Monday, 28 July 2014

Netanyahu: Don't Listen to Bleeding Heart Liberals Like Obama and Kerry. Stay the Course

It's been about three weeks since Israel launched Operation: Protective Edge.  And although the IDF has already dealt a hard blow to the terrorists in Gaza Strip, now is not the time to stop, regardless of  what Neville Chamberlain-esque leaders like Barack Obama and John Kerry say.  Indeed, if rockets were falling on American towns and cities, the Gaza Strip would be flattened by now and there would be many times more civilian deaths than is the case in Gaza now.  Israel needs to finish what it started.  What do I mean by this?  I mean that for Israel to stop, not one rocket, not one launcher, not one tunnel and not one terrorist can remain.  Every part of the terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip must be destroyed and all the terrorists who are responsible for building and maintaining that infrastructure must be captured, exiled or killed.  Hamas and the rest of the terrorists are not only guilty of crimes against Israel, but also against their own people.  It's already well-known that they are hiding themselves and their weapons amongst civilians, hence the high civilian death toll in the Gaza Strip.  What is lesser-known, however, is that while their people have languished in poverty for years, many of them have gotten rich (see: Hamas Got Rich as Gaza was Plunged into Poverty).  All the terrorists' talk about how much their people suffer is just a lot of nonsense.  They care nothing for their people.  They do not value the lives of their people or any human life for that matter.  Hence, by putting an end to the terrorist threat in Gaza, Netanyahu and his government are not only doing a service to Israel's citizens, but to the Palestinian people as well.  Bibi cannot and should not listen to the naive musings of U.S. President Barack Obama and his sidekick, Secretary of State John Kerry.  He needs to do what is good for Israeli, not the U.S.  And what is good for Israel is to end the terrorist threat in Gaza once and for all.  In fact, I don't even think that Operation: Protective Edge should be limited to Gaza, but expanded to the West Bank as well.

Yes, I know that there are (thankfully) no rockets being fired at Israeli communities from the West Bank and there are no terrorist tunnels there (not that I've heard about anyway), but there are plenty of terrorists and they should meet the same fate as their Gaza counterparts.  I'm not just talking about Hamas or Islamic Jihad; I'm talking about all the major Palestinian organizations, and that includes the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas.  After all, Abbas chose to get in bed with Hamas instead of making peace with Israel.  And since he and Hamas have formed a so-called national unity government that claims to represent all Palestinians, both parties are now one and the same.  In other words, both Abbas' Palestinian Authority and Hamas are terrorists and they should be shown the same treatment as the terrorists in the Gaza Strip.  Their infrastructure must be destroyed and every one of their leaders, including Abbas himself, should be jailed, exiled, or killed.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government have the opportunity, not just to wipe out terrorism in Gaza, but in all of Eretz Israel.  So Bibi, stay the course and don't quit while you're on a roll.   

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Antisemitism Once Again Surges in Europe: Should Europe's Jews Stay or Leave?

Ever since the conflict in the Gaza Strip began about three weeks ago, there has been a surge in antisemitic incidents across the globe and especially in Europe, where only seventy years ago, six million Jews were murdered in what we know today as the Holocaust.  The reality is that antisemitism in Europe has grown significantly over the last few years and is not simply a product of the latest Israeli-Arab conflict.  Why do I know this?  Well, for some time now, I have had the task of looking up incidents of antisemitism on the internet and posting them onto a blog called Emerging News, which is owned by the Toronto-based Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre (FSWC).  And I find it to be no coincidence that many of the reports about antisemitic incidents that I post to this blog come from Europe.  Here are just some examples:

European Leaders Condemn Antisemitism at Pro-Palestinian Rallies. Mosque in Germany Under Investigation Over Sermon From Imam Allegedly Calling on Worshippers to Murder Jews

Pro-Palestinian Protestors Try to Force Their Way Into Paris Synagogues

Jewish Cemetery Desecrated in Manchester, UK

French Jews Cite Antisemitism as a Reason for Deciding to Leave France and Immigrate to Israel

Belgium "Hatefest" Dispersed by Police

Three People Dead, One Seriously Hurt in Shooting Attack on Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgium

Two Jewish Men Attacked While Leaving Synagogue Outside Paris

Leaflets Distributed to Jewish Residents in Ukrainian City of Donetsk Telling Them to Register Their Religion and Property or Face Deportation and Loss of Citizenship

Russian State TV Host Says Jews Brought the Holocaust on Themselves

March in Latvia Honours Local Chapter of Nazis' Waffen SS

Jewish Graves in Hungary Spray-Painted With Swastikas and Antisemitic Slurs

Ukrainian Rabbi Victim of Violent Antisemitic Attack

Swastikas, Antisemitic Slurs Painted on Walls of High Schools in Swedish Capital

German Newspaper Accused of Antisemitism After Printing Cartoon Depicting Facebook Chief Mark Zuckerberg as Big-Nosed Octopus

Kosher Slaughter Outlawed in Denmark

Unfortunately, there are plenty more where these came from.  Of course, antisemitism in some European countries is worse than in others.  France in particular has recently become a hotbed of some of the worst antisemitism Europe has seen in years.  In fact, a report released by researchers at Tel Aviv University earlier this year revealed that for at least two years in a row, France had the highest number of recorded antisemitic attacks (see: Report: Attacks on Jews Down, But Anti-Semitism Up).  It is no wonder than that as one of my posts above illustrates, some French Jews have decided to leave the country for greener pastures.  For me, the Jewish exodus from France brings up a broader question: With antisemitism in Europe worsening to a point where some European Jews are afraid to show their Jewish heritage publicly and in some cases fear for their lives, how should they respond the growing wave of anti-Jewish hatred on the continent?

The European Jewish Conundrum: Stay or Go?

If Jews in Europe today take history as a guide, then they probably should leave Europe, especially if they feel that their lives are threatened.  This is because history tells us that the Jews who managed to flee Europe before the Nazi death machine marched all over the continent were the ones who survived the Holocaust, while most of the ones who decided to stay did not.  That being said, wouldn't a mass Jewish exodus from Europe hand the antisemites a victory?  One could argue that if the antisemites can drive the Jews out of Europe, what's to stop them from driving Jews out of, say, the U.S. or Canada?  Personally, I don't believe that leaving Europe is a solution for all European Jews, but I don't necessarily believe that they should all stay, take a stand and try to fight the growing scourge of antisemitism either.  I believe it depends on the circumstances in which each of Europe's Jews is living.  Some of Europe's Jews may be willing and able to stay put on the continent and fight the bigots head on, but others may not.  I believe that every Jew has to ask himself or herself one fundamental question: is my life in Europe worth enduring more and more antisemitism, even that of a violent nature, or could I make a better life for myself in a place where I would not have to deal with such vile hatred?

Make no mistake, uprooting yourself, your work and your family and going to live in another country, or even another continent is no easy feat, which is why I don't believe there will be a very large exodus of Jews from Europe in the near future.  However, if antisemitism in Europe becomes more entrenched and more violent to the point where more and more Jews feel that they cannot live their lives and pursue happiness as they would like to, the trickle of Jews leaving Europe will no doubt turn into a flood.

If Europe's Jews Leave, Where Should They Go?

I here a lot of people say that the antisemitism going on in Europe now resembles the same kind that was present in the 1930s before the rise of Hitler.  While I do agree with this sentiment to some extent, there's one fundamental difference between now and the period before WWII: the Jews have a country now.  They have a place to go where they won't be treated like a stranger in their own land.  Hence, Israel is obviously the first option for Jews thinking of leaving Europe, but it isn't the only one.  Thankfully today, the U.S. and Canada do not resist taking in immigrants because of their Jewish heritage like they did before WWII, so they are also viable options for Europe's Jews, although personally I would stay out of places like Quebec and the southern U.S. states where antisemitism is probably just as bad as in Europe.  Then again, there is the danger of growing antisemitism in the rest of the U.S. and Canada, especially if more and more people who do not share our democratic values and carry antisemitic attitudes from their places of origin keep coming to live here.  Indeed, part of the reason antisemitism has grown so much in Europe in recent years is because of newcomers bringing long-held antisemitic feelings with them into European countries.  And since some of these same people also come to Canada and the U.S., the same surge in European antisemitism could be repeated here on the North American continent.  If this happens, Jews may once again be looking for a new home.  Who knows?  The way antisemitism has been sweeping the globe lately, all of us Jews might end up in Israel someday. 


Saturday, 26 July 2014

Pro-Russian Terrorists in Ukraine are Retreating, But Putin will not Back Down

Shortly before writing this post, I read an article in The Globe and Mail called The rebels' final days?  Mark MacKinnon, the author of the article, raises the prospect of an end to the Russian-backed terrorist insurgency in eastern Ukraine as Ukrainian forces have recently gained the upper hand, steadily advancing into the terrorist-controlled cities of Donetsk and Lugansk.  It would seem that the complete liberation of eastern Ukraine from Russian President Vladimir Putin's thugs is nigh - except for the fact that like most megalomaniac dictators, Putin is not one to give up on a conquest so easily.  In fact, MacKinnon quotes the editor of a Russian-based foreign policy journal as saying that if the terrorists are defeated, they are likely to turn to guerrilla warfare to continue their fight.  But I believe that something even worse could happen.

Prospect of a Full-Scale Russian Invasion of Ukraine is Very Real

Putin is bent on restoring the sphere of influence that Russia once had in the times of the Soviet Union.  His first step to realizing this goal is to control all of the territory in which Russians and Russian-speakers are the predominant population, which is why Putin took control of Crimea and why he is looking to take control of eastern Ukraine as well.  But as we have seen, his plan to control eastern Ukraine has not been going as smoothly as he had wanted.  At first, it appeared that Putin would take eastern Ukraine just as easily as he took Crimea, but this wasn't to be.  Why?  Because this time, Ukraine decided to fight back, which is why Ukrainian forces have now driven the Russian-backed terrorists into their core strongholds and are on the cusp of liberating their territory from Putin's grip.  I don't see Putin letting this happen, however, because precedent has shown that he allows his enemies to sense victory before he goes for the jugular.

What precedent am I referring to?  Think back to 2008 when Russian-backed South Ossetian rebels attacked Georgian troops, breaching a ceasefire and compelling the Georgian government to respond by sending troops into South Ossetia.  The Georgians may have been on the verge of defeating the South Ossetian rebels, but Putin didn't let this happen.  He sent his own forces in and not only drove the Georgians out of South Ossetia, but also invaded Georgia proper.  The 2008 war between Russia and Georgia ended with Russia controlling both South Ossetia and Abkazia, another part of Georgia seeking independence.  Both of these regions are now puppet states of Putin's Russia.  My feeling is that this same scenario will play out in eastern Ukraine.  As I said, the Ukrainians are now sensing victory just as the Georgians did in 2008, so I believe that Putin will act as he did in Georgia six years ago and send his own forces into eastern Ukraine to retake the territory that the pro-Russian terrorists have recently lost to Ukrainian troops.  Indeed, Russia is already suspected of sending troops and heavy weapons into eastern Ukraine to help shore up the terrorists' forces and reportedly has another 15,000 troops on Ukraine's eastern border (see: Russia Massing 15,000 Troops on Ukraine Border, Says NATO).

How Can the West Prevent a Repeat of Georgia in 2008?

In order to save eastern Ukraine from falling into Putin's hands, the West must act now!  But how?  More sanctions?  Sorry, that won't help.  The West has already begun imposing more sanctions on Russia, but I suspect that they will be just as ineffective at changing Putin's mind as the sanctions placed on Russia after the occupation of Crimea have been.  And clearly shaming Putin's Russia hasn't helped.  Indeed, despite the public relations disaster over the recent shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight M17 over eastern Ukraine, which most in the international community believe was done by pro-Russian terrorists using a missile supplied by Russia, Putin remains steadfast in his quest to bring Ukraine's east under his control.  As I have said in previous blog posts, the only way to stop Putin is the same way you stop any other dictator - with force.

NATO must capitalize on the recent victories of Ukrainian forces by putting its troops in the territory formerly controlled by the pro-Russian terrorists so that if Putin wants to take that territory back, he will have to face the full might of the western military alliance.  And as bold as Putin is, he is not yet ready to directly challenge the West militarily.  Unfortunately, however, I don't see this happening.  No one in the West or NATO seems to have the courage to stand up to Putin, so as painful as it is for me to say this, I'm afraid that Ukraine will be left to fend for itself against the Russian dictator's growing tyranny.  


Saturday, 12 July 2014

Canadian Television: Time for More Choice

Today, I read an article in The Toronto Star by Michael Geist discussing the changes to broadcasting regulations that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is considering, which would radically alter the way Canadians watch TV (see: The CRTC's make-or-break moment).  Canadian TV viewers could finally see an end to paying for channels they don't want in order to get the channels they do want and may even be able to get their cable or satellite TV service from someone other than Canadian big boys, Bell, Telus, Rogers and Shaw - legally.  If these changes take place, Canadians can expect a lot more choice and a lot less regulation.  But don't pop the cork on the champagne just yet, because there are a lot of corporate and special interest groups out there that are fighting tooth and nail to defend the status quo, or even make things worse for Canadian TV viewers.

Television Service Providers and Content Creators Line Up to Defend Status Quo

Unfortunately, it is not in the best interests of some folks to allow Canadians more choice in how they watch TV.  Indeed, why would the likes of Rogers, Bell, Shaw or Telus want the CRTC to open the Canadian TV marketplace to competition when the status quo allows them to rip off Canadian consumers and get away with it because potential non-Canadian competitors, like American providers DirecTV and Time Warner Cable, are frozen out of Canada?   The simple answer is that they don't want more competition.  So much for capitalism and free markets.

The folks here in Canada who make TV content don't want competition either.  Nope.  They want to keep regulations in place that shove their content down the throats of Canadian TV viewers, which is why the usual suspects - groups like the Canadian Media Production Association (CMPA), ACTRA and the Directors Guild of Canada (DGC) - are lining up to vigorously defend the status quo.  They don't want Canadians to be able to choose not to watch Canadian programming.  They want to continue making you pay for channels and programming you don't want to watch.  Make no mistake about it.  These special interest groups are the enemies of Canadian consumer choice.  They're the same people who want to keep the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in the hands of the federal government so that they can keep making Canadian taxpayers foot the bill for what they deem to be good Canadian content.  Unfortunately, there is a major disconnect between the producers of TV content and the consumer in Canada.  This is why, for example, some Canadian TV shows that were recipients of the Canadian Screen Awards, or at least nominated for them, were the same shows that got cancelled for lack of viewership (see: Critically Acclaimed Canadian TV Shows Cancelled).  It seems that the arts community in this country has a penchant for rewarding mediocrity. 

Canadian Content Providers Want to Limit Your Choices Even Further

As if the status quo wasn't bad enough for Canadian TV viewers hungry for more choice, Canadian content creators want even more restrictions put in place to protect them from competition.  According to Geist's Toronto Star article referenced above, the Can-con (short for Canadian content) lobby wants Canadian content regulations imposed on online video services, like Netflix.  In other words, they want to make services like Netflix carry a certain amount of Canadian content and make them pay for the production of more Canadian content.  This will mean less choice for you and more money out of your pocket as the costs of providing money to finance more Canadian content will ultimately be passed on to you, whether you're a fan of such content or not.

Let Canadians Choose

The market, ie. the Canadian TV viewer, should decide what kind of programming, Canadian or otherwise, gets shown on television, not the starving artists and protectionists that fill the ranks of lobby groups like CMPA and ACTRA.  Yes, I understand that there are many folks who want to promote Canadian content.  For them, I have these words: If you want Canadian content, then you pay for it!  Don't ask other Canadian TV viewers like myself to foot the bill for your interests.  As for the starving artists and Can-con protectionists I just mentioned: if your product sucks and you can't get anyone to buy it or watch it, don't assume that it should be the responsibility of all Canadian TV viewers to fund it.  Instead, find a way to make your product better so that it is more marketable, just as you would have to do in any other business.  And if you can't do that, then I suggest you find another line of work. 


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Hamas and All Other Terrorists in Israel's Midst Must be Exterminated

Well, it looks like the gloves have come off in Israel's fight against Hamas and the other terrorists seeking to wipe it off the map - or have they?  Even as barrage after barrage of rockets rain down on Israel's citizens, the Israeli government has so far decided not to use overwhelming force against the enemy.  I believe that this has to change and change quickly.  Israel must do whatever is necessary to eliminate each and every terrorist from its midst. 

Not One Terrorist, Hamas or Otherwise, Should Remain

The mandate of the Israeli Defense Forces should consist of one goal and one goal only: eliminate all vestiges of terrorism from the Holy Land.  This means that every member of Hamas or any other terrorist organization should be jailed, deported or dead.  No exceptions.  We must also treat all terrorists equally, whether they be Jewish or Arab.  So, for example, if the suspects arrested in the murder of Palestinian teenager, Mohammad Abu Khdeir, are guilty, they should all be punished the same way that the suspects accused of murdering three Israeli teenagers last month should be.  There is no difference between an Arab terrorist and a Jewish terrorist.  A terrorist is a terrorist, is a terrorist.  Even terrorists who have already been punished and released should not necessarily be exempt.  In fact, I think it would be quite appropriate for Israel to deport convicted terrorists currently living in Judea and Samaria to Jordan.  After all, the Hashemite kingdom did grant all the Palestinians living in the West Bank Jordanian citizenship, which ultimately makes the Palestinian residents of the territory their problem.  I'm certainly not saying that Israel should deport the entire Palestinian population of the West Bank; just those who have committed violent terrorist acts against the State of Israel and have the blood of Israelis on their hands.  And just to be fair, I would also advocate deporting Jewish terrorists if they are citizens of a country other than Israel.

International Public Opinion is Irrelevant 

By now, we're all hearing pleas from world leaders, like U.S. President Barack Obama, to show restraint.  The latter-day Neville Chamberlain just doesn't get it.  When did the U.S. ever show restraint when protecting the lives of its own citizens?  I think we all no the answer to that.  Israel cannot be swayed by international public opinion as it deals with threats to its citizens and its very existence as a state.  The truth is that the international community will condemn Israel no matter what it does, so Israel might as well do what needs to be done against the terrorists and get it over with.

The World Likes Winners

My father has repeatedly told me about one of the lessons that Israel learned from the 1967 war.  He said, "the world likes winners."  And it's true.  In 1967, Israel not only decimated the armies of its Arab enemies, who sought to wipe the country off the map, but also seized large chunks of enemy territory with barely a hint of condemnation from the international community.  Why?  Because Israel had shown its enemies and the rest of the international community its strength and determination to crush those that would endanger its security.  Israel must duplicate the extent of its victory in the 1967 war today, because by doing so,  it will once again demonstrate that there is a heavy price for endangering the safety of Israelis and their state - a price that in the case of the Palestinians, should include the end of their ambitions to create a Palestinian state that would include Judea and Samaria, leaving Israel more vulnerable to attack and depriving its people from their historical heritage.


Saturday, 5 July 2014

Israel's Other Security Problem

Talking about the threats to Israel's security usually means talking about terrorist groups like Hamas or rogue states like Iran that want to wipe the country off the map.  But there is another security problem that gets little mention in the media outside of Israel itself: Israel's social security problem, or in other words, its poverty.  In fact, the international media often mask this problem by talking about how much of an economic miracle Israel is.  It's not that this assertion isn't true.  Yes, Israel is a great economic miracle where deserts have been turned into vast fields of crops, modern cities have been built and great achievements in science and technology have been made.  Nevertheless, Israel, like any other country, still has poverty and this poverty is endangering the future of the state.

Some Grim Statistics on Israel's Poverty

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Israel has the highest rate of poverty in the developed world.  More than one in five Israelis is considered poor, whereas the OECD average is just 11.3%.  One out of every three children in Israel also lives in poverty. 

The poverty rate in Israel is particularly high in two particular groups of citizens: Arabs and Haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews).  In fact, more than one in two Arab and Haredi citizens lives in poverty.  Researchers attribute the high poverty rate amongst Israeli Arabs mainly to the low number of Israeli Arab women who work.  According to statistics, less than one third of Israeli Arab women work.  And although the number of Arab men who work is similar to the number of Jewish men who are employed, the wages of the former are significantly lower.  In the Haredi sector, less than half of Haredi men are gainfully employed.  And since Arabs and Haredim are more inclined, on average, to have more children than other Israelis, poverty has become more concentrated amongst Israeli families with many children.

To make a long story short, Israel may be an economic success story in many respects, but as in many other emerging economies, like China and India, the rising tide has not lifted all the boats - or at least it has lifted some very high while not lifting others high enough.  So how should Israel go about alleviating the poverty within its borders?  Here are some of my suggestions:

1.  Arab Women and Haredi Men Must be Encouraged to Join the Workforce

I never like to blame the victim, but I will say in all honesty that certain people who are not involved in the workforce need to consider getting involved if they want to climb out of poverty.  I am specifically referring to Arab women and Haredi men.  Both groups are under-represented in the workforce for cultural and religious reasons.  The idea that a woman's place is in the home still prevails amongst Israel's Arab citizens and in the Arab world as a whole.  Clearly, Israel's government needs to take steps to encourage its female Arab citizens to work.  The same goes for Haredi men, who would rather devote themselves to their faith than to an actual job.  The problem of unemployment amongst Haredi men has actually gotten worse over time.  In fact, before the 1980s, nearly 90% of Haredi men were employed as opposed to less than half today.  Why?  Some researchers say that it is because Haredi political parties have gained more power over time and have pushed for more aid to the Haredi sector in the form of subsidies, housing and exemption from military service.  As a result, more and more Haredi men have decided to live off of government assistance rather than seek gainful employment.  This coddling of the Haredim has angered many other Israelis, including myself.  Many of the Haredim think they don't live in the real world, but rather God's world, in which the only contribution they need to make is in the form of study and prayer.  But in fact, they do live in the real world and they must understand that in the real world, people must work to earn a living and contribute to society.  Of course, if we do want Arab women, Haredi men, or anyone else in Israeli society to be gainfully employed, we need to make sure that they have the right skills, hence the need for improvements to education.

2.  Educational Reforms

Ironically, researchers have indicated that despite Israel's history of scholarship and its world-renowned academic institutions, education is an area in which the country needs to improve immensely if it is to tackle the problem of poverty.  The problems in Israel's education system are not unlike those faced by education systems in Canada or any other industrialized country - issues like overcrowded classrooms, under-performing teachers, high university tuition and lack of financial resources.  These problems, like Israeli poverty, are more pronounced in the Arab and Haredi sectors.  Arab students are less likely to graduate from high school than their Jewish counterparts.  They are also forced to deal with a very Jewish-centric curriculum in which they do not see themselves, thus providing a disincentive for them to continue their education.  Changes to the Israeli Arab school curriculum that would allow Arab students to learn more about their own history and heritage without negating the State of Israel's right to exist would significantly improve their educational and employment prospects.  I would also recommend founding at least one university in the country in which Arabic is the main language of instruction, thus making it easier for Israeli Arab students to learn without language difficulties.  One good thing I can say about the Arabic education system in Israel today is that at least students are taught the proverbial "three r's".

In contrast, the only three r's that many Haredi students are taught are religion, religion and religion.  Math and science don't see the light of day in many Haredi schools, yet Haredi politicians insist that the Israeli government fund them.  This obviously has to end if Haredi men are going to have any chance of entering the workforce in the future.  Funding should only go to schools that teach practical subjects, whether they be Haredi schools or otherwise.  And more funding for education in general will be needed if Israel wants to reduce the number of its citizens who live in poverty.  That being said, more funding for education will probably mean less funding for other things, so how should Israel's government prioritize?

3.  Prioritizing and Reallocating Resources

Israel, unlike most other countries, has the misfortune of having to allocate a large part of its budget to defense.  This is not going to change until the country no longer faces an existential threat.  However, there are still things that Israel spends money on that would be better spent elsewhere.  One example that comes to mind is the government's recent splurge on Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria.  Much of this spending is simply unavoidable as these communities have unique security needs.  However, there is a growing sense amongst Israelis that much of this spending lacks transparency and is being undertaken to placate the ideological ambitions of certain politicians and interest groups.  See, for example: MKs Push for Transparency on Rising Settlement Funding

The fact of the matter is that a lot of money is being spent to encourage Israelis to move to the newer communities in Judea and Samaria, and although I believe that Israelis should be entitled to live in their ancestral homeland, I think many Israelis would prefer that this kind of spending be dedicated to things like health care and education for all Israeli citizens, regardless of where they live.  Still, I certainly would not like to see Israeli tax dollars being spent to uproot Israelis from their homes in Judea and Samaria as was done in Gaza, because doing so would not only be wrong, but expensive (see: Removing West Bank Settlers Would Cost $10 Billion: Peace Group)

Another big expense that should be reallocated is the large sum of money given every year to Haredi citizens and institutions so that they don't have to work and instead devote themselves to full-time prayer and study.  As I said before, we live in the real world where people must work to live.  If the Israeli government continues to pay the Haredim to pray and study all day, they will never have any incentive to join the workforce and poverty in the Haredi sector will persist.

The Carrot and Stick Approach to Poverty Alleviation

Alleviating poverty in Israel or anywhere else almost always depends, not only on giving, but also taking away.  To be more specific, I recommend giving more funding to education in Israel, but I also recommend taking away the generous subsidies that the Haredim have enjoyed for many years.  The reason is that sometimes throwing money at a problem can make it better, but sometimes it can make it worse.

Other References:




Thursday, 3 July 2014

Jordan: The Real Occupied Palestine

According to the Palestinian narrative, the Nakba, which translates as catastrophe or disaster in Arabic, began in 1948 with the founding of the State of Israel and the dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs from their homes.  To this day, Palestinians still blame Israel for the fact that they do not have a country of their own.  In my opinion, they are blaming the wrong people. 

Those of you who have studied the Israeli-Palestinian conflict know that when the first Arab-Israeli war ended in 1949, Israel did not control all of what used to be the British Mandate of Palestine.  Israel did control the vast majority of it; around 78%.  But of course, there was still the other 22% that Israel did not manage to take during the war.  This territory is what is known today as the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  At the end of the war, the West Bank came under Transjordanian control, while the Gaza Strip was controlled by Egypt.  The leaders of Transjordan and Egypt could very well have decided to grant the Palestinians in these two territories independence, but they had other ideas.  Instead of giving this land to the Palestinians for a state, the Egyptians and Tranjordanians kept it for themselves.  The Gaza Strip remained under Egyptian control, though Egypt never formally annexed the territory.  In contrast, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem with all of its holy places, was formally annexed by Transjordan, whose Hashemite rulers subsequently changed the name of the country to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.  Palestinians in the West Bank were given Jordanian citizenship and the territory was fully integrated into the newly-expanded Hashemite realm.  This annexation was not recognized by the Arab League, but up until 1967, when the West Bank was captured by Israel, there was no talk of a Hashemite "occupation".  In fact, the real occupation today is not Israel's control over the West Bank.  It is the Hashemite family's control of what used to be an integral part of Palestine which we know today as Jordan.

The Birth of an Illegitimate Regime

The origins of today's Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan go back all the way to the First World War.  For centuries, the Hashemite family, descended directly from Islam's founder, the Prophet Mohammed, were the guardians or "Sharifs" of Mecca, Islam's holiest city.  Once WWI began, it was this family, led at the time by Sharif Hussein bin Ali, which led the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire.  The flag that today represents the Palestinian people was originally the flag representing this revolt.  In fact, today's Jordanian flag is almost exactly the same except for the white star representing the ruling Hashemite family that appears in the horizontal red triangle.

The British promised the Hashemites an independent state encompassing all the Arab territories of the Ottoman realm once the war had ended.  But this promise was not kept.  Instead, the British and their French allies secretly negotiated the partition of the Ottoman Empire amongst themselves in the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916.  Nevertheless, the Hashemites were bent on claiming the independent state that the British had promised them and so in March 1920, a new Arab state encompassing what is now Jordan, Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq was proclaimed in Damascus with bin Ali's son, Faisal, as its head of state.  Four months later, however, French military forces crushed the rebellion and Faisal was forced out of Damascus.

The former Arab territories of the Ottoman Empire were ultimately divided into separate British and French mandates authorized by the League of Nations.  The Hashemites were installed as the rulers of two of the British mandates: Iraq and Transjordan, the latter of which was originally part of the British Mandate of Palestine.  In 1922, however, the League of Nations recognized it as a separate British mandate, which would be excluded from the Balfour Declaration and the British promise to the Zionist movement for a Jewish national home in Palestine.  Hence, what should have been an independent Arab state in the eastern part of Palestinian was instead carved up and given to foreign rulers, whose original homeland was in Mecca.  This was the first time that the Palestinian Arabs were cheated out of a country of their own, not by Jews, but by their own fellow Arabs.  Unfortunately, it wasn't the last.

Hashemite Apartheid

After the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, and despite the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes, Palestine could still have been a country in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  The Palestinians could have had East Jerusalem as their capital.  But the Egyptians and Hashemites decided to betray their fellow Arabs and kept the land for themselves.  For their part, the Hashemites did grant the Palestinians in the West Bank full Jordanian citizenship.  In fact, the Palestinians, even to this day, are the majority population in Jordan.  However, it is the Hashemites that rule the roost.  The parliament and elections are rigged so that disproportionately greater representation is given to the Hashemites' Bedouin supporters rather than the Palestinian majority.  And even if this were not the case, it is the Hashemite King of Jordan, now King Abdullah II, who has the ultimate power.  Basically, the Hashemites and their Bedouin supporters are a minority that rules over a Palestinian majority.  There's a word for this kind of setup: Apartheid - the same kind of apartheid that saw a white minority rule over a black majority in South Africa.  I find it ironic, then, that it is Israel and not Jordan that is called an apartheid state.

Eastern Palestine and Gaza: A Better Future for the Palestinian People

In my humble and honest opinion, the Palestinians are wasting their time trying to fight the Israelis for that tiny piece of land we now call the West Bank.  They should instead focus their attention on bringing down the illegitimate Hashemite rulers of what is rightfully the eastern part of Palestine.  The Palestinians already have the Gaza Strip back, but if they were able to regain control of eastern Palestine and drive the Hashemites out, they would have a country that would be bigger than Israel and that would have access to not one, but two seas, the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, just as Israel does today.  In contrast, even if the Palestinians managed to get control of the entire West Bank, they would only have access to one sea and have much less territory to make use of.  Furthermore, if the Palestinians wrested control of eastern Palestine from the Hashemites, they would also wrest control of its state infrastructure and institutions.  They would not have to worry about building a new state from scratch as is currently being attempted by the Palestinian Authority.  Finally, a Palestinian state in eastern Palestine and the Gaza Strip would not face as many limitations on its sovereignty as would a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, simply because Israel wouldn't insist on demilitarization or other limits on Palestinian sovereignty to protect itself in the same way it does now when faced with the prospect of another Arab state west of the Jordan river.

I am not saying that the Palestinians should forfeit whatever legitimate rights they may have in the the rest of the region of Palestine.  But what I am saying is that for the purpose of founding a country of their own so that none of their people will ever have to languish in a refugee camp again, it would be more feasible for the Palestinians and their leaders to focus on liberating the part of their country that they seem to have forgotten about - the part occupied by the Hashemites, who unlike the Palestinians' Jewish enemies, have no legitimate claim to the land which they control, historical or otherwise.