Thursday, August 29, 2013

All that chest beating must make one's arms tired

One of the greatest pointers I learned from parenting books was that when disciplining, don't make a threat to the child you don't intend or have the capability of following through on. Though one's initial logic might dictate that making the price tag on an undesirable behavior exceedingly high should scare the child off from doing it, if they take the chance and do it anyway you end up a double loser. First of all the behavior you were trying to avoid happened anyway, and secondly (and more importantly) your future authority has now been undermined as the child now has reason to believe that just as this threat ended up being empty so too other ones you make might be as well.

As it turns out, sometimes the rules of the game for little people are equally applicable to big people too. It seems Obama got himself into quite a pickle a while back when he first threatened that Assad's use of chemical weapons would merit American intervention and punishment. Now why on earth America would ever be interested in getting involved in the whole Syrian mess is completely beyond me. Could the motivation to take sides be solely to be on the opposite side of Russia? Though not impossible it's such a sorry excuse to risk a war that I would hope it's not true. Is it to counter one of Iran's staunchest allies in the region and therefore Iran itself by extension? Could be. But if Obama really intended on confronting Iran why not just go for them directly? And if he doesn't truly intend on confronting them, what's the use of getting involved with Syria simply due to the Iranian factor in the first place? Or perhaps it was simply out of the altruistic desire to protect innocents from the horrors of a death induced by chemical warfare? Yet as scary as such a scenario may be, many bloggers and even a few less mainstream media outlets have raised the valid question of why a given amount of people dying from nerve gas is a travesty requiring intervention but the murder of upwards of 100,000 people by "conventional" means is not? Would it not have been sufficient for the president to public state that he deplores the violence and the suffering of the innocents but that it's not America's place to get involved and he's leaving it up to the international community bodies such as the UN to resolve? Such a policy certainly got a free pass concerning Darfur.

Yet, whatever the reason President Obama felt it was appropriate to threaten US involvement, he had his reason and he did it. At least he thinks he had an appropriate reason. Please G-d - I seriously hope he though he had a appropriate reason. Regardless, whatever the reason (or lack thereof), now the president finds himself in the situation of the parent who has put out the threat to his child he didn't want to carry out. He seems to have committed himself to a ridiculous conundrum of choosing sides between a murderous dictator on the one hand and Al Qaeda on the other. Aside from the distastefulness of that in and of it's own right, I wonder if the old adage of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" even holds water in this case? Both the Syrian government and Al Qaeda seem equally hostile to America. In fact, given that Assad has never sent passenger jets crashing into the World Trade Center, perhaps logic would dictate Obama would be better served taking his side!

Yet if America takes no action at all, it lives up to any paper tiger accusations thrown at it and future threats hold much less water. Even more than that, if the reason Obama holds back on action shows to be that his previous threats were too hasty and not thought through, it would call into question all of his other foreign policy past present and future. So at the risk of otherwise looking like a fool, he is called into action if for nothing other than to protect his own image. And this perhaps is the most ridiculous aspect of the entire equation. I once heard a shiur by Rav Tzvi Aryeh Rosenfeld quoting the sefer Lekutei Halachot that kings and leaders of countries who choose to make war against each other are held accountable for every drop of blood spilled from every soldier and civilian casualty. However immoral their rationale may be, at least Assad and Al Qaeda's actions can be justified according to their own particular interests - the former being to hold on to his seat of power and the latter being to spread their ideological cause. However the only motivation Obama seems to be driven by is one of frustration upon finding that not all Middle Eastern leaders cave to his demands as easily as Bibi Netanyahu.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Israeli - Arab Peace Negotiations - Israel Tachlis Style

With the looming threats of pointless and untimely negotiations between Bibi and Abbas (whom none ever expected to work in the first place) getting derailed before they even begin, how about seeing some honest debating on the REAL issues with fair representation from both sides? I'd like to acknowledge Ari Louis, founder and director of Israel Sports Radio (and good friend of Israel Tachlis), with a blast from the past of his former American television show "Louis Live" where he invites some distinguished guests to delve into the ongoing Israeli-Arab conflict. Enjoy....

Friday, August 9, 2013

It's a bird! No wait it's a plane! No wait it's Bibi! No wait... who is it again?

To put it extremely lightly, you couldn't call me Bibi's biggest fan. Though G-d has blessed him with intelligence, experience, and American English that would rival any oleh chadash it always seems to get washed down the drain of wretched policy. Flying back and forth between right and left more often than a ping pong ball, there is only one true constant in his decision making - he will do whatever it takes to make sure that it is his tuckus occupying the chair in the PM's office.

Like most others, the recent decision on the prisoner release infuriated me. But maybe more than others, I was already infuriated the week before the decision as I knew deep down that it would go through. How? Because when Bibi wants something he can pull the strings to get it. Just last year I watched in disbelief as the cabinet approved making Ulpana in Beit El Judenrein, including supposedly religious MK's not lifting a finger to stop it for cowering fear of losing their seats at the table. Aside from the absolute ridiculous injustice of the case, both from a moral and legal aspect, it showed me just how skillful Bibi is at manipulating the government to have his way. And though HE HIMSELF of all people declared before the neighborhood was even built that it would never be evacuated, apparently not even Bibi is able to stop Bibi. Had I possessed the money and resources at the time of the past election, I would have liked to have posted pictures of good Jews from Beit El being unjustly kicked out of their homes next to all those nonsensical billboards of Bibi in front of the Kotel proclaiming what a strong prime minister he was. Though, perhaps, recent as it may have been maybe people wouldn't have really gotten the point. Maybe a PR campaign reminding everyone who gave away Hevron would have been a little more poignant eh?

Yet just when I'm ready to throw in the towel and resign to label Bibi in my mind as complete and total rat, all of a sudden something right wing comes out of left field. Reading today of his refusal to sign further agreements with the EU over their recent policy decisions regarding entities in Yehuda and Shomron I almost felt proud of the old boy. Though it certainly took long enough, one would almost think Bibi took the diapers off and moved on to pull-ups. Additionally, I must give credit where credit is due. Building a new border fence in the south and the speed with which it has been progressing is something I commend whole heatedly as well.

So I don't really know what to make of Bibi these days. Is he a sellout leftist wolf in right winged sheep's clothing? Is he a misguided but well intentioned proud Jew and lover of the land of Israel? Is he simply just the opportunist he often seems to be who will whore himself out to whichever side of the political aisle best currently suits his needs? As Jeremy Man Saltan said in a great recent interview on the Yishai Fleisher Show, it seems that only Bibi and G-d really know what Bibi is actually thinking. Though I myself wonder G-d is actually the only one of those two who knows. I myself know one thing for sure - and that's who my choice would be for the next Likud primaries if I were to vote in them. I'd personally do a write in for a dashing young fellow by the name of Ben Nitay...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Germany - Apparently Some Countries Never Change

Photo: Stuttgarter Zeitung

To anyone who would like to argue that the above image is a purely political statement with no inherent anti-Semitism riddle me this - do you honestly think Bibi's nose is that large?? Come on folks.

My mother has some interesting mixed heritage. Her own mother was a Jewish girl from Odessa. Unfortunately she left the Ukraine to intermarry with my maternal grandfather who was half German and half Baluki (from the Balukistan region, part of modern day Pakistan... yeah, don't ask). While I never met my German great grandmother and know next to nothing about her, what I do remember is the few stories my mother told me about the suffering her own mother went through at the hands of her mother-in-law. While I'm not aware that she was blatantly anti-Semitic, she did used to have a great joy at teasing and mocking her Jewish daughter-in-law and being an overall cruel bully. I myself had a close non-Jewish friend once of German heritage who, while he was an all around good guy, had a strange air of cruelty I remember picking up on. Whether it was wrestling with buddies for fun or getting in serious fights while drunk at a party or the like he got a real kick out of physically overpowering people and submitting them to him. It always struck me as strange that it didn't seem to be an ego thing so much as him really just enjoying watching other people suffering in physical pain. It certainly doesn't take much of stretch of the imagination to see why conventional wisdom holds Germany, at least in the previous generation, was the most recent incarnation of Amalek. If Amalek is the exact spiritual opposite of Am Yisrael than it would make sense for a nation embodying cruelty to be the opposite of "rachmanim bnei rachmanim."

There is a story in the Gemara in which a rabbi was speaking to non-Jewish government official or military officer of some sort (I forget the exact details but I believe he was a Roman). The rav told him that he was aware of a major dilemma his nation was contemplating to which the non-Jew expressed doubt. The rav continued, "You all wish to destroy us (the Jewish people) but practically speaking you can't . While you control a large part of the world there are still areas of the world in which Jews live that aren't under your control. So even if you were to kill off every Jew under your dominion you wouldn't have completely wiped out every Jew in the world. And in the meantime, while not completely achieving your objective, you would have to suffer the criticism of the world for being cruel murders and killing off all the Jews of your lands for no reason." Surprised, the non-Jew swore by the name of his avoda zara that what the rav had just stated was precisely what they had been contemplating and he was highly impressed with the rav's keen insight.

The first time I ever heard this story was from a very learned friend who made the shrewd point that Germany is an absolute modern day incarnation of this piece from Chazal. When you simply mention the word "Germany" many things may come to mind. Talented engineering including the some of the best designed cars in the world, opera, chocolate, beer, etc. However... despite all the many associations that are conjured up, the very first one that pops into anyone's head (arguably non-Jews just as much as Jews) is the Holocaust. Practically every nation in the world would have liked to have wiped us out, as evidenced during WW2 by their active assistance in the Holocaust on the one hand, or on the other by convenient feigning of ignorance or at best empty protests lacking any consequential follow-through to the verbal condemnations. While everyone secretly (or not so secretly) wanted to do what Germany did, only the Germans themselves had the honesty to come out in the open and try it. Yet today all the previously jealous bystanders all stand up and point fingers at the Germans condemning them for the rasha'im that they are.

But be all the hypocrisy as it may, the Germans still hold the infamous title of being among the nations who actually tried it.... and quite arguably the worst of them all. While other nations may have committed genocide, even against Jews, nobody ever turned it into a calm calculated industrial process. A modern day suicide bomber's last words will invariably be the screams of "Allahu Akbar" before he ignites in a physical and emotional blast. For his hatred is a highly passionate one. Yet for the SS officer who would release the Zyklon B, he did it with as much emotion as he would tying his shoe. Hatred and murder of Jews wasn't some great philosophical and idealistic concept which entailed dedicating and giving his life so much as an item so ingrained in his blood and normal for him that it occurred in between mundane things like eating a sandwich.

And with this in mind I feel somewhat surprised by the recent anti-Semetic German cartoon. No no, I'm not actually surprised by the cartoon itself. What I'm surprised by is why anyone, especially Jews would be so foolish as to expect anything else. It's as if people think that by constantly repeating the zen mantra of "Never Again" and making every foreign diplomat and dignitary who comes to Israel make their first stop Yad Vashem (even if the nature of their trip is totally unrelated and they have already been to the site multiple times) that will somehow change people's nature. If going through a holocaust isn't enough to change some peoples' wishful thinking, then how can the guilt of a few museums and Steven Spielberg films be enough to change inborn national Jew hatred?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Something Doesn't Smell Quite Right

Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens – August 2, 2013 UPDATE
The Department of State has instructed certain U.S. Embassies and Consulates to remain closed or to suspend operations on Sunday, August 4.  All facilities of the U.S. Consulate General are normally closed to the public on Sundays.  The Consulate General is instructing all U.S. government employees not required for ensuring essential building safety and security not to come into Consulate General facilities for afterhours work on Sunday, August 4.  The Department has been apprised of information that, out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting our installations, indicates we should institute these precautionary steps. It is possible we may have additional days of closings as well, depending on our analysis.

The above is part of a recent email sent out to everyone on the Jerusalem US Consulate mailing list. Of course anyone need only check the headlines since last Friday to be aware of this. But I'd like to know - is anyone else's Spidey-sense being set off on this one? As an interesting side note, the second line in the email states that regardless of a terror threat the consulate is usually closed for business on Sundays anyway. The same goes for the embassy in Tel Aviv. So it's not so clear why the media keeps mentioning the Israeli locations along with the other middle eastern ones as it appears no special external precautions are really being taken at the moment.

But as far as the other embassies go, this whole thing just doesn't make sense. The warnings are so vague that they essentially amount to, "We're worried that some really bad people are going to do some really bad things really soon." If they don't want to reveal any additional information for security purposes, then why go through the bother of making the whole thing so public in the first place? I'm not so hot at poker, but I imagine I'd feel pretty confident if I was playing at the same table as the federal government. I mean come on people, from an intelligence gathering perspective I think one could go about it much more effectively. Wouldn't it make sense to just close each of these locations individually and contact anyone scheduled to come in that day for a visa, passport, etc. telling them the toilets have all massively overflowed and they'll need to reschedule their appointment? Then in the meantime beef up security in as inconspicuous a manner as possible and play a little game of wait and see. Then when something does pop up maybe you can apprehend a few suspects and garner some information out of them? I'll admit I've never worked for an intelligence agency like the CIA or the like, but even an amateur like me has to venture a guess that my plan is at least a slightly more sound alternative to just broadcasting everything you currently know to the world via CNN. Maybe they are banking on the hope that conservative-minded Muslim extremists prefer not to monitor the mainstream media due to the liberal bias. 

And does the United States not feel at least slightly embarrassed that the best they can offer is a warning that a Al Qaeda might commit a terrorist attack somewhere in the Middle East, but they aren't sure where or when or against whom? And then again, maybe there won't be any attacks at all - they're not quite sure about it either way. Heck, even if something is supposed to happen they're not even 100% sure it's going to be at an embassy. It could even be an airbase, plane or a train (what... no automobiles?) So essentially what they are telling us is that it's just another normal day in the Middle East, eh fellas? And these crackpot intelligence reports are supposed to be what reassures us here in Israel when Obama tells us not to worry about Iran getting a nuke because they'll for sure find out about it in enough time to stop it? Do Iraqi WMD's ring a bell to anyone?

Some talkbalkers are spawning conspiracy theories that the whole thing is a ploy to distract the American public from the major scandals currently hitting Obama one after the other about how the federal government snoops on everything from your tax reports to your Facebook "Likes" and just about anything in between. Perhaps vague, but oh so deadly, threats such as these are even supposed to garner up support from the public and coax them into giving Obama carte blanche to peruse their Gmail. After Edward Snowden I supposed I can believe anything at this point. However, were these theories proven to be true I'd actually be a bit disappointed. Orwell's Big Brother and Inner Party had far more oppressive and invasive control over their subjects and yet even half the stuff they came up with had more substance and logic to it than what we are now currently expected to swallow.

So if you too feel that something doesn't quite smell right with this situation perhaps we should all follow our nose on this one. Maybe it's not for nothing that the American president's initials are B.O.