Tuesday, October 18, 2011

One Conclusion From Europe's Financial Crisis

People say--rightly--that the American system of government has become dysfunctional, but it could be worse. Imagine if we were still trying to operate under the Articles of Confederation instead of the Constitution. That's essentially what Europe's doing.

Is Netanyahu a Sleeper Agent for Hamas?

Of course not. Don't be ridiculous.


As you may have heard, Israel has agreed to release over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit, a captured soldier. Since Shalit was captured by Hamas for this specific purpose, it will be hard for Palestinians to see the exchange as anything other than a complete victory for Hamas. Here are some of the conclusions that will be drawn:

  • Hamas, unlike Fatah, actually accomplishes things.
  • The only way to get what you want from Israel is through violence.
  • If we keep the pressure on the Jews long enough, they'll give up.

None of those conclusions is going to make Palestinians likely to accept the need for peace with Israel. As for Mahmoud Abbas, he might as well resign. My real paranoia is not that Netanyahu is an agent for Hamas, but that he sees their interests as running in parallel. No peace with the Palestinians means no giving up the West Bank. Not only does Netanyahu probably see that as a good thing in itself, but it makes it possible to hold hold together his coalition and remain Prime Minister.

Even this level of paranoia is probably excessive. The most likely explanation for Netanyahu's actions is that he is just being what he has always been: a self-interested, opportunistic politician of near-Arafatian proportions. For the fact is that, inexplicably, the Israeli public favored this deal. Granted, the idea of someone being held hostage indefinitely often does capture the public's imagination--look at the American public's obsession with the Iranian hostages.

But it's very hard to imagine the American public enthusiastically supporting a deal to exchange the embassy hostages for hundreds of Iranians convicted of murdering innocent people. Remember that Palestinian guy who posed for photographers smiling with bloody hands after taking part in the lynching of two Israeli reservists? He's free now.

We are told that Netanyahu felt that a deal had to be reached quickly, because things are changing so fast in Egypt that he couldn't be sure of Egyptian support in the future. Really? You needed Egypt's support to drive this hard bargain?

The exchange also casts a new light on the whole debacle of the Turkish flotilla and the blockade of Gaza. Surely the way for Israel to seize the high ground was to say that they would stop the blockade as soon as Shalit was released. But in all the charges and counter-charges I don't recall hearing Shalit's name at all.

In the latest twist, the Israeli government is outraged that Shalit was subjected to an interview with the Egyptian press before being released. According to the Associated Press, one of the questions was, "You have known what it is like to be in captivity. There are more than 5,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails. Will you help campaign for their release?" Does moral equivalence between kidnap victims and convicted murderers make you a little uncomfortable? That's the equivalence that the Israeli government has just signed onto.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Letter to a Friend in Pakistan

[Yes, the same one who wrote this. She may have actually been in Texas or California when I wrote it. Minor edits added.]

Can't help but be amused by how every time I criticize Pstan, you reply that I'm right, and let's not forget that the US did this and this terrible thing. Yes, under Reagan the US gave a lot of help to Afghan warlords, and that helped lead to the rise of the Taliban. But in fairness, the US was hindered by having to funnel money through Pakistan (Zia, may jackals eat his bones), who gave it to a bunch of people like Hekmatyar (sp?). Hard at this point to add up benefits and costs of funding jihadism (you might almost say founding it, though let's give the Saudis some credit), but at the same time probably contributing to the fall of the Iron Curtain.


I don't really blame you for walking out of shul, though I doubt I would've. I don't quite understand why a rabbi would make a big fuss about the danger of a Palestinian state, since I think most people in Israel wouldn't mind provided they believed that people in it would stop trying to kill them. Unfortunately that's become a harder sell. I was there for the start of the second intifada, and I saw how a once-robust left in Israel was just vaporized. One of the worst things for Israelis is to be a sucker (that's why driving is so dangerous) and people felt they'd been suckered by Palestinians claiming to be ready to live in peace with them and then shooting them. Then later, there was the withdrawal from Gaza, followed by rocket attacks. That made it hard to argue that withdrawal from the West Bank would lead to peace.

Since I've started on a rant, I'll say that I have several times started on a blog posting called "I'm So Bored with the Palestinians." How on earth did they convince everyone that they're the world's most unfortunate people? There is exactly one reason why at least 10 million refugees from the partition of India, and similar numbers from the expulsion of Germans from Eastern Europe (and for that matter 500,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries) are not a huge problem today: they were given citizenship in the countries they fled to. The Palestinians, in contrast, were told, "You thought you were just an Arab, but actually you're this new thing called a 'Palestinian', and since you're not a 'Jordanian', Syrian, Lebanese, or Egyptian, you have to stay in this refugee camp until we send you back. Don't blame us; this is all the Jews' fault."

There's no denying that problems have been exacerbated by Bibi's ridiculous policy in the territories, but the fundamental problem is that 60+ years later the Palestinians still can't bring themselves to say the Jews have a right to a state. They now accept a "two-state solution," as long as neither of them is a Jewish state. Of course to accept the idea of a Jewish state would mean accepting that refugees might not be able to go "home" to the exact house their grandfather lived in, but might have to live as much as 30 miles away (the actual distance from Haifa to Jenin), which for some reason would be viewed as a huge betrayal. (Their grandfather didn't necessarily live where his father lived, but that's another story.) I would call the whole thing a scam, except that Palestinians deeply believe it. They even explicitly liken the "Naqba" to the Holocaust, which is just narcissistic disconnection from reality. Can I stop now and go feel bad about the hundreds of thousands of Muslim women who were raped in Darfur, since Muslims don't seem to care?

OK, enough rant for today. Take care.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Few Brief Points About the Amanda Knox Trial

1. The prosecutor in the case called Knox a "demonic, satanic, diabolical she-devil." Earlier he had, according to a defense attorney, suggested that Meredith Kircher's death was part of a satanic ritual. That being the case, it surely seems relevant that back in 2001 this same prosecutor "proposed that the suicide of a Perugian doctor was actually a murder committed by a satanic cult, practicing since the Middle Ages, that demanded human organs for their Black Masses." Perhaps the American press was not aware of this fact, but the Italian press should have raised it instead of allowing themselves to be led around by the nose.

2. In a year in which we have learned a lot about differences between the American legal system and those of France and Italy, here's one that hasn't gotten much attention: The issue of whether to believe the DNA evidence was settled cleanly and quickly (albeit four years late) by court-appointed independent experts. If this is a practice followed in the US, I have never heard of it. We rely instead on an adversarial system, where my expert is pitted against your expert and jurors are supposed to decide which one to believe. Perhaps we should give some thought to the possibility that this is not the most effective way of finding the truth.

3. If you're ever arrested in a foreign country, do what they told me to do when I was in the Soviet Union: speak English and don't answer any questions until someone from the Embassy arrives.

4. The inimitable Nancy Grace said she knew all along that the Italians would never convict someone as cute as Amanda Knox. What a horrible woman. There are some journalists who make the public better informed, and others who make it stupider. Guess which group I think Nancy Grace belongs to.