Shabbat Shalom

Shabbat Shalom

No time for a Good News Friday post today. It’s been a bit of a crazy week for me, having hosted my annual “kaytanat savta” (Camp Grandma) for my daughter’s children. I had intended to have the (5 out of 6) children in 2 groups – 2 pre-teens and 3 younger ones, but circumstances intervened.

Firstly, since we had been busy with my father-in-law in hospital for nearly 2 weeks, and the new school year rapidly approaching next week, time was short to hold two kaytanot. Secondly, the 2 older girls had very busy social schedules (veritable social butterflies they are!) so the intention was that would come to us for a Shabbat during the year instead of kaytana as “compensation”. However when I turned up to take the little ones, the two pre-teens preferred Grandma to Bnei Akiva. I was a little bit taken aback, but as a good friend said, “you should be chuffed that they prefer you to their friends”. Of course she’s right. But having 5 kids in my charge on my own (hubby was abroad on business) was a little bit tiring (understatement of the century here…).

After a night in which no one went to sleep much before midnight (and the older ones having swiped our iPads and hidden them under their pillows), followed by everyone up by 6 a.m.Smiley With Huge Eyes Smiley Face, Emoticon  I took them to visit their great-grandparents, then the Gymboree, to a movie, and lunch at the mall, followed by the swimming pool, after which I was wiped out (as I’m sure you find hard to imagine ;-)  ). The children on the other hand were still raring to go when their parents turned up 24 hours later!.. :-D

I had already hosted my son’s children a few weeks ago, but yesterday there was more  excitement with  the birthday party for my 7 year-old granddaughter (our son’s eldest). I counted 19 children there – and they were only family!

A good time was had by all and my daughter-in-law outdid herself with a fabulous birthday cake!

I wish all of you as much nachat from your children and grandchildren as we get from ours.

Shabbat Shalom

The army rests too on Shabbat

And now I wish you all Shabbat Shalom.

Posted in Family, Slice of Israeli life | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Britain’s rush to warm up relations with Iran

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif

From being one of the more cautious members of the P5+1 signers of the Iran deal, Britain has suddenly sprung into action in rapidly warming up its ties with Iran, up to and including a visit of the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond for the reopening of the British Embassy.

Hammond had warm words for the Islamic Republic, declaring himself “surprised to find it so normal” despite the difficulties between the two countries:

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Monday he believed in Iranian’s genuine desire to “turn a page” with the West and develop better ties.

Hammon spoke at the end of a two-day visit to Tehran and a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to mark the reopening of the two nations’ respective embassies after a break of several years.

While he stressed that the countries’ relations remained complex and difficult, he said Iran as a regional power was too important to ignore on Middle East issues.

“It’s hard to see what is the point of advocating dialog with someone who you know has a very different view of the world from you, unless you are anticipating some give and take,” he said, according to the UK’s Telegraph.

He added that the visit had changed his view of the Islamic republic.

“I suspect that I, like many people in Britain and the West, will have had an image of Iran as a desperately theocratic, deeply religious society motivated by ideology,” she said. “What I’ve seen is a perfectly normal, bustling, dynamic, entrepreneurial, thrusting, middle income developing world city, which has clearly enormous potential. You only need to look at it to see the enormous potential.”

Of the regime, he added: “I don’t get the impression of a population cowed by authority. It’s a much more bustling, dynamic place than I had expected — a much more diverse place than I had expected — and the message I’m getting from our interlocutors is that they do want to see the nuclear deal and the lifting of sanctions as an opportunity to turn a page. That doesn’t mean we can wipe out history — and in particular some very difficult history between Britain and Iran. But it does mean we can agree to draw a line and move on.”

How much of a line is Britain prepared to draw and under what circumstances? For example, Al-Monitor says that Hammonds words on Israel struck a nerve in Iran:

His comments that Iran has shown a more nuanced approach with Israel and “what we’re looking for is behavior from Iran, not only towards Israel but towards other players in the region” has caused a controversy inside the country.

A Fars News headline quoted Hammond as saying “Iran’s position with Israel has changed a little” and that “Iran is no longer a threat to Israel.” However, the text of the article did not include those explosive and incorrect translations.

When asked about Hammond’s comments at a news conference Aug. 25, Rouhani’s media adviser Mohammad Reza Sadegh said, “The position of the Islamic Republic of Iran regarding the Zionist regime has always been clear and will remain clear.”

Tasnim News Agency reported that Marzieh Afkham, spokeswoman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, denied that during Hammond’s visit “there were negotiations about the Zionist regime or that Tehran has a different position regarding this regime.”

Iranian member of parliament Fatemeh Alia said on the parliament floor Aug. 25, “On our soil, UK’s foreign secretary spoke with BBC radio and said we will judge Iran’s approach with respect to Israel based on their actions and Iran is no longer a threat to Israel. Presumably, as those who justify [his comments], our foreign minister will once again say the comments are for domestic consumption.”

Alia also criticized Zarif by saying he “didn’t dare use the word the Zionist regime” in his news conference with Hammond. She added, “Unfortunately, some of our officials are faithful and are not traitors, [but] have committed crimes in pursuing normalization in relations with America and Britain.”

So will Britain agree for sanctions to be lifted by next spring despite Iran’s unbending harsh stance towards Israel?

International sanctions on Iran could start to be lifted as early as spring next year, Britain’s foreign secretary said on Monday, as Iran and the West rebuild ties and potentially open up billions of dollars of trade deals.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told Reuters he expected Iran and the United States could officially approve the deal by October. Combined with Iran meeting its commitments in the deal, that could see the start of trade restrictions being lifted.

It’s more than probable, given that lifting the sanctions means money, money, money for the greedy British and Europeans:

Eyeing deals between British firms and Iran, particularly in the oil and financial sectors, Hammond said preparatory work should be done ahead of lifting sanctions so investment can start to flow as soon as the measures are removed.

“There is very clear pitch here not to wait until then,” he said. “There are things that can’t be done. Investments can’t be made, items can’t be imported or exported or whatever. But the business negotiation can start to take place well ahead of that.”

Hammond has previously estimated that $150 billion of Iranian assets frozen outside the country would be released by the nuclear deal. That has prompted a flurry of European visits, including from German and French ministers.

A delegation of senior business leaders flew with Hammond from Britain to Iran, including representatives from Royal Dutch Shell, energy and mining services company Amec Foster Wheeler and Scottish industrial engineering firm Weir Group.

Hammond mentions the diplomatic difficulties with Iran over its role in Syria:

Underscoring the tentative nature of the rapprochement, Hammond said Britain still had fundamental differences with Iran over the long-running conflict in Syria, where Iran gives support to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“The thing we disagree on is the role of one single person, Bashar Assad, in this process,” he said.

“The Iranians take the view that, for better or for worse, without Assad there cannot be a political process — he is the glue that holds much of Syria together.

“We take a different view: That a man with so much blood on his hands cannot be part of the future of this country.”

However, Hammond stressed that any form of dialogue between the West and Iran over Syria should be taken as a positive.

However he appears willing to put all that “nastiness” behind him as he displays Britain’s pathetically eager and craven crawl to Iran:

Britain has been cast for decades by opponents inside Iran as a perfidious “Old Fox” or “Little Satan” who does the bidding of “Big Satan,” the United States.

“I sense we are seen now more as part of Europe — a European country with whom Iran will be engaging alongside France, Germany, Italy and others — and less of the imperial Britain of the past with its legacy of involvement in Iran and the region,” Hammond said.

It is interesting to keep in mind the far less forgiving attitude that the very same Philip Hammond took towards Israel during his recent visit, as he slammed Israel for its objections to the Iran deal: To remind you, these are the outrageously patronising and slanderous words that he uttered about Israel – besides getting our capital city wrong:

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told parliament Tuesday that Israel would not have been satisfied with any agreement world powers reached with Iran, and announced he was heading to Israel to personally explain the nuclear deal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The question you have to ask yourself is what kind of a deal would have been welcomed in Tel Aviv. The answer of course is that Israel doesn’t want any deal with Iran,” Hammond told lawmakers ahead of his visit.

“Israel wants a permanent state of standoff, and I don’t believe that’s in the interests of the region. I don’t believe it’s in our interest,” Hammond said.

Well, he was correct about one thing only. It is definitely not in Britain’s interest for Israel to object to the deal. After all, that is the only thing standing between Britain and lots of luvverly Iranian money, all waiting to slide into those greasy British paws.

This all ties in with my previous post in which I quoted from Debka report on Israel’s purchase of Kurdish oil, which mentioned how Britain made a strategic decision to emulate its European counterparts in their rush towards benefiting economically from the new acceptance of Iran into the community of nations. The Debka report notes (emphases are mine):

Even before sanctions were lifted and Tehran had demonstrated its compliance with the nuclear deal signed with the world powers in Vienna on July 14, European ministers were knocking on the door in a quest for financial relations. The Islamic Republic was deemed rehabilitated by the nuclear accord; and the UK saw no reason to lag behind the others. And so Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond was personally in attendance at the ceremonial reopening Sunday of the Tehran embassy.

The FT’s report’s timing fitting in perfectly with the British government’s plans to quickly develop profitable ties with the Islamic Republic in the following arenas:

1. The oil industries in Iran and Iraq. London seeks as large a slice as possible of the $150 billion worth of oil and gas contracts on offer by Tehran.

2.  The Islamic Republic was also meant to infer from the FT report that British intelligence resources and its powerful media were available as tools for beating Israel out on the world’s energy markets.

3. Britain’s foreign policy is grounded in accentuating its common interests with Washington. The Obama administration may pose as a champion of Masoud Barzani, President of the autonomous Kurdish Republic of northern Iraq. His peshmerga army has after all distinguished itself in its dogged fight against the Islamic State. But in practice, things are different:  the US administration, to meet the wishes of Tehran and Baghdad, consistently withholds from the Kurds the heavy weapons they need to rout ISIS.

So Britain got a twofer – selling out both Israel and the Kurds. Now that is good economics!

Posted in Defence and Military, International relations, Iran, Mideast news | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Israel assists the Middle East through oil and trash

A couple of stories caught my eye this week through which a common thread runs – that of Israel being able to provide a solution to assorted Middle Eastern problems.

A Lebanese man passes a pile of garbage blocking a street in east Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, Aug. 17, 2015. AP

Lebanon is in the throes of a trash crisis, as a simple labour dispute has degenerated into widespread  violent “You Stink” demonstrations; the army has moved in and people have even been injured. Hundreds of tons of uncollected rubbish are strewing the streets causing an environmental and health danger.

Incredibly the UN urged restraint! Do they ever urge anything else? What has restraint got to do with civic protests against the lack of refuse collection?

A wounded woman is moved on a stretcher by medics during a protest against corruption and rubbish collection problems near the government palace in Beirut, August 22, 2015. (Reuters)

However what should have been a relatively minor domestic labour dispute has the menacing potential of turning into something much worse as it emerges that Hezbollah might be trying to exploit the political tension behind the crisis in order to topple the government:

The goal of Hezbollah, the Lebanese politicians told Al-Arab, is “to create a power vacuum amid the [Lebanese] parliament’s failure to elect a new president who is acceptable to everyone.”

These politicians see proof of this in the fact that at the beginning of the “You Stink” protests, Lebanese citizens critical of the government’s inability to deal with trash were holding up signs to this effect. But, as soon as Hezbollah operatives joined in, placards suddenly appeared, calling for the toppling of the government, with a focus on two of Hezbollah’s political foes — Prime Minister Salam, and Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk.

But help might be at hand from an unlikely source! An Israeli startup has provided a solution to the Bedouin of the Negev for their manure disposal problem. (In fact I blogged about this almost a year ago).

HomeBioGas, based in the Beit Yanai moshav in central Israel, has invented a portable “anaerobic digester” that turns kitchen waste and livestock manure into cooking-gas.

Installing a HomeBioGas ‘digester’ in al-Awja in the Jordan Valley.

“Families in these areas not only live off the grid,” HomeBioGas sales manager Ron Yariv told The Algemeiner. “But they dwell in tents or tin huts.” This, he said, forces them to burn wood from trees or goat manure to generate fire for cooking.

“This is arduous and dangerous,” he said, adding that more than four million people across the world die annually from the toxic fumes emitted during this process. “It is also very harmful to the environment.”

So far, the company has installed 37 systems, one per family. Most of these are in the Palestinian village of al-Awja in Jordan Valley, with a smaller number provided to Negev Bedouins. In two months, another 37 will be delivered.

The portable product is 1.6 by 1 meters, as unobtrusive as the individual gas tanks commonly used in Israel, hooks up to the stove, also provided by the company, with a pipe.

The families in the pilot project were given instructions on how to save and funnel their organic waste into the device for optimal use. And subsequent follow-up visits have been regular, according to Yariv.

The project, in conjunction with Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Peres Peace Center, is funded by the European Union to the tune of half a million euros.

Gas is produced in the “digester” through fermentation of organic waste mixed with water and certain bacteria, which then multiply. An added benefit, said Yariv, is that a liquid is created from the process that can be used as organic fertilizer for crops. The price for consumers has not yet been determined, but the device itself costs a few hundred dollars in materials and construction.

Well, you can’t argue with success can you? If it works for the Bedouin why shouldn’t it work for the Lebanese? Think how much fuel they could produce at the same time. It’s a win-win situation as far as I can see. They just have to get round that little problem called Hezbollah who won’t be too happy to see any cooperation with Israel.

On a much more serious note, Israel needs oil and ISIS are a menace to the entire world. Israel’s latest oil purchase has the potential to solve two problems at once.

Israel Hayom reports that according to the Financial times, Israel bought $1 billion worth of oil from the Kurds, thus financing their fight against ISIS in a roundabout fashion:

Israel has imported around 75% of its oil in recent months from the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, the British Financial Times newspaper reported on Sunday.

A Kurdish oil ship off the coast of Israel | Photo credit: Reuters

The report called the Israeli oil purchases “a vital source of funds” for the Kurdish fight against the Islamic State group. Other major purchasers of Kurdish oil include Italy, France and Greece.

According to shipping data, trading sources and satellite tanker tracking cited by the report, Israeli refineries and oil companies imported more than 19 million barrels of Kurdish oil between the beginning of May and August 11 this year, a total worth around $1 billion based on international prices during that period.

The report said the sales to Israel represented “another fissure” between the Erbil-based Kurdistan Regional Government and the federal government in Baghdad. The Iraqi government does not recognize Israel and has no official ties with it.

So much for the American attempt to install a pro-Western (and therefore pro-Israel?) government in Iraq.

The Kurdistan Regional Government said it did not sell oil “directly or indirectly” to Israel, but, according to the report, ties between the Kurds and Israel go back several decades.

“We do not care where the oil goes once we have delivered it to the traders,” a senior Kurdish government adviser in Erbil was quoted as saying. “Our priority is getting the cash to fund our Peshmerga forces against Daesh [Islamic State] and to pay civil servant salaries.”

Good for the Kurds for turning a blind eye to where their oil goes to, and I’m sure they know very well that its destination is Israel. I hope that it’s only political necessity that makes them deny any connection to Israel, and not enmity. Good for Israel too for turning to unconventional sources for our fuel needs, although we Israelis are still waiting for those natural gas fields to start delivering.

A side-effect of this deal is yet another possible confrontation between Netanyahu and Obama, as the blogger War Sclerotic reports via Debka:

That Israel and other nations were buying oil from the Kurdish republic of Iraq had been published before and was no secret. The Financial Times broke its “discovery” Sunday, Aug. 23, just by chance? on the day that Britain and Iran reopened their respective embassies in Tehran and London after a four-year breach resulting from a mob attack on the Tehran embassy.

Even before sanctions were lifted and Tehran had demonstrated its compliance with the nuclear deal signed with the world powers in Vienna on July 14, European ministers were knocking on the door in a quest for financial relations. The Islamic Republic was deemed rehabilitated by the nuclear accord; and the UK saw no reason to lag behind the others. And so Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond was personally in attendance at the ceremonial reopening Sunday of the Tehran embassy.

The FT’s report’s timing fitting in perfectly with the British government’s plans to quickly develop profitable ties with the Islamic Republic …

The pejorative depiction of Israel’s purchase of Kurdish oil was meant to gain London points – not just with Iran and Iraq, but also with the Obama White House.

In serving this purpose, TheFinancial Times found no editorial need to fill in the pertinent Middle East background of the trade.

Exactly a year ago, debkafile discovered and reported that Kurdish oil was being delivered to Israel. Several media discovered an American warship that was described at the time as stalking the United Kalvyrta tanker which carried a million barrels of Kurdish oil. The warship planned to prevent the oil being unloaded at any port, since Washington viewed the cargo as the legal property of the Iraqi government – not the KRG which had put it up for sale. Had the oil reached its purchasers, it would have been nearly impossible to cut off Kurdistan’s export trade to clients outside Iraq.

This American step was part and parcel of the US negotiating tactics for a nuclear accord, then at one of their critical moments. The Obama administration was anxious to show Tehran how closely the US would play ball with Iran and Shiite-dominated Iraq on the vital issue of oil, once the nuclear accord was in the bag.

But the episode did not pan out as expected.

This is what happened: “The partially full Kamari tanker carrying Kurdish crude oil disappeared from satellite tracking north of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Two days later, the empty vessel reappeared near Israel.”

No one in the trade doubted for a moment that the vanishing oil had been unloaded at an Israeli port.

Since all matters relating to energy are made in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office, it stands to reason that the decision to buy oil from the KRG came from the top.
Netanyahu’s readiness to go head to head with the Obama administration on this issue had two motives:

First, Kurdish oil was cheap. Irbil denies undercutting the market, but debkafile’s sources report that it was willing to do so in the case of Israel.

Second, the Netanyahu government and the Obama administration don’t see to eye to eye not just on nuclear Iran, but on Middle East policy in general – and the autonomous Kurdish republic of Iraq, in particular.

This week, as Netanyahu marked the first 100 days of his fourth term as prime minister, his critics described him as weak and lacking in accomplishments. The Kurdish enterprise was one of several cases in which he quietly took a strong initiative.

This is a very interesting theory – and I hope it’s correct and not just Debka day-dreaming.

I like the idea of Israel putting one over the White House, and I also like the idea of Israeli trash recycling saving Lebanon from terrorism. It all fits so nicely!

Posted in energy sources, Israel news, Mideast news, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Jeremy Corbyn, the Left, and its antisemitism problem

The hitherto almost-unknown British Labour MP and backbencher Jeremy Corbyn has surged ahead in the Labour elections for a new leader, and to the establishment’s surprise and utter horror, it looks like he will become the new leader.

I wrote about Corbyn’s very anti-Jewish and anti-Israel “friends” Hamas, Hezbollah and others, last week. This week there has been an outpouring of horrified British commentators on the possible election of Corbyn.

Dan Hodges at the Daily Telegraph has produced an alarming prediction that:

Corbyn will be cheered by racists and terrorists:

As the Labour Party is about to learn to its cost, Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents have no need to manufacture anything. All they have to do is faithfully reproduce what he says and what he thinks.

Which is why I’m happy to acknowledge that those of his supporters protesting vociferously that their champion is not an anti-semite are correct. Jeremy Corbyn does not personally indulge in prejudice.

But he does indulge prejudice. He associates with anti-semites and other extremists. He provides a platform for anti-semites and other extremists – Dyab Abou Jahjah is on record as saying Corbyn helped make his recent visit to the UK possible. And he shares platforms with anti-semites and other extremists.

Dyab Abou Jahjah (centre) and Jeremy Corbyn (right)

Corbyn and his supporters have attempted to defend his actions in a number of ways. One is to scream “smear” a lot. A second is to claim no anti-semitism or extremism was expounded by these men in his presence. And I suppose it is conceivable he may have been duped by the odd Holocaust denier or Blood Libeler. But it is odd he has only become aware of their duplicity just at the point when he is running for the Labour leadership.

Their third justification is that Mr Corbyn feels it necessary to sit with people with a range of views (some of them unsettling), in his search for a solution to the decades-long Palestinian/Israeli conflict. …

And instead let’s consider this. Imagine if an MP attempting to understand growing public sensitivities around immigration invited Nick Griffin to the House of Commons, along with a member of the fascist-terror group Combat 18. …  What would the reaction be? What would Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters do?

The Labour party used to be clear on this stuff. Zero-tolerance of racism. Zero-tolerance of apologists for racism. No platform for racism.

And now that’s gone. It’s all gone. Holocaust deniers. Blood Libelers. Anti-semitic conspiracy theorists. Terrorist sympathisers. Terrorists. We are Labour. How wide and how high would you like your platform to be?

I have been one of the Labour Party’s fiercest critics. But I never thought I’d see this day: the day Labour started to launder prejudice. The day its commitment to standing against all forms of bigotry was so casually slaughtered on the altar of political ideology and expediency.

Soon Jeremy Corbyn will become Labour leader. When he does, his supporters will cheer his victory. And Paul Eisen and Stephen Sizer and Raed Salah and Dyab Abou Jahjah will pause a while from Holocaust denial, and conspiracy theories and Blood Libel and dreams of dead British soldiers. And they will stand at the very top of their platforms. And they will cheer his victory too.

In a similar manner, the blogger Tom Owolade also agrees that while Corbyn himself may not have actually uttered any antisemitic words or committed such deeds, he does condone such words and deeds. In a blistering attack on Corbyn’s supporters he insists that:

Corbyn’s supporters should be honest:

Those who defend Corbyn rely on two arguments: firstly, that guilt by association – attending the same event as anti-Semites – is an insufficient base on which to build an argument. Secondly, that opposition to Israeli policies doesn’t entail anti-semitism, and consequently those that criticise Corbyn are doing so from a position of bad faith; out of a wish to shield Israel from legitimate criticism or part of a general right-wing agenda. Both arguments are strawmen that rely on a misapprehension of most people’s motives and inattention to their arguments.

The argument that criticism of Corbyn comes from a position of bad faith fails to account for the fact that the people Corbyn supports don’t hate Israel but Jews – a distinction which, for them, is meaningless anyway. It fails to account for the fact that it is not just Blairites, neocons, and neoliberals who worry about a potential political leader palling with racists. People who think anti-semitism is worrisome in itself worry too – and so they should, for it is a matter of principle first and foremost.

What it irritates me most is the dishonesty with which Corbyn’s apologists have defended his links to racism. The charge is he endorses and willingly attends events organised by anti-Semites, not that he merely and accidentally associates with them. This charge is supported by evidence of him saying positive things about racists and attending events organised by groups ideologically committed to racism. Corbyn’s supporters should be honest: they should concede Corbyn supports anti-Semites. But they should then concede, that to them, this support doesn’t matter. They should be honest and concede that anti-semitism under the cover of anti-Zionism doesn’t matter to them, and is secondary to opposing austerity and opposing western foreign policy.

Jeremy Corbyn’s pals: Head of Islamic Movement Raed Salah and the antisemitic vicar Steven Sizer


Let them then concede that parts of the left are now morally bankrupt on the issue of racism. They should admit that they’re diminishing the values they pretend to espouse. Let them concede all of that, and support the MP from Islington with a candid heart – but not, in reality, with an anti-racist one.

Whew! As if that’s not enough, the most serious indictment, not only of Corbyn but of the left and its antisemitism problem, comes from Stephen Daisley, of the Scottish STV news channel, who writes:

Jeremy Corbyn is not an anti-Semite. It’s so much worse than that:

The Labour leadership frontrunner has a singular talent for extending a warm welcome to anti-Semites and extremists.

He invited “friends” from Hezbollah and Hamas, both proscribed terrorist organisations. …

He invited Raed Salah, leader of the Islamic Movement, to tea on the Commons terrace. Salah promotes the blood libel that Jews murder children for blood to bake in their matzah and claims that thousands of Jews stayed home from work at the World Trade Centre on 9/11, a key component of the conspiracy theory that Jews and not Islamic fundamentalists were behind the attacks.

He invited Dyab Abou Jahjah and shared a platform with the Belgian radical. Abou Jahjah called the killing of British soldiers in Iraq “a victory” …

Elsewhere, his connections to Holocaust-denier Paul Eisen have been documented by the Jewish Chronicle. … . In fact, as JC political correspondent Marcus Dysch has revealed, Corbyn attended a 2013 event for Eisen’s Deir Yassin Remembered group.

Holocaust denier Paul Eisen sits with Jeremy Corbyn in St. John’s Wood Church in 2013

…  He cannot recall meeting Abou Jahjah, despite a picture of the two of them sitting side-by-side on a panel. He was unaware of Eisen’s views at the time. He stresses that Salah “did not at any stage utter any antisemitic remarks to me”.Jeremy Corbyn is not an anti-Semite. How I wish that he were. How much easier it would make things. We could chalk all this up to the prejudices of one man and we could avoid the raw, awkward conversation we’re about to have. Because this isn’t about Jeremy Corbyn; he’s just a symptom and a symbol. The Left, and not just the fringes, has an anti-Semitism problem.

Contrary to left-wing mythology, anti-Jewish prejudice has never been the exclusive preserve of aristocratic snobs or skinhead fantasists. “The Jew is the enemy of the human race,” declared Proudhon. “One must send this race back to Asia or exterminate it.” Bakunin labelled Jews “bloodsucking people” while Orwell, self-consciously anti-Semitic, even obsessed over the excessive number of Jews sheltering in London’s Underground during World War II. (No matter what the Jews do to protect themselves, it’s always disproportionate.)

The contemporary Left, in most cases, would recognise these statements as irrational prejudice. But what if we substituted “Zionist” for “Jew”, what would happen then? How many would object to “Zionists” being termed enemies of the human race? How many would be glad to see the “Zionist” become impossible? Anti-Zionism has removed much of the need for classical anti-Semitism by recycling the old superstitions as a political critique of the State of Israel. Why risk the ridicule that comes with quoting The Protocols of the Elders of Zion when you can cite The Israel Lobby and win eager nods from academics and commentators? Why deny the Holocaust when you can throw it back in the Jews’ faces by fictionalising Gaza as a concentration camp? Why hurl rocks at a Jew in the street when you can hurl endless vexatious UN resolutions at Israel?

The Left’s unhinged antipathy towards the State of Israel has let loose ugly sentiments wholly unmoored from such legitimate criticisms. Israel is execrated as uniquely malignant and its enemies held up as plucky freedom-fighters or victim-idols. Corbyn and his like sup with Hamas and Hezbollah, they say, because we must talk to all sides to resolve the conflict, even the extreme and unpleasant. It would never occur to them to invite representatives of the Jewish Defence League to Parliament or to count Baruch Marzel or Michael Ben-Ari as “friends”.

Why don’t the policies of the Chinese government in Tibet or against the Uighurs in Xinjiang inspire comparable protests and boycotts?

The problem goes deeper than asymmetry. For too many on the Left, Jewish suffering does not touch them the way Muslim suffering or gay suffering or black suffering touches them. Scrutiny of Corbyn’s associations elicits cries of “smear” or just a collective shrug of the shoulders. It was always going to. We lack a language to talk about anti-Semitism because too many on the Left don’t consider it a serious problem and couldn’t recognise it as readily as racism, misogyny or homophobia anyway.

Those who are questioning Jeremy Corbyn’s associations are dismissed as “extreme Zionists” and yet I struggle to imagine critics of a politician’s links to white supremacists being shouted down as “black nationalists”. The Left gets racism; it doesn’t get anti-Semitism. It’s forever on Cable Street battling a long-gone menace while around the corner thousands march and chant “from the river to the sea”.

Israel has become the Jew of world affairs, affluent, successful, provocatively different.

If only Israel allowed Hamas to build up its terror statelet in Gaza unimpeded, angry Muslim youths wouldn’t riot in the French banlieues. If only Jews were driven once again from Kfar Etzion and Giv’on HaHadasha — this time not in blood but in cushioned, air-conditioned UN buses — there would be no more 9/11s.

To be an anti-Zionist is to say the Jews alone have no national rights. The Left are committed internationalists; they just make an exception for every country in the world besides Israel. Today a European leftist is someone who sees “Jews, get out of Palestine” on a wall and tuts, before scoring out “Jews” and writing “Zionists” above it.

Jeremy Corbyn is not an anti-Semite and nor are most people on the Left. He is a petition-signer who never reads the small-print, a sincere man blinded as so many radicals are by hatred of the United States and Western power. But his ascendancy comes at a time of great upheaval and populist torrents battering the centre-left and centre-right. It is a storm in which the organisation of politics against the Jews could once again prove an anchoring force in Europe.

Corbyn has declared: “We all have a duty to oppose any kind of racism wherever it raises its head, in whatever form it raises its head.” When he is elected Labour leader next month, Corbyn will become a pivotal figure on the international Left. He should use that office to mature his own politics and shepherd his comrades towards a civil and tolerant radicalism.

My only real quibble with Stephen Daisley is his assertion that neither Corbyn nor most people on the Left antisemites. With the wealth of evidence abounding of the outright Jew-hatred of those they associate with, with whom they share platforms and whose acts they condone, can only be blind if they wish to be so.

I don’t see a snowball’s chance in hell for Corbyn to “shepherd his comrades towards a civil and tolerant radicalism”. Daisley is blinding himself with wishful thinking. It’s tempting to follow suit but in order to fight this evil we have to keep our eyes wide open.

The last word goes to words of warning from David Hirsh who presents the Jewish point of view:

What if Corbyn should (G-d forbid) be elected:

The problem, however, is that these current challengers of the Thatcher/Reagan economic consensus appear to be intensely relaxed about anti-democratic politics, so long as it is anti-American; anti-Semitism so long as it is anti-Israel; and jihadi Islamism, which is seen as a defensive response to the real enemy, imperialism.

Corbyn does not understand the distinction between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism, and the distinction does not seem to interest him.

His political support for anti-Semitic movements leads him into a series of encounters with anti-Semitic individuals.

He says he is being smeared by association, a backbencher is busy, anyone who supports liberation movements meets some strange people along the way. But his associations with anti-Semites are not random accidents.

The worry is also that in their response to mounting criticism here in Britain, the Corbyn campaign is happiest denouncing its critics – as Tories, neo-liberals, Zionists or Blairites. It prefers to de-legitimize opponents than to relate rationally to their criticism.

In other words Corbyn’s supporters are tempted by totalitarian methods and practices, as well as alliances and worldviews.

Some Labour activists believe that if Corbyn wins then this will condemn Britain to decades more Tory government. They imagine the dismal fate of a Labour candidate in a general election who is associated with people who hope for the death of British soldiers, with anti-Semites, with homophobes and with woman-haters. But we should not entirely discount a more troubling possibility. Perhaps Corbyn could be successful in knitting together the resentments and the prejudices of those who feel all at sea in today’s frightening world: those who are anti-European Union, anti “Westminster elite,” isolationist, anti-banker, anti-Zionist, anti-American, anti-democracy and pro-conspiracy theory.

And that is the most terrifying vision of all.

Posted in Antisemitism, International relations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

International inspections of Iran’s nuke sites are a sick joke


There has been widespread coverage of the absurd and highly dangerous “side deal” between Iran and the IAEA in which, it turns out, Iran is going to be allowed to inspect itself! Iran itself is going to provide the soil samples or other “evidence” to the international inspectors – who, we must remember, will not be allowed to inspect anything without at least 24 days advance notice. This side-deal makes a mockery of the entire “Plan of Action” of the P5+1.

In truth the Plan should be renamed “the Plan of Inaction”.

Below is an excellent report by Dan Miller on the subject of the international (lack of) inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites. I’m reblogging it because I couldn’t do it better than him.


Originally posted on danmillerinpanama:

Over the past few days, Iranian officials have confirmed that international inspections of its nuke sites will be severely limited if permitted at all. This post provides excerpts from recent articles quoting them. 

Iran’s nuke sites

The restrictions noted in this post are in addition to previously disclosed prohibitions on access by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to military sites, which Iran itself will inspect instead. Even The Daily Beast has mentioned this problem in reliance on an Associated Press article which states,

All IAEA member countries must give the agency some insight into their nuclear programs. Some are required to do no more than give a yearly accounting of the nuclear material they possess. But nations— like Iran — suspected of possible proliferation are under greater scrutiny that can include stringent inspections. [Emphasis added.]

The agreement in question diverges from normal procedures by allowing Tehran to employ its own experts and equipment in the search for evidence…

View original 1,624 more words

Posted in International relations, Iran, Mideast news | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Good News Friday

I can’t believe a week has gone by and my holiday is but a (not-so-distant) dream. But here we are again, time for a Good News Friday installment.


9 lone soldiers make Aliyah on the August 17 Nefesh B’Nefesh Aliyah flight from New York. (photo credit:SHAHAR AZRAN)

We’ll start with some wonderful Aliya news. A planeload of 232 American olim made Aliya this week, amongst whom were 59 young people arriving to serve in the IDF as lone soldiers:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a planeload of 232 immigrants from North America on Tuesday that he is proud of them for leaving behind the creature comforts of their previous homes to become a part of the Jewish state.

The immigrants arrived aboard a Nefesh B’Nefesh aliya charter flight. They included 29 families with their 75 children as well as nine couples and 86 singles, including 59 who will be joining the IDF as lone soldiers, without close relatives in Israel.

“This land is your land,” Netanyahu told the immigrants in a videotaped message. “You have exercised your right to become active participants in Jewish history, making Israel stronger and yourselves stronger.

“Think about your fathers, grandfathers and the past 14 generations who hoped and prayed to come next year to Jerusalem,” Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky told the crowd. “You did it. You are part of history.”

Sharansky told The Jerusalem Post at the event that although he had greeted countless immigrants, he was still touched by every each planeload that comes.

“Every immigrant who arrives completes a 2,000-yearold journey,” he said. “Here we have the completion of 232 2000-year-old journeys, so it’s extra special.”

The new group of lone soldiers will join 850 others from the US, and 2,800 lone soldiers from around the world.

Nefesh B’Nefesh, in cooperation with Friends of the IDF, cares for thousands of them through the Lone Soldiers Program, which offers guidance, and support during each stage of their service: pre-immigration, pre-recruitment, active military service, after release from the army, and during adjustment to civilian life.

The emotional highlight of the event came when Nefesh B’Nefesh founder Rabbi Yehoshua Fass read an essay from Adina Karpoch, 19, from Atlanta, one of the lone soldiers who said she was inspired to make aliya by singer Idan Raichel’s music. Fass then invited Raichel to sing with his band to the immigrants.

Raichel told the crowd that although he was only committed to sing a couple songs, he would sing more because he was so proud of the new Israelis.

Just reading this story brings a happy and tearful smile to my face. When we tire of local politics, fear violence from our neighbours and get frustrated by international pressure, seeing the emotions and hearing about the feelings of the new Olim and admiring the self-sacrifice of the lone soldiers puts our whole experience back into its proper proportions and reminds us why we came here in the first place.

Kol hakavod to all the Olim, we wish you ברכה והצלחה, blessings and success on your new life in Israel.

Felix and Feiga Bandos who made Aliya in their 90s

Amongst the Olim this week were a rather different couple – the Bandos couple who are in their 90s, proving that it’s never too late to make Aliya!

Sixty-eight years ago, Felix and Feiga Bandos got married at the former Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, at the time a displaced persons camp in Allied-occupied Germany.

Last Thursday, at the ages of 94 and 90, respectively, they have made a new home in Israel across the street from their daughter, Marilyn Broder, in the heavily English-speaking settlement of Efrat.

Felix, a Polish survivor of the Lodz Ghetto who later made his way across Europe in a hegira that took him to Soviet Russia, Italy, Germany, Sweden and finally America, had always wanted to make aliya.

Only 19 when he was incarcerated in the ghetto in 1940, he was still a young man when the war ended and he resolved to make his way to what was then Mandatory Palestine.

“Right after the war, I tried to go to Israel and it didn’t work out. I had some problems to get there, it wasn’t legal,” he recalled, describing how the Allied occupation authorities expelled him from Italy, where he sought transport to the Middle East.

“It didn’t work out too well,” he mused. “That’s why I ended up in Bergen-Belsen…I had no place to go right after the war.”

It was there that he met Feiga, a young survivor from Lithuania.

“I used to come here very often to visit grandchildren, my cousins, and my great-grandchildren. And I’m getting older,” he said.

Noting that his health is not the best and that traveling is getting harder, he said he “decided to come to Israel and stay in Israel for the rest of my life.”

Feiga agreed, saying she is very happy to be here.

“So far it looks to be okay. We have family to help us and bring us around. Thank God my daughter helps us out.”

Broder, however, takes no credit for their aliya.

“I helped them with the actual stuff, like packing up the stuff. They did their own aliya visas. When I saw they did that, I knew they were serious. I saw that this was something they really wanted to do. I helped them implement it, and this is all their own doing. I always dreamed and wanted them to come, and I’m thrilled that this was their initiative.”

“It’s been a dream of mine for the past 35 years that’s been finally fulfilled,” she added.

Watch this video clip of their arrival (via Evelyn):

What a wonderful heart-warming story! After all their trials and tribulations the Bandos family finally made it to Israel. I wish them many long years of good health and joy with their family in Efrat.

Moving now to Israel’s hi-tech sector, there is never a shortage of good news. How could there be when Israel is the 3rd most innovative country in the world according to the World Economic Forum!

Israel is the 3rd most innovative country in the world

The prestigious Wired Magazine also declared that “Tel Aviv is where the money is” and picked out Israel’s 10 hottest startups.

To illustrate Israel’s success in this field, 400 young science students from 70 countries gathered at Hebrew University:

The students came everywhere from Ecuador to China, including some from Muslim countries, and were hosted by the Foreign Ministry. The students were enthralled by Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Givat Ram campus and by 15 Nobel Prize and Wolf Prize laureates from both Israel and abroad who explained how they had become scientists and what they had discovered. The conference organizers hope that the participants will act as “scientific ambassadors of goodwill” for Israel when they return home.

Among the initiators of the World Science Conference Israel (WSCI) was Prof. Roger Kornberg, the Stanford University biochemist and expert in structural biology who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2006 for his studies of the process by which genetic information from DNA is copied to RNA.

He is a frequent visitor to Israel with his closest collaborator and Israeli-born wife, Prof. Yahli Lorch, a Hebrew University graduate, Stanford geneticist and daughter of the late historian and Knesset clerk Netanel Lorch.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met the Nobel Prize winners later in the day, and said the Jewish penchant for inquiry, for inquisitive minds, has been its key to survival, and is also its key to the future. The only way a small people like the Jews and a small state like Israel can “keep on beating the odds” is to “make our capabilities – scientific, economic, culture – more powerful, more successful.”

This is something Israel is currently doing in the field of cyber-security, which Netanyahu said will be a “growth engine for at least 50 years.”

The audience was entranced by the modesty of the three Israeli Nobel laureates as they described their humble family backgrounds and their individual realizations that they were “on to something” despite often facing skepticism from colleagues.

Israel’s Nobel Laureates

Those three Israeli laureates were Prof. Ada Yonath, a Weizmann Institute crystallographer (joint 2009 Chemistry Nobel laureate); Prof. Robert (Yisrael) Aumann (mathematician who conducted work on game theory and was the 2005 Economics laureate); and Prof. Aaron Ciechanover, a physician and biologist who shared the 2004 Nobel in Chemistry for work on ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation with his Technion mentor Prof. Avram Hershko and US colleague Prof. Irwin Rose.

What a wonderful meeting of minds! May all those young scientists go back to their countries bringing messages of goodwill from Israel.

The Valiber spoon to measure sweetness

One ingenious new invention from Israel is the Valiber spoon that measures the sweetness of the food you are eating – an invaluable aid for diabetics and dieters:

To reduce obesity and sugar levels, one possible answer is to increase people’s awareness of what is on their plates and in their beverages. Israeli startup Valiber has developed a spoon-like tool that measures the exact levels of sweetness found in drinks and foods. Valiber’s Val meter is called “the swizzle,” which includes a spoon and a corresponding mobile app that shows sweetness levels.

Valiber founder and CEO Yuval Klein took issue with the way we currently measure and describe sweetness: “One cup of coffee with two spoons of sugar might be good for one person, but is too sweet for another,” he tells NoCamels. And so, in 2013 Valiber began to develop the “Val” scale to quantify sweetness.

The Val scale is a method of measurement based on the sensitivity threshold of individuals, starting at zero, which means no sweetness. 1 Val (3.4 grams of white sugar) has been identified by Valiber’s team as the point at which people truly taste sweetness. A can of Coke, for example has a whopping 34 Vals, and a glass of orange juice contains 27 Vals.

How sweet is too sweet? 

With Valiber, consumers can easily learn exactly how much sugar is too much sugar, or the point at which adding more sugar really makes no difference. In other words, why add two teaspoons of sugar when one is enough for you? Pinpointing the desired level of sweetness can significantly lower the amount of sugar we consume, according to Valiber.

This really is a very clever idea. I hope the developers manage to find the necessary funds to fully develop and market the spoon.  I’m sure it will be a huge success.

Rotem the sand cat and her kittens

To conclude this week’s post I bring you a sweet little story from the Ramat Gan Safari Park. No, this does not include rampaging rhinos or awkward ostriches.   :-)  This time we are talking about the unexpected birth of baby sand cats, an animal that was thought to be extinct besides the one surviving couple – who didn’t like each other!

It’s just as well for the sand cat species that personal taste isn’t a prerequisite for procreation, it seems. Rotem, the only surviving sand cat at the Ramat Gan Safari Park, lost her mate a year ago and seemed rather repulsed by Kalahari, his replacement, a sand cat imported from Sweden last September.

Maybe he put a bag on his furry head, because three weeks ago, to the astonishment of Rotem’s keepers, she gave birth to three kittens, who have now started to totter on their tiny legs beyond the nest.

Sand cats are extremely endangered. Indigenous to Israel and Jordan, they are extinct in the region, though another sub-species may still exist in the desert wastes of North Africa. Of the local sand cat species, Felis margarita (also known as “dune cats”) only 200 remain – all in Europe’s zoos.

So, when Rotem’s original mate Sela died, the Safari people began combing the world’s zoos for a replacement and last September, chose the husky male Kalahari, 3, from Sweden.

It was not love at first sight.

“We had expected that after the two young cats had met and been exposed one to the other properly, they would take to one another, but they didn’t,” says Horowitz. When put together during the day, the cats neither locked lips, nor talons for that matter. “They didn’t engage in hostile actions – they didn’t expose fangs, for instance,” she says. “What happened is we put them together – and nothing happened. They would look at one another but kept it platonic.”

Finally, reluctant to ask Sweden if their cat had a problem, and despite being concerned about war in the wee hours, the keepers decided to leave the cats shut up in the same room for the night.

“We don’t normally do that with sand cats because they’re so rare, and if they fight they could badly hurt each other,” Horowitz explains.

Lo, they did notice that Rotem had grown rather rotund. And three weeks ago, the keepers arriving for their day shift saw three furballs in Rotem’s den. She is proving to be an excellent mother, they say.

Her mating with Sela of blessed memory had occurred in the cats’ open area, because they hadn’t been left alone for the night, so Rotem’s two previous pregnancies (after 60-69 day gestation) had been anticipated. Nobody had observed the union with Kalahari, but there aren’t many other options to explain the kittens.

All together now… Awww! :-)

There is a gorgeous video of the sand-cats at the Guardian (yes, I know).

Mazal tov to the sand-cat family! May your family grow to many more sand-cats, which together with the latest Aliya statistics thus increase both our human and animal potential. :-D

With all that good news I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in Academia, Israel news, Slice of Israeli life, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment