Terrorism in France

Muslim terrorism is very active in France, because it has a very large Muslim community of mainly N. African origin, Moroccans, Algerians, Tunisians, etc.    The two recent cases that have ignited national and international attention are the murders of a police officer and an old Jewish Holocaust survivor.  Col. Arnaud Beltrame was murdered by a Moroccan of French nationality after he exchanged himself for a female hostage in a supermarket in Trebes, and Mireille Knoll (87) was stabbed to death in Paris by a Muslim neighbor who then set her body on fire.  These cowards do not realize how contemptuous they are perceived when they attack and murder unarmed heroes and old ladies.

French President Macron eulogized Beltrame in a speech at Les Invalides in Paris, and he also mentioned in the same context the murder of Knoll by Muslim terrorists.  The latter was definitely an anti-Semitic attack as evidenced by previous threats that the perpetrator had uttered against Knoll.  It is doubly touching that Knoll had survived deportation to the death camps in WWII, where members of her family were murdered by the Nazis and she narrowly survived, only to be killed by a Muslim terrorist.

The upsurge of anti-Semitism in France can be largely attributed to Muslim hatred of Jews, because Jews were insulted and murdered by Mohammed in the Koran.  This religious anti-Semitism was also reinforced by the pro-German sentiments of most Arabs before and during WWII, when they were mainly anti-French and anti-British.  There have been a series of contemptible anti-Semitic murders of Jews in France, Ilan Halimi (28) who was abducted, tortured for days and murdered by a gang of Moroccan terrorists in 2006, and Sarah Halimi (65; no relation) was murdered in 2017 by a Muslim terrorist in her apartment in Paris. There was also the shooting by Mohammed Merah in 2012 in Toulouse in which a Rabbi and three Jewish schoolchildren were murdered.  He also shot three French policemen.

Added to this the very serious series of attacks in Paris in 2015 against Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket and then the Paris restaurants and the Bataclan theater in which a total of ca. 150 were killed, and the ramming attack on the promenade in Nice killing 86.  It is clear that France is not a safe place to visit and no wonder French is now a major spoken language in Netanya and other places in Israel.


Last Inheritance, Part II

I posted a blog last Dec 13 about the last inheritance of my mother-in-law Millie Silverstein, who died at the age of 101 on Jan 21, 2017.  It is now over a year since her death and we are still waiting for her last bank account, held in the Netanya Branch of the First International (Benleumi) Bank Israel, to be paid to her heirs, her daughters Naomi, my wife, and Barbara, who lives in England.

Because the Bank would not release her money based on her will, we had to go to probate.  This took 8 months and cost NIS 7,000 for the court and the lawyer.  The Court ruled that her will was valid and appointed her elder daughter Naomi as the executor of the will.  Since Naomi has Alzheimer’s disease and I am her legal guardian (apotropus) in Israel, that in effect makes me the executor.  But, the new Bank manageress refused to release the money to me, because according to the will half the money has to go to Barbara.  Barbara then wrote to her and stated that she wanted me to receive all the money and she trusts me to pay all the expenses and then give her what is owed.  Even though she also sent a copy of her British Passport, the manageress refused to release the money.

I was naturally upset, but put her in touch with our lawyer to try to find a solution to this seemingly insuperable problem.  They came to the solution that if Barbara goes to the Israeli Embassy in London and gets someone there to witness her signature, with sufficient proof of her id and address, they will accept that.  So we had the lawyer draft a letter in Hebrew into which I inserted all the necessary data (bank a/c numbers and addresses) and that was approved by the bank manageress and then we had it translated into English, so that Barbara could know what she was signing.  Then I sent those letters to Barbara by e-mail.

She finally received an appointment to go to the Israel Embassy in London.  She was to take various documents and proof of her id, and she was to take copies of the letter in both languages to be stamped and witnessed by the official there that it was indeed Barbara who was signing it.  But, they informed her that they will not certify anything written in Hebrew!  I asked our lawyer if the Bank will accept this (i.e. English only) and they agreed (phew!)  But, when she went to the Embassy they would not give her the witnessed copies, but charged a fee to send them to her by hand delivery with a notary certification.

They promised delivery within four working days, but when they didn’t arrive after a week she called and the person who answered asked her for the locator number.  When she said she didn’t have one, she said “That’s strange, hold on,” and she went away for a few minutes and came back on-line and said “Oh, I found the envelope on my desk, they weren’t sent”!  When Barbara complained she said “You’re rude,” so Barbara replied “what about an apology for not doing your job!”  She promised to send them the next day, but they arrived a week later.  Then Barbara sent them to me by registered mail.

It arrived within a week and then I went to the Benleumi Branch in Beer Sheva to have the manager witness my signature on another copy of the same letter (the manager was retiring that day, but he found someone else to witness it) and then it was hand-delivered to our lawyer in Netanya, who took it to the Manageress of the Bank branch in Netanya.  It  took a few days and then their legal department approved the release of the funds.  Finally the funds  were transferred today and account was closed.

Note that half of the money went into Naomi’s account, and the other half Barbara  requested to go into my a/c.  So the whole process was in fact futile, since I will ultimately be the executor of all the money.  After all the expenses that were incurred by Millie are refunded, and her former carer (metapelet) is paid her severance fees, and the lawyer is paid, the total amount left for each daughter is relatively small.  Hardly worth the ridiculous, unfeeling, bureaucratic stupidity that was involved. If the Bank manager had released the money to me when I first presented him with the will in the first case, over a year of expensive legalistic nonsense would have been avoided, but with the same outcome.

PS. Chag Pesach sameach to all my loyal readers


The Taylor Force Act

Taylor Force was an ex-marine visiting Israel who was gunned down on the promenade in Tel Aviv by a Palestinian terrorist in 2016. They do not discriminate, they murder Israelis, Greeks, Arabs and Americans.  What was most galling about this incident was that the Palestine Authority pays the dead terrorist’s family a stipend for each person shot. And the overall amount of the stipends paid to all terrorists and their families is about m$50, about the amount of aid that the USA has been paying to the PA every year.  This is apart from funds paid to UNRWA and other benefits.

This direct support for terrorism, despite denials, is a continuation of the terrorism that has been practised in one form or another by the PA since Yasir Arafat returned from exile in 1994.  Finally, the Congress has had enough, and with the support of the Trump Administration passed the Taylor Force act that prohibits the US from paying aid to the PA until it stops its support for terrorism.

Since Trumps’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Pres. Abbas of the PA denounced and has stopped all negotiations with the US.  He recently called the US Ambassador to Israel a “son of a dog”, and the US deducted m$25 from its donations to UNRWA.  Abbas has continued in his strategy of trying to obtain diplomatic recognition for a Palestine State at the UN.  But that is futile, because even if the UN recognizes a non-existent Palestine State it will have no validity without the agreement of the USA and Israel.

Now with the appointment of John Bolton as Trump’s security adviser, Abbas has lost again. Bolton is a well-known critic of the PA and is against the much-hallowed two-state solution for the simple reason that a Palestine State would be both a failed State, with total corruption and no effective government, and it would be a magnet for all the crazy Islamic terrorists around the world, looking to kill Jews and Americans after losing out in Iraq and Syria.  It looks as if the Taylor Force Act and the appointment of Bolton will be the final nails in the coffin of Palestinian Statehood.

Trump’s new security adviser

Pres. Trump has replaced Gen. McMaster with former US UN representative John Bolton as his security adviser.  It is generally understood that McMaster was a restraining influence on Trump’s more aggressive tendencies regarding foreign policy.  But, on the other hand, it’s not good when the President and his Security Adviser disagree.  What is needed is a more coherent policy, and that is what Bolton can bring. He is a hawk on N. Korea, Iran and a strong friend of Israel.  In all these respects he will be able to advise Trump how to more intelligently and successfully implement his desired policies.

Where they apparently disagree is on Russia and the Israel-Arab peace plan.  Bolton is a strong critic of Pres. Putin of Russia, but Trump has so far tended to soft-pedal his approach to Putin, seemingly regarding him as a like-minded ally.  This is certainly a naive and mistaken attitude, since Putin is in fact a ruthless and power-hungry dictator of Russia who is also anti-American.  Hopefully Bolton can give Trump a lesson in the realpolitik of dealing with people like Putin.

On the Israel-Palestine issue, Bolton is on record as having concluded that the time for the two-state solution is over.  It has been kicked around for many years, but the Palestinians are nowhere nearer to accepting the existence of Israel and their only policy is to destroy Israel.  This is the reality.  But, Trump’s mid-east advisers, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, have still been pushing the two-state solution as an option.  Trump himself seems to favor any workable deal, so here again Bolton will be able to introduce a measure of realism.

The appointment of Bolton will have significant effects on US foreign policy, changing it from the purely passive approach of Obama to a more assertive approach based on US interests.

Putin’s Russia

In a very real sense Russia now belongs to Vladimir Putin, since he has just been elected President of Russia for the fourth time. He is the consummate KGB agent, controlling everything, a man who wants to make Russia great again (hence the Chechnya war, the occupation of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, and the intervention in Syria).  A new Stalin, he stops at nothing to murder and assassinate any possible opponents.  In true Mafia fashion he allows the oligarchs in Russia to flourish only so long as they pay him his cut, and show obedience.  If any one steps out of line and opposes him politically he is ruthless, they die or spend long terms in prison.

The list of dead opponents is very long:  Pavel Litvinenko (murdered in the UK in 2006 with radioactive polonium); Boris Nemtsov (opposition politician gunned down in 2015 in Moscow); Anna Politovskaya (investigative journalist shot in 2006 in Moscow); Sergei Magnitsky (advisor to American businessman Steve Browder, beaten to death in custody in 2009); Natalya Nemirova (human rights activist murdered in Grozny in 2006);  Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova (human rights activists shot dead together in broad daylight in 2009); Paul Klebnikov (a Russian-American journalist, editor of Forbes-Russia, shot dead in Moscow in 2004); Sergei Yushenkov (co-chair of the Liberal Russia movement, shot in Moscow in 2004); Boris Berezovsky (oligarch and former supporter of Putin, found hanged in his home in London in 2013); Sergei Skripov and his daughter Yulia (found poisoned by nerve agent in London, 2018); that is a partial list.

Those sentenced to prison include: Mikhail Khodorkovsky (former oligarch who opposed Putin, stripped of his wealth and spent 10 years in Siberia); Alexei Navalny (lawyer and leader of political opposition to Putin, he and his brother Oleg were sentenced to 3.5 years in prison); Sergei Udaltsov (leader of Left Front sentenced to 4.5 years in prison); Leonid Razvozzhaev (colleague of Udaltsov, fled Russia, abducted and returned, sentenced to 4.5 years in prison); Mikhail Kosenko (political activist sent to psychiatric prison); Greenpeace leaders (30 persons including several Brits were arrested and sentenced to up to 7 years in prison, but were released after 2 months due to international pressure); Pussy Riot (all female punk group were sent to prison for 2 years for demonstrating against Putin); Vladimir Yevtushenkov (an oligarch, arrested and held until he capitulated to Putin’s demands); once again a partial list.

The only law in Russia is Putin’s law and he has just been elected for a (previously illegal) fourth six-year term as President.  He will do anything necessary to stay in power. There is no doubt that he is determined to expand his influence around the world and to restore Russia’s former greatness.  He is definitely anti-American and has undoubtedly interfered in both UK and US elections.  However, the idea that he has supported Pres. Trump is futile, since Trump’s policies of making America Great Again and expanding the US military are directly contrary to Putin’s interests. However, since he is firmly in control of Russia, both Trump in the US and Netanyahu in Israel, due to Russia’s support of Pres. Assad of Syria, must come to terms with Putin.

The Israeli Strike on the Syrian Reactor

Ten years after the aerial strike that destroyed the Syrian nuclear reactor site near Deir al-Zour, the Israeli Defense Ministry has acknowledged that it was indeed Israel that carried out the successful raid.  There are two questions that arise, first, why was there no retaliation from Syria then, and why did the Israeli Govt. decide to admit its role now?

Regarding why Syria did not retaliate against Israel, to have done so would have admitted that the building destroyed was indeed of significance, and was in fact a nuclear facility, rather than a paint factory as the Syrian Government claimed.  Why would they go to war over a paint factory?  Also, this was during the period of the so-called “Arab Spring,” and Assad had ridiculed the idea the Syrian people would rise up to overthrow him,.  But he was wrong,and they soon did.  To have risked a war with Israel when he knew that there were stirrings at the roots would have been foolish.

Why would the Israel Govt. admit now that it destroyed the Syrian nuclear facility?  Because the Syrian regime is now winning the war against the insurgents with Iranian and Russian help.  The Israel Govt. is reminding Syria and Assad not to get too cocky and try to develop nuclear weapons, and perhaps more to the point is reminding the Iranians, who are entrenched in Syria not to do so too.  Iran has not only boasted that it will destroy Israel, but has also signed a multi-party agreement not to develop nuclear weapons, for at least the next 7 years.  Israel will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons, and neither will the USA.  Not only is Israel at stake, but also the Sunni oil states like Saudi Arabia and the oil supplies of most of the world.

Israel destroyed the Iraqi Osiris nuclear reactor facility near Baghdad in 1988 and that in Syria in 2007.  PM Netanyahu has gone on record to say that Israel will not allow any Arab State or Iran to develop nuclear weapons so long as they threaten Israel.  If Iran is looking to establish a forward military facility on the Golan Heights and to develop rocket and nuclear facilities there they had better think again.

The Irish Potato Famine

We had an interesting lecture on Thurs afternoon at our English Discussion group by Robert Weintraub, a graduate of MIT and the librarian at the Shamoon Technical College in Beer Sheva, on the subject of potato blight and the Irish potato famine.  He started out by telling us about Redcliffe Salaman, a British Jew who in the late 19th and early 20th century was a major expert on potatoes and published several iconic books on the subject.  He was the person who classified potatoes into about 200 varieties and who studied the potato blight scientifically.  By the way, about his name, his parents had many children and ran out of names, so they named him after the area of London where they lived.

The potato blight (phytophthora infestans) is a kind of fungus that first appeared in Mexico centuries ago.  It gradually spread around the world and under the right climatic conditions (warm wet weather) could wipe out a potato harvest in 2 weeks.  The problem in Ireland was that the British overlords had decreed that the Irish, who were mainly impoverished peasants, should live only on potatoes, that were cheap and nutritious, and all the other food produce was exported to England.  Further, the whole of Ireland was growing the same variety of potato, the lumper, that was particularly sensitive to the blight.  There were outbreaks of potato blight in other countries at other times, but the outbreak in Ireland between 1845-9 was the most catastrophic.  Basically the whole potato crop was destroyed, resulting in a terrible famine.  Of the ca. 8.1 million inhabitants before 1845, ca. 1 million perished and ca. 1.5 million were forced to flee, most to the USA (Boston, New York, Chicago and so on).

Unfortunately, in ignorance of the cause and effect of the blight, the farmers dumped the rotting potatoes around their fields and this allowed the blight to spread even more.  Salaman and others conducted scientific and genetic experiments to try to find blight-resistant strains of potato, but were only partially successful, and even until today new supposedly resistant varieties are being produced.  If ever there was an argument for genetically modified (GM) food crops, the Irish potato famine is it.

This was largely a man-made crisis, because the British had forced the Irish to eat only one variety of potato and the cruel irony was that there was plenty of food in Ireland, but the British Government refused to stop the export of the food to England.  So while hundreds of thousands starved, food grown on their land, owned and controlled by the English, was being taken away.  In England there was little sympathy for the Irish, who were Catholic and considered backward.  It was generally felt that they were lazy and untrustworthy and deserved their fate.  Nevertheless, the Queen gave GBP 1,000 to a fund for the relief of the famine. How generous.  So while the potato blight could not be blamed on the English, the subsequent famine was a form of deliberate ethnic cleansing of the Irish people.

Approximately one third of all Irishmen died or left Ireland, a catastrophe in Irish history that resulted in pure hatred of the English and ensured a generation of Irish who were dedicated to expelling the English from Ireland.   After the Easter Day uprising of  1916, it took until 1922 before southern Ireland achieved partial self-rule as the Irish Free State and until 1949 with full sovereignty as the Irish Republic, Eire.