Friday, April 04, 2003

nOrMaLiTy in Israel

No such thing. At the same time, with the Americans studying ideas for new names for Sadaam International Airport (see these cool images of the airport, reserve a hotel room), things here are somewhat closer to our mundane times. Discussions here have centered on the Economic plans of the the Ministry of Finance... massive cuts and firings in the public sector; strikes (let just me say this: heat waves and uncleared trash don't bring the sweet smell of spring). I must say that I am split on the idea. On the one hand, at Mr. Kesher's place of employ there is a whole department for hosting foreign guests. There are no foreign guests and have been none for the last year or two. We must make hard choices to avoid becoming the next Argentina. On the other hand, the idea should be to stimulate growth and build the basis for an economic turnaround. Three factors have struck the Israeli economy: the crash of NASDAQ (falling since March 2000), the international economic slowdown since September 11, 2001 and the "matzav" here.

As I see it Israel has some semblance of control on the third factor. We must find a way to encourage Abu Maazan to be like Spike Lee and "Do the Right Thing" and then Israel should respond to it in kind. Interesting discussions going on regarding the way to do that through the Road Map. Should it be sequential (the Palestinians do this, the Israelis do that) or a range of parellel requirements? I think that there is a first obligation: stopping and rejecting violence and terror and then both sides must be willing to make some hard decisions. Should Iraq continue on its positive track of the past few days, and we approach the "day after" (see Yoel Marcus in today's Haaretz) this may become a key story soon.

Glad to see that Belgium's parliament has amended its absurd ("we are the judges for the solar system") universal jurisdiction law. Guardian article. Saw an interesting article on the problem last month in the Forward. The name of the writer may seem somewhat familiar to you. I've always liked his writing style.
Do you think that they suddenly realized that Israel was right and they'd gone too far? Don't think so.

Edwin Starr, the great Motown singer ("War, Good God, What is it good for? Absolutely Nothing") died the other day. Here is his web site. Bruce started playing the song, originally a Vietnam War protest again since the beginning of the war in Iraq. He played it first in Austin, Texas. No coincidence there! I always liked the song "Agent Double-O Soul".

Mets are 1-2. Still 158 games to go. I remind you that I picked Syracuse to reach the NCAA finals (OK,OK I also picked Kentucky to win it all). Young Mike from Fort Lee, NJ reminds Mr. Kesher that he spent four years at SU a number of years ago and has always been disappointed by the Orangemen. Stay postive, Michael!

Tuesday, April 01, 2003


As I have noted in days past, the general perception on the street in Israel is that the threat of the war in Iraq spilling over to Israel has passed. The proof of that is that no one (save school children who have to and the Minister of Defense who is on a one-man-lost-cause-too-little-too-late effort to serve as a "role model") is carrying around their gas masks. A friend of Mr. Kesher who teaches at Hebrew U argues that the distribution of masks and order to carry them around was a "kastach". Kastach is an acronym used by the army meaning cover one's ass. The costs of supplying the citizens and residents with masks, staffing the centers, and soon to refresh and reseal six million masks is enormous and adds nothing to the Israeli economy. The risk, as stated by PM Sharon last week was one percent. In 1991, Israel distributed worthless masks (many didn't work) and there was great criticism following that episode. Finally, if Sadaam would decide to send a chem missile in oour direction the risks to the population (even after getting past the Arrow and Patriots) would not be catastrophic and would justify finishing Sadaam off immediately (if such justification was needed). I'm not sure I agree with the theory but it was interesting and thoughtful.

I am a bit more optimistic about the coalition efforts then I was last week. The level of expectation needed to be moved a bit and the intensity of commitment has not wavered. The side that is strong can allow itself to be patient. When this is finished, it will be time for the natives in this region to get serious about peace negotiations. If it takes a bit of bullying, I'm not sure that's a bad thing. The parties needed to be bullied to Madrid after the first Gulf War (although as I argued last week, it was not the Madrid Conference that caused the real leap in the peace process) and to a cease fire by Kissinger in 1974. The latter did lead to good things with Egypt. It will be interesting to see what sort of domestic political implications some American pressure might have. Powell's speech at AIPAC made it clear that the Americans are committed to the road map but are calling Syria out. Stay tuned.

Opening day didn't go well for the boys from Shea. There are still 161 games to go. A number of funny April Fool's Day notes appear on Backstreets, a Springsteen fan web site.

Monday, March 31, 2003


I discussed the question of equivalence yesterday. It was interesting to see a report regarding a columbia prof who is almost calling for the Iraqis to win. It is strange that Iraq has been told by the world to disarm for over twelve years (but hasn't), accused of using Chemical weapons against its own peaople (it did), executes POW's, forces soldiers to fight and civilians to stay and be human shields and still the accusations are that there is no moral basis to rid the world of him. A few weeks ago Tom Friedman wrote in the NY Times "just because Richard Perle believes it doesn't make it wrong". He's right. One can have problems with the Bush administrations diplomacy. One can ask why they thought it would be sooooo easy. One can recoil at the tone of voice and moral absolutism used by Rumsfeld. One can wish that they could play with the other kids more. But, that doen't make them wrong.

While the fact remains that the situation here is so frustrating and Israel's government seems to be only defensive and reactionary to everything, that doesn't make it wrong. Another suicide bombing yesterday happened in Netanya. The Kesher family had lunch in that restuarant ("London Cafe") last year when visiting Netanya. Spokesman for the Islamic Jihad in Damascus called this a Palestinian "gift" to the Iraqis. Moral equivilance? Jack Straw spoke last week of getting to the road map next. The Guardian isn't wrong about Israel's overwrought "fear" of Britain. At the same time - what does Straw want to do after Sadaam to get Ariel Sharon? Where is the moral equivilance issue?

On a much lighter note, today is opening day for the Metsies. 1.15 start against the Cubs. Endless possibilities. Full redemption is possible. Lets just hope that they don't wear those road-crew butt ugly orange shirts.

Finally, you know that Springsteen mentions the promised land in six different songs: "The Price You Pay", "The Ghost of Tom Joad", "Goin' Cali", "Thunder Road", "Johnny Bye Bye", and of course... "The Promised Land". He never expressly discussed Israel but songs titled "This Hard Land", "Land of Hopes and Dreams", "Jungleland" all fit. He even used the term "holy land" (in an admittedly anatomical context) in the song "Leap of Faith". Sounds like the beginnings of a potential song list for a show in Tel Aviv. I'll let you know when tickets go on sale...

Sunday, March 30, 2003

A second weekend of the war in Iraq. While the "state of emergency" here continues, the average person is going on with life without carrying gas masks and such. The situation there looks more and more like here. The words that many are using regarding the Iraqis (read here: Moral Equivilence) are disturbing. A friend of Mr. Kesher in New York recently told a British colleague: "welcome to my world". There is no equivilence although any of us who (still) needed to learn that no bombs are smart enough to avoid all civilians, suicide bombers are a tool of the weak (illegitimate and frightening as they may be) and nothing new, remember the Japanese Kamakaze in the Pacific.
See this analysis of how the Palestinians see similarities between the wars in today's Haaretz.
What does "thumbs up" from Iraqis to coalition forces mean? Some say it could mean f-ck off. Ahh, the cultural nicities of international affairs.
The need for the Coalition to show positive signs: finding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, civilians happy with the actions, breakdown of Iraqi control and such seem to me to be more acute then ever. At the same time, the photos of civilian victims, bombed out residential areas and haughty calls by Iraqis (and others) for use of international law to protect THEM is a real threat to the whole mission. Additionally, the lessons for the Arab world from Sadaam's stand may be dangerous: the west can be challenged and maybe even defeated, all's fair in such war and there are allies (read: France and Russia) who will join in parts of the campaign for own self interest.