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October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Asia’

Big in Japan

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu will be traveling to Japan on Saturday evening for a four day meeting to discuss increasing economic and diplomatic cooperation.

During the meeting, Netanyahu will meet the emperor and empress of Japan, as well as the Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abo.

Its expected that in 2014 the Asian market became Israel’s 2nd largest export partner, knocking the US down a notch.

Israel’s exports to Japan stand at $1.1 billion, and its imports at $1.5 billion. According to a Jerusalem Post report, there is a tremendous amount of room for increased trade with Japan.

Trade with Asia is nothing new for Israel. The Far East has been a trade partner with Israel going back 3000 years.

Domo arigato gozaimasu.

Archaeologists Find Israel Was Land of Milk, Honey – and Cinnamon

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Cinnamon, once thought to have been carried on trade routes in ancient Israel, may have been made along the northern Israeli coast and not just in Africa and India, as previously thought, Israeli researchers told LiveScience.

They analyzed 27 flasks from archaeological sites in Israel dating back 3,000 years and found that the compound that gives cinnamon its flavor was in 10 of the containers.

Cinnamon bark is found in southern India, and another form of the spice is found in China and southeast Asia. It is now yet known the source of the cinnamon in the flasks found in Israel, but the discovery that it probably was made in Israel “raises the intriguing possibility that long-range spice trade from the Far East westward may have taken place some 3,000 years ago,” the Tel Aviv University and Weizmann Institute researchers wrote in a paper to be published in the journal Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry.

“We don’t think they sailed directly [to the Far East]; it was a very hard task even in the 16th century A.D.” Dvory Namdar, a researcher with the Weizmann Institute of Science and Tel Aviv University, told LiveScience in an interview.

Namdar and research colleague Ayelet Gilboa of the University of Haifa said the flasks, which at that time were in area that was part of ancient Phoenicia, feature a narrow opening with thick walls, indicating their contents were highly prized. Flasks with similar shapes previously have been found in temple storerooms and treasuries of ancient kingdoms, the researches added.

They think that the cinnamon bark was brought from the Far East to ancient Israel and mixed with liquids before it was placed in the flasks prior to shipping the spice elsewhere.

Namdar and Gilboa speculate that people of the time mixed the cinnamon in with wine. “If you mix it with a bigger [container of wine], then you get flavored wine,” they said.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev: What’s in a Name?

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Killed Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen Muslim, has been identified by the FBI as a “strong believer” in Islam, and an adept of jihadism. Tamerlan was unabashed in his Muslim piety and avowal of jihad—the latter bringing him to the attention of both Russian intelligence and the FBI.

Indeed, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was identified last summer, during a 6-month sojourn in Russia, as having frequented a well-known jihad-fomenting mosque in Machachkala, Dagestan, meeting directly with a jihadist underground movement leader there at least six times.  It has further been suggested that Tamerlan and his surviving brother Dzhokar, a Boston Marathon bombing suspect co-conspirator, who was in thrall to his elder brother (as well as to jihadism), were jointly “inspired” by Doku Umarov, known as Russia’s Bin Laden, and also an ethnic Chechen. Umarov is believed to have organized jihad terror attacks, such as the mass-murderous homicide bombing of Moscow’s Metro system, which slaughtered at least 40. Ominously, as noted by Chechen analyst, Dr. Carlo Gallo, “Umarov has made statements in which he said that the enemy of Islam is not just Russia, but America….”

But the astute observations of young freelance writer Alyssa Kilzer—a client of Zubeidat Tsarnaev, mother to Tamerlan and Dzhokar—are even more chilling, and indicate that the brother’s “radicalization” was a pious Muslim family affair. Ms. Kilzer, who received facials from Zubeidat Tsarnaev for several years at the Tsarnaev household (410 Norfolk Street, on the border between Cambridge and Watertown, M.A.), therein witnessed arranged marriages, wife-battering, hijab donning, strict Islamic piety with repeated Koranic references, and ultimately, baleful anti-American Islamic conspiracy theories about 9/11/2001. Kilzer also alludes to the “political activities” of Zubeidat Tsarnaev and her husband (Anzor) had engaged in (a euphemism for their anti-Russian jihadism?), which caused the Daghestani native parents—both lawyers—to flee.

The Tsarnaev family ties to Daghestan—a primordial hub of Islamic jihadism in the Causcasus for over a millennium—may prove critical to understanding the jihad carnage in Boston wrought by the Tsarnaev brothers. Moreover, it is also worth noting that Dzhokar Tsarnaev was mentored (albeit only via e-mail correspondence) by a full-throated University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth apologist for so-called Chechen separatism, Brian Glyn Williams.

But there was an even more basic, profound warning sign of the Tsarnaev family’s dangerous Weltanschauung—the very name Anzor and Zubeidat Tsarnaev chose for their eldest son: “Tamerlan(e).”

The cover art for "Sharia Versus Freedom—The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism," a miniature painting from a sixteenth century manuscript of the Zafarnama by Sharaf al-Din Ali-Yazdi, from the year 1552.

The cover art for “Sharia Versus Freedom—The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism,” a miniature painting from a sixteenth century manuscript of the Zafarnama by Sharaf al-Din Ali-Yazdi, from the year 1552.

The cover art for my recent book “Sharia Versus Freedom—The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism” (at right) reproduces a miniature painting from a sixteenth century manuscript of the Zafarnama by Sharaf al-Din Ali-Yazdi, the best-known example of early Persian historiography the Islamized Mongol conqueror Amir Timur-i-lang, or “Tamerlane.” The image was housed in the British Library and originally published/produced in Shiraz, Iran, 1552. It depicts soldiers filing before Tamerlane holding heads of their decapitated enemies which they used to build a tower shaped like the minaret of a mosque, in Baghdad (1401).

The upper inscription embedded within the painting reads,

How fate and destiny have cast awe in the minds of the “Tavaajis”! [king’s messengers, and herein, more generally, “traitors”], In an orderly and numerical fashion, They made minarets with the heads of the wretched “Tavaajis” As a lesson to the inhabitants of the world.

While the lower embedded inscription states,

So that no subordinate would dare to challenge superiors and no fox acts like a lion, and threatens the kings; Under the temptation of the demon pride…

Historian Jean Aubin’s 1962 analysis notes that the Baghdad siege lasted nearly forty days, adding that the Zafarnama insists, “in hopes of seeing the city surrender and conserve it intact, Tamerlane delayed several times the attack requested by his officers.” Ravaged by starvation, groups of soldiers and residents fled the city, “by jumping from the summit of the ramparts.” When Tamerlane’s forces launched their final assault, escape from Baghdad was prevented by archers who were arranged on both riverbanks of the Tigris.  Consistent with the earlier accounts of Browne and Grousset, Aubin summarizes the fate of Baghdad’s hapless population, stating,  

The rare survivors—approximately one person out of a hundred, according to the Zafar-nama—were sold into slavery. The only ones spared were theologians, sheiks, and dervishes who managed to reach Tamerlane’s pavilion. They were given food and clothes, and sent to a safe place.

Tamerlane was born at Kash (Shahr-i-Sebz, the “GreenCity”) in Transoxiana (some 50 miles south of Samarkand, in modern Uzbekistan), on April 8 (or 11), 1336 A.D.  Amir Turghay, his father, was chief of the Gurgan or Chagtai branch of the Barlas Turks. By age 34 (1369/70), Timur had killed his major rival (Mir Husain), becoming the pre-eminent ruler of Transoxiana. He spent the next six to seven years consolidating his power in Transoxiana before launching the aggressive conquests of Persia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and then attacking Hindustan (India) under the tottering Delhi Sultanate.

America Leaves Afghanistan to the Mercy of the Taliban and Iran

Monday, February 18th, 2013

In his State of the Union address, the president of the United States announced that the American army will begin to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan  before the end of the year, so that by the end of the year, 34,000 soldiers, approximately half of the total force,  will have left, and the other half by the end of 2014.

The American media – the Wall Street Journal’s weekend edition for the 9th and 10th of February, for example, paid close attention to the fact that the United States military is withdrawing without regard for the situation that these forces leave behind. The thrust of the coverage is that what is important for the United States today is how and when to get out of Afghanistan, without addressing the simple question: “What did we want to achieve and what have we actually achieved in the eleven years of the Sisyphean war in this country?”

The West’s invasion of Afghanistan began in late 2001, after the September 11 attacks revealed Afghanistan to be an al-Qaeda state and Osama bin Laden had formed a pact with Mula Umar, the Taliban leader, the main point of which was that the billionaire bin Laden would fund Afghanistan, and would be allowed to do whatever he wished with it. Bin Laden kept his word and Mula Umar kept his part as well. Within a few years – from the mid-nineties – the state of the Taliban became a terror state and hundreds of facilities such as training bases, enlistment centers and schools that taught the doctrine of terrorism were established on its soil.

Many Ethnicities, but No “Afghans”

This process was made possible because the Taliban, an organization based on the Pashtun people, gained dominance over the other ethnic groups in the country. Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic country that comprises more than eleven (!) ethnic groups: Pashtun, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Aimaqs, Balochs, Kyrgys, Turkmen, Nuristans, Pamirs and more. It is interesting to note that none of these groups are called “Afghan.” The country was named Afghanistan by the British and Russians who delineated the borders in the mid-nineteenth century because “Afghan” is a variation of the name historically attributed to the main ethnic group in that area, known today as Pashtuns.

Contrary to India, where English is the common language for all of the groups, in Afghanistan, the various ethnic groups have no common language. The weakness of the civil system stems from the fact that these ethnic groups differ from each other in every way: language, culture, leaders, dress, leadership and world view.

The fact that these groups are forced to live with each other creates friction and continual conflict, which has turned the country into a hell where armed militias fight each other fiercely and continually, despite the fact that everyone is Muslim.The Hazaras, for instance, are Shi’ites and are seen as unclean. It is important to note that each one of these ethnic groups is further broken down into tribes, which don’t always coexist peacefully with each other, and many of them tend to resort to violence immediately.

A Litany of Failures in Afghanistan

Since the creation of the state of Afghanistan, there have been several attempts to stabilize it. The British tried, failed and left it to its misery. The Soviets tried to stabilize its political system during the eighties and failed miserably, which accelerated the collapse of the Soviet Union. The United States invaded – along with its partners – toward the end of 2001, and it seems that it also is about to fail in its efforts to stabilize the state and governmental system.

The question that naturally arises is why all of the attempts to stabilize this miserable state have failed. The only possible answer is that it is simply not achievable, because the many ethnic and tribal units will never become one cohesive unit with a shared national consciousness, with loyalty to a common framework and common leadership. When a state tries to unify rival groups that have nothing in common, the task of leading all of them under one national framework is not possible. The Impact of Ethnic Diversity in European Cases

This need not surprise us: we need only glance for a moment at Europe to see what happened to the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, who also – despite their having been functional states for more than seventy years – disintegrated into entities based on ethnicity. And what is happening in Belgium between the Flemish and the Walloons? And in Spain with the Catalonians who seek to secede from Spain? And in Britain with the Scots who, in another two years will vote in a referendum on whether to remain as part of the “United” Kingdom or not? And Cyprus, which is also divided on an ethnic basis? So what do the Aimaq and Hazara citizens of Afghanistan expect? That they will get along with each other better than the Czechs and the Slovaks?

US, West, Ignoring Pakistan’s Nuclear Threat

Monday, February 4th, 2013

For more than two decades now, the West has been occupied with nuclear 
programs of classic anti-Western forces, such as Iran, the now-toppled
 Gaddafi regime of Libya and North Korea. Nonetheless, the West has
 been overlooking an Islamic country that already has nuclear arms 
rather than nuclear ambitions: Pakistan.

Pakistan is a nuclear power that might swiftly fall into the hands of Islamists.  If that happens, Pakistan might well be the most dangerous country in the world.  That is so because if the Islamists take control of Pakistan, they will not worry about the consequences of launching a nuclear attack even on other nuclear powers.

In fact, the prospect of retaliation action might feed into their sense of being on a martyrdom mission.   They would consider a global nuclear catastrophe as saving the world from its sins.

American diplomacy is indeed concerned with Pakistan’s nuclear power falling into the wrong hands.  A U.S. embassy cable –made public by Wikileaks–discussed the possibility of Islamists gaining power in Pakistan, leading to a tense nuclear stand-off with India. This reveals, however, that the U.S. concern for Pakistan’s nuclear power is still limited to the
 regional level.

That is naïve.

Pakistan is already developing a long-range delivery system for its nuclear weapons, particularly the Hatf-7 – a missile with an estimated range of 1,500 miles. The missiles name translates as “Doom” in both Arabic and Urdu.  The Pakistani Air Force also operates state of the art F-16 fighters; Pakistan’s F-16Cs are very advanced and are capable of carrying and delivering nuclear missiles.

So, will Pakistan’s Islamists actually come to power? Is there much the world can do to prevent to prevent it?

The biggest difference between Pakistan and most Muslim states is that Pakistan has a functional electoral system that actually works. That also means it could bring the Islamists to power. Luckily, thus far, the Islamists have not yet been able to control the Pakistani electoral scene.  A 2008 poll showed a minority of Pakistanis supported Islamist militants, were critical of the U.S. and sought a “moderate Islamic state.” That minority, however, is window for the Islamists waiting to be opened.

Another warning sign is that Pakistan’s Taliban is considered a unified entity with Afghanistan’s Taliban and is not by any stretch less active.

On the other hand, Pakistan has a strong military institution that seems to control the country’s politics.  In 2008, Al-Jazeera aired a documentary about Pakistan titled, “An Army That Owns a State,” in which it argued that the entire Pakistani state is just a façade for the
 military institution which actually has the final say on the country’s politics.  True or not, the Pakistani army has been successful at keeping the Islamists out of controlling the government as well as a serious partner of the West in its war on terrorism.

Nonetheless, some say the Pakistani military has also been supporting the Islamists at the same time.  For example, the former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan, Col. Richard Kemp, told this author that both the Pakistani Army and the Pakistani
 Intelligence– better known as the Inter-Services Intelligence — had been supporting the Islamists at the same time they were supporting NATO operations against them.

 There seems to be much to support General Kemps’ views.  Countless reports seem to confirm Pakistan’s involvement in supporting the Taliban, including a U.S. cable made public by Wikileaks, which was circulated by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Last May, the killing of Osama Bin Laden, for example raised more questions regarding Pakistan’s true stance on terror. Bin Laden was located in an suburban area barely 30 miles away from Pakistan’s capital, and only a few hundred yards away from Pakistan’s top military academy, the Pakistani version of West Point.

At the time, some U.S. officials said the Pakistani government will have a lot
 of explaining to do, though no serious questioning or explaining it seems was ever done. The U.S. and NATO apparently feel that Pakistan was too important of an ally in its war on terror to offend.

It is safe to assume that the Pakistani military and intelligence officers realize their importance to the U.S. in its war on terror, and are not afraid to push the envelope in both aiding the terrorists and joining the war on terror at the same time in order to gain more significance to the U.S.

Israel Welcomes 300 Int’l Asian Science Prodigies

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Over 300 young science geniuses from across Asia and the Pacific participated in the sixth Asian Science Camp (ASC) in Jerusalem this past week. Originally initiated by a number of Nobel Prize Laureates in the sciences from Eastern Asia, it was Israel’s first time hosting the science camp, which has been held in a different Asian country each year for the past six years.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has been marking Israel’s diplomatic relations with Asia this past year, in cooperation with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the ORT educational network, organized the week long science camp for the last week of August. High school and university students arrived from 23 different countries– including nations with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations such as Indonesia.

Shannon Canumara, 16, of Jakarta, Indonesia, described the science camp as fascinating. “The lectures have been fantastic. It’s very different from a high school environment, because we get to learn about science not only from textbooks. We actually get to question the professors and their theories,” Canumara told Tazpit News Agency.

Her Indonesian counterpart, Vinsen, 17, added that “even though our country does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, everyone here was so welcoming to us. I hope that someday Indonesia will agree to establish diplomatic relations with Israel in the future.”

Some of the largest student delegations came from China, India, Korea and Japan, while smaller delegations from Turkmenistan, Turkey, Sri Lanka, and New Zealand also participated.

The Israeli delegates, who were chosen according to a strict criterion of academic excellence in science, consisted of 35 Jewish and Arab students from across the country including periphery cities like Karmiel and Yeruham, as well as east Jerusalem and Umm al-Fahm. The science camp featured lectures from five Nobel Prize Laureates in the Sciences from Israel and abroad, including one of the founders of ASC, Taiwan’s Professor Lee Yuan-Ti, Nobel Prize Laureate for Chemistry, as well as Prof Makoto Kobayashi (physics) from Japan, and Israel’s Professor Aharon Chechanover (medical-chemistry) and Professor Israel Uman (game theory) and US Professor Roger Kornberg (biology).

Liangjin Zhao, a second year university student in Beijing, studying electronic engineering, was very impressed with the organization of the science camp. “Although we’ve had little free time, the best part has been to network and make new friends from all over the world. There is such a great combination of people here” Zhao said. Sitting beside her was Noy Moisa, a student at Hebrew University High School of Jerusalem, who agreed wholeheartedly. “We already started connecting with the students via Facebook and e-mail before the camp even began,” Moisa said.

Rawan Mahajna of Um Al Fahm, 19, who plans to study medicine, said the science camp was an opportunity for “connecting minds together and meeting people who share similar science interests.”

“Everyone here speaks the language of science, which goes beyond skin color, religion, background, and politics. I’m really thankful for this experience,” Mahajna said.

“The whole concept of this science camp was to show that science has no boundaries,” said Reut Inon-Berman, one of the organizers of the Asian Summer Camp. “Together, we can get that much further in this field.”

On Rye Please, Hold The Stereotypes

Friday, June 15th, 2012

In an effort to procrastinate, I occasionally like to bounce some ideas around. As I work from home with only my two cats for company, this often means waiting until my children return home from school.

I have wanted to explore Jewish stereotypes for sometime now, so naturally I asked my ten-year old son for some advice. I began by asking him if he knew what stereotypes are. His response, “yes, they are those things you had to listen to before the iPod was invented.”

I think I am alone on this one.

Lets start with the fact that I live in Hong Kong, China. Immediately when a Chinese person learns that I am Jewish the response is almost automatic. I am told that I must be very smart and of course very rich or very good with money. They tell me Einstein was Jewish (I actually don’t mind this comparison), Marx was Jewish (less excited about this one) and often that Rockefeller was Jewish (he wasn’t).

And while I try to excuse this pervasive stereotyping by the Chinese and explain to fellow Westerners that unlike in European and other Western nations these stereotypes are certainly void of the taint of anti-Semitism, I wonder though how far is that void? How thin is that line?

And while it is quite easy to point fingers at other groups for stereotyping, it begs the question why do we do it to ourselves? The common theme that runs through most interviews I conduct with Asian Jews, whether they are Chinese, Indian, Korean or Japanese, is they all express some frustration over constantly hearing the refrain from other Jews, “funny, you don’t look Jewish.” Why are we as Jews so willing to take on the world’s stereotyping of us by assuming amongst ourselves that there really is a Jewish look? And yes, I have often been told that I most certainly have it.

Quite recently a series of vintage 1960s advertising posters from Levy’s (Henry S. Levy & Son’s) were circulated widely on social media sites. These iconic rye bread posters feature racially and ethnically diverse people all enjoying Levy’s Jewish Rye Bread and the caption is “You Don’t Have to Be Jewish to Enjoy Levy’s.” In the world I live in, in Hong Kong, this campaign simply doesn’t make sense (though I will concede that the man in the full Native American headdress is likely not Jewish or at least not a practicing Jew). The ad, featuring an adorable Chinese boy with his Jewish rye, takes on particular poignancy as one of our closest friends’ son happens to be named Levi, is Jewish and is Chinese as he has been adopted locally.

And to my children, most certainly not raised in 1960s America, this poster is truly entirely incomprehensible. I showed my nine-year old daughter the poster and asked her for her thoughts on what she saw. She was first fixated on the fact that she didn’t know what rye bread was. She is being raised in the East not on the East Side after all. After an explanation that moved to pumpernickel and bialys and other exotic breads from my East Coast past, we were finally able to return to my social experiment. Again, she was a bit distracted by the apple and commented on his healthy snack choice. I found I needed to throw aside ordinary journalistic principles and ask a very pointed question.

“Forget about the food, please! Look at the boy. What about the boy’s appearance?”

She carefully studied the original poster.

“Ah! He is dressed rather fancy. It could be because it is an ad and he needs to look presentable or else it is because he had to go to Synagogue that day.”

She failed to choose to identify the race of either boy. In her world, if you are a child and are wearing nice clothing you must be synagogue-bound.

In contrast however, quite recently, I was speaking to a fellow parent in the local Hong Kong Jewish community at a birthday party. He commented, while watching the kids play, “Levi, Lior & Lee. How is the school (Jewish Day School) ever going to be able to tell all these L-named Chinese kids apart?”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/feautures-on-jewish-world/on-rye-please-hold-the-stereotypes/2012/06/15/

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