Another Tack: Zissel means Sweetie

Last photo of little Zissel at the Western Wall, a short time before her murderOftentimes what is barely mentioned – if at all – by the world’s media is (or ought to be) as thought-provoking as what the talking heads focus on with undisguised relish.

The fetching face of three-months-old Chaya Zissel Braun, for example, was missing from front pages around the globe and it was never featured on any foreign TV news outlets. She was murdered (as was 22-year-old student Karen Yemima Mosquera) last week by an Arab terrorist who homicidally rammed his vehicle into a crowd of passengers waiting at a light rail stop. But to observers abroad this amounted to dog bites man.

Uninteresting. Been there. Heard that before. Jewish whines. Who cares?

Newsroom groupthink doesn’t only trickle down to conformist reporters on the scene who quickly figure out what the chiefs want to hear and what they shouldn’t be bothered with. The signals from atop the journalistic hierarchy also determine for news-consumers what constitutes news and what does not.

Media linchpins put together the current-events agenda and they shape mass awareness. Perforce they dictate public opinion. What doesn’t pass through their selective filter will forever remain esoteric knowledge – even in these days of social networking on the World Wide Web. Continue reading

Another Tack: The 14th Century in Washington

Medieval manuscript showing Jews burned at the stake in Flanders according to the popular antidote to the Black Death

Medieval manuscript showing Jews burned at the stake in Flanders according to the popular antidote to the Black Death

In all fairness, it’s not just the Obama Administration which is fond of insinuating that somehow Israel is to blame for all that ails the Mideast. This has been the underlying theme of the US State Department since Israel’s birth in 1948.

The variations in the stance vis-à-vis Israel derive from the intensity of antipathy – the subtlety and sophistication of the tone in which it’s expressed. Given its strident hectoring, the Obama Administration is doubtless America’s least-subtle and least-sophisticated ever.

While past presidents and their secretaries of state took greater pains to pretend not to side with glaring Arab anti-Israel falsehoods, such niceties are all but absent from Barack Obama’s and John Kerry’s rhetoric.  Anti-Israel idioms and calumnies are repeated by them as an obvious and infallible politically-correct gospel.

And thus Kerry had the colossal gall last week – significantly at a White House ceremony for the Muslim fest of Eid al-Adha – to claim no less that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (i.e. the Jewish state’s struggle for survival) bolsters the mass appeal of Islamic State radicalism.

Hardly knocking Israelis for a loop, the State Department’s spokeswoman later accused us of getting it all wrong.  In deadpan delivery she insisted that Kerry “did not make a linkage between Israel and the growth of ISIL [Islamic State]. Period.”

But her boss’s words speak for themselves and belie her assertion. Continue reading

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

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

Another Tack: Goebbels on the BBC

Londoners sheltering underground during the blitz: an attacked nation doesn’t worry about the welfare of those striving to annihilate it

Londoners sheltering underground during the blitz: an attacked nation doesn’t worry about the welfare of those striving to annihilate it

Imagine Josef Goebbels invited to speak his mind on the BBC, smack dab during the Battle of Britain and the blitz. Sounds absurd?

Sure, but only in the context of normal nations. No sane Briton would have tolerated the notion of the BBC broadcasting German propaganda to Londoners as they ran for shelter from German bombs.

Abetting Nazi belligerence would have been a nonstarter even under the guise of a detached reporter’s interview, part of an evenhanded approach, a sporting consideration for the aggressor’s point of view.

But not so in Israel. Here we operate in an alternative universe.  Nothing that would be unthinkable anywhere else is out of bounds for our broadcasters.

While Protective Edge raged, they kept us tuned to nonstop nattering, most of it superfluous, speculative and narcissist. But in many prattle panels, there was an Arab-Israeli MK or a hotshot from some Arab “anti-racism” group (since in this country only Jews are accused of racism and never Arabs, the term is used as a loaded  euphemism for anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist and/or anti-Israel).

The rules of our deranged game oblige media hosts to treat Goebbels’s latter-day torchbearers with courteous deference, or – put less diplomatically – with obsequiousness. Continue reading

Another Tack: Diabolical Jewish Bikes

But the Jew on the train objects: “It’s all the fault of bicycles.”

But the Jew on the train objects: “It’s all the fault of bicycles.”

With so much going on, it was no wonder that the reaction by Hebronites to a Gazan rocket that crashed in their midst went right under our radar. We had way bigger concerns and still do but the incident is nevertheless instructive – very much so. It can actually account for why no peace is possible. It  firmly confirms that our logic and that of our neighbors operate on different wavelengths – an underlying and enduring fact of life that makes a meeting of the minds highly unlikely.

But to put the overlooked Hebron episode into context it might be best to start off with Alter Druyanov.

His name, alas, means absolutely nothing to the vast majority of Israelis today. Sic transit Gloria mundi. The output of this literary mover and shaker in newborn Tel Aviv is familiar only to nostalgia buffs and compulsive hoarders of esoterica. But in Druyanov’s anthology of Jewish jokes hides an unassuming little tale that is still sadly all-too-relevant to our scene.

Adhering to yesteryear’s time-tried format, a Jew rides the train and sharing the same compartment is a non-Jew – a Russian in some versions and a German in others.  The non-Jewish traveler cogitates out loud that “all the wars, bloodshed, wretchedness and ill-will on earth are caused by Jews.” But the Jew across from him objects: “It’s all the fault of bicycles.”

“Bicycles?” thunders the bewildered Russian/German, “Why? How come bicycles?”

In calm, measured tones his interlocutor inquires: “How come Jews?” Continue reading