screw up an omelette.”
Barack, I gotta tell ya: this is one hell of a screwed up omelette.
20
Jan
10

something to be proud of

16
Jan
10

Shabbat Music

Nothing quite like a nice, peaceful Shabbat, with the sun shining in mid-January, walking around in shorts and flip-flops, and that good ‘ole soft music the radio knows how to play…

12
Jan
10

I’ma get medieval on your ass

Every once in a while, a certain event reminds me of a certain quote.

The latest of these occurred this morning, while reading about the ridiculous treatment the Turkish ambassador to Israel was given by foreign ministry officials. Click here to see a short video clip¬†¬†(in English) of what it’s about, and to see the pictures from the meeting itself with the ambassador.

But this is how Haaretz tells the story:

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon summoned the Turkish ambassador in Israel for clarification regarding a recent television drama depicting actors dressed as Shin Bet officers who kidnap babies…¬† During the meeting, Turkey’s ambassador was seated in a low sofa, and facing him, in higher chairs, were Ayalon and two other officials – an arrangement carried out at Lieberman’s (the Foreign Minister) orders.
A photo-op was held at the start of the meeting, during which Ayalon told the photographers in Hebrew: “Pay attention that he is sitting in a lower chair and we are in the higher ones, that there is only an Israeli flag on the table and that we are not smiling.”¬†

Are you kidding me? Is this guy serious? “Pay attention we’re not smiling”?!?!?!? How old is this guy? Six? That’s what first popped to my mind, how childish Ayalon’s behaviour is. But actually, I think it’s not only childish – there’s something even more primitive, maybe medieval.

And THAT’s when Pulp Fiction came to mind…

It’s late in the film, and Butch has just saved Marcellus from being raped by Zed and his buddy.

Butch: You okay?
Marsellus: Naw man. I’m pretty fuckin’ far from okay.
Butch: What now?
Marsellus: What now? Let me tell you what now. I’ma call a coupla hard, pipe-hittin’ niggers, who’ll go to work on the homes here with a pair of pliers and a blow torch. You hear me talkin’, hillbilly boy? I ain’t through with you by a damn sight. I’ma get medieval on your ass.

Now, I understand there’s a lot of tension between Turkey and Israel these days. Not only that, I think Turkey has a lot to answer for. But is there really a need to stoop¬†so low?¬†That’s what Ayalon did, basically. He got medieval on dat ambassador’s ass…

10
Jan
10

Waltz with Mesabaha

Arik and I had been up at the border for 2 weeks. The war had started a few months ago, when some Lebanese chefs made a big plate of hummus.¬†Of course, we Israelis couln’t lose face – so we made a 4 tonne plate of hummus.

After that, things quickly got out of hand. A plate of hummus landed on the outskirts of Kiryat Shmona, hurting no one but causing damage to a cow (the milk had a strange flavor). Hizbullah immediately said they had nothing to do with it, and UNIFIL forces began to search for the culprits.

The IDF, as usual, had to retaliate – especially after the Second Lebanon War – and to regain its deterrence factor. They never believed in UNIFIL anyway. Just 30 minutes later, IDF planes were dropping plates of hummus on Beirut, Tyre and Sidon.

The next day, the Israeli Navy¬†enforced a¬†naval closure on Lebanon. After that,¬†they began shelling suspected launch pads with¬†chick peas¬†from¬†sea and from land. The pictures¬†in the¬†international media didn’t go down well. President Obama called for an immediate truce, but¬†neither side would budge.

That’s when Arik and I were posted to a base near Metulla. The stench¬†was amazing. Hizbullah hummus is deadly. It looks nice and creamy on the outside, but don’t let that fool you. Or should I say, ful you. Hehe, a little black humor in these dark days never hurt, right?

Their hummus is extremely acidic. Once it hits, all of us run to the bathroom with diareha. Arik thinks it’s the urine: “Those f-cking Arabs, they piss in the hummus. Why do you think it smells like ammonia?!?! And does that REALLY look like olive oil to you? Really?!?!”

He might be right. But I pity the Lebanese now, swimming in that chunky Israeli hummus from Abu Ghosh. I always wondered how that made Israeli-Arabs feel, knowing their hummus was being used against their brothers. But that’s the MidEast for ya, a real melting pot…

One day, Arik said he heard the air force was¬†dropping leaflets warning people to leave a certain area before they bomb them with mesabaha. I told him that would be against the Geneva conventions, and Arik lashed back at me: “Oh! And I guess fondue is legal, right?!?!?!”

I couldn’t take Arik anymore. I couldn’t take this f-cking hummus war anymore. My pita helmet was so soggy already, it barely kept me safe.

But I knew I had to stay strong for my country. The whole State of Israel was in bowel movement. Jews and Arabs alike were projectile vomiting on the streets.

We all knew there was only one way to stop this war. And we knew Bibi was hesitant to use it, especially since the scientists at the Dimona plant said that the effects could spill over in to the northern part of Israel, if the weapon was eventually used.

But it had to be done. And after 2 weeks up north with Arik, Bibi gave the order. An F-16 hovered over Beirut, and at 12:00 exactly, just before lunch, Israel dropped a hard boiled egg on the capital of Lebanon.

To make sure the job was done, 10 Apache choppers spread chopped parsley and buckets of olive oil over the damages of what was left of the Paris of the Middle East.

It’s been a long road for me since¬†then. The physical wounds are gone, and I’ve stopped shitting myself. But the mental recovery has been much more difficult. Everytime I see a plate of hummus, I get flashbacks. And run as fast as I can to the nearest crapper. Only to find out I need to do number one.

P.S. Despite the war trauma, I’m thinking of opening up (yet another) hummus joint in Tel Aviv,¬†called “I Pity the Ful“. Whaddya say?

02
Jan
10

A Dialogue of the Deaf

(Update at bottom of post, January 3rd)

I was just about to start subtitling this video-clip, and thankfully someone beat me to it. Not the best job – but it pretty much gives you the picture – and for this I thank him/her.

This is an interview on Channel 1 state TV, the daily 5pm news show called Erev Hadash (New Evening). The longtime host is Dan Margalit, joined today by journalist Ronen Bergman.

Let’s bring you up to speed: Margalit’s been around for ages. He’s¬†been at Haaretz and Maariv, now at Yisrael Hayom (the Bibi-paper). He’s most famous for his¬†Rabin-dollar-account-in-the-States scoop from 1977. He’s also famous for being a very close friend of Ehud Olmert. That is, up until the Second Lebanon War. Things got, how should I put it, a bit “sour” after that.

Most recently, his daughter (a powerful TV producer) was almost beaten¬†to death,¬†in front of her kid, no less, by thugs sent by Dudu Topaz – an entertainer who used to be G-d on TV but wasn’t happy when the whole country virtually forgot who he was.¬†After he was caught, he committed suicide in his cell, just a few months ago.

Margalit is interviewing MK Jamal Zahalka, the head of the Arab party Balad.

They’re talking about Egypt’s actions concerning the siege on Gaza.

Watch, and let’s¬†talk again¬†after the show:

Despite the high decibles, this is a classic example of a dialogue of the deaf.

First, see how both sides define audacity (chutzpah) differently? One says 8,000 Qassam rockets are chutzpah. The other doesn’t listen and says 1,400 killed are chutzpah.

They go on not listening to each other. One accuses a veteran journalist of ass-licking former and present prime ministers, and another shows no respect whatsoever for a publicly-elected official.

But the best is saved for last, when Zahalka says that the studios in the Ramat Aviv neighbourhood in Tel Aviv are really Sheikh Munis, the Arab village which was there before 1948. This really sets Margalit off, as you can see. Indeed, both show their true colors. Margalit shows no recognition of Sheikh Munis, just as Zahalka before him shows no acceptance of Ramat Aviv.

And to top it off, Zahalka says: “I am a native of the Land!”.

And Margalit had to say: “So that makes me an immigrant?!”

If I had the words to tell you how representative this dialogue is of the whole dialogue used in the region, I would use them. But I don’t. Just trust me: this is it. This is where we live. This interview sums it up.

Now you tell me: Is there hope out there, somewhere?…

UPDATE:

The Jerusalem Post reports on 3 January:

The Movement for Quality Government is demanding that the attorney-general open a criminal investigation concerning comments made by MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) about Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Israel Radio reported.

Zahalka was quoted as saying, “Defense Minister Ehud Barak enjoys listening to classical music and killing children,” in reference to last year’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

The movement asserts that the comments qualified incitement, thus justifying an attack on Barak.

01
Jan
10

Supermarkets and Egos

New Market

She: Babes, can you get me some tomato juice?

He: Sure. What for?

She: Wanna make some bloody mary’s and get drunk for the New Year.

He: OK. Should I go to Super-Baba?

She: Nah, why don’t you try out that new market, on Yehuda Macaabi?

He: The new market?

She: Yeah, the one opposite the falafel?

He: I didn’t know there was a supermarket opposite the falafel on Yehuda Maccabi…

She: Sure.

He: When did they open?

She: What?

He: The new market, how new are they?

She: No, Ami – it’s called “New Market”.

Big Bang Revisited

Just last week Bibi failed in tearing Kadima apart. It was his first real attempt at it, and I figure he’s going to have another go in the not too distant future.

In August I wrote here that this country is too small for three major parties (Kadima, Labor and Likud). One of them is going to have to go, and the horse race these days is between Labor and Kadima. Kadima, a party consisting of no ideology whatsoever, got stung last week by Bibi. Labor, a party that used to have an ideology but no one these days can pinpoint what it is anymore, has been in a slow, agonizing process of self-destruction over the past few years.

As I wrote back then, the Big Bang simply isn’t over yet:

Just like the Big Bang of our universe (which apparently is still expanding), our own little bang is not over either. The process has yet to be completed. Kadima never became the big party it hoped to be (mainly thanks to Olmert), and the Likud and Labor also lost their strength. In effect, the Israeli political system has entered a stalemate it has never seen before, with the electorate spread out over so many parties, and many voters feeling they can ideologically vote for almost any party seeing as how the differences between them are so small.

And how nice it is that this week Yossi Verter in Haaretz agrees (Come on, let me stroke my ego a bit. Always wanted to be a political correspondent…):

Kadima and Likud are still feeling aftershocks from the “big bang” that split Netanyahu’s party and formed Livni’s in 2005. It is as if the move initiated by former justice minister Haim Ramon, and implemented by former prime minister Ariel Sharon, was never really completed.

Parties are crashing and burning. Shinui has completely disappeared and Labor, which crumbled in the most recent elections, is apparently close to dying a martyr’s death. Now Kadima, which was so close to a split and may still be closer to it than people think, may follow suit. And the Pensioners Party. How did we forget the Pensioners’ Party?

Dozens of Knesset seats are wandering in the virtual space between the left and the right, and seeking a warm home. Avi Dichter, for example, could feel at home in any of the three ruling parties: Kadima, Labor or Likud. And he’s not the only one. There are many like him, in every party, including people in Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, which seems homogeneous. Why not combine these four into one and get it all over with?

The Freeze (My Ass)

And if I’ve already started the ego-stroking – and in such arrogant fashion, may I add – allow me to ¬†continue with what I wrote only a few weeks ago about the settlement “freeze”:

I mean, the first thing Bibi said after he announced the freeze was that it was ‚Äútemporary, a one-off‚ÄĚ. And what do you think he told hardliners in his government like Bogi Ya‚Äôalon and Benny Begin to make them shut up and go along with him? Man, I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in that room when he convinced them to play ball. What kind of magic did he work? I can only imagine it was something like: ‚ÄúFreeze? Come on, Bogi. You know me better than that! Don‚Äôt worry, it‚Äôs just words, we‚Äôll keep building.‚ÄĚ

Well, we really didn’t have too long, did we? Look at Haaretz lead headline today: “Construction in West Bank settlements booming despite declared freeze”:

Despite the construction freeze, dozens of settlements in the West Bank are experiencing a building boom, even on the eve of another visit to the region by U.S. envoy George Mitchell to try to restart talks for a final settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Construction is being carried out mostly to the east of the separation fence; it began shortly after warrants were issued on November 26 freezing construction.

Haaretz toured the area on Wednesday and witnessed work being carried out in the Barkan and Ariel industrial zones, as well as the construction of housing at Ariel, Elkana North, Peduel and Kfar Tapuah. A sign at Kfar Tapuah announced plans for the construction of 65 new housing units.

Right Under Your Nose

You know how sometimes, the most obvious solution to something is right under your nose? That’s how I felt when I read Alexander Ya’acobson’s op-ed today in Haaretz:

The time has come to say to the settler leaders: Okay – you’ve¬†convinced us. It seems that a mass evacuation of settlers is an impractical idea. You showed us clearly that you’re prepared to turn such a removal into a national trauma. It’s doubtful that any Israeli politician would chance it…

If evacuation is not practical, the conclusion is to divide the land without removing settlers. Israel should formally adopt the suggestion by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad: There is no need for an evacuation; settlers who are interested may stay where they are after an Israeli withdrawal and live as a Jewish minority in a Palestinian state. Israel will have sovereignty on one side of the border and the Palestinians on the other – over everyone living there. There will be no evacuation, and Israeli soldiers won’t have to take people from their homes. They will simply retreat to the new border.

I love it! How simple is this! I don’t know why we never took this idea more seriously. If the settlers want to stay on their precious, holy land – let them do it under Palestinian rule. Plus, we don’t have to evacuate anybody, just retreat. Genius.

I think it would be justice at its best. The settlers, who have ruined Israeli and Palestinian lives for decades, would be left to fend for themselves as a Jewish minority, after getting exactly what they asked for – “their” land. Perfect.

And no, I’m not being sarcastic.

25
Dec
09

Bibi – The Real Deal

How cool is Bibi Netanyahu?

Seriously, how cool is this guy?

Cool. Way cool.

I mean, how cool is it, that when everybody thought a deal for Shalit was around the corner,

Bibi was working on the Real Deal?

Seriously, how cool is it, that when we thought that in just a few days we’d see Gilad hugging his parents,

Bibi was counting the days to the disintegration of Kadima?

I mean, just how cool is it, that when Gilad was getting slapped around in his cell (I hope that’s the worst he ever had to deal with),

Bibi decided it was time to slap Tzipi Livni around?

Tell me – just how cool is it, that when Aviva and Noam Shalit had to feel guilty once again for closing their eyes in bed when their son was still lying somewhere in Gaza,

That Bibi didn’t even have to blink twice before offering ministerial scrap metal to Kadima back-benchers?

You got to agree: How cool is it, that when Shalit was again given some unidentified slab of material on a plate his captors called “lunch”,

Bibi was looking at the Kadima list of MK’s and just couldn’t decide what to order?

Isn’t it cool, that when Gilad Shalit woke up and scratched day #1,280 on his cell wall,

Bibi was scratching his forehead, pretending that the Shalit deal was the most difficult decision he ever had to make?

And just how cool is it, that when Gilad heard, from the bit of Arabic he must have picked up, that he might be swapped for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners,

Bibi was thinking of a different kind of swap with Livni: “You give me 14 Kadima members, and I’ll give you Silvan Shalom”?

Wow. That is one cool prime minister we got here. Ice running through the veins.

24
Dec
09

And The Whores Like A Choir

I’m 19. Or 20.

I’m home for the weekend, from the navy.

All I want to do is forget about the navy.

All I want to do is not go back to the base on Sunday.

Don’t want to smell the diesel polluting the sea.

Let the weekend last forever.

It’s Friday.

We’re at the “Second City” (Ha’ir HaShnia).

Me and my buddy Shai.

We’re regulars.

It’s our get-away.

From the uniforms.

From the order.

The discipline.

“Citizens” (Toshavim) of the City, Haifa’s most famous¬†alternative music club.

Sometimes Yoav joins us, sometimes it’s me and the guys from the boat.

We’re together, but each dancing in different places.

Usually as close to the speakers as we can get.

And we can never get close enough.

We’re sipping our big, half liter bottles of Goldstar.

We’ve just spent 5 minutes banging our heads to Rage Against the Machine.

Sweating.

But now we’re chilling to the smooth sounds of The The.

And when Nirvana finish sniffing their teen spirit, we suddenly hear Frank Black, calling out to us:

Hey!!!!!

The Pixies are coming, The Pixies are coming!

I’ll be there.

And if I’m not – then I must have lost my

mind…

18
Dec
09

A Clear and Present Danger

Last week I saw an interesting interview on TV. It was Avri Gilad hosting Rabbi Dov Wolpe, an extreme right winger. Wolpe heads The Task Force to Save the Nation and the Land, who basically give money to soldiers who refuse to evacuate settlements.

The interview itself wasn’t that interesting, we’ve heard extreme right views a zillion times before, and even more extreme than Wolpe.¬†But I thought the whole package was kind of unique in itself. This is semi-prime-time television, where people like Wolpe are rarely seen. They’re rarely given the spotlight. And if they are, it’s usually on the regular politics shows, not the family talk shows with fairly high ratings.

Gilad, an intelligent man but not the best of interviewers,¬†took a different approach here as well: let’s listen to the guy, and hear what he has to say. No attacks, just a tad of being the devil’s advocate here and there, no more.

What you get is a quiet interview with a very dangerous man, with almost Hannibal Lecter-ish attributes. He’s cool and calm. He even gets the crowd to cheer once (of course, when he talks about how other nations push us around) – and notice how this crowd, as usual in Israeli talk shows, is made up mainly of soldiers. (I never knew why that was… guess they can’t sell all the tickets.)

It’s good insight into someone who really pulls strings in the Wild East. These are the kind of people behind the occupation, the settler movement.¬† You read about them once in a while in the papers, but never really put the face to the name.

Also, yesterday I saw a link to a Forward story about him (thank you, Lisa Goldman), claiming his organization might be in violation of U.S. tax laws. Again, another reason for my fellow Half & Half readers in the States to be angry, very angry.

So, that’s why¬†I decided to spend a few hours translating this.

(Note: after you press play, if you don’t see the subtitles – press on the¬†arrow button on the bottom right corner of the youtube frame, and make sure the “cc” button is on. Also, if your computer is a bit slow, like mine, sometimes it takes 10-15 seconds for the captions to actually show up. In that case, when they do – just rewind and go back to the beginning. And if anyone can recommend some good subtitle programs other than the youtube one itself – please tell!)

14
Dec
09

Izzie in Holyland – Part 5

Izzie: Hey Baracky!
Barack: Izzie? Is that you?
Izzie: Yeah! Baracky, guess what?
Barack: Izzie… how many times do I have to tell you, there’s a 7 hour time difference. It’s 3 am here… and,
Izzie: But Baracky! I had to call you, I just had to!
Barack: Michelle is right next to me Izzie, this is a bad time. Especially after the whole Tiger Woods thing, Izzie… Jeezus
Izzie: Tiger in the woods? Baracky! I don’t know what you’re smoking – but I want some!
Barack: Izzie, can this wait a few hours?
Izzie: Sure! I just wanted you to know: You’re the first person I called on my new iPhone!
Barack:…
Izzie: They just got to Israel!
Barack:…
Izzie: I stood outside the Malcha mall in Jerusalem with my bodyguards all night – I got the first one!
Barack:…
Izzie: How exciting is that, Baracky? Oh, you should see it. They were right, it really is sleek!
Barack: I’m going to bed. I’m hanging up now.
Izzie: OK sweety. Oh, and one more thing – I loved your speech in Oslo. Or was that Stockholm? Oh my G-d, I always get those two mixed up…
Barack: Thanks, Izzie. It was Oslo. Now, good night.
Izzie: So, when do I get my cut?
Barack: Your what?
Izzie: My cut. My part of the prize.
Barack: You want a cut of the prize.
Izzie: Well, yeah. Like, duh…
Barack: Why should you get a cut, Izzie?
Izzie: Well, it’s a peace prize, right?
Barack: Yeah, but Р 
Izzie: And you got it for bringing the peace, right?
Barack: Well, yes –
Izzie: So, you got it for bringing peace to the MidEast, right? Am I right?
Barack: Well, actually it’s –
Izzie: So, come on – be honest with me: Could you have brought the peace without me?
Barack: What peace exactly are you talking about, Izzie?
Izzie: Exactly.
Barack: Exactly what?
Izzie: Exactly what I wanna know. Whatever you brought to the MidEast – I want a cut of it.
Barack: And how big a cut do you want?
Izzie: 50 percent.
Barack: What?!?!?
Michelle: Either you hang up that phone or I swear to G-d I’m gonna whip your ass with that golf club so hard you gonna wish you married a white girl.
Izzie: Tell her I heard that. And that I can tell who wears the pants in the White House.
Barack: That’s it! I’m hanging up!
(Slams phone down)
Izzie: Barack?!?! Did you just hang up on me?!?!?!
(Slams her new iPhone down. Shatters it to pieces)
Izzie: Sh-t! Last time I freeze a settlement for that guy, I swear to G-d! Ehud! Come in here, we have to go back to Malcha!
07
Dec
09

A Freeze? Maybe When Hell Freezes Over

Yo, Obama!¬†You must be pretty proud of yourself for getting a 10-month settlement “freeze” from Bibi.
Well, if I were you, I wouldn’t be too happy. Putting the obvious aside (i.e. that a settlement freeze should be ETERNAL), do you honestly believe Bibi is doing this to achieve peace? To set the wheels in motion?
Come on…¬† really?
I mean, the first thing Bibi said after he announced the freeze was that it was “temporary, a one-off”. And what do you think he told hardliners in his government like Bogi Ya’alon and Benny Begin to make them shut up and go along with him? Man, I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in that room when he convinced them to play ball. What kind of magic did he work? I can only imagine it was something like: “Freeze? Come on, Bogi. You know me better than that! Don’t worry, it’s just words, we’ll keep building.”
And that’s just it – because they will keep building. And they’ll keep building in the most controversial¬†areas of the territories. Not the large settlement blocs. Nope, on the mountain ridge, in the “Wild East”, where Israeli law enforcement has not dared to step for decades.
As Amos Harel says in Haaretz today:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows his control over the land of outposts is flimsy. He is not the one who will decide how many caravans will be placed on hill 725, or how many Palestinian orchards will be uprooted near Yitzhar.
A senior defense official told Haaretz: “Israeli law was never applied in these areas. Let us presume that the Civil Administration identifies more building violations at an outpost. What will they do? They will stick another warrant on the caravan wall, asking them to get out. They will not even bother ripping it down, and they will just go on with their business.
Not only will the building¬†go on in the Wild East, but these extremists are also going to up the pressure inside Israel proper, too. It’s already started. They’ll be holding mass demonstrations, blocking roads and snarling traffic –¬†just like they did before the disengagement from Gaza. And worst of all – they’ll get violent too. Violent against Palestinians who live nearby, setting cars on fire, burning houses, uprooting olive trees – and it will also probably spiral into beatings and maybe even killings too.
But in the States you won’t see images of that, of the ugly stuff. Nope. This is probably what you’ll see:
And this is exactly what Bibi wants you to see. It’s all part of the plan. Do you know what this whole commotion was about in that news clip? Do you see what those dozens of soldiers and policemen were doing there? All they were trying to do was let a few inspectors into a settlement to stick up pieces of paper on a handful of illegal construction sites.
(A side note: Notice the disgusting similarity between fundamentalists on both sides of the conflict: Look at these settlers using their teenagers, mostly female, to confront big burly Israeli police and border police. And look at how over the years Palestinian extremists have sent their young ones to the front lines, either as suicide bombers or to throw stones at IDF tanks.)
Those images aren’t only for Israelis. It’s what Bibi wants Obama to see. He wants him to see the huge pressure he’s under. And actually, the more violent the settlers get, the better it is for Bibi: “You see, Barack, you see what I have to deal with? You see how this freeze is tearing my country apart? My coalition is in danger! How will I bring peace with no government! Cut me some slack, will ya?”
And this, Barack, is where you come in and say “No. Nope, I’m not laying off.” This is where you come in and NOT make the mistake again of backing down from the freeze earlier in your term.
The U.S. should not be deterred by those pictures of internal strife Bibi knows you’re watching on CNN. It should not be deterred by a surge in settler violence.
Make sure a freeze is a freeze. Make sure nothing is being built – no foundations laid, no roads paved, not even closing off a balcony. Heck, if Israel can’t enforce the freeze because it only has a few dozen inspectors who are scared to enter the settlements, then get some interns at the State Department to watch Google Earth and do it yourselves!
It’s time to go all the way with these guys.
It’s time to get nasty.¬†
03
Dec
09

How Selfish Can I Be?

Just another day at the supermarket. Lately I’ve been wondering why they make me feel like a cheap, selfish bastard every time I pile up my goods.

Cashier: Would you like anything from our special sales?

Me: No thanks, just what I’ve got here.

Cashier: OK. Would you like to donate 5 shekels to children with cancer?

Me: No, but thank you.

Cashier: How about beaten wives?

Me: Nope.

Cashier: Rape victims?

Me: Nah.

Cashier: Severely autistic kids?

Me: Mmm, don’t think so.

Cashier: Severely retarded?

Me: Don’t think so, no.

Cashier: OK, how bout 5 shekels for cystic fibrosis, then?

Me: Nah.

Cashier: Multiple sclerosis?

Me: Nope.

Cashier: Lou Gherig’s?

Me: No Mam.

Cashier: Will that be cash or credit?

Me: Credit.

Cashier: Have a good day, sir.

15
Nov
09

I Wonder What Janis Thinks

Here’s an Israeli band that might make it big. Asaf Avidan and the Mojos, who recently signed with Sony Columbia, have got be one of the coolest groups I’ve heard in a long time. Avidan sings in English, and¬†has been labeled as a sort of “male Janis Joplin”. Not sure about that. Although,¬†I have a feeling Janis might have liked this guy…

And boy, does he have a unique voice.

Enjoy…

12
Nov
09

Enablers Unite!

Yo, Yo! This post goes out to all my homies in da US of A!
But seriously now. I have something important I’d like to talk about with all my family, friends and acquaintances in the States. I’ve been thinking about writing this for a while, and decided to finally take a shot at it.
The thing that’s scary about this post, is that I’m worried people I know might take it the wrong way, as some sort of criticism. And that is not what this post is about – at all. Think of it more like a call to action.
It all started with the JStreet conference held recently¬†in Washington. For those of you who don’t know what JStreet is, an easy and quick way to define the organization would be “the alternative to AIPAC”. Although JStreet and its founders would never say this, what they’ve done is form a left and a right in a lobbying niche that has been dominated for years by the right, by¬†AIPAC. For those of you who don’t know what AIPAC is, well… isn’t Wikipedia just great?
j street
I don’t pay much attention to what JStreet founder, Jeremy Ben Ami says, when comparing his group to Kadima. It’s not even like comparing apples and oranges. More like apples and… air.
Now, some of you might not agree with the simple dichotomy I’ve done here, but I figure – what the heck. It’s my blog, right? I like to keep things nice and simple. So, once more, here’s my take on things: JStreet=left. AIPAC=right.
So, back to the convention. Probably the issue most discussed in the media coverage of the event was not the debates going on in the rooms and hallways, but unfortunately who came and who stayed away.
As the Times reported:
James-Jones101

James Jones - We'll keep comin'

The White House has made unmistakable gestures to lend support and legitimacy to J Street (the name is a play on the lobbyist corridor on K Street; Washington has no street named J). After including the group in a private meeting over the summer for major American Jewish organizations, it took the more notable and public step this week of sending Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, to deliver Tuesday’s keynote address at the J Street convention.

General Jones did not offer any new policy prescriptions but received prolonged standing applause when he told the crowd of more than 1,000, ‚ÄúYou can be sure that this administration will be represented at all future J Street conferences.‚ÄĚ

But among the missing at the conference was the Israeli ambassador, Michael B. Oren, who declined to

israeli-us-ambassador-michel-oren

Michael Oren - Concerned

attend, and more than a dozen of the 161 members of Congress who had agreed to be included on an honorary committee for the event. The Congressional members who reversed themselves asked that their names be withdrawn after some opponents of J Street asserted that supporting the group was not in Israel’s best interests.

Some Israeli officials have said privately that they do not want to offend AIPAC and its members who¬†have¬†loyally supported the Israeli government for years. Ambassador Oren said in an interview that he declined to attend because of concerns ‚Äúabout several of J Street‚Äôs policies that may impair Israeli interests.‚ÄĚ He said that he was not ordered by the Israeli government to skip the conference but that the government shared those concerns.

OK. So, we have a fledgling organization, trying to muster up some strength in D.C. Why is this so important? And why should YOU, American Jews, care about this?
And here, again, is where it gets scary for me:
Have you, my Jewish American brethren, ever asked yourself how YOU are responsible for the situation in the Middle East?
Wait! Don’t shoot! I’m not blaming you. As an Israeli, I see myself as responsible for the failure to end the Occupation, and I would hope Palestinians are aware of their failures too.
But, unfortunately, you also have a part in this. Dr. Phil might call it “enabling”…
Yoel Marcus, the Haaretz pundit, brought up an interesting point not long ago in an op-ed:
“The politicians have been lucky over the generations that the United States supports Israel. During one of my visits to South Africa, a tough Afrikaner said to me that if they had had 5 million Afrikaners in America, they would never have given up South Africa. Maybe this is so and maybe not. But there is no doubt that the American Jews’ strength has caused even those presidents who have not especially loved Jews to support Israel, or will win their support for Israel in the future.”
That’s right. American Presidents have never really had the balls to stand up to the American Jews strength, epitomized in the most powerful lobby in Washington – AIPAC.
Now, I’m not here to say that everything AIPAC does is wrong. No, it’s been helping Israel for decades, and I hope it continues to. But it has been dominated by one voice only, and that voice has constantly been right-wing. And American Presidents have had a hard time going against that voice.
As Henry Siegman wrote in the Times:

Henry_Siegman“The Israeli reaction to serious peacemaking efforts is nothing less than pathological…

This pathology has been aided and abetted by American Jewish organizations whose agendas conform to the political and ideological views of Israel‚Äôs right wing. These organizations do not reflect the views of most American Jews who voted overwhelmingly ‚ÄĒ nearly 80 percent ‚ÄĒ for Mr. Obama in the presidential elections.

Only a U.S. president with the political courage to risk Israeli displeasure ‚ÄĒ and criticism from that part of the pro-Israel lobby in America which reflexively supports the policies of the Israeli government of the day, no matter how deeply they offend reason or morality ‚ÄĒ can cure this pathology.

If President Obama is serious about his promise to finally end Israel‚Äôs 40-year occupation, bring about a two-state solution, assure Israel‚Äôs long-range survival as a Jewish and democratic state, and protect vital U.S. national interests in the region, he will have to risk that displeasure. If he delivers on his promise, he will earn Israelis‚Äô eternal gratitude.”

Siegman’ right. If 80% of Jews voted for Obama (maybe many of my readers, too), then you voted not only for change in America – you voted for change in foreign policy, and especially in the Middle East. What the American president needs is more backing in Congress to make a move. He needs Senators and Congressmen that have been voted in with help (money!) from JStreet. And if Jtreet can help get into Congress more reasonable voices, like Brian Baird, who seems to have an honest interest in ending the pain on both sides, wouldn’t you want to take part in that? Listen to this guy:

This guy isn’t some kind of left-wing fanatic peacenik gone crazy. He’s reasonable!
JStreet is just at getting off the ground. It’s got ¬†a lot of problems, and maybe too many viewpoints. It’s still in the process of defining itself, and some say its chances of survival are slim. But that’s where you come in.
In an era where the Middle East is the cause for so much violence, where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has affected your lives in America in too many ways to be counted, supporting JStreet could prove to be just as influential for you as casting your ballot on Election Day.
America has shown Israel tough love in the past. When Bush Sr. made it clear that as long as Prime Minister Shamir was in office, Israel would not recieve the 10 billion loan guarantee for absorbing Soviet immigrants – Israelis got the message, and Rabin was elected.
I’m not asking much. Just go into their website, read a bit about them, and if you agree with what they have to say – you could help JStreet help Obama (or the next president) give some tough love to Israel.
06
Nov
09

A Real Eye Opener

It’s been a long time since I’ve done some daddy-blogging. So allow me to let you in on a mini-epiphany I had earlier today.
Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror while shaving\putting on make-up\brushing your teeth and so on, and then just stop for a second, look at yourself a bit closer, and feel like you’re kind of looking inside yourself?
I hope that doesn’t sound weird. It doesn’t happen to me often, just every once in a while. So, just to make sure I’m not cuckoo, I asked Karen if it’s ever happened to her, and she said it has. It’s almost as if you feel for a split second that you know yourself a bit better, a bit deeper. The only thing that I can think of to maybe express it better, is what people who practice Buddhism call “awareness”. That’s what I feel, some sort of awareness.
Earlier today, all four of us (Me, Karen, Emma and Lea) went to a wedding of a former Haaretz colleague of mine. Later on, after the food, Emma and I were fooling around on the dance floor. 
At one moment, I bent down to pick her up, and she looked at me. We were both looking at each other’s eyes, and that’s when I got that feeling again.¬†
But it wasn’t like I was seeing deep down into Emma’s soul or anything. Nope. Actually, it felt exactly how it feels when I get one of those moments looking at MYSELF in the mirror.¬†
That moment made me feel closer to Emma than I’ve ever felt before.¬†
Yeah, I hugged her alright.emma glass
05
Nov
09

Done it again

I’m tellin’ ya, those Israeli ad agencies know their stuff. They only copy the best, top notch commercials.

As I’ve shown before, the Israeli agencies have no shame…

Here’s the latest example, from the Mizrachi-Tfahot Bank, as exposed by NRG:

And as usual, the American original (much funnier, of course):

01
Nov
09

reality check

You know how, if you’re American, and you watch reality shows like Survivor, you sometimes get the chills when you see a redneck saying ridiculously stupid things? You know what I’m talking about?

Like, when they say something really stupid, and you kind of hope no one from any other country is watching? So they don’t see the truth? You know, so they don’t find out what most Americans are like? You ever get that feeling?

Because, let’s face it – reality shows pretty much show us, well – reality. The real people. Forget the fact that the show is crap and the situations aren’t real. The people are real. And they’re pretty much like the Average Joe out there.

Same thing here, in Israel. We’ve got our own Survivor. And boy, things are heating up this week between Shai and Ziv, the two undisputed leaders of the Mansaka tribe. Here’s the promo:

Nice, right? Yeah, we’re good at promos.

Anyway, as I was saying, reality shows give us a glance at the real us. And Shai here is the real us, in this case. Shai’s a good bloke. Everybody likes him. He’s charismatic, athletic, smart. Good lookin’ (some might say), too. And he’s an entrepeneur, he has his own restaurant. He’s living the Israeli dream. He’s the concensus. And he’s got everybody wrapped around his finger on the show. He’s calling the shots.

That is… until Ziv started messing with him. And that got Shai angry. But Shai isn’t deterred by that. No… Shai knows exactly how to deal with people like Ziv. Here’s Shai’s immaculate plan:

“It’s like the State of Israel, and he opened up Gaza, he opened up Palestine, just like that – inside of me! They throw stones, they harrass. Let’s take their heads off and then expel them.”

Yup. Ziv is just like those annoying Palestinians. And we know how to deal with those guys.

17
Oct
09

A Stroll Down Israel-Bashing Lane

As the debate over the Goldstone report heats up, I am reminded of a story that happened over 20 years ago, when I was just a lad of 15 years of aSwitzerland UN Gaza War Crimesge.
This story tells of 5 Palestinians killed, one op-ed written, one letter-to-the-editor sent, one pundit’s response, and what’s changed since then.
On the 14th of April, 1989, deep into the first intifada, a unit of border policemen entered the village of Nahhalin in search of “suspects”. The unit was surprised by hundreds of Palestinian youth, who were waiting for them with stones in hand. Needless to say, the unit never got to the arrests “stage”, but it did “manage” to kill 5 and wound 12 more.
I was 15 back then and just came back to Israel after a year in upstate NY, on sabbatical with my parents at SUNY in Binghamton. The initifida had just started while we were in the States, and as a young teenager I couldn’t help but be extremely overwhelmed at how bad Israel was being portrayed in the media.
The events a year later in Nahalin triggered a lot of worldwide coverage. One person who took part was longtime New York Times pundit, Anthony Lewis. A few days after the event he wrote the following op-ed. I’m not just putting up a link for you to click on this time, because I’d really like you to read this, for two reasons. One, it gives amazing perspective on how things have changed – and haven’t changed at all. And second, it’s important for the storyline…ūüôā
So, be patient and read up! And remember: this is April, 1989. 
Occupation is the Cause 

One day last week a spokesman for the Israeli army said it had struck a major blow against the Palestinian uprising in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. It had brought charges in a military court against four Palestinians who he said were leaders of the uprising ”at the executive level.”

The next morning, before dawn, the army sent 30 border policemen to raid the village of Nahhalin, near Bethlehem. When the raid was over, five Palestinians were dead and 25 wounded.

Those two coincidental events, the military prosecution and the raid, define Israel’s policy toward the uprising. It is to suppress the Palestinians by force: by arrest, detention, beating, shooting.

lewis

Anthony Lewis

And those events make something else clear. The policy is bankrupt.

The idea that the intifada is something managed ”at the executive level” is a grotesque misunderstanding of its character. It is a popular uprising – one that started spontaneously, according to Israeli experts, and that is fed by the frustrations of life under occupation.

Nothing is more likely to feed the intifada than a brutal event like the raid on Nahhalin. The deaths naturally arouse the emotions of Palestinians right across the West Bank and Gaza.

How could such an incident happen? To relieve the pressure on the army and its reservists, Israel has recently been using border policemen for occupation duty. This paramilitary force includes many Arabic-speaking Israeli Druse. It has a reputation for harsh treatment of Arabs.

Border policemen began patrolling Nahhalin about a week before the raid, after youths threw stones at Jewish settlers using a nearby road. Villagers said the policemen had taunted them and shouted obscenities at women.

At 3:30 A.M. on April 13 the force of 30 border policemen raided the village. The army said their mission was to gather intelligence and arrest anyone suspected of stone-throwing. They went that early because it is Ramadan, the holy month when Muslims rise early to eat breakfast before the daylight fast.

The people of Nahhalin were already angry at the behavior of the border police in previous days. Youths began throwing stones. Then, somehow, the police began firing live ammunition.

The army appointed a committee of senior officers to investigate. Exactly what happened may never be certain. But the incident in Nahhalin underlines what 16 months of the intifada have shown: that trying to suppress Palestinian nationalism in the occupied territories brutalizes Israel – and does not work.

Prime Minister Shamir has said repeatedly, most recently on his visit to the United States, that the West Bank and Gaza must remain forever under Israel’s control. It is that premise that requires the policy of force – to suppress the Palestinians instead of negotiating with them.

Israel’s intelligence and military chiefs argue with increasing force that the policy will not work. ”There is no such thing as eradicating the intifada,” Gen. Dan Shomron, the Chief of Staff, said in February, ”because in its essence it expresses the struggle of nationalism.”

The policy damages one of Israel’s precious values, its reputation in the world. After Nahhalin the International Red Cross made a rare public protest against ”violation of fundamental humanitarian law,” saying its private appeals to Israel had gone unheeded. It said the border police had fired ”without discrimination and without restraint.”

American friends of Israel are more and more aware of what the occupation is costing. Even the mainline leaders are speaking up. Two months ago Morris B. Abram, then chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said: ”The status quo is not indefinitely acceptable to American Jews. . . . The occupation is the cause of the disturbances.”

Exactly. Raids and repression cannot make the Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza content with occupation. They want what Jews struggled so long to get for themselves: a place where they can control their own lives.

Passover, which begins this week, should be a time for reflection on the crisis of occupation. It celebrates the freedom of the Jewish people from captivity in Egypt – and the establishment of Jewish national identity. The survival of the Jewish state today requires recognition that another people is entitled to its identity, too.

beit-lahia-1

An attack on Beit Lahia in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead

I happened to come across this op-ed (I don’t know why a 15-year-old was reading the Times op-ed page, but let’s not go there just yet). As a teenager, I wasn’t really listening to Lewis’ message. I was just tuned into what I thought was another piece of Israel-bashing, and I had had enough of it. I just couldn’t take it anymore! So, what does a teenage patriot do?¬†He types a letter to the editor on his little computer (what was that in 1989, some kind of IBM compatible?), but of course!¬†¬†Here it is:

To the Editor:

(“Occupation is the Cause”, April 16), “The policy damages one of Israel’s precious values, it’s reputation in the world”. May I add – Mr. Lewis isn’t helping much either.

I am a 15 year old boy living in Haifa, Israel. I have much to say of the status quo in my “mischievous” little country, although a prestigious paper such as yours would obviously rather write “white lies” than print my insignificant letter, therefore I’ll try to make this brisk and harmless (May I add, I am a pure leftist, who would love to see the Palestinian people with a home of their own).

The article says that 30 border policemen were sent to raid the village of Nahalin, which cost the lives of 5 Palestinians and many wounded.

The real story: A) Border policemen are patrolling as usual through numerous villages, and arrive at Nahhalin. B) From the speakers of the mosque, calls for Jihad (Holy War) are heard. C) Hundreds of Arabs attack soldiers with sticks, axes and Molotov cocktails. D) Soldiers are forced to shoot large amounts of ammunition in the air. E) After finishing supplies of plastic bullets, soldiers are forced to use live ammunition to fight them off. F) Five killed.

What I’m trying to say here is this: Mr. Lewis is exaggerating just a bit by using the word “raid” and givng the reader a first impression that the border policemen went into the village with an intention to kill, which I’ve proved is wrong.

But the real point is that this humble exaggeration can give the reader the totally wrong impression he\she should be getting – the right one. I have noticed, since the beginning of the intifidada, that this technique is used not only by Mr. Lewis, but by many other reporters covering the happaenings in the occupied territotries. All this technique does is give some more juice to the article and the reporter’s paycheck. Wonderful, we all gain from it, but someone pays for it. Who pays? Israel. What’s the cost? As mentioned before – its reputation in the world.

This incident suddenly comes to mind. 300 civilians killed in Caracas, Venezuela in one day. Cause: rise of costs for bus fares. Now isn’t that droll? Not to me nor to anyone else. So why don’t reporters chew on that for a while? (Didn’t see any nice juicy headlines for that in this “prestigous” paper, whose motto is nonetheless – “All the News that’s Fit to Print”). I’ll never know. Do you reporters have something against us? If not, get off our case, OK?

Ami Kaufman

Haifa, Israel,

April 18, 1989   

Now, if we put aside my bad grammar and poor writing skills, you’ll notice that this letter has a lot more flaws than you think. Turns out Mr. Lewis was a much better journalist than I was back then. First of all, I totally distorted the Caracas riots. They weren’t all killed in one day, and the bus fares weren’t the only cause.
In fact, Lewis told the story in Nahhalin quite the way it happened. And this was even before the IDF investigated the events. Later on in the month, the IDF reprimanded a top ranking colonel, and removed two other officers from the their posts. The probe also found out that the soldiers used their weapons incorrectly, beat a handcuffed Palestinian, lied to their superiors and more.
yed
The conclusions of this report were published in early May, 1989. As far as I remember, Nahhalin was history to me, I don’t think I even knew then that the army had reached conclusions concerning its actions.¬†
Of course, until, my mother told me one day that I had letter from the NYTimes. I’m writing these lines just after having returned from my parent’s house in Haifa, searching in vain for this letter, which I’m pretty sure I kept – but seemed to have lost. But I remember exactly what it looked like. It was of a cream-ish color, and the logo of the paper was embossed on the front. On the back was Anthony Lewis’ name. He wrote back.
I remember the excitement reading the letter, but also the disappointment from it. I can’t remember the exact wording of it, but I do remember it was a dry reasoning of his op-ed, that in fact it was I who had my facts wrong and so on. I think he also wrote something about editorial decision making and so forth. Darn,¬†I wish I could find that letter! Anyway, I think I read that letter a zillion times over the next two weeks.
Looking back on this incident, I wonder if this may have had some kind of effect on me going in to journalism later on in life, and eventually working for the Israeli NYTimes, Ha’aretz. But whatever the reason, one thing is for sure – I owe Lewis an apology. So Anthony, if you’re out there reading blogs on Israel… I’m sorry!
But back to the reason for this post. Although I got the Caracas story all wrong, the REASON I put it there was spot on. I do believe that Israel is held to higher standards in many cases, and that the media singles Israel out in an almost automatic way. I also believe that some of it is due to anti-Semitism and simple hatred. 
Confused? A lefty like me saying we’re being singled out? Yup. It’s true. I do believe we’re singled out. But I also believe the occupation is one of the most horrendous crimes taking place these days, and I want it over and done with.
But even if we are singled out, that gives us no right to yell “victims!” after the Goldstone report. Instead of claiming that others around the world commit atrocities too (as if two wrongs make a right – how childish is that?), and that they should be accountable as well, this report should be a chance to ask ourselves how we acted in operation Cast Lead, and investigate seriously any wrongdoings that might have taken place.
20 years have passed since Lewis’ op-ed, and I’m no longer the uber-patriot I was. I’m also no longer the “have-you-hugged-your-Palestinian-today” peacenik. I’m extremely critical and dissapointed¬†with both sides.
But if I’ve taken anything from this stroll down memory lane, it’s that both sides should be ashamed. Ashamed that nothing has changed since the first intifada. Ashamed that we actually think we’re still victims and that occupation is legitimate. Ashamed that thinking violence is the only way to go and that fundamentalism and religion will solve all problems. And most of all, ashamed that a 20-year-old op-ed can look like it was written just yesterday.¬†
22
Sep
09

Just Sign Here

The untimely death of Assaf Ramon has brought to the surface a very interesting debate that has actually been going on for years in Israel. Ramon was the son of Ilan Ramon,¬†Israel’s first astronaut who died in the Colombia disaster. The minute the story broke, people started saying: “His mother should never have signed the papers”.

So, what exactly are these papers? In Israel, any 18 year old who has a relative who was killed in combat must get at least one parent to sign a consent form to join and serve in a combat unit. Otherwise he’ll be what Israelis call a “jobnik” ‚Äď a derogatory term for any kind of service that isn’t in the field.

The battle over the service of “bereaved sons” is being waged across the media spectrum, and it’s quite amazing to see the wide array of views on the topic.¬†The parents, of course, have a natural tendency to keep their child safe, but also to fulfill their every wish. While the army has to deal with pressure from both the family and from the soldier to be.

When I was 18, I faced a similar dilemma. My status as an only child meant I was in the same position as a bereaved son. I needed that signature. And boy, did I want to be combat. I was so gung-ho on being in the paratroopers, I probably would have had a red beret tatooed on my yet-to-be-so-hairy chest. I was such a patriot, I had a picture of Ehud Barak taped on one of my closet doors, when he was in full military attire as then-chief of staff (but don’t get me started on what I think about him now). Die for my country? Sure. No question.

But the folks had a different idea. They weren’t going to sign. This was probably one of the most defining moments in my relationship with my parents. I felt they were making decisions that weren’t their’s to make anymore, now that I was 18. In the end, we reached a sort of compromise, with my parents agreeing to let me serve in the Navy. No infantry for me.

my boat

The boat I served on for 3 long years - INS Geula

For this post, I recently asked my mother to tell me how she felt back then in 1991, and here’s what she wrote:¬†

“When, as parents of an only child, we were given the right to allow or prevent you from being “Kravi” (combat), we, without any hesitation, signed for your service in the Navy. We signed but we restricted you to serve in what we believed was the lesser of all evils. Your survival was paramount to us, but not because you were an only child, and we thought our lives would end if something happened to you. We just wanted to insure, in any way we could, that you would emerge from those three years unharmed, at least physically. For your sake, we wanted YOU to live.
“Also, in our view, there are other definitions of who is a bereaved parent.¬† I was (am) a parent who (thank G-d) never lost a child. But I did lose my mother when I was eight years old. For me, that was enough bereavement for a lifetime. I didn’t want any more.
“Those were the reasons for our decisions.”

First of all, Mom, thank God you didn’t know the places that missile boat took me. If you knew, you’d probably need a couple of large shots of some of my nice single malt (thanks again, Mom).

But on a more serious note, as the father of a small girl (and another one on the way), I understand why my parents acted as they did. I also understood when I was 18, but I think I understand better now. Did they make the right decision? Yes. And no. Yes, it was their duty as parents to make that call. And no, I still believe it wasn’t their right to make it.¬†

But I will say this: If I were in their shoes, I would probably act the same way.

There have been calls to consecrate in law a ban on conscripting bereaved sons into combat units. True, this would take the burden off the parents’ shoulders. And the young men might just look at it as a given, and accept the “job” in the office. Although, I’m not sure if the High Court of Justice could uphold such a law if a swarm of 18 years olds took legal action, arguing that their rights were being infringed upon.

I don’t believe there should be such a law. I think the state, and its citizens, must understand that if you let an 18 year old vote in an election, and more importantly hold a rifle and teach him how to take the life of an enemy, you no longer have the right to prevent him from making life changing choices. They must understand that soldiers die in conflicts, and that people the same age also die in car accidents and from illness. Their lives are no less important. You don’t see anyone trying to ban 18 year olds from getting their driving licenses, do you?

There’s a reason why countries all over the world take 18 year old men into military service. Because physically we’re a man, and mentally we’re still a bit of a boy. We can climb any mountain, we still get a kick out of playing cowboys and Indians, and we’re easily brainwashed. That’s what I was back then. Brainwashed. Since then I’ve learned to hate my country as much as I love it. And I love it a lot. Loads.

Die for it? Hmmm… not so sure any more…

10
Sep
09

Farewell Gidster

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Gidi, my dear beloved pooch, I hope all is well with you in doggie heaven.

I just wanted to say sorry.

Sorry for not taking you down enough.

Sorry for keeping you holed up in a small Tel Aviv flat, when you should have been running all around.

Sorry for kicking you in the ribs after you ate my brand new SLR.

Sorry about all those shmucks who used to cross the street when they saw you because you’re an Amstaff.

Sorry I paid you less attention after Emma was born.

And thanks.

Thanks for adopting me, 9 years ago, when our paths crossed outside the Ha’aretz building in south Tel Aviv.

Thanks for loving Karen so much, and being so gentle with baby Emma (today she already asked me where you were).

Thanks for being so patient.

Thanks for letting me pet you when I needed it.

Thanks for just being my best friend…

I love you!

Ami

08
Sep
09

Izzie in HolyLand ‚Äď Part 4

(Telephone rings)

Izzie: Hello?

Barack: Hey Izzie, it’s me‚Ķ

Izzie: Baracky?! Is that you baby?

Barack: Yeah, did I wake you?

Izzie: It’s OK baby, you can call me anytime‚Ķ you OK?

Barack: Yeah, yeah‚Ķ. It’s just‚Ķ

Izzie: What… you can tell me…

Barack: I dunno. Rahm showed me this piece in Haaretz… Kinda got me thinking…

Izzie: Well, if it’s Rahm,¬†then¬†it can’t be that important. What is it?

Barack: Something about you meeting with some settlers…

Izzie: Oh… that one. What about it?

Barack: What about it? I think you know “what about it”‚Ķ

Izzie: Look, Barack, it’s 3 am,¬†just tell me what bothered you, OK?

Barack: Alright, alright. I still think you know, though, but if you want me to spell it out for you, fine. I’m talking about when the discussion came to the settlement freeze, and you said “At the end of the day, we all want the same thing. But we have to act wisely‚Ķ”.

Izzie:…

Barack: Izzie?

Izzie: Yeah, I’m here. So?

Barack: So?…

Izzie: What’s the problem?

Barack: The “problem”, Izzie, is that I get the feeling you’re not being straight with me. I have a feeling you’re saying one thing to me, and another to that Ketsale guy you keep seeing.

unhappy%20coupleIzzie: Is that what this is about? You think I’m cheating on you with Ketsale? Oh, Baracky‚Ķ.

Barack: What…

Izzie: You know better than that.

Barack: I don’t know any more, Izzie‚Ķ I just don’t know‚Ķ

Izzie: Oh, c’mon, you gotta give me more credit Baracky, baby‚Ķ

Barack: And then I hear that you approve more¬†construction in the West Bank, after we reached a deal on it, after you told me you’d put a freeze on it, and that was it – no more building. I mean, what’s up with that?

Izzie: (Stretches and yawns loudly) Ooooh boy, am I tired. Can we talk about this in the morning?

Barack: Izzie!!!!

Izzie: What….???

Barack: Izzie, I’m trying to get something going here before we meet with Palestine, when you guys both come to New York at the end of the month. And you’re pulling off these crazy stunts! It’s just a slap in the face!

Izzie: I’m sorry: Are you yelling at me?

Barack: NO!!!

Izzie: Cuz it sounds like you’re yelling at me. And if you are, I think you should call me back when you calm down.

Barack: ….

Izzie: ‚Ķ Now, take a deep breath. Call me in a few hours, and I’ll explain everything, OK?

Barack: Promise?

Izzie: Yes baby, I promise

Barack: OK… Bye honey….

Izzie: Bye Baracky‚Ķ.¬†Anyway, it’s¬†only another¬†500 units. (hangs up)

Barack: What??? Izzie?? You there?!?!? What did she say? Sh-t!!!!!!!!!!!

31
Aug
09

Have They No Shame?

Hi Guys!

It’s time for some more Cellcom bashing! But this time it’s not about politics, fences and soldiers. No, this time it’s about simple creativity.

So, do me a favor and watch this short, new commercial they put out this week.

Pretty cool, huh? Yeah, I like it, too. I’m tellin’ ya, those guys at McCann Erickson are soooo creative. They can do anything when they put their minds to it. But I can’t shake this feeling, it reminds me a bit of something I’ve seen before. Hmmmm… I dunno… maybe… THIS?

(This is an amazing¬†clip of a Japanese band, all the people in are its fans. And the songs is kinda catchy, don’t ya think?)

You ever get that feeling, like you just can’t wait for the next Cellcom ad? What will they think of next?!?

20
Aug
09

My Battle with VSS

The first time I felt something might have been wrong was when Karen got all dressed up to go out for dinner with me. She was looking great, and we were about to celebrate my birthday with a nice Italian meal. Emma was standing right next to me, and as we both admired her mother, I bent down to Emma and said: “Look at your mother, tell her how beautiful she is!”. Emma looked at me in disbelief, almost as if she was saying “Dad, she’s right there. Tell her yourself”.
Karen saw I was distressed, but immediately took my hand, “Ami, it’s nothing. Don’t worry.” But she knew I was extremely worried indeed. It wasn’t the first time. I’ve been speaking to other people through Emma on various occasions. Sometimes to other parents at her kindergarden, with the usual “Emma, look, isn’t Itai nice for giving you his toy?”, or to the cashier at the supermarket “Emma, say thank you to the nice cashier”.
I told Karen “That’s it, I’m going to get this checked. I can’t take it.”
me n emmaNext day, Emma and I went to our family doctor. I told him all the symptoms. Emma started to make some noise and picked up a pen from the doctor’s table. “Emma, put that pen down before the nice doctor gets angry!” The doctor immediately grunted, and leaned back in his chair. “I see this all the time. It’s no big deal. You’ve got VSS”.
“VSS?!?! What’s that?!?! Is it contagious???”
“No, don’t worry. It’s not contagious, and it’s easily cured.”
“OK, but what is it for G-d’s sake??? Emma!!!! Stop it! The nice doctor is telling me how long I have to live, so please calm down!”
“It’s Vicarious Speech Syndrome. You’re talking to other people through your daughter. I have a lot of information, and there are some great support groups for it.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. As I picked up Emma to leave the office, I said “Emma, tell the nice doctor thank you and that we appreciate his help”. I immediately put my hand over my mouth. “Oops. Sorry Doc….”
“No worries. Just go to the support group”.
The next day I took Emma to the group. It was full of young parents like me, with their kids on their knees. The counsellor introduced me and asked all the parents to welcome me to the group. Just then, all the parents yelled their kid’s name and ordered them:”Tell Ami we love him! Go on! Say ‘We love you Ami!'”
19
Aug
09

Paradise in Rosh Pina

Karen and I usually do our zimmer-vacationing in a small village called Matat, near the Lebanese border. We like it up there, because it’s very secluded. But this time we went up to Rosh Pina, because we wanted to be closer to some restaurants and shopping.
After hours searching the net, and almost giving up, I stumbled upon a little zimmer (cabin) called “Gloria’s Romantic Garden of Eden”. I immediately called up, after seeing the pics on the site, and Gloria answered the phone. She asked if I spoke English, and I told her I was, well, a “Half & Half”, and she yelled out to her husband “Jerald! There’s a nice American boy on the phone who wants to come over!”.
The room is situated at the bottom of their old stone house, with walls so thick you don’t need air-conditioning in the August heat. And boy, was it hot then. The small yet cozy room has everything you need, but one of the perks is the private swimming pool just outside. Most places that have pools have to share it with at least 3 or 4 other zimmers. So this was nice.
But the biggest perk of all are those two Brits, Gloria and Jerald. Gloria makes an amazing breakfast, and you can sit with her forever, listening to her about her life in England, Memphis (yeah, Memphis!), Manhattan, her father who was a chazan, her crazy parties in NY and her close friendship with Nina Simone and Shoshana Damari (with pics to prove it!). Jerald will tell you all about the house, situated smack in the center of the old restored part of the moshava.¬†Menachem Begin himself hid in the house from the British on the 1940’s!
So, this is defenitely a Half & Half zimmer for all my Half & Half readers out there! Enjoy!
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06
Aug
09

Heep Hope

I’m not a big fan of rap, never have been. Never got too excited about the whole “bling” factor. Although, I do like some artists who seem genuine, like Lauryn Hill (before she went mental) and Outkast. You know, the guys who “keep it real”. The Israeli hip-hop (pronounced “heep-hope” in this part of the world) scene isn’t much to brag about. But there are a few exceptions. One of them being a band I listen to when I jog, and they always manage to make me smile through all the sweat: HaDag Nachash (the fish snake? or is it the snake fish? hmmm…). Wikipedia has some ideas about what the name means.

HaDag Nahash are a band from Jerualem, and what’s cool about them is they talk about everyday life in Israel, about the difficulties, the injustice, the racism and more. No bling, no showing off – just trying to spread the message. Here are¬†a few of my favorites:

This one’s called “We’re not Frayerim (suckers)

Never translated a song before, but let’s try a few lines (no attempt whatsoever to keep the rhyming):

(How much longer?)

In our dreams will we sail like a Mig

And look over the stench from a safe distance

Which is 5 minutes from Kfar Saba

(How much longer?)

Will we keep our eyes shut

To what’s happening right beneath our noses

We’ll get another beer from the fridge

And keep surfing the channels

Chorus: (And we’ll do reserve duty)

We’ll pay the taxes

(And we’ll stand in the traffic jams)

Nobody screws with us

(We’re definitely, definitely, defenitely not frayerim)

Here’s another clip, “The Number Song”, and this one has English subtitles:

One of my favorites is “Here I come”, which if you saw “Don’t Mess with the Zohan”, you might already be familiar with it. It talks about a guy debating on where to live, Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Should he stay in Jerusalem, where all his friends are, where the hummus is good, where the weather is nice, or should he got toSoddom and Gommora and have some fun with the Tel Avivi women?

And here’s one by a guy named Mookie. Not really a rap song, but a nice tune about his relationship with God.

I’m not afraid of you

Just want to meet you

I have no doubt of you

You of me and me of you

04
Aug
09

This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Three of Us

Well, it looks like Bibi passed the Knesset’s summer session in flying colors. Moments before the final curtain, in¬†the grand finale he managed to run a tight ship and pass two bills into law that were dear to him: the Israel Lands Authority Reform, and the Mofaz Law.
Both pieces of legislation are bad news. The first bill proposes reform that will basically hand over lands owned by the Israeli government into private hands, where (let’s face it) citizen’s rights and environmental issues never really take pride of place.
The second bill is a pathetic attempt by Bibi to ease the process for a possible break-up of Kadima in the not-so-distant future. The Mofaz Law will reduce the number of MKs required to split from a faction from one-third to seven in the case of parties totaling over 21 members. I won’t go into explaining why this law is ridiculous, but here’s a good piece to understand why.
But instead of being the usual Bibi-basher that I have become (or always was?), let’s just sit and think for a second: Could this actually be a good thing?
Let me explain:
Shimon_and_SharonA few years ago, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who couldn’t get anything done in his Likud party, decided to break away and form Kadima. This was known as the Big Bang of Israeli politics. Kadima joined top figures from the Likud and Labor (most notably Shimon Peres) to form a centrist party that would finally let the Bulldozer do his stuff, unhindered. Unfortunately just a few months later, the seemingly industructable Sharon slipped into a coma and we got three-and-a-half years of Olmert instead.
But just like the Big Bang of our universe (which apparently is still expanding), our own little bang is not over either. The process has yet to be completed. Kadima never became the big party it hoped to be (mainly thanks to Olmert), and the Likud and Labor also lost their strength. In effect, the Israeli political system has entered a stalemate it has never seen before, with the electorate spread out over so many parties, and many voters feeling they can ideologically vote for almost any party seeing as how the differences between them are so small.galaxy460x276
Probably the most interesting development lately in the Big Bang in Israel is Bibi’s speech in Bar Ilan University, where he accepted the foundation of a Palestinian state (with his own conditions, of course. But still…) Bibi’s acceptance of the two-state solution has dealt a death blow to Kadima and to all the parties left of it. In a way, it was a death blow to the right as well. Because if all major parties, both left and right, agree to the two state solution, then what’s left to differentiate between them? It seems like the only difference between them is not about ending the occupation anymore, but in how many years. 5, 10, 15?
Certainly the estimated arrival time at¬†the final goal isn’t enough of a criteria to differentiate between three major parties. On all the other issues, well… there’s just not much of a¬†difference. This week, by voting with Bibi on the land reform, Labor has shown it basically has no unique ideology left in its bones. And Kadima? You tell me, does anyone really know what Kadima’s agenda is?
My point is, that this political map is too small for all three. Either Kadima or Labor will have to disappear. Someone will have to raise the guantlet and show true opposition to the Likud, a real left wing would have to arise in the Knesset, one which¬†hasn’t existed for years now.
Which brings me to my point: What if the Mofaz Law actually does just that? If eventually, Mofaz and six others left Kadima, it would slowly disappear into oblivion. Maybe that would be a good thing. Or what if there was a split in Labor, which seems particularly likely after the approval this week of the land reform law which angered many of its members? Maybe this could finally kill off Labor?
Whichever one it is, it doesn’t matter. One of them has to go. And the one that stays has to show a clear agenda that is different from the Likud’s. But this time, the point where the two big parties that are¬†left diverge won’t be the¬†¬†security-dipolmatic issue. That line is now so blurred it no longer exists. No, this time it has to be about social issues, about the environment, about the economy (stupid!). And this time, it has to be about leadership.
I used to like Amram Mitzna, the former Haifa mayor, who ran against Ariel Sharon and lost when he led Labor into the elections. Sure, he had some drawbacks (show me a poitician who doesn’t), but he just seemed like an honest guy, who really wanted to do some good. He was ahead of his time. For the past three years, Mitzna has been living in Yeruham, as a sort of temporary mayor, to get things fixed up in a municipality that needed help. Now that’s what I call Zionism. Leaving your wife for 4 days a week to go run a small town in the desert. He was¬†recently interviewed by Haaretz (a good read) and said something interesting about the future of Israeli politics:¬†
Haaretz:¬†What will it take to make you say, “Friends, I am coming back”?
Mitzna: “I imagine that the day will come, in another year-and-a-half or more, when Israeli society will long to see honest, credible people heading it, people with proven executive capability. My estimate is that in the next elections there will be enough votes to get between 30 and 40 seats that will support a leadership direction like that, without decisive importance being attached to the diplomatic-security sphere.
“After Netanyahu’s ‘two states’ the question is no longer whether you are left or right. Until the Oslo Accords the policy debate was over what the solution consisted of but, in the years after Oslo, the real debate is how to get there. Nowadays everyone understands that the Geneva Initiative is the solution, that we will leave the Golan Heights, depart from most of Judea and Samaria and that Jerusalem will be divided. The question is how to get there.”
I hope Mitzna is right. Because if he is, it could mean the end of this Big Bang already. And it could be the beginning to ending the occupation, and to becoming a much more normal, healthy country.
And if he thinks he can lead the way, hey, I just might give him a second chance.
30
Jul
09

It’s My (Hebrew) Birthday!

Roberts_Siege_and_Destruction_of_JerusalemHappy Tisha B’av! Come on, I know you’re all bummed out because of the Temple lying in ruins, but hey, at least you got Half & Half these days, right? Right? So go on, tear your shirt, get dusty, sit on the floor, don’t eat anything, and when someone asks you “Hey, what’s with the Tisha B’av face?”, just smile and think of me…

But on a serious note, if you really are fasting – hope it’s an easy one. Especially in this weather. And, just a few things I’d like you to read:

First, an op-ed piece by Nadav Shragai, about Tisha B’av. As you can imagine, me and Nadav don’t really agree on anything, but here’s an example of a right-winger who can write an op-ed in a calm fashion, and state his legitimate view about going up to Temple Mount.

Several years ago I went on a fascinating trip of this kind with archaeologist Dan Bahat, and I have returned many times since. Even today, Tisha B’Av, after some 30 years of writing for Haaretz, I will go there. Like many others I will look back knowing that the memory of the past and heritage is in many ways also the history of our present and future, and that only thus will we improve the chance that others, including our enemies, will recognize this continuity and affinity.

And just three more reads concerning my post about “Breaking the Silence”. The first is a news item on Ha’aretz about a sharp rise in requests from IDF combat units for material on military ethics during warfare.

There has been a sharp rise in requests from Israel Defence Forces combat units to the Education Corps for material on military ethics and “values during wartime,” says Brig. Gen. Eli Shermeister, the army’s chief education officer. Speaking at a seminar yesterday in Jerusalem on “War and Peace in Jewish Heritage,” Shermeister acknowledged an inherent tension between protecting soldiers and avoiding harm to innocent civilians.

Another piece is by Jeffery Goldberg that I just saw, even though it’s already a few weeks old. BTS came under criticism for Israel-bashing, and in response to my post journalist Adi Schwartz pointed out that not all human rights organizations are neutral, and are funded by parties with conflicting interests. Adi’s point is reinforced when Goldberg tells us of one of the most important groups worldwide, Human Rights Watch, who sent a delegation to Saudi Arabia (of all places)¬†– and came back with some funding.

I’m not one of the people who believes that Human Rights Watch is reflexively anti-Israel, and I think the group has done admirable work exposing Israel’s human rights violations (and admirable work, of course, exposing human rights violations across the Middle East). But this allegation, if proven true, would cast serious doubt on whether Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division could ever fairly judge Israel again.

¬†And lastly, Amir Mizroch of the Jerusalem Post writes about the IDF’s attempts to investigate its actions during warfare:

Judge Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avihai Mandelblit is not always a popular figure in the military, especially when he punishes soldiers who break the law while fighting Israel’s enemies in Gaza, Lebanon or the West Bank. For Mandelblit, there is no difference between routine security operations and full-fledged war, and no difference between Arabs and Jews. There is only the law.

From his third-floor office at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, Mandelblit represents the core of Israel‚Äôs defense against the legal onslaught by unfriendly countries and organizations across the world. While the shooting has stopped, Operation Cast Lead is not over yet ‚Äď it has just moved to another front.¬†

 Good reading!




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