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From the Jewish Journal of Greater L.A. (via MondoWeiss):

David Brooks’ Son Is In the Israeli Army: Does It Matter?
by Rob Eshman
2 days ago

One of the more interesting nuggets buried in a long, Hebrew-language interview with New York Times columnist David Brooks in the recent Ha’aretz magazine is the revelation, toward the very end, that Brooks’s oldest son serves in the Israel Defense Forces.

“Brook’s connection to Israel was always strong,” the article reports. “He has visited Israel almost every year since 1991, and over the past months the connection has grown even stronger, after his oldest son, aged 23, decided to join the Israel Defense Forces as a “lone soldier” [Ed. Note: a soldier with no immediate family in Israel].

“‘It’s worrying,’” says Brooks, ‘But every Israeli parent understands this is what the circumstances require. Beyond that, I think children need to take risks after they leave university, and that they need to do something difficult, that involves going beyond their personal limits. Serving in the IDF embodies all of these elements. I couldn’t advise others to do it without acknowledging it’s true for my own family.’”

Chatter immediately heated up over this fact, which until now hasn’t cropped up in any Google searches. Many commenters praised Brooks’ for his son’s service. Others maintained that he and the New York Times have the duty to reveal the fact that his son is serving in the IDF as it personally colors his commentary on Israel and Middle East issues.

Between 800-1000 Jews from abroad serve in the IDF, according to an IDF spokesperson. It is not illegal for an American citizen to join a foreign army– unless that army is at war with America. Nor does joining a foreign army require one to relinquish citizenship. …

In 2010 the web site reported that the New York Times senior correspondent in Israel, Ethan Bronner, had a son serving in the IDF. …

Here is the original Hebrew text from Haaretz:

הקשר של ברוקס לישראל תמיד היה חזק – הוא מגיע לארץ כמעט מדי שנה מאז 1991 – ואולם בחודשים האחרונים הקשר התחזק אפילו יותר, לאחר שבנו הבכור, בן 23, החליט להתגייס לצה”ל כחייל בודד. “זה מדאיג”, הוא אומר, “אך כל הורה ישראלי מבין שזה מה שהנסיבות מחייבות. וחוץ מזה, אני חושב שילדים צריכים לקחת סיכונים כשהם יוצאים מהאוניברסיטה, ושהם צריכים לעשות משהו קשה, שכרוך גם בלפרוץ את גבולות ‘העצמי’. שירות בצה”ל מגלם את כל המרכיבים האלו. אני לא יכול לייעץ לאחרים לעשות זאת, מבלי שהדבר יהיה נכון גם למשפחה שלי”

Leaving aside the specifics of the Brooks family (which are pretty interesting: Brooks’ wife not only converted but changed her first name from Jane to Sarah) …

This is a good example of a general theme of mine: in 21st Century America, you can roughly divide white men up into conservatives and liberals based on their predilections toward loyalty. Everybody feels loyalties, but conservatives tend to be more motivated than liberals by loyalty or team spirit. And conservatives tend to experience their feelings of loyalty in a fairly natural concentric fashion, with their feelings of loyalty diminishing as they go outward to people less like themselves.

Of course, there is a sizable degree of social construction involved in defining natural-seeming loyalties, similar to the inevitable splitter and lumper questions in any field. For example, George Washington was involved in first splitting the British Empire, then in lumping the 13 colonies. But, as Plato might have said, Washington turned out to have been more or less “carving nature at the joints,” so his social constructions have endured better than, say, the British Commonwealth or the United Arab Republic.

White male liberals, in contrast, pride themselves on a certain degree of disloyalty, possessing a set of loyalties that leapfrog in disdain over some set of people not all that far off from themselves. (Of course, all other kinds of liberals besides straight white males are encouraged by the media to subscribe to crude forms of ethnocentrism, such as demanding amnesty for their co-ethnics.)

As an American, I want other Americans, especially other Americans of power, influence, wealth, and talent to see themselves as on my side, the American side. That doesn’t seem too much to ask. I particularly want Americans of influence who are by nature conservatives to train their innate urges toward loyalty to overlap with my loyalties toward my fellow American citizens.

In contrast, if, say, Noam Chomsky doesn’t feel terribly loyal toward American citizens, well, I don’t mind all that much because he’s not by nature all that conservative. Loyalty is not a big part of Chomsky’s personality, nor are his loyalties naturally concentric. There are good things you can say about Professor Chomsky, but “you’d want him in your foxhole” is not the first one that comes to mind. Expecting loyalty from Chomsky is like expecting loyalty from your cat. People don’t give their cats names like “Fido” or expect them to defend their homes from intruders.

In contrast, there are a lot of more naturally conservative Jewish-Americans whom you would definitely want on your side, not on somebody else’s side. They like being loyal. But these days, nobody expects them to be loyal to their fellow citizens.

I would like to see our society engage in more social construction to get naturally conservative Jews like the Brookses to be more loyal to their fellow American citizens and less loyal to their foreign co-ethnics.

In particular, I favor criticism. Being criticized rationally for your poor behavior tends to encourage you to improve your behavior. But criticism of Jews for Jewish-typical failings such as excessive ethnocentrism is a career-killer today.

It’s like calling an angry black woman an angry black woman, except that angry black women tend to be more angry than powerful. In contrast, when Gregg Easterbrook wrote one sentence of criticism of Jewish movie moguls in 2003 in, of all places, Marty Peretz’s The New Republic, Easterbrook was immediately fired from his sportswriting job at Michael Eisner-controlled ESPN that accounted for half of his income. This is even though Easterbrook’s older brother Frank Easterbrook is a heavyweight federal judge. But nobody fears nepotistic vengeance by people named Easterbrook, while Eisner’s actions certainly served pour encourager les autres.

It didn’t always used to be this way. For example, as a child of the 1970s, I’ve often thought about Henry Kissinger. His career and personality have always been controversial, but I think it’s safe to say he is a man of parts. Further, I’m very glad in retrospect that Henry Kissinger was on our side, the United States of America, rather than on the side of the Soviet Union or of Israel.

My impression from reading between the lines in Kissinger’s immense memoir of 1973-74, Years of Upheaval, is that Kissinger had always been very concerned during his younger days about the possibility of accusations of dual loyalties, and that he resolved to overcome them by … not having dual loyalties, by just being loyal to the United States. And to his own fabulous career, of course, but back in the post-WWII era, loyalty to Americans in general tended to help you in your career.

Kissinger’s single loyalty drove the nascent neoconservatives wild with rage, but the neocons weren’t quite as organized and influential back then. Overall, back in the 1960s-1970s, the fact that the only thing simple about Kissinger was his single loyalty greatly benefited his career domestically by allowing him to become the right hand man of the experienced and cynical Richard Nixon.

And, more strikingly, it allowed him to play the role of honest broker in his shuttle diplomacy negotiating the disengagement of Israel’s army from the armies of Egypt and Syria after the 1973 war. That Anwar Sadat (and even Hafez Assad) came to see to see this Jewish-American as representing the interests of the United States rather than of some complicated mixture of American and Israeli interests proved highly useful to the United States (and even to Israel).

In today’s atmosphere, however, the idea that Henry Kissinger had to carefully police his own loyalties to prove, not unreasonably, to gentiles his loyalty to the United States sounds shockingly retrograde and anti-Semitic.

Consider another conservative Jewish man of considerable powers, Michael Bloomberg, who is a couple of decades younger than Kissinger.

I wrote a lot about Michael Bloomberg when he was mayor of Gotham New York City: $30 billion in the bank, gives billions away in charity, had a 44,000 person “private army” (in his words), owns a worldwide computer network that his employees use to spy on finance guys, etc. Basically, Bloomberg is like a real world version of Bruce Wayne.

Do you want Bruce Wayne to feel, deep down, he’s on your side, or do you want Bruce Wayne to be most loyal to some other people halfway around the world? Of course you want Bruce Wayne to be on your side.

Bloomberg was a good mayor of New York because he feels a lot of loyalty toward New Yorkers. He wanted to be President of the United States too, but he would have been a disaster at that because of his lack of loyalty toward the American people. And that’s a shame because guys like Bloomberg ought to be a valuable resource for my country. Just a generation ago or so they would have been cautioned to keep their ethnocentrism down and their citizenism up, but we’re way past that age now.

For instance, in 2006 Bloomberg, who had 11 digits of net worth, went on the radio and announced that illegal aliens should get amnesty so that he doesn’t have to pay more money in monthly dues to have the fairways manicured at his Deepdale Country Club (which is possibly the most exclusive and notoriously underused golf course in America: members have included President Eisenhower and the Duke of Windsor). Conversely, he flew to Israel to accept the world’s first ever “Jewish Nobel Prize” from some Russian oligarchs.

But we’ve been almost wholly disarmed from shaming the Bloombergs into being more loyal toward Americans than toward Jews.

These are the kind of things where it should occur to a Bloomberg: wow, I’m really going to get laughed at if I do this kind of stuff. I should try to behave better, like I care about Americans rather than Israelis, so I’m not such a butt of jokes.

But, here’s the thing. Nobody gets the joke. It never occurs to Bloomberg that he’s making a fool of himself. Because who would dare joke about such matters? Bloomberg is one of the World’s Greatest Victims, and if you don’t wholly believe that, if you crack a smile, your career will get crushed like a bug (as happened to Rick Sanchez, formerly of CNN, for laughing at the suggestion that Jon Stewart is a fellow minority).

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Jews, American Media, Israel 
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From the Jerusalem Post:

Illegal infiltrators threaten Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic country, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday. 

Calling the issue “very grave” and a threat to the “social fabric,” Netanyahu said, “If we do not stop the entry, the problem, there are now 60,000 illegal infiltrators; could easily grow to 600,000 illegal infiltrators. This would inundate the state and, to a considerable degree, cancel out its image as a Jewish and democratic state.” 

The prime minister spoke of the importance of finishing construction of the Egyptian border fence and working to send away “those [illegal migrants] who are already inside.” 

Netanyahu said the latter will be done in part by punishing employers who hire illegal migrants. 

The growing population of more than 50,000 illegal African migrants has become a hot-button issue, with the weekend editions of all three major Hebrew dailies featuring lead stories relating to the issue. 

A little over three weeks ago, African migrants were targeted in a series of Molotov cocktail attacks in south Tel Aviv’s Shapira neighborhood. In addition, there have been a series of sexual assaults in Tel Aviv over recent weeks that police say were carried out by African migrants. 

Also on Sunday, Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) repeated his call to jail illegal African migrants, most of whom he said were involved in crime.

Netanyahu is at a peak of popularity and power within Israel at the moment. He recently called for elections, then called them off when a major opposition party, seeing the writing on the wall, agreed to join his coalition as subordinate partners. So, he’s dealing from a position of strength here, with his team holding 96 of 120 seats in the Knesset.

Generally speaking, much can be learned from Israel about how an intelligent people govern themselves.

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Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu: 
Congratulations on your triumphal tour of Washington D.C. You have emerged as the de facto leader of anti-Obama sentiment in America.
In return for all that America has done for you, may I ask, in all seriousness, that you do a favor for America?
Namely, please come to America again and deliver a high profile speech and slide show explaining the rapid construction and strong success of Israel’s border security fence. Point out that a properly made border fence has been shown to deter not only drug smugglers and illegal immigrants, but even suicide bombers. Then, compare Israel’s success at rapidly securing its borders to the American government’s dithering and ineffectualness at constructing its own border security fence. Please point out that this kind of defeatism and corruption is unworthy of Israel’s ally. You could conclude by offering to send Israeli experts to the American border to advise Americans on how to build the American fence.
Thank you very much.
Steve Sailer

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Akiva Eldar writes in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz about Bibi Netanyahu’s triumphant address (two dozen standing ovations) to the U.S. Congress:

Sara Netanyahu once said during a family gathering that if her husband had run for president of the United States, he would easily be elected (assuming, of course, that he were legally allowed to run). Indeed, in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address before both houses of Congress on Tuesday, he made impressive use of all the gimmicks of an experienced and sharp-tongued American politician. … 

Netanyahu proved that he has no Israeli equal when it comes to plucking the strings of American patriotism, of guilt feelings over the Holocaust, and most of all, of the wish of Congress members to preserve their close ties with the large Jewish organizations.

Old joke:

Q: Why doesn’t Israel apply to become the 51st state?
A: Because then they’d have only two senators.

Poor Obama figured he could take a gentle swipe at Bibi, thought he could articulate American policy without clearing every jot and tittle with Bibi beforehand, because Bibi is the equivalent of a Republican in Israel, so the President would at least have the Democrats in America on his side out of sheer partisanship. He didn’t realize that in the U.S. Congress, “Politics stops at the border (of Israel).”

In The American Conservative, Pat Buchanan feels sorry for his President:

Not since Nikita Khrushchev berated Dwight Eisenhower over Gary Powers’ U-2 spy flight over Russia only weeks earlier has an American president been subjected to a dressing down like the one Barack Obama received from Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday. 

With this crucial difference. Khrushchev ranted behind closed doors… Obama, however, was lectured like some schoolboy in the Oval Office in front of the national press and a worldwide TV audience. 

And two days later, he trooped over to the Israeli lobby AIPAC to walk back what he had said that had so infuriated Netanyahu. “Bibi” then purred that he was “pleased” with the clarification. Diplomatic oil is now being poured over the troubled waters, but this humiliation will not be forgotten. 

What did Obama do to draw this public rebuke? In his Thursday speech on the Arab Spring and Middle East peace, Obama declared: “We believe the borders of Israel should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. … Israel must be able to defend itself — by itself — against any threat.” 

Ignoring Obama’s call for “mutually agreed swaps” of land to guarantee secure and defensible borders for Israel, Netanyahu, warning the president against a peace “based on illusions,” acted as though Obama had called for an Israel withdrawal to the armistice line of 1967. 

This was absurd. All Obama was saying was what three Israeli prime ministers — Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert — have all recognized.  …

Undeniably, Netanyahu won the smack-down. The president was humiliated in the Oval Office, and in his trip to AIPAC’s woodshed he spoke of the future peace negotiations ending just as Israelis desire and demand. …

The one explanation that makes sense is that Netanyahu sees Obama as more sympathetic to the Palestinians and less so to Israel than any president since Jimmy Carter, and he, Netanyahu, would like to see Obama replaced by someone more like the born-again pro-Israel Christian George W. Bush. 

And indeed, the Republicans and the right, Mitt Romney in the lead, accusing Obama of “throwing Israel under the bus,” seized on the issue and, almost universally, have taken Netanyahu’s side.

Personally, I don’t think the West Bank is very important. I received this great gift a number of Christmases ago, an extra-large free-standing globe for my office. But even on this globe, I can barely find the West Bank. If the Israelis want to push around the Palestinians, well, I don’t really care much. I roused myself enough to write a two part review of Jimmy Carter’s book Palestine Peace not Apartheid for Taki’s Magazine in 2007 (Part 1 and Part 2), but I haven’t had much to say since then because it’s not my country.

What I do care about is what all this says about my own country.

“Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. … Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite [foreign nation] are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.”

—George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796

Here’s the irony. The GOP is, more or less, the party of WGPs — White Gentile People, the heart of the nation. But, normal, natural national feelings among WGPs have been so demonized over the years that they’ve adopted a foreign nationalist politician, Bibi Netanyahu, as their proxy so they can enjoy nationalism by proxy.

Bibi’s quite a guy. He just isn’t my guy.

But what are the Democrats in Congress’ excuses?

• Tags: Israel, Obama, Politicians 
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The annual American Israel Political Action Committee policy conference starts Sunday in Washington D.C. Here’s AIPAC’s promotional video:
In a 2005 Washington Post column, “AIPAC’s Big, Bigger, Biggest Moment,” Dana Milbank wrote:
How much clout does AIPAC have? 
Well, consider that during the pro-Israel lobby’s annual conference yesterday, a fleet of police cars, sirens wailing, blocked intersections and formed a motorcade to escort buses carrying its conventioneers — to lunch. 
The annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has long produced a massive show of bipartisan pandering, as lawmakers praise the well-financed and well-connected group. But this has been a rough year for AIPAC — it has dismissed its policy director and another employee while the FBI examines whether they passed classified U.S. information to Israel — and the organization is eager to show how big it is…. 
Another fact sheet announced that this is the “largest ever” conference, with its 5,000 participants attending “the largest annual seated dinner in Washington” joined by “more members of Congress than almost any other event, except for a joint session of Congress or a State of the Union address.” The group added that its membership “has nearly doubled” over four years to 100,000 and that the National Journal calls it “one of the top four most effective lobbying organizations.” 
“More,” “most,” “largest,” “top”: The superlatives continued, and deliberately. In his speech Sunday, the group’s executive director, Howard Kohr, said the “record attendance” at the conference would dispel questions about AIPAC raised by the FBI investigation.
“This is a test, a test of our collective resolve,” Kohr said of the “unique challenge” presented by the FBI probe, “and your presence here today sends a message to every adversary of Israel, AIPAC and the Jewish community that we are here, and here to stay.” (The official text has two exclamation points after that sentence.) Kohr, without mentioning the fired staffers, told participants that “neither AIPAC nor any of its current employees is or ever has been the target.”
Unlike the puny turnout of 5,000 delegates a half dozen years ago, AIPAC is expecting 10,000 delegates this year.

Here’s a 2011 speaker’s list:

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States

The Honorable Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister, State of Israel

The Honorable John Boehner (R-OH)
Speaker of the House, U.S. House of Representatives

The Honorable Harry Reid (D-NV)
Majority Leader, U.S. Senate

The Honorable Robert Casey (D-PA)
U.S. Senate

The Honorable John Thune (R-SD)
U.S. Senate

The Honorable Eric Cantor (R-VA)
Majority Leader, U.S. House of Representatives

The Honorable Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
Democratic Whip, U.S. House of Representatives

Mr. Jim Woolsey
Former Director, Central Intelligence Agency

The Honorable Martin Indyk
Vice President for Foreign Policy, Brookings Institution; Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel

Mr. Dan Senor
Adjunct Senior Fellow for Middle East Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Mr. Paul Begala
Democratic Political Analyst and CNN Contributor

Mr. Ralph Reed
President, Century Strategies
Wouldn’t it be simpler if American Jews just had a college football team to root for, the way American Catholics had the Notre Dame Fighting Irish?

• Tags: Israel 
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From my column, which reviews the new book by the Israeli-American think tank known as the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute:

As a long-time admirer of Israel, I’ve come to envy especially the freedom of discussion that Israeli culture permits on fundamental questions of demographics.

Consider, for example, the new book 2030: Alternative Futures for the Jewish People [5 megabyte  PDF], which makes for eye-opening reading for anyone lulled by the pabulum of the American press. … An intellectually serious effort, 2030 can serve as a template for all those thinking about improving the demographic prospects of their own peoples or parties.

For example, GOP leaders could read it and consider how its framework of analysis and its policy recommendations could be adapted to the task of growing more Republicans.

Founded in 2002, the Jerusalem-based Jewish People Policy Planning Institute has always been chaired by prominent Jewish-American diplomats. Its 2030 report was begun under Dennis Ross, chief U.S. negotiator at Bill Clinton’s failed Camp David 2 peace talks in 2000 between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Ross left JPPPI in 2009 to run the Obama Administration’s Iran policy. …

Despite this American participation, the JPPPI is an offshoot of the Israeli government’s immigration arm, the Jewish Agency for Israel. (The  JPPPI’s #2 man is a former boss of Israeli military intelligence). It makes an annual presentation to the Israeli cabinet. And, because the JPPPI’s publications are not intended for non-Jewish audiences—this book has not, so far as I know, previously been reviewed in America outside the Jewish press—it suffers less from the timidity that emasculates intellectual discourse in America.

For example, the JPPPI’s 2030 observes:

“World Jewry today is at a historical zenith of absolute wealth creation. … one can say that Jewish wealth is higher than almost any other ethnic group worldwide.”

That’s not the kind of thing you read in the U.S. press every day…

It’s also informative to discover that the JPPPI views anti-Semitism at present “as a moral problem and an irritant, but not having any serious consequences.” …

The 2030 project strives to identify the middle ground between the ephemeral and the permanent.

The JPPPI methodology is to boil the future down to merely A) internal factors (what it calls “Jewish Momentum” — “quantity, quality, power, structures and leadership”) and B) external factors: “the well-worn notion of ‘good for the Jews or bad for the Jews.’”

This generates four alternative futures: “Thriving,” “Drifting,” “Defending,” and “Nightmare.” The think tank doesn’t try to predict which one will happen, but it does outline the various mechanisms pushing the global Jewish People in each direction.

If in 2030, Jews are self-confidently ethnocentric (have high Jewish Momentum) and the rest of the world loves them, then, according to the JPPPI, the Jewish People will be “Thriving”.

The opposite quadrant is called “Nightmare”—where Jews are both unpopular with outsiders and highly assimilated. Currently, Iran is the best (or worst) example of this.

The JPPPI classifies the American Jewish community as currently “Thriving” due to an extremely positive external climate for Jews in America and moderately high internal Jewish Momentum.

It worries, though, that Jews are so popular with other Americans that Jewish cohesiveness will be sapped over the next 20 years. A high rate of intermarriage could drive the American Jewish community into the Drifting quadrant, where “Demographic shifts including accelerated assimilation of the Jewish community in the US, and its decline relative to other groups in the US leads to decline in its political power.” …

The opposite of “Drifting” is “Defending”—where Jews are besieged by anti-Semites, yet internally strong as a community. The JPPPI cites France, where Muslim immigration has led to pogrom-like incidents, as currently the closest to this alternative future.

The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute seems to prefer “Defending” to “Drifting”:

“While the Drifting future might be very pleasant and positive for Jews as individuals, it reflects an overall decline of the Jewish People as a whole. … a Defending alternative future demonstrates that even under strenuous external conditions, the Jewish People could become stronger.”

My review goes on to consider the demographic policy proposals of the JPPPI, which are analogous to my own for Republicans. Read the whole thing there and comment upon it below. 

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From Edmund Sanders in LA Times:

Nearly one in five Israeli men between the ages of 35 and 54 do not work, including Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews, says Dan Ben-David. As their numbers rise, so does the economic peril, he says.

When people talk these days about Israel’s economy, they use words like booming, resilient, even “miracle.” …
But one Israeli economist is warning that beneath Israel’s back-patting lurks a hidden peril — fueled by demographic trends and political choices — that could eventually mean an end to the country.

Armed with a Power Point presentation he’s been showing to lawmakers, newspaper publishers and anyone else who will listen, Dan Ben-David, executive director of Jerusalem-based Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, says the problem is simple: Not enough Israelis are pulling their own weight.

According to Ben-David, nearly one in five Israeli men between the ages of 35 and 54 — a group that he believes has “no excuse” for not working — are not part of the labor force. That’s about 60% higher than the average among nations in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, an international forum fostering market-based economies that Israel joined Monday.

Officially, Israel’s unemployment rate is about 8%. But that doesn’t include Israeli citizens who are not trying to find work, either because they feel disenfranchised, such as many Arab Israelis, or because they’ve chosen a life of state-subsidized religious study, such as many ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Nearly 27% of Arab men and 65% of ultra-Orthodox Jews don’t work, government figures show. The non-employment rate for ultra-Orthodox men has tripled since 1970, Ben-David said. …

What worries Ben-David most is that the nonproductive part of Israel’s population, which survives largely on welfare, is also the fastest growing.

Today Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox together make up less than 30% of the population, but they account for nearly half of school-age children. …

“Eventually it’s going to break the bank,” the economist said. “We’re on trajectories that are not sustainable.” …

Reasons differ for the non-employment of Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Over the last 30 years, the percentage of working ultra-Orthodox men has decreased because of government programs that subsidize their religious study, experts say.

Such programs are now facing a backlash from Israel’s secular and non-Orthodox citizens. A radio talk-show host recently described ultra-Orthodox Jews as “parasites.” Tel Aviv’s mayor said the fast-growing ultra-Orthodox community was “endangering” the economic strength of the “silent majority.”

But defenders of the ultra-Orthodox credit them with preserving Israel’s Jewish identity, saying that without the high birth rates of ultra-Orthodox families, Israel could see an Arab majority in future generations. …

“If I were Jewish, it would have been much easier to find work,” said Salwa Idreis, 30, an Arab Israeli from Jerusalem who, despite earning a law degree, has been unable to find a job for five years.

“People don’t trust us because we are Palestinian,” said the mother of four. Even Arab-owned law firms won’t give her a job because they think Jewish attorneys will draw more customers, she said.

So, arrested rappers, mafiosi, and Palestinians all agree: “Get me a Jewish lawyer!”

Ultra-orthodox men on the dole doesn’t really sound like a terribly insoluble problem for Israel. Israelis have the huge advantage over us here in the land of the free and the home of the brave that they are allowed to publicly discuss the implications of demographic trends without using the word “vibrant.”

• Tags: Israel 
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Back in November, I responded to a book review in the WSJ that began:

In “Start-Up Nation,” Dan Senor and Saul Singer document Israel’s economic dynamism—especially in the realm of advanced technology—and try to account for the country’s extraordinary success.


Lemme think about this one. What could account for Israel’s extraordinary economic dynamism in the realm of advanced technology … hmmmhmmm … No, I’m drawing a complete blank … I guess I’ll have to buy the book to find out what the answer could possibly be.

One advantage of David Brooks being a covert member of the Steveosphere is that it increases the sophistication of public discourse. Brooks doesn’t want to get laughed at by me for being oblivious to the obvious, so, when he writes about Start-Up Nation in the NYT, he immediately goes there: Israel is full of Jews.

Jews are a famously accomplished group. They make up 0.2 percent of the world population, but 54 percent of the world chess champions, 27 percent of the Nobel physics laureates and 31 percent of the medicine laureates.

Jews make up 2 percent of the U.S. population, but 21 percent of the Ivy League student bodies, 26 percent of the Kennedy Center honorees, 37 percent of the Academy Award-winning directors, 38 percent of those on a recent Business Week list of leading philanthropists, 51 percent of the Pulitzer Prize winners for nonfiction.

In his book, “The Golden Age of Jewish Achievement,” Steven L. Pease lists some of the explanations people have given for this record of achievement. The Jewish faith encourages a belief in progress and personal accountability. It is learning-based, not rite-based.

Most Jews gave up or were forced to give up farming in the Middle Ages; their descendants have been living off of their wits ever since. They have often migrated, with a migrant’s ambition and drive. They have congregated around global crossroads and have benefited from the creative tension endemic in such places.

No single explanation can account for the record of Jewish achievement.

Brooks is perfectly aware that he hasn’t mentioned the higher average IQ among Ashkenazi Jews or the Cochran-Harpending theory of how it evolved. He’s not going to mention that, but then he’s not going to deny it either and risk getting roasted by the counter-intelligentsia whose views he respects in private (but not in public). So he puts in that last sentence that can be read as admitting to you and me that he’s not giving the full story.

Duly noted.

The rest of the article is pretty good except Brooks, as a Zionist and a pro-capitalist, feels compelled to make hazy just how anti-capitalist Zionism was during its heroic age:

The odd thing is that Israel has not traditionally been strongest where the Jews in the Diaspora were strongest. Instead of research and commerce, Israelis were forced to devote their energies to fighting and politics.

“Forced” is not exactly the right word: the early Zionists chose to make their children farmers and soldiers out of a desire for Israel to be “a normal country,” rather than one that lives on wits and chutzpah.

Brooks is putting forward a much more toned down version of his 2002 Weekly Standard article arguing that European don’t like Ariel Sharon’s Israel because the Jewish State is “bourgeois” and Europeans suffer from “bourgeoisophobia.”

I responded at the time:

I think, though, David is just using the word “bourgeois” here to mean “good,” rather than what it actually means. Sharon, himself, would be offended by being called bourgeois. He sees himself as the embodiment of more ancient virtues: he entitled his autobiography Warrior, not Businessman. The entire Zionist project was distinctly antibourgeois. It was heroic, romantic, anti-capitalist, socialist, collectivist, risky, nationalist, militarist, agriculturalist, trade unionist, anti-individualist, ethnocentrist, feminist, myth-driven, and on and on. If the Zionists had wanted to be bourgeois, they could have made a lot more money by moving virtually anywhere else in the world, or even by buying Baja California from Mexico. The Zionists tried to de-bourgeoisify Jews by creating a national economy in which Jews would hold all the jobs, including farmer and soldier, rather than just the bourgeois middle-man-minority jobs at which they made much money, but also elicited dangerous resentment from other peoples.

From an ideological standpoint, it’s more than a little strange that the mouthpieces of the American big business Right in America are so attached to this offshoot of the 19th Century European romantic nationalist Left. The neoconservatives should be complimented for rising above narrow doctrinaire prejudices to warmly embrace a country founded on principles they oppose. Ideological purity isn’t everything.

I suspect Brooks doesn’t want to get hammered like that again, so he’s calmed down his argument a lot:

Milton Friedman used to joke that Israel disproved every Jewish stereotype. People used to think Jews were good cooks, good economic managers and bad soldiers; Israel proved them wrong.

But that has changed. Benjamin Netanyahu’s economic reforms, the arrival of a million Russian immigrants and the stagnation of the peace process have produced a historic shift. The most resourceful Israelis are going into technology and commerce, not politics. This has had a desultory effect on the nation’s public life, but an invigorating one on its economy.

… As Dan Senor and Saul Singer write in “Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle,” Israel now has a classic innovation cluster, a place where tech obsessives work in close proximity and feed off each other’s ideas….

But then he goes off track briefly into his old Zionist Capitalist dreamworld:

Israel’s technological success is the fruition of the Zionist dream. The country was not founded so stray settlers could sit among thousands of angry Palestinians in Hebron. It was founded so Jews would have a safe place to come together and create things for the world.

Uh, I strongly doubt that the Zionists founders had a pro-free trade globalist economic ideology. My understanding was that Israel was founded so that Jews could have their own nation-state and provide for themselves.

..But it’s more likely that Israel’s economic leap forward will widen the gap between it and its neighbors. All the countries in the region talk about encouraging innovation. Some oil-rich states spend billions trying to build science centers. But places like Silicon Valley and T
el Aviv are created by a confluence of cultural forces, not money. The surrounding nations do not have the tradition of free intellectual exchange and technical creativity.

For example, between 1980 and 2000, Egyptians registered 77 patents in the U.S. Saudis registered 171. Israelis registered 7,652.

The tech boom also creates a new vulnerability. As Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic has argued, these innovators are the most mobile people on earth. To destroy Israel’s economy, Iran doesn’t actually have to lob a nuclear weapon into the country. It just has to foment enough instability so the entrepreneurs decide they had better move to Palo Alto, where many of them already have contacts and homes. American Jews used to keep a foothold in Israel in case things got bad here. Now Israelis keep a foothold in the U.S.

During a decade of grim foreboding, Israel has become an astonishing success story, but also a highly mobile one.

Of course, all the investment in delicate high tech labs and fabs in Tel Aviv suggests that Israelis themselves aren’t talking all the scare talk about Iran dropping a nuclear bomb on Tel Aviv as seriously as Israel’s advocates in the U.S. are taking it.

An awareness of Zionist history raises a warning flag that Brooks doesn’t notice: the anti-capitalist Zionist project of converting merchants and financiers into farmers was undertaken in part because of the belief that Jews were hated by peasants for being so good at capitalism. Therefore, we Jews will stop being capitalists and be farmers ourselves. Who doesn’t like a farmer?

Unfortunately, this just got Jewish farmers (and Jewish soldiers) involved in an endless Malthusian struggle in the West Bank with Palestinian farmers over land. So, opinion among Jews has now turned 180 degrees: Everybody hates us because we’re farmers and soldiers. Let’s be capitalists instead. Who doesn’t like a capitalist?

• Tags: Israel 
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If Obama is serious about persuading Israel to pull its settlements out of the bulk of the West Bank in order to allow the Palestinians to have their own state there instead of having to live like prison inmates under the thumb of the Israeli Army guarding the settlements, then here’s a suggestion for a simple proposal that would strike a lot of people as a square deal:

Double or Nothing

In other words, if Israel pulls out of all but the fringes of the West Bank, then the U.S. would double its annual aid to Israel. If it doesn’t, then Israel gets nothing from the U.S.

• Tags: Israel 
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I frequently criticize the mainstream media for not writing about things that are boring and depressing. And yet, I found Israel’s pummeling of the Gaza Strip to be boring and depressing, so I’ve barely mentioned it, other than suggesting some technical defensive solutions that Israel could try to counter the not-terribly-frightening threat of Gaza-launched flying pipebombs that turned out to be, according to better-informed commenters, not terribly feasible.

In contrast, I wrote much about Israel’s fight with Hezbollah in 2006 because then there was a media mania for demanding that America take up the 51st State’s burden and go start a war with Iran to help out Israel.

We Americans appear to have made a lot of progress since 2006 in grasping that Israel is actually a foreign country, and that Israel has its own national interests which are by no means identical with our national interests. Of course, that hardly implies that the U.S. should be active on the side of Israel’s enemies, either.

I recognize that Israel faces a difficult strategic situation, and I’m not that motivated to either condemn or commend what it does, so long as it doesn’t drag the U.S. along with it. Now that there is some indication that Israeli influence over the U.S. is beginning to slip (thanks due to the ugliness of the Gaza attack, the embarrassment of Bernie Madoff, but no thanks to Obama’s appointments — Obama’s thinking on the Israeli Lobby’s power, like his thinking on much else is so 2007), I’m not in the mood to kick Israel when it’s down.

Realistically, U.S. policy will remain tilted in favor of Israel due to the power of the domestic Jewish lobby, just as U.S. policy has been tilted against Cuba due to the power of the domestic Cuban exile lobby. The important thing, more critical than our foreign policy, is that we here in America be free to publicly discuss why our foreign policy is biased toward Israel. That has been true regarding our bias against Cuba, but not, at least until very recently, regarding Israel.

Last summer, I outlined in a realist approach to thinking about America’s relationship with Israel in “The Cuban Compromise: A Sustainable Model for the Jewish Lobby,” which suggested that Americans should agree to Israel’s fundamental interests in the same manner as America has treated the Cuban exile lobby’s interests — allowing Israel to push around the Palestinians, and a guarantee of refugee status for Israelis in the U.S. if the worst should somehow happen to Israel; on the other hand, America would not fight Israel’s wars for it and, most importantly, Americans would be free to describe and criticize the power of the Jewish lobby.

I haven’t seen anything since that has caused me to change my mind.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Cuba, Israel 
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From Haaretz of Tel Aviv (via Philip Weiss):

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili denied on Wednesday night that Israel has suspended its military aid to the country. “I haven’t heard anything about that, and I haven’t had time to think about that issue for some days,” he told Haaretz.

Saakashvili said he is aware of problems with supplying the pilotless drones that his army ordered from Israeli companies, but not of the stopping of any other shipments of military aid.

“The Israeli weapons have proved very effective,” he said at a press conference at his office. When asked whether the Israeli arms played a role in the military successes he claimed the Georgian army had achieved, he joked: “Are you asking me as a representative of Elbit [Elbit is a weapons company trading on the Nasdaq and Tel Aviv stock exchanges] or of Israel Aerospace Industries?”

To a reporter’s question about Jews who have fled the fighting and come to Israel, he said: “We have two Israeli cabinet ministers, one deals with war [Defense Minister David Kezerashvili], and the other with negotiations [State Minister for Territorial Integration Temur Yakobashvili], and that is the Israeli involvement here: Both war and peace are in the hands of Israeli Jews.”

Yakobashvili is actually not an Israeli citizen.

So, apparently, the 29-year-old Defense Minister of Georgia is an Israeli citizen. That’s kind of like John McCain appointing Ephraim Diveroli the Secretary of Defense.

Saakashvili’s statements are part of his government’s attempt to bring other countries into its war against Russia. During the briefing, Saakashvili noted that he is in constant contact with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney [uh-oh] and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He promised that U.S. warships would be docking in Georgian ports within a few days to make sure they remain open.

Saakashvili tried to project confidence during the interview, but could not completely hide the stress he is under. A few hours earlier, refugees from Gori held a spontaneous demonstration in front of parliament, calling for Saakashvili to resign.

“We will fight to the death until the last Russian soldier leaves Georgian territory,” Saakashvili told reporters. “We will never surrender.”

He characterized the announcements against him by Russia’s government, blaming him for the suffering of the Georgian people, as “typical Nazi propaganda.” He accused Russia of ethnic cleansing in the Georgian villages in the north of the country. “If Georgia falls, all of the energy supply routes will be blocked,” he said.

Saakashvili told the press conference that he expected Russia’s next victims to be the Baltic countries. He accused Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of “trying to take revenge on the United States, but instead of attacking the Sixth Fleet he found himself an easier target.”

Georgian minister slams Israeli suspension of aid
Earlier Wednesday, Yakobashvili told Haaretz that Israel has joined in the West’s betrayal of Georgia. As the official in charge of bringing Abkhazia and South Ossetia back into the fold, Yakobashvili oversaw negotiations with the Russians to end the fighting there. He warned the world that the situation would escalate into war, but the West ignored him.

“They said the Georgians are exaggerating again,” he charged.

A former Zionist leader who speaks fluent Hebrew …

But, bear in mind, not an Israeli citizen!

… Yakobashvili credited Israeli defense companies with “enabling us to train our army and giving us the possibility to withstand the Russians,” but termed the Israeli government’s decision to stop arms exports to his country “a disgrace.”

He said the West should have responded by “deploying NATO troops to defend Georgia’s vital infrastructure,” and that “Israel is betraying us, along with the European countries and the United States.”

Referring to rioting by Russian militia groups in villages surrounding Gori, Yakobashvili said: “Today there was a Cossack pogrom against the local population. As a Jew that gives me a different feeling.”

Yakobashvili blasted Israel’s decision to suspend defense aid to Georgia: “Israel did it at the Russians’ behest. It aided the terrorists, the Russians. It’s a disgrace. I don’t know what it received in return, I only see that Hezbollah continues to get Russian arms, and plenty of it.”

“Israel should protect the interests it has here,” he continued. “There are many Israeli businesspeople who invested money, and a country should protect its citizens’ investments.”

He ascribed Georgia’s feisty military ability to Israeli training, and said that Russian experts had told him “they never believed Georgia has such an army and that they would encounter such resistance.”

Yakobashvili claimed the Georgian forces had destroyed Russia’s 58th army and downed 17 planes and three helicopters (data unsubstantiated by other sources).

Judging from Yakobashvili’s complaints (as opposed to Saakashvili’s reassurances), apparently the Israeli Foreign Ministry has decided that it’s in Israel’s national interest to cut Georgia adrift and make nice with the Russians (although powerful interests within and without the Israel Defense Ministry seem to vociferously disagree). As is frequently the case, however, Israel’s most enthusiastic boosters within the U.S. don’t want America to follow Israel’s sensible policies. Instead, they want the U.S. to fight for Israeli interests that Israel is too smart to fight for itself.

Whenever I write about something like this, I get denounced for being “obsessed” with Israel. People explain to me that that’s not the whole story. The real story is Russia’s Resurgence or the Threat to Energy Supplies or Democracy Under Siege or all the themes you’ve seen headlined a hundred times in the American press.

Of course the Israeli Connection is not the whole story. I’m not the Encyclopedia Britannica. My job is to post material that is true, new, significant, and interesting / entertaining, in roughly that order. I look for angles that aren’t being given their due weight in the U.S. mainstream media. The Israeli Connection is X percent of the story in the Russian-Georgian war. Whatever X percent is, the share of American media coverage devoted to the Israeli Connection is only a tiny fraction of X percent. Go check out Google News and see how much attention the U.S. establishment press has devoted to the Israeli Connection. (The American Jewish press has been better, as usual).

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Israel, War 
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The term “conspiracy theory” has become a most effective pejorative, useful in dismissing both actual conspiracy theories and the way the world actually works, which is through networks.

For example, why did the low budget film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” make $200 million at the U.S. box office? Was it a conspiracy? Well, sure, there were well-paid professionals meeting together regularly to try to make it a hit, but there are for all movies, few of which succeed on the same scale. No, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was a hit because of network effects — good word of mouth.

Something similar is true for political issues, but fewer people have strong opinions, especially on foreign policy. Take the Russia-Georgia war, for example. I consider myself reasonably well informed, but the only Georgia I know anything about is the one you can take the midnight train to.

So, people get their opinions from other people who they trust who get their opinions from other people they trust etc. etc. It doesn’t take many people to start these ripples.

And they have an important effect. The American press was slow to acknowledge last week that Georgia actually started the current war with Russia, partly due, perhaps, to the absurdity of the idea of a tiny country escalating a dispute with a huge one, partly due to pro-Georgian bias.

Network effects are inevitable. It’s not a conspiracy, although, as always, there are paid promoters involved (for example, John McCain’s top foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann was a lobbyist for the country of Georgia).

Fortunately, we’re allowed to mention those kind of network ties in polite society. What we aren’t supposed to draw attention to is something that has increasingly popped up in American foreign policy over the years: the American-Israeli-ex-Soviet Union triangle.

The Israeli media has been full of stories on the close ties between at least one faction in Israel and the government of Georgia. Here’s an article by the Jewish pro-Israel writer David Bedein on the subject from today’s Philadelphia Evening Bulletin:

Israel Linked To Georgia Security
By: David Bedein , The Bulletin

Jerusalem – The two largest suppliers to Georgia are the United States and France. Israel may not be Georgia’s main arms supplier, but the scope of defense deals between the two countries stands at $200 million.

The Soldiers Are Georgian, The Arms Israeli

The Georgian army may be incapable of bearing up against an army the size of Russia’s, but it certainly presents a challenge. Over the years, the security companies run by senior IDF officers, including Maj. Gen. Israel Ziv and Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch, have been training the Georgian army’s infantry battalions. These battalions use Israeli night vision equipment, arms, communications and intelligence equipment and over their heads constantly hover Israeli drones and aircraft upgraded by Israel.

Ronnie Milo, the former mayor of Tel Aviv, is also behind the deals with Georgia.

“The phenomenon of a small country standing up to Russian might is not their invention,” Mr. Milo said, refusing to comment on the performance of the arms he sold. “We faced that situation for many years, and no one wanted to help us because they were afraid of the Russians and of the Arabs.”

At the end of 2003, a group of young idealists, led by Mikhail Saakashvili, who was elected to the government and has a pro-Western policy, rose to power in Georgia. Mr. Saakashvili is interested in having his country join the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which also led to the conflict with Russia. As part of his efforts to join NATO, Mr. Saakashvili expanded his army to approximately 26,000 soldiers and worked to turn it into a Western-style, sophisticated army. This led to an increase in security exports from Israel amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Approximately two years ago, Georgia drew up an “urgent shopping list” that included dozens of millions of bullets, pilotless aircraft, night-vision equipment, mortar shells, rockets and more. Fears of a Russian response closed many doors throughout the world, but as stated, the Israeli Defense Ministry decided to allow the security companies to sell to them.

With the mediation of Ronnie Milo and his brother Shlomo (a former director-general of Israel Military Industries), who represented Elbit Systems, Su-25 ground-attack fighters were upgraded and 18 Skylark mini-drones and five Hermes 450 unmanned aerial vehicles were sold.

However, Israel Military Industries’ main and most sensitive deal was the sale of Lynx mobile rocket systems. The rockets can strike within a range of dozens of miles.

At the end of 2007, Brig. Gen. Hirsch, one of the owners of the Defensive Shield company, arrived in Georgia in order to train infantry troops. Dozens of instructors arrived there in order to train infantry troops as part of the cooperation deal that was signed with the company that Brig. Gen. Hirsch owns.

After the scope of Israel’s involvement became clear to the Russians, they sent a letter to Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni asking that arms supplies to Georgia be discontinued.

Georgian Defense Minister Went To High School In Israel

The Georgian defense minister, Davit Kezerashvili, 30 [Huh? A 30 year old defense minister?], is a Jew who once lived in Israel. Mr. Kezerashvili was born in Georgia. As a boy, he immigrated to Israel, lived with his grandmother in Holon and even went to Kugel High School in the city.

His parents followed him to Israel. Two years later, he returned on his own to Tbilisi. His parents remained in Israel and returned to Georgia just four years ago.

Mr. Kezerashvili studied international relations at Tbilisi University. He served as the aid to Mikhail Saakashvili when the latter was appointed the head of Parliament. Mr. Kezerashvili managed to get himself appointed defense minister when Mr. Saakashvili became president.

Mr. Kezerashvili devoted a great deal of effort in preparing Georgia for a possible future conflict with Russia, and he was helped by Israeli security experts.

In an interview that was given by Defense Minister Kezerashvili’s father a year ago to the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot, he said that his son had a warm spot in his heart for Israel. “He has a lot of friends to this day in Israel, and he’s maintained good relations with them,” said the father.

Yakobashvilli: ‘Israel Ought To Be Proud Of Itself’

“The Israelis ought to be proud of the fact that Georgian soldiers received Israeli education and training and are fighting like I don’t know what,” said another Georgian cabinet minister, Temur Yakobashvili, in an interview with the Israeli media.

Mr. Yakobashvili is a Hebrew-speaking Jew. “Now we have a battle with great Russia,” he said, “and our hope is to receive assistance from the White House, because alone Georgia won’t be able to endure. It’s important that everywhere in the world people understand that what is happening in Georgia now is going to affect world order. This isn’t only Georgia’s business but the business of the entire region.”

One Georgian MP yesterday called not only for American help but also for Israel to help Georgia stop the Russian assault. Yesterday, a short while after the Georgian parliament declared a war situation, MP Lasha Zhvania said: “We won’t be able to stop the Russian aggression by military force only. We need help from the UN and from our friends as well, first and foremost the United States and Israel. Today it is a danger to Georgia; tomorrow it will be a danger to all the democratic countries in the region and in the entire world.” …

Israel Foreign Ministry: Halt Arms Sales To Georgia

According to the Israeli Haaretz newspaper, the Israel Foreign Ministry has recommended a complete halt to the sale of arms and any security-related equipment to Georgia in light of the recent fighting with Russian forces in the Caucasus. This would be a further tightening of an arms boycott on Tbilisi around a year after a decision had been made in Jerusalem to limit exports to Georgia only to defensive equipment.

Israel is concerned that Russia would choose to retaliate against Jerusalem for continued military support of Georgia by lifting restrictions on its arms transfers to Iran and Arab states.

“Israel needs to be very careful and sensitive these days,” a senior foreign ministry source told Haaretz. “The Russians are selling many arms to Iran and Syria and there is no need to offer them an excuse to sell even more advanced weapons.”

Israel is particularly interested in the transfer of advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles from Russia to Iran.

Profiles Of Israelis Helping The Georgia Defense Industries

* Maj. Gen. (res.) Yisrael Ziv, aged 61

Military Background: Served as the commander of the Paratroopers Brigade’s elite reconnaissance unit during the first Lebanon War. He was the commander of the Paratroopers Brigade and the commander of the Gaza Division between 2000 and 2005.

Current Employment: Mr. Ziv is the CEO of a security consulting firm.

In Georgia: Mr. Ziv has been active in the past number of years exporting weaponry, mainly to South America. He served as a security consultant in Georgia, often in conjunction with others.

* Roni Milo, aged 59

Background: A former MK, cabinet minister and mayor of Tel Aviv.

Current Employment: Mr. Milo is a businessman.

In Georgia: Mr. Milo has been working in Georgia with his brother Shlomo, a former IAF pilot and CEO of the Israel Military Industries. He served as a mediator for Elbit Systems and the military industries. Mr. Milo succeeded in promoting a number of relatively small business deals. He tried this past year to promote the sale of 200 Merkava tanks to Georgia, but the deal was prohibited by Israel.

* Brig. Gen. (res.) Gal Hirsch, aged 44.

Military Background: This leading officer was forced to retire from the IDF in the wake of the criticism he received for his performance during the Second Lebanon War as the commander of the Galilee Division.

Current Employment: Brig. Gen. Hirsch is one of the owners of Defensive Shield, a security consulting firm.

In Georgia: According to sources in Israel, Brig. Gen. Hirsch helped the Georgians establish elite units akin to elite Israeli units.

David Bedein can be reached at His Web site is

As I said, this isn’t so much a conspiracy as a network. It’s not at all clear what the Israeli government’s position is on Georgia — the Israeli Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry appear to be squabbling over which side Israel should be on. Haaretz reported:

In a move which drew heavy criticism from defense officials, Israel’s Foreign Ministry over the weekend recommended complete cessation of the sale of weapons and security-related equipment to Georgia in light of the fighting between its troops and the Russian Army. “The Foreign Ministry’s approach demonstrates a naively simplistic view and a lack of understanding of the complex world of the security deals which Israel is conducting with foreign partners,” a defense official told Haaretz on condition of anonymity.

But, it is clear, that some Israelis have strong interests in Georgia, and those Israelis have lots of connections in the U.S. So, say some American pundit knows a guy through their kids’ soccer team who knows a lot about Georgia, and he heard it from his brother-in-law in Israel whose next-door neighbor is in business with the Georgian government — you know, that kind of thing.

The American pundit doesn’t even know that the info he’s been hearing about Georgia is financially biased. And he has an inherited hatred for Russian nationalists, so he is inclined by childhood indoctrination to believe whatever spiel he’s hearing about plucky little Georgia standing up to the new Czar in the Kremlin.

These network biases are natural. What is unnatural is that we Americans have unilaterally disarmed our national immune system against people yanking our chains. We aren’t supposed to ever notice the pattern. When we hear this kind of propaganda, we aren’t allowed to laugh and say, “Oh, man, this isn’t another one of those Israeli weapons deals again, now is it?”

And of course we absolutely aren’t allowed to mention what a large fraction of American pundits, reporters, editors, owners, and advertisers are Jewish.

Once again, this is not an example of Jewish conspiracy, but of Jewish networks and neuroses.

What American needs are a sense of humor about Jewish networks and neuroses and their impact on American foreign policy, but that’s not permitted.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Israel, War 
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From the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:

Jewish community in former USSR under threat of assimilation
Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent

The Jewish community in the former Soviet Union could disappear in a generation unless assimilation is curbed there, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.

The government decided to set up a special body to increase immigration from those countries and strengthen Jewish identity there.

In the special cabinet discussion, a representative from Nativ – a once-covert agency founded in the Prime Minister’s Office in the 1950s to bring Jews to Israel, and to serve as a liaison for Jewish dissidents in the Soviet Union – told the ministers that there are some 880,000 people in its former territories who are eligible to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return. More than half, the representative added, are not Jewish according to religious law. …

The briefing on the state of the Jews in the former Soviet Union revealed that only 10 percent of this population are involved in Jewish activity, with assimilation reaching 80 percent in some communities.

Nativ’s director, Naomi Ben Ami, told Haaretz that, in light of these figures, “the Jewish Diaspora is going to lose this region’s Jewry in one generation.” …

• Tags: Israel 
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From the Jewish Telegraph Agency:

A Jerusalem square will be symbolically dedicated to Jonathan Pollard ahead of President Bush’s visit to Israel.

Mina Fenton, a Jerusalem city councilwoman, announced this week that the capital’s Paris Square will be symbolically renamed “Pollard Square” in a ceremony on Jan. 7, two days before George W. Bush begins his first visit as U.S. president to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The move is meant to help lobby Bush to pardon Pollard, a former U.S. Navy analyst who is serving a life prison sentence for spying for Israel. Bush leaves office in 2009.

Paris Square is located between the U.S. Consulate in west Jerusalem and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s official residence. Fenton said there are no plans to formally change the square’s name.

On Monday, the Knesset State Control Committee decided to ask State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss to prepare a confidential special report on Israeli government efforts to secure the release of Johnathon Pollard.

Successive U.S. administrations have refused to grant clemency to Pollard, who is considered a Jewish hero by many Israelis.

Pollard was a cokehead who stole some of the crown jewels of our national security secrets — information relating to the our nuclear missile submarine deterrent — in return for money from the Israelis. (The Israeli government is widely believed to have then bartered the American secrets to the Soviets. I wouldn’t know, but that’s what I hear.)

Perhaps in response, Times Square in New York should be renamed “U.S.S. Liberty Square”?

• Tags: Israel 
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American politicians and federal officials are still trying to get straight in their heads that confusing Shia vs. Sunni thingie, but it turns out that the Middle East has a whole bunch of living religions that aren’t exactly part of Islam, Christianity, or Judaism.

Sure, we’ve all heard of the Samaritans in Israel, the mysterious and pugnacious Druze of Lebanon, the heretical Alawites who rule Syria, the Lucifer-worshipping Yezidis of Kurdistan, the millions of angel-worshipping Alevi of Turkey, and the Donme, the crypto-Jewish followers of the False Messiah who wield much influence in modern Istanbul.

But according to this NYT oped “Save the Gnostics,” in 2003 there were also 50,000 Gnostics, known as Mandaeans, who lived in Southern Iraq. They revere Adam, Noah and John the Baptist, and reject Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Wikipedia informs us, “While they agree with other gnostic sects that the world is a prison governed by the planetary archons, they do not view it as a cruel and inhospitable one.” So, they’ve got that going for them, which is nice…

Wait a minute, did that just say “planetary archons?”

A planetary archon, it appears, is a demiurge, in-between humans and God, who created and rules the world, and does a pretty bad job of it. (It’s basically the same idea as John Tierney’s recent NYT article hypothesizing that our universe is just a simulation game, like World of Warcraft, being played by some superintelligent computer geek somewhere.) The point of the Gnosis or secret knowledge is to get around the layers of bureaucracy in the middle and talk directly to God.

But now thanks to America spreading democracy to Iraq, the Gnostics are being persecuted by the Shia Muslims and are fleeing to Syria. Whether they blame their fate on America or on a planetary archon is not specified. (Better not mention this term to Bill Kristol or he’ll make it the basis of his whole political platform and worldview. The Weekly Standard will run cover stories on “America’s Destiny: Apocalypse or Planetary Archonship? We Must Choose Now!”)

Meanwhile, at GNXP, Razib chips in with “Obscure Middle Eastern religious cults – part n,” in which he unveils the million or so people in Iran who are called various names: Yarsan/Yaresan, Kakeyi, Ahl-e Haqq or Ahl-i Haqq. They believe in reincarnation.

In the comments on GNXP, tommy asks about the Shabak near Mosul, who appear to be sort of like the Yazidis, but also like kind of Muslims, except they drink alcohol and have their own sacred book, written in Turkoman. The Sunnis are beheading them in large numbers.

Are we totally sure we knew what we were getting into over there?

• Tags: Byzantine, Donme, Iran, Iraq, Israel 
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From The New Republic, here’s a review of Mearsheimer & Walt’s book The Israel Lobby. Jeffrey Goldberg’s review, which begins by drawing an extremely long analogy between Osama bin Laden and the two college professors, is headlined:

The Israel Lobby is an Act of Intimidation.

That’s a joke, right? Somebody, please tell me that’s a joke.

Goldberg writes:

“It represents the most sustained attack, the most mainstream attack, against the political enfranchisement of American Jews since the era of Father Coughlin.”

I hear that 31 states have already voted to pass the 28th Amendment to take the vote away from Jews. It’s practically a done deal. The only thing that can stop it are vast contributions to Jewish lobbies. Better get your checkbooks out now or the Cossacks will be riding through Shaker Heights.

• Tags: Israel 
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Have you ever noticed how vastly much more attention is paid in the America press to Israel, a country of 6 million an ocean away, than to Mexico, a country of 109 million that shares a 1,952 mile border with us?

I’m not talking here about press bias for or against Israel or Mexico, just about the amount of coverage of the two countries in America.

For example, last year a leftist uprising that started among school teachers seized control of the big Mexican city of Oaxaca, a common destination for American tourists, and held it against federale attacks for quite a long time, but this seemingly interesting news created barely a ripple in the American media compared to the tsunami of reporting and commentating on Israel.

• Tags: Israel, Mexico 
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Considering that columnist Eric Alterman recently got himself arrested at the Democratic candidate’s debate, there’s a bit of a pot-kettle aspect to Alterman’s American Prospect article denouncing long-time New Republic boss Marty Peretz as “crazy.” But he does a good job of explaining how Peretz’s passionate ethnocentrism has damaged his magazine:

It is really not too much to say that almost all of Peretz’s political beliefs are subordinate to his commitment to Israel‘s best interests, and these interests as Peretz defines them almost always involve more war. Ask yourself: Have you ever — ever — read an editorial in The New Republic that does not take the Israeli government’s side in a dispute? … Is it possible that Israel‘s leaders — unlike every set of leaders that have ever ruled any nation — are always right? And is it possible that for the first time in history, two nations — one, a tiny, beleaguered state in the Middle East, surrounded by hostile countries, the other, a North American superpower, unmenaced on its borders and surrounded by friendly neighbors — just happen to have interests that are identical in absolutely every situation?

Peretz insists that, yes, the interests of Israel and the United States are indeed identical. “Support for Israel,” he claims, “is deep down, an expression of America‘s best view of itself.” Which begs the question of just what “support” entails. For Peretz it has clearly meant support both for the Iraq war and, now, for yet another war against Iran. In a February 5, 2007, cover story entitled “Israel’s Worst Nightmare,” Israeli writers Yossi Klein Halevi and Michael B. Oren failed even to mention America’s interest in going to war against Iran; they made their case purely on the basis of an allegedly existential and unavoidable threat to Israel.

Alterman points to the year 1967 as the turning point:

Peretz and [heiress] Farnsworth married in June 1967 — coincidentally, the same month that the Six Day War transformed not only the Middle East but also American liberalism and American Jewry. For the left, the war’s legacy became a point of painful contention — as many liberals and leftists increasingly viewed Israel as having traded its David status for a new role as an oppressive, occupying Goliath. For many American Jews, however, most of whom previously kept their emotional distance from Israel, the emotional commitment to Israel became so central that it came to define their ethnic, even religious, identities. For Marty Peretz, who had been supporting various New Left causes, these two competing phenomena came to a head in September of that year when a “New Politics” convention that he largely funded collapsed amid a storm of acrimonious accusation, much of it inspired by arguments over Israel.

Lots of people love a winner. Similarly, Israel is never mentioned in long-time Commentary editor Norman Podhoretz’s second autobiography until p. 323, when the 1967 war is won by Israel.

Indeed, I’ve argued jokingly that the lack of big-time college football teams in New York City and Washington D.C. has warped American foreign policy. Ultra-competitive men who, if they had grown up in Oklahoma, would be devoting their fortunes and energies to buying high school quarterbacks for the U. of Oklahoma Sooners, instead buy magazines and think tanks for Israel.

But, maybe that’s not a joke … So, please, would some hedge fund manager give NYU a quarter of a billion to start a Top 10 football team? Your country needs you!

• Tags: Israel 
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Here’s a 2006 story from The Guardian that didn’t get much play in the American media:

Menachem Begin ‘plotted to kill German chancellor’
· Bomb aimed at Adenauer killed disposal expert
· Clash over reparations for Holocaust behind attack

Luke Harding in Berlin, Thursday June 15, 2006, The Guardian

Israel’s former prime minister Menachem Begin was involved in a plot to blow up West Germany’s first post-war chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, Germany’s leading newspaper claimed yesterday.

The respected Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung claimed that the Zionist leader approved and helped organise the assassination attempt using a bomb hidden in an encyclopaedia, even offering to sell his gold watch as the conspirators ran out of money.

The bomb, arranged in March 1952, was detected before it reached Adenauer, but exploded killing a disposal expert and injuring two of his colleagues. French detectives arrested five Israeli people in Paris, all of whom were members of the Zionist group Irgun Tsvai Leumi, which Begin was linked to.

One of the alleged conspirators, Elieser Sudit, now 82, implicated Begin in a memoir written 40 years after the bomb went off. Begin, who was to become Israel‘s prime minister between 1977 and 1983, was, after the war, incensed by Adenauer’s offer to pay Israel compensation for the Holocaust. He clashed bitterly with Israel‘s Labour leader David Ben-Gurion, rejecting his talks with Germany for compensation for the Nazis’ crimes against the Jews. …

But Mr Sudit told Haaretz this week: “The intent was not to hit Adenauer but to rouse the international media. It was clear to all of us there was no chance the package would reach Adenauer.” [More]

Well, I certainly don’t know the full story of Menachem Begin and Konrad Adenauer, but this does remind me of the time the police suspected me of intending to blow up Margaret Thatcher with a letter bomb.

In 1999, I was invited to speak at a small conference in Maryland where Mrs. Thatcher was to be the guest of honor. At the last moment, I decided I needed some new business cards to hand out to all the important folks there. There wasn’t much time, so I told the printer to FedEx my box of 1000 new business cards directly to the hotel.

The day before I left, I got a phone call from the chief of police in the Maryland town, who told me that a small but suspiciously dense package addressed to me had been delivered to the hotel where Mrs. Thatcher was to arrive the next day. “Before we have the bomb disposal robot throw it in Chesapeake Bay, I figured I’d give you a call and see what you have to say for yourself,” he said.

I finally figured out what the chief was talking about, and fulsomely reassured him that I wasn’t an IRA terrorist. Eventually, some brave soul opened my package and confirmed that it was indeed full of business cards, so it wasn’t dunked in the Bay.

• Tags: Israel 
Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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