Monday, March 31, 2008

The Ecstasy and The Agony

The ecstasy surrounding the family over the weekend was the celebration of the barmitzvah of one of our grandchildren. Our daughter and husband took family and close friends to a kibbutz for the Sabbath and, although I cannot be truly objective, our grandson excelled himself, and a wonderful time was had by all.

The atmosphere was electric throughout the Sabbath as friends and family all contributed to the weekend each in their own way. Our contribution was the decoration of the dining hall with banners, streamers, balloons and two full walls of photographs of the barmitzvah boy from his birth to the present day in his passage through life. Another member of our extended family made a computer presentation about the life of the barmitzvah boy including incredible animation.

We arrived home in the early hours of the morning on such a high that it was difficult to get to sleep!

The agony came the following morning. While we were still going over the events of the weekend, looking at photographs and relating events of the weekend to friends who phoned, the news came through that the neighborhoods of Bat Yam (where our daughter lives) and Holon were closed due the “high risk” of terrorists roaming around the area. Families were advised to stay indoors. Traffic in the busiest area of the country was brought to a standstill with roadblocks set up to check everyone and everything - yes we have these in Israel not just in the Palesatinian areas

Thankfully the agony was short lived as the security personnel rounded up 4 suspects on a bus in the area within the hour. Although theses suspects didn’t have explosives on them, it turned out they were in Israel illegally but after what happened in Jerusalem the population in general is also in a high state of alert.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Just How Much Can We Grow??

A review by the Central Bureau of Statistics this week gives an interesting picture of the future of the State of Israel (in total disregard of the ramblings of Ahmadinejad). It is suggested that Israel's population is expected to grow from around 7 million today to between 9.6 and 10.6 million by 2030.
The projection, based on 2005 population statistics, was also derived from three possible options - high, middle and low - differentiated by various assessments of differing components of population growth.

According to the middle option, the average annual growth rate between 2006 and 2030 will be 1.4 percent. 93% of the projected growth is estimated to be derived from natural growth, while the remaining 7% is expected to be the result of immigration.

The number of Jews in 2030 is expected to be 7.2 million, from 5.3 million at the end of 2005. The number of Arabs is expected to be 2.4 million of the population from 1.4 million in 2005.

The number of residents aged 65 years and over is expected to grow to 14% (693,000) from 10%.(1.4 million) and the percentage of children under age 14 will grow decrease from 28% to 25%. Nevertheless the numbers will grow from 2 to 2.5 million

The full statistical report is available at .

What this will mean for the community is a need for more cities, sheltered accommodation, more schools, more buildings, new towns, more infrastructure, more electricity, more water. How many more roads we can build in this tiny country? Transportation methods will have to change, the railway system is proving very successful but it needs to provide more access to the more remote areas of the country.

With growth rates in the economy forecast to be 3.5% next year in spite of the global downturn (lower than the 5- 5.5% we have achieved in the last few years) perhaps we can generate enough GDP to start these projects early rather than at the last minute as has been the case in the past.

It is going to be an interesting future!!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

When did Boxing Day Fall on Good Friday?

The old question is asked “When did Boxing Day fall on Good Friday?”. To those who maybe were not old enough when this question first came out and the e-mails have not caught up with such oldies --- yet!, the answer referred to a horse named “Boxing Day” that fell at a hurdle in a race meeting at Kempton Park in the UK held on Good Friday!

Well on that theme, we have had this year, the festival of Purim falling on Good Friday. Purim is that festival where people give each other mishloach manot , gifts to friends and family and also to those less fortunate than you.

As has become traditional for us, we give such gifts to a home for battered women, here in Haifa. Although I am not familiar with (no that is a bad phrase!!) aware of the details of the women there, I do know that there are a number of women from the Arab community also housed there.

Traveling down to the area of the home, it was necessary to pass through the neighborhood of Wadi Nisnas . With all the talk of “ethnic cleansing”, “apartheid” etc, one sees the predominantly Christian community and Moslems going about their daily activities at ease in their surroundings. One feature on the journey on this particular day was the sound of hymns ringing in the streets throughout the neighborhood as the Christians citizens celebrated their Good Friday Easter festival.

On returning home, we began to prepare for our Purim celebrations. In the blog at the beginning of last week, I referred to the children dressing up in various costumes and traveling around the city, one saw fancy dress of many different types. Well it is not only the children!! At the reading on the Book of Ester in the synagogue, some of the “older” members also take the opportunity to “let it all hang out” – see pictures.

In spite of the potential for terror attacks, the citizens entertained and were entertained by a vast range of fun activities. Surely a day to let your hair down and enter into the spirit of the festival, forgetting briefly of the troubles surrounding us.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Terror on the Ground and on the Internet

From the New York Times today there is a report of a new poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Palestinians support the attack this month on a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem that killed eight young men, most of them teenagers, an indication of the alarming level of Israeli-Palestinian tension in recent weeks. Full report at

The survey also shows unprecedented support for the shooting of rockets on Israeli towns from the Gaza Strip and for the end of the peace negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders.

The pollster, Khalil Shikaki, said he was shocked because the survey, taken last week, showed greater support for violence than any other he had conducted over the past 15 years in the Palestinian areas. Never before, he said, had a majority favored an end to negotiations or the shooting of rockets at Israel.

“There is real reason to be concerned,” Mr. Shikaki said in an interview at his West Bank office. His Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, which conducts a survey every three months, is widely viewed as among the few independent and reliable gauges of Palestinian public opinion. According to the poll, of 1,270 Palestinians in face-to-face interviews, 84 percent supported the March 6 attack on the Mercaz Harav yeshiva.

This is the hard fact of life while our leaders are talking “peace”.

In addition to the terror warfare on the ground, there is an exponential increase in terrorism on the internet. A friend of mine recently published a book “Fighting Terror Online” in which he discusses the use of advanced technological methods in use by the global terror organizations. This is in turn creating a tension between our civil rights for freedom of speech and security needs.

He was interviewed recently on the local Academic channel and this can be seen at

He summarises his book finally by saying that “Although the provisions of the law have changed rapidly since September 11th ……the evolution of technology, breakthroughs in scientific research and the relentless determination to fight the evil of terror must lead us, our children and their children to find the solutions necessary to protect the individual and society from harm, and at the same balance security and civil liberties.”

He concludes “it is a challenge that we must win and a fight that we must win”
(“Fighting Terror Online”, by Martin Charles Golombik, published by Springer)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Beating about the Bush and Purim

We are really going round and round in circles on the Palestinian issue. One report says we didn’t do this or that, another says the Palestinians didn’t do this or that. And so we continue on the merry go round and beating round the bush. (no pun intended)

There is, however, one issue that never ever seems to get raised. Since the Oslo accords of 1993, the Israeli public at large has come round to the view that a two-state solution is the way to get out of the mess we are in. Compare that with the Palestinian view. There is more radicalization and a greater unwillingness to even accept Israel’s right to exist. The television, the mosques, the schools and universities are all questioning Israel’s legitimacy.

As written in an editorial this week “almost no Palestinian will accept that the Jewish people have any national or historical rights to a State alongside Palestine”. Thus there is this gargantuan gap preventing peace.

Abbas, touted as the moderate claims to have accepted Israel’s right to exist, yet to his constituency of Palestinians, he constantly talks about the “right of return” which is tantamount to an indirect way of causing Israel‘s destruction.

If peace is to be given a chance, Abbas must tell his people via the television, the mosques, the schools and universities that Israel has a right to exist.

Meantime in Israel itself, the population is gearing up for Purim, the festival in which we read the Book of Ester and how Haman tried in those times to get rid of the Jews. (come to think of it, I ought to send a copy of the Book of Ester to Ahmadinejad – perhaps he might start to think about what is in store for him!)

The shops are full of fancy dress costumes; the children get dressed up and stroll around the streets. Here is a photo of our twin granddaughters in their Queen Ester costumes.

Here in Haifa, there will be a costume festival on Friday, the day of Purim itself, on the Louis Promenade with a full range of entertainment options, a circus, musicians, inflatable games, jugglers, magicians and acrobats all performing for the residents and visitors.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Humanitarian Crisis?

Continuing the theme of a “humanitarian crisis” from the blog of a few days ago, it is already sickening to hear these constant claims from Hamas of the problems and shortages in the Gaza Strip. At every opportunity the Western media is being taken for a ride by the problems of Hamas’s own makings. Their complaints are getting sufficient attention from organizations such as Amnesty International, Terje Larsson, the BBC ad nauseum.

The facts on the ground are actually rather different. Of course the Palestinians in the Strip have got a problem but they are being used and exploited for the aims and objectives of Hamas.

The crossings into the Gaza Strip are always open UNLESS there is terrorist activity in thearea and day by day, tonnes of foods, produce, fuel, and heating oil are being transported into the Strip. Palestinian traders report stock levels of the order of 4000 tonnes, so just where is the problem?

Passage into Israel is also available for genuine hardship personal cases but we have to be cautious, our fingers have been burnt many times by terrorists abusing these border controls.

Der Spiegel in Germany,1518,540689,00.html reports the story of Iman Shafii, 32, who finally became pregnant after fertility treatment. After two of the four small embryos died, the two remaining embryos became increasingly fragile. "You have to go to Israel," the doctor told her. She reached Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon just in time, giving birth on Feb. 25, by Caesarean section, to a girl, Bayan, and a boy, Faisal. Today is the first day she is permitted to hold her babies in her arms. As the tears well up in her eyes, Shafii says, "If the children had stayed in Gaza, they would not have survived."

Ironically, in Ashkelon, Shafii is encountering, for the first time, victims of the acts of terror committed by her own people. One of them is nine-year-old Yossi. A steel frame holds his left shoulder together after it was fractured by shrapnel from a rocket that landed in Sderot. "The people in Sderot are suffering just as we are in Gaza," she says.

In Beit Lahia in Gaza, her husband, Ashraf Shafii, describes how masked men repeatedly set up their rocket launchers under the cover of houses. "They shoot at Israeli civilians, which is completely unacceptable," says Shafii. "And they put us Palestinian civilians in grave danger, because the Israelis shoot back."

The Times of the UK also report on witnessing an eight-day-old Mohammed Amin El-Taian being carried across the Erez crossing to Israel by a doctor from the Gazan Ministry of Health and handed to his counterpart from Magen David Adom (MDA), the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross. Mohammed - crippled by a chest infection, and heart and gastric problems - was then transferred along with his mother to the Dana Children's Hospital in Tel Aviv, where he was to get the emergency treatment needed to save his life. MDA says that around five patients a week are transferred into Israel for treatment.

Yonni Yogadovsky, of the Israeli MDA, said, "This is an established procedure and people from the hospitals [in Gaza] and Hamas know about it. We are neighbors and it happens that we don't like each other very much. But when it comes to emergencies that save human lives, this is beyond political disputes."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Legitimacy and Proportionality

So much is talked about concerning questions of legitimacy and proportionality in the media when Israel is involved. Yet a survey of international practice suggests that the steps taken by Israel, and its approach to proportionality, correspond to, or are more stringent than, those taken by most western countries confronting similar threats.

Military operations and civilian casualties
International law recognizes that it is a tragic fact of armed conflict that civilian deaths and injuries may occur in lawful military operations. As the legal authority Oppenheim notes:

Civilians do not enjoy absolute immunity. Their presence will not render military objects immune from attack for the mere reason that it is impossible to bombard them without causing injury to the non-combatants. (Oppenheim, International Law 1952, Vol. II p.415)

In practice, two key questions arise in relation to the legitimacy of the planning and execution of an operation: 1) Is the target itself a legitimate military objective? and 2) Even if the target is in itself legitimate, is there likely to be disproportionate injury and damage to the civilian population and civilian property.

Legitimate military objectives
The generally accepted definition of "military objective" is that set out in Article 52(2) Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, which provides:

In so far as objects are concerned, military objectives are limited to those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage.

The second legal requirement is that any attack be proportionate to the military advantage anticipated.

Major General A.P.V. Rogers, a former Director of British Army Legal Services, explains the rationale behind this principle:

Although they are not military objectives, civilians and civilian objects are subject to the general dangers of war in the sense that attacks on military personnel and military objectives may cause incidental damage. It may not be possible to limit the radius of effect entirely to the objective to be attacked… Members of the armed forces are not liable for such incidental damage, provided it is proportionate to the military gain expected of the attack.

Accordingly, Israel takes pains to ensure that it directs its attacks against legitimate military targets, and that in conducting its operations incidental injury to civilians is kept to a minimum.

The suffering of civilians on both sides of this conflict is tragic. Contrary to the media reports, Israel is making strenuous efforts to reduce this toll, both by protecting Israeli civilians and seeking to minimize injury to civilians within the Gaza Strip. Israel's efforts in this regard should not, however, diminish the ultimate responsibility of those who callously and deliberately use the civilian population as a shield for the injury that inevitably results from their actions.

Two such glaring examples of the use of human shields were:-

a) Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV called upon children to form a human shield at the home of Abu al-Hatal of the a-Shouqaf quarter of Sajaiyeh in order to protect the building from an anticipated IDF airstrike

b) Al-Aqsa TV News broadcast a story about how a crowd of civilians gathered on the roof of Abu Bilal al-Ja’abeer in the Northern Gaza strip, in order cause the IDF to abort a threatened airstrike against the structure

This just emphasises the asymmetrical war being fought and as has so often been pointed out by the Palestinians "You, the Israelis, love life, we love death".

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Yes - The Media is at it Again!!!

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the press and media in general is constantly being used, abused and manipulated. Take, for example, the spoofs or Pallywood productions; Hamas leaders holding a government meeting by candlelight, as daylight cuts across the photo from a slit in the curtain, the so-called “Jenin Massacre”, the Mohammed al Dura case, etc., etc.!!

So many of the newspapers and TV stations are jumping on the bandwagon of deligitmising Israel.

The Guardian UK
This paper even goes so far as to blame Israel for the recent "military escalation" while in fact justifying the Palestinian missiles that led to IDF operations in Gaza in the first place. As a friend stated in a letter to the paper "publishing opinions disguised as facts is blatant dishonesty."

The papers op-ed then goes on to say “that Israel's entry into Gaza cannot possibly be a legitimate act of self-defence" but is carefull to omit the fact that to fire rockets at a sovereign nation deliberately intended to kill and injure its citizens is an act of war, for which the country under attack is entitled to defend itself.

This organization which I have heard referred to as the “Beirut Broadcasting Corporation” or alternatively the “Baharani Broadcasting Corporation” refers constantly to “the occupation” by Israel of the Gaza Strip. According to the Oxford dictionary “To Occupy” is defined as “to enter, stay and take control of a place by military conquest or settlement.” Strange – I thought every Israeli was removed from the strip nearly 3 years ago.

British-based human rights organizations
On Thursday the above human rights organizations released a scathing report in claiming that the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is at its worst point since Israel captured the territory in 1967.

It also said that hospitals are suffering from power cuts of up to 12 hours a day, and the water and sewage systems were close to collapse, with 40-50 million liters (10-12 million gallons) of sewage pouring into the sea daily.

Now just what is the $1 – 1.4 billion donated to the Palestinians yearly used for????


Because I have used 3 examples for the UK, it doesn’t that it is only in the UK that we see such dishonest and biased reporting. It is not for the want of trying to get the media interested in a more balanced approach - a lot attempts are going on to try to the press involved more on the Israeli problems – they are, in the main, just not interested in our side of the story.

The journalists reporting on the Palestinian “stories”, cannot or do not check up on the facts. They have to report what they are told otherwise they don’t get access to the Palestinian “stories” in the future. Those reporters who try to be fair also can have their stories “rewritten” by their local or other editors

Israel is in a conflict not of its own making – indeed it withdrew every Israeli soldier and all 9000 Israeli civilians from the Gaza Strip in its 2005 disengagement initiative. But it is forced to act in self-defense to protect itself from deliberate missile attacks on its civilians by the Hamas terrorist organization.

International law recognizes that civilian deaths and injuries may occur in lawful military operations. For an operation to be lawful it must be directed at a "legitimate military objective" and be "proportionate".

Under the Geneva Conventions, if a military objective, such as a missile launcher or weapons stockpile, is placed in the heart of a civilian area, it does not cease being a lawful military objective. The responsibility for civilian causalities arising from the 'shielding' lies with the party that deliberately placed civilians at risk.

Hamas makes no effort to comply with international law, Israel is committed to limiting itself to a lawful response. This means that, while Hamas uses civilians both as a shield and a target, Israel seeks to limit injury to civilians on both sides.

A survey of international practice undertaken by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggests that the steps taken by Israel, and its approach to proportionality, correspond to, or are more stringent than, those taken by most western countries confronting similar threats.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

"Peace in our time" -who is kidding who?

There is a major humanitarian problem in Israel. Sderot has borne over 50% of all missiles launched over the last few years and 20% of the town’s 20,000 population has left

Now with the escalation in the use of Grad missiles smuggled into Gaza via Egypt when the border was breached, Ashkelon and its environs are now under attack – this represents around 250,000 citizens of the State of Israel. 7 citizens of Sderot have killed, 4 of those under 18 years old

The main consequence of this daily attack is TRAUMA - a large percentage of Israeli families are now traumatized, a state that is likely to continue for many years even if the attacks stopped today.

The effects are.
- Loss of business / unemployment
- Inability to work
- Children’s education is suffering
- Mental health problems well above the average
- People having to be constantly aware of their surroundings in order to take cover in 15 secs

Kassams and Grads are rockets, not missiles, and thus cannot be targeted specifically. That makes it a weapon of terror.

Captured Israeli soldiers are prisoners of war. Unlike prisoners in Israeli jails, he receives no human rights under Geneva Conventions. No Red Cross visits.

The media is constantly being used, abused and manipulated, eg the spoofs or Pallywood productions. Hamas leaders holding a government meeting by candlelight, as daylight cuts across the photo from a slit in the curtain!

And is there a humanitarian crisis in Gaza? Life is not easy for the average Palestinian in the Gaza Strip but in the 8.5 months since Hamas took control of the Gaza strip 17,246 trucks carrying 397,439 tons of food and essential goods have passed through the various crossings in spite of Hamas’ attempts to sabotage the crossings. And goods are crossing daily

We are all wanting PEACE Isn’t it time for the Palestinians to prove they want peace and not just complain about the Israelis. Israel left Gaza, a painful and risky action with no demands on the other side. It is time that the Palestinians made one - just one - similar gesture of substance.

But is this the case NO!!

In an in-depth interview published today in the Jordanian daily Al-Dustur, Abbas said

Here are some highlights from that interview: Al-Dustur, February 28, 2008

The Arab Situation
"Now we are against armed conflict because we are unable. In the future stages, things may be different... "

We reject the Jewishness of the state
The Palestinian President emphasized his rejection of what is described as the Jewishness of the state [Israel], and said: "We rejected this proposal at the Annapolis conference last November in the USA, and the conference was almost aborted because of it..."

The Resistance (Terror?)
The Palestinian President spoke about the resistance, saying: "I was honored to be the one to shoot the first bullet in 1965 [Fatah terror against Israel began in 1965] ,and having taught resistance to many in this area and around the world, defining it and when it is beneficial and when it is not... we had the honor of leading the resistance.We taught everyone what resistance is, including the Hezbollah, who were trained in our camps [i.e. PLO camps in the 60s and 70s]."

Recognition of Israel
"I don't demand that the Hamas movement recognize Israel. I only demanded of the [Palestinian] national unity government that would work opposite Israel in recognition of it. And this I told to Syrian President Bashir Assad, and he supported this idea."

Just how can peace be around the corner with these attitudes?