Another Tack: Iran’s Latterday Goering

The Fuehrer and his front-man- Hitler and Goering on March 16, 1938.It was gut-wrenching to watch the world fawn over Iran’s new president. It was even more sickening to see ignorance parading as astuteness and profound insight.

We can only be mystified by how all those who never previously heard of Hassan Rohani instantly knew he was a famous moderate, that his election was a blow to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that Khamenei was exceedingly upset by the people’s choice, even that he greeted it with a sour expression.

The consensus among the overnight experts on an esoteric arena was that the vote was a runaway surprise, where the forces of good walloped the forces of evil.

Non-too-amazingly, the White House orchestrated the optimism. US President Barack Obama’s chief of staff informed us that Rohani’s victory was a “potentially hopeful sign” and that if Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s successor behaved well, “he will find a partner in us.” Spinning the spin on CBS’s Face the Nation, Denis McDonough exuded hope: “If he [Rohani] is interested in, as he has said in his campaign, mending Iran’s relations with the rest of the world, there is an opportunity to do that.” Continue reading

Another Tack: Love at a Price

.There’s something unsavory in taking on very elder statesmen, especially nonagenarians or near-nonagenarians. It seems so uncouth, so unkind, so unfair – just as it would be to slap around helpless little tots or kick cute big-eyed puppies.

Therefore, for many months I struggled hard to suppress my inclination to carp – while preparations for yet another sumptuous birthday bash for our phenomenally spry president, Shimon Peres, got underway with fitting fanfare. But even the most stringent self-control has its limits. In the end, I am succumbing to temptation.

Why? Maybe because too much sometimes really is too much. Continue reading

Another Tack: Plucky in pajamas

Unlikely hero Levi Eshkol at his deskIn our collective memory Levi Eshkol is perceived as a weak, even a vacillating prime minister. Perhaps this was unjust already back on the eve of the Six Day War, when his image became thus ingrained in our popular lore. Certainly, compared to many of his successors in ensuing decades, Eshkol can be portrayed as a resolute upholder of Israeli national pride – especially when clad in pajamas.

Merely by refusing to change into proper daytime attire, Eshkol struck a plucky patriotic pose. In his humble night clothes he evinced more audacity than most of the wishy-washy variety that followed him in office.

Eshkol took his steadfast stand in the ungodly hours of May 27, 1967, when Soviet Ambassador Dmitri Chuvakhin arrived on the PM’s doorstep and demanded to wake him up to deliver an urgent message from Moscow. The envoy insisted he couldn’t wait till dawn. Continue reading

Another Tack: A very Israeli story

Gershon Israeli (left) at age-11 and his cousin Ya'acov in Kibbutz GvatOver the years I have translated to English some of the Hebrew poems I found most evocative and/or meaningful to me personally. Among them are quite a number by Fania Bergstein. Her name most likely means nothing to most Israelis, although so many know her rhymes by heart. They just aren’t aware of who wrote them, who enriched our childhood, whose lines became cherished household staples.

Amazingly, Fania Bergstein faded into undeserved anonymity. But she’s important to understanding our Israeli identity, why we are here, what moves and motivates us.

She died young, at age 42, some 17 years before the Six Day War to which she is tragically connected. There is relevance to remembering her these days when we mark another anniversary of that 1967 showdown, which has increasingly become yet another occasion to besmirch our self-defense, demonize us as land-grabbing imperialist ogres and castigate us for having inconsiderately emerged victorious.

Fania provides context and connections to who we really are. Hers is a quintessentially Israeli story – not only figuratively so. Israeli was her married surname. Continue reading

Turkish Tumult

image001 (2)Much as the zeal to compare entices, it would be wrong to liken the disturbances in Turkey to those of the misnamed Arab Spring.

Foremost, they don’t spring from the same source. Although the Islamist government headed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan is nowhere near as tyrannical as Iran’s ayatollahs, the protesters in Istanbul have more in common with those who took to the streets of  Tehran in 2009, than they do with the masses who toppled Arab despots in recent years.

The latter instigated mayhem for a variety of reasons which were nothing like the yearnings for civil liberties that the West wrong-headedly ascribed to them. Arab insurgencies were fuelled both by Islamic reactionary fervor as well as by ethnic/tribal divisions. Arab civil-libertarians were scant and soon drowned out in the turmoil.  Continue reading

Existential travails

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at a chemical warfare drill in Jerusalem May 29, 2013.On an ordinary workday last week, strident sirens pierced our routine and for a few jarring minutes reminded all of us, throughout the country, of the dangers that lurk ominously beneath our run-of-the-mill existence.

The civil defense exercise simulated massive rocket barrages on packed urban centers with an eye to practice responses to missile onslaughts from Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza – in every corner of Israel and at all hours of the day and night.

Air raid sirens sounded midday to test preparedness in workplaces and schools. Another siren in the evening gauged preparedness in the homes. In both cases, the public was asked to locate the closest secure room and/or bomb shelter. Continue reading