Archive Page 2

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 clichés, 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/חדשות/News/Economics/Consumers/Article,37234.aspx

3) Congrats

The Saints deserved it. Mazal Tov. 




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