Thursday, December 31, 2009

All of Israel's Arab MKs Attend anti-Blockade, Pro-Hamas Rally

If it was just anti-blockade, it would be one thing.

But MK Taleb al-Sana of the Islamist/nationalist Ra'am-Ta'al party actually helped Ismail Haniyeh deliver a message to the rally

Some 1,000 people, among them all of Israel's Arab MKs and community leaders, gathered Thursday at the Israeli side of the Gaza border to express solidarity with the residents of Gaza, one year after Israel's offensive there. MK Taleb A-Sana relayed Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh's message to the Israeli side via a mobile phone.

During the rally, Israeli Arab MK Jamal Zahalka directed harsh criticism at Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who he said enjoys "classical music and killing children in Gaza."

Zahalka is a member of the nationalist Balad party; but presumably the national communist Hadash MKs were there as well; however, I assume that "Arab MKs" left out the Druze.

Everything else aside, they are doing the best they possibly can to make Yisrael Beitenu more powerful and look correct.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Hebrew U Correctly Prevents Leftist Incitement on Campus

The largely Arab and communist Hadash party was going to hold a 'conference' to commemorate 'dreadful and damned Zionist war', referring to Operation Cast Lead on the Hebrew University campus.

Hebrew University quashed it.

"The institution permits political activity as long as it does not violate Israeli law and does not go against the university's principles."

Just like some rightists (for instance, Yoaz Hendel, recognize a hard line needs to be taken against rightist incitement, it's also important to recognize the same regarding leftist incitement. I think that both of them, given the context that is Israel, would be blockable under similar U.S. standards like Brandenburg

The Haredi Pyramid Scheme

One interesting question about the Haredim is how they pay to live, given that so few of them work.

Apparently a pyramid scheme has been going on for a while

Few people know about the pyramids of haredi (ultra-orthodox) free-loan societies (Gma"chim), charitable funds which do not necessarily rely on generosity of donors (whose numbers have diminished in the past couple of years), but which answer the question: how do haredim pay for the apartments that they buy for their large numbers of children.

To obtain money (tens of thousands of dollars) from a free-loan society, partly as a loan and partly as a grant, the average haredi borrower puts aside a much smaller sum (a few dozen dollars) toward the free-loan society when a child is born or shortly thereafter. In this way, money coming in from young parents immediately goes out to older parents who have to marry off a child. With the haredi population's impressive growth rate (about 6% per year) the model has worked marvelously as the pyramid has a growing base.

Of course, all pyramid schemes eventually fail, and the people at the base really get it socked to them. According to the people over at Vos iz Neias, the s**t is about to hit the fan here, thanks to the convergence of a whole bunch of factors. These factors include:

  1. Child Allowance Cuts-The last time the non-Haredi public rebelled was in the 2003 elections, giving 15 seats to the secularist Shinui party. One of the biggest measures they got done was on the financial side in terms of child allowances. See, before May 2003, the government gave far, far larger allowances per child to those families with more children. These families were pretty much all either ultra-Orthodox or Arab. However, whoever it was, this was still an obscene policy. Back in 2003 before the initial cuts, a family with one or two children got 146 Shekels (at the time, about $30) in child allowances per child per month. A family with 8 children, however, got 508 shekels (at the time about $106) per child per month. The law has gradually phased that out. Today, any additional child born after 2003 causes a family to get a flat additional 159 shekels per month, while the rate increases for pre-2003 births have flattened.
    This hurts the Haredi pyramid scheme on two levels.
    • Less Money Coming In-Of course, they could start working (and will have to do that or starve eventually), but that hasn't had that much of an increase yet; the result is less available cash
    • A decrease in birth rates-Mind, they are still very high, because they still refuse to use birth control or condoms or abstain from sex, their reading of the Oral and Written Torah forbidding such things. However, the number who work is still quite low. Only about 40% of those between 20 and 60 in Beitar Illit and Modi'in Illit, two ultra-Orthodox cities right across the Green Line in the West Bank. In Hadera, a secular city, over 80% of those between 20 and 60 work. And 30% of Haredi men work; the women work in addition to dealing with all of the kids. Mind you, the growth rate is still EXTREMELY high. The Bank of Israel's recent study on fertility and child allowances found that ultra-Orthodox women had a fertility rate of 7.5 in 1996-1999, 7.24 in 2001-2002, and (after the allowance decreases) 6.74 in 2006-2007.

      Mind you, my own Jewish great-great-grandparents back in the old country (although all my great-grandparents were born in Europe [one in France, though his parents were born in the Pale, and the other 7 in the Pale of Settlement] I believe a few of them had more children here) also had a very large number of children, at least the four who I know for sure brought their entire families over here. But that's for another post, and at any rate, back when they were born, it was not always clear how many children would survive, and of course the world was less populated. Also, they all worked for a living, or at least one of them did.
  2. The Economic Crisis-Since some of course do work, it's hitting Haredim as well, and those ones have less to give communally
  3. Housing Prices-Housing Prices in many places are high

Anyway, apparently it's coming to a head now.
It is good that it is happening now, because the longer it takes to occur, the more screwed the state of Israel will be.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

How Will Airlines Deal With Rectal Bombers?

One thing that did not get nearly the media attention the Nigerian bomber did is possibly the worst threat-the rectal bomb.

In "Hatred is the Mother of Invention"

One of the growing threats facing airline security is bombs carried inside the body, which may be able to evade conventional scanners. In August an Al-Qaeda militant passed through several airport security checks with a bomb hidden in his rectum.

After taking two flights he detonated the device at the private palace of his target, a prominent Saudi prince. The blast blew the bomber to pieces and left his arm embedded in the ceiling but failed to kill his target.

Security officials admit there is little screening technology available to stop people hiding bombs in bodily orifices. “It’s one of the industry’s biggest concerns,” said a source.

That is a bit of a kink in the rectal bombing methodology. However, generally the human body is better equipped at expelling things from the rectum than stuffing things in there. One assumes that the next rectal bomber will take actions to make that happen.

Even Naked Air, as Thomas Friedman suggested years ago, would not prevent the rectal bomber, so this will be tough to solve.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Haredim Stone a Car in Jerusalem

Now, of course, that sort of thing has been going on for a long, long time in Haredi neighborhoods on Shabbos. Certainly I remember hearing plenty about it when I was in Israel from June-August 1997.

Ramot neighborhood, Jerusalem;

Of course, that doesn't make it any more acceptable.

Friday, December 25, 2009

On Sheikh Jarrah

As much as I wholeheartedly disagree with settlers and settlements in general, I have to differ with leftists regarding Sheikh Jarrah.

It's true that it is currently inhabited nearly entirely by Palestinians. However, the important thing is not so much the small (only a few thousand at most) Palestinians who live there as is the area surrounding it.

Directly to the north are a whole bunch of Israeli government buildings (the Ministry of Building and Housing, among others) as well as Jewish neighborhoods up to Route 1. The Green Line is directly to the west. Directly to the East is Mount Scopus and the Hebrew University enclave, which is also internationally recognized as part of Israel.

Directly to the South is the American Colony, Wadi al-Joz, and Bab al-Zahra. However, just south of that is the Old City and Mt. Olives. Israel will not under any conditions be giving up any of the Old City. It's just not in the possible scheme of things. Widespread international sanctions, whatever, will not change that. If the Israeli government agreed to such a plan, it would without a doubt spark a civil war and Palestinians would almost certainly end up driven entirely out of the Old City; this could well end up sparking a World War given what would happen on the Temple Mount in such a situation and how I assume Islamic governments would react.

As such, it is frankly anti-peace for Ir Amim to be saying something like this, since it pushes Palestinians to think they might get a part of it, and since Israeli control of it has no real effect on the viability of a Palestinian state and will not be given up without a fight by Israel, pushing such an idea is harmful to ending the conflict.

These plans complement government efforts to ring the Old City with Jewish development, effectively cut it off from Palestinian areas, unilaterally create an integral population link between the Old city and West Jerusalem and thwart the feasibility of future agreed-upon borders for Jerusalem in the context of a two-state resolution

So, really, Sheikh Jarrah will stay under Israeli control. I would urge its residents to get Israeli citizenship (as East Jerusalem residents, they all have that option; most have deliberately chosen to keep the status somewhat equivalent to the U.S. notion of 'permanent resident/Green card holder') and try to assimilate as best they can; that goes for other Arab Israelis as well. I would urge Jewish Israelis to help them assimilate, and accept them warmly.

Now, as for the land ownership dispute, frankly I'd want to be able to speak and read Arabic and Turkish (or whatever language the Ottomans spoke and used) and frankly have better Hebrew as well, in addition to knowledge on document forgery, plus the ability to personally view the facts before I came to a conclusion, since I don't trust anyone involved.

However, the sentiments espoused by Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Pepe Allalo of Meretz are no less racist than those espoused by the disabled children's parents protest the other day or Avigdor Lieberman or the communal settlements that prohibit non-Jewish residents. At least these ones are:

The issue here is not legal – who does or doesn't own the property. This is an Arab neighborhood in
everyone's opinion and only Palestinians should live here. The residence of Jews here is a provocation and harmful to the calm in the city

Of course, his remarks about the Haredim going wild are right on. Update: I actually went to Sheikh Jarrah in the summer of 2010 and my thoughts on this post no longer reflect my current views.

If Kadima Disbands, where will its MKs go?

Of course, it may not fully disband at all, even though it does seem like the beginning of the end. Interestingly, Ha'aretz thinks that Netanyahu is pushing hard right now because, of all things, he thinks a Lieberman indictment (which has supposedly been "close" for well over six months) is finally "imminent," and it would cause Beitenu to leave the coalition.

This is kinda too bad, I was hoping this was as a buttress in the case of a rightist (or Haredi) breakaway from the coalition. The latter would be if my hope of actually getting tough on the Haredim happens; not just the 'insufficiently modest' women-beating, racist (against their fellow ultra-Orthodox Jew, even), Shabbos-rioting "minority", but against the entire non-working, non-serving, unacceptably educating in regard to future employment majority.

Or in the former case, if the peace process starts moving and, say, Habayit Hayehudi and the rightist elements of Beitenu and Likud leave the coalition. Though all of Beitenu might leave if Lieberman wants it, if he gets indicted, the party might split. In that case, maybe Sofa Landver, Danny Ayalon and some others might stay, who knows?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Residents of Immanuel settlement unaware of Barack Obama's existence

At least I have to assume so, based on this quote from a resident:
"No court ruling or Education Ministry decision can bring the two groups together," an Immanuel resident said Wednesday.
"It's like putting Americans and Africans together. They can't study together with such huge mental differences,"

Of course, American Stanley Ann Dunham and African Barack Hussein Obama did, in fact, study together at the University of Hawaii back in the early 1960s, as that is where they met, and as a result, our 44th president was conceived and born (in whatever country the Birthers are currently claiming, of course). On the other hand, I guess what they were doing wasn't exactly studying, so maybe the resident was making a sly joke.

I doubt it, though. After all, the settlement in question, Immanuel, is an all-Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) settlement located deep in the West Bank; as such, unlike the huge Beitar Illit and Modi'in Illit right on the border, it hasn't grown rapidly. In fact, unlike the West Bank as a whole, it has the same population it had 18 years ago. The "two groups" mentioned here are ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi girls and ultra-Orthodox Sephardi girls.

This controversy (or, as the Ashkenazi Haredim would say, cawnsroyversy) has been going for several years, every since the Bais Yaakov/Beit Yaakov created "two schools under one roof" in 2007 by separating the Ashkenazi and Sephardi schoolgirls.

A lawsuit was filed early on, at the behest of the residents, because it was not (just like it never is) "separate but equal"

Elyashiv Aharon, deputy chairman of the United Council of Sephardi Communities in Emmanuel, said that while the town's Sephardi residents would prefer that their children study with the Ashkenazi pupils, they were not opposed in principle to segregation.

"But the way it was done was brutal," said Aharon. "They gave Sephardi girls the impression that they were second-rate human beings. Girls came home from school crying. It was a trauma that is liable to have a lasting impact on those girls' lives."

In 2008, there were threats that the school would lose its license, but they were never followed through.

More recently, the government has been more active in trying to integrate the school. As a result, a whole bunch of the Ashkenazi girls have been skipping schools. Mind you, the Bais Yaakov schools in Israel teach precious little useful (i.e. secular) information anyway, so it's not such a big loss.

However, the entire thing is really disgusting, even for Haredim. We're all Jews, after all. Jeez, maybe they should use those soldiers who don't want to expel Jews from the settlements to instead forcibly integrate the school a la the American South.

Kadima Disintegration Begins: Who's Next?

So 6 MKs from Kadima, which could end up at 10 or more, are apparently defecting from Kadima.

So far, we've heard Eli Aflalo, Ronit Tirosh, Otniel Schneller, Aryeh Bibi, Shai Hermesh, Yulia Shamalov Berkovich and probably Ze'ev Bo'im (in the above article) as well as Yisrael Hasson and Ya'acov Edri in an earlier article.

That makes 9. 5 of them are in the 6 lowest ranked on the Kadima list of those who got elected. Tirosh, Edri and Aflalo are in the middle, and Bo'im is near the top.

The interesting thing is that this split is happening even though it's not being led or orchestrated by Shaul Mofaz. Back during the summer, the Knesset was discussing the "Mofaz Bill, which would allow seven MKs to split from their party to form an independent faction. This was called as such because people expected Shaul Mofaz and some of the more rightist Kadima MKs to take advantage of it.

But of course, Kadima is hardly the only party to be having problems keeping itself together. The four "Labor rebels" (Eitan Cabel, Ophir Pines-Paz, Yuli Tamir and Amir Peretz) are still trying to get a fifth Labor MK so they can form a new faction under the 1/3 rule (perhaps Meretz is still too far to the left for them, I dunno; also, there are more of them then there are Meretz MKs, so Meretz might not take kindly to it), though they've been unsuccessful these last few months.

And, though Likud hasn't had those kinds of problems, it's still got some. After all, Likud's right flank has been rather angry about the declaration of a Palestinian state, the settlement freeze, and the Har Bracha hesder yeshiva delisting. The nuts in the National Union have been trying to woo seven Likud MKs to their side since then, so far without success.

Top on the list would be 31-year old MK Tzipi Hotovely. A religious single law student (for a doctorate, which is more than is necessary in Israel, where law is an undergraduate degree as I think it is in many other countries) who is also an MK, she definitely puts the "hot" in Hotovely. Yes, I'm aware Hotovely begins with a ח (Het), but I don't care.

At any rate, after HOTovely, the next candidate would presumably be Danny Danon. MK Danon has led the intra-Likud fight against the settlement freeze. He immediately convened a rally against it even before the Yesha council. He's tried to get Peace Now declared a criminal organization. He's backing the nutty even for settlers settlers in Ma'ale Levona in their physical attacks on the Border Police

Other potential targets include Yariv Levin (more) and six other Likud MKs who apparently opposed the freeze (there was a 7th, but Ayoub Kara is not a realistic target for joining the National Union, since unlike Beitenu they don't make an exception for the Druze in their even more extreme [and generally religious in nature] nationalism), Zeev Elkin, Miri Regev, Ofir Akunis, Tzion Pinyan, Carmel Shama and Haim Katz. Elkin lives in the West Bank and has moved right after initially being part of Kadima. Katz ironically was briefly in Amir Peretz's Am Ehad party and spent most of his career as a highly active (and eventually highly ranking) trade unionist.

Benny Begin, who was in the National Union in its first time in the Knesset (1999), might be a possibility as well. However, he actually voted for the settlement freeze, and earlier in the year helped kill the "nakba bill" on free speech grounds. I think either he's gotten more sane or the settlers have gotten more insane (or both); or maybe his father's territory giveaway is rubbing off on him-who knows?

Actually, with the Kadima disintegration (especially should the desired new independent faction end up joining Likud), maybe they'll all get fed up. I guess we'll have to see.

Four of the Seven Kadima 'Traitor' MKs: Yisrael Hasson, Tirosh, Schneller, Edri

From the Jerusalem Post:

Kadima MK Yoel Hasson wrote to Attorney-General Mehahem Mazuz on Wednesday night, asking that he look into allegations of bribery in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's reported efforts to recruit Kadima MKs into the coalition.
Kadima leader Tzipi Livni.

"In the last 24 hours, details have been published in the media that that prime minister tried to recruit MKs from Kadima into his leadership," Hasson wrote.

The Kadima MKs in question were Otniel Schneller, Ronit Tirosh, Yisrael Hasson and Ya'acov Edri.

I'd already guessed Schneller in my last post on the subject.

Yisrael Hasson was actually affiliated with Yisrael Beitenu before November of last year. Ya'akov Edri was one of the original Likud MKs to jump to Kadima. I dunno about Ronit Tirosh.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Awesome: Hipsters and Hassids blog

A (by her picture and first name; though she can't be too frum if she uses the Internet to blog and even posts a picture of herself, even if her hair's covered) frum female freelancer from Brooklyn has started a blog to help her with her research for a book she's writing on the Hasids [primarily Satmar if I'm not mistaken] and hipsters duking it out in Williamsburg.

One of the interesting things Mrs. Sudin might want to consider is how many of the hipsters (particularly the Jewish ones) had great-grandparents or great-great-grandparents who lived in Jewish Williamsburg while Hasidim were all in Eastern Europe and disdainful of the goldeneh medina and Zionist settlement in Eretz Yisrael.

I've been told by some people that I could, with the right clothes, pass for a member of either group in Williamsburg. As it so happens, my family did used to live in Williamsburg.

Of course, when I say used to, I'm talking about as much as 100 years ago. My great-great-grandfather (mother's father's father's father) and his family lived at 273 South 1st Street back in 1910; he later moved the family to Forest Avenue in the Bronx where he was the rabbi of a shul. Other family members lived elsewhere in Brooklyn at various times (and my second cousin lives there now, I believe in Park Slope). My mother's father's mother's family lived in the southwest of East New York (just a few blocks east of the Brownsville border) at 660 Williams Avenue.

But it's all good.

Conversion-revoking Haredi Rabbi Leib Tropper Has Affair with Shiksa!

Mind, she was in the process of converting to Judaism, but it's still pretty hilarious.

Rabbi Leib Tropper sex-tape hottie-sharing

Or, for the original scoop, Scott/Shmarya Rosenberg of the Failed Messiah blog, well-known for his coverage of the Rubashkin trial:

There are five tapes, which can be listened to on Youtube. The first one is here:

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

A woman in the process of converting to Judaism told that a well known and powerful ultra-Orthodox rabbi who supervises conversions worldwide asked her for sexual favors in return for completing her conversion. The woman alleges the rabbi, Leib Tropper, founder of Eternal Jewish Family, arranged sexual encounters between her and and his wife – encounters Tropper watched. She also alleges Tropper asked her to engage in sexual encounters and have phone sex with other men.

This of course is extremely assur, since Tropper is presumably married.

Unfortunately, the lady in question, Shannon Orand, does not seem to have been dissuaded from conversion.

I say unfortunately because of the type of person she seems to be from her Myspace page.

Heroes The religious Zioniists who put their life on the line everyday to keep God's land holy, and Jewish.

It's chutzpah for a shiksa whose ancestors (recent according to her own page and possibly less recent depending on exactly where in Europe her forefathers are from) spent their time harassing Jews ... to be pretending to be a Jewish nationalist.

But whatever.

Parker Griffith's Party-Switch Not So Big a Surprise

MSNBC correctly notes that it's not as momentous as Specter's switch, since Griffith has been voting with the Republicans on many/most major issues anyway.

However, like Specter's move (and unlike, say, Jim Jeffords' move several years earlier, which was fully ideological) it is based almost entirely on his desire to get re-elected. In fact, it may be even more so than it was for Specter.

After all, when Specter first got elected to the Senate as a Republican back in 1980 as part of a massive influx of new Republicans that allowed them to win control of the Senate, he was hardly the only moderate Republican. Lowell Weicker (later ditched the party and served as Independent Governor of Connecticut), Charles Percy, Nancy Kassebaum, Bill Cohen, Charles Mathias, David Durenberger, John Danforth, Warren Rudman, Mark Andrews, Mark Hatfield, Bob Packwood, John Heinz, John Chafee and Bob Stafford were all very moderate Republicans, and perhaps Ted Stevens, Bill Roth, Rudy Boschwitz and Al D'Amato (and maybe even Bob Dole). This year, it was Arlen, the two ladies from Maine, and then after them, next would be Dick Lugar, who probably wasn't even in the top half when it came to moderate Republicans back then.

On the other hand, even though the Democratic house majority was only slightly smaller (244-191), the majority in the Northeast was much, much smaller, 65 out of 113, 57.5% (as opposed to 76 out of 92 today 82.6%)

Outside of the northeast, the majority was actually larger (55.6%) in the 97th Congress than today (52.8%). This was of course due to the difference in the South, where the voters hadn't made the big switch yet. In the greater South (defined as the 11 Confederate states plus Oklahoma and Kentucky), in the 97th Congress, Dems had 79/121 (65.3%) of the seats; today they have 61./142 (43.0%). The difference is even more dramatic if you leave out the border states of Arkansas, Virginia and North Carolina (which all have a larger percentages of Democrats in their delegations today than in the 97th Congress). 69/96 (71.9%) in the 97th Congress. 44/114 (38.6%) today.

Anyway, outside of the greater South and the Northeast, in the 97th Congress, Dems had 100 of 201 (49.8%), just shy of the majority, while today, they have 120/201 (59.7%). This is, of course, mostly due to the significant Democratic gains in the West

Monday, December 21, 2009

12 Republicans vote against Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act

I'm wondering whether anyone will have the cojones to accuse these 12 of letting the terrorists win.

The bill, introduced by Adam Schiff, does the following (according to the Congressional Research Service)

Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act of 2009 - Amends the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to require inclusion of specified freedom of the press information in the Department of State's annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

Directs the Secretary to administer a grant program to promote freedom of the press worldwide, which shall be administered by the Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

Now, Ron Paul presumably voted against it because he's only for freedom of the press when it comes to his discussion of the high ground speeds obtained by black criminal youth in his political report.

Cloture on the bill--Of course, it's hardly over yet

60-40; a united Democratic caucus vs. a united Republican caucus.

Wow. But we still got the actual vote, the conference, etc. etc. etc. Never too late to get your hopes up prematurely.

Who are the Seven Ship-Jumping Kadima MKs?

Frankly, I don't really have a problem with Kadima disintegrating. At least, so long as Yair Lapid (or someone with views similar to those he expresses in his Ynet column) actually seizes the void and get a party together to do the things he mentions in the linked column (the column itself is kind of a Debbie Downer, unless it's read as a (crosses fingers) precursor to !!!זאת עכשו

Seven Kadima MKs are apparently about to jump ship to the Likud, though the Post notes that every MK they asked (they didn't specify how many they did ask) denied such a thing. Unforunately, even counting the Labor rebels, it's still not enough to allow him to ditch Shas and UTJ and actually get something done.

I would assume Tzachi Hanegbi and Othniel Schneller are one of them, since I'm still not entirely clear why they joined Kadima in the first place. Schneller was Secretary General of the Yesha Council in the 1980's, and still lives in the West Bank, in Ma'ale Mikhmas. While Ma'ale Mikhmas is not one of the 20 settlements I've identified (with a combined population of about 25,000, maybe a bit less) that Israel can't possibly hold onto under any circumstances even under the most minimal contiguous Palestinian state, it is one of the 20 or 25 in the "next lowest ability to hold onto" category.

Hanegbi pretty much only jumped to be with Sharon in the first place.

But who knows. I could be wrong about the two of them, and anyway even if I'm correct, there are five others. I guess we'll see ...

But that doesn't tell us who the other g

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ben Nelson Gives the 60th Vote; Will Lieberman Make it to the Hill Today?

Yeah, I'm totally violating the Shabbos to post this, but as far as I'm concerned, in the capital, Shabbos violate YOU (though technically that's the Israeli capital, not the American one, but I think it's close enough for government work)!

Apparently Ben Nelson has finally agreed to support the healthcare bill after Reid (who himself oppposes abortion rights, but not as vehemently) semi-caved

He did so with stronger prohibitions on abortion than those floated by Senator Casey, contained within Reid's manager's amendment. Under the latest set of provisions, not only would federal funds be prohibited from being used for abortion coverage but states can also prohibit abortion coverage on their exchange.

I guess it's somewhat ironic. With a blizzard in DC on Shabbat, we get to 60 votes with all the Democrats, the socialist, and Republican Olympia Snowe (of course, for a Maineiac like Ms. Snowe, I believe this is short-sleeves weather), while Joe Lieberman's in shul at Kesher Israel.

I wonder whether he'll make it the 3.5 miles or so to the Hill today. He did it during the last snowstorm on Saturday, but this one's a lot worse.

Two Girls, One Copt: Polygamy in the Middle East

Now, technically, this article is about Islam, not Copts (who are Christian). However, it is about polygamy and it was published in Egypt, the ancestral homeland of Coptic Christians (though more and more have fled discrimination). As such, I really could not resist the allusion to the shock video.

Nadine al-Bedair, a Saudi female journalist (though the Saudi female journalist may be more accurate), wrote an article in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm (the Daily Something [my knowledge of a similar Semitic language (Hebrew) isn't helping me figure out the meaning) pushing for allowing women to be polygamous.

Islam, of course, allows four wives to a man, if they're treated equally, though in practice they rarely are. (as a side note, it wasn't always alone in Middle Eastern religions in that respect, though Judaism banned polygamy 1000 years ago at the Rabbinical Synod of Worms initiated by R' Gershon ben Juda. Interestingly, this synod also banned divorcing a woman against her will and the reading of private mail). al-Bedair argues that women should be allowed to marry multiple men, or if not, that significantly greater restrictions should be put on men regarding multiple wives.

Unsurprisingly, her article was pretty much universally denounced, with what I presume was a Muslim Brotherhood (of which Hamas is a breakaway/affiliate) MP filing a lawsuit to shut down the newspaper. The only clerical defender mentioned wasn't technically defending it. Rather, he was saying she didn't really mean it and was just trying to bring attention to the plight of women in polygamous marriages. One hopes that we'll see progress, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Knesset United Against Sheldon Adelson? (Israel Hayom)

While he may well have pissed off most American Jews over the years with his incessant funding of the right-wing lobbying group Freedom's Watch that he founded, I would not have expected this in Israel.

After all, Adelson has given quite a lot to Israel through his foundation: The Adelson Center for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center, $25 million annually etc. to Taglit-Birthright Israel, $30 million to Yad Vashem, etc.

But it seems like his goodwill has run out with his attempt to buy the free daily paper Israel Hayom.

According to Ha'aretz, 19 Knesset members from 8 parties have introduced a bill to ban foreign ownership of Israeli newspapers.

8 parties. That's quite impressive, considering that there are (if I counted correctly) 12 parties in the Knesset, and the 3 Arab parties almost certainly aren't supporting it, meaning that 8 of the 9 Jewish parties have MKs supporting the bill; I would lean towards Meretz or possibly UTJ as the holdout, but I haven't seen for sure and sadly, far too many Israeli websites (including the Knesset's equivalent of were designed for Internet Explorer only, meaning those of us who don't use Windows are out of luck.

However, despite this show of multipartisanship, it is unlikely to pass. This is partly because he and Netanyahu are BFF. The rest has to do with lobbyist power.

Anti-Freeze Oriented Online Game. Settlement Freeze, That Is

A guy named Ami Hanya from Petah Tikva has created a Macromedia Flash game to fight against the settlement freeze in his own unique way.

You can play the game below or or on the original hosted site . Click where it says "משחק חדש" (New Game) to start playing.

Basically, you have to protect the 145 (according to Mr. Hanya; of course, 25 of those are illegal outposts not recognized by the Israeli government) settlements from Bibi and Barak as they drop ice cubes. You have to spear the ice cubes to break them.

As someone who at least before college (and still is, on train rides) was a major gamer, I have to say, it's really not very good. On the other hand, I've never been the biggest fan of Flash games.

As a political statement, it's interesting. Particularly the 145 settlement part-what are the 25???

I played through a bunch of times to see which settlements came up. A quasi-pseudo-random number generator seems to have been used to choose the order of the settlements (the reason I call it quasi is that, as an aspiring cryptographer who should really be working on reading papers/writing his research instead of this, true pseudo-random number generators aren't generally used in random number generation libraries), so by running it a few times, I can find most of them.

After a huge amount of time, I got a surprising result. Several legal settlements do not seem to be present. Settlements left (after finding 136) include Beitar Illit, Modi'in Illit, Ariel, Ma'ale Adumim, Kedumim, Karnei Shomron and Kiryat Arba

it seems he (I suppose appropriately) left out the ones that do have current construction going on [the construction that began before the freeze], while including a whole bunch of illegal outposts in the West Bank and evacuated settlements from Gaza and northern Samaria-but not, for whatever reason, from the Sinai.


Lesson for Secular Progressives: How to Really Fight a War on Christmas

It's December again, time for one of the most sacred annual traditions. I am of course talking about the incessant whining about the "War on Christmas" being conducted by "secular progressives" in the United States.

This year, President Obama's getting flak for his own personal War on Christmas

The card selected by the Obamas announces: "Season's Greetings." Inside, it reads: "May your family have a joyous holiday season and a new year blessed with hope and happiness."

But Rep. Henry Brown, R-S.C., said abandoning Christmas at Christmas is just plain wrong. On Tuesday, he introduced a resolution calling for the protection of the sanctity of Christmas. So far, 44 lawmakers, Democrat and Republican, have co-signed the bill.

"I believe that sending a Christmas card without referencing a holiday and its purpose limits the Christmas celebration in favor of a more 'politically correct' holiday," Brown told Fox News Radio on Thursday.

Yes, Representative Henry Brown seriously introduced a (non-binding) resolution in the House of Representatives to protect Christmas, which currently has 72 Republican co-sponsors as well as Democrat Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, who apparently hasn't been bought off by the nefarious secular progressives yet.

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected for use by those who celebrate Christmas.

Whereas Christmas is a national holiday celebrated on December 25; and

Whereas the Framers intended that the First Amendment of the Constitution, in prohibiting the establishment of religion, would not prohibit any mention of religion or reference to God in civic dialog: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) recognizes the importance of the symbols and traditions of Christmas;

(2) strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas; and

(3) expresses support for the use of these symbols and traditions by those who celebrate Christmas.

Now, it's not entirely clear to me how many Christmas symbols, like an evergreen tree, electric lights, a "frosty" snowman, "Jingle Bell Rock" playing on a mall PA till it drives you insane, etc. have anything to do with any God, but to each his own, I guess.

At any rate, it's not like this is Congress being out of touch with the people. There's a grassroots website, Stand for Christmas, which lets consumers rate how Christmas-friendly, Christmas-negligent or Christmas-offensive a retailer is.

The most offensive retailer at present is "The Gap", which was founded by Donald George Fisher, z"l. That's right, (as if there were a doubt as to who the "secular progressives" are), Mr. Fisher was Jewish, and a major donor to San Francisco Bay Area Jewish causes.
Banana Republic, founded by Mel Ziegler, who seems to be yet another "secular progresive" Yid, is also up there-of course, it's been owned by The Gap, Inc. for most of its existence. American Eagle Outfitters, founded by Mark and Jerry Silverman, need I say more. Old Navy has, from what I can see, always been under the Gap.

Of course, on the other hand, Kohl's is one of the most pro-Christmas retailers, and Max Kohl was definitely Jewish (as were his sons Senator Herb Kohl and Allen Kohl), and Best Buy, the second worst, was founded and is currently run by German descended (I assume) Catholic [to the extent of being on the board of a Catholic university] Richard Schulze. So who knows.

At any rate, American warriors against Christmas would do well to look to Eretz Yisrael to find out how to really bring down Christmas. The Lobby for Jewish Values is really bringing it:

Backed by rabbis, and with the self-righteous air of the American Christian right, lobby chairman Ofer Cohen told the Israeli media that he had considered publishing a list of businesses bold enough to put up Christmas decorations, call for a boycott against them, and - with a little help from Jerusalem Rabbinate - revoke the kashrut certificates of said hotels and restaurants.

The article, however, does not really explain why they're going after Christmas so hard. To clarify, it's not so much because it's non-Jewish as because it's Christianity. Many if not most poseks (interpreters of Jewish law) have ruled that Christianity is an idolatrous religion. I'm not going to get into why, but this is almost certainly the root cause. For instance, this is why Rav Haskel Lookstein got into hot water for having gone to the Interfaith prayer service at the National Cathedral, not just because of the fact that prayer was happening, but even because it was in a church.

“To go into a cathedral, in this case an Episcopalian cathedral in the main sanctuary, is certainly by most accounts not appropriate," the executive director of the RCA, Rabbi Basil Herring, told JTA. "If one wants to visit the Sistine Chapel to view the art of Michelangelo it is problematic.

On the other hand, apparently Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel Yonah Metzger wanted to enter the arsoned Yasuf mosque when he went to condemn the actions, but was prevented by the villagers; i.e. Jewish law had no problem with it. This is because Islam is universally deemed non-idolatrous by Jewish law, due to its steadfast opposition to any sort of visual depictions of religious things, as we of course saw during the Mohammad cartoon controversy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Note to Pamela Geller Regarding General Keith Dayton

Notable conservative blogger and שיקסע (and I'm using shiksa here in the literal sense, since Geller is a fellow Yid) had an interview with Front Page Mag to discuss Obama's Landscape of anti-Semitism

Miss Geller made some curious remarks in this interview:

Then in May 2009 came the revelation that the United States and allied military, under the command of Lt. Keith Dayton, was training 1,500 Palestinian troops.

Would American-trained Palestinian troops one day go into battle against the forces of American ally Israel? It was possible.

This is quite curious. Now, yes, USSC for Israel and the Palestinian Authority Lt. Gen Keith Dayton is indeed training Palestinian troops.

But look at what Jim Zanotti's CRS report from October 8, 2008 had had to say:

Since Hamas gained control of
the Gaza Strip, Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, the U.S. Security Coordinator, has helped with the
training of about 400 Presidential Guardsmen and about 1,000 National Security Forces
(NSF) troops (training for the second of five special NSF battalions planned for the West
Bank began in September 2008) at the International Police Training Center just outside
Amman, Jordan. Most reports agree that law and order have improved where the PA
forces have been deployed, but uncertainty remains (particularly among some Israeli
officials) over the willingness and ability of the forces to incapacitate militants

Now, if I recall correctly, a dude named George W. Bush was president of the United States at the time. I believe he was elected and served as a Republican.

Now, during that dude Mr. Bush's time in office, there were indeed significant concerns over the effectiveness of those forces

As security coordinator between Israel and the PA, US Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton was responsible for training and financing equipment used by the Presidential Guard, Abbas's elite force that was in charge of the Rafah and Karni crossings. During last week's fighting in Gaza, the forces proved their ineffectiveness and together with the rest of the Fatah military and political wing, failed to demonstrate a real opposition to Hamas.

"Dayton's plan completely failed," a senior defense official said. "The Presidential Guards which he was responsible for were easily run over by Hamas."

But the Bush administration didn't listen to Israel; since then, the IDF has had more mixed feelings about the PA security forces trained by Dayton:

Overall, the forces have been successful in cracking down on Hamas as well as other terrorist groups in the West Bank, a senior officer in the IDF Central Command said on Thursday.

"The problem is that now that they are doing a good job they have a lot of self-confidence and think they can venture into areas they are not allowed into," the officer explained.

The article references a PA security officer who was found in Area C just north of Efrat at a junction; from my reading of the map, that would just about be where the border will presumably be based on a plan mostly aligned with the partition fence.

So, how is Miss Atlas gonna shrug this one off?

Quasilateral disengagement from northern Samaria?

Obviously the unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip and semi-disengagement from northern Samaria (i.e. the four settlements in the Jenin and Nablus area) didn't end up working out so well-at least not the full, complete disengagement from the Gaza Strip.

On the other hand, can they do a quasilateral disengagement?

Ari Shavit, Ha'aretz's centrist columnist (in addition to the many left-wing columnnists, they have a centrist and a few rightists), thought that might be possible.

Obviously, it would be dependent on coordination with the PA, and European (and American) active support, unlike Gaza. One of the questions is whether settlements have to be evacuated (rather than just turned over to PA authority), and if so, whether that is just some of the ultra-violent settlements or all of them.

Ari Shavit on "Disengagement II"

Netanyahu has two options. One is Shaul Mofaz's plan: the establishment of a Palestinian state with temporary borders. The second is Disengagement II: the evacuation of about 20 West Bank settlements and their transfer to the Fayyad government. The Mofaz plan has major advantages, but it makes Netanyahu fear unlimited and unrestrained Palestinian sovereignty. This means he might be forced to seriously consider the other option. We can't rule out that in 2010 Netanyahu will find himself pushing a limited withdrawal, just as Sharon did in 2004 and 2005.

Disengagement II will have to be completely different from its predecessor. It will have to be coordinated with the Palestinian Authority and granted European support, and it will have to turn the evacuated area into an economic prosperity zone. It will need to prevent Palestinians from smuggling in weapons and increasing their military might, and must assure Israel's right to self-defense.

The obvious place to do this would be in the northern Shomron. If one evacuates/turns over just six settlements (Kfar Tapuach doesn't allow for "adding" much territory but as a settlement violent even for these settlements standards, it might as well be added), one creates a relatively extensive contiguous Palestinian territory containing Nablus, Jenin, Tubas and Tulkarm as well as a large number of towns and villages.

In the case of these settlements, due to their history of violence, unless any of them truly and legitimately have land that is legitimately privately owned by those living on it (while uncommon, such land does exist, and the state of Israel doesn't really have a right to kick those people off their land except under certain circumstances [i.e. building a needed highway/train line where this is a good route], and I'm not sure this qualifies).

Settlements include:

  • Itamar
    • Population-785 in 2008, 439 in 1998
    • Politics-80% for the National Union in 2009, with 7% for Habayit Hayehudi, 5% for Shas, 4% for Likud, 2% for UTJ; 13% for Jewish National Front and 71% for the NU-NRP union in 2006
    • Violence-Among other things, Itamar's settlers are known for attacking Palestinian olive harvesters; while I think agriculture is a doomed occupation in this region due to climate change, that's for another post; in the past, youths in Jordan Valley kibbutzim, the Tzabar battalion of the Givati Brigade as well as the more usual types (Rabbis for Human Rights, assorted well-meaning but (maybe) naive to insane and anti-Semitic foreign and domestic leftists/anarchists, and of course Palestinians themselves fight back harshly
    • Notable Personalities-Yehoshua Elitzur, who was convicted of manslaughter after he shot and killed a Palestinian, who as far as I can tell is still a fugitive from the law
  • Elon More
    • Population-1315 in 2008, 1030 in 1998
    • Politics-77% for the National Union in 2009, with 5% for Habayit Hayehudi, 5% for Shas, 10% for Likud, 2% for Beitenu; 10% for Jewish National Front and 73% for the NU-NRP union in 2006
    • Violence-Going after the IDF, puncturing jeep tires, attacking Palestinian farmers, attacking "Bibi's inspectors"
    • Notable Personalities-Elyakim Levanon, the settlement's rabbi and head of its hesder yeshiva. The Elon Moreh hesder yeshiva made Aluf Dan Halutz's four-hesder list and then single-hesder list of yeshivas for elimination, but a then-more right-wing Shaul Mofaz didn't approve it immediately and the 2nd Lebanon War sidetracked things. The yeshiva also just barely missed out on Barak's cut
  • Bracha
    • Population-1364 in 2008, 686 in 1998
    • Politics-66% for the National Union in 2009, with 26% for Likud, 2% for Habayit Hayehudi, 3% for Shas; in 2006, 5% for Jewish National Front, 59% for NU-NRP, 31% for Likud/li>
    • Violence-Shot mortar shells at Palestinian villages, donkey-killing (as bad as donkeypunching????)

    • Notable Personalities-Eliezer Melamed, the head of the Har Bracha yeshiva; he's encouraged IDF refusal and basically did his best (by refusing to go to a hearing, renounce refusal, etc.) to get things rolling and make the de-hesderization of his yeshiva happen earlier this week, in what I believe is the first such occurrence.

  • Yitzhar
    • Population-864 in 2008, 291 in 1998
    • Politics-87% for the National Union in 2009, with 1% for Habayit Hayehudi, 4% for Shas, 6% for Likud, 1% for UTJ; 61% for Jewish National Front and 30% for the NU-NRP union in 2006
    • Violence-Pogrom (as an untargeted display of wrath, that's what it was) against Asira el-Kibliyeh after a scumbag f***tard from that village stabbed a 9-year old from the settlement, as well as very frequent attacks on Palestinian farmers; Col. Amir Baram, head of the Samaria brigade mentioned one of the yeshivas there as one of the top violence-creator in the area; numerous other attacks on Palestinians
    • Notable Personalities-Several rabbis [probably pretty much all of the ones there] associated with settlement's two yeshivas. For the Dorshei Yichudcha yeshiva-Yosef Paley has been arrested for incitement to genocide. Yitzhak Shapira, the head of the yeshiva, recently released a book halachically justifying killing Gentile children (if they're deemed to pose a threat now or possibly in the future, which is minimal to no nuance). Yitzchak Ginsburg of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva, originally at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus before the IDF pulled out in 2001, is one of the many absolutely batshit American-born settlers. Born in St. Louis, Missouri to a not-so-religious family, he got ba'al-teshuva'ed in Philadelphia, and later made aliyah and joined Chabad, and I believe he thinks Scheneerson is the Mashiach. His most notable batshitness is Baruch HaGever, praise for Baruch Goldstein's massacre at the Me'erat HaMachpelah
  • Kfar Tapuach
    • Population-867 in 2008, 353 in 1998
    • Politics-In 2009 65% for Ichud HaLeumi, 15% for Likud, 9% for Shas, 8% for Habayit Hayehudi, 3% for Yisrael Beitenu; in 2006, 29% for the Jewish National Front, 50% for NU-NRP, 7% for Shas, 5% for Likud
    • Violence-Since Meir Kahane's son Binyamin moved there in 1990, a hotbed for violence and Kahanism (some dispersal since Binyamin was shot, but still quite strong); notable attacks include Eden Natan-Zeda's Arab bus-shooting at Shefa Amr during the disengagement, and, in my guess (given locations, though I could be wrong) the arson of the Yasuf mosque several days ago
    • Notable Personalities-In addition to Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane and Natan Zeda, Daniel Pinner, an often indicted settler (born in England rather than the U.S., though) gave a very disturbing interview to Ha'aretz recently
  • Shavei Shomron
    • Population-692 in 2008, 592 in 1998
    • Politics-In 2009 54% for Ichud HaLeumi, 20% for Likud, 12% for Habayit Hayehudi, 6% for Beitenu, 3% for Shas; in 2006 8% for Jewish National Front, 69% for NU-NRP, 6% for Likud, 5% Beitenu
    • Violence-Less than most of the others, apparently; ironically, in 2008 a man got arrested for selling (for financial reasons, not ideological) weapons to Palestinians; in 2006 evacuees from Sa-Nur attacked IDF officers; the reason to evacuate this one
    • Notable Personalities-None that I know of

I'll probably write more about this later, but here's a rough map. It combines four different Area A enclaves in the northern West Bank with four or fives Area B enclaves (which would be upgraded to Area A), creating a pretty large enclave. The key is whether it can be gotten to work.

View Palestinian Independent Area Northern Samaria in a larger map

An estimate of the population (as of the 2007 Palestinian Census) in this proposed "Independent Area." (IA) It includes most of the Jenin, Tubas, Tulkarem and Nablus governorates, and a bit of the Salfit governorate. The total population of these four governates was 772,318, about 3/8 of the total West Bank Palestinian population.

Nearly all of the Tubas Palestinian population seems to be in the IA; 47,461 out of 50,261.

For Jenin, the only area missing is the villages around the settlements in northwest part of the governorate. I would say that evacuating those settlements makes sense as well in a final-status agreement, if it does in conjunction with making part of the land exchange vis-a-vis the 1967 borders the I believe very nearly entirely Arab [and I believe largely identifying as Palestinian anyway] (I would personally donate lavishly and fundraise hard to greatly)overcompensate the handful of Jewish Israelis living in the area should something like that happen) area between the Green Line, Route 6, Route 65, and Route 66 (possibly even rerouting Route 65 a bit north around Kafr Qara and Basma). At any rate, it is about 5,000 missing, almost all of that due to the concavity for Hermesh and Mevo Dotan, which are far more secular/less violent and extremist than the 6 above (80% of the vote in Hermesh went to one of the four larger secular parties Likud, Yisrael Beitenu, Kadima, Labour, and 67% in Mevo Dotan the same), so about 250,000 from the Jenin governate.

About 10,400 of the Palestinian population of the Tulkarem governorate is missing, so about 147,500 of the 157,988 people in the Tulkarem governorate are in the IA, so over 95% of the Palestinian population of these three (Tubas, Tulkarem, Jenin) governorates are in the IA.

A few towns of the Salfit governorate are also in the IA. 15,000 of the 59,000

Finally, the Nablus governorate, with about 312,800 of the 320,830 Palestinians.

Note that this probably misses a few thousand rural Palestinians, so the 772,000 total I've counted is probably more like 750,000, which is a nice round number and means about 3/8 of the West Bank Palestinian population is in this Independent Area.

Not bad at all.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Settlers vs. the liberal democratic state, Tzofim

On the other hand, though, Tzofim will remain part of Israel; it would frankly be more helpful to peace if the manpower was spent rebuilding the fence to narrow the amount of land being annexed by Israel (and then letting Tzofim do what it wants in expansion to the West and North (i.e. towards the Green Line); terrain explanations can shove it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

On the Other Hand, US Geothermal just signed a deal

So maybe things are looking up ...

Wind Now Provides Over 2% of U.S. Energy Consumption

I guess that's better than nothing.

It is still absolutely disgusting, though.

Especially since we get a smaller percentage energy from renewable sources today then we did 15 years ago. Mind, this is due to hydroelectric having maxed out at around that time--hydroelectric still provides the bulk (almost 2/3) of renewable energy in the U.S., with carbon-intensive biomass and wood-related fuels providing about 1/8.

And of course this is bad news (both for geothermal and presumably for my portfolio as well ...)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Israel's Welfare Payments

Update: This is ranked high on Google searching for "Israeli welfare" and the like; I should probably just do my Israel blogging here and give up the "Yehudata" blog

Apparently without context, pointing out that both the ultra-Orthodox and Arab parties in the Knesset have generally been staunchly pro-welfare payments is racist.

So here's the context.

Israel's parliament passed an emergency economic plan Thursday, ending a three-month struggle between the Ministry of Finance and the country's main trade union federation over the future of the Israeli welfare state.

The plan, passed by a large majority, cuts $2.3 billion from the $45 billion state budget.
Particularly hard-hit are child allowances for large families - mostly ultra-orthodox Jews and Israeli-Arabs - which will fall by 70 percent over the next seven years, and public-sector employees, who will see an average 4 percent wage cut in 2003 and 2004. (Associated Press Online, May 29, 2003)

Israel had cut child allowances (which we in the United States in our strong allegiance to the free market commonly refer to as "welfare") for large families as a result of a push by Netanyahu. Large families in Israel are overwhelmingly either ultra-Orthodox Jews or Israeli-Arabs.