Monday, November 23, 2009

Weekly News Roundup, November 14-20, 2009

I've been a bad blogger lately. Posting on days other than Fridays and whatnot, but I swear I have a good excuse this time. You see, this past weekend was my 25th birthday and, unfortunately, I was too busy having my quarter-life crisis to blog. But now I'm back and ready to tackle Israel news with a renewed passion and unbridled enthusiasm. Let's get to it.

A Rare Look into the Mind of a Former Terrorist: Most terrorists become former because either they self-detonate in a crowded marketplace or get on the express train to paradise courtesy of the IDF. This former terrorist in the video below falls into neither of these categories, which is why he's such an interesting interview. He covers such topics as women's rights in the Islamic world, how Israel should deal with terrorists, and some of his past associations with terror bigwigs. Give it a view, it's only seven minutes long:

Israel's Top 10 Gadgets: It is well known that Israel is a hotbed of technological advancement and a pioneer in the high-tech arena. Israel21C has been generous enough to put together a top 10 list of Israel-developed gadgets. Coming in at #2, but the winner in my eyes, is the Powermat. Ever get all the cords for your various cell phones, iPods, laptops and other personal electronics in a knot that you trip over in the middle of the night? I have, I'm sad to admit, and it sounds like a Powermat would solve this very problem of mine:
"The Israeli company's technology lets you embed a power grid in just about anything - from a desk to a kitchen counter. Then, with a wireless receiver hidden inside a device, there's no need for plugs anymore. Just position the device or appliance near a power "hotspot" and away it goes."

Here's a link to the corporate site in case you want to check it out for yourself or purchase a Powermat for your favorite Israel blogger that recently celebrated his 25th birthday.

More Schalit News/Rumors: It seems, as usual, that most of this is speculation and wishful thinking. Bibi refuses to comment, Hamas is only too happy to announce progress on a prisoner swap deal, and Gilad Schalit continues to rot in captivity. It's been three and a half years since he was captured, and it looks like Gilad's situation won't change in the near future. I try not to get my hopes up when Hamas announces an imminment prisoner exchange, and this time is no different. I'll believe it when I hear it from the Israelis and not a moment sooner.

That's it for now, I hope you can forgive me for being late. Have a good week everyone, enjoy your Thanksgiving, don't OD on tryptophan, and don't get trampled on Black Friday.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Reverse Mifgash/Weekly News Roundup, November 7 - 13, 2009

The Reverse Mifgash: Apologies for not writing a Weekly News Roundup last week. I was very busy participating in the Reverse Mifgash, and was unable to bone up on my Israel news-reading in time. What's a Reverse Mifgash, you ask? Well, in Hebrew, Mifgash means 'encounter,' as in an encounter between Israelis and Americans, only, unlike a traditional Birthright trip, this Mifgash takes place on American turf. It's a reverse Birthright, if you will. A lot of planning, money-raising and coordination went into this 10 day, free trip for the eight Israelis, and it really turned out quite well. While they were here, the Israelis took in our fair city quite a bit, including: volunteering at the DC JCC, a tour of the Washington Post, the US Holocaust Museum, a comedy show by Benji Lovitt (of What War Zone), Shabbat services and dinner at the DC JCC, and plenty of nights out for alcohol consumption. I participated in much of it, including a Phone-a-Thon to raise money for future Birthright trips, and had a great time, as did the Israelis. On to the news...

The Abbas Bluff: Let me get this straight, Mahmoud Abbas is threatening to quit as president of the PA, and willing to give up the figurehead power and millions of dollars in western aid money that comes with the job? Please. He's about as likely to quit as I am to be offered the job after he leaves. But Abbas threatened to quit anyway, due to the lack of progress in the 'peace process.' Then again, we have heard this before, and the old man still collects a check. I'm not biting.

Israel gets a Brazilian...Trade Deal: Shimon Peres went to Brazil earlier this week to sign a free trade deal with the largest South American country. The Brazilian government also signed a deal to buy $350 million worth of Israeli unmanned drone aircraft. On the other end of Israeli/Brazilian relations, around 40 pro-Palestinian Brazilian protestors waved banners that read 'Shimon Hitler' in honor of President Peres's visit. Nice.

Tel Aviv Bans Horse-Drawn Carriages: This week, the bustling metropolis that is Tel Aviv finally banned the use of horse-drawn carriages within the city limits. As of now, Tel Aviv is the first city in Israel to institute this ban. Perhaps the rest of the country will follow suit, but Israel's sizable Amish population is unlikely to stand by idly while its only mode of transport is outlawed. Ahh, Amish jokes.

Have a good weekend, folks.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Phoning it in for Birthright

Last night, November 4, I participated in a "Phone-a-Thon" to raise money for Taglit Birthright Israel and the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. I actually got to give a speech introducing the event and was a 'chair' of sorts, but enough horn-tootage. About 12 Americans and 8 Israelis also joined in on the fun to raise money which, thanks to the general state of the economy, the Bernie Madoff scandal, and a variety of other factors, is a little short right now for Birthright trips.

I participated in a Birthright trip in the Winter of 2008-09 and felt that, since I was given such an amazing (not to mention FREE) gift, why not try to pay that gift forward to DC area Jews?

Lacking a good reason not to participate in the Phone-a-Thon, I decided to head down to the Schusterman International Center in Chinatown to try to charm unsuspecting parents out of their money. Our 'targets' were DC area parents whose children had recently gone to Israel on a Taglit Birthright trip: striking while the iron is hot, as they say. After a short training session, during which the callers learned how to answer frequently asked questions the parents might have, how to most effectively convey our goals, etc., we took to the phones and got busy. And busy is what I got, as in busy signals. Also voicemails, hang ups, and disconnected numbers.

A good portion of the parents answered though, and the vast majority of them were willing to accept more information about donating. Some even donated over the phone. A big selling point for the donors was the fact that the Adelson Family Foundation will be double matching any of the donations we receive by December 31, 2009. For example, last night we raised $4,000 ($200 of which was raked in by yours truly) over the phones, which in actuality results in $12,000 for Taglit Birthright Israel trips due to the Adelsons' generosity.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington needs to raise $130,000 to send a full bus of DC area participants to Israel, and hopefully they'll get closer to their goal as some of the parents who requested more information mail in their donations. There's also you, dear reader, who can help out. Visit to make a donation which, if you don't remember, will be doubled by the Adelsons. It's really for a great cause and you'll feel good that you were able to help Americans get to Israel free of charge for an amazing 10 day experience. Now more than ever, it's vital we continue building strong ties between the Diaspora and Israel, and Taglit Birthright Israel trips are one of the best ways to ensure our respective communities remain closely knit.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Weekly News Roundup, October 24 - 30, 2009

Welcome to another exciting week in Israel news. This week, we find Iran stalling for (even more) time to build a bomb, J-Street claiming to be pro-Israel while acting completely opposite, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) antagonizing Israel, and Israeli baller, Omri Casspi, making his NBA debut with the Sacramento Kings. As usual, let's do it to it.

When Will We Learn?: As predicted by moi last week, Iran has summarily rejected the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) uranium enrichment offer, under which Iran would ship 70% of its low enriched uranium to France and Russia for enrichment to the 20% level, well below the level needed for weapons purposes. Iran instead countered with an offer to enrich its uranium in Iran under IAEA supervision which, judging by the IAEA's past efficacy with this issue, would lead to an Iranian bomb in no time. Meanwhile, both the US House and Senate passed sanctions legislation which would impede Iran's ability to import gasoline, but will the Prince of Peace, I mean President, sign the bills? For now, Iran continues to march toward the bomb while the International Community dithers and waffles, but what else is new?

My J Street Rage Boils Over: I haven't written about the abomination that is J Street yet, but this week I've simply had enough and could stay silent no longer. J Street was founded in April, 2008 and claims to be 'pro-Israel, pro-Peace,' yet manages to be neither. With regards to the pro-Israel aspect, just this week J Street dropped this requirement from their college campus arm, J Street U, saying:
"The student groups don't need to say they are explicitly pro-Israel so long as their programming and outreach operate from the premise that the Jewish state has a right to exist as a Jewish state"
"'We don't want to isolate people because they don't feel quite so comfortable with 'pro-Israel,' so we say 'pro-peace,'" said American University junior Lauren Barr of the "J Street U" slogan, "but behind that is 'pro-Israel.'"
In other words, J Street doesn't want to offend anyone who would be insulted by the notion of being pro-Israel, yet desires these same people to join their ranks? Right. So J Street is just implicitly pro-Israel now, while remaining pro-Peace. But can they even make this claim? No, says I.

Contrary to 78% of the American public, the House and Senate, J Street believes that "the immediate imposition of harsher sanctions on Iran would be counterproductive." Furthermore, J Street is "strongly opposed to any consideration at this time of the use of military force by Israel or the United States to attack Iran's nuclear infrastructure." According to J Street, being pro-Peace means wanting Iran to get the bomb. Really?!

During Operation Cast Lead, during which Israel finally responded to 8,000 rockets launched by terrorists and aimed at Israeli civilians, J Street had this to say after the first Israeli airstrikes on Hamas targets:
"While this morning’s air strikes by Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza can be understood and even justified in the wake of recent rocket attacks, we believe that real friends of Israel recognize that escalating the conflict will prove counterproductive, igniting further anger in the region and damaging long-term prospects for peace and stability."
So Israel defending its civilians from rocket attacks is hurting the prospects for peace, yet there's no mention or condemnation of the terrorists who are launching the rockets in the first place? It's as if J Street can't blame Hamas for attacking Israel, while at the same time expects Israel to stand by while its citizens are murdered.

From what I can gather, J Street could best be described as pro-Iran, pro-Hamas, and pro-Dead Israelis. J Street held a conference in DC this week, but I don't think my blood pressure could handle me writing about this despicable group any longer. On to another despicable group then!

OIC Behind Goldstone Report: Color me unsurprised by this revelation. I had no idea any organization was behind the Goldstone Report, but if I had to guess last week, my top choices would have been Hamas, J Street, or the OIC. Now it turns out that it was the OIC, a group of 57 Muslim nations, that was responsible for commissioning this anti-Israel report on Operation Cast Lead. While digging for information on the OIC, I came across this juicy quote from Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, during the OIC's 2003 meeting in Malaysia:
"They [the Jews] invented socialism, communism, human rights and democracy, so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so that they can enjoy equal rights with others. With these they have gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power. The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them”
Like I said, I'm not surprised at all that the OIC was behind the Goldstone Report. To wit:

Al Jazeera: The UN's Goldstone report has been in the headlines in the past few weeks - not without controversy - and has brought to light the conduct of the Israelis and Hamas during the war on Gaza earlier in the year. Does the OIC see this as a step forward in recognising what
transpired during that war and in bringing the plight of the Palestinians to the fore on an international scale?

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu [Secretary General of the OIC]: Let me first start by completing the story of the history of the Goldstone report. What I would like to put on record is that the OIC was the initiator of this process.

On January 3, during the attacks on Gaza, we convened the executive committee of the OIC on a ministerial level. It was decided that the OIC group in Geneva should ask the Human Rights Council to convene and consider the possibility of sending a fact-finding mission to Gaza.

I've written at length about the Goldstone Report before (here) and won't get into it again, but this admission by the OIC, a virulently anti-Israel and anti-Semitic organization, sheds light on why the Goldstone Report was so incredibly biased against Israel and easy going on Hamas.

The NBA Welcomes its First Israeli: After Maccabi lost to the Knicks and Clippers during the pre-season, it was up to Omri Casspi to improve Israel's basketball stature in the NBA. Luckily, the Israeli rookie had a very solid start to his NBA career, netting 15 points, on 7-9 shooting, and three rebounds in only 19 minutes. Casspi should get a lot of minutes this year as he plays on an atrocious team, the Sacramento Kings, and seems to have legitimate talent. Then again, he's on a lousy team, which kind of stinks for him. I'll update Mr. Casspi's situation as the season goes on and, as much as it pains me, try to watch some Kings games so I can see him live.

Have a great Halloween/Dia de los Muertos and remember to wear reflective clothing and not to eat too much candy; you'll get a stomach ache!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Weekly News Roundup, October 17 - 23, 2009

On tap this week: Maccabi Tel Aviv's American tour/debacle, Ehud Olmert's quest to get booed in every major American city, Iran gets a taste of its own medicine and rejects nuclear deal. Let's do it to it.

Maccabi Tel Aviv Loses More than Two Games: Falling to the New York Knicks last Sunday and to the LA Clippers on Tuesday, the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team is probably eager to return to Israel after their American odyssey. Head coach Pini Gershon was ejected during the game against the Knicks for arguing calls with the referees. Gershon then refused to leave the court for 10 minutes until security guards and a Rabbi from the stands finally convinced the fiery coach to return to the locker room. On Tuesday, Maccabi Tel Aviv lost to the Clippers in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, during the game a thief snuck into Maccabi's locker room and stole $22,000 cash and other valuables. I don't know who had a worse American experience, Maccabi Tel Aviv's basketball team or the guy in the next story...

Ehud Olmert Gets Booed for the Wrong Reasons: Personally, I'd boo Olmert at a speech for being a scandal-ridden, weak and spineless Israeli Prime Minister who capitulated to Hamas and Hezbollah. However, useful idiots in Chicago and San Francisco heckled the former PM for being a war criminal and murderer of poor, innocent Palestinian terrorists. Like I said, I don't think Olmert went far enough in killing terrorists in either 2006 or 2009, but according to these protesters, any act of Israeli self defense constitutes the gravest of human rights violations. Check out the videos below:

Loonies in Chicago

Nuts in San Francisco

The Delicious Irony of a Suicide Bombing in Iran: After 30 years at or near the top of the list of leading terror exporters, Iran got a taste of its own medicine on Sunday as a suicide bomber blew himself up, killing five senior commanders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and 37 others. The Sunni terror group, Jundallah, claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Iranians blamed the United States and United Kingdom anyway. Of course, terrorism is a despicable act no matter who the target is, but it's satisfying, in a Schadenfreude-esque kind of way, that the masterminds of countless terror attacks against Americans, Jews and Israelis got what was coming to them.

Iran Rejects Offer for Overseas Nuclear Enrichment: Well, not 'rejected' per se, more like 'failed to accept while remaining antagonistic to the West and its generous offer.' The offer was that Iran would export its uranium stockpiles to Russia and France, where it would be enriched for medical purposes. Clearly, this would then mean that Iran could not enrich its uranium stockpiles for weapons purposes, so the offer was obviously a non-starter from the get go. As per usual, Iran continues to buy time to build a bomb by taking advantage of the West's appeasement and 'good faith gestures.' Will we never learn?

Have a grand weekend folks, and make sure to stay tuned for next week when I'll find some convoluted way to tie the beginning of the NBA season to the Israeli bio-tech industry, or something like that.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

British Colonel Takes on the Goldstone Report

"The IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare," says a former Colonel in the British army, Richard Kemp, much to the chagrin of Israel's enemies, bashers and trashers in the United Nations.

Rightly attacking the content and subsequent condemnation of Israel brought on by the Goldstone Report, Colonel Kemp realizes what most of the sane world does: The IDF is the most moral army in the world and would rather put its own soldiers in danger than needlessly kill Palestinian civilians. It's painfully obvious to many that Hamas cynically uses human shields for public relations purposes, to elicit sympathy from the international community, and to more easily heap criticism on Israel. But the folks in the UN seem to ignore this aspect of the terror wars in which Israel is involved, and on the defensive, I might add.

Watch the video below and send it to everyone you can, it's important for the world to hear some truth coming out of the UN every once and a while.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Weekly News Roundup, October 10 - 16, 2009

A hectic week for Israel, what with the UN Human Rights Council adopting the biased Goldstone Report, Turkey airing an anti-Israel TV drama/blood libel and snubbing the IAF for Syria in war game activities, the New York Knicks taking on Maccabi Tel Aviv at Madison Square Garden this weekend (on Sunday, natch), and LeBron James contracting H1N1 which, admittedly, only impacts my Cavalier fan readers. Let's do it to it.

UN Human Rights Council Sinks Lower, Digs: The UNHRC adopted the anti-Israel, terrorism-excusing Goldstone Report today by a 25 to 6 margin in Geneva, Switzerland. Some of the countries voting to adopt the Goldstone Report were paragons of human rights like China, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Pakistan, Russia and Saudi Arabia. As PM Netanyahu wisely observed: "Israel's only real crime is that it does not have an automatic majority in the U.N." The Goldstone Report will now be sent to New York for further, anti-Israel action.

Turkish TV Airs Anti-Israel Blood Libel Saga About Gaza: Turkey, ever since it elected Recep Erdogan and took a turn for the Islamist, has seen its ties with Israel increasingly weaken in the last several years. Just take a look at this 'debate' between Erdogan and Shimon Peres from earlier this year. Anyway, this week Turkish TV aired a show depicting the IDF as a bunch of blood-thirsty monsters. The show's producer, Selcuk Cobanoglu, claimed the savage murderers in the show "are not Israeli soldiers" and that "the show is not about IDF soldiers. We also wrote this in a warning that appeared on the screen at the beginning of the program." Funny, then, that the two screen captures below clearly depict the Israeli flag, Hebrew, and the map of Israel. Hmmm...

Turkey Snubs Israel in War Game Activities for...Syria?: The same Syria that has been embarrassed numerous times by the IDF and IAF and refuses to fight Israel directly now, preferring instead to use its Iranian sponsored terrorist proxies in Hezbollah and Hamas? That Syria? Turkey dropped out of the 'Anatolian Eagle' war game activities with the US, Israel, NATO and Italy because of the IAF's activities during Operation Cast Lead last winter. Turkey claims they backed out because of Israeli delays in delivering drone aircraft to the Turkish military, but no one who matters actually believes this. Adding insult to injury, during the same time period during which 'Anatolian Eagle' was supposed to take place, Turkey instead practiced military maneuvers with Israel's arch-nemesis, Syria. Turkey needs to get rid of this Islamist regime sooner rather than later, and hopefully before any permanent damage is done to Turkish-Israeli relations.

I Don't Roll (or Hoop) on Shabbos!: The Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball team will take on the hapless New York Knicks on Sunday, October 18, in Madison Square Garden, as part of the NBA's preseason. Maccabi is arguably the most successful international team in competition with its NBA counterparts, having beaten the then NBA champion Washington Bullets in Israel in 1978 and the Toronto Raptors in Toronto in 2005, becoming the first non-NBA team to beat an NBA team on North American soil. Maccabi now looks to become the first non-NBA team to vanquish an NBA team on Real American soil, in the World's Most Famous Arena, no less. I'll be pulling for Maccabi here, partially because I love Israel, but also because I hate the Knicks for trying to steal LeBron James away from Cleveland. Maybe if he sees how lousy the Knicks are if they lose to Maccabi (no offense to Maccabi, of course), he'll stay where he belongs. Sorry to get off on that tangent. Maccabi will also play the equally terrible Los Angeles Clippers later this month, and I'll report on that as well.