June 28, 2002
Tidbits - June 28

Bush to Be Sedated for Colonoscopy Perhaps while they're digging around in there, they can also perform a Colin-ectomy.

PA minister: Israelis shouldn't be shocked by 'baby bomber' pic I don't think that anybody will be shocked by this sort of thing any more, it's become too routine to be shocking. But it will forever remain disgusting.

And do take a look at Howard Fienberg's report on FBI Director Robert Mueller's speech to the American Muslim Council

I am proud to sponsor both Meryl Yourish (Sha'are Zedek) and Laurence Simon (Magen David Adom) in the Blogathon

Random Junk in Web Logs Dept. this one just showed up in mine for some reason: "[Australian] Strippers win union coverage" Doesn't sound very sexy to me.

Israel Destroys Hebron Compound . The whole thing reduced to a pile of rubble, apparently.

Read It and Weep Department: Bet you didn't think that the Simon Wiesenthal Center was a "hate group". www.jewwatch.com says it is. I don't want to give "JewWatch" the courtesy of an actual link, but take a look, and weep and/or throw up.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:05 PM
Nativity Church Terrorists: Where are they now?
Do you ever wonder what happened to the assorted thugs who took hostages at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem last month -- You know, the ones who flashed the V for Victory sign while they were expelled from their homeland at gunpoint and stuffed on a plane for Cyprus?
Today's Die Welt has a "where are they now?" update, under the headline "Vacation from Terrorism".

The 13 terrorists were divvied up among various EU countries, where they are now enjoying an expensive year-long vacation, as fully-paid-for guests of the European taxpayers, as follows:

Spain gets to host Ibrahim Musa Abayat (29), apparently the Fatah chief in Bethlehem, and responsible for a series of suicide bombings and the killing of an Israeli intelligence officer; Aziz Jubrane(31), pharmacy student, explosives expert and leader of a failed attack on a Jerusalem convention center; and Ahmed Hamamrah(31), a bank employee also responsible for the March 26 bombing at a Jerusalem shopping center. The Palestinian representative in Madrid said "These are fantastic young men. We must certainly help them build a new life for themselves".

In their new life in Spain, they lounge around at a government country estate in Lubia, 10 miles from the nearest town. Their location was supposed to be kept secret, but they were discovered by journalists at a local tennis court. Spanish police are not happy about the dozens of officers needed to provide constant security for these guys -- even when they, say, go grocery shopping -- an annual cost of 5 million Euros.

Italy is the temporary home for Ibrahim Mohammed Salem(32), a member of the Hamas underground; Khaled Hamid Najimeh(34); and Mohammed Said Salem(23) an Al-Aksa Brigades leader. The original plan was for these guys to spend their year on the prison island of Pianosa [remember Catch-22?] but are instead being treated like repentant mafiosi, and given a sort of "witness protection program". They have been given new identities, lodging in Italian intelligence safehouses with 24-hour protection, and monthly stipends, at a total estimated cost of 600 thousand Euros. The terrorists only complaint? They haven't yet been allowed to have a reunion with their families. But they do get to call home to Gaza every day.

Greece is playing host to Mohammed Muhannah(22) and Mamdouh Al Wardian(23), a known Hamas member. Greece has long been sympathetic toward the Palestinians, so it's no great surprise that these two were given a hero's welcome as freedom fighters, along with a well-attended sycophantic press conference. After being under intensive police surveillance they disappeared without a trace, under speculation that they obtained new papers and slipped outside the country. They resurfaced a few weeks later as front-row guests of honor at a concert given by pop superstar Glykeria.

Abuyat Jubran, described as the least dangerous of the Nativity Church terrorists, is now living quietly in Belgium . Nobody seems to be interested in him any more. The journalists have stopped following him. His whereabouts are kept confidential, but he is believed to be in Brussels, possibly under an assumed name, presumably staying in one of the "dreary neighborhoods where Africans and Arabs live. Where black trash bags pile up on the sidewalk and where there are a lot of video stores and laundromats". Jubran has a work permit. For the time being, the Belgian government is paying for his food, shelter and clothing.

The EU was proud to negotiate the surrender of the Nativity Church terrorists as a significant contribution to Mideast peace. But nobody in the "labyrinth of the Brussels Eurocracy" seems to have any idea what should happen with the terrorists after the 12 months is up. "I'm afraid we don't have a plan", says one EU official. "We negotiated the arrangement, the implementation is the responsibility of the member states. It's no longer our concern"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:52 AM
June 26, 2002
Some reactions to my 'The not so cold war'

re: My earlier entry, "The not so Cold War"
Solly Ezekiel, gedankenvoll as always, reminds us of some more of the reasons why people should and do care about Israel.

Sadly though, many otherwise progressive and humanitarian souls react only to the unpleasant things that Israel must do to protect itself. They end up trashing a noble nation, while sympathizing with the Palestinians, who seem to aspire only to eliminate Israel and then become another Syria.

Mike Sanders asks some good questions: "Do [Muslims] really want to destroy our way of life?" "Is their general populace oppressed? And by Whom?" "If the US leaves the Middle East, will they be appeased?". "Is appeasement a logical policy?"

Mike has been conducting an ongoing blog-discussion about the Middle East with Prof. Joseph Duemer. Duemer, a poet at Clarkson University, is apparently the Chair of the Department of Specious Rhetoric where he teaches Fatuous Moral Equivalence. Duemer says:

[Don't assume that I have the] slightest shred of agreement with the article by Stefan Sharkansky Mike quotes this morning. I just don't want to have anything to do with the idea that Islam is inherently totalitarian whereas (the implied but unstated corollary) the secular West is inherently democratic. When Sharkansky begins to talk about Christian authoritarianism . . .

Well, Joe, I'm less interested in what is inherent in Islam (whatever that means) than how the dominant centers of Islamic civilization behave today. If and when Christian authoritarians start to blow themselves up on public transportation, then we should do something about it. In the meantime, let's focus on the real threats to our security that exist today, and it's not too hard to figure out what those are.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:15 PM
Hizbollah in Berlin

According to a report in today's Die Welt, the Iranian-backed Lebanese Islamic terror group Hizbollah is planning to open a branch in Berlin. The German Federal Security Agency (BfV) confirms that Hizbollah followers are in the market for office space. Although the Hizbollah is on numerous lists of known terrorist organizations, it has not yet been officially banned in Germany.

Christian Democrat legislator Norbert Pflueger [a true anti-idiotarian, look for him here] is demanding that the organization be banned from the country. "It's absurd," he says, "that airplane passengers get their nailclippers taken away, while the Hizbollah gets to open an office unchallenged"

There aren't yet any indications that the Hizbollah (which means "Party of God") is directly engaged in terrorism in Germany. Their main objective there seems to be for propaganda (like praising the Sept. 11 attacks) and to raise money for the struggle against Israel. Hizbollah General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah has said that the most important form of "resistance against Zionism" is suicide bombings.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:26 PM
Happy Birthday

Little Baby David is a big eight months old today. When we first brought him home he was little more than a kitten who could only drink, sleep, cry, wet his diaper and could barely open his eyes. Now the little man eats pureed carrots, sits up, holds his own bottle, laughs hysterically, plays with toy trucks, sticks his thumbs up other people's noses and crawls around on his belly like a beached seal.

The boy is a genius. If you don't believe me, just ask his mom.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:54 PM
The not so cold war

I've been wondering lately why so many people all over the world care so passionately about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. It's easy to see why Jews and Palestinians in their respective diasporas care. But what about the Malaysians and the Norwegians and Robert Fisk and Victor Davis Hanson and all the passionate letters to the editor and the blogs that are written by gentiles? Why all this passion about this tiny little region which has about the same population and area as New Jersey, and where few of the passionate outsiders have a direct interest in the conflict? Why aren't people equally passionate about the conflict in, say, Sri Lanka, which involves twice as many people? Why do people care more about the Palestinians who blow themselves up even though they're not starving, than they care about the North Koreans who aren't blowing themselves up even though they are starving?

Israel is obviously a symbol for something far bigger than itself. But what? The answer has slowly been dawning on me.

We are in the midst of a fundamental geo-political realignment. The Cold War ended a dozen years ago, we won. Who would take the Soviet Union's place as the new enemy? Several years ago one might have thought that Japan or China would play that role. But no, China appears to seek regional dominance, not global. The Japanese economy has since collapsed into a deflationary anti-bubble. It is now the Arab/Islamic world that is the primary rival/enemy. In simplistic terms, Islam is to the 21st century, what Communism was to most of the 20th. Contrary to what George W Bush said last Fall, Islam is not a "great religion" any more than Communism is a "great political party". They are both systems for organizing a polity and an economy that are totalitarian, unyielding and diametrically opposed to our own. This is not yet fully acknowledged in public discourse, but it is becoming so.

This conflict has been building for years. The Sept. 11 attacks certainly accelerated this process, but they are more of a symptom and not a cause in and of itself. And the reason, I think, that the Israel issue is arousing so many passions, even among those who have no natural ethnic allegiances, is because it is a proxy for the larger "clash of civilizations". It is the currently the primary battleground between the forces of western modernity and the forces of backwards Islam. Look at the groups of Americans who are supporting or opposing Israel. They are essentially the same that were hawkish or isolationist during the Cold War. Those Americans who write their letters to the editor sympathizing with suicide bombers are more or less the same people who campaigned against nuclear weapons 20 years ago. The support for Israel in say, the National Review, is akin to the support that, say, the Baltic states enjoyed while they were occupied by the Soviets.

The Europeans are again caught in the middle, and not fully comfortable signing up completely with the Americans. Too soft, too close, too many Muslims to take as strong a stand as we do. But Europe is by no means a lost cause. The recent support for populist parties -- e.g. Fortuyn in Holland, and Le Pen (this time) in France was largely due to anti-Muslim sentiments.

So yes, the conflict with the Arab/Muslim world will intensify and clarify. It's not just about Iraq and alQaida. It's also about Iran, and about Syria and about Palestine and about our non-allies in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. This week's Bush speech was a seminal event, I think, because it suggested a growing recognition of this issue, and it drew some lines that have been begging to be drawn.

In some ways this will be a more difficult struggle than that against Communism. Communism was a soulless bureaucratic ideology. Islam is in the hearts and minds of its adherents. Communism collapsed from its own idiocy and impracticality. The prevailing idiocy and impracticality within Islam would also eventually transform itself internally, in the meantime the west will need to force changes on the Islamic world from outside. The goal would not be to eliminate Islam but for it to turn into a more innocuous secular version, such as the mainstream Turkish variety.

The conflict is also shaped by oil, of course. Part of our homeland defense must be to diminish the economic clout that Arabia has against us. That includes conservation, non-Arabian petroleum sources and adapating to other forms of fuel altogether. In the meantime we must not allow the Arab/Muslim world to use its mineral wealth to procure strategic weapons that shift the balance of power.

The next war against Iraq is coming and it will have broader implications. An important early step in preparing ourselves for that is to understand more clearly where we are, what's at stake and where we are headed.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:17 AM
June 25, 2002

The following goodies arrived from Amazon.com today:

Six Days of War by Michael Oren. (Be sure to catch his interview with Terry Gross)

The Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic
Wightwick and Gaafar's Arabic Verbs and Essentials of Grammar

I'm brushing up on the Arabic that I first learned as a high school student in Israel back in the 1970s. Because this is an important language to know, folks, and there aren't enough Americans who know any. One of the reasons for last year's intelligence failure was that there weren't enough Near-East language experts to sift through all the data that had been acquired. If you're still in college, why not take Arabic next fall?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:12 PM
Bush's Mideast Speech

A very funny reaction to Bush's speech is by Laurence Simon. The most thoughtful and analytical commentary I found in the Blogosphere is from Steven "USS not so clueless" Den Beste, who also links to other commentary.

My serious reaction is this: Nice speech, makes me feel good. We know where W's heart is, and it's in the right place. BUT, it also fixates on some unrealistic conditions for the Palestinians to meet. The question is, why?

The plan hinges on the assumption that a "new leadership" and "democracy" in Palestine will transform the conflict. But the fundamental problem with Palestine is not the leadership, but the society itself. As corrupt and inept of an administrator that he is, Arafat has stayed in power precisely because of his popularity. The most recent opinion polls show that a majority of Palestinians support suicide bombings and a majority feels that the goal of the Intifada should be not merely to end the occupation but to eliminate Israel. Why should anybody expect that a democratically elected government would support anything different?

And that even ignores the laughable assumption that a functioning democracy will spontaneously take root in an Moslem Arab society in which western concepts of democracy are not organic, and for which no example has ever existed. It's equally laughable that Bush is appealing to the various Arab dictators to help reform the Palestinian Authority and turn it into a democracy based on the rule of law. As if they've all had such success imposing democracy at home, that they know how to help others foster it, and that they won't feel threatened, Allah forbid, if democracy actually does take off over in Palestine.

So, either one of two things is going on. (a) Bush's plan is naively unrealistic (b) it is cynically unrealistic. the conditions it sets for a Palestinian state are exactly what any western country would demand of a hostile neighbor that's about to start their own country. But who has confidence that the Palestinians will be able to adhere to these conditions any time soon? They can make my day and prove me wrong, but Bush's plan is essentially a license for Israel to do the overwhelming cleanup operation that it needs to do anyway.

I would like to think that the answer is (b). But the outcome is likely to be the same in either case.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
June 24, 2002
"I want my money back"

I had so much fun today at the Louise Wisechild pile-on over at Spleenville, that I tried to google me some more Wisechild to wisecrack. On the way I was distracted by this item which was too good to pass up:

Robin "Roblimo" Miller of Bradenton, Florida writes President Bush to ask for his money back:

I don't mind paying taxes as long as I get good value for my money, but lately I'm starting to think the money I've been handing over to the U.S. government is as big a waste as making payments on a car that didn't run the day you went to pick it up at the used car lot and hasn't spent a full day out of the shop since.

We have this Federal Bureau of Investigation that's supposed to investigate crimes, right? It had agents who got suspicious about foreign flight students who seemed to be up to no good and might have ties to terrorist groups. But there was no investigation. What was the FBI doing if it wasn't investigating? I mean, if you have a Federal Bureau of Investigation and it doesn't investigate, why should I pay for it?

Now let's go to the CIA.

and he goes on to diss the CIA, the DoD, the SEC and HUD, and finally demands that George W.

Refund all the taxes I've paid over the last decade that went to the indefensible Defense Department, the unintelligent CIA, and the non-investigating FBI, along with the money HUD spent building $250,000 per unit welfare housing in Baltimore while I made do quite happily with a $15,000 house trailer, and all the rest of the money you and your predecessors took from me and wasted instead of giving me -- your customer -- a decent value.

Well, Robin "Roblimo" Miller, I feel sorry for you and all the money you've lost over the years. The sad reality is that governments suck. All of them. They always have and they always will. But at least our government sucks less than any other government that has ever extorted money from and badly served its subjects. The majesty of our American system is, that after fighting a revolution with the slogan "taxation without representation is tyranny", our taxation and mismanagement now comes with representation. That means that we get the satisfaction every two, four or six years to either throw the bums out or keep the bums right where they are. And when you go down to your neighborhood polling place in Bradenton you know your vote will count for something.

And yes, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that when you and the rest of the State of Florida and most of your fellow Americans went to the polls last November we weren't expecting to wind up with Elmer Gantry as Attorney General and a C average graduate of City College as Secretary of State and an aluminum foil salesman as Secretary of the Treasury. But don't worry, I can promise you that no underqualified former alcoholic from Midland, TX will ever accidentally inherit the Presidency again. Because the chuckleheaded bureaucrats who run the Florida elections department are not the same chuckleheaded bureaucrats who run the DoD and the FBI and the CIA and HUD and the SEC and all those other TLAs that don't work very well either. Trust me, it'll be different next time. They've got a committee working on it.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:33 PM
June 23, 2002
Blogospheric Justice

Forget "poetic" justice. What kind of world would we see if there were blogospheric justice?

Laurie Zoloth would be named President of SFSU

Pejman Yousefzadeh would be called to his ancestral homeland and appointed Prime Minister of the (non-Islamic) Republic of Iran

Bill Quick would become editorial editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and Andrew Sullivan the executive editor of the New York Times

Steven Den Beste would get a real starship to fly around in

Eric S. Raymond would become Chief Software Architect at Microsoft and re-release all of its source code under a public license.

Laurence Simon would get his own late-night talk show.

Robert Fisk, Noam Chomsky, Ted Turner, Michael Lerner, Cherie Blair and Chris Patten would all become Human Shields for Palestine and then see the light (a very bright light).

Ariel Sharon would get his own brand of potato chips

Yassir Arafat would take 1000 of his favorite gunmen and a lifetime supply of baby wipes and retire to Burkina Fasso

"Smart Leftist" Max Sawicky would get a job as a staff economist at a silly union-sponsored think tank.

Certain female bloggers would bear the children of certain male bloggers.

The L.A. Times would move Robert Scheer's column to the funny pages.

Glenn Reynolds would be named to the U.S. Supreme Court, from where he would continue to write Instapundit

Charles Johnson would be appointed ambassador to the de-Islamified Republic of Saudi Arabia, where he would also open a jazz club. "Midnight at the Oasis" is taken to a whole new level.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:35 PM
Palestine to New Zealand: Allah Yihdeek

The other day I posted a letter from David White of HAMILTON, New Zealand (not Auckland as earlier reported), telling the Palestinians to "get real".

Today I received a less than receptive reply from Israa Alkam from "Al Quds, Palestine" (which others might call Jerusalem, Israel)

I must begin by telling you that when i read your letter, i didnt even want to finish it from the disgust i felt. Then i thought, why should i be angry at you then u come from a country that i forgot even existed and has no idea or has ever experienced what really happens here in Palestine. How would you feel if u woke up in the middle of the night hearing bombs and machine guns so close to ur home and feeling so helpless that u start to cry just from the noise? How would it be like if u couldnt go to school for weeks at a time or when u could go to school there was no point of going because the teachers werent there? Or when your going home and you pass by the checkpoints your heart starts to pound faster and faster because they strip search people who they feel like no matter what age or gender u are or even worse they might return u back, then where would u go? Im actually one of the lucky people that live here and all this happened to me. So imagine what the people in Ramallah, Nablus, or Jenen had to go through. Let me tell u something, they call the Jews "settlers" for a reason (settlers: One who settles in a new region). If this is their land, how come the majority of the Jews started to come only when they were kicked out of Germany, Poland, and other European countries? What, did they all of a sudden remember that they were the "chosen people"? I read letters from Americans themselves (Chris Meyer, David Dukes, people u should read about) saying that the Palestinians were here first, it doesnt take a genius to know this, obviously u didnt pay attention in History class. This Intifadah itself started from Sharon wanting to come in the Aqsa Mosque, not from a suicide bombing or anything else. He knew that tension from the Arabs would arise, but why should he care, hes protected. If u guys think that suicide bombings is terror then what do u call murdering people in their homes and on the streets and destroying homes? All this so called "terror" is from Sharon killing Palestinians from left and right, and you people dont expect us to defend ourselves? Then u said something about seeing Arab kids carrying weapons, WHAT WEAPONS? ROCKS? The Jewish settlers can all have guns, what are the Arabs suppose to protect themselves with? At the checkpoints, all of them are my age, half my height, and handling weapons that they can barely carry. You think these teenagers are capable of fighting? The day of the Sept. 11 attack, the reason why everyone was so happy is because Bush is always on the news giving speeches supporting Sharon and his actions, and also of course because the U.S. supplies them with weapons, which is a known fact. You expect us to feel sorrow for America now? Let me tell you a little something about the suicide bombers, they all have one thing in common....theyre all sick of just sitting down and watching thier friends and families die. The Jews put curfews on us only allowing a certain time to get out of your house, they close the checkpoints so all of a sudden they expect us to find a new home, they enter our houses as they please, they literally make it a living hell for us. This is what u call wanting peace? Even before this Intifadah started, there was checkpoints everywhere, most people werent allowed to go to Jerusalem, they demolished the homes of people that werent allowed to build because its now "Jewish land". I dont want Jews to die, and most Palestinians dont either, we just want them to go back where they came from. I wouldnt mind Jews living here either, but when they do this to us, it doesnt make me want them to live here. Its easy for you to say good things about them, maybe one day they'll decide to take over New Zealand, then well see if u think so well about them. Theyre building settlements everyday, nothing is stopping them, they surround Palestinian homes and make it impossible to have a normal life. This is not called wanting peace. I was born and raised in Dallas, and im proud and happy to be in Palestine now and i dont consider myself an American citizen anymore. As far as im concerned you have no right to speak about the issues of Palestine or Israel since u have not been here. Take one look at the buildings of Tel Aviv and compare them to those of Jenen, its obvious to see who the victims are this time, I guess history does repeat itself. You might think im just a dumb little kid, hey i am 17 not 71, but i do know and see the truth, and it doesnt take an "intellectual" person for that. Thanks to the "suffering" Jews i had the worst senior year anyone could have and havent seen and read so much b.s. than i have in these 2 years being here. Trust me your support is not needed, its not going to make the Jews stronger or the Palestinians any weaker, and as the Palestinians say, "bidnash ijmeeltak". If u want my advice go read the Quran thoroughly and learn why they WERE called the chosen people. Allah yihdeek, thats all i can say.


Well, Israa, I understand that you're living in a war zone and life is miserable for both Palestinians and Jews. The question is, what actions can you take that will lead to the most attractive outcome for you and your people? I think part of what David White was saying was that blowing yourselves up in Israeli supermarkets in order to make the Jews "go back to where they came from" is not likely to improve your situation. If you focus instead on allowing the Israelis to live in peace in their part of the land while you focus on building a civil society in your part of the land, you too can have buildings in Jenin that are at least as nice as those in Tel Aviv.

May peace be with you.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:23 PM
June 22, 2002
Egypt Rearming Itself; Developing Nuclear Weapons

Egypt's gonna get one too, just to use on you know who -- Tom Lehrer

German daily Die Welt has two reports today on Egypt's systematic and aggressive rearmament program.

One story is that Egypt is in the process of developing nuclear weapons, with Chinese and North Korean assistance.

The other story talks more generally about Egypt's weapon buying program, whereby the troubled economy is nevertheless spending billions of dollars a year on tanks, fighter jets and Scud missiles, making it the 2nd largest arms customer in the world, after Saudi Arabia. Only a fraction of the expenditures are mentioned in the public budget.

The U.S. military assistance of $1.3 billion a year is supplemented by low-interest loans and subsidies from the Gulf states.

Egypt denies developing weapons of mass destruction, although as early as 1970 then President Sadat claimed that Egypt had biological weapons "in deep freeze". Furthermore, Egypt used mustard gas on the Yemeni Arab population in order to put down a rebellion in 1963.

Citing German intelligence sources, the paper reports that China will help Egypt process and enrich uranium, including the production of uranium hexafluoride. The two countries signed a treaty in January for "cooperation on the peaceful uses of atomic energy". Parts of the treaty remain undisclosed. One source of the uranium would be the Sinai peninsula. Egypt is also trying to procure uranium from other African nations such as Niger. Egypt was in the process of purchasing long-range No-Dong missilesfrom North Korea. Intelligence analysts believe that these efforts have been put on hold out of consideration for U.S. efforts against North Korea. However, this initiative is likely to resume once the U.S. attacks Iraq and is distracted. As further evidence of their missile buying plans, Egypt has reportedly been purchasing large numbers of Soviet-type MAZ-547 trailer trucks, which are used for launching missiles, such as the No-Dong.

Egypt denies the allegations that it is developing nuclear weapons, and the International Atomic Energy Agency claims it has no knowledge of such efforts. But Egyptian officials have long signaled their intentions to obtain nuclear weapons in order to balance Israel's nuclear capacity. Most recently there was an editorial in Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, appealing to Mubarak to acquire a nuclear capability.

So the Sinai will now serve as a uranium mine. So much for the concept of "land for peace".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:20 PM
June 21, 2002
The Palestinian Peace Camp

On Wednesday a group of notable Palestinian intellectuals published a full-page ad in a Palestinian newspaper, appealing for the Palestinian resistance movement to change certain tactics. This development was optimistically reported in the press with headlines such as "Prominent Palestinians publicly condemn suicide bombings" . In fact, the ad said nothing of the kind. It offered only the modest appeal to end "military operations targeting civilians in Israel" And what does this really mean? [IMRA's English translation of the ad is here]

NPR's All Things Considered aired an interview Thursday with one of the signatories, political scientist Musa Budeiri. I've posted a full transcript of the interview here

On the surface this sounds like an encouraging development, but in fact it is even worse than "too little, too late". The subtext contains a number of disturbing messages. Having carefully read both the ad itself and listened to Budeiri's interview, I'm struck by the following:

The ad explicitly labels the attacks on civilians as "military operations", not as crimes, not as immoral acts. The rationale for ending them is the signatories' conclusion that these "operations" are counter-productive, not that they are unjustifiable.

The ad specifically mentions "...targeting civilians in Israel". This implies that targeting civilians outside of Israel, and targeting non-civilians wherever you can target them is okay. This begs the question, how do you define Israel? Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, the #2 signatory on the ad, said on Tuesday after the Gilo bus bombing

"There is no solution except for Israel to withdraw from all our lands up to the border of June 4, 1967".
But wait, both of this week's bus bombings, in Gilo and French Hill, took place in Jewish neighborhoods that were annexed in 1967, and therefore not part of the Ashrawi's definition of Israel. So the writers of the ad exploit the world's revulsion at the bus bombings, and ride into town on a white horse claiming the mantle of moderation ("you see," Cherie Blair might say, "there are Palestinians who condemn terrorism!") But the essence of the ad's condemnation does not even extend to this week's murders. And excuse me. The ad doesn't condemn any "military operations", it only:
wishes that those who stand behind [the operations] reconsider their policy and refrain from recruiting young Palestinians for the purpose of mounting military attacks.

There is a clear message that the ends justifies the means. The ad text:

The positive and negative features of a military operations is defined by whether political goals are achieved and not by the operations as a standard onto themselves.
reinforced by Budeiri's comments on NPR:
People think that in this kind of situation any kind of response is justified and any kind of response is in that sense a military operation.
(to Budeiri's credit, he said that he personally has moral objections to certain attacks, but it doesn't seem to bother him that so many of his fellow aspiring countrymen do not share his ethics)

With these statements, these Palestinian "moderates" clearly reject the validity of concepts such as "war crimes" or "human rights". That should be no surprise, but of course, you know who will be demanding a Hague Tribunal whenever a would-be terrorist is inconvenienced on the way to committing murder.

But what practical contribution will this ad make to the physical safety of Israeli schoolchildren? None whatsoever, of course. Like Arafat's perennial statements condemning terrorism, this is more of an avuncular encouragement to "try a more effective type of murder, instead". The last thing on Budeiri's mind is for any Palestinian to enforce this appeal.

We do not want to play the role of Israel's security guards. We are not Quislings
Quisling? Never missing a chance to portray the Jews as Nazis, the historically challenged political scientist is apparently unaware that no Norwegian has ever exploded himself in a German supermarket. He goes on to say that
once [a negotiated peace agreement] is arrived at, if people break that commitment then that becomes an internal matter which the Palestinians will have to deal with but not before.
No, Musa, it is not only a Palestinian internal matter when non-Palestinians are murdered. And if you and your people are unwilling to make your own people toe the line today, what possible confidence should anybody have that you will be able to enforce an agreement in the future? In the meantime, thank you for explaining exactly why Israel is fully justified in reimposing the occupation.

So once again, we have a classically duplicitous statement that is seen as positive by credulous and hopeful westerners, that is seen as a wink-wink sign of encouragement by the thugs and murderers of Palestine, and that is seen for what it is by those who read it carefully.

Try again, Hanan and Musa and the rest of you. In the meantime, your people will continue to pay the price for your incompetent leadership and diplomacy.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:06 AM
June 20, 2002
Euro Terror Subsidy Update(s)

The latest news on the Eurocash for terrorism story that I've been following:

Chris Patten, Palestinian Authority Finance Minister EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner, prevailed in his bid to restore funding to Arafat and his squad of bus bombers.

"We have found no evidence of EU funds being used for any purposes other than that for which they were intended," Patten told the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee.
There have been enough credible indications of corruption and ball-hiding that if the EU "found no evidence" it is because they chose not to look very hard.

The indispensible Charles Johnson and Tal G. (who gets to live with the consequences of Patten's largesse) both have more details.

Wouldn't we all prefer that the EU stick to issues that it actually understands, such as the regulation of cheese?

Reader Jon Drane pointed me to Chris Patten's official response to the Die Zeit article. Read both the original and the response, side-by-side and very carefully. Any prudent reader should expect the Die Zeit article to have some flaws. But Patten's diplomatic denials allow one to rely on most of what was in Die Zeit. For example:

  1. Patten denies none of the allegations about the education system.

  2. Patten states that the EU funding for the PA Broadcast Authority ended five years ago. Perhaps direct line-item funding did end. I would still argue that the EU should have demanded that the PA clean up its TV broadcasts as one condition for earning EU subsidies for other activities

  3. Patten states that he "never received requests from Palestinian Ministers for assistance including allocations for 'weapons' and 'martyr families'".Okay, but Die Zeit never claimed that Patten received such requests. They do cite "übereinstimmenden Berichten mehrerer Zeugen", or "consistent reports of several witnesses" who described Nabil Shaath's shopping list. Who were the witnesses? We don't know. Is Die Zeit just making this up? Maybe they are, journalists make stuff up all the time. Then again, so do diplomats and terrorists. If Patten disputes the report, and dismisses the $1.9billion sum, why doesn't he publish exactly what Shaath did ask for?

In summary, the gap between Patten's precise denials and the catalog of allegations reported by Die Zeit is large enough to permit an entire ship full of weapons to drive through.

If it needs to be repeated, the main issue is not whether European money goes directly toward specific line items in Arafats budget. The main issue is that Yassir Arafat, the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" is by implication the sole legitimate representative of countless acts of terrorism, who deserves diplomatic isolation, not subsidies. But Arafat bombs and Europe pays him anyway.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:01 AM
June 19, 2002
Good News / Bad News

The good news is that my computer problem is solved. It was merely a dead video card, which is relatively cheap to fix and entails no loss of precious data. I also acquired a marvelously inexpensive 40GB hard drive for quick and easy soft backups.

The bad news is the French Hill bombing , which you probably already heard about. My father lives in French Hill. He and his wife were out walking their dog and heard the blast a couple of hundred yards away. My family are all fine, just pissed off. Dozens of other families are now coping with death or serious injury.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:02 PM
Headache Day

Blogging may be light for a day or two as my primary computer failed, and I will be alternately visiting computer repair experts and banging my head against the wall to take my mind off the headache.

In the meantime, please enjoy the many fine entries that you might not have read yet, and don't be shy about adding comments of your own.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:26 AM
June 18, 2002
Salman Rushdie = Saddam Hussein?

My neighbor Bill Quick seems to wake up and start his day earlier than I do, so he usually gets first crack at the Letters to the Chronicle. Still, there's enough skull-crushing ignorance in the Bay Area to provide plenty of stupid letters for all of us

Editor -- Hmmm! President Bush's latest counterterror madness (kill Saddam Hussein) puts me in mind of Ayatollah Khomeini's putting the contract out on Salman Rushdie. Maybe somebody would explain the difference to me. And this time, even the Congress appears to have gone insane.


Sure, Madeline, I'll help. The difference between Salman Rushdie and Saddam Hussein is that Rushdie never hurt anybody, he only wrote a satiric novel about some people who have been dead for several hundred years. Saddam is a novelist too, but apparently not a very good one. But that's not why he should be killed. He should be killed because he is already responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the enduring misery of millions of others. He also threatens other countries and is developing weapons of mass destruction.

But I'm not sure what you mean about Congress going insane, unless you're talking about Cynthia McKinney or James Traficant . You might also be thinking about Barbara Lee , but I think that she is not so much insane as she is clueless.

Thanks again for your letter, Madeline, and please write again soon.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:58 PM
Jerusalem Bomb Update

The inimitable Charles Johnson found a source with a Palestinian news report on the bombing.

The Al-Jazeera article in my previous post uses many of the same words to describe the situation as does the Palestinian report: "settlement" (mustawtanat ) for Gilo, and they both labeled the act as "amaliyya fida'iyya", which my dictionary interprets as an operation of "self-sacrifice for a cause or country"

The Al-Jazeera article also makes a careful distinction between West Jerusalem (Al-quds al gharbiya) and "Occupied Jerusalem" (Al-quds al-muhtala), presumably defined by the 1949-1967 border.

The full text of the IMRA piece that Charles cites has a quote from Hanan Ashrawi: "There is no solution except for Israel to withdraw from all our lands up to the border of June 4, 1967"

By saying "all our lands up to..." Ashrawi is making the same distinction about Jerusalem as Al-Jazeera is. But never mind that the 1949 border was the result of a military negotiation, not a political one, and is just as arbitrary as any another border. And never mind that nobody in the Arab world was willing to admit this particular arbitrary border until just a few years ago. There are many Jewish neighborhoods on the other side of the former border -- Ramot, Gilo, Neve Yaakov, French Hill and others -- that have been homes to thousands of Jerusalemites going back more than 30 years. My own father has lived in one of these neighborhoods for a decade.

It's inconceivable that any Israeli government, even one that agrees to dismantle some of the settlements, would ever agree to pull back from these neighborhoods. If Ashrawi thinks that there is "no solution" but to do so, then she has just volunteered to spend the rest of her life as an irrelevant stateless revolutionary.

In the final analysis, as I sit in my comfortable and safe home in California, I am merely a far-away dilettante observer to these events. If you haven't already done so, be sure to read the commentary by people who currently live in Israel, such as Tal G in Jerusalem, and Israeli Guy, Gil Shterzer

In the meantime, I will continue to think about my friends and family as there are warnings about more attacks to follow, and I will continue to be angry at clueless sanctimonious busybodys like Cherie Blair and Laura Bush.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:17 PM
Al Jazeera's report of the Jerusalem Bus Bombing

March 24, 2003: This site is getting a lot of google hits from people looking for information on Al-Jazeera, presumably because of its infamous broadcast of the dead and captured American soldiers. A page with more information, including a link to some of Al-Jazeera's screen shots is here.

Below is how the Al-Jazeera website reported the sickening bus murder in Jerusalem on Tuesday. As I write this 19 people were killed and 50 were wounded. Most of the passengers were high school students on their way to school.

Today I live in San Francisco. Years ago I was a Jerusalem high school student who rode the bus to school. One of my favorite classes at the time was Arabic. I haven't used my Arabic in years. Tonight I stayed up with my old dictionary and a news page from Al Jazeera to see if I could still read the language well enough to understand how they reported this tragedy.

I'm quite rusty, but I think the translation is about right. I welcome any corrections. My comments in italics

Tens of dead and injured in a martyrdom operation south of Jerusalem.

[caption] The damaged remains of an Israeli passenger bus after a martyrdom operation at the beginning of this month near the Megiddo highway junction south of Haifa.
Who cares if this is a picture of a different bus? The purpose of Al-Jazeera is not to supply news, but to provide an ongoing spectacle of hatred and violence in order to entertain the denizens of the Arab world and to distract them from the incompetence and corruption of their dictators.

14 Israelis were killed and others wounded in a strong explosion on an Israeli passenger bus south of occupied Jerusalem a short time ago.
The attack occurred in a Jewish neighborhood within the city.

Al-Jazeera's correspondent in Palestine ...
Those Israelis are magnanimous to allow Arab journalists into their country. Aren't you grateful that there is one country in the region that offers more freedom to journalists than any other?

... said that the explosion occured as a result of a martyrdom operation,
actually, most decent people would call it a depraved crime of mass murder, not "martyrdom", and not an "operation"

carried out by a Palestinian who got on the bus at a stop outside the Jewish settlement of Gilo, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Gilo is a proper neighborhood of Jerusalem, it is not a "settlement" any more than Greenwich Village is a "settlement" of New York City.

The bus was on its way to West Jerusalem.
There is only one Jerusalem

A number of Israeli soldiers were believed to be on board.
Actually, most of the victims were high school students.

The explosion occurred despite the fact that the occupation authorities adopted strict security measure to prevent operations of this type, particularly since they announced that they knew of specific Palestinians intending to launch martrydom operations.
Then maybe they should impose even stricter security measures, such as building a massive fence and killing more terrorists.

The Al-Jazeera correspondent reported that Israeli ambulances were rushing to the site of the blast to evacuate the injured to hospitals.

As of yet, no Palestinian has declared responsibility for this operation.
Yes, but we know that Yassir Arafat is the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people", so no matter how hard he pretends to condemn this sort of thing, he is ultimately responsible. He claims that he had nothing to do with this. So let's assume that he's not lying this time. If the people who commit the violence don't listen to him, why should anybody believe that he has the authority to negotiate a peace agreement on any body else's behalf?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:40 AM
June 17, 2002
Loya Jirga

From the "The More Things Change" department of Der Spiegel, reporting on Afghanistan's Loya Jirga:

In spite of whatever sweeping reforms might be taking place in Afghanistan, it seems that conservative forces have prevailed and that the law of the land will still be based on Islamic Sha'aria.

Better not throw away those burqas, ladies.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:45 PM
I am not Deep Throat

I don't care what Al Haig or Chuck Colson might have said, or about any of the other rumors you might be hearing today. I deny categorically that I have ever leaked White House information to the Washington Post or to anybody else.

UPDATE: Joshua Micah Marshall explains plausibly that Pat Buchanan was Deep Throat. See, I told you that it wasn't me.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:34 PM
Euro-Cash for Arafat

An update on the story of European subsidies for Arafat's reign of terror.

From this AP story:

The European Parliament suspended $18 million in aid for the Palestinian authority this month in light of allegations that the money was being used to fund terrorism.

The European Commission found no evidence to support the charges after an investigation that included meetings with Israeli officials, spokeswoman Emma Udwin said.

"None of the evidence bears out the allegations," she said, adding that even Israelis were backing away from the charge.

EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten was to push for the freeze to be lifted when he briefs members of parliament Wednesday, Udwin said.

The EU has budgeted 220 million euro (dlrs 208 million) for the Palestinian Authority this year, about half of which goes to make up for tax revenues frozen by Israel, Udwin said, adding that the amount frozen was having "no immediate impact" on that spending.

Udwin's statement is more than a little disingenous. The Die Zeit article I translated and posted last week contained an exhaustive catalog of the PA's misuse of EU aid. The allegations were not about direct funding of terrorism, but sloppy oversight where EU aid was diverted for weapons and terrorism, and of EU support for an educational system that teaches hatred and a broadcasting system that incites violence. Furthermore, the allegations were made not solely by Israel but by European legislators who visited the
Palestinian Authority and by the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND).

But I would still be curious to know which Israelis are "backing away" and
from which specific charges they are and are not backing away from.

The German media covers this story far more closely than, say, the British press. Die Welt adds the news that even though Patten is aiming to restore the PA subsidies, he at least wants to impose some limits: "the EU Commission will not give the PA a clean bill of health. An EU investigation concluded that the PA has 122,000 civil servants who are dependent on Arafat. By far the largest share of the PA's $70 million monthly budget ($57 million) goes for this inflated apparatus. As a consequence, EU has imposed a 'hiring freeze' on Arafat's bureaucracy".

And wouldn't it be interesting to find out exactly what those 122,000 "bureaucrats" (terrorcrats?) who are allowed to remain on the payroll are actually doing to earn their wages?

But even if we look at the EU's own proud claims that the aid is going for "humanitarian" purposes, we see that some of it has gone to the Red Crescent Society for new ambulances (which even Amnesty International has acknowledged have been used for military purposes such as transporting explosives)

Furthermore, the EU continues to donate tens of millions of dollars to UNRWA, which provides life support for the notorious refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza and elsewhere in the Arab world. Now let's get real. These so-called refugee camps have been in existence since 1948, with more added in 1967. The residents are interred in the camps under the fantasy that they will someday be allowed to reclaim all of Palestine. In the meantime, these miserable inmates are fenced in by their, say, Lebanese hosts and denied the full rights (to the extent that those exist) of their neighbors. The greatest crime of Sabra and Shatilla is not that Christian Arabs murdered Moslem Palestinians in 1982, but that the Moslem Lebanese--twenty years later -- still keep their Moslem "brothers" in these fetid warehouses.

If anybody in Europe or the Arab World cared even a little bit about the "refugees", they would be working to resettle and integrate them into permanent communities in the Palestinian territories and in the Arab
countries. The refugee camps are not about humanitarian assistance. The only purpose of these festering trash heaps of human misery and bomb factories is to ensure a stable supply of martyrs and victims for the 24x7 entertainment of Arab television audiences. It is unconscionable for the US, the EU or anybody else to continue to subsidize these compost piles of poverty, hatred and incitement.

As Die Welt concluded with an implicit call to action: "the members of the European Parliament will decide mid-week [whether to resume payments to the PA]. Unless Patten can convince them, the payments will not be released".

If you happen to have friends in Europe who might not want their tax dollars going to Yassir Arafat, give them a head's up so they can contact their local Member of the European Parliament to voice their concerns.

(As it turns out we Americans are the single most generous supporter of UNRWA. We too need to demand that these funds should be withheld from the camps and redirected to support the resettlement and integration of the refugees into Arab countries).

UPDATE: Frankfurter Rundschau reports today that it was Israeli military officers who denied the charges that EU aid money was being used for terror attacks, citing unnamed senior EU diplomats (not the military officials directly). The story alleges a rift in Israeli diplomatic circles between Sharon's camp that wants to discredit the EU as a peacebroker and Peres' camp that wants to engage the EU. Furthermore, while the Die Zeit article interpreted the German intelligence reports to rule out direct evidence of EU funding of terror attacks, it certainly sounded like there was plenty of questionable activity. The Frankfurt paper, on the other hand, focuses solely on the "no direct evidence" part of the equation. In any event, the questions about EU funding for the PA are broader than any direct connection to terror attacks, which would presumably leave little direct evidence under any circumstances.

UPDATE 6/18: This story from the EU Observer found by way of Glenn Reynolds

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:33 AM
June 14, 2002
If you happen to see this man...

...notify somebody.

This is a picture of Mohammad Haydar Zammar, who according to reports this week in the Washington Post and Der Spiegel , helped organize and recruit hijackers for the September 11 attacks.

The 41-year-old 300-lb. Syrian-born German citizen has been missing since October 27. The Post implies that he is in U.S. or cooperative custody somewhere, most likely outside the U.S. German officials claim they don't know where he is. Which would be interesting, since anybody holding him would be obligated to inform the nearest German consulate. U.S. intelligence imply they're keeping an eye on him, won't say anything more.

Does all of this mean:
a) The U.S. wants to interrogate this man without German interference?
b) The Germans want plausible deniability to not have to intervene on this guy's behalf?
c) He's still on the loose and dangerous?

Mohammad, if you happen to read this, please call your wife in Hamburg. She is worried sick about you. The rest of us are worried sick that you might be plotting your next act of mass murder.

UPDATE 6/18: The Washington Post reports that Zammar is being held in Syria. (found by way of Glenn Reynolds)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:31 PM
Because They Need Vicitms

There is this essay by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz in The National Review Online, which explains why the "progressive" left abandoned its support for Israel after the Six Day War and to this day favors the Palestinians.

...the liberals in the United States preferred an Israel that was weak and needy — a perpetual, objectified victim...Liberals like victims. They need them....Without victims, liberals lose their raison d'etre

That may explain why liberals are so anxious to see Israel returned to what the former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Abba Eban, called the "Auschwitz borders" of pre-1967. That may also explain knee-jerk liberal support for the Arabs in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, who appear by all standards to be victims — even if it is mostly due to their own leadership, their own hatred and their fellow Arabs

He also suggests why many American conservatives now favor Israel.
(discovered by way of Aaron Schatz)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:18 AM
Clash of Civilizations

Before you get in your car for this weekend's roadtrip, be sure to read this interview with the Saudi Ambassador to Great Britain. Then while you are driving across the wide open spaces, try to pass the time thinking of ways we can all reduce our national dependence on petroleum, which currently pours $15 billion into the Saudi economy every year.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:33 AM
New Zealand to Palestine: Get Real

David White, a self-described agnostic from Auckland, New Zealand wrote this very fine letter, encouraging the Palestinians to "Get Real". The tone is passionate, literary and blunt but respectful. I know nothing about the writer other than what is in the letter, which seems to be circulating by e-mail.

Speaking Truth to the Powerless: An Open Letter To The People Commonly Called "Palestinians".
Greetings to any Palestinian who may be reading this. My name is David White. I am a citizen of New Zealand, a small, Western, nominally Christian country in the South Pacific Ocean. I am not Jewish, or Christian, I guess I'm vaguely agnostic.

Writing this letter is a good way for me to discuss the horrible mess in the Middle East...

Your interpretation, as far as I can tell, seems to be something like this: You have no state of your own, and you are fighting a war against those you call "Zionist oppressors" and "colonial imperialists", in order to create a Palestinian state...

The Israelis see things differently, of course. For them, it's a simple battle for survival. They offered you a state, and you attacked them instead. ...

Put bluntly, the Palestinian people are buggered. Munted. Stuffed. Rooted.(American equivalent=screwed. British equivalent: done over). It's like this: Yasser Arafat turned down the Israeli offer of a Palestinian homeland in Gaza and the West Bank. You want, or Arafat claims that you want, a Palestine "from the river to the sea;" in other words, "all or nothing"....There is one insuperable obstacle to this- Israel....

A Vast Wringing Of Hands, A Great Fluttering Of Diplomats. That has been the overall response to the disaster you have created for yourselves. You, the Palestinian Arabs, are obviously hoping for some kind of international intervention to save you. As we in New Zealand would say, "Get Real!"...

I've posted the entire wonderfully written letter here

Read it, pass it along.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:19 AM
June 13, 2002
Moussaoui Denies Sept. 11 Role

This just in

I see two possible explanations:
1) He had nothing to do with the attacks. It was just a coincidence that he went to Minnesota to learn only how to fly planes, but not how to take-off or land them.
2) He is afraid to die unless he can take hundreds of infidels along with him.

UPDATE: Court Says Moussaoui Can Act as Own Lawyer And we all know what that says about Moussaoui's client.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:05 PM
Robert Scheer (Almost) Gets It

Robert Scheer is one of those columnists who are so easy to pick on that I almost feel guilty when I do so.

But in this week's column, "Arafat, by Feeding on Martyrdom, Dooms His People" he gets most of the important things right for a change. He finally acknowledges that Arafat's strategy of terrorism will only bring more death on both sides and will not help Palestinians realize any constructive gains. He still makes a number of his typically insipid comments: implying the moral equivalence of suicide bombings and police actions, blaming Bush and the Israeli voters for the situation, etc.

But his main point -- that the Palestinians best (only) hope for statehood is to abandon terrorism and focus on non-violent resistance and nation building -- is absolutely correct.

The complete column, with my inline commentary on his sillier statements is here

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:40 PM
June 12, 2002
The Euro Watch Continues

Belgium seeks Iran's support for Mideast peace

Belgium called on Iran Tuesday to help the European Union promote peace in the Middle East, amid efforts to improve Iran-EU trade relations.

Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, on a three-day official visit to Iran, said the European Union and Iran were united in opposing terrorism but differed on definition of terrorism.

And good luck, Louis, in persuading the Iranians to come around to adopt the western definition of terrorism. Just don't let that get in the way of improved trade relations.
As I've said before, everything in Brussels is little. I guess that includes their allotment of scruples and good sense.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:56 PM
June 11, 2002
Arafat Bombs, Europe Pays (II)

Here is a full translation of last week's Die Zeit article on Arafat's orchestration of terrorism and Europe's financial support.

This is the most powerful piece about the Palestinian Authority that I have ever read -- and I am a person who reads Ha'aretz in Hebrew.

I was completely blown away. Nowhere else have I seen such a comprehensive account of the extent to which the terrorism culture permeates the most basic realms of Palestinian society: the media, the education system, the security services. This is underscored by Arafat's deep involvement and European complicity. Kudos to the German Die Zeit for this amazing expose of the European support for Arafat's sick regime. This story also needs to be told in the English-language media.

This update, thanks to Glenn Reynolds and this one from Charles Johnson indicate that European funding for the Palestinians may be suspended, but not really.

UPDATE: German blogger Metaplasm posts some of the official EU transcripts (in English) referenced in the Die Zeit article.

Howard Fienberg posted this admirable quote from German Parliamentarian Friedbert Pflueger, who is also quoted in the Die Zeit article.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:56 PM
What is Antisemitism?

A Counterpunch essay of the same title becomes the answer to its own question.

The rambling essay contains many bizarre errors of fact and reasoning. I'll focus here only on the author's most extreme (and hardly original) polemical claim that Israel is committing "genocide".

Quoting the author:

Well before the Hitler era, Zionists came thousands of miles to dispossess people who had never done them the slightest harm, and whose very existence they contrived to ignore. Zionist atrocities were not part of the initial plan. They emerged as the racist obliviousness of a persecuted people blossomed into the racial supremacist ideology of a persecuting one. That is why the commanders who directed the rapes, mulilations and child-killings of Deir Yassin went on to become prime ministers of Israel.(*) But these murders were not enough. Today, when Israel could have peace for the taking, it conducts another round of dispossession, slowly, deliberately making Palestine unliveable for Palestinians, and liveable for Jews. Its purpose is not defense or public order, but the extinction of a people. True, Israel has enough PR-savvy to eliminate them with an American rather than a Hitlerian level of violence. This is a kinder, gentler genocide that portrays its perpetrators as victims.

Now, the irony is that the author is Canadian. His description of people "coming from thousands of miles away to dispossess a people who had done them no harm", sounds more like a description of the history of the Americas than that of the Middle East. If you look at Jewish Israel's presence within the entire Arab Middle East (as defined by the members of the Arab League), Israel's population is 1.6% of the total population, occupying 0.15% of the total land area with less than its per-capita fair share of coastline and arable land, and 0% of the region's oil wealth. This is hardly an overwhelming conquest. On the other hand, what percentage of the land mass and mineral wealth of the Americas is still controlled by its pre-European inhabitants? Compared against the various migrations that have occured throughout all of human history up to and including the present, the Aliyah to Israel is barely a noticeable event.

As for committing "genocide": Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines genocide as "the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group". The Israeli human rights organization B'tselem estimates that approximately 1,400 Palestinians were killed since the start of the Intifada in September 2000. Most of these were combatants and civilians who intentionally placed themselves in combat situations. Compare this number to official Palestinian demographic estimates of new births during the period, which I interpolate to be approximately 250,000. So the Intifada deaths are about 1/2 of 1% of new births. I don't say this to be dismissive of the tragic loss of life of innocent non-combatants on the Palestinian side. But anybody who thinks this level of violence will lead to the "systematic destruction" of anybody, is ignoring its context. It is laughable to describe these casualties of war as "genocide" and "Hitlerian". To do so in earnest is outright blood libel.

It is no contradiction to call the Counterpunch essay blatant anti-Semitism even though its author, Michael Neumann, was born into a Jewish family. I am judging the piece on its own lack of merit, not on Neumann's chromosomes. Neumann proudly declares his contempt for his heritage. ("I grew up in Jewish culture and have come to dislike it"). 500 years ago, the first Grand Inquisitor of Spain, Tomas de Torquemada, also had Jewish ancestors. Today, Jews like Chomsky and Neumann are also admitted as high priests of a different sort of lunatic inquisition, as long as they slander other Jews with the converso's zeal.

(Thanks to Jonathan Lichterman for bringing this essay to my attention)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:53 AM
June 10, 2002
The Cheap Price of Campus Violence

This item appeared over the weekend and seemed to be lost in the noise of revelations of improper FBI activity at Berkeley in the '60s: Alameda County Court dropped all charges against the pro-Palestinian demonstrators at UC-Berkeley who occupied a building in April, disrupted classes, resisted arrest and assaulted a police officer. Under a deal with prosecuters, The 78 demonstraters will pay court costs of $2,900 ($37 each). The students may still face suspension (but don't count on it). Furthermore the group included 37 non-student activists, who got off scot-free. This doesn't sound like a very good way to discourage people from inflitrating a university and turning it into a playground for demonstrations on behalf of foreign terrorists.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:54 PM
Arafat's European Sponsors

The White House today continues to diss Yasser Arafat saying
"The conditions aren't even there yet (for a summit). That's because no one has confidence in the emerging Palestinian government."

The Europeans too, may be finally coming around to the same conclusion. As I posted here last week, a report appeared in the German weekly Die Zeit, detailing how the PA has been misusing European aid money to fund its war of hatred and violence while the Eurocrats looked the other way.

Now under increasing pressure from the European Parliament, the EU will be suspending its subsidies to the Palestinian Authority. EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten is being held to explain why there has been so little oversight until now.

UPDATE: The fully translated Die Zeit article is now ready and available.

Interestingly, this story is unfolding in the German press, but I haven't yet found any references in the English language media. The most recent apropos reference to Chris Patten I found over at the BBC was this interview from April, where he blames Sharon for the suicide bombings, but not Arafat's bombers who have been blowing up Israeli buses and grocery stores, and paying their way with a blank check signed by Patten.

The Die Zeit piece is a good read. The apparent complicity of the Europeans in funding Arafat's broadcast authority, educational system and weapon's purchases has shocked even me. Also check out this longer transcript of a Palestinian TV show , mentioned in the article that the EU taxpayers helped put on the air.

(thanks to "Vic" on the Israel Forum message board for mentioning additional German articles on the subject)

UPDATE: Charles Johnson found this item about Israeli Steven Blumberg who is suing the European Union for having paid the salaries of Arafat's "police" who brutally attacked Blumberg and his family.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:38 AM
Best of the Web

Forbes magazine again named my website, personalfund.com, as a "Best of the Web" pick in the Mutual Fund Selection category. See the Forbes Best of the Web issue, now available online and at the newstands.

The main idea behind the website is that the costs of owning a mutual fund (expense ratio, trading costs, taxes) have a direct negative impact on the wealth that the fund can deliver to its investor. No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus when it comes to mutual funds. Paying a high fee for a mutual fund will enrich only the people who operate the fund, not the people who own it. This has been shown through many statistical studies done over the years. Past performance does not predict future success, but high fees predict future disappointment.

What is unique about this website is that it is still the only place on the web where you can find out the total costs of owning any mutual fund, and estimate how badly your future returns might suffer as a result of the costs.

The site is supported by subscriptions, mostly from financial advisors. It accepts no advertising. Although a paid subscription is required for ongoing use, every visitor gets limited trial use before being asked to subscribe.

Also, the Historical After-Tax Returns Calculator which lets you compare a fund's actual net after-tax returns with other funds or the S&P500 is currently free for all users. This calculator would let you compare, say the Janus Fund, a favorite must-own fund in the dot.com bubble era, against an S&P500 index fund. You would see that although the Janus Fund did have a couple of good years in 1998-99, it has actually done much worse than the S&P500 index fund when you look at the record for longer periods of time.

Forbes' review of my site is here
(I should correct their error and mention that while Andrew Tobias was involved with the website when it first launched, he has not been involved with the site since 2000).

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:52 AM
Jeopardy! vs. The American Legal System

Here is a previously uncirculated item from my past.

In 1994 I was a contestant on the TV game show Jeopardy!. I was also a party in a civil litigation. I came in second in both contests. The second prize on Jeopardy! was a trip to St. Thomas. The second prize in the litigation was less exciting. It dawned on me that there were certain odd parallels between the two experiences.

Here is a table comparing and contrasting Jeopardy! and the American Legal System, updated for 2002: With Pictures (may be slow) | Text Only

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:14 AM
June 07, 2002
It wouldn't surprise me

Today's chosen Letter to the Editor of the S.F. Chronicle

Editor -- There is nothing wrong with keeping track of people entering the United States from other countries. In fact, with hindsight, it should always have been done more rigorously.

However, all the vigilance in the world, now, is not going to undo the terrible harm caused by stupidity, incompetence and agency infighting and to openly single out one group of people for particular scrutiny is out and out racism.

Would it surprise Sen. Dianne Feinstein to learn that many, many people regard Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his gang as "terrorists"?

Rohnert Park

Never mind the disjunctive segues from paragraphs 1 to 2 to 3. Norah's main point is the last sentence. I'll give the answer that I suspect Sen. Feinstein would want to give:

No, Norah, it would not surprise me that many,many people regard Ariel Sharon and his "gang" as terrorists. There is an awful lot of goofy nonsense that many, many people believe. For example, many,many people believe that Jews have horns, that they use the blood of gentiles to bake matzah, and that they should be lynched as Christkillers. Many, many people also believe that Franklin Roosevelt was a Jew named Rosenfeld and that the attacks of Sept. 11 were a joint CIA/Mossad plot.

Many, many people also believe many,many other stupid things that have nothing to do with Jews. For example, many,many people believe that the Queen of England controls the world drug trade, that the world is flat, that fluoridated water is a communist plot and that teaching teenagers about abstinence will make them refrain from having sex.

So no, Norah, I am never surprised by the unbounded gullibility and ignorance of people like yourself.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:55 AM
June 06, 2002
Arafat Bombs, Europe Pays

From the current issue of the German weekly Die Zeit:

Arafat Bombs, Europe Pays Incitement against Israel, rewards for attacks -- the politicians in Brussels have been ignoring what the PLO-Chief has been doing with his EU aid money. Arafat's security apparatus, having been trained by the German Federal Intelligence Agency, is now under suspicion of involvement in terrorism.

Update: the full translation is now available here.

I'll post more excerpts as I translate more of the article. In the meantime, the original is here and a brief summary of the article that appeared in Der Spiegel below:

The security cooperation started after the 1993 Oslo Agreements and continued until the end of 2000. At that point suspicions were first raised that the Arafat's security forces were involved with the suicide attacks against Israel. So reported Die Zeit, citing security sources. The cooperation, held under EU auspices and with the participation of other EU states, was not highly publicized at that time.

Die Zeit cites two secret Federal Intelligence Agency (BND) reports that were prepared this year for the German government, and raise suggestions of Arafat's involvement in terror attacks. The documents contain "no direct evidence" of the misuse of EU aid money. But the BND wrote of Arafat's methods of diverting EU funds into secret accounts. "At no point could it be realistically assumed that EU-funds were ... 100% accounted for" the reports said.

The Die Zeit piece has many more juicy details of PA support for terrorism and it deserves a complete translation. It's quite long and I hope to post the whole thing sometime next week.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:40 PM
A better alternative to exile

The White House today announced its opposition to exiling Arafat.

I agree. Arafat should be made to spend the rest of his life riding Israeli buses and looking over his shoulder along with all the other passengers.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:18 PM
Islamic Jihad exists only to kill Israelis

An article with this headline appears in today's San Francisco Chronicle. I can't find the article itself online, but the closing paragraphs are:

Like other extremist Palestinian groups, Islamic Jihad refuses to recognize Israel. Nafez Azzam, one of the group's founders, said it would accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

"But in the long term, the land of Palestine (including Israel) is ours, and we will keep looking for that day when we get our land back," he said.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:48 PM
Scheer Stupidity

Whoever said that blogging is not journalism was apparently not thinking about Robert Scheer. If Robert Scheer, columnist for the L.A. Times, the Nation and other established media organs, can be called a journalist, so too can any blogger, or anybody else with a room temperature IQ for that matter. No, strike that last restriction.

Those who know Scheer's "work" know that it is characterized by lurid distortions, hysterical conclusions, contra-logical reasoning and hallucinatory non-sequiturs. His columns read like those of slacker college newspaper stringer who always scraped by with a C- in Journalism because he was too busy smoking weed and attending teach-ins. Except Scheer has been that way for the last forty years. (David Horowitz worked for Scheer back in the good old days and wrote this fascinating portrait of his former boss)

I had some fun earlier with a few of Scheer's columns from April. See my Mideast Page for the links.

Scheer's current column also deserves a closer look

We've Had Enough Witch Hunts

He starts off with a valid point:

Nothing succeeds like failure. Suddenly, everyone wants to grant the FBI and other intelligence agencies even more power despite the fact that they failed so spectacularly to utilize the expansive powers they had to head off terrorism before Sept. 11.

(At the same time, it would be nice for him to apply the same conclusion to the health care system-- that sprawling government bureaucracies often do fail spectacularly when too much is expected of them -- and reconsider his support for a government-managed universal health care)

Scheer then leaps from Dianne Feinstein's statement that the FBI should be able to use ethnicity as one criteria to investigate suspects, with the statement

"First [civil liberty] to go? Freedom from discrimination based on ethnicity, race or nationality."

He goes on to raise the specter of internment of Japanese-Americans. Sorry, Bob, there is a huge difference between the FBI using ethnicity as one filter to focus its investigation on terrorism that originates in certain parts of the world, and putting people in camps. Scheer's spectacular climax:

If we were to be honest in making the case for profiling, we would go after Saudi Arabians and their business partners and other associates in this country. The Sept. 11 attacks were--from Osama bin Laden to 15 of the 19 hijackers to the money that supported them--an operation with top-to-bottom links to Saudi Arabia, a kingdom our military has protected for half a century and which enjoys close ties with Bush's family. Instead of harassing loyal Arab Americans, the FBI would be better advised to squeeze executives from U.S. corporations, such as the Carlyle Group and Bechtel, that have extensive ties to the Saudis.

What we don't need is a witch hunt against the American people, ferreting through their private lives or detaining them because of their ethnicity...

Now, you're not going to get any argument from me about Saudi Arabia's culpability in international terrorism and September 11 in particular. And yes, I think we should better inform ourselves about U.S. economic ties to the oil-rich desert kingdom. But here's Bob's proprietary Hallucinatory Non-sequitur and Contra-Logical Reasoning (tm) at work -- Unless and until Bechtel is implicated in criminal activity it is laughable to suggest expanding the power and budget of the FBI to investigate them.

I certainly hope that the FBI does not conduct a "witch hunt against the American people" or detain people solely because of their ethnicity, but there is no indication that is about to. I believe that the FBI's primary target is and should be Middle Eastern nationals. The September 11 hijackers, for example, are not "the American people" and they were not "loyal Arab Americans". And we have every right and duty to protect ourselves by being careful about who we allow to enter and remain in this country.

Try again, Bob.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:32 PM
June 05, 2002
The Force of The Law

The European Union (Solana) condemned yesterday's attack in Israel and appealed for application of "the force of the law against those responsible for this and other similar terrorist attacks." (Ha'aretz)

I'm not sure what "law" he is referring to, or who he thinks is going to en-force that law. But it seems to me that the "force of the law" is what the European Union uses to resolve cheese disputes between France and Belgium. Israel, unfortunately, will have to continue to protect itself by applying the force of force.

Let's hope that the handwringing of the rest of the world won't pressure Israel to end the current operation in Ramallah before it can finish doing what it feels it needs to do.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:37 PM
Media Economics

We read today on Tapped that

"Wall Street will shape what Main Street sees, hears and reads so long as publicly traded media corporations have got to return fat margins to profit-hungry investors", or so we would have learned at the recent Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) conference.

TAPPED believes "that a critical media are essential to a working democracy. But we are veering dangerously off track when the mainstream media are increasingly driven by economic considerations... With U.S. media outlets overwhelmingly owned by for-profit conglomerates and supported by corporate advertisers, independent journalism is compromised."

First of all, any journalist who expresses concern about corporations having to "return fat margins to profit-hungry investors" might as well tattoo to their forehead the statement "I skipped econ class to attend sit-ins". I don't know how the person who made this comment invests his/her 401(k) money, but for his/her sake I hope most of it is invested in corporations that have fat margins and not thin ones.

I too agree that a critical media is essential to a working democracy. But the writer of the quote at top got the Wall Street/Main Street relationship totally back-assward.

Like it or not, operating a newspaper or broadcasting station requires capital and (unless you can persuade somebody to fund another non-profit foundation) acquiring capital requires investors and responsible fiscal management and selling a product that customers want to buy. Yes, the people in media conglomerate board rooms and their bankers on Wall Street might be whores, but they are whores to the tastes of the people who watch and read their products. It's not that Wall Street shapes what Main Street sees, it's that Main Street shapes what Wall Street will invest in. In the final analysis, the mainstream media looks the way that it does because it satisfies the tastes of its consumers. The Nation, American Prospect and Mother Jones are all available at my local Borders Books, along with Time, People and Forbes. That People manages to sell more copies than The Nation is the outcome of the choices of millions of consumers, not the machinations of a handful of "powerful people" sitting in corporate boardrooms.

The choices made by the members of a democracy are often times frustratingly unlike the choices some of us would make ourselves. If the writers at TAPPED want to see their opinions and favored journalism reach a wider audience they will have more success by crafting their product in a way that appeals to more consumers, not by fretting about the laws of economics, that fair or unfair, aren't going to change anytime soon.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:38 PM
Human Shields for Palestine

I welcome Hillel Neuer's article Human Bombs, Human Shields which appeared today at TNR Online.

He says more or less the same thing that I said in my essay from a few weeks ago, Human Shields for Palestine

i.e. members of the world community who want to end the violence should go to Israel and circulate among Israelis and either prevent the terror attacks or grow to understand the necessity that Israel must act in its self-defense.

My piece argues that the presence in Israel of western friends of Palestine would deter terrorism, and eventually lead to a Palestinian state and peace.

Should this optimism be considered realistic or ironic? You be the judge.

In any event, I hope that the idea of foreign observers going to Israel to serve as human shields against terrorism, will continue to gain momentum.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:15 PM
Saudi P.R. Machine On a Roll

Howard Owens of Global News Watch took the initiative and followed up my earlier e-mail to the Saudi Embassy with an exchange of his own. The Saudi response, written by "Tarik", was more of the same refusal to condemn terrorism against Israelis, only terrorism by Israelis, whatever that might be. And this is the public face of a peace initiative that we're supposed to take seriously?

Instead of spending millions of dollars in hard-earned oil revenues on expensive ad campaigns that will persuade nobody that Saudis have peaceful intentions, why not just hire a bunch of less-expensive e-mail writers who will also persuade nobody about Saudi benevolence? As we've seen from Hisham and Tarik's letters, the correspondents don't need to have factual knowledge of the Middle East, command of the English language or the ability to present an argument that will appeal to American sentiments. All the Embassy needs to do is hire as part-time stringers any of the many Saudis who are already in this country studying airplane piloting, nuclear engineering, etc. and let them speak for themselves.

(Thanks to Howard Fienberg for the info on the Saudi ad campaign)

UPDATE: (6/5 9pm) Howard Owens claims to have exchanged additional emails with Tarik, and to have received a one-line message that says "Okay - We condemn suicide bombings, including the event of May 27." This would certainly be welcome news and a good first step. Now if they would only start acting more aggressively to help prevent the bombings...

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:13 PM
Dozens of Casualties in Megiddo Bus Attack

My condolences to the victims and their loved ones.
Visit Ha'aretz for updates.

UPDATE: 17 dead, 10 seriously injured

This attack was apparently designed to mark two things:
1. The visit of George Tenet. Charles Johnson reminded us yesterday hours before the bombing that the Palestinians always welcome American officials with this sort of event. Presumably it is to show off their negotiating strength, but I think it would be hard to point to any tangible gains this has ever produced, to put it kindly.

2. The 35th anniversary of the Six Day War. Are the people responsible for the Megiddo attack so nostalgic for the humiliating defeat of 1967 that they are trying to invite another one?

On the Israeli side, the terrorist attacks are tragic for the victims and scary for the country at large. Defending one's home against terrorism demands unpleasant sacrifices. But at the end of the day the Israelis still have their country and decent homes and good universities and a vibrant society and this is not going to change any time soon. The Palestinians, on the other hand, still live under occupation, many of them in poverty, festering in 54-year old trash heaps called "refugee camps". They have no viable leadership or program for improving their standard of living. Whose fault is this really?

If the Palestinians really wanted to further their national aspirations, they'd get more bang for their bang not by blowing up Israelis, but by blowing up Yassir Arafat and Ahmed Yassin. They'd also blow up the various Arab dictators who fuel the ongoing suffering of the Palestinians as a circus to divert attention from the real problems and corruption at home.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:30 AM
June 04, 2002
Yes, Hosni, it is that simple

Hosni -- I was delighted to read your statement that George Bush should "make" the Israelis and the Palestinians come to a peace agreement. They only way that Bush could possibly enforce that agreement would entail sending tens of thousands of American troops into the West Bank and exporting hundreds of Palestine's finest young men out to Gitmo. And I doubt your stature on the Arab street would improve if they called that the "Mubarak Initiative". And never mind the problems on the Israel side of the equation, i.e. that democratic countries have a great deal of difficulty "making" each other do things that their citizens aren't ready to do.

But, since you seem to think that the Palestinians are amenable to having other countries make them do things, here's what you can do: "Make" the Palestinians stop committing violence against Israeli civilians. Once you do that, you will find that the Israeli public and therefore the Israeli government will be in a very different mood than they are in today. You see, most Israelis today couldn't give a camel's fart about keeping most of the settlements in the West Bank, let alone the Gaza Strip. Have you heard of the unilateral separation movement? At the end of the day, all they want is to be able to ride a bus and eat their pizza without getting their faces blown off.

Don't forget that it was your mentor (Sadat) who persuaded Sharon's mentor (Begin) to walk away from the Sinai. He did so not by threatening to bomb grocery stores, but by convincing the Israeli public that he was someone who could be trusted. Really, Hosni, it is that simple.

Good luck and let me know how I can help.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:29 PM
What Really Happened

This site tells all. But those who really know, know that the site is operated by the CIA and Henry Kissinger and the Queen of England in order to spread disinformation and prevent us from finding out what really happened.

You be the judge.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:09 PM
Pass a law against it and it will go away

Richard Cohen says "I am, like all reasonable people, in favor of the tightest restrictions on guns". I'm no NRA weenie or any kind of a gun nut, but I like to think of myself as reasonable and I'm not sure that I would favor the "tightest restrictions" on guns. What does he mean, that only the police, the army and airline pilots can have them?

I will never cease to be entertained by those who think that the surest way to make something go away is to impose laws and restrictions against it. Don't we already have the "tightest restrictions" against such activities as home invasion robberies, rape and airline hijackings?

The main point of Cohen's piece was not to ban guns. His main point is that airline pilots should be able to carry guns. He probably threw that other line in there to bolster his credibility as a liberal softie to drive home his main point. But for the same reason that civilian pilots should be able to defend themselves and their passengers when law enforcement isn't around, so too should responsible citizens have reasonable access to weapons of self-defense.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:23 PM
Eric Alterman's Idea of "Smart"

Alterman's favorite blog is MaxSpeak, which he calls "smart lefty politics" (nice oxymoron). But what does Max have to say that's so smart?

There's an awful lot there not to like, so I'll just mention the example of the gushing praise for the anti-globalization pinheads Max: "Free trade assigns rights to investors at the expense of everyone else." Actually, Max, free trade benefits consumers more than anybody else, so its a good thing. The only sustainable economic arrangements are the ones that recognize the primacy of the consumer, even when that's uncomfortable for investors and producers. Failing to understand the role of consumers in economics is like failing to understand the role of gravity in structural engineering. Try again, Max.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:24 PM
Totalitarian Eco-Libertarianism?

Whoever operates this site is either:

a) marvelously funny
b) seriously confused
c) brilliant, original and important

you be the judge

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:43 PM
Calling the Kettle Black

My favorite Arab propaganda organ, the Syria Times, reports that Amnesty International has criticized Israel for human rights violations.

Bashar -- may I give you some free public relations advice? Tell your spin-doctors to NEVER hand anybody an opening to inquire into your own Amnesty International file.

update: Charles Johnson debunks Amnesty's misplaced criticism of Israel's arrests of murderers.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:30 AM
It's Disturbing Because It's True

With a nod to my neighbor Bill Quick, I will occasionally comment on some of the more entertaining letters sent to the editors of our home town newspaper, The San Francisco Chronicle.

ARABS SMEARED Editor - The ink has barely dried from a full-page add sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (May 30) and a Chronicle editorial ("Anti-Semitism revival?," May 14) calling for an end to anti-Semitism and hate. Yet, disturbingly, the Chronicle sees nothing wrong with publishing a Jonah Goldberg commentary ("Why do we care about Danny Pearl?," May 31) that attempts to paint Arabs as relishing in the tragic murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Goldberg capitalizes on a video of Pearl's murder that has unfortunately surfaced on some depraved Internet site in Saudi Arabia, suggesting that it has been "apparently popular with Saudi college kids, high-school students and other folks whose idea of downloading porn from the Internet involves getting the latest pictures of Americans and Jews being carved up like animals."

Sadly, this smear of Arab and Saudi society is no more appropriate than the suggestion that neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan Web sites here represent views popular with most Americans. Apparently, what is considered stereotyping and hate these days depends largely on which group happens to be on the receiving end. Shame on Goldberg and shame on The Chronicle.

San Francisco

Khaled, I appreciate your condemnation of the people who delight in this video. But I don't buy your claim that such sentiments are as uncommon in the Arab world as the KKK is unrepresentative of the U.S. One finds depraved anti-Jewish rhetoric all over Arabia, such as this editorial from the government-sanctioned press.

Thank you S.F. Chronicle, for publishing the Goldberg article.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:35 AM
June 03, 2002
Bread and Circuses

This just in from Malaysia:
Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi speaking at a conference said: "The anger and grievances which breed movements like the al Qaeda have grown in the aftermath of September 11. The issue which most angers Arabs and Muslims is the Palestinian issue." He added that perceived injustices committed by Israel and foreign support for the Jewish state fed this anger.

Why should the Malaysians have such passionate grievances about Israel that they should want to commit terrorism? Kuala Lumpur is 4,730 miles from Jerusalem, which is just about as far away as Washington, DC is from Timbuktu.
There are hardly any Jews in Malaysia, let alone a Zionist occupation force. I'd bet that fewer than 1 Malaysian in 100 has ever even met a Jew. The Malays are Moslem, but not Arabs. What conceivable impact does Israel have on the daily life of anybody in Malaysia?
The answer, of course, is: none whatsoever. The Middle East conflict has no more than symbolic importance. But it is a symbol that is probably useful to a long-reigning autocrat who needs to divert his peoples attention from the actual problems in his country.

Does it really matter if a despot in a far away corner of the world uses Israel and the Jews to give his people Bread and Circuses? It does when he contributes to a climate under which his country becomes a favorite meeting place for Al Qaeda terrorists

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:36 PM
Our Friends in Cairo

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told the New York Times today that Egyptian intelligence warned the CIA of an unspecified bin Laden plot in the week prior to September 11. The Times added that
"Using a secret agent they had recruited who was in close contact with the bin Laden organization, Mr. Mubarak said, his intelligence chiefs tried unsuccessfully to halt the operation."

Whether or not Egyptian intelligence tried as hard as they could have to halt the operation is an open question. But there is something that Mubarak can do to help halt future operations. He can order his government-controlled newspapers to stop printing editorials that praise terrorism .

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:15 PM
June 02, 2002
Insecurity Council

Syria assumes the rotating presidency of the United Nations "Security" Council this month, at the same time that it is supplying weapons to Hizbollah, and giving a green light to Hizbollah provocations against Israel. This is apparently due to the fact that their ruler is an inexperienced hereditary despot.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:34 PM
What does it mean when Saudi Arabia condemns terrorism?

Absolutely nothing. I posed the question to an official at the Saudi embassy in Washington, and the response shouldn't really be a surprise. Compare the Saudi non-condemnation with comments from other countries and you'll see what I mean.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:15 PM
"Nylon Jacket" sex fetish

Google started indexing my personal web pages for the first time the other week. For this I am grateful to Susanna Cornett who discovered and linked to my Snowed-in at Lake Tahoe Diary. My other travel diaries also made their public debut, including the story of my hiking trip in the Austrian Alps last summer. My HTTP log reveals that the first person to find this page was someone from the Netherlands doing the following query:

"nylon jacket" sex fetish

The story does contain all of these words but there was nothing remotely kinky about my Austria trip. Click Here to find out what all of these words are doing in my travelog.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:38 PM
June 01, 2002
My Blog and Welcome to It

This is my first entry. I am now a blogger.

I have a wife and a daughter and a son. I also have a day job. A page with more information about me is here. Please don't tell my wife this is what I'm doing when I'm on the computer as she probably has other chores for me to do.

I will spend most of my time writing about:
Current Events
I am a bleeding heart libertarian. Because I'm a nice guy and want to address society's problems and I want disadvantaged people to become better advantaged. By instincts and experience I believe that government seldom delivers the benefits the "bleeding heart liberals" and "big government conservatives" always seem to hope for. In many cases government only makes things worse. As with technology and prose, less is often more. I'm not one of those doctrinaire Big-L Libertarians who want to eliminate government. My aim is to improve government by making it smaller. The most important part of this process is to persuade our fellow citizens to demand less of our government.

I'm also interested in foreign affairs, particularly about the situation in the Middle East. Not only because I have personal and family ties to Israel, but because the events throughout that part of the world affect our lives here in the United States. A collection of my own writings and interesting links about the Middle East is here I'm less of a libertarian when it comes to foreign policy. Unfortunately, the world is a dangerous place.

Smarter Investing
I am not an investment guru. There are no investment gurus. If anybody approaches you claiming that they are an investment guru, hold on to your wallet, invent an excuse to terminate the conversation ("oops, it's 2 o'clock. I have to go pick up my poodle from the carwash") and RUN AWAY.

I spent nearly 3 years of my life doing research to figure out "the ultimate way" to invest my own money. My one-sentence conclusion, which could have saved me not only 3 years of reading finance books, but also tens of thousands of dollars is: "Buy and hold a diversified portfolio, minimize your costs and taxes." As a result of this research I developed software for managing diversified, tax-efficient portfolios. My software is now used by some top-notch investment advisors to manage real portfolios. Some of my work is available on the web at personalfund.com

Every once in a while I will yield to temptation and brag about my children.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:00 PM