The Holodomor

Ukraine has previously suffered at Russia’s expense. The Holodomor is the name given to the man-made famine that gripped the Ukraine, a rich grain-producing area, in 1932-3. As a result of economic incompetence and mismanagement, the USSR was about to undergo a famine in its big cities in the north, Moscow, Leningrad (St. Petersburg) and Stalingrad (Volgograd). In order to maintain his control over the Soviet Union, Stalin made a decision. He would have to steal the grain from Ukraine in the south to feed the main population areas in the north. He then organized a campaign, sending armed groups into Ukraine and stealing all the grain they could find to transport north.

When the campaign started the peasants who had grown the grain started to hoard it and hide it in various places. The stealing of the grain then became a terror campaign, with peasants and farmers who had hidden their grain being summarily shot. Without any grain as food and without any income, the whole of Ukraine, some 40 million people, became starved. Within a year, without any food, some 10% of the population died of starvation, some 4 million people. Children were left without parents and starved, cannibalism became rife, with the living feeding off the dead and dying.

This famine is described in detail in the iconic book by Robert Conquest entitled “Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine” (Oxford University Press, 1986). In order to give an ideological justification to this wholesale stealing and death, Stalin used the concept of collectivization of farming as an excuse. The idea was that small peasant-owned farms were inefficient. The land and farming had to be collectivized so that peasants and farmers would work together on large state-owned farms. Of course, anyone who resisted the confiscation of his/her grain, land and animals was considered to be anti-Soviet, an enemy of the people, and so was murdered without compunction or due process.

Although reports of the famine and the terrible treatment of Ukrainians that accompanied it, were reported in the West, little information was allowed to leak out. Under these circumstances pro-Soviet leftists such as the Webbs accepted the lie that the opposition of the Ukrainian kulaks (wealthy farmers) to collectivization had to be opposed by force. Also Walter Duranty, a NY Times journalist, reported that there was no famine and that the peasants were well-fed and happy, and he was given a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting from the USSR. Only many years later was it found that he was in the pay of the Soviets, and his “fake news” was exposed.

Needless to say, the surviving Ukrainians hated these collectivized State farms and often deliberately sabotaged them, an act that was punishable by death. But, in any case these farms were extremely inefficient, and large numbers of farm animals were allowed to die and grain production plummeted. It was not until the collapse of Communism in 1991 and the establishment of a free Ukraine, that farms were returned to their original owners and grain production skyrocketed, and Ukraine is now the fourth largest exporter of grain in the world. That is until this year, due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the blockade of Ukrainian ports..

Comparing Ukraine with Israel

I have seen numerous comments that said in effect, why is Ukraine getting all the attention and not the Palestinians, thus equating Israel with Russia. The true comparison, between the Israel-Arab conflict and the Ukraine-Russia one is that Israel is the independent, sovereign, democratic country, like Ukraine, being attacked by a combination of extremist Islamist terrorists and States, that include Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah and various others. Here is a quote, “Killing civilians with knives and axes will not make any cause just.” This was said in a i24 news interview by a commentator from Dubai, UAE, named Loay Al Shareef.

The true comparison is that Ukraine and Israel are the sovereign, recognized, democratic States that are being invaded, attacked, delegitimized and destroyed by hostile forces, those of Russia and the Arab world respectively. While it is true that Ukraine was once part of Russia, and Palestine was once part of the Muslim world (part of the Ottoman Empire), nevertheless through war and struggle they both managed to obtain their independent, sovereign existence as States. It is illegal under international law for Russia to invade Ukraine, just as it is illegal for Iran to threaten to destroy Israel with nuclear weapons and for Arabs to attack and murder Israeli citizens.

The world is united in its condemnation of Russia for its unjustified and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, but when Hamas in Gaza fire thousands of rockets into Israel, and terrorists hack to death innocent Jewish civilians in the streets, the liberals in the Western world say nothing. There is in principle no difference between them. Just because the Palestinians once lived in this area, never having sovereignty, doesn’t mean that their claim is any more justified than Russia’s over Ukraine. This double standard is a feature of Western society, to accept any anti-Jewish trope, but to take just the opposite view in all other similar cases. It is shameful.

The Israeli Choice: Arabs or Haredim?

It is a cruel irony of the Israeli political system that small minorities have essential control of the Jewish State’s fate. The Jewish majority is in stalemate between the right (essentially Likud under Bibi) and the rest, the anti-Bibi coalition (essentially the current Bennett-Lapid-Gantz-Liberman government), Neither side has a clear majority and cannot form a government without the two major minorities, the Arabs and the Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox Jews), 20% and 13% respectively of the population.. The Bibi-Likud side relies on the small Haredi parties (Shas, United Torah Judaism) to give it a majority, and the others rely on the Arab Ra’am Party to do the same. In each case the minorities use their King-maker role to the hilt by demanding both support (government cash) for their constituents and/or changes to the political situation that favors their interests.

The Haredim have become past-masters at this game, so much so that the misappropriation of funds by Shas leader Arie Deri when he was a Minister landed him in jail and he has been distrusted ever since. Shas and UTJ regularly demand and get government subsidies for their religious Yeshiva educational movements, including payments to Yeshiva students for not joining the IDF like everyone else. The Arabs have been slow to realize that they too could play this game, and they have now found their political leader, Mansour Abbas, who with his Ra’am Party seceded from the Arab Joint List to join Bennett’s coalition, that has survived defections of his own party members because of this arrangement with the support of the 5 Ra’am members. They have obtained not only financial support for Arab causes, such as help with municipal funding, but they also demanded and got Government support for the electrification and building of roads to unrecognized Bedouin villages. This is a clear case of biased government funding, since unrecognized Jewish villages on the West Bank have not been given such amenities.

It is always a bad situation when a small minority group controls the majority because they have the few votes that allows a coalition to govern as a government. So for the average Israeli voter it is a case of who they want that minority group to be, the Haredim or the Arabs. The right will choose the former, and the center-left will choose the latter (because they want the Arabs to become part of the system). Personally I’d rather have a Jewish minority holding the balance of power in any Government of the Jewish State.

Nakba Lies

I watched several news media channels reporting on the Nakba festivities in several countries and they report the Palestinian narrative as if it were true, But, it’s not based on truth, its all lies. Here is what actually happened, judge for yourself:

Lie #1 The Jews/Israel “stole” Palestinian Land: Actually what happened in fact was that in 1947 Britain, the responsible Mandatory government of Palestine, transferred the problem to the UN. The UN came up with a Partition Plan to divide Palestine between Jewish and Arab States (Transjordan had already been established from the Mandate in 1922 unilaterally by Britain). The Jews accepted the Partition Plan, the Arabs rejected it, and 5 Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq) invaded the young Jewish state., The Jews were forced to fight for their survival (only 3 years after the Holocaust ended), not only against them but also against the Arab Liberation Army of the Palestinians led by Fawzi al Kaukji. No-one expected them to survive outnumbered ca. 10 to 1, but they indeed did defeat all the Arab armies and captured land from them. So the State of Israel was founded not on “stolen land” but on Land voted by the UN and then captured by Israel in an illegal war of destruction against it. SO EASY TO FORGET THIS!

Lie #2 The Right of Return: There is no such international law as “the right of return” of emigrants back to their original land of domicile, this is a product of Palestinian propaganda. There was a war in which some 700-800,000 Palestinians fled from Palestine (why they did is still a matter of dispute, note that an equal number did not flee and became Israeli citizens now 20% of the population). According to international refugee law, immigrants are supposed to be registered in the first country they reach and are supposed to be settled there as citizens. However, most of the countries where Palestinians fled to (Syria, Lebanon, the Gulf) they were not given citizenship (except for Jordan), but were kept separate in camps run by the UN agency UNRWA.

Lie #3 There are 5.8 million Palestinian Refugees: This number, put out by UNRWA is a lie, since it includes all descendants of the original refugees, their children, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren.. According to international refugee law, as applied by the UN High Commission for Refugees, in all other cases, only the original emigrants count as refugees, NOT their descendants. Why are the Palestinians the only ones in the world to claim this status? Since there were originally ca. 700,000 Palestinian refugees 74 years ago, it is quite easy to estimate that there are now only ca. 20,000 original refugees left alive. This number is dwarfed by the refugees that were in Europe after 1945 (only 77 years ago) after WWII, but none of them had any “right of return” and you don’t hear about them now, you only hear about the Palestinians.

Lie #4 Israel is illegitimate and has no right to exist: This is another lie, Britain was given the Mandate for Palestine by the League of Nations (the precursor of the UN) in 1922 in order to establish a “Jewish Homeland.” No Arab state or homeland was mentioned in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 that became part of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1922 that carved up the former Ottoman Empire, from which the Arabs got five states (Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Transjordan, Arabia) and the Jews got one (Israel). Apart from this international legitimacy that was accepted by the UN (but not recognized by the Arabs), there was an exchange of populations. While Israel was in the process of being founded, and absorbing a million displaced survivors of the Holocaust from Europe, the Arabs turned on their Jewish minorities and attacked them, thousands were killed from Algeria in the west to Iraq in the east. In Iraq especially there had been a fascist pro-Nazi government during WWII and in July 1941 there was a pogrom (an anti-Jewish massacre) known as the Farhud (dispossession) that killed ca. 1,000 Jews in Baghdad. As a result of these attacks ca. 850,000 Jews emigrated from all over the Arab world to the new Jewish State for safety, in the period 1948-1955. They were forced to leave behind their property and wealth, and in Israel they were housed in refugee camps (ma’abarot) and eventually integrated into the Israeli population (unlike the Palestinians in the Arab world). This exchange of populations also certainly justifies the existence of the Jewish State

Funeral Fiasco

There were terrible scenes of conflict between violent Palestinian extremists throwing stones and Israeli police attacking the crowd, at the funeral of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jerusalem yesterday. Whoever was responsible for the scenes of chaos, Israel was widely criticized for the outcome.

The Israeli police had sufficient justification to try to bring the funeral under control, but it was a big mistake because Israel would always be blamed. Apparently the police and Abu Aklah’s family had agreed on a route and that her coffin would be transported in a hearse. But the mob of thousands of Palestinian youths grabbed the coffin and began using it as an excuse for a nationalist display, waving Palestinian flags and shouting anti-Israel slogans. This angered the police, who charged the crowd. In the fracas the coffin was nearly dropped by the mob.

It was an unfortunate outcome, but one of the Palestinian youths explained the cause by saying “she was our spokesman.” Is that an honorable epitaph for someone who was supposed to be a true journalist. Al Jazeera and much of the Western press (CNN, BBC, NYT) have an in-built anti-Israel bias. We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

It’s a pity this occurred, and it would have been much better if the Israeli police had let the Palestinian mob do what they do. But I personally won’t shed any tears for someone who was a committed enemy of Israel with a large following.

Hamas Changes Strategy

From 2007 when it took power in Gaza in a coup, until 2022, the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood affiliate Hamas, a recognized terrorist organization, had a simple strategy, directly attack Israel indiscriminately with unguided rockets and guided missiles, to cause as much damage as possible and to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible. This is shown in the table, with a listing of the IDF operations that ensued.

Year	No. of Rockets	Operation
		
2007	   2,433      [Hamas takes Gaza]
2008	   3,557	 Cast Lead
2012	   2,771      Pillar of Defense
2014	   1,897       Protective Edge
2015-17	   75	
2018	   1.571	
2019	   2.045	
2021	   4,300     Guardian of the Walls
2022	   12	

Information in this table is from "A spark awaiting to ignite a fire" by Anna Aronheim," J. Post. 13/5/22

A glance at the table will show that after several attempts in 2008-2014, each IDF Operation produced only ca. 2 years of quiet. However, after the last Operation in 2022 we have had one of the quietest periods in Gaza. This is because 1. Israel agreed to allow Qatar to provide millions of dollars in support to Hamas in Gaza, in exchange for a cessation of rockets fired; 2. The increased effectiveness of the Iron Dome system, that although expensive, makes rocket fire hardly worthwhile, and 3. The increased experience of the Israeli population in sheltering in explosion proof shelters.

Yahya Sinwar took over in Gaza from Ismail Haniyeh in 2017, and the huge attacks in 2018-21resulted in the most damaging IDF response yet. After the damage and, the losses and the economic devastation, Sinwar seems to have decided to change strategy. He now has opted for quiet on the Gaza border, in response to Israel agreeing to the supply of Qatari funds, and the allowance of ca. 10,000 Gazan working in Israel every day and the regular delivery of food, water, oil and electricity. This has enabled Gaza to recover somewhat. But instead, Sinwar is encouraging attacks against Israel from the West Bank and Jerusalem.

I strongly disagree with the estimate by the Israel security services that the current wave of terrorist attacks that has killed 19 Israelis and injured many more are “lone wolf” attacks that are individually planned and randomly executed. It seems obvious to me that there is a organizing hand behind these attacks, and that can only be Sinwar, who publicly called for his followers to murder Israelis with knives, axes and guns. He obtains several aims with this current wave, he keeps the attacks on Israel going, he achieves more kills than with his thousands of rockets, he activates the Palestinian “street” to support Hamas and not Fatah that runs the PA, and he is able to go about his business in Gaza unhindered.

It is significant that the rioting activists on the Temple Mount during Ramadan and after it, trying to prevent Jews from ascending, raised the Hamas flag and a huge poster supporting Hamas. And it is equally significant that other worshippers no doubt supporters of Fatah from the PA tore them down. Whether Israel will accept to buy quiet on the Gaza border at the expense of increased terrorism in Israel and greater instability in the West Bank remains to be seen.

Finland and Sweden to Join NATO

In a major turn-around in European politics, both Finland and Sweden that have been carefully neutral between the West represented by NATO and Russia (and formerly the Soviet Union) have decided to join NATO. Their Governments have made this decision and their parliaments have in the case of Finland voted and will in the case of Sweden vote for this. What has brought about this 180 degree change in their traditional policy, clearly it is the brutal and unjustified invasion by Russia under Pres. Putin of Ukraine. Whereas traditionally only about 25% of their populations voted to join NATO in the past, that number has jumped to 75% in the past few weeks.

When they see that the invasion of Ukraine has killed thousands and destroyed cities and made 7 million homeless and over 5 million leave the country, they realize that Russia is both ruthless, bloodthirsty and expansionist. They know they cannot alone deal with such a Russia. Joining NATO gives them the support not only of the other European powers, but also of the US and Canada. Finland has the longest border of any European country with Russia, over 1,300 km long. This makes Finland uniquely vulnerable. And Finland has never forgotten the areas that were taken from it both in the past by Imperial Russia and in the aftermath of WWII by the USSR when Finland was allied to Germany (mainly because of its enmity to Russia).

One of the main reasons Putin embarked on his foolish war trying to conquer and incorporate Ukraine into Russia was to prevent NATO expanding eastwards. In this he failed, because now NATO will have an extensive border with Russia, and any attempt to invade or attack Finland or Sweden will result in a war with NATO. PM Boris Johnson went to both countries and signed agreements with them to support them in the interim period before they are accepted as members of NATO. So what Putin went to war over has come to pass, and no doubt it makes Putin mad.

But, what can he do about it? Essentially nothing, the incompetence and inability of his army has been revealed for all to see, Rejuvenated with the flow of Western arms into Ukraine, the Ukrainian Army is now recapturing areas around Kharkov, and Putin’s forces have still not been able to take the Azovstal steel works. He does not have enough military production to replace the hundreds of tanks that have been destroyed or the high number of Russian casualties. He is in no position to start a second front, even if he wanted to, and to try to fight NATO would be foolish. His only alternative is to threaten to use nuclear weapons, but that would be a terrible mistake. Let’s hope he realizes that.

Death of a Journalist

A Palestinian American journalist, Shireen Abu Aklah, working for Al Jazeera, was short dead on Wednesday while covering an Israeli raid in the West Bank city of Jenin. She was struck in the head by a live bullet while standing with other journalists in Jenin’s refugee camp, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry and Al Jazeera. She had been wearing a press vest. Another Al Jazeera reporter who was working with Abu Akleh, Ali Samoudi, was injured during the attack. He is reportedly in stable condition.

It was immediately reported and assumed that she was killed by Israeli gunfire, but the IDF spokesman questioned that and called for a joint investigation with the Palestine Authority. The PA however refused such a joint investigation and said that she would be buried immediately. It is clear that the only piece of evidence that could prove one way or another who shot her was the bullet, but that presumably will be buried with her. In this way the PA and pro-Palestinians forces will be able to blame the Israeli military without a shred of evidence.

The Israeli military pointed to a video that was uploaded to media showing a Palestinian gunman shooting randomly down an alley and then shouting “I got one, I shot a soldier, he fell.” When in fact the IDF reported that no soldiers were shot and that this gunman could have killed Shireen. In any case it is of course extremely dangerous to be standing around in the middle of a firefight between the IDF and Palestinian gunmen.

Why were the Israeli military there in the first place. Because there has been a wave of terrorist killings in Israel in the past two months that has taken 19 Israeli lives. The last major incident in Elad involved the murder of 3 Israeli men in which the two terrorists from Jenin used an axe and a dagger, At least two of the incidents have involved men from Jenin, and there has been extensive violent rioting during Ramadan on the Temple Mount, No doubt there was little reporting of these murderous incidents in the Western media. But, the death of a Palestinian American journalist will get the Palestinians a lot of sympathetic coverage.

Both Shireen Abu Aklah and AL Jazeera are known for their militant pro-Palestinian bias. You might think this is a good reason why an IDF soldier might have shot her. But, the IDF is a relatively well-informed army. They know that the death of any Palestinian, let alone an American journalist will be used as great PR in the constant anti-Israel media campaign. I suggest that no Israeli soldier would shoot a woman wearing a Press vest, and that someone from Hamas, a terrorist organization with no scruples, could just as well have done it for the PR value. But, without proof, any person of balanced views must suspend judgement, and remember why the IDF was there, to root out the evil of the terrorist murders of Israeli civilians.

Putin’s Speech

May 9 is Victory Day against the Nazis of WWII. As usual there was a huge military parade in Moscow, lauded over by Pres.Vladimir Putin. However in fact the parade was somewhat smaller than previous years, and Putin’s remarks were not as militant as previously expected.

He showed no sign of backing down on Ukraine, but on the other hand he neither declared victory in Ukraine nor declared any specific battle plans. He blamed the West for the creeping annexation of countries closer to Russia, but he said that every step must be taken to avoid WWIII.

His excuse for the “special operation” in Ukraine was very shallow. And his justification that in effect any enemy of Russia is automatically “Nazi” was very superficial.

The Russian people still support Putin, but they really don’t have much choice. The contrast between the EU meeting on this day could not have been greater. Let’s hope the European democratic and multi-national model will win over the autocratic Russian one. Support for Putin can only be reduced if there is both great losses in Ukraine and actual defeat. His speech implies a continuation as it is, and probable stalemate.

The fact is that for a former superpower, the Russian military offensive in Ukraine has shown terrible incompetence and lack of capability. So far Russia has been fought to a standstill and may soon be forced to withdraw again as it did from Kyiv. Random indiscriminate bombing of Ukrainian cities only causes greater resistance among Ukrainians and provides them with a perfect cover for defense and resistance. Putin made a huge blunder when he invaded Ukraine and has got everything he didn’t want, a strengthening of NATO, an eastern expansion of NATO and a near defeat in Ukraine after nearly 3 months of fighting.

Terrorism Update

Israeli forces have an excellent reputation, but not always deserved. After three days of scouring the country and the West Bank, the security forces found the two terrorists who murdered three Israelis in Elad – 5 mins walk from where the incident occurred. They did not take a car as was reported, they merely walked until they found a wooded area and hid in dense bushes. The thing is that some cameras showed their escape, but were not investigated for 2 days. Finally when they were detected hiding in bushes, where they had not eaten or drank in three days, they readily gave themselves up and admitted the killings. This shows that our expectation that they had planned this act, including their getaway and hideout, was not justified. They are the lowest form of human being.

After consultations with his top security officials, PM Bennett announced that he was forming (or rather re-forming) a civilian volunteer defense organization. Many years ago, when I was young (i.e. in my 60’s) I joined the volunteer auxiliary police force in Netanya. A few of us, usually in pairs, would patrol the city. We were given routes and some of the volunteers had gun licenses and were armed. But, most of us were not, and our function was to act as a warning system, if we saw something untoward we were not to take any action, but to call the real police and they would take care of it.

One day we were patrolling the main street of Netanya when two boys came running fast towards us followed by a man shouting in Hebrew thiefs (ganavim). I reacted instantly and put myself in the path of one of them, which was a stupid thing to do, since he hit me running fast and knocked me to the ground. Luckily I was not hurt, just winded. Later I was told I should have tried to trip him. That was the most exciting thing that happened to me. There was also a fight over a parking space, but the terrorism that had been a terrible wave durng the second intifada faded and they soon abolished the force. Now we need it back.

Although I wrote in my last blog post that 18 Israelis were murdered in terrorist attacks in the past two months actually it was 19. I inadvertently forgot the Israeli policeman who heard the shooting in Bnei Berak and immediately ran to the scene, he was the first security to arrive, and although he shot both of the perpetrators, he himself was shot and died of his wounds. He was Amir Khoury, an Israeli Christian Arab.

On the front page of today’s Jerusalem Post is an item that Yahya Sinwar, Head of Hamas in Gaza, publicly warned the Israeli Government not to re-start its policy of targeted assassinations of terrorist leaders, for if they did Hamas would respond with another wave of missiles and bombings throughout Israel. This is real intimidation. He thinks he can organize a wave of terrorism from the West Bank and Israel while Gaza stays quiet and workers come into Israel every day to earn needed incomes. I hope the Israeli Government isn’t intimidated. Tough action must be taken to stop the current wave of murderous attacks with knives, axes and guns, just as Sinwar has publicly told them to do.

After the above was written, there were reports of two more terrorist attacks tonight, one in Tekoah, where a Palestinian terrorist entered a house and was shot dead by the homeowner who is a security guard, and another in Jerusalem, where a Palestinian stabbed and wounded a security officer at the Damascus Gate but was also shot.