Balfour Declaration Centenary

Think of it this way, suppose we were not Jews living in Israel.  A group of people, a tribe or nation, gets a Declaration from a major imperial power that they should get their own homeland.  Then a major war is fought and after the war as part of the peace agreement that Declaration is enshrined into international law by an international body, in this case the League of Nations, and then confirmed by the United Nations.  Subsequently that imperial power (GB) leaves the scene and the contestants for the Land fight it out.  The side with the Declaration wins and the other loses.  Then this side declares itself a State and the UN recognizes it.  End of story.

Unfortunately not quite, because many actors on the sidelines refuse to accept the reality, and they are still tilting at windmills, still trying to reverse history, which cannot be reversed after 70 years.  Think of all the enormous things that have happened since then, the fall of communism and the breakup of the Soviet Union, the reunification of Germany, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the collapse of most of the Arab regimes, and so on.  Can any of it be reversed?  Of course not!  It defeats logic to believe it can be.

The letter by Sir Arthur Balfour. then British Foreign Secretary, that declared that the British Government would support the establishment of a Jewish Homeland in a part of the Turkish Empire after it was defeated started the whole process.  But, lets face facts, this was only the imprimatur that the Zionists needed.  They would have established a State anyway.  But, it puts the lie to those idiots who deny that Israel has a “right to exist” since it does exist and will continue to do so, and nobody can alter that fact.

There are still people who have the desire and intention of trying to alter that fact, even 100 years after the Balfour Declaration was issued.  Notably the Iranians and those terrorist organizations it supports, Hamas and Hezbollah.  But, there is negligible likelihood that they will ever be able to carry out their recurrent threats.  So although we may celebrate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration and many articles will be written about its significance. nevertheless it is long since past history.  Let’s get on with the job of continuing to build our thriving country – Israel.

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Catalan and Kurdish Independence

In principle I support all national groups to achieve self-determination.  But as I argued before, it’s not as simple as that in practice (see Isblog, “Self-Determination” Oct 8, 2017).  There is a tendency for large Empires to break up.  After WWI the Austro-Hungarian and Turkish Empires were defeated and fell apart.  After WWII, the British, German and Japanese Empires collapsed.  After the fall of communism the Soviet Union’s Empire gave rise to 15 independent countries (Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan,Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Armenia, Georgia) and Yugoslavia to 6 (Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina).  You’d think there would be space for a few more, but the current two which have declared independence face insuperable odds.

Catalonia has been a part of Spain for hundreds of years and faces significant opposition from the Spanish State.  They will be fearful that if they allow Catalonia to go, then the others will follow, such as the Basque region etc.  Kurdistan faces insuperable opposition, from Iraq, Iran and Turkey, all of which have significant Kurdish minorities.   There is likely to be a war in both cases.  Such independence is rarely achieved without a fight, as Israel discovered.  The earth is so crowded with competing forces that any piece of it is sure to be fought over.  Established countries don’t like to be broken up, they would rather fight a civil war, as did the USA.

In the modern world there is definitely a move towards more compact defensible ethnically homogeneous countries.  Quality now predominates over quantity in military affairs, as Israel has proven so exceptionally.  Also, with a modern technologically based economy any small country can make it, look at Singapore.   It is not difficult to predict that Scotland will move towards independence, ironically to remain in the EU.  This could trigger the breakup of the so-called United Kingdom, reversing centuries of English conquest and domination.  The world will start to look different.

The Man with the Iron Heart

The man with the iron heart” is the title of a recent movie about Reinhard Heydrich and is also the nickname that Hitler gave to him, his favorite protegé.   Heydrich was a naval officer when he was court-martialled for taking advantage of a woman.  He was embittered and then joined the Nazi party.  He rose to become head of SS intelligence and showed his ruthless anti-Semitic character.   Hitler liked him for his dedication to the cause and for his blond blue-eyed Aryan look, something Hitler himself lacked, with his mousey brown hair and silly mustache.

When WWII started Hitler put Heydrich in charge of the Einsatzgruppen, the mobile Special Forces units that swept through occupied Eastern Europe murdering ca. 1.5 million Jews.  But because this process was not efficient enough, Heydrich then organized the Wannsee Conference in 1941, in which the program for the Final Solution of the Jewish Problem was revealed.  His aim was to kill all 11 million European Jews.  For his ruthless dedication Hitler appointed Heydrich the “Protector of Bohemia and Moravia” (Czechoslovakia).   In this role he was also known for his extreme ruthlessness in stamping out Czech resistance and was called “The Butcher of Prague.”

Two Czech soldiers serving in the British Army, Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik, were chosen to be parachuted behind enemy lines and make their way to Prague, where they cooperated with the resistance in a plan to assassinate Heydrich.  No senior German official had been assassinated by the resistance throughout Europe, partly because the Germans carried out terrible reprisals.  Because Heydrich was so arrogant he took few security precautions, so they planned to shoot him as he was driven one morning down from the Castle into the town.

They managed to do this in June 1942, even against great odds, and Heydrich died later that night.  The reprisals that the Nazis took were indeed terrible, they suspected the village of Lidice outside Prague of having been involved in the plot, and so they murdered everyone in the village, altogether ca. 1,300 people, and burned the village to the ground, a heinous atrocity.  The two Czech soldiers were found and committed suicide before being captured.

This is not an easy movie to watch, its subject matter and action are not entertaining.  But, it is very well made and acted and I highly recommend it.  We should all know what actually happened during WWII, even though mankind has not been able to prevent such kind of events recurring.

Arnona Games

Arnona is the Hebrew for municipal or property taxes.  As an old retired couple (over 75) we are supposed to get a discount, and in fact we did get a discount in Netanya of 25% on our apartment.  But, that was due to Naomi’s condition, incapacitated due to Alzheimer’s Disease.  I could never get more, and they don’t allow any reduction on a second property (my studio, for which we paid more arnona than the apartment).

When we moved to Beersheva we asked about getting a reduction on our arnona here and we were told we must get a letter from Netanya City transferring the reduction here.  So Miriam wrote a nice letter (in Hebrew) to Netanya City Arnona Dept. asking for a form transferring the arnona reduction.  Since we received no reply we visited their offices in Netanya and eventually they did send the required transfer letter.

We made an appointment with the arnona city office here in Beersheva and were told what to bring with us.  When we arrived for the appointment they asked for my code number with Bituach Leumi (National Insurance).  I supposed this was to check that I was indeed registered with them.  But they had not asked us to bring this number and I did not have it with me nor did I remember it.  So we had to make another appointment to go back and bring that number.

When we went back for the second time to the arnona office, of course, they did not ask for my Bituach Leumi number.  But, after checking the files they came up with a  different problem.  Miriam is listed as a co-owner of my house, because Naomi cannot be as she is incompetent.  So they said I could only get half the usual reduction because of Miriam being normal.  I’ve learnt enough about these offices that will try to find any conceivable way not to give you what you are entitled to.  So I protested, I said “but Miriam does not live there and Naomi does, therefore we should get the full reduction.”

So they went back into the office of the supervisor and discussed it and then came out and said they had a solution, if Miriam would sign a statement that she does not live at our house but she does live at another address and pays arnona there, then they could give us the full reduction.  So Miriam wrote out and signed such a statement and they accepted it and we received – 70% reduction on our arnona.  Wow!  Finally the full reduction.  It shows that persistence pays off.

Hamas Reality

In a very short time after the signing of a reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas, the reality of the situation has become clear.  The new Hamas Chief Yahiya Sinwar, who has replaced Ismail Haniyeh as the Head of Hamas in Gaza, is a known hard-liner and murderer of suspected Palestinian collaborators with Israel.  He has made his position very clear in two ways, first he stated ” our aim is not to make peace with Israel, but to destroy it.”  He also went to Iran and met with military leaders there and announced that Hamas considers itself the front-line in the Iranian aim to destroy Israel.  The spokesman for UN Secty. Gen. Gutteres condemned Hamas and Iran for their calls to destroy Israel.  This all  belies the less aggressive tone taken by Ismail Haniyeh who has replaced Khaled Mashaal as the overall Head of Hamas.

In an attack in Gaza the IDF managed to kill the Hamas military Chief Ahmed Jabari.  This has resulted in immediate threats of retaliation by Hamas and the unleashing of another war and missile assault on southern Israel.  This all seems like the beginning of the next Gaza war, that take place every 5 or so years, whenever they recover from the last one.  It is about time that Israel made sure that they can’t recover and save us all a repeated bout of killings and casualties.

It is illusory and self-destructive for a small extremist militia like Hamas to believe that they can in any way harm Israel and the IDF.  Only if Iran were strongly engaged could they inflict serious damage.  Iran is known to be planning to turn its involvement in Syria into a platform to attack Israel, with a major investment of military build-up on the Golan Heights.  Israel has already warned Russia that Israel will not tolerate such a  development.  With Israeli mastery of the skies and a very strong motivation it is unlikely that Iran will be able to carry out its plan to attack Israel from the Golan and Gaza simultaneously.  It is more likely that Israel will act to prevent any such intentions.

Arab Insights

I watched a program on France24 about women in the Arab world, how there are feminist movements in many Arab countries, especially Tunisia, that are now gradually making inroads into the very paternalistic Arab societies.  Even Saudi Arabia under the new King Salman has allowed women to drive cars, amazing.  One commentator’s  views were very interesting, someone named Ghanem related the revival of Muslim religious power in Arab societies to the devastating defeat by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War of Abdul Nasser and the other Arab dictators.

Because Nasser was a repressive dictator there was no open resistance to him.  The only actual opposition was the Islamic Muslim Brotherhood, that he had largely imprisoned and suppressed.  Nasser was considered a modernizer and to some extent a westernizer, and he allowed women’s liberation in Arab society, not to wear the hijab and wearing western dress, even allowing movies with men and women in intimate situations (kissing, how risque).  His disastrous defeat was a sign to Arab society that this route of modernization and westernization was a mistake, because it changed the basis of Arab Muslim society in which women were meant to be inferior and controlled.  So there was a reaction and eventually the Muslims were able to re-introduce the wearing of the hijab as a necessary part of feminine dress and reduce the gains that women had made under the nationalist-modernizing regimes.  This process was completed when Nasser’s successor Hosni Mubarak was defeated and deposed in the Egyptian uprising of  2011.

One notable aspect of this uprising, which in the West was seen as liberation movement against dictatorship, was the many attacks on women who joined men in the demonstrations in Tahrir Square.  These were thought to be an aberration, of some men going wild.  But, in fact the attacks on women demonstrators was precisely an aspect of the Islamic revival that basically was saying women cannot demonstrate with men, women must know their place. they must return to their position of inferiority as the only alternative way forward for Arab Muslim society.  Also , many foreigners were attacked in a similar way.   So the basis of the demonstrations was not in any way democratic as misperceived by the West and especially Pres. Obama, but were decidedly Islamic.  So Obama’s support of the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Morsi, was totally misplaced and misconceived.

Another aspect of the revival of Islam in Arab societies was the misconception that Israel won the Six-Day War so convincingly because they are a religious state and God was on their side.  Therefore to defeat them, the main aim of Arab society, the Arabs should become more religious than the Jews and return to the fundamental practices of Islam.  This of course totally misses the fact that Israel is in fact a secular society, even though a Jewish State, and that only the full modernization and westernization of Israeli society allowed it to win the Six-Day War, and subsequent Wars , so convincingly.  So the only way for Arab society to achieve its main aim of destroying Israel is in fact to jettison the Islamic path and go for full modernization and westernization, as well as democratization and allowing women full equality.

But, doing so would in some way defeat this aggressive purpose, because democratic societies have a  much lesser tendency to want to go to war, because people if they have their say tend not to want to die on the battlefield.  That is why there is a peace movement in Israel, but not in the Arab countries.   Also, women tend to be less aggressive than men, and if they have greater influence in Arab society there would be less violence and tendency to want to go to war.

If you look at the Arab world in general they are going thru a basic convulsion.  The Arab nationalist path did not work for them, the reversion to Islam has overreacted and the Islamist movements have been seen as totally fascist, killing all opponents and using brutal methods.  That is why there has been a reaction against the so-called Islamic State.   It has now been defeated on the ground by a coalition of forces.  But one of the opponents of IS is the Shia Army of Iraq supported by Shia militias and the dictatorship of the Mullahs of Iran.  So this arm of Islamic fundamentalism has not been defeated.  In fact, they are actively seeking to destroy Israel, as well as expand their hegemony to the whole Sunni Middle East.  This is the next Islamist power that must be stopped.

A Black Day

As many of you know I am addicted to diy projects, particularly those that are trivial and require little effort.  But, every diy expert also knows that even the simplest project has within it the possibility of a major catastrophe.  Notwithstanding this knowledge I decided, after deep thought, to repair a cupboard that is standing in my front yard.  The color of this cupboard is black.

It was replaced by a walk-in closet in our bedroom and we had no use for it.  Also, the doors had been removed and the wood (chipboard) where the hinges had been was severely damaged.  I had a handyman who was doing some work for me refit the doors and I decided the cupboard could be used for storage in the front yard.  But, I noticed that there was a gap of about 2 cm between the doors when they closed and I had no desire to try to refit them.  In a dream I realized that I could put moulding 1 cm wide on each door and then they would be in contact when shut.  So today I went to the hardware store and bought two flat mouldings (1 x 2 x 240) and then cut them to length, and decided to spray paint them black before attaching them to the doors.

I had a spray can of black paint, but when I went to use it , of course it didn’t work.  So I took the top off and used a toothpick to clear the holes.  While doing this I thought, well maybe the hole into the can itself might be blocked, so I inserted the toothpick into the can itself.  Very bad idea, a volcano of black paint sprayed all over the place.  It sprayed on my hand and arm, and all over the nice white formica table as well as on a white chair and on the floor tiles.  Oh, what a disaster!

But, undeterred, after trying to clean the paint and realizing that I could not, I retreated to painting the two mouldings with black paint, and then drilled holes in them and glued them onto the edge of each door and also nailed them on with small brad nails.  That worked perfectly, and although the doors would not shut properly at first, I adjusted them via the hinges.  Then I attached a spring connector to the top of the left door but a latch to the top of the right door because it was twisted and would not shut properly.  But, the latch was right near the edge of the top of the cupboard where I drilled a hole, but had to remove the outside edge and put the metal latch hole in backwards (it’s too difficult to describe further).

Having finished this part of the project, I then had to find a way to clear up the mess of black paint sprayed all over the yard and furniture.  I quickly discovered that alcohol wipes would not do the job, neither would turpentine, that usually removes paint.  So I went to the pharmacy and bought acetone (nail polish remover) and this worked.  But, it took a lot of “elbow grease” too, in fact at least two hours of hard rubbing with acetone to return the white table and chair into pristine condition.  I could not get all the marks off the tiles, but they will probably wear out in time.  I still have black paint marks up my arm and a few spots on my T-shirt (but luckily it was an old one).

Then I finally finished the cupboard by putting a waterproof cover (contact plastic) on the top and making a small overhang with some left over formica.  So now the cupboard is useful for storage, but we’ll see if it survives the winter.  I should have learnt my lesson, but probably not.

Correction: The series “The Crown” is produced by Netflix and not BBC as I stated.