Guest Post: Good News to start the week

This is another guest post by frequent contributor Brian Goldfarb.

Having had a trip to Israel, to catch up with family and friends (and get to Masada, which we hadn’t been to for 25 years – is it my imagination – or weak memory – but has there been much more archaeology/reconstruction on top of the mount in that quarter of a century? – oh dear, there’s a phrase that makes me feel old!), I’ve accumulated a number of articles on the computer that I feel need bringing to your attention.

Iron Dome in action

First we have this Gatestone Institute article, the headline of which is “Iron Dome: “Rigged Success”?” My personal reaction, on reading the headline and the start of the item, was “well, they would say that, wouldn’t they? And, anyway, who the hell cares what these people think? Not the Israelis, that’s for sure.” I hardly need to tell you, the readers of the articles here, just how successful Iron Dome was: 90% success in shooting down rockets aimed at populated areas; the only civilian casualties were in open areas that no-one could calculate would actually contain people, or, as a personal report told me, would result from a relative of theirs (female) tripping over her very high heels while fleeing her car on hearing the siren, and breaking an ankle. But both her family and I would refuse to credit Hamas with that casualty.

But while we’re all thanking G-d or the outstanding success of technology in the Start-Up Nation (or both), the nay-sayers got to work (it was ever thus):

 “The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists started the skeptical coverage on July 19, 2014 with a story purporting to reveal “The evidence that shows Iron Dome is not working.”

Reuter’s David Axe followed up a week later with a story, complaining on July 25, 2014, “Israel’s Iron Dome is more like an iron sieve.”

On July 31, 2014, the Middle East Monitor entitled a story “It is a lie to say that Iron Dome is Protecting Israelis from Hamas.”

Two weeks later, August 12, 2014, reporter Dylan Scott asked, “For all the Hype, Does Israel’s Iron Dome Even Work?””

So, what happened to bring about this excessively negative response to what everyone else sees as an outstanding success? Consider the following:

 “In America there is a strong anti-missile defense “industry.” Most of the organizations that subscribe to its views are either highly skeptical of missile defenses, or oppose them altogether.

Most have also worked for many years to stop, delay, or defund American missile defense deployments, especially those designed to protect the continental United States as opposed to our allies or forces overseas.

In tracking the success of the Iron Dome, in 2006, before it existed, Hezbollah, in Lebanon, launched 4200 rockets at Israel; they killed 53 people.”

Ah…so it’s either professional jealousy or professional scepticism? In the latter case “we can’t manage this, so it’s impossible for you to have done it”: subtext – if the mighty USA, biggest and best in the world, can’t do it, how can little Israel do it? Actually, quite easily – advanced industrial society, plus extremely real existential threat, plus ludicrously high levels of education equals unparalleled survival instincts (the memory of the Shoah doesn’t hurt much either). In the former case, it’s not so much disbelief as “how the hell did you manage that when we can’t?” and, possibly, please tell us how!

There is possibly also an ideological opposition to the very idea of spending money to protect your population. Such people might believe this to be a genuine waste of resources better spent on other things, but it might not. It does seem quite science fictional, but then I read lots of SF, and I believe in the impossible…especially when Israel is involved in the equation. By the way those of you who live in Israel might try to get hold of Time Out Israel (or at least the English language version). On p. 29 of the print version is a short article on Danny Gold, prime mover in the development of Iron Dome. I’m sure that he believes it works!

Hezbollah operatives carry the coffin of a fallen comrade

The next item gives me great pleasure, indeed, it brought on feelings of schadenfreude when I tell you that the following Times of Israel article about Hezbollah building a security zone immediately brought to mind the idea that this couldn’t happen to nicer antisemitic terrorists, especially as the sub-heading reads:

“As its death toll mounts, the Shi’ite group deploys along the Lebanon-Syrian border to prevent entry of Sunni fighters; has little time to focus on Israel”.

You will, I hope, understand and share my schadenfreude!

The story is, of course, somewhat more complex than that. As Avi Issacharoff, the author, notes:

“Almost six months have passed since the last suicide bombing on the streets of Dahiya, the Shi’ite quarter of Beirut and a Hezbollah stronghold. After a number of lethal attacks from radical Sunni groups, including the Abdullah Azzam Brigade, on Iranian and Hezbollah targets, it appears that the Shi’ite organization has managed, with considerable effort, to stop the attacks, if only temporarily…a major cause for the stabilized security situation in Shi’ite areas is the “security zone” Hezbollah has created on the Syria/Lebanon border. It features a series of permanent bases built by the organization in recent months in order to prevent the flow of Sunni terrorists into Lebanon.”

Not just schadenfreude, then, but also satisfaction that Hezbollah have seen the error of their ways (we can only wish!) and started copying their arch-enemy, Israel – security barrier, anyone? To keep out suicide bombers? And what else will they borrow from Israel: bomb shelters for civilians? You think?

So what are the implications for Israel? Well, as Issacharoff further notes:

“According to various estimates, 1,000 Hezbollah fighters are stationed within the outposts alone. Add to that figure another 4,500-5,000 operating in Syria and battling the opposition forces there.”

So, let’s get this right and do the arithmetic: Hezbollah has lost an estimated 1,000 fighters in Syria (presumably dead, but seriously injured men may not be able to return to the front and might need to be added to the total), plus a further 1,000 in the security zone, plus a further 4-5,000 in Syria on active duty. That’s up to 7,000 fighters not available to make trouble for Israel. How many more experienced fighters do they have on hand for this duty (inexperienced ones just get themselves killed more quickly)? If I add the following, from the article:

“This adds up to a complex situation for Hezbollah. Its members are spread across three countries: in Iraq, from where some of its senior advisers returned in coffins; in Syria, including the neighborhoods of Damascus (primarily around the famous Shi’ite Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque); and, of course, in Lebanon.

Hezbollah still faces plenty of surprises from groups affiliated with al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and the al-Nusra Front, who are aiming to weaken Hezbollah’s position in Lebanon”

Do I need to say any more? As I say at the start of this item “couldn’t happen to nicer antisemitic terrorists”. And, of course, they don’t have the IDF’s accumulated experience in fighting both conventional and asymmetric wars on, if necessary, more than one front at a time. Which is why they have problems. Long may they continue.

Goodness, this is turning into one of Anne’s Good News postings! And the theme continues.

Even the German hard left knows when to reject a (sort-of) Jewish antisemite! This Algemeiner article tells how the successor to the East German Communist Party (Die Linke – The Left – which has become the major opposition party in the German Bundestag with the advent of the Red-Blue Grand Coalition) cancelled an event featuring the American anti-Semite Max Blumenthal:

… an American writer of Jewish origin whose visceral attacks on Israel are widely regarded as anti-Semitic.”

It turns out that Gregor Gysi, the Leader of Der Linke, who is Jewish,

“told the daily Berliner Morgenpost that “the event will not take place.” Gysi reached his decision after Benjamin Weinthal, a Berlin-based journalist who writes for the Jewish and general press, presented him with evidence of Blumenthal’s anti-Semitic activities and writings.”

How so?

“Speaking with The Algemeiner by phone, Weinthal reported that promotional materials for the event had emphasized that Max Blumenthal is the son of Sidney Blumenthal, a confidante and adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton. Sidney Blumenthal’s support for his son’s latest anti-Semitic screed, a book about Israel entitled “Goliath,” led noted scholar and Israel advocate Alan Dershowitz to warn that his stance could create unnecessary problems for any future Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.

Max Blumenthal’s books and articles frequently compare Israel to Nazi Germany…”

If you want to know more about Max Blumenthal, do see Petra Marquardt-Bigman at   for two further, and recent, articles on Max Blumenthal.

Artifacts at the Golan Museum

Onwards. Last year, when I wrote an article for Anne about our visit to Israel with our friends, I noted that we went to Katzrin, on the Golan. It appears that there is a museum there, which, sadly wasn’t open when we visited, and it seems great. We’ll just have to go next time we visit the family in the north. This Times of Israel article , How Judaism thrived in the Golan, has more info (including opening hours) and a number of pictures of exhibits there.

View of the Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet (Photo credit: ESA)

The following article, from The Times of Israel, on the landing of a robot on a comet, yet again prompted me to think that the Start-Up Nation strikes again! I can do no better than go straight into quoting from the article on the successful landing of a probe on a comet which is on a fly-by of the solar system:

Morris Podolak

“If things go as planned, the first-ever spaceship to land on a comet will begin taking samples of the Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet on Wednesday – and those samples will be analyzed by a team with several Israeli members. Among them is Morris Podolak, a professor of Planetary Science at Tel Aviv University, who will help analyze the findings of the Dust Impact Monitor (DIM) experiment that the the Philae lander will be carrying when it is ejected from the Rosetta spacecraft.

In fact, the entire Rosetta project has strong Israeli roots. Among the scientists who developed the idea of building a spacecraft to fly along a comet and send out a probe to its surface was Podolak’s colleague Prof. Akiva Bar-Nun of the Department of Geosciences at Tel Aviv University. Bar-Nun, along with numerous European scientists, was a charter member of the ROSINA (Rosetta Orbiter Sensor for Ion and Neutral Analysis) Group, which designed the craft and developed the experiments it will carry out.”

There’s even a link to  clip of the landing live in the article. Watch and marvel. Note that the first video is an hour long, so it will take some time to get to the actual landing images.

To follow that and keep up the spirit of good news, there’s an interesting take on the laws of Kashrut (the dietary laws that govern just what observant Jews can and cannot eat, and how to prepare the foods that are permitted) in relation to Ebola. This is not to argue that Kashrut can cure Ebola (if only!), but that following such laws can lead to a far healthier diet and general life style. Thus, this article from The Gatestone Institute which is headlined “Ancient Kosher Laws Have Lessons for a 21st Century War against Ebola“, argues just this. Laurence Kadish, author of this piece and a board member of The Gatestone Institute, argues that:

“Centuries ago, with an understanding of microbes and hygiene still far in the future, Jews observed that those who ate meat from sick or dead animals would often fall ill and die. Similar woes could result from animals not consumed in a timely way after being slaughtered. While they didn’t know of trichinosis, they also saw that eating pork could be fatal. Shellfish and fish without scales contained a similar lethal threat. The rich and frothy milk of that time could produce gastro illness when served with meat.”

“While the society was agrarian, life was harsh and painfully short and government was the oppressive rule of hostile royalty, there was an understanding among Jews that certain culinary behavior triggered serious illness. As a result, dietary laws were put into place by an observant community that sought to protect the individual and public health. They were then codified by religious leaders for the purpose of creating a collective societal memory of what the faithful could and could not consume. Rabbis became, in essence, the health department of their time, providing approved animal certification prior to slaughter.”

So, provided you’re not a literalist who believes that the 5 Books of Moses (The Pentateuch, for non-Jews) are actually the word of G-d, this is arguing that empirical observation of the world around them led leaders of the Jewish world in ancient times (and I refuse to put a date on that) to devise dietary rules and regulations (including, for example, a blessing for washing the hands before eating or even handling food) that provided for a better life-style for those who followed those rules. This becomes so “bred in the bone” that our younger daughter, not a particularly observant Jew, nevertheless noted during the BSE/”Mad Cow Disease” scare of the late 1980s that kosher beef came from corn-fed cows. This was because non-kosher cattle, herbivores all, were being fed animal waste, some of which came from sheep with scrapies, which mutated in cattle…

It’s quite possible that the same rules apply to Halal beef and lamb (and Hindus don’t eat beef at all). So guess who was most at risk from infected beef?

Anne adds: Brian, thank you for this extensive and very interesting post, with a great dose of good news to start the week.

Henry Kissinger

I would like to add another item of good news: Following on from John Kerry’s surprising comment that it is too soon for Israel and the Palestinians to meet for talks, no lesser a personage than Henry Kissinger himself, the renowned former Secretary of State, also recommended that Israel should not seek a peace deal with the Palestinians until the Middle East chaos settles down:as he spoke about Israel in uncharacteristically warm words:

Respected statesman and former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger told a New York audience on Tuesday that considering the widespread upheaval in the Middle East, it is a mistake for Israel to pursue a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians.

After describing the regional turmoil, Kissinger advised against seeking a “permanent settlement” until “the fundamental issues that I described here move to some resolution.”

Kissinger also outlined his assessment of the foreign policy landscape and had words of advice for the leaders of the United States. He spoke as an American but with sympathy and reverence for the Jewish state. Speaking at a time in which U.S.-Israel ties have seen significant strain, Kissinger continuously stressed the fundamental importance of the relationship.

“The survival of Israel and the maintenance of its capacity to build the future is one of those principles that we will pursue even if we have to do so alone.”

“It is crucial for the United States to develop a conception of the future that we can sustain over a long period of time,” he said. “And part of that consensus must be a realization that Israel is, has been, a representative of the principles in which America believes. It is the one country on whose geopolitical support America can always count.”

Describing the singular standard to which Israel is held in international diplomacy, Kissinger said, “It is in the unique position that for every other country, the recognition of its existence is taken for granted as the basis of diplomacy. Israel is asked to pay a different price before it is recognized and participates in the international system.”

What a pleasant surprise! Why hasn’t Kissinger been advising his successors more thoroughly? On the other hand, where was this Kissinger in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War? He sounds like his mirror image. Is it old age or genuine regrets that have caused this turnabout in his opinion?

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2 Responses to Guest Post: Good News to start the week

  1. Reality says:

    Brian what a great post.Please come back soon for another visit.You made my day with all these bits of good news! May all the alphabet soup of Muslim jihadists continue killing each other!The world will be a happier place.As far as the iron dome is concerned-who cares what they say?It saved our lives.And if they believe it was more of an iron sieve then the obvious answer is that G-d played His role and saved His chosen people.(I personally believe that anyway,iron dome notwithstanding).
    Kissinger has astounded me! Perhaps he’s become soft in his old age or has decided to atone for past sins? Well wonders will never cease.This proves there is always hope on the horizon.

  2. Brian Goldfarb says:

    Reality, thank you. It’s actually not that difficult to find good news about Israel (and without resorting to hype, either). But then, I have the time, being retired and able to peruse the online papers: I no longer need to worry about the day job.

    As to another visit, we fully intend to: next year (we hope), just after the chagim – while the weather’s still good and when the prices have dropped a little!

    I agree with regard to the alphabet soup of the Islamists and Jihadists continuing to kill each other. Sadly, it’s the (genuinely) innocent non-combatants , those who just want to get on with their lives and don’r give a fig for Israel, Jews, let alone which version of Islam they are supposed to be following (the contrast with most denominations/sects of Judaism and their (general) tolerance for each other is most instructive) that I really feel for.

    These are the people who would make peace in a heartbeat, if they had the chance. But when did ordinary people (outside genuine democracies) ever get top have a real say over how their lives should be led?

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