Another Tack: Hey Diddle, Fatah and the Fiddle

if we only pay up, the cat will ably strum jolly tunes on its fiddle [Arthur Rackham’s illustration, 1913]

if we only pay up, the cat will ably strum jolly tunes on its fiddle [Arthur Rackham’s illustration, 1913]

In her authoritative clipped cadences, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni admonishes those of us who refuse to sweeten Ramallah figurehead Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah cohorts with “daring initiatives.” She sternly disapproves of Israelis who “are not willing to pay the price of a diplomatic arrangement.”

We might of course nitpick and wonder whether a diplomatic arrangement is in fact attainable. And if so, we might further press and inquire why such arrangement hadn’t already been attained.

We might point out that the moderation Livni ascribes to Abbas connotes goodwill and that a minimal supply thereof should have facilitated some arrangement long ago – long before the advent on our scene of Hamas’s religious bad-guys. Secular enemies, as per Livni’s idiosyncratic political lexicon, aren’t quite enemies – certainly not extremists or terrorists.

So why then the absence of peace? Are we to understand that she pins the blame on Israel’s supposed small-minded stinginess?

We could ask in what gospel it’s written that diplomatic arrangements (which are hardly irrevocable) must be purchased with hard territorial and strategic currency (which cannot thereafter be recovered). But since in her world Livni writes the rules, this question is unlikely to be answered. Continue reading

Another Tack: Old Antipathies Die Hard

Feisal I, arbitrarily declared King of Syria and later King of Iraq [1919 portrait by renowned British painter Augustus John]

Feisal I, arbitrarily declared King of Syria and later King of Iraq [1919 portrait by renowned British painter Augustus John]

Why are the White House, Whitehall and hubs of diplomacy in all the capitals of the EU so irascibly indignant over Israel’s decision to declare 400 hectares in Gush Etzion state lands?

Under whichever conceivable future compromise (if any) this minuscule area is sure to remain Israeli, as it was even before Israeli independence.

The Etzion Bloc fell to Arab besiegers in 1948 and its Jewish defenders were cold-bloodedly massacred after they had already surrendered. Destroyed and desolate, it languished under Jordanian occupation for merely 19 years. Nonetheless, the dysfunctional family of nations decrees that for the sake of world peace the Etzion Bloc must forever revert to its brief erstwhile judenfrei status.

Why? Because old antipathies die hard. In some cases they just never die at all, the staggering volatility around us notwithstanding. Otherwise sterling democracies still hold fast to their archaic prejudices despite the dizzying flux and scary savagery of our times – especially in the logic-defying Middle East.

Until lately hardly any statesmen, observers or scholars dared question the region’s national divisions or the borders delineating them. The sole exception, not unexpectedly, was their inimical perception of the Jewish state’s legitimacy.  To all and sundry it seemed that Iraq, Syria or Libya were ancient nations with distinct characters and cohesive identities all their own. Continue reading

Another Tack: Mideastern Mirror Mania

Hamastan lustily celebrated the triumph it proclaimed absurdly among Gaza’s ruins

Hamastan lustily celebrated the triumph it proclaimed absurdly among Gaza’s ruins

Anyone with pretensions to make sense of what parades as reality in the Mideast must first know mirrors. Nothing in this region is what it seems at first glance and that’s as true for Jews as it is for Arabs. In order to figure anything out, it’s essential to first examine the particular mirror used by each side.

The Israeli mirror is illuminated by ultra-powerful and harsh fluorescent beams from any and all possible directions. Theoretically, the resultant reflection is super-true-to-life. However, the intense brightness is unforgiving and uncomplimentary. It seems to bring out and accentuate apparent flaws whose existence in natural conditions is highly doubtful. It makes us look bad even when we strike quite a fine figure.

Overly analytic and always breast-beating, we Jews can take an ordinary mirror and mercilessly turn it into an instrument for searing our own image in our own eyes. That is something we’ve been uniquely accomplished at for thousands of years throughout our long history, going back to biblical days. We always second-guessed and always pondered where we went wrong.

It can be stated with no hesitation that there’s no other nation with an analogous predilection for heaping so much scorn on itself. Continue reading

Another Tack: Genuinely Knocked For A Loop?

The British-bred terrorists before they set out to bomb Mike’s Place - Hanif on the right and Sharif on the left

The British-bred terrorists before they set out to bomb Mike’s Place – Hanif on the right and Sharif on the left

The heart of any feeling human being must go out to the shaken Brits.  They have duly earned our most compassionate commiseration. Out of the blue they were suddenly confronted, most unpleasantly, with the information that American journalist James Foley had been beheaded by a born and bred Londoner. Ouch!

Intelligence analysts at MI5 and MI6 think the decapitator in-the-most-hallowed-name-of-Allah is 23-year-old Abdel-Majed Abdel-Bary, who joined the Islamic State jihad in Syria last year.

The widespread sentiment uttered by the usual politically correct chorus of politicos (whose electoral prospects now to no small measure depend on Muslim votes) was one of utter consternation. It’s a no-no not to chime in with the accepted multicultural babble about the delights of diversity and not to aver that British Muslims are loyal members of British society.  It’s jolly de rigueur to claim that they abide by western codes of democracy and decency.

Hence the declamations of dismay at the nasty surprise that the rapper L Jinny could be “Jihadist John” – the executioner who brought Foley’s life to a cruel end.  Continue reading

Another Tack: Groundhog Day in Gaza

Like the unfortunate Phil, we too seem to be stuck in a repetitive pattern of reenacting the same sickening scenario

Like the unfortunate Phil, we too seem to be stuck in a repetitive pattern of reenacting the same sickening scenario.

Back in 2006 when then-PM Ehud Olmert sent units into battle without sufficient ammo or provisions and all around managed to mismanage the Second Lebanon War, he at one point gloated that victory up north would expedite what he dubbed “Realignment” on Israel’s winding long eastern flank.

That was to be his sequel to the unilateral Disengagement from Gaza a year earlier.

At the time, Olmert’s indiscreet blabbing set off a ground swell of protest among troops who didn’t take kindly to the notion that they would sacrifice life and limb to advance Olmert’s consensus-breaching political agenda. In the view of too many soldiers in harm’s way, the idea of shedding their blood to extend the by-then-obvious Gazan disaster to Israel’s most densely packed population centers wasn’t an appealing prospect.

But some subplots never die. A variation on the theme is being revived right now. All too many in the political arena – both nominal coalition members and opposition leaders – presume to exploit a consensual conflict to advance their non-consensual agenda. They portray Operation Protective Edge as the vehicle to propel their pet project of reinstating Ramallah figurehead Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu-Mazen) at Gaza’s helm.

Winning Gaza back for Abbas wasn’t what most fighters fought for. Continue reading

Seemingly Sisyphean Quest

Sisyphys (1548–49) by Titian, Prado Museum

Sisyphys (1548–49) by Titian, Prado Museum

The most effective weapon which Hamas wielded against Israel throughout Protective Edge was its manipulation of civilian casualty numbers and images. The cumulative impact was used to provoke hate campaigns against Israel and/or Jews worldwide and misrepresent Israel’s self-defense as a calculated massacre of helpless civilians.

Some of the ploys were cynical beyond belief.

Photos of dead bodies from the Syrian conflict were recycled as Gazan victims of Israeli malevolence. Even pictures of the Fogel family children, slaughtered inside their Itamar home in 2011 by Palestinian terrorists, were purported to show Arabs murdered by Israeli troops.

Footage from the emergency room at Shifa Hospital in Gaza was rerun continually as if chronicling brand new incidents. Patients brought in due to disease, accidents and domestic violence were all exhibited as casualties of deliberate Israeli barbarity.

But none of this rivaled the numbers game.

Continue reading

Better Off Without UNWRA

image001UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, has joined Hamas’s clamor for lifting the blockade on Gaza forthwith. This was the gist of what UNRWA’s Gaza spokesman Chris Gunness demanded. No surprise here. UNRWA never played a remotely constructive or impartial role in the Mideast.

Its self-preservation interests perhaps rule out neutrality and fairness to begin with, lest these actually lead to improvements that might obviate the sham pretext for keeping UNRWA around. UNRWA’s continued existence hinges on not solving this region’s problems.

Put differently, it’s in UNRWA’s distinct interest to keep the flames of conflict burning high. Continue reading

Another Tack: Some Truly Hated Truths

The crowds pranced and danced, jumping ecstatically up and down in what looked like a frenzied tribal trance

The crowds pranced and danced, jumping ecstatically up and down in what looked like a frenzied tribal trance

Last Friday morning, during yet another so-called humanitarian ceasefire, we heard that Lt. Hadar Goldin was missing-in-action. Before this too was revealed as a ghoulish body-snatching attempt, it looked like the Palestinians had finally grabbed the mega-ransom-generating and game-changing live hostage they craved.

Mind-bogglingly, the truth is that by the Hamas devil’s arithmetic, it was worth sacrificing over 1500 Gazan casualties to just maybe seize one Israeli.

In crude propaganda terms, it was a vicious variation on the theme of the Oron Shaul episode. When Israel suspects an abduction (as in the Goldin case), Hamas torments us with silence. When we discount its claims (as in the Shaul case), Hamas crows about its macabre “successes.”

Anyone who switched to Al-Jazeera early on in the ground phase of Operation Protective Edge heard piercing shrieks of what sounded like “Shaul Aron.” Then followed a screenshot of the Facebook page of a handsome blue-eyed fellow. His name was plainly spelled out: Oron Shaul. His Bar Mitzvah photos too went on Al-Jazeera’s spine-chilling display. Continue reading

Piteously-cum-victoriously

Rockets on board the Klos-C freighter, intercepted by Israel’s navy on its way from Iran to Gaza last March

Rockets on board the Klos-C freighter, intercepted by Israel’s navy on its way from Iran to Gaza last March

While it wails piteously, Hamas also crows victoriously. This evident logical incongruity may bewilder us but Gaza honcho Ismail Haniyeh connects the dots thus: “The military victory by the resistance and the legendary strength of our people will lead us to a lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip.”

Gaza, he avers, “has turned itself into a graveyard for Israel” and had sown death and destruction in Tel Aviv. On the flipside, precisely Gaza’s own devastation “will make it impossible for the world to ignore the Strip.”

“Gaza’s sacrifices” mandate acquiescence to its demands, foremost the elimination of what Haniyeh calls “the siege” on Gaza. Continue reading

No Mean Feat

This is no wholesale retreat – all options remain open after Hamas was dealt grievous blows

This is no wholesale retreat – all options remain open after Hamas was dealt grievous blows

The rule of thumb in gauging any public’s mood is that the higher the expectations, the deeper the let-down. Put differently, it may be argued that the more unrealistic the expectations, the more groundless the grumbles.

This was all too evident in the reactions of disappointment that followed the purely tactical decision to re-station IDF units at staging areas in and around the Gaza Strip, while keeping others behind to maintain defensive positions that safeguard Israel’s hinterland.

Anyone who bothered paying attention would have understood that this is no wholesale retreat, that all options remain open after Hamas was dealt grievous blows both to its rocket arsenals and tunnel projects. Continue reading