Posts filed under ‘Israel’

Sex not in these Cities

What’s in a name … of a hit TV series turned blockbuster cinematic event?

There will be no public ads for the movie version of “Sex and the City” in two Israeli cities, Jerusalem and Petah Tikva. Why? Some folks who saw the ads didn’t like the use of the word “sex.”

Is this a sign that what some people call the lone democracy in the Middle East is using some most un-democratic censorship? Should we instead view it as behavior to emulate, given what neo-Puritans like myself see as an unbecoming American obsession with X-rated affairs?

I enjoyed what Vogue magazine called SATC:TM. It was great to see Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha return on the big screen. I give it two thumbs up … or, alternately, two Manolo Blahniks up.

I can also see how the movie’s depiction of sex would upset the haredim in Eretz Yisrael, as well as people across the US who are concerned with family values and their potential threat by risque behavior on the screen. Maybe the action of the two Israeli cities contains not just censorship, but courage.



June 9, 2008 at 8:29 pm Leave a comment

Hagee endorses McCain

Surprise: Pastor John Hagee of San Antonio, founder of Christians United for Israel, endorsed Arizona Sen. John McCain for president — not ordained Baptist minister and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

The New York Times detailed Hagee’s, er, intriguing beliefs on Eretz Yisrael and end-times prophecies. While these beliefs may unsettle and/or confuse the secular Times, they’re in step with many other Americans. “(In) one poll last year, 42 per cent of Americans said they believed that ‘Israel was given to the Jewish people by God’, and 32 per cent that Israel is ‘part of the fulfilment of biblical prophecy and the Second Coming of Jesus,'” the Times Literary Supplement reported.Wonder if Hagee’s support shows a conservative shift towards McCain?

February 28, 2008 at 8:08 pm Leave a comment

Cause and conflict in Gaza

Interrelated events have occurred in Israel and the Gaza Strip that make me wonder … if Palestinian militants turn off the missile attacks on Sderot, will the Israeli Defense Forces turn the power back on in Gaza City?

The situation in the Gaza Strip is grimmer than usual. Israel has closed off its borders. The sole power plant in the area has closed due to lack of fuel. The United Nations predicted a humanitarian crisis. An exodus to Egypt resulted when masked men created openings in a border fence.

And yet: Would this not stop if the militants of Hamas would discontinue their policy of launching Qassam missiles into Sderot?

“There are endless stories of kassam rockets exploding,” reporter Noam Bedein writes on “Every single family in Sderot has experienced the explosion of a rocket nearby.”

I wonder if the images of Palestinians fleeing their new state in Gaza might prove more helpful in convincing the leaders of Hamas to stop the rocket attacks. It seems that some Palestinians would prefer the government of another state — Egypt, which ruled the Gaza Strip until Israel captured the territory in the Six-Day War of 1967 — to that which the Palestinian people elected.

“(Although) many later returned, thousands are likely to have vanished from the besieged coastal strip permanently,” Newsweek reported

Perhaps what some Palestinians want in Gaza right now is not a Right of Return to their ancestral homes in Israel, but a right to live in peace and prosperity. Because of Israel’s collective punishment for the sins committed against Sderot, the government of Hamas is denying this right to the people who elected it. When will that stance change?

January 24, 2008 at 6:20 pm Leave a comment

What’s next after Annapolis?

Like his predecessor, Bill Clinton, President George Bush has miraculously discovered that the Israeli-Palestinian crisis needs a resolution. As Clinton tried to cram a compromise between Israel and the Palestinian Authority within a year, so is Dubya seeking closure with one year to go before the end of his second and final term in office.

Regardless of such simplistic thinking, there is a new impetus toward peace of some sort in the Middle East. What should the terms be?

The best resolution would create two states that respect each other’s existence. No settlements in the West Bank, no deletions of Israel from Palestinian textbooks. This pragmatism could bring peace, but hawks on both sides would not approve. After all, Hebron, in the West Bank, contains the Cave of Machpelah, where the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are buried. Meanwhile, the Palestinians whose ancestors fled the British Mandate in the 1948 War of Independence — or whose ancestors fell under Israeli occupation after the 1967 Six-Day War — would have to relinquish their long-sought Right of Return.

What right does an outsider like me have to suggest to Israelis and Palestinians what to do? It all sounds so easy here in Malden, Massachusetts. Still, at what cost do both sides wish to continue their mutually-destructive goals? More military and civilian deaths, and an unending sense of tension? That seems good enough for some. “Israel’s use of land for settlements conforms to all rules and norms of international law,” blathers a release from the Israeli Foreign Ministry. This, after an unending rain of Katyusha rockets causes panic in the border city of Sderot.

I’m not calling for Eretz Yisrael to go on a “land-for-peace” surrendering spree. But as the more militarily and politically powerful of the two sides in this conflict, Israel could do much for peace by halting the construction of settlements and strengthening its borders (the security wall, when legally constructed, has been a good idea in this case). If Israel stays strong, and Palestine responds in good faith as the Egyptians did under Anwar el-Sadat after Menachem Begin gave back the Sinai Peninsula, perhaps this last dream of Dubya’s will result in success.

January 15, 2008 at 5:46 pm Leave a comment

Peace problems in Middle East

How can Israel and the Palestinian Authority settle their differences and live in a peaceful partnership?

If President Bush wants to assist in this endeavor, Tuesday’s meeting in Annapolis between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was an encouraging start; the sides agreed to continue talks on Dec. 12.

Abbas has lasted in power for over two years, but it is unclear how much authority will stand behind anything he agrees to. The influence of Hamas cannot be ignored in these deliberations, and its absence at the talks suggests that Abbas’ ability to speak for the people he represents is limited at best. Hamas leaders, the AP reported, “labeled Abbas a traitor for coming to the meeting, and vowed to reject any decisions to come out of the conference.”

It is also unclear what — if anything — he will agree to. “In his talk,” the AP reported, “Abbas gave no indication that the Palestinians were willing to concede on any of the flashpoint issues that have derailed previous peace efforts: the status of disputed Jerusalem, refugees, the borders of an independent Palestine and Israeli settlements. ”

 We’ll see if President Bush can succeed in resolving these thus-far intractable issues.

November 27, 2007 at 9:26 pm Leave a comment

Partitions and (lack of) peace

Next Thursday morning, Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., will sponsor an event on three partitions that continue to shape world affairs: those of Israel, Ireland and India. The event will occur on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations decision to divide the British mandate of Palestine into two states.

We see the perils of partition today. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which will tentatively take place next Tuesday in Annapolis, Md., must confront once again the thorny issues of Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlers, borders for Israeli and Palestinian states, the status of Jerusalem, and Palestinian calls for a right of return. Meanwhile, the government of Pakistan — a state possessing nuclear weapons — is facing threats to its existence by Islamic fundamentalists and by the return of former two-time prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

In a column for the Wall Street Journal last March, former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan criticized the vanity of the trio behind the partition of India — the British Lord Mountbatten, future Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and future Pakistani leader Muhammed Ali Jinnah — and argued for deliberation, not the speed which she attributed to the violence of 1947, in nation-building.

“Mountbatten could have resisted partition, or slowed it, or lessened its impact,” Noonan wrote. “He was a decisive and dynamic man, a great one I think, but if he’d been capable of introspection, of self-analysis, of self-skepticism, he might have recognized and resisted his too-driven sense of Mission, and the personal vanity that was always, with him, a spur.”

Instead, hasty partitions left a legacy of violence that continues to trouble the world. With the current troubles in Pakistan, it seems that leaders both in Islamabad and Washington, DC are following historical error and unwisely rushing to change an existing situation.

November 21, 2007 at 4:28 pm 1 comment

Apartheid: An Israeli Sequel?

The South African policies of apartheid outraged people across the world because these laws promoted an unequal relationship between blacks and whites. A survivor of the anti-apartheid movement sees a parallel in the Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize and keynote speaker at a two-day conference on Israel, Palestine and apartheid at Boston’s Old South Church this weekend, likened Israel’s stance to that of his nation under apartheid. “There are differences between the two situations, but a comparison need not be exact in every feature to yield clarity about what is going on,” Archbishop Tutu wrote in a Boston Globe op-ed on Friday. “Moreover, for those of us who lived through the dehumanizing horrors of the apartheid era, the comparison seems not only apt, it is also necessary. It is necessary if we are to persevere in our hope that things can change.”

States commit sins in the interest of national security. Israel establishes separate roads for its citizens and Palestinians in the West Bank and lops off Palestinian property in constructing its security wall. These measures, as well as numerous others, indicate that Israel views its citizens far more favorably than it does the Palestinian population it inherited in the Six-Day War of 1967.

The Palestinian cause is hardly blameless. Palestinians have responded to Israeli policies with equally odious measures, killing infants and the elderly in suicide bombings. As much as it has aroused outcry at The Hague, Israel’s security wall is thwarting suicide attacks and creating peace — albeit an unequal one — in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

And yet reports of injustice in Palestine show that Israel is purchasing this peace at a cost in international opinion. Televised images of dogs attacking civil-rights marchers horrified American audiences in the 1960s and helped solidify support for integration. Photos of civilian victims of US strikes turned Americans against the Vietnam War. When a cause becomes morally repugnant in the eyes of many, it grows difficult to rationalize in the diplomatic dodging of Machiavelli, Metternich or Kissinger.

If Israel’s government institutes apartheid in the West Bank, it must disengage from there as it did with the Gaza Strip in 2005. Israel can preserve its pre-1967 boundaries and ideals while helping Palestinians fulfill their own dreams of nationhood. The reality may be imperfect for both sides — especially Likudniks hoping for a Greater Israel and Palestinians seeking a Right of Return — but it will provide Jews and Palestinians with a better, fairer alternative.

October 27, 2007 at 8:56 pm Leave a comment

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