Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Presidential Race 2007 (Israel)

President Moshe Katsav's 7-year term will end in the summer of 2007. At that time, the 120-member Knesset will elect his successor. Talk of who that will be has already started. Three names have come up so far and I oppose all of them. One is former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin. I oppose him on account of him being a pure jackass. Another candidate, who says he will not run, is Shimon Peres. I think he's too old.

The third is Meir Israel Lau, former Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel. As a secular Israeli I think he was a great Chief Rabbi. He never made any covert political messages wrapped in theological coating and never had any scandals - unlike the two current chief rabbies (the Ashkenazi one is suspected of receiving bribes from a hotel; the Sephardic one's son kidnapped and tortured a guy who was courting his sister). After all, the office of chief rabbi is mainly for the ultra-orthodox, so I don't expect much of the office holders.

But I can't see him as the ceremonial head of Israel. He doesn't represent me. He has a very strict orthodox view on who is Jewish and on the question of state and religion. He opposes civil marriages and non-orthodox currents of Judaism (i.e. Reform and Conservative Judaism - or in other words, most of world Jewry). He does not recognize the children of Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers as Jews, even if they were raised Jewish all their lives. He also sees homosexuality as a perversion, and thinks Jews should be more religious. The Sephardic Chief Rabbi during Lau's term, Bakshi Doron, is much more liberal than him.

So who should it be? I'd be happy to see someone like Eli Amir or Amos Oz as president. An author from the center-right, like Eyal Meged, would be good too. Avishay Braverman would be great for the job as well, but I'd rather see him as prime minister.

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Amir Peretz's Iron Grip

Amir Peretz is purging the Labor Party and Labor-controlled ministries of non-loyalists. He has just gotten the party's legal counsel, Barak supporter Eldad Yaniv, booted from his post. The deed was done during a meeting of the Secretariat, attended by 3 of its 5 members, without any prior notice that the issue would even be brought up for debate.

Last week, a Laborite ally of Peretz, Shmuel Abuab was appointed general director of the Education ministry, instead of Acting GD Amira Haim. I've heard unofficial reports that minister of Education Yuli Tamir, another ally of Peretz, actually wanted to keep Haim on as director, but Peretz shoved Abuab down her throat.

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Palestinian Right of Return

Laila El-Haddad, a Palestinian blogger, wrote a post last week titled "Either return..or return", where she basically says there's no other option other than the return of Palestinian refugees. Unfortunately, I have a feeling most Palestinians agree with her. An overwhelming majority of Israelis, myself included, would never let the refugees back into Israel, thus turning Israel into Palestine.

Yes, Israel has some responsibility for the creation of the refugee problem, but so do Arab countries. Over the last six decades, they have made sure the Palestinians would live in the worst conditions in refugee camps, and not be absorbed and given citizenship in the countries in which they currently reside. These countries wish to get rid of the Palestinians, but at the same time they want to still be able to use them to deflect criticism from themselves to the Evil Zionist Entity.

Israel can't recognize the right of return, not even a symbolic one. But as compromise, it can admit partial responsibility for the plight of refugees. It can compensate them and help resettle them in the Palestinian state, and those who decide to stay in their current countries should also be resettled and receive citizenship there (though the Arab states may not agree to that).

But the refugees cannot return to Israel proper. The Palestinians have been educated for the last 58 years to hate the "colonizing Jews". We can coexist wonderfully with the Palestinians who have been citizens of Israel since its establishment, but not with returning refugees. It would be like Kosovo here.

Would the Palestinians ever agree to compensation? I hope so, but I also doubt it. If they don't, this ain't gonna end soon.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Brooklyn's Racial Race

An interesting Democratic primary will take place in New York City this September. Representative major R. Owens is retiring after 22 years in Congress and five Democrats are vying for his seat. Since the district is something like 90% Democratic - whoever wins the primary is expected to win in November.

Currently, four African-Americans are running for the seat: Chris Owens, the incumbent's son, State Sen. Carl Andrews, City Councilwoman Yvette Clark and State Assemblyman Nick Perry. The fifth candidate is white City Councilman David Yassky. Rep. Owens, who supports his son's bid, has attacked Yassky for even running in a voting rights district, which, as he sees it, should be represented by a black congressman. Many share this view.

Now I wonder whether the following scenario is possible: Yassky wins the primary by a small margin, and another party, maybe the Working Families Party, nominates one of the black candidates (maybe Carl Andrews). And then the 11th congressional district will have its first competitive November election in decades. It's purely hypothetical, though. It just might be legally impossible.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

5.5 in 1,000 Children Autistic

A new nationwide study in the United States shows that 1 in 182 children is autistic, if my calculation is correct. That isn't that far from the disputed 1 in 166 statistic from a study in California a few years ago. What does it mean? I have no idea. It doesn't necessarily show a rise in autism cases, it may just show a rise in diagnosis. I have a feeling the Mercury poisoning theory might get a boost by these new numbers, though they are far from being any proof of the theory's validity.

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Ethnic Cleansing in the Knesset

Knesset Member Avigdor Lieberman of the right-wing Israel Beytenu (Israel Our Home) party called yesterday for the execution of Arab Knesset members who met with Hamas leaders. "The Second World War ended with the Nuremberg trials and the execution of the Nazi leadership. Not only them, but also those who collaborated with them. I hope that will also be the fate of the collaborators in this house [the Knesset]", he said.

Though I see meeting and expressing support for Hamas leaders as disloyalty to Israel, calling for the MKs' deaths is dangerous incitement and way beyond legitimate parliamentary debate.

Maybe the Arab MKs who met Hamas leaders should be kicked out of the Knesset, but so should Lieberman for criminal incitement.

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Is Israel the Only Place for Jews?

Israeli author A. B. Yehoshua caused quite a stir at the American Jewish Committee's Centennial symposium, when he argued that the only way to be a Jew is to live in Israel. Yehoshua was very blunt. He said Jews outside Israel are playing with their identity, "Plug & Play Jews". He even went as far as to say American Jews would leave the States and move to China if it surpassed the US economically. Now that's anti-Semitic - the greedy disloyal Jews looking for the best place to make money.

This is an old, classical Zionist position, which was once necessary for the State of Israel back when it relied on immigration for its demographic survival as a Jewish state. I think his views are shared by a majority of Israelis, who truly don't understand how any Jew can stay in the diaspora. This is a narrowminded, provincial view. These people haven't seen thriving Jewish communities abroad. They don't know that non-Israeli Jews can have great lives, without having to constantly worry about antisemitism.

I think the Hebrew word for diaspora, Gola (from Galut, exile), should be thrown out the window. The Gola is very small now - since, as I see it, it is a place outside Israel where the local Jews feel they are in exile. Happy American, Canadian, British and other Jews who feel at home in their countries are not in the Gola. They are not in exile. Of course, this is a secular interpretation of the word. That isn't to say Israel should stop trying to bring new Jewish Olim to Israel, but it should do that by making Israel a better place to live in, not by rebuking those who stay abroad.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Happy Birthday Israel

Yom Atzmaut Sameach! Happy Independence Day, Israel!

For one day, forget about all the crap in this country. Focus on the positive. We're a strong country whose existence is not threatened anymore. We are a state with some of the best minds the world has ever seen in the fields of economics and technology (less so in the field of politics and diplomacy). We have some of the world's best authors - Amos Oz, A. B. Yehoshua, David Grossman and Eli Amir, just to name a few. Despite being a small country, we have lots of different landscapes - from the desert in the south to the green fields of the north. The people may not have British manners, but they're extremely friendly, always (well, usually) willing to help out a stranger on the street.

There's more good stuff, but I don't want to overdose on the patriotism.