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September 23, 2014 / 28 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘kind’

Who Shot First?

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Hamas has said that the IDF’s killing of one of their top terrorists was a declaration of war.

But who declared war first? The official Hamas Charter, written in August 1988, says:

  1. “Israel exists and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it has obliterated others before it”
  2. “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals, and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.”

 

Hamas’ charter is itself an official declaration of war, and all who join Hamas are automatically the sworn enemies of Israel. The fact that Israel chooses not to attack Hamas for long periods of time does not in any way absolve Hamas of its guilt of being in a permanent state of war against Israel for the past 24 years. So when its spokesmen try to influence public opinion by accusing Israel of starting a war against it, they are being the worst kind of hypocrites.

Let no one be deceived that the current conflagration was started by this or that attack in 2012; those who founded Hamas declared war on Israel in 1988, and no amount of media hype can change that fact.

Troops in the Streets

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Every now and then an email comes my way warning about the day when the government unleashes the military against its own citizens. This day isn’t likely to come because for one thing the current regime is not particularly fond of the military.

The Obama Administration isn’t inflicting massive cuts on the military, cutting their health care and pushing veteran officers out the door because it likes the military as an institution. It doesn’t. And it won’t until it remakes it into a fully politically correct institution dedicated to promoting tolerance and fighting global warming. Progress has been made on that front, the Navy is cutting ships and spending money on Green Energy. The Marines are celebrating gay marriage. Any day now the Air Force will be announcing its first wheelchair pilot. But it’s still a poor fit with the culture of the left.

If Obama has to have any kind of military, he prefers the kind where young men with college degrees sit in a room, push buttons and kill people thousands of miles away from remotely controlled aircraft. That kind of military is a closer cultural fit with a campaign that is in love with technocratic solutions and always looking for shortcuts to avoid the dangerous and dirty hard work that has to be done. It’s also much less dangerous.

Unleashing the military on a civilian population carries a price. Once you call out the troops to protect your regime, one of two things happen. Either the troops don’t do it and your government is done. Or they do it and your regime now lives or dies by the support of the military. Within the last few years the use of the military in Egypt and Iran turned generals into the arbiters of political succession. To the left, the idea of the people they despise deciding who should run the country and how is their biggest nightmare. It is one reason that we still have a democracy.

The more that a country depends on its military, the more likely it is to be run by the military. After the United States kept the Union together through a civil war, the first elected President after Lincoln was General Ulysses S Grant, the man credited by many with winning the war. His successor, Rutherford B. Hayes was a another general and a Civil War hero. As was Hayes’ successor, James A. Garfield and his successor, Chester A. Arthur. Democratic draft dodger Grover Cleveland briefly broke the pattern, but then the Republicans were back with Benjamin Harrison. From 1869 to 1893, America was ruled by the Republican victors of the war who had at one time been able to put the title of general in front of their name. And that’s in a democracy.

Popular wars have led to generals becoming presidents. The Revolutionary War gave us Washington. The War of 1812 gave us Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor. The Spanish-American War gave us Teddy Roosevelt, though he was only a Colonel. WW2 gave us Eisenhower. The Gulf War nearly gave us Colin Powell. The current war may yet give us Petraeus. But the Civil War gave us the largest amount of generals in the White House because it was an internal conflict.

Israel, another democracy which is heavily dependent on the military, has seated three generals in the Prime Minister’s chair since the 1990′s and far more who are involved in politics. The leader of the opposition is a general and there are five generals in Netanyahu’s cabinet. This is a direct result of the elevation of the importance of the military as an institution. The more important the military is to the welfare of the country, the likelier it is to become a career track to prominent positions in the business world and in politics. And that’s in a democracy. Imagine the situation in a dictatorship that depends on the military to stay in power.

The left might flirt with the idea of a people’s military, but armies are their own institutions and their function forms their character. Communist attempts to create armies of the people still put guns in the hands of peasants who didn’t have much in common with their rulers. After nearly a century of repression when the last dying gasp of the Soviet elite called on the military to protect them from the people, the military for the most part did nothing. It wasn’t exactly the first hint that the Red Army might be unreliable. Not when 130,000 soldiers defected to the Vlasovites during WWII.

The Soviet Union did not depend on the Red Army, it did depend on the secret police. And the KGB took over. The KGB nearly seized power after Stalin’s death and had to be suppressed by the Red Army. In 1982, power fell to an actual KGB Chairman. Today Russia is run by former KGB officers, including a fellow by the name of Vladimir Putin.

The West’s Deaf Ears for the Real Moderate Arabs

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Visit Rubin Reports.

One of my most fun professional memories was when I walked endlessly, circling round and round and round that hall in Algeria in November 1988 with a burly, no-nonsense, and brilliant newspaper correspondent named Youssef Ibrahim, who was then working for the New York Times.

Friendly, funny, sarcastic, and with absolutely no illusions or romanticism about the absurdities of Arab politics and the idiocies of Arab political ideology, Ibrahim’s only shortcoming is that there are not one thousand more exactly like him. If he was the kind of person leading Arab countries and people they would be far more prosperous, peaceful, happier and democratic.

But, alas, the Ibrahims are the rarity, men given too little honor in their own old societies and far too little in the West. The genuine moderates accept no excuses but comprehend precisely why the West has succeeded and the Middle East has not. Often seen as sell-outs, they are the most noble and courageous of people, far more concerned about their own people’s welfare than are the dictators, demagogues, and bloodthirsty academics.

These thoughts are prompted by an article he once wrote, presented below. I include the text because I want you to read every word. It is all completely sensible. Many will find it encouraging. It makes me want to cry.

Why?

First, because it all could have been written 10 or 20 or 30 years ago, indeed it is pretty much what he told me as we circled endlessly around the convention center way out on an isolated Algerian beach (there’s Arafat, surrounded by his coterie; there’s that moronic American Jewish Peace Now guy who is explaining to the PLO gunmen thugs why they really really want to make peace with Israel but just don’t know it; here come the sycophantic journalists…)

And it was published in 2006 and in six years and a half years there has been no advance on one single word of its text. Of course, the spread of revolutionary Islamism has revived the unwillingness to listen to Ibrahim, though the fate of Syria–the one Arab country he said still took the conflict seriously–should give pause to radical regimes who think this gambit solves all of their problems.

Second, because nobody in the Arab world listens to Ibrahim or to brilliant scholars like Fouad Ajami, which is their tragedy for preferring the demagogues.

Third, because it was published—of course—not in an Arabic publication (who would dare?) but in an American Jewish one, a group that includes all too many who think the fault is on their own side and don’t get what Youssef is saying.

Fourth, because if I were to have written these truths I would have been denounced with a hundred different insults.

Fifth, because if anything things are worse today than back then. (Can you imagine this essay of his being presented and discussed in a university course on the Middle East?)

And sixth because it’s now 2012 and we still have to be saying things like this! No, it’s worse: in 2012 the Middle East is starting a whole new round of the old madness. The Islamists tell the masses that the only reason their predecessors didn’t win total victory is that they failed to hit their head against the stone wall long and hard enough!

Here’s his open letter:

To my Arab brothers: The War with Israel Is Over — and they won. Now let’s finally move forward.

By Youssef M. Ibrahim

Jewish World Review, July 12, 2006

Dear Palestinian Arab brethren:

The war with Israel is over.

You have lost. Surrender and negotiate to secure a future for your children.

We, your Arab brothers, may say until we are blue in the face that we stand by you, but the wise among you and most of us know that we are moving on, away from the tired old idea of the Palestinian Arab cause and the “eternal struggle” with Israel.

Dear friends, you and your leaders have wasted three generations trying to fight for Palestine, but the truth is the Palestine you could have had in 1948 is much bigger than the one you could have had in 1967, which in turn is much bigger than what you may have to settle for now or in another 10 years. Struggle means less land and more misery and utter loneliness.

At the moment, brothers, you would be lucky to secure a semblance of a state in that Gaza Strip into which you have all crowded, and a small part of the West Bank of the Jordan. It isn’t going to get better. Time is running out even for this much land, so here are some facts, figures, and sound advice, friends.

You hold keys, which you drag out for television interviews, to houses that do not exist or are inhabited by Israelis who have no intention of leaving Jaffa, Haifa, Tel Aviv, or West Jerusalem.

You shoot old guns at modern Israeli tanks and American-made fighter jets, doing virtually no harm to Israel while bringing the wrath of its mighty army down upon you.

You fire ridiculously inept Kassam rockets that cause little destruction and delude yourselves into thinking this is a war of liberation. Your government, your social institutions, your schools, and your economy are all in ruins.

Your young people are growing up illiterate, ill, and bent on rites of death and suicide, while you, in effect, are living on the kindness of foreigners, including America and the United Nations.

Every day your officials must beg for your daily bread, dependent on relief trucks that carry food and medicine into the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, while your criminal Muslim fundamentalist Hamas government continues to fan the flames of a war it can neither fight nor hope to win.

In other words, brothers, you are down, out, and alone in a burnt-out landscape that is shrinking by the day.

What kind of struggle is this? Is it worth waging at all? More important, what kind of miserable future does it portend for your children, the fourth or fifth generation of the Arab world’s have-nots?

We, your Arab brothers, have moved on.

Those of us who have oil money are busy accumulating wealth and building housing, luxury developments, state-of-the-art universities and schools, and new highways and byways. Those of us who share borders with Israel, such as Egypt and Jordan, have signed a peace treaty with it and are not going to war for you any time soon.

Those of us who are far away, in places like North Africa and Iraq, frankly could not care less about what happens to you.

Only Syria continues to feed your fantasies that someday it will join you in liberating Palestine , even though a huge chunk of its territory, the entire Golan Heights, was taken by Israel in 1967 and annexed. The Syrians, my friends, will gladly fight down to the last Palestinian Arab.

Before you got stuck with this Hamas crowd, another cheating, conniving, leader of yours, Yasser Arafat, sold you a rotten bill of goods — more pain, greater corruption, and millions stolen by his relatives — while your children played in the sewers of Gaza .

The war is over. Why not let a new future begin?

Visit Rubin Reports.

Carter and Obama: ‘He Who Is Merciful to the Cruel Ends Up Cruel to the Merciful’

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

When the Iranian student revolutionaries took American hostages in 1979, U.S. President Jimmy Carter chose a path consistent with his character, but inconsistent with the American character.  He tried desperately, again and again, to prove to the Islamist revolutionaries and their ruling Mullahs that the big bad United States would not be a bully or resort to violence to enforce its views or to protect its assets, even when those assets are American citizens.  His strategy failed.

That strategy is still a failure. And, by all accounts, our current president is hell-bent on employing it whenever he can.

In a book that shows clearly the parallels between the dilemma posed to America by Iran during Carter’s regime and the one Iran presents to our current president, To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the “Arab Spring,” Ruthie Blum brings the not-so-distant-history alive.

Blum’s book is a must read for those who lived through and remember that first Iranian assault on American leadership. But it’s also for those too young to remember that episode – and really, it’s for everyone now living through the current Iranians’ attack on America’s role as leader of the free world and bulwark against the unfree world.  In both cases the Iranians have played America for a fool, and in both cases they had a U.S. leader who willingly, maybe even eagerly, took on that role.

For those old enough to remember, in 1979, when Jimmy Carter was president, he was furiously engaged in an effort to persuade the Islamists in Iran that the United States harbored only “genuine good will” towards them.  What he most sought from them was “dialogue,” not disagreements.  His timidity encouraged rather than discouraged those who sought to overthrow America’s long-time ally, the Shah of Iran.  Instead of reaching out to meet U.S. overtures, Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers refused to meet, let alone negotiate, with Carter’s emissaries.

Sound familiar?

Blum’s clear writing, coupled with her ability to convey the real drama of the historical events she describes, allow the reader to place the complicated series of diplomatic falters, Iranian acts of aggression and the parading of blind-folded Americans for more than a year, in a comprehensible context.

Blum then juxtaposes America-Under-Carter’s response, to that of the Obama administration’s fawning over the Arab Spring and reluctance to meddle in the efforts of today’s revolutionaries across the Arab Middle East – other than to hand millions of dollars to Islamists organizing these nationwide riots that our President seems to think are events of national liberation.  Blum’s book is essential reading for those who want to understand why, this time around, we should have known better.

Blum’s book shows that what look to some uninformed Westerners, including the president of the United States, like progressive, democratic impulses, have turned out instead to be determined flights backwards to the Middle Ages.

Tunisian pushcart merchant Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-incineration as the spark for the greatest upheaval in the Middle East in modern times is laid out in Blum’s book.  She illuminates the path from Tunisia to Libya, to Yemen and Bahrain and, where it remains hovering, over Syria and, possibly, hopefully, back toIran.

After reviewing Carter’s misguided and disastrous Middle East strategy, it is painful to then read how closely our current administration’s strategy tracks the Carter debacle in its mindset and its failures.

Blum reveals the perfect consistency between Carter’s craven posture before Ayatollah Khomeini and Obama’s whiplash-like series of always-off-kilter responses to the Arab Spring: his cutting ties with former ally Tunisian president Ben Ali, his refusal to do more than mouth platitudes to support the outraged Iranian citizenry when their election was stolen by the tyrannical Ahmadinejad, his delivering a swift kick out the door to our former close ally Egyptian President Hosnai Mubarak. And so on.

The admonition from Kohelet Rabbah 7:16: “Those who are kind to the cruel end up being cruel to the kind” is perfectly illustrated by the misguided efforts of two recent American leaders who thought they could convince truly evil adversaries to refrain from doing evil if only the powerful America would treat them more nicely.

Although To Hell in a Handbasket is very consciously launched during this election season, it would be a shame for it to be relegated to merely a momentary flash in the literary pan.  At fewer than 200 pages and written from hard historical sources that might otherwise seem dry to an average reader, Blum’s book moves like a novel.  It will be an invaluable addition to any college or sophisticated high school student’s library as a tool for understanding America’s place in the geo-political moment.

Upside-Down Coffee

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

This is a normal cup of Israeli coffee, the kind you can order practically anywhere. This particular shop, in fact, is usually associated with gas stations. It’s called Kafe Hafuch or Upside-down coffee, the local equivalent of the French café au lait. It goes for between 8 and 14 shekel, or $2 to $3.5.

Here’s the HUGE difference, though, between the average Israeli coffee and its American counterpart: the average, lowly, gas station coffee in Israel beats by far the most expensive coffee shop coffee in New York. I don’t even want to mention a certain Seattle-based coffee shop chain where they burn the coffee so bad you can hear the cries coming up from below the floor boards. I’m talking about every doughnut shop or coffee shop in the city (depending on your kashrut standards, obviously) – in all those places the coffee has usually stood up on the heating pad for half a day, it’s sour and bitter, and you drink it basically for the kick you need so desperately before going into an important meeting.

But in Israel (depending on your kashrut standards, obviously), with very few disappointing exceptions, the coffee is delicious. It has just the right amount of kick, it’s made fresh at the espresso machine, and if you’re lucky the counter person knows how to make those lovely illustrations in the foamy milk that break your heart when you end up drinking their art.

Nancy says it’s all about the milk, meaning that Israeli coffee is, basically half milk, steamed, so no matter how lousy the coffee underneath is, the milk covers it up. Maybe she’s right. Maybe it also explains why I shell out 11 shekel per cup (just under $3), but I’ll tell you, I’m happy to pay knowing my coffee will be good every time.

Except for the guy at the lobby of the Maccabi HMO offices in Netanya, whose coffee is bitter. So stay away from coffee shops in HMO buildings, otherwise, trust me, Israeli coffee is the best.

Not in Accordance with the Torah?

Monday, October 15th, 2012

One of the most informative books I have ever read on the subject of early 20th century American Jewry was Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet’s biography of Bernard Revel, the 1st President of Yeshiva University.

The picture painted of American Jewry in the Revel bio matches that of Rabbi Rakeffet’s own autobiographical account of growing up in pre-war era New York. To put it simply – Orthodox Judaism as we know it today did not exist.

The fact is that Rabbi Rakeffet reported that some of the Rebbeim in his elementary religious day school were barely religious. Indeed, the general studies principal there, Harry Sherer (brother of Rabbi Moshe Sherer) ended up becoming a Reform Rabbi.

Virtually the same story was told by Rabbi Hirsch Diskind, son in law of one of my heroes, Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky. In an article published in Hamodia he said that in the early days of his own right wing Yeshiva, Chaim Berlin, the Rebbeim were barely Shomer Shabbos.

Another point Rabbi Diskind made was the following:

[T]heir hashkafos were not always in accordance with the Torah… For example, I remember how once [when I was in] in sixth grade, my rebbi entered the room crying bitterly. He had just heard the news that Chaim Nachman Bialik (pictured above), the father of modern Israeli poetry, had passed away, and this affected him deeply.

Life was indeed different then. But I must take strong issue with the way Rabbi Diskind framed the issue here. In the most subtle of ways he has condemned secular poetry as not in accordance with the Torah.

I received an e-mail from Rabbi Dr. Noam Weinberg. Rabbi Weinberg has Semicha from Yeshiva University and spent many years learning Torah. He has multiple degrees from top universities and is currently the Principal of Judaic Studies in North Shore Hebrew Academy High School in Great Neck New York.

His e-mail included a letter he wrote to Hamodia in response to that article. Bearing in mind Rabbi Weinberg’s prestigious educational background in both Limudei Kodesh and Limudei Chol – here in part is what he wrote:

Let’s discuss now the Hashkafos which were not in accordance with the Torah.

Bialik was a Talmid of Volozhin and was always very fond of Jewish life and culture. Maybe the reason why the Rebbe was crying was because of the fact that he felt connected to another Jew who had a strong passion for his love for the Jewish people, maybe he was a relative of his, maybe he learned with him in Volozhin. Maybe he just liked Hebrew Poetry. Why does that mean that his Hashkafos were not in line with Torah? Did he stop being Shomer Torah U’Mitzvos? Did he do something Assur? Is it just that it is Assur to read Hebrew Poetry…

The hypocrisy is painful!!! Rav Hutner was a student of philosophy in the University of Berlin, who no doubt came across true Kefira in the things he read there, Rebbitzin Bruriah David, Rav Hutner’s daughter was allowed by her father to go to Columbia University where she got her PhD, and Rav Hunter who together with Rav Shraga Feivel Mendelovitz wanted to start a fully accredited college and only because Rav Aharon Kotler said not to did he cancel those plans.

What kind of absurd double standard is it to to say that a Rebbe who cried because of Bialik’s death not knowing why he was crying is considered a person whose Hashkafos were not in line with Torah, whereas Rav Hutner who had a degree in Philosophy from the University of Berlin and read real Kefria is referred to as an individual who “understood each person intimately, better than he understood himself. His brilliance was overpowering, he was able to make everybody feel very close, and we all felt that he was interested in us and our growth.”

Rabbi Weinberg had other criticisms including being Dan L’Kaf Zechus to those ‘barely’ Shomer Shabbos Mechanchim instead of cavalierly dismissing them as barely religious. But the one reflected in the above excerpt is what resonated with me. I believe it is a profoundly important point.

Here is the problem. That a Rebbe in Rabbi Diskind’s era was strongly moved by the death of a Hebrew poet is characterized by him as reflecting a Hashkafa not in accordance with the Torah (emphasis mine) – is very troubling.

Will Your Grandma Be a Victim of Financial Abuse

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Have you ever met the kind of guy that would sell his own grandmother down the river?

Since more and more elderly people are being swindled and financially abused every day, it’s crucial to learn how to protect your grandmother and other seniors you care about.

Why are the elderly so susceptible to financial abuse? After all, chances are that they worked for many long years and have achieved the wisdom of experience. While they were young and fit, they surely had the opportunities to protect themselves, so what makes them vulnerable now?

Three reasons the elderly get scammed

1. Generally, as individuals grow older they tend to become more isolated from others. Perhaps their spouse has passed away and their children don’t live close by. The loneliness and isolation that this creates can make a person more vulnerable and open to parting with money… if it leads to companionship. For example, if Grandma is suddenly bombarded with invitations to free lunches and seminars, she may at first go simply for the company rather than any real interest in the subject of the event. She may find herself “befriended” by the organizers and convinced to invest in a dubious scheme because her defenses are down now that these people have been so “nice” to her.

2. Modern technology. An elderly person who has little experience with computers and knows only how to send or reply to an email may easily fall prey to scams such as fake charitable appeals asking for a credit card number in order to make a donation, a bank password for depositing some unexpected funds that don’t really exist into his account, and so forth.

3. The worst threat of all: seemingly concerned relatives and caregivers who have their own hidden agenda. One of my clients recently told me that she had to fire her elderly father’s home healthcare worker because he had almost managed to get the old man, an Alzheimer’s sufferer, to write him into his will. The caregiver was caught just in time. And then there are the unscrupulous relatives who have been given power of attorney for a relative and they gradually whittle away all their resources until there is nothing left at all.

Sadly many of these offenses go unreported because the victims may be too embarrassed to admit that they made such a big mistake, or no one is monitoring the situation.

If you’re caring for an elderly parent or grandparent, keep an eye on what’s going on, both with their physical health and fiscal health. If you have power of attorney over their bank account, review it periodically and investigate suspicious activity. Find out what’s happening if unexpectedly large sums are disappearing. Observe all caregivers, and do strict background checks on any much younger new “loves” or prospective new spouses who suddenly appear.

Protect Grandma and other seniors in your life from becoming victims of fraud by educating yourself about how to be vigilant against scams and implementing  tips against elder fraud. After all, a broken hip may be easier to fix than a broken bank account.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/goldstein-on-gelt/will-your-grandma-be-a-victim-of-financial-abuse/2012/10/11/

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