Friday, June 23, 2006

Ian Anderson To Play In Israel (Aliya Diary, Page Three)

Blogging is dangerous. It can cost you money. At least I would love to find a way for it to cost me lots of money right now, and for me to have the money to spend in the first place...

OK, it happened like this: I listened to Ian Anderson's wonderful CD called Rupi's Dance last night. When I got to "Old Black Cat", a song lamenting the passing of his 12 year old cat, Mauser, I started mentally changing the words to fit Nyssa, my much loved ferret who died last week. The net result was this post in my ferrets' blog in Nyssa's honor with the rearranged words. Of course, in finding the links to use both in that post and now this one I went to the Ian Anderson/Jethro Tull website and did a little browsing. Are you with me so far?

Anyway, Ian Anderson is touring his Orchestral Jethro Tull album right now. There are no concerts anywhere near me. The nearest is in Michigan (lower peninsula) and that isn't going to happen. One confirmed date did stand out: September 16, near Tel Aviv, Israel. Israel? Ian Anderson is playing in Israel!

Why does any of this matter? In my misspent youth I loved Jethro Tull. Between 1973 and 1999 I saw them play eight times. I still really like the softer, folk-influenced albums from the late 70s like Songs From The Wood and especially Heavy Horses. I also like the blues and blues-influenced stuff they did in the late 60s on albums like This Was and Stand Up. More recently Ian Anderson's solo works have been brilliant, particularly the classical meets world music meets folk of Divinities: Twelve Dances With G-d and the folky and only slightly world music flavored Rupi's Dance. I saw Ian Anderson as part of his "Rubbing Elbows..." tour in 2004 in Durham, NC and while some of the things he said were... well... stupid at best, when he isn't offering his opinions and he is just playing his music and singing he is absolutely fantastic. He is the consummate singer and songwriter and multi-instrumentalist musician.

Now, take some of my favorite music, add that Ian Anderson is one of the few who have attained rock star status who don't say stupid or negative things about Israel, add that he is going to Israel for a concert, and add that I am planning to move to Israel and want to spend more time there first, and... well.... Does it make any sense yet? Probably not.

I am planning aliya sometime in 2007 and between that and the whole career change thing I'm penny pinching now in a big way. On the other hand I want to make at least two trips to Israel before moving there. Those trips should be closer to the move, though, so that I can do exciting things like find housing. Visiting family is always good though...

Let's just put it this way. If I could afford it without messing up any of my other life plans I'd be in Israel in September. The sad news is that this September is probably not be meant to be. It just would be an amazing and wonderful convergence of different elements of my life if I went to see Ian Anderson playing near Tel Aviv.

Oh, and yes, this is the first time I've publicly even vaguely talked about when I plan to make aliya a reality in my blog or anywhere else. No, I am NOT going to be more specific... yet.

Mental note to self: time to renew passport (American one) in any case.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

An Excellent Defense of Unilateral Withdrawal

An editorial in today's Yediot Ahranot by Dr. Yossi Beilin, the leader of the left-wing Meretz party, provides an excellent defense of Prime Minister Olmert's plans to withdraw unilaterally from large parts of Judea and Samaria. I freely admit that my politics moved quite a bit to the right in the wake of the collapse of the peace process in 2000 and the subsequent Palestinian decision to launch a war of terror against Israel. I have rarely agreed with Dr. Beilin or Meretz in general in recent years but he squarely hits the proverbial nail on the head in today's editorial.

While I do recommend reading the piece in its entirety, here are some particularly strong parts:
If we stick to the idea of the complete Land of Israel, we will soon be left with no State of Israel, and if we are left with no State of Israel, we will be left with no Land of Israel. In the best case scenario, we will become beholden to the good graces of a Palestinian state that will include the Whole Land of Israel.

That's the whole story. It is also the reason that Ariel Sharon changed his mind, and Ehud Olmert changed his mind, as did Tzipi Livni, Dan Meridor, Tzachi Hanegbi, Michael Eitan and many other "Whole Land of Israel" proponents both in and out of the Knesset.


Either we will have a Jewish democracy here, with a stable Jewish majority and equal civilian rights for all – or we will have nothing.


The Land of Israel west of the Jordan River will have a Palestinian majority in another four or five years. If we continue to rule this entire area (directly or indirectly), the Palestinians will come to us with a simple demand: One man, one vote. They will tell us not to worry about taking down settlements, dividing Jerusalem, creating a Palestinian state or anything else.

This, in turn, will create one, large state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, but it will not be the State of Israel.

The Whole Land of Israel – or in other words, Israeli control of the western portion of the Land of Israel – is not an alternative to a Jewish state in part of that territory.

For those who dismiss realignment or convergence or disengagement or whatever the current nom du jour is as some sort of retreat in the face of Palestinian terrorism I can only quote Prime Minister Olmert's words yesterday before the British parliament:
We'll never agree to pull out of all of the territories, because the borders of 1967 are indefensible

A withdrawal to borders that make sense for Israel without any Palestinian Arab input is the last thing the Palestinians or their supporters want because it takes the territorial issue and "occupation" off the table. This is why supporters of the Palestinians cry "annexation" so loudly even as Israel makes what amount to unprecedented concessions.

Yossi Beilin is right this time. Israel is following the only practical course open to her.

[NOTE: This piece also appears in Blogs of Zion, where I write under my Hebrew name.]

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Better Late Than Never

For years Palestinian refugees, as in those who fled when the State of Israel was created in 1948, have been une cause célèbre in the world press, at the United Nations, and in the world community in general. We rarely if ever heard about the much larger number of Jewish refugees from Arab countries in the wake of World War II. That is finally changing. On 24 May The New Republic published a piece by Joseph Braude titled The Jewish Refugee Problem: Due Recognition. He says, in part:
Later this week, a bipartisan group of senators and congressmen are expected to introduce a resolution that would make the Arab-Israeli conflict a little easier to resolve--by making it a little more complicated to discuss. The resolution urges the president to make sure that, during international discussions on refugees in the Middle East, "any explicit reference to Palestinian refugees is matched by a similar explicit reference to Jewish and other refugees, as a matter of law and equity." Sponsors of the measure include everyone from Rick Santorum on the right to Dick Durbin on the left, and a number of congressmen and senators in between.

The resolution constitutes a long-overdue acknowledgment of a tragedy which, for decades, Arab states have denied and the international community has ignored. Nine hundred thousand Jews have been forced to flee their homes in Arab countries and Iran since the years leading up to the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. (Most left in two waves--immediately before or after Israel's independence, and during the years following the Six Day War.) Some were deported outright; others faced widespread campaigns of violence and intimidation so unbearable as to render their ancestral homelands unlivable.

This recognition has been a long time coming, and it is better late than never.

Ariel Beery, writing in Blogs of Zion a couple of days later, adds:
The current identification of those Arabs who lived in the Mandate (Palestinians and Jordanians and other groups who self-identify in diverse ways) as the only victims of the post-World War Two shake-up is ridiculous. It's time we realize that there were many victims of the war of 1948--and both sides deserve to have a State of their own as a way of repairing those wounds over time.

This is, indeed, an answer to those who claim Israel was founded strictly by European invaders and those who try to delegitimize Israel. 42% of Israel's population are sephardim, these Jewish refugees and their descendants.

It is also high time that the world starts to recognize that the blame for the ongoing Palestinian refugee problem rests largely with the Palestinians themselves and their Arab brethren. It is they who insist that the refugees remain in camps (actually slums within cities) and forbid them to resettle, own land, or take jobs elsewhere in the territories or the Arab world. The Palestinian and wider Arab leadership perpetuate the suffering of their own people for political reasons, namely to blame Israel and foster sympathy abroad and to have a fertile ground in which to sow hatred and breed terrorists. This needs to change if there is ever to be peace in the Middle East.

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British University Boycott of Israel Ends

Less than two weeks after it began the boycott of Israeli professors and universities by the British National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) has been cancelled. A number of former American university Presidents had written in opposition to the boycott in this letter to the editor of the Financial Times on 30 May:
Proposed boycott of Israeli academics is appalling


We are appalled by the possibility that the British National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) may vote to boycott Israeli academics who do not publicly dissociate themselves from their country's alleged "apartheid policies."

The proposed boycott would violate fundamental academic norms, undermine efforts to promote scholarly co-operation between Arabs and Jews, and perpetuate flagrant distortions about the nature of Israeli government and society.

We find it odd that Israel, a democracy with a vigorous exchange of ideas on all topics including policies toward the Palestinians, has been singled out for a boycott, rather than the many authoritarian nations that ruthlessly suppress academic and political discourse. Open exchange, collaboration, co-operation and free debate are the hallmarks of academic life. To isolate and sever ties with a community of scholars based on their national or religious identity, ostensibly as a protest against their government's policies, is a serious breach of academic norms.

Although one might imagine circumstances that justify such action, the threshold needs to be kept high. Notwithstanding all of its geopolitical problems, Israel is a genuine democracy: the Knesset has long included members from various Arab parties, the vice-president of Haifa University is an Arab sociologist, there is a slim gap between the percentages of Jewish and Arab students who qualify for the rigorous high school exit certificate, affirmative action programs have been implemented in various sectors, and the list could go on.

The simple fact is that Israel does not come close to meeting the standard of "apartheid." In the name of academic integrity and common decency we call on our British colleagues to end their efforts to boycott Israeli scholars.

Richard C. Atkinson, President Emeritus, University of California

John Brademas, President Emeritus, New York University

Thomas Ehrlich, President Emeritus, Indiana University

Donald Kennedy, President Emeritus, Stanford University

David Ward, Chancellor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Sadly it wasn't this letter or other similar efforts by British and Israeli academicians that ended the boycott, nor was it any realization by NATFHE that their proposal amounted to no more than anti-Semitic McCarthyesque blacklisting designed to further a misguided political agenda at British universities. Condemnation of the boycott by the British government also had little effect. Rather it was a business necessity. NATFHE wanted to merge into the larger Association of University Teachers (AUT). AUT opposed the boycott. While some are touting the end of the boycott as a victory for academic freedom and fairness it was not a decision based on any sort of principles at all.

This incident serves, more than anything else, as a stark reminder of the blatant anti-Israel bias at major universities in the United States, Canada, and across Europe that I wrote about back in April. At the time I quoted Alan Dershowitz from his 2005 book The Case For Peace and his accusation bears repeating:
I will demonstrate that there is an explicit campaign of vilification against Israel ...the goal of this well-coordinated campaign is entirely negative: namely, to produce a generation of future leaders--political, economic, religious, academic--who are virtually programmed to be stridently anti-Israel.

The anti-Israel crowd may have suffered a minor setback with the end of the boycott but they continue to teach hatred of Israel to young, impressionable students and stifle any dissenting voices.

[NOTE: This post also appears on Blogs of Zion.]

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