January 30, 2004

Requiem for the Kibbutz Movement and the Socialistic System in Israel


(Now if the Israelis would only allow Economics Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to get rid of the repressive elements of the Histadrut Labor Union and wrench Israel into the 21sst century of economics)

(A most thoughtful article by Saul Singer, Jerusalem Post International Jan. 9, 2004)

During the impressionable year after my 15th birthday, I lived on a kibbutz - Kissufim, to be exact, now in the news because of its proximity to the Gaza Strip, but then just a typical collective community enjoying the arid beauty of the northern Negev. Then, over a quarter of a century ago, the kibbutz existed in its original form. Most of the children slept in children's houses, rather than in their parents' homes a few, steps away. The dining room was a hub of activity, morning, noon, and night. I remember the bottoms of my feet strengthening
from walking around barefoot, the smell of Eucalyptus trees and tractors, and considering the bicycle a form of high-speed transportation.

A week ago, the United Kibbutz Movement, the largest group of kibbutzim, met to officially bless the dissolution of the original collectivist ideal into a construct I dubbed "renewed" kibbutzim. In a "renewed" kibbutz, members will own their own houses, be able to work outside the kibbutz, and receive differential salaries according to their contribution to the collective economy. Children's houses went by the wayside long ago, in favor of parents raising children in their own homes.

It is easy to sneer at the demise of the kibbutz as one more nail in the coffin of socialism. That it surely is, both because the kibbutz was socialism in its purest form and because the conditions afforded that experiment could not have been more favorable. The kibbutzim survived for years under the umbrella of a largely socialized system and so were able to enjoy government benefits without suffocating under the general collapse of a fully planned economy.

The irony is, that if our economy had gone further and faster in the free market direction and was growing at a nice clip then the kibbutzim might be thriving today. The richer a kibbutz is the more it can afford to stick to socialism.

But the kibbutz was not just an economic experiment but also a social one. When I lived on a kibbutz, I thought it was smart to give kids some distance, however small, from their parents. I saw how it produced kids who tended to appreciate their parents more, and had less need to go through the normal adolescent rebellion against them.

Yet the children's houses were scrapped long ago, irrespective of the economic woes that scuttled other sacred beliefs. What this shows is the power of human nature, and the futility of social and economic systems that try to reshape that nature rather than take advantage of it.

Another irony was that the kibbutz, a system designed to eliminate materialism and competition, produced opposite results. Kibbutzniks were often extremely competitive, to their credit, whether in sports or the military. And it is hard to escape the materialism of the classic kibbutz obsession over whether one member had a better television, or somehow benefited from a wealthy uncle, and so on.

Though there are religious kibbutzim, it is no coincidence that most are archly secular, because the kibbutz philosophy was ultimately very un-Jewish. Judaism, its ultra-Orthodox offshoot notwithstanding, is the most respectful of human nature of the three Abrahamic religions. Other religions deal with human vices by going to the opposite extreme, thereby turning asceticism, pacifism, and abstinence into ideals. The attempt to tame materialistic instincts by creating pure equality is of the same cloth.

The question is often asked why the Bible not only begins with stories rather than laws, but with such unsavory descriptions of the Patriarchs that we recall so prominently in the daily prayers. We remind ourselves that we are descended from Jacob, who manipulated his brother and fooled his father in order to obtain the birthright, to mention one among many unsavory incidents. Maybe the purpose of this is not to forget our ancestors’ foibles but to confirm that there is no perfection in humanity, that the ideal is not perfection, but to manage imperfection? Kari Marx was a Jewish anti-Semite who wrote that "Money... is the Jew's real God." As a socialist, he was right to see Judaism as the enemy because capitalism is based on a very Jewish idea: adapting the problematic sides of human nature for good.

Judaism does not try to ban alcohol, sex, or competition, but to co-opt and channel them. Wine becomes part of hallowing the Sabbath, as doe’s sex with one's spouse. Capitalism channels human traits like ambition and greed in a way that does not prevent their abuse, but also produces critical byproducts, such as the ultimate elimination of poverty. Capitalism even contains within it the potential of increasing freedom from competition. The record shows that richer societies are more charitable, allow for many non-material luxuries rare in poor societies such as high literacy, support for the arts, and cleaning up the environmental mess created by an economy's industrial phase.

I had a good kibbutz experience, and I know many people whose lives have been similarly enriched. The kibbutz would be a sad thing to lose. But I would rather lose the kibbutz than squash human nature.

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January 29, 2004

Opinions out of Haifa separated by 15 years


Just recently, after professors from the University of Haifa, Israel lectured to us at Beth Ahm synagogue in West Bloomfield, MI, I stumbled upon this article by Carl Alpert in the Cleveland Jewish News dated Friday May 8, 1988. And NOTHING HAS CHANGED IN 15 YEARS. The professors from Haifa still had the political naivety to promote Carl Alpert’s “Simplistic Solution of Israeli Withdrawal.” Evidently a higher power has kept us from this folly for the last 15 years.

The Simplistic Solution of Israeli Withdrawal

By Carl Alpert, The Cleveland Jewish News, May 8, 1988

Haifa

Violence and street riots by Arabs against Israel are caused; it is said, by their opposition to Israel’s occupation of Judea, Samaria (West Bank), and Gaza, and by their desire for a state of their own in that area. If only the Israelis would withdraw from all occupied territories, blessed peace would descend on the Middle East. Some governments in the world, and even some Jews subscribe to that view to that view. The occupation is the curse. But what was the situation like before the Six Day War, before Jordan's assault on Israel, and before the Israel Defense Forces repelled the Arab Legion and occupied the territories in question?

From 1948 and until 1967, the tenuous and elongated border between Israel and its neighbors was annually the scene of dozens, scores, hundreds of Arab raids across the line. Israeli men, women and children were killed indiscriminately; villages were attacked, homes blown up and civilians kidnapped in an unending Arab guerilla warfare. What did they want then before there was any occupation?

Between May, I950 when the Armistice lines were "guaranteed by the Great Powers, and up to October, 1953, 421 Israelis were killed or wounded, and there were 128 acts of sabotage involving explosives, as 866 armed attacks, many of which, fortunately did not end tragically. The situation continued to deteriorate thereafter.

On October 26, 1953. Abba Eban, with his inimitable eloquence, gave voice to Israel's cry: " The whole of Israel is a frontier under constant siege. Anything that the Arab states can do to paralyze or disrupt our life is done with organized deliberation. We are besieged, blockaded, ambushed, shot at, undermined and abused. I am astonished less by the occasional breakdown of restraint and compassion which mark the vision of a liberal and merciful Israel, than I am amazed by our people’s general record of restraint under unimaginable provocation day by day and night by night.”

IN 1955 to take one typical year, there were 257 Israeli casualties among the frontier - 75 dead, 179 wounded and 3 taken prisoner. Where did the terrorists come from? Egypt and Gaza were the source of 53%. Jordan including the West Band 23%, Syria 22%, and Lebanon 2% and all this was before the occupation, when there was no alien Israeli force imposing ill will and its “tyranny" on the Arab population.

What was the terror like in those days? Examples from the almost daily news give a good picture:

Oct. 13, 1953 - mother and two children murdered in their sleep at Moshe Yahud, just south of. Petach Tikva. Tracks lead across the nearby border to the West Bank village of Rantis.

Dec.10.1953 - a member of Kibbutz Ein Shemer shot by infiltrators while walking near Karkur, in central Israel.

March 17, 1954 - Arab gunmen ambush and attack an Israeli bus at Maaleh Akrabim, south of Beersheba murdering 11, including women and children.
Even these do not tell the whole story, for there were hundreds of instances where our defense forces succeeded in foiling the attackers.

And so it went, day after day. For years, freight trains were blown up, farmers murdered in their fields, soldiers ambushed and killed, children attacked by snipers and mines laid, gangs came across to burn, kill, steal and destroy. And how easy it was in those days when the border between Israel and the West Bank was at some spots less than 15 miles from the sea, and the whole of central Israel lay exposed to the marauders

What was it they wanted then, before withdrawal was on the agenda?
For the sake of peace, we are told, we should return occupied lands and go back to the good old days prior to 1967. The "good old days" when every Israeli was within target distance of hostile Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza or within rifle shot of the Syrians looking down on the kibbutzim of the north from their Golan Heights.

If there is a generation now which did not live during those times, or has forgotten what the situation was then they should be told. It may cause them to reconsider their simplistic solution -Just withdraw!

The situation is certainly not hopeless. Israel has survived far greater crises - and today we are stronger than ever before. The solution to Palestinian desire fro a state of their own cannot and must not be at the expense of a secure Israel. We can yet convince the world of that. ##

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January 27, 2004

Tainted Reporting from the Gaza Strip

It is always of note to see how Associated Press journalists with names like Ibrahim Barzak and Khalil Hamra report news from the Gaza strip. In heart-rending anecdotes, Arabs are always presented, as long suffering victims -which they are - but Israel is always the culprit.

Never is mentioned is the fact that the 18 refugee camps in Gaza and Judea and Samaria are the direct result of the Arab nations not absorbing the 4-500,000 Arabs that elected to leave Israel after the 1948 Israeli War of Independence. Nor is it mentioned that Israel at the same time was absorbing 600,000 Jews that had been in Arab countries since before the conquest of Israel by the Romans over 2000 years ago.

Never is it mentioned that the awful economic state of the Arabs in Gaza and Judea and Samaria is the direct result of Arafat’s thievery of US and International relief funds. Even the TV program, 60 Minutes, no friend of Israel, reported that the International Monetary Fund declared that from 1995-2000, $900 million in Palestinian Authority money “disappeared.” They also reported that $800 million in aid money was placed by Arafat in a private account for his family in Paris!

It is also not reported that Arafat and his henchman have built a line of very expensive personal villas along the beautiful Mediterranean Coast of Gaza, right in the face of their own suffering people.

Barely reported is that the city Rafah is right at the Mediterranean coast, at the south end of the Gaza strip bordering Egypt and that Rafah has been the entry point for fedayeen and current terrorists invading Israeli territory and killing innocent Israeli citizens since before the state was reborn in 1948.

Barely touched upon is the fact that sophisticated underground tunnels, about 80, transfer lethal weapons from Egypt to the Palestinian Authority daily. Israel Defense Forces reported just in the week of October 9-16, 2003, terrorists from the Gaza Strip launched 10 mortar attacks, three Qassam rockets and three anti-tank missiles at Israeli civilian farming communities to the north. All in one week! I wonder what we would do with similar incursions into our country from Canada or Mexico. Of course, that would never happen because of immediate severe retribution by the United States. Blowing up a few homes from which the underground weapons tunnels originate would not begin to measure our response.

One wonders what it will take for the Israelis to really get serious? How many innocent Israeli citizens will continue to be “sacrifices for” an ephemeral “peace.”

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January 26, 2004

Just Priceless Jokes - Sorry

I hate people that send me jokes and almost always do a quick "delete" but these are priceless. it does help however, if you happen to be Jewish and helps even more if you are single and familiar with Internet mate shopping

(Many thanks to original sender - bayit 10)

ACTUAL PERSONALS FROM JEWISH NEWSPAPERS:
>
> Sincere rabbinical student, 27. Enjoys Yom Kippur, Tisha
> B'av, Taanis Esther, Tzom Gedaliah, Asarah B'Teves, Shiva
> Asar B'Tammuz. Seeks companion for living life in the fast
> lane.
>
> Shul Gabbai, 36. I take out the Torah Saturday morning.
> Would like to take you out Saturday night. Please write.
>
> Couch potato latke in search of the right applesauce. Let's
> try it for eight days. Who knows?
>
> Divorced Jewish man seeks partner to attend shul with, light
> Shabbos
> candles, celebrate holidays, build Sukkah together, attend
> brisses and Bar Mitzvahs. Religion not important.
>
> Orthodox woman with get, seeks man who's got get, or can
> get get. Get it? I'll show you mine, if you show me yours.
>
> Yeshiva bochur, Torah scholar, long beard, payis. Seeks
> same in woman.
>
> Worried about in-law meddling? I'm an orphan! Write.
>
> Nice Jewish guy, 38. No skeletons, no baggage, no
> personality
>
> Female graduate student, studying Kaballah, Zohar,
> exorcism of dybbuks. Seeks mensch. No weirdos, please.
>
> Staunch Jewish feminist, wears tzitzis, seeking male who will
> accept my independence, although you probably will not.
> Oh, just forget it.
>
> Jewish businessman, 49. Manufactures Shabbos candles,
> Chanukah candles, Havdallah candles, Yahrzeit candles.
> Would like to light your candle. Seeks non-smoker.
>
> Israeli professor, 41, with 18 years of teaching in my behind.
> Looking for American-born woman who speaks English very
> good.
>
> Eighty-year-old bubbe, no assets, seeks handsome, virile,
> Jewish male, under 35. Object: matrimony. I can dream,
> can't I?
>
> I am a sensitive Jewish prince whom you can open your
> heart to share your innermost thoughts and deepest secrets. Confide
in me.
> I'll understand your insecurities. No fatties, please.
>
> Jewish male, 34. Very successful, smart, independent, self-
> made. Looking for girl whose father will hire me.
>
> Single Jewish woman, 29, into disco, mountain climbing,
> skiing, track and field. Has slight limp.
>
> Jewish princess, 28. Seeks successful businessman of any
> major Jewish denomination: hundreds, fifties, twenties.
>
> Desperately seeking schmoozing! Retired senior citizen
> desires female companion 70+ for kvetching, kvelling, and krechtzing.
> Under 30 is also OK.
>

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January 25, 2004

Who Says the Golan Is Syrian?


By Professor Yoav Gelber

[Originally appeared in Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, translation thanks to Moshe Kohn]

Before we proclaim that "the Golan is Syrian," it is worthwhile doing a
quick review of its history. Ever since the establishment of the Syrian
state, that country has lost more significant segments of its land than the
Golan. In 1920 Mosul was given to Iraq and Tripoli to Lebanon, and in 1937
the Turks took Alexandretta. Yet Syria has maintained correct relations with
all three of those annexing neighbors. It would seem that her insistence on
getting the Golan back in its entirety stems solely from her desire to weaken Israel
.

In the original division between French Syria and British [Mandatory] Palestine [after World War I], most of the Golan Heights was within the borders of Palestine. In the course of the demarcation of the boundary, local landowners applied heavy pressure, and as a result - and due to the absence of Zionist counter-pressure - the line was moved [somewhat] westward. Upon gaining independence, Syrian refused to recognize that line, and ever since they have been demanding that the border run down the middle of the Jordan River and Lake Kinneret [the "Sea of Galilee"].

During the [1947-1948] War of Independence [Arab-Israel War], the Syrians gained control of areas west of the Jordan and afterwards demanded that the border coincide with the water line. The response of Israel's foreign minister at
that time, Moshe Sharett, was that it was unthinkable that Israel should hand her Syrian enemy what the British had refused to give their French ally.

Under the 1949 armistice, the Syrian Army retreated across the border, and the area they vacated was declared a demilitarized zone. The struggle for the control of that area reached its peak when Israel started to drain the Huleh Valley swampland. In the spring of 1951 violence broke out throughout the demilitarized zone, leading to the expulsion of the Arab residents of the area to Galilee and across the border, and Israeli sovereignty over the area was ensured. There was a de facto partition of the demilitarized areas: Israel controlled the central section and the Syrians had el-Hamma on the Kinneret's northeastern shore and two tels on the fringes of the Galilee "panhandle." This partition is the basis of the difference between the two concepts, "the international border" and "the June 4 [1967] lines."

What did not obligate the Syrians then should not obligate Israel [today]. There is no need today to hand the Syrians a border that they rejected in the1940s and 1950s. The Golan has been under Israeli rule longer than under the rule of independent Syria (36 years as against 21 years). [The Golan town of] Katzrin is no more Syrian than Jaffa, Lod, Ramleh, or Acco [Acre] are Palestinian (under the 1947 United Nations partition proposal), and we ought to think of the consequences of setting a precedent by giving up the Golan.

The weight of the historical arguments might have been different if Syria held Israel by the throat. But the only real Syrian threat against Israel is the threat of missiles aimed at Israel's center. Security arrangements in the Golan might be a partial solution regarding the security of the Israeli settlements situated along the pre-1967 line, but is no answer to the threat of missiles fired from points far from the demilitarized zone and far from Israel's warning systems. The sole constraint on the implementation of this threat is the Israel Defense Forces' proximity to Damascus, Israel's withdrawal from which would abandon the Dan region, the Coastal Plain, and Haifa to Syrian missiles.

The argument that a peace agreement is the best defense against missiles is delusive. There has never been a war that was not receded by peace. And the risks of war in our case are not symmetrical: we cannot afford a single loss, whereas our neighbors have survived several debacles. That is why Israel stubbornly insists on security arrangements in any peace pact with any of her neighbors.

Syria has far more serious problems than we in the military sphere, in the economic sphere, and in the political sphere. She needs peace in order to solve some of them, and it is she - not Israel - that has to pay the main part of the price to achieve it: first and foremost by ceasing to support Palestinian and Lebanese terror, and also by waiving her claim to most of the Golan.
------------------------------------
IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

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January 23, 2004

A Catholic Response to age-old Jewish Concerns

(From an extremely knowledgeable, reliable, well-respected and highly placed Catholic source and good friend)

It is a myth that the Vatican has the Second Temple Menorah. There are several centuries in between the sacking of Rome and the time the Vatican was built. And what would be the motivation (during the centuries when "Christendom" reigned in Europe and the Jews were powerless to ask for it’s return) for the Vatican not to show the Menorah? Indeed, Jewish scholars have had access over the years to the Vatican's Judaica holdings. It is not there.

Second, addressing the historical Papal visit to Israel: "Rabbi Lau, however, was disappointed by the lack of apology for the Church's behavior during the Holocaust, and commented that the Pope had asked forgiveness for 1492 CE (the Inquisition), but had not yet addressed the sins of 1942 CE (the Holocaust)." The Liturgy of Repentance in St. Peter's two weeks before the pope's visit to Jerusalem asked forgiveness from God for all sins committed by Catholics.

It reads: “God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring Your name to the nations: we are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of Yours to suffer and asking Your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant.” Jerusalem, 26 March 2000. Joannnes Paulus II.

The explanation for the prayer issued by the Pontifical Theological Commission is quite explicit on the inclusion of the Shoah among the sins of Catholics. It reads:

5.4 Christians and Jews: “The relationship between Christians and Jews is one of the areas requiring a special examination of conscience.”

81 "The Church's relationship to the Jewish people is unlike the one she shares with any other religion."

82 Nevertheless, "the history of the relations between Jews and Christians is a tormented one... In effect, the balance of these relations over two thousand years has been quite negative."

83 The hostility or diffidence of numerous Christians toward Jews in the course of time is a sad historical fact and is the cause of profound remorse for Christians aware of the fact that "Jesus was a descendent of David; that the Virgin Mary and the Apostles belonged to the Jewish people; that the Church draws sustenance from the root of that good olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild olive branches of the Gentiles (cf. Rom 11:17-24);
That the Jews are our dearly beloved brothers, indeed in a certain sense they are 'our elder brothers.'"

84 The Shoah was certainly the result of the pagan ideology that was Nazism, animated by a merciless anti-Semitism that not only despised the faith of the Jewish people, but also denied their very human dignity. Nevertheless, "it may be asked whether the Nazi persecution of the Jews was not made easier by the anti-Jewish prejudices imbedded in some Christian minds and hearts... Did Christians give every possible assistance to those being persecuted, and in particular to the persecuted Jews?"

85 There is no doubt that there were many Christians who risked their lives to save and to help their Jewish neighbors. It seems, however, also true that "alongside such courageous men and women, the spiritual resistance and concrete action of other Christians was not that which might have been expected from Christ's followers."

86 This fact constitutes a call to the consciences of all Christians today, so as to require "an act of repentance (teshuva)”

87 And to be a stimulus to increase efforts to be "transformed by renewal of your mind" (Rom 12:2), as well as to keep a "moral and religious memory" of the injury inflicted on the Jews. In this area, much has already been done, but this should be confirmed and deepened.

5.5 Our Responsibility for the Evils of Today. "The present age in fact, together with much light, also presents not a few shadows."


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January 21, 2004

Sick 60 Minutes

Bob Simon and 60 minutes not fenced in by the facts

(Arch-typical self-hating Jews of 60 Minutes, with Simon in the lead, disgustingly spew their usual venom against their own people in their on-going sick quest for viewer ratings.) jsk

BY ANDREA LEVIN

Veteran CBS correspondent Bob Simon's December 21, 2003 60 Minutes segment on the fence Israel is building to thwart terrorists displayed the same defects apparent in so many of his reports. It was manipulative and shaky on key factual assertions. By conscious editorial choice, emphasis was given to critics of the fence, with three Palestinians and an Israeli detractor counter-balanced by two Israeli proponents of the project. Nowhere did Simon report the over-whelming Israeli public support for the barrier, as indicated in an October poll by the Tami Steinmetz Center that found 82 percent believe the fence will prevent or significantly reduce terrorism.

Instead, a former Israeli official opposed to the fence is featured both in the program teaser and in the segment itself declaring that giving "hope" to the Palestinians, rather than building a fence, is the key to security. For emphasis, Simon reiterates: "So giving the Palestinians hope is a more effective security measure than building a fence?" Simon also repeats, without caveat, the
non-sensical claim of the same Israeli that "there's less terrorism when Palestinians have more hope for a state of their own."

The CBS luminary has himself reported from Israel since before Oslo, when large-scale terror attacks were rare, and after Oslo's ceding of land and authority and the offer of a state, when the mass killings exploded. But the correspondent known for tough jabs is silent. Similarly false and deceptive are Simon's repeated references to the fence taking "Palestinian land" and to the problem of the fence deviating from the 1967 lines - as though the land is not, in fact, disputed, with its ultimate disposition to be negotiated in accordance with UN Resolution 242. That resolution did not, contrary to Simon's continuous sub-text, mandate ceding all West Bank territory. Indeed, its authors believed Israel could not possibly defend itself along those lines, and assumed alterations would be required. This view has been endorsed explicitly by American civilian and military leaders.

Simon's story does include two officials advocating the barrier as effective protection against terrorist incursions. A Knesset member and a general who is chief of strategic planning for the Israeli army both argue the necessity of the fence. And the role of terrorism is included with footage of bombing scenes. But in addition to the Israeli detractor, three Palestinian civilians present the personal face of dislocation and difficulty wrought by the new fence. One farmer
says he can't reach his greenhouses; another speaks of being cut off from his olive orchards. (Simon omits mention of Israel s efforts to minimize losses to olive growers by replanting trees affected by the path of the fence - a policy that has led to moving some 60,000 trees.) Most emotional is a Palestinian woman, an "author and architect " who weeps while describing the anguish she feels when she witnesses "older people" subjected to the "unbearable" humiliation of passing through checkpoints necessitated by the fence.

Simon commiserates: "And you never get used to it." No civilian Israeli victims of terror, whether the bereaved, the wounded or the fearful are given the chance to tell viewers about not getting "used to" the "unbearable" feeling of vulnerability caused by knowing predators seek entry into Israel to kill and maim them. Why for instance, did Simon not interview stunned young Israeli students and parents at the Yokne'am School in northern Israel, which had only two weeks earlier been the would-be target of two Islamic Jihad terrorists? The killers' intention was to explode 22 pounds of explosives among as many students as possible. Captured by the Israeli military, the men said the nearby town of Bardaleh had been chosen to cross into Israel because the security fence did not extend there.

But just as Simon opts for the clichéd setup of characters - the hard-nosed Israelis and suffering Palestinians - he takes a pass on reporting the truth about what fuels the bombers. The Palestinian architect insists the "wall will create more young people" without work and school "ready to do nasty things." Here as in other coverage. Simon is entirety mute regarding the, Palestinians' venomous incitement against Jews and Israelis, the extolling of suicide killers and
calls for Israel's destruction in schools media, mosques and rallies, in sports tournaments, posters and even via children's "martyr" necklaces and trading cards.

Indeed, while he has previously done entire stories on suicide bombers, he has never deviated from the charted story line never focused on the role and responsibility of Palestinian society in nurturing a genocidal hatred whose stated aim is not the adjustment of West Bank lines one way or another, but the annihilation of Israel. But to tell the truth about Palestinian incitement and Palestinian goals would require Simon to embrace journalistic standards he has eschewed for decades of reporting from Israel. His unwillingness to break that pattern is a "barrier” likely to remain in place.

Andrea Levin is Executive Director of CAMERA, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America

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January 18, 2004

Requiem for the Kibbutz Movement and the Socialistic System in Israel

(Now if the Israelis allow Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to get rid of the repressive elements of the Histadrut Labor Union and wrench Israel into the 21st century of economics)

(A most thoughtful article by Saul Singer, Jerusalem Post International Jan. 9, 2004)

During the impressionable year after my 15th birthday, I lived on a kibbutz - Kissufim, to be exact, now in the news because of its proximity to the Gaza Strip, but then just a typical collective community enjoying the arid beauty of the northern Negev. Then, over a quarter of a century ago, the kibbutz existed in its original form. Most of the children slept in children's houses, rather than in their parents' homes a few, steps away. The dining room was a hub of activity, morning, noon, and night. I remember the bottoms of my feet strengthening
from walking around barefoot, the smell of Eucalyptus trees and tractors, and considering the bicycle a form of high-speed transportation.

A week ago, the United Kibbutz Movement, the largest group of kibbutzim, met to officially bless the dissolution of the original collectivist ideal into a construct I dubbed "renewed" kibbutzim. In a "renewed" kibbutz, members will own their own houses, be able to work outside the kibbutz, and receive differential salaries according to their contribution to the collective economy. Children's houses went by the wayside long ago, in favor of parents raising children in their own homes.

It is easy to sneer at the demise of the kibbutz as one more nail in the coffin of socialism. That it surely is, both because the kibbutz was socialism in its purest form and because the conditions afforded that experiment could not have been more favorable. The kibbutzim survived for years under the umbrella of a largely socialized system and so were able to enjoy government benefits without suffocating under the general collapse of a fully planned economy.

The irony is, that if our economy had gone further and faster in the free market direction and was growing at a nice clip then the kibbutzim might be thriving today. The richer a kibbutz is the more it can afford to stick to socialism. But the kibbutz was not just an economic experiment but also a social one. When I lived on a kibbutz, I thought it was smart to give kids some distance, however small, from their parents. I saw how it produced kids who tended to appreciate their parents more, and had less need to go through the normal adolescent rebellion against them.

Yet the children's houses were scrapped long ago, irrespective of the economic woes that scuttled other sacred beliefs. What this shows is the power of human nature, and the futility of social and economic systems that try to reshape that nature rather than take advantage of it.

Another irony was that the kibbutz, a system designed to eliminate materialism and competition, produced opposite results. Kibbutzniks were often extremely competitive, to their credit, whether in sports or the military. And it is hard to escape the materialism of the classic kibbutz obsession over whether one member had a better television, or somehow benefited from a wealthy uncle, and so on.

Though there are religious kibbutzim, it is no coincidence that most are archly secular, because the kibbutz philosophy was ultimately very un-Jewish. Judaism, its ultra-Orthodox offshoot notwithstanding, is the most respectful of human nature of the three Abrahamic religions. Other religions deal with human vices by going to the opposite extreme, thereby turning asceticism, pacifism, and abstinence into ideals. The attempt to tame materialistic instincts by creating pure equality is of the same cloth.

The question is often asked why the Bible not only begins with stories rather than laws, but with such unsavory descriptions of the Patriarchs that we recall so prominently in the daily prayers. We remind ourselves that we are descended from Jacob, who manipulated his brother and fooled his father in order to obtain the birthright, to mention one among many unsavory incidents. Maybe the purpose of this is not to forget our ancestors’ foibles but to confirm that there is no perfection in humanity, that the ideal is not perfection, but to manage imperfection? Kari Marx was a Jewish anti-Semite who wrote that "Money... is the Jew's real God." As a socialist, he was right to see Judaism as the enemy because capitalism is based on a very Jewish idea: adapting the problematic sides of human nature for good.

Judaism does not try to ban alcohol, sex, or competition, but to co-opt and channel them. Wine becomes part of hallowing the Sabbath, as doe’s sex with one's spouse. Capitalism channels human traits like ambition and greed in a way that does not prevent their abuse, but also produces critical byproducts, such as the ultimate elimination of poverty. Capitalism even contains within it the potential of increasing freedom from competition. The record shows that richer societies are more charitable, allow for many non-material luxuries rare in poor societies such as high literacy, support for the arts, and cleaning up the environmental mess created by an economy's industrial phase.

I had a good kibbutz experience, and I know many people whose lives have been similarly enriched. The kibbutz would be a sad thing to lose. But I would rather lose the kibbutz than squash human nature. ##

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January 15, 2004

U.S./Egyptian Military Maneuvers Against Whom?


Somehow I wonder how the U.S. can have strategic dialogues with both Egypt and Israel when Egypt’s strategy since 1948 has been the elimination of Israel? And, unfortunately, the U.S. has armed Egypt to the teeth in its inevitable war to once more eliminate its neighbor. Egypt conducts wartime maneuvers across the Suez Canal and into the Sinai constantly. And, who are all the billions of dollars of sophisticated, state of the art, and weaponry bought for - the animists of the Sudan? Good luck. Who is kidding whom here?

At least the American armaments and aircraft industries are happy. What matters a vital strategic military ally and fellow democracy and a bulwark against the never-ending onslaught of militant Islam? Let’s all get rich!

U.S. AGREES TO STRATEGIC DIALOGUE WITH EGYPT

CAIRO [MENL] -- The United States has agreed to hold a strategic dialogue
with Egypt.

Egyptian officials said Cairo and Washington have agreed to establish a
framework for an annual strategic dialogue. They said the dialogue would
cover Egyptian-U.S. defense relations as well as strategy in the Middle
East. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said the dialogue would be launched during the next visit by President Hosni Mubarak to the United States.

The date of Mubarak's visit to Washington has not been set, Maher said.
Maher reported plans to launch the strategic dialogue after meeting U.S.
Assistant Secretary of State William Burns on Tuesday. The foreign minister
said his talks with Burns focused on the preparations for the dialogue.

editor@menewsline.com for further details and complete item.

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January 13, 2004

James Baker III, Attorney for Saudi Arabia and the Oil Industry


LETTER FROM RUTH MATAR (WOMEN IN GREEN) JERUSALEM Thursday, January 8, 2004
From: Women in Green

Dear Friends,

It's official! James Addison Baker III is coming to Israel as President Bush's personal envoy. President Bush announced this on the first day of the New Year: "He is yet to go to the Middle East, and he's going to let me know when he thinks the timing is good for that."

Regarding this upcoming visit, a Jerusalem official explained that Israel's understanding is that James Baker "is supposed to go around the world and try to convince countries to support the President. To keep a general maintenance program, to ensure that there are no surprises, that nothing rocks the boat for the President while he is in an election year." Good news for Saudi Arabia! Very bad news for Israel!

JAMES BAKER III AND SAUDI ARABIA

Certainly James Baker is not going to rock the boat in Saudi Arabia for President Bush, while he is in an election year. James Baker is considered to be a good friend by the Saudis. Since 9/11 Saudi Arabia has had, to put it delicately, a public relations problem. Saudi Arabia has had to dodge allegations that it had a hand in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Saudi nationals.

The families of the September 11 victims have instituted a trillion-Dollar class-action law suit against the Saudi government. In the months ahead, dozens of Saudi citizens (including Khalid bin Mahfouz) and institutions (including National Commercial Bank) will have to respond to suits in New York and Washington, D.C. Those suits name hundreds of defendants, including major Saudi banks, charities, and certain members of the royal family, alleging liability for the attacks. And guess who is defending the Saudi government against this lawsuit - The law firm of former Secretary of State under President George Herbert Walker Bush, President George W. Bush's father.

The law firm of former Secretary of State James Baker III, BAKER BOTTS, has long represented clients with interests in Saudi Arabia. The Baker Botts law firm was put in an even better position to pull in more work from Saudi Arabia in the fall of 2001, when President George W. Bush appointed Baker Botts partner, Robert Jordan, Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Baker Botts made an appearance in D.C. Federal District Court for the Saudi Minister of Defense and Aviation, Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud. In a statement on behalf of Prince Sultan, Baker Botts called the claims that the prince and other Saudi royal family members assisted in terrorist attacks "utterly false".

Baker Botts has a powerful permanent presence in Saudi Arabia. It has nine main offices: Austin, Dallas, Houston, New York, Washington, London, Moscow, Baku (capital of oil-rich Azerbaijan), and, of course, Riyadh, in oil-rich Saudi Arabia. Oil is not the only thing these power brokers handle. The firm boasts of expertise in "corporate crisis" and "white-collar criminal defense"; it is currently defending the CEO of Rite-Aid, who has been indicted of conspiracy and fraud. In the past, Baker Botts has also represented Enron.

Baker Botts is slickest when it comes to oil, but Baker himself has even wider interests. As senior counsel to the Carlyle Group, the investment firm long associated with Bush interests, Baker helps to oversee the operations of the nation's 10th-largest defense contractor, United Defense.
With all these wonderful connections, James Baker will have no problem to convince Saudi Arabia to support George W. Bush, and not to rock the boat for the President while he is in an election year!


BAKER AND ISRAEL

Baker is not a friend of Israel, and that is the understatement of the year. In 1990, when he was Secretary of State in George H. W. Bush's cabinet, he publicly remonstrated with Israel: "When you are serious about peace, call us," then giving out the White House telephone number. Also as Secretary of State, he was widely quoted as saying: "f**k the Jews, they don't vote for us anyway." Colorful language, but Baker may have said this in a fit of anger at those "pesky" Jews. But the following story illustrates Baker's STRONG hatred and disdain for Israel:

Shortly before assuming office as Secretary of State, Baker invited an interviewer from Time Magazine to accompany him on a turkey hunt. At one point during the hunt, when he was discussing Israel and the Arabs, Baker remarked: "The trick is in getting them where you want them, on your terms. Then you control the situation, not them. You have the options. Pull the trigger or don't.

It doesn't matter once you've got them where you want them. The important thing is knowing that it's in your hands, that you can do whatever you determine is in your interest to do." When the reporter asked Baker if he was referring to the turkeys, Baker replied, "No, I mean Israel." (Time Magazine, February 13, 1989) [as cited in ZOA press release June 7, 1996].

That is how James Baker III thinks of Israel: as turkeys to be hunted down, with himself as the hunter. As James Baker said: "The important thing is knowing that it's in your hands, that you can do whatever you determine is in your interest to do"

Unfortunately, Israel must assume that Baker, with his long time friendship with Saudi Arabia, his law firm being one of Saudi Arabia's defense council in a trillion-dollar law suit against the Saudi royal family, and the intertwined business interests of Saudi Arabia and as senior council to the investment firm long associated with Bush interests, James Baker has no motivation to be evenhanded as far as Israel is concerned. Isn't there a conflict of interest here?

President Bush and his Arabist State Department, keep insisting that all Jewish (not Arab) settlement activity in the Hold Land must stop. James Baker's star pupil, Daniel Kurtzer is presently U.S. Ambassador to Israel. Daniel Kurtzer was the speechwriter of Secretary of State James Baker. He actually coined the phrase "Land for Peace" to be used in one of Baker's policy speeches. Even though Kurtzer is supposedly an Orthodox Jew he does not believe in the Biblical Promises of Hashem with regard to the Land of Israel. With the same arrogance and disdain for Israel of his mentor James Baker, he issued a dictate to Israeli courts: "do not to let the fact that Migron has submitted documents proving that it is a legal community on Jewish owned Land, prevent its uprooting!" (Kurtzer frequently issues orders to Israel as if he were the High Commissioner, rather than the U.S. Ambassador) Why is U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer focusing on Migron? It seems that he had previously instructed Israel Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz that Migron has to be the first Jewish "settlement" to be evacuated, so as to make possible a contiguous Palestinian State.

It is difficult to understand President Bush's insistence on creating a Palestinian terrorist state in the Holy Land and thereby depriving the Jewish People of their rightful heritage. But, as it has often been said, in politics there are no friends, only interests. And unfortunately, the United States perceives its interests to be to placate Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Muslim world.

Yes, the situation looks very bad. The Sharon government has been under increasing pressure to dismantle 100 so-called illegal outposts. The Arabist U.S. State Department designates an Illegal outpost as any community the Jews are trying to build in their own Biblical Heartland of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has folded completely under American pressure. Therefore, many Israelis see the dismantling of "outposts" as the first step in Sharon's plan to unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank (Judea and Gaza) and the Gaza Strip.

What can we do? Let us not consent to be James Baker's turkeys!

We can be sure that there is much pressure from the Bush administration. And continual and strong pressure at that! But in the years from Israel's rebirth in 1948 until 1992, Israeli Prime Ministers often had to defy very heavy U.S. pressure, for example:

1948/9: U.S. pressure on Ben Gurion with threats of economic sanctions to refrain from declaration of independence.

1967: The U.S., the U.S.S.R. and the UN pressured Levi Eshkol to refrain from a pre-emptive strike and from reuniting Jerusalem.

1981: The U.S., U.S.S.R., Europe and the UN threatened Begin with military and economic sanctions, lest he bomb Iraq's nuclear reactor.

Nonetheless, Previous Prime Ministers were able to successfully withstand incredibly strong pressure of the U.S. The world and the US are more likely to respect a "NON-PUNCHING BAG ISRAEL". A strong democratic undivided Israel, as promised to the Jews, according to the Judeo-Christian tradition, is not only in Israel's interest but in America's interest as well.
With Blessings and Love for Israel,

Ruth Matar



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The Subterfuge of Racial Diversity and the Supreme Court


(Excerpted from an article in Commentary Magazine, September 2003)

By Professor Carl Cohen

TWENTY-FIVE years ago, when the case of Bakke v. University of California arrived before the U.S. Supreme Court, it was widely anticipated that the Justices would at last resolve an issue that had been bedeviling the country for years: the permissibility of preference by race in university admissions. It did not happen. To the contrary, the internal divisions of the Court at that time, as reflected in six tangled opinions, left the matter in a more muddled condition than it already was. True, Allan Bakke, the white applicant who had been turned down by the University of California in favor of less qualified minority candidates, won his suit; naked racial preference was thrown out. But what other sorts of racial and ethnic preferences might be permitted was left quite uncertain.

The chief muddler in 1978 was Justice Lewis Powell, a decent man and an honorable judge who found racial discrimination appalling and unconstitutional and yet also felt that he had to permit some wiggle room for college admissions officers to attend to race under some circumstances. In his long and convoluted opinion, notorious for the confusion to which it subsequently gave rise, Powell held that it would be reasonable for a university to take into consideration the race of particular applicants for the sake of achieving intellectual "diversity" in the student body. To treat people in general differently because of their color, Powell said, was plainly a violation of the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. But to allow the race of individual applicants to weigh in their favor for the sake of diversity did not amount to such a violation.

No other Justice joined Powell in his confused and rather fanciful homage to the concept of diversity. And yet his principle took root. This was in part because, in a Court divided between two parties of four, his had been the deciding voice. For the universities, the problem with Bakke was that it unambiguously rejected preferences for the sake of remedying past injustices committed against racial minorities—precisely the defense that, until then many universities had been relying upon. If they were determined to go on giving preference, as for the most part they were, they would henceforth have to lean upon the weak reed of Powell's speculations concerning diversity. And this, for the next quarter-century, they proceeded to do.

But would the "diversity defense" withstand renewed constitutional challenge? That central question was presented to the Supreme Court in two cases involving the University of Michigan and finally decided this past June, 2003: Gratz v. Bollinger, concerning the admissions practices of Michigan's undergraduate college, and Gruffer v. Bollinger, concerning the admissions practices of its law school.

("Bollinger" is Lee Bollinger, formerly the president of the university.) Though the two cases differed significantly in their particulars, in each case the university justified its practice of using racial preferences on the grounds not of remediation but of diversity. One would have thought—I certainly thought— that the university would have an extremely tough time of it. For any state to treat people differently by race is an odious practice, presumptively unconstitutional and hence subject to the rigorous standard of "strict scrutiny" applied to any putative exceptions to the rule.

That standard has two prongs. To win the day, the university would need five of the nine Justices to agree both that racial diversity was a "compelling" need of the state of Michigan and that the system of preference it was using had been "narrowly tailored" to meet that compelling need. How could it do that? It seemed eminently plain that the state's need for racial diversity in its university, if it had any such need at all, was not compelling under any ordinary meaning of that term

Moreover, the two Michigan systems giving preference, so far from being narrowly tailored, were (as one federal judge had earlier put it) more like a chain saw than a sewing machine in their mode of operation. Success for the University of Michigan thus seemed very unlikely indeed. So confident was I that five Supreme Court votes could not be gathered to support a view
plainly concocted only to pass muster under Powell's 1978 opinion that two years ago I came as close as the editors of COMMENTARY would permit me to predicting certain defeat for the university ("Race Preferences & the Universities—A Final Reckoning?" September 2001). As I saw it, no judge, taking seriously the standard of strict scrutiny, could possibly approve diversity as a state need compelling enough to justify deliberate racial discrimination. Right and left, I wagered steak dinners with every softheaded supporter of the diversity principle who would allow his political passions to overrule his good sense. I am buying many steaks these days.

… In a footnote to the opinion of Justice Ruth Ginsburg, who had voted for the struck down undergraduate point system, Chief Justice Rehnquist called Ginsburg's observations “remarkable,’ and answered them sharply:

“First, they suggest that universities—to whose academic judgment we are told in Grutter we should defer—will pursue their affirmative- action programs whether or not they violate the United States Constitution. Second, they recommend that these violations should be dealt with, not by requiring the universities to obey the Constitution, but by changing the Constitution so that it conforms to the conduct of the universities.”

HIS FOOTNOTE, destined to become famous, goes to the heart of the two cases. Conduct that is plainly wrong and ugly if confronted openly, has been condoned by five members of the Supreme Court if carefully hidden and deliberately mis-described. The unconscionable deceptions of years past are now enshrined and soon to be compounded. Duplicity is encouraged to run amok and those of its sister institutions likewise relying upon allegedly non-quantified diversity as the justification for preferences will be back in court again and again.

But the controversy will also move from the courtroom to the ballot box. If the Supreme Court has found that, in the interest of diversity, race preference may be given, it remains for the people of the several states to decide for themselves whether, in their state, race preference is to be for-bidden. In Michigan, for example, every effort will be made by the time of the presidential election of 2004 to place on the ballot a Michigan Civil Rights Initiative—an equivalent of California's Proposition 209. The operative sentence in that proposition, now incorporated in the California constitution, is nearly identical to a critical passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with the addition of five words that appear here in emphasis. It reads:

“The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”

Once the matter is on the ballot, it will also become more difficult for legislators and political candidates to dodge this controversy as they have so often done in the past. Will they urge their constituents to vote against a proposition forbidding race preference? If so, must we not conclude that they support race preference? The decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger is disheartening in the extreme. But the governing rule in this matter will come ultimately from the citizenry, and we must trust that the large majority of Americans, as reported in survey after survey and confirmed in election after election, continues to find racism of every sort disgusting. I was wrong about the outcome of the battle in court; now the war must move to other fronts.

CARL COHEN is professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan and a longtime contributor to COMMENTARY. The present article will appear in different form as part of the epilogue to his book with James P. Sterba, Affirmative Action and Racial Preference: A Debate, forthcoming from Oxford.


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January 06, 2004

Former Minister of Defense Moshe Arens and Jordanian Prince Hassan bin Talal


These two astute elder statesmen come up with a genuine peace concept attempting to rescue Israel, Jordan, the United States and the rest of the civilized world from the guaranteed catastrophe of the US State Dept. “Roadmap” and the “Geneva Initiative” of Israel’s four discarded political Dwarfs - Beilin, Burg, Mizna and Lipkin-Shahak

Also see previous entries in Israel Commentary relative to this issue:
A Breath of Fresh Air - Dec. 29, 2003
Geneva Initiative Unmasked Dec. 12, 2003
Israel’s Fence - Nov. 24, 2003

Looking over the Horizon

From the Israeli newspaper, Ha'aretz


By Moshe Arens

The Likud ministers who have recently presented various versions of Israeli unilateral withdrawals, unilateral moves or unilateral separation schemes from the Palestinian population are right about one thing: There is almost no chance of reaching a settlement with the Palestinian Authority, regardless of who the prime minister, selected by Chairman Yasser Arafat, will be. But their conclusion - that Israel therefore should now withdraw from most of Judea and Samaria and uproot the settlements there - is way off. It is myopic vision at its utmost.

The peace process with the Palestinians is being held hostage by the Palestinian terrorists of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al Aqsa Brigades and other groups and movements with various exotic names. It has been proven time and again that there can be no useful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians as long as acts of terror continue. This was the underlying assumption of Prime Minister Sharon's policy when he first took office. The principle was incorporated in the U.S.-sponsored road map: The first step on the road to peace must be the dismantling of the infrastructure of Palestinian terrorism. That step has not been taken by Arafat, nor by Abu Mazen, nor will it be taken by Abu Ala, or by any of his successors. For the simple reason that, even if they were willing to take on this task (and that is highly doubtful), they are eminently incapable of accomplishing it.

Under these circumstances, staging a unilateral Israeli withdrawal, which means moving the IDF out of areas it entered during operation Defensive Shield to combat Palestinian terrorism, means leaving those areas under terrorist control and bringing terrorism back to the doorstep of Israel's cities. In other words, a return to the days of the massacres at the Dolphinarium and the Park Hotel.

The belief that the fence currently being built can serve as adequate protection and make unnecessary the presence of the IDF in the areas beyond the fence is an illusion. Israelis will not be able to live peaceably as long as terrorists reign in the areas across the fence. It's just too close for comfort.

The inescapable conclusion is that a partner for negotiating a settlement with Israel must be someone that is willing to take on the terrorists and is capable of subduing them. In the absence of such a partner, that mission remains in the hands of the IDF and the Shin Bet security service, which have been doing a creditable job of this difficult and unpleasant task.

Israel has a neighbor to the east, which has demonstrated over the years both the determination and the ability to suppress terrorism. It is Jordan. Arafat and the PLO were close to taking over Jordan, when they were driven out by King Hussein in "black" September of 1970. That was the real origin of the demand for a "second" Palestinian state. In the years that followed, the Jordanians have shown themselves very effective in suppressing terrorism. In that area they evidently can be relied upon.

It is therefore not idle speculation to consider Jordan as the eventual partner for a settlement of the outstanding issues between Israel and the Palestinians. There is little question regarding the legitimacy of Jordan in that role. Seventy percent of its population is of Palestinian origin, its queen is Palestinian, Judea and Samaria were annexed to Jordan in 1949 and Jordanian citizenship was bestowed on the population there. The most difficult issues, Jerusalem and territorial compromise, would be easier to handle in such a framework. Jordan already has a capital, in Amman, and does not need a second one, and the territories of Judea and Samaria are contiguous to Jordan geographically.

There is only one fly in the ointment. The Jordanians are concerned that the absorption of additional Palestinians, who have been radicalized by the PLO in the past decades, could destabilize the kingdom. They don't need that kind of headache.

Is this likely to change in the years to come, and what can Israel do to bring about such a change? Israel should strengthen its relations with Jordan in the battle against terrorism and contribute to the growth of the Jordanian economy. The U.S. and the European Union should be encouraged to make large-scale investments in the Jordanian economy so as to strengthen and stabilize the present regime. The time may come when a prosperous Jordan will feel sufficiently strong and confident to assume the role of representing Palestinian interests in negotiations with Israel. It is such thoughts, rather than unilateral moves, that should be occupying the minds of Likud ministers.##


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January 03, 2004

Super New Year’s Resolution


Anger sends many of us into a spin

By Susan Ager, The Detroit News, January 1, 2004

The boy is 11. He's an only child, although that might not be essential to the story. He lives with his parents in a very nice home in West Bloomfield, MI. When you step in the front door, you enter a two-story foyer with a ceiling from which used to hang a glorious chandelier. From the staircase that led to his bedroom, the boy could reach out and touch the chandelier. Being a boy, being 11, touching wasn't enough. This boy liked to spin the chandelier, to tap it with his open palm. He did this especially when he was angry. It felt good to stomp up to his room, reach over the railing and smack the chandelier on the way.

The chandelier, built of metal and glass, would twirl and twirl, and he'd feel a little bit better, in the same way that - some angry men feel better when they punch a wall, and some angry women feel better when they slam a door. Some children take out anger on a brother or sister. This boy had only the chandelier, dangling like a punching bag.

A few weeks ago the boy was angry again. He can't remember about what. Maybe homework. The chandelier was dangling in peace. The boy marched up the stairs. He spun the chandelier. And the chandelier, having been spun one too many times, crashed to the floor. Oops Metal and glass colliding with a hard surface after a fall of 30 feet makes an ugly, painful, attention-getting clatter. The boy's mother came rushing from the laundry room. The boy's dog ran nervously in circles. And the boy? Telling his story, he did not say what happened to his heart. I think it might have stopped.

In any case, the boy survived the trauma far better than the chandelier. He even grew to get some mileage from the tale, telling it to a bakery-table audience the other day that included me. I asked him, "What were the consequences of what you did? He shrugged. "I lost part of my allowance." That seemed a small punishment to me. I said, "I guess you didn't realize that
every time you spun the chandelier it was unscrewing itself." "I did," he replied. "I just didn't realize it was so close."

Aha. Suddenly I saw the story of the boy and the chandelier as a parable for our lives. OK, now what? For momentary satisfaction we abuse what's beautiful in our lives. No big deal. We suspect we're doing damage but only a little bit, not enough to destroy what we love, which surely will repair itself and be with us forever. Then one day we give it one little push, no bigger than any other, and CRASH! The beautiful thing gives way or gives up and the foyer is dark
and sparking wires dangle from the ceiling and broken glass is everywhere and we wonder how such a terrible thing happened.

I asked the boy if he's come up with a new way to express his anger. It felt like a silly question, because he was sitting there bright-eyed and thoughtful, as tranquil as a child can be. "Yes," he said. "I should just go up to my room and go to sleep."

The lesson is clear for us all. Respect and admire what's beautiful in your life, whether a chandelier, a partner, a child, the good Earth or your own body. Don't push it. Don't stress it. Take anger somewhere else. Let it sleep itself out. Let it forget its purpose. Learn peace. Let the light shine.

Best wishes for a bright new year.

Contact SUSAN AGER at 313-222-6862 or ager@freepress.com.

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