The Amir Brothers – Heroes or Villains?


The answer to that question is very much in the eye of the beholder.

Isolation - D Block

Isolation cell – for over sixteen years! (Photo credit: Smath.)

With the release from prison of Haggai Amir, after sixteen and a half years of solitary confinement, the controversy over his actions, and those of his brother, Yigal, who was convicted of firing the shots that fatally wounded Yitzhak Rabin, has erupted again.

Most of the demonstrators protesting his release were children when the shooting occurred and have no direct knowledge of the circumstances. And, as far as the older protesters are concerned, everyone has an agenda.

It is certainly not politically correct to even try to understand what caused the brothers to act as they did, far less to attempt to justify their actions.

But, in order to start on the path of understanding, we need to examine the very structure of a democracy, and how it is supposed to function. In fact, there are multiple forms of democracy – and some are more democratic than others.

For example, The UK with its ” first past the post” electoral system, and only two major political parties, can lead to a situation is which the Prime Minister can find himself (or, indeed, herself) with such an overwhelming parliamentary majority that the government can pass any legislation it chooses without limitation.

Not so different from a dictatorship, in practical terms.

In America the situation is similar, but not identical. There are still only two major parties, but the differences between them are less than those in the UK. A combination of mid-term elections and a complicated machinery of checks and balances, tends to inhibit even the strongest President.

So one would imagine that Israel, with its proportional representation system, would guarantee that a dictatorial type Prime Minister simply could not exist. The permanent requirement for a coalition government would inhibit the total freedom of action of any Prime Minister.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, U.S. pre...

A truly fateful handshake….. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And so it was for Yitzhak Rabin when he was trying to persuade the Knesset to approve the agreement, known as the “Oslo Accords”.  The tortuous manner in which the agreement was secretly negotiated needs an article in itself. Suffice to say that Rabin, although initially opposed to the agreement, was eventually persuaded to accept it. The Americans, who were disturbed that they had not been party to the negotiations, eventually stopped sulking and put their support behind the accords.

Rabin’s problem was that he had to “sell” the whole concept not only to the Knesset, but also to the Israeli public and, of course, the media.  The media, with its inherent left wing slant was, more or less, a pushover. The public was very divided, and the media had to work overtime to present the situation as if the the majority were in favour.

Those Israeli citizens already living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza were, obviously, very vociferous in their objections. Their protests really got to Rabin, who was known to have a short temper when his authority was questioned. His widely reported remark that these protesters could ” spin like propellers” as far as he was concerned, and would not cause him to deviate from the course he was on, did nothing to improve his image with the general public.

And when it came to the fateful vote in the Knesset, which was actually a motion of no confidence in the government, he only succeeded in obtaining 61 votes out of a possible 120 – a majority of 1! There were 50 votes in favour of the motion, and 9 abstentions.

The manipulative manner in which he was able to secure 2 crucial votes from a tiny party that had splintered away from the Tsomet faction, gave rise to perceptions and accusations of bribery, which he ignored.   Many people were also incensed that the accords required Israel to relinquish almost all of the territory it had acquired in the 1967 war, with the Jerusalem question still unresolved, and that the 61 votes had included 5 votes from the Arab parties.

It may be understood that, as far as the general population was concerned, the combination of bought votes and Arab votes needed to achieve the single vote majority, removed any vestiges of legitimacy from the final decision.

Which brings me back to my previous point of defining a democracy. When the electorate feel betrayed, the next time that they can participate in an election can seem to them to be too far into the future. The possibility that the sense of frustration can become too strong to contain then arises.

It is true that we have all become cynical of politicians and their promises. Most broken pledges are simply greeted with a sense of resignation and a mental note of who to vote for next time.

Ariel Sharon 2001-03-19

Ariel Sharon – got away with Gaza…. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But some situations are simply too egregious to accept meekly. Rabin’s way of dealing with the Oslo Accords was one such act. Ariel Sharon got away with the evacuation of Gaza by the skin of his teeth. Had other circumstance not intervened, it is highly possible that any attempt by him to remove Jews from Judea and Samaria would have resulted in him meeting a similar fate.

Before anyone accuses me of trying to defend the indefensible, I must point out that throwing up the word ” democracy” is really usurping the concept to cover for, essentially, undemocratic acts; Rabin’s machinations to secure votes were widely criticised at the time.

I know the arguments about the imperfections of democracy, and that it’s still better than any other political system. But, when it comes to situations that could be interpreted as existential threats to the state, maybe the cloak of democracy is simply not a sufficient protection.

And, it is in such circumstances, that some people feel driven to take action.

Political assassination is a risk that all leaders take. Their ability to steer a course that does not lead to a sense of impotent rage by some part of the electorate is a measure of their success.

Failure in this essential element of leadership can have dire consequences.

It did for Yitzhak Rabin.

Andyboy – Telling it as it is!

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Oh My God – Blasphemy is Still a Capital Offence in the 21st Century!


Unbelievably, in this second decade of the 21st century, there are still countries that have a death penalty for blasphemy.

afghanistan

Dying to defend the faith in Afghanistan (Photo credit: The U.S. Army)

And in one of those countries, at least, American and British soldiers are fighting, and dying, to defend the option of a government to enforce that law.

I am referring to Afghanistan – specifically the clause in its Penal code, which states as follows:

Sharia permits the authorities to treat blasphemy as a capital crime. The authorities can punish blasphemy with death if the blasphemy is committed by a male of sound mind over age 18 or by a female of sound mind over age 16. Anyone accused of blasphemy has three days to recant. If an accused does not recant, death by hanging may follow.“(1)

Afghanistan is not unique: Saudi Arabia has a similar law.

But, most countries satisfy themselves with less drastic forms of punishment such as imprisonment and/or fines. Surprisingly, even some European countries still have anti-blasphemy laws, but these are rarely enforced.

Only as recently as March 2008, was the blasphemy law repealed in the UK; the last successful prosecution for blasphemy was in 1977 – only 35 years ago! Interestingly, the law only applied to Christianity.(2) The last execution for blasphemy actually took place in Scotland in 1697 with the hanging of the unfortunately named Mr Thomas Aikenhead. He must have had a real aching head after that experience. (sorry!)

In America, it’s a whole different ball game, (to use the local vernacular). Under the First and Fourteenth amendments to the constitution – pertaining to free expression – it is impossible to bring a Federal prosecution on the charge of blasphemy, as part of the legally defined separation of  “church” and state.  However, the situation regarding individual states is not so clear. (3)

And, I discovered much to my surprise and consternation, that there are laws protecting religion here in Israel:

In Israel, blasphemy is covered by Articles 170 and 173 of the penal code:

Insult to religion
170. If a person destroys, damages or desecrates a place of worship or any object which is held sacred by a group of persons, with the intention of reviling their religion, or in the knowledge that they are liable to deem that act an insult to their religion, then the one is liable to three years imprisonment.
Injury to religious sentiment
173. If a person does any of the following, then the one is liable to one year imprisonment:
(1) One publishes a publication that is liable to crudely offend the religious faith or sentiment of others;
(2) One voices in a public place and in the hearing of another person any word or sound that is liable to crudely offend the religious faith or sentiment of others.

The law is traced back to the British High Commission “The Abuse and Vilification (religious invective) Order No. 43 of 1929”, enacted in efforts to suppress the 1929 Palestine riots. The order contained the language: “Any person who utters a word or sound in public or within earshot of any other person that may be or is intended to offend his religious sensitivities or faith can expect to be found guilty and eligible for a one-year jail sentence.” (4)

CDC raspberry

Blowing one of these can get you into big trouble in Israel! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Article 170 says that the reviling or insulting of the religion is a separate crime from the specific act of destruction or vandalism, since it refers to intent.

Article 173 presumably includes, for example, “blowing a Raspberry” as a sign of comment or disagreement.

So – does any of this really matter?

Since few countries actually punish people for this “crime”, and even fewer execute convicted blasphemers, why should anyone be concerned?

To me, the concern should be obvious. All of the examples listed above, and, indeed, all laws relating to blasphemy, place religion in a different category from any, and every, other element of the fabric of society.

Discussion, debate and disagreement can be heated and/or offensive about any subject, other than religion and religious belief.

Why?

Expressing oneself passionately about anything else does not lead to imprisonment, or the threat of it. Demonstrations, and other political acts, are covered by different laws related to public order. So, again, why religion?

There can be only one logical reason.

Since religion, and the various form of God, were invented by man, those charged with the responsibility to nurture, protect and maintain it, understood from the beginning that fear was the greatest form of power enforcement.

History has proved them right.

Nothing will concentrate a man’s (or woman’s) mind more than the threat of being burned alive at the stake, or stoned to death.

Persecution of witches

Burning of witches - not good on YouTube!(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But, one must acknowledge that religion has moved with the times and adjusted to the 21st century. Realising that burning and stoning doesn’t play well on YouTube, and even hanging is seen by some as a bit gruesome, more and more regimes and governments have settled for imprisonment.

At least there, the transgressors can rot away out of the public eye!

As for me – I’m going to have a quick flip through some of my previous articles to check that I am not in contravention of the local laws. I hope that implied “Raspberries” don’t count.

And at least I can be thankful that I’m in Israel – not Afghanistan!

Andyboy – Telling it as it is!

Blasphemy set to music!

References

(1)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blasphemy_law_in_Afghanistan

(2)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blasphemy_law_in_the_United_Kingdom

(3)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blasphemy_law_in_the_United_States_of_America

(4)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blasphemy_law

Islam – Sex Before Marriage – No Way! Sex After Death – Maybe!


Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women'...

Equal at last! (photo credit: Wikipedia)

At least, if Egyptian radicals get their way!

The internet is buzzing with reports of proposed new legislation in the Egyptian parliament.  Whilst the  main thrust (no pun intended) of the new law is a reduction in the rights and freedoms of women in a number of spheres, the clause that has captured the imagination of the world is, naturally, the one related to sex.

A pair of lions copulating in the Maasai Mara,...

I think even animals try to ensure that the recipient is alive! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is widely reported, for example in the London Daily Mail and the Huffington Post, that there is a proposal to legalise necrophilia in Egypt. For a period of 6 hours after death, both men and women would be permitted to continue to have intercourse with the body of the dearly departed. I can understand the physical possibility for men. It is more difficult to understand the logistical options for women – unless the man died with an erection. Actually, I think that dying at the peak of orgasm is one of the better ways in which to leave this mortal coil, but that’s just a personal idiosyncracy.

Of course, the validity of this story has been challenged by a number of commentators, the most vocal of which is, surprisingly, the Christian Science Monitor which describes the whole story as “hooey”!

Hooey or not, it has generated enormous response from talkbackers, including a few who have seen the amusing side of this story.

To save my readers the trouble of trawling the internet, I have selected my “Top Twenty” most amusing responses to what, I accept, is basically, a very serious subject,

But, for now, I’m looking on the lighter side –  so here are the quotes:

  1. Gives new meaning to the word frigid.

  1. My wife has been “dead” in bed for years. but at least she still cooks.

  1. If they’re anything like my ex-wife, you wouldn’t notice the difference

  1. Six hours? Anything longer than five hours after death is just sick.

  1. Farewell intercourse? what happened to just sending flowers

  1. If a doctor pronounces her dead does he put a ‘ Best Before ‘ mark on her ?

  1. That’s to make up for all the times she had a headache

  2. ” Women also have the right to have sex with her dead husband” Well, to be fair it looks like they’re finally getting their heads around the idea of equal rights for women……

  3. Wives can have sex with their husbands for up to six hours after death?” Well that gives a whole new meaning to stiff.

  4. Some of us dont want to have sex with our wives even when they are breathing

  5. That’s Egypt off the holiday list then

  1. It brings a whole new meaning to having a ” stiffy ” .

  2. Come on now; how many of them can keep going for 6 hours?

  3. How very very peculiar. Next, they will be making it compulsory.

  1. It’s six hours now but that’s just the thin edge of the wedge. Soon even the mummies won’t be safe.

  1. Puts a whole new spin on ’til’ death do us part.’ 

  2. I wonder, if it’s 6 hrs and 1 minute, what’s the punishment?

  3. I hope they make it law in the UK,its the only time I will get any sex off my wife

  1. Of course she must be modestly dressed.

  1. Sounds dead boring to me!


    It’s an interesting insight into Islamic thought processes – but seems to me to be rather an extreme way of seeking converts


    Andyboy – Telling it as it is!



“Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me – When I’m 64?”


Well, food, for most Israelis is not a problem.

Being needed, on the other hand, is something else!

United Nations

United Nations (Photo credit: Ashitakka)

Firstly, to deal with the food and general quality of life issue.  Israel was ranked 15th out of 194 nations in, what is known as,  the Human Development Index.(1)  This index, which is part of the UN development programme, is based on the following criteria:

  • A long and healthy life: life expectancy at birth
  • Education index: Mean years of schooling and Expected year of schooling
  • A decent standard of living : Gross National Income per capita

This rating places Israel, only 64 years after its creation as  the Independent Nation State of the Jewish People (to give it the full title), in the category of “Very Highly Developed”.

Apart from this, a report recently published by Columbia University, on behalf of the UN Conference on Happiness, ranked Israel 14th out of almost 200 nations.. (2) ( much to the bewilderment of the average Israeli, who never ceases to complain)

Its suicide rate is half that of the USA or Canada, and in this index, 65 countries out of 107 had a higher rate. (3)

That is not to say that the proverbial land “flowing with milk and honey” is not without its social problems. As with all nations, developed or otherwise, there is always poverty. But this is, mainly, an academic judgment based on criteria, related to things like the “average national wage”.  Poverty is always relative. Those below the, so called, “poverty line” here, would be not be thought of as poor in many other societies. Unfortunately, the largest section of those below the line are there for self induced reasons.

Česky: Žid ve Vilniusu

Praying is a full time job - no time to work! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The ultra-Orthodox Jewish community has a very low proportion of working heads of households. Some of the women work, but earn the minimum wage.

The Arab section also has a low work rate, frequently in poorly paid jobs, and, for cultural reasons, women rarely work.

Both the ultra -Orthodox Jews and the Arabs have considerably larger families than the secular population. Six or seven children is about the average, and families of ten, or more, children, are not uncommon.

Both of these groups exist on a mixture of social welfare, charitable donations and family support.

And, of course, there was the famous “Middle Class Revolt” of last summer which saw hundreds of tents pitched in major cities, and thousands of people demonstrating against, what they considered, unjust food pricing.

For many, this was viewed positively, as a sign of a healthy and vibrant democracy. Well, we are unquestionably a democracy, but any country having 13 different political parties represented in a Knesset (parliament) of 120 members must have a special interpretation of what is a democracy.

It is ironic that, instead of being judged by achievements, which are incredible by any reasonably objective criteria, we have managed  to become almost a pariah state.

Which brings me to the question of “need”. 

Who “needs” Israel today? Well, the 7.9 million citizens that live here, for a start. And, contrary to popular belief, that includes the 1.6 million Arabs citizens who know upon which side their bread is buttered. It also happens to include around 200,000 illegal migrants, including tens of thousands of Black Africans who would have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, from their “paradise on Earth” back to their homelands.

It is truly extraordinary that these people literally risk life and limb to come to a country that is so vilified by most of the world. It is also true that they do not fit into Herzl’s dream of a homeland for the Jews, but, in a perverse way, it is a tribute to what became  the reality from that dream.

David Ben-Gurion (First Prime Minister of Isra...

David Ben Gurion declaring independence in 1948. Few thought that the state would survive..... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The world sees a different reality – well, not so much a reality, as a perception. We live in a world that Herzl, and our “Founding Fathers” – the pioneering Zionists – could never have envisaged in their wildest nightmares. They believed that the very existence of a Jewish Homeland would, in one fell swoop, solve the eternal problem of “the wandering Jew”.

What they misjudged was that the world had become used to the Jew as a figure of persecution. 

The Jew was humble, the Jew was weak and subservient, the Jew was dependent on the goodwill, or not, of Gentile society. The support for the concept of a state for the Jews in Palestine was a mixture of biblical belief and, in later years,  guilt, for what the world had knowingly allowed to happen to the Jews of Europe.

And when it came to the political and military reality, the world did not expect the fledgling Jewish state to survive the Arab onslaught that followed Ben Gurion’s declaration of that state in 1948. And, truth be told, didn’t much care. They had assuaged their collective conscience with a vote, and now it was up to the Jews.

I don’t believe that the world has ever really come to terms with the fact that the Jewish state DID survive. Not only survive, but emerge from  the initial battles stronger, and with more territory than it had been willing to accept on the partition plan basis.

Even so, for as long as Israel was perceived as relatively weak, and always vulnerable to attack and annihilation from its neighbours, that part of the world that was not terribly well disposed towards Jews, metaphorically shrugged its shoulders and got on with its life.

Of course the events of June 1967 changed that perception for ever. And, in its own way, so did the war of October 1973.

Nevertheless Israel was still well regarded in some quarters, at least by those whose dislike of Jews was only superseded  by their dislike of Arabs. It also suited some countries, especially America, to regard Israel as a bastion of Western Democracy, in a sea of Arab and/or Muslim dictatorships.

As Ehud Barak described it, Israel was “the Villa in the jungle”.

It was not for nothing that some regarded Israel as a “land based aircraft carrier” for the protection of Western ideals against Arab Nationalism and Russian Communism.

But, with the passage of time, political realities and alliances changed. Economic needs dictated political alliances. The growing financial influence of the Gulf states, the security situations in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, to mention a few, have all contributed to a shift in world opinion about Israel.

Boycott Israel-poster

Boycott Israel-poster (Photo credit: Creap)

The Arab PR and propaganda machines have been working overtime, supported by Left wing organisations and NGO’s, heavily financed by European states who, despite their own desperate economic woes, manage to squeeze out a few tens of millions of Euros, to apply as much pressure as they can upon Israel.

And, it is against this background, that we celebrate our 64 years as a state.

So, who else “needs” us?

How about those Jews who choose NOT to live in Israel? The jury is still out on that one. There is no denying that Israel means something to some diaspora Jews. But it no longer seems to represent the “insurance policy” it once did. Of course, there are the “absentee landlord” Jews who are wealthy enough to purchase a property here, which they use for holidays, and as an emergency “bolt hole” in case they ever misjudge the level of anti-Semitism in their home countries.

But as for the rest, my sense is that with the passing of the years, their connection to Israel becomes more and more tenuous. Apart from the few motivated by religious conviction, the rest are happy enough to live as a minority among non-Jews.  And, in America, and the UK, for example, happy also to marry into that society, and slowly give up their Jewish identity.

Alternatively, those that DO maintain a Jewish life style, do so within a diaspora concept, only paying lip service to an Israeli connection. And, in the worse case scenario, blame Israel for any  actions which they feel are negative and reflect badly upon them and their “security”.

And, perhaps worse of all, those classical ” self hating Jews” who seem to have made it their mission in life to berate Israel at every possible opportunity, under the guise of  supporting “a different kind of Zionism”.  Indeed, some of them seem to have made a career out of Israel bashing.

I really DO mean a career!

Academics and others who go on the lecture circuit, publish books and receive all kinds of financial support in support of their views on how Israel should act. They really need us!

And, how about the rest of the world? Does it “need “us?

It would be hard pressed to find another punching bag, or whipping boy, or any other suitable metaphor that comes to mind. It isn’t so much that Israel is a soft target, but it has one benefit that is unique.

It’s full of Jews! All those Jews concentrated in a land that represents about one hundredth of one percent of the world’s land mass. What better target could there be – figuratively and literally.

The literal aspect is, of course, occupying the thoughts of most Israelis at this time. We know we made it to the 64th anniversary and, probably we’ll make it to the 65th.  After that……………….?

What would the world do without us? The country you love to hate.

Oh, didn’t I tell you before?

This is one survey I left till last.

A new poll commissioned by the European commission shows that Europeans in 15 countries believe that Israel is the greatest threat to world peace; greater even than North Korea, Iran or Afghanistan (4)

Now that’s a sobering thought after 64 years of Statehood

Happy Independence Day!

Andyboy – Telling it as it is!

References

 

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Development_Index

(2)http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-is-ranked-as-the-14th-happiest-country-in-the-world/

(3)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate

(4)http://www.jewishfederations.org/page.aspx?id=50080

Acknowledgement

To John Lennon and Paul McCartney for the lyrics of  “When I’m 64”
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“Forgive Me Father – For I Have Sinned!”


And this is my first ever confession!

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Looking for a better deal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, you will understand, I’m a bit new to the concept. From what I’ve seen in movies or on TV, the process is quite simple. I enter the confessional box and talk to you through a lattice screen. I tell you what a naughty boy I’ve been and after you’ve listened to all the juicy bits you tell me my punishment, and the slate is wiped clean.

Seems like a good system, and certainly an improvement on the original Jewish model. But then your lot had the benefit of hindsight. I guess it’s always easier to improve on an idea than create it from scratch. You understood that one of the most important aspects of marketing a new religion was that it must offer advantages over the old one.

You realised from the outset that the Jews idea of atoning for their sins once a year was never going to work in the more easygoing. laid back approach of Christianity. Just too many sins , and no-one could be expected to save them up for a whole twelve months! So you came up with the brilliant idea – absolution on demand!

As many sins as you can cram into a week, eliminated in a moment, and freedom to start on the next batch of naughtiness.

Which brings me to the reason why I’m here. You see, the next Jewish Day of Atonement isn’t for another 5 months, and I just can’t wait that long.

So, what is my sin? Well, I’ve been accused of being beastly to the Haredim. You know, those sects of Jews who wear strange clothes in the style of Polish noblemen of the 16th and 17th centuries. They also have some very strange customs and traditions which they claim must be followed to the letter if you want to honour God.

OK, I know that your people do a few strange things as well (not all of which get found out and reported) – but I don’t even want to go there. If you want a wafer to be holy and wine to represent blood, be my guest. But that’s only two things. The Haredim follow 613 mitzvot or commandments plus thousands of interpretations of how they should be carried out. From the moment of waking to the moment of sleeping, their lives operate within a framework of restrictions that are incomprehensible to normal human beings.

I wrote a few articles on my blog pointing out some of these strange actions, but I have been told that I was being unfair.

The Ten Commandments, In SVG

The first ten commandments - only another 603 to go! Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After all, if it is critical for them that their toilet block cleaner doesn’t emit colour so as not to desecrate the Sabbath, who am I to question? And if the knife being used to cut an onion was also used in the previous 24 hours to cut meat, then why should I care that this onion is no longer Kosher and cannot be used with certain foods.

They just need to pray (well, they DO do a lot of that), that their eyeglasses don’t break on the Sabbath, because that’s a real bummer. If the side falls off and you find the screw, anyway you can’t use it – it’s forbidden to turn anything on the Sabbath. If you find a piece if wire, you can use that, as long as you don’t try to wind it round the joint – winding is forbidden also. If it’s just that the lens popped out of the rim, you can put it back, as long as you don’t use any pressure – pressure is another no-no on the Sabbath.

I know that I don’t have time to list the other 600+ criteria, and, anyway, if I do that it just makes matters worse.

I guess that my real problem is, I don’t really feel repentant for drawing attention to a fraction of the absurdities which govern the lives of so many people.  I do feel sorry for the women and children who are trapped, and doomed to live in unremitting servitude – but, then, you don’t have too much first hand experience of either women or children, do you?

Do You?

So that’s it. Not really much of a confession for a first attempt, I suppose.

By the way, do you accept Atheists in this game?

And, what, exactly IS a “Hail Mary”?

 

Andyboy – Telling it as it is!