The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'israel'
Der Spiegel has an interesting article about how a new generation of Israelis are flocking to Berlin, tempted by the city's vibrant culture and sense of freedom, and negotiating the fraught history and politics of doing so:
"I do not know if 'forgive' is the appropriate term," says Gil Raveh. Raveh, a conductor, came to Berlin four years ago on the recommendation of award-winning Israeli conductor Noam Sheriff, who himself had studied in the city. "Forgive whom? Merkel? The waitress who serves my coffee?" he asks.
With a European passport thanks to his mother, who was born in Eastern Europe, Netter made the move to Berlin. His first year in the city, he says, was spent having fun and living off of his savings. Then he started Meschugge as a one-time event, and it became a regular attraction: "The Unkosher Jewish Night," as he calls it. A quarter of the audience is Israeli, the rest German. Netter says he suspects some of the Germans might come as a way to alleviate their own feelings of guilt. "We Israelis cannot understand how it feels not to be proud of yourself, as a nation," he says. "The Germans are full of serious identity crises."The Israelis have a different ways of addressing the elephant in the room:
But Israeli immigrants in Berlin have their own identity issues. For example, almost all of them prefer to be treated as "Israelis in Berlin," not as "Jews in Germany." "Even the Germans themselves say Berlin is not Germany," says Russ. "The Jewish component of my identity has to do with a shared cultural past, not with a religious belief. I do not go to synagogue or eat kosher food."
"An Israeli friend in Berlin once showed me his apartment," says Russ. "When we got to the kitchen, he opened the gas stove and said: 'And this is the shower.' But the first time I told a Holocaust joke here, a friend warned me that it's illegal."One of the motivating forces seems to be a contrast between the liberal, creative culture of Berlin and the situation in Israel today, where an increasingly authoritarian political environment is threatening civil liberties, with a right-wing government waging war against civil rights groups.
GQ's website has a detailed account of last year's assassination in Dubai of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, almost certainly by an elite Mossad hit squad, and the investigation that nailed down what happened, written up by Ronen Bergman, an Israeli journalist who writes about intelligence operations (and is the author of The Secret War With Iran):
At 6:45 a.m., the first members of an Israeli hit squad land at Dubai International Airport and fan out through the city to await further instructions. Over the next nineteen hours, the rest of the team—at least twenty-seven members—will arrive on flights from Zurich, Rome, Paris, and Frankfurt. They have come to kill a man named Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh, a Hamas leader whose code name within the Mossad—the Israeli intelligence agency—is Plasma Screen.
Then, in 2002, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon tapped Dagan, a former military commander with a reputation for ruthless, brutal efficiency, to restore the spy agency to its former glory and preside over, as he put it, "a Mossad with a knife between its teeth." "Dagan's unique expertise," Sharon said in closed meetings, "is the separation of an Arab from his head."Bergman pieces together a chronology of the operation and the investigation that followed, and a list of mistakes committed by the assassins which gave the Dubainese authorities enough to go on to produce a detailed account, all but pinning the operation on Israel.
The laughable attempts of the Mossad operatives to disguise their appearance made for good television coverage, but the more fundamental errors committed by the team had less to do with cloak-and-dagger disguises than with a kind of arrogance that seems to have pervaded the planning and execution of the mission.
During the Napoleonic Wars, a French ship sank off the coast of Hartlepool, in the north of England. The only survivor was the ship's mascot, a monkey dressed in a naval uniform. The monkey made it to the shore, where it was captured by locals, who had never seen a monkey (this, you see, was before television, widespread literacy and public zoos), so they assumed that it was a Frenchman and hanged it as a spy. From this incident, the residents of Hartlepool became known as "monkey-hangers".
Almost 200 years later, Saudi Arabian security services have arrested a vulture tagged by an Israeli university wildlife resarch programme as a "Zionist spy".
Residents and local reporters told Saudi Arabia's Al-Weeam newspaper that the matter seemed to be linked to a "Zionist plot" and swiftly alerted security services. The bird has since been placed under arrest. The accusations went viral, according to the Israeli Ha'aretz newspaper, with hundreds of posts on Arabic-language websites and forums claiming that the "Zionists" had trained the birds for espionage.The Israeli authorities have denied any espionage, and claimed that the bird was part of a long-term academic study of the migratory habits of the vulture.
It is not clear what sort of vulture-based intelligence the Israelis could be looking for.
Britain isn't the only place where protest activity is being deterred: in Israel, an activist named Jonathan Pollak has been gaoled for three months for taking part in a nonviolent bicycle demonstration against the blockade of Gaza:
"It is not common that someone found guilty of illegal assembly will be sent to prison," said (Pollak's lawyer) Lasky, who has worked in this field for eight years. "We are in the midst of a high wave of detentions of activists," she added. "The criminalisation of leftwing demonstrations is a policy these days".When Israel's aggressive foreign policy and handling of the Palestinians are brought up, one rejoinder often heard is that Israel, the premier (if not only) pluralist democracy in the region, has a very robust culture of democratic debate, with more dissent and criticism heard there than in, say, the U.S, and certainly more than in the Middle East in general. In light of this, the gaoling of nonviolent demonstrators is particularly disturbing.
Meanwhile in Tennessee, state anti-terrorism officials have listed the American Civil Liberties Union on a map detailing "terrorism events and other suspicious activities", after the ACLU warned schools to ensure that holiday celebrations "are inclusive". Officials now say that this was done by mistake, but it does make one wonder whether, for some officials, terrorism is the new Communism.
Bruce Schneier has a writeup of the facts we know about the Stuxnet worm, the sophisticated and unusual-looking Windows worm that has been speculated to have been designed by the intelligence agencies of the USA/Israel/Germany (delete as appropriate) to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. Or possibly not:
Stuxnet doesn't act like a criminal worm. It doesn't spread indiscriminately. It doesn't steal credit card information or account login credentials. It doesn't herd infected computers into a botnet. It uses multiple zero-day vulnerabilities. A criminal group would be smarter to create different worm variants and use one in each. Stuxnet performs sabotage. It doesn't threaten sabotage, like a criminal organization intent on extortion might.
Stuxnet was expensive to create. Estimates are that it took 8 to 10 people six months to write. There's also the lab setup--surely any organization that goes to all this trouble would test the thing before releasing it--and the intelligence gathering to know exactly how to target it. Additionally, zero-day exploits are valuable. They're hard to find, and they can only be used once. Whoever wrote Stuxnet was willing to spend a lot of money to ensure that whatever job it was intended to do would be done.
None of this points to the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran, though. Best I can tell, this rumor was started by Ralph Lagner, a security researcher from Germany. He labeled his theory "highly speculative," and based it primarily on the facts that Iran had an usually high number of infections (the rumor that it had the most infections of any country seems not to be true), that the Bushehr nuclear plant is a juicy target, and that some of the other countries with high infection rates--India, Indonesia, and Pakistan--are countries where the same Russian contractor involved in Bushehr is also involved. This rumor moved into the computer press and then into the mainstream press, where it became the accepted story, without any of the original caveats.Schneier also looks at strings found in the Stuxnet worm's code, some of which suggest, somewhat tenuously, either that it's of Israeli origin or that the authors wish to give the impression that it is.
Basically, all that's definitely known is that Stuxnet was elaborately expensive to create (containing not only zero-day vulnerabilities but stolen driver certificates) and was designed to attack Siemens plant control computers. It also has been around for a while, possibly having gone undetected for a year, and has updated itself remotely during that time.
Planning a public transport system in Jerusalem, holy city of three major religions and bitterly contested territory, involves taking some controversial planning decisions:
Under pressure from the influential and growing ultra-orthodox community, some bus lines in Jerusalem have introduced segregation, with women confined to the rear of the vehicle.
The company earlier distributed a consumer survey asking Jerusalem residents if they were "bothered" that the light railway is to include stops in Arab neighbourhoods en route to connecting to Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem. Another question asked: "All passengers, Jews and Arabs, can enter the train freely, without undergoing a security check. Does this bother you?"
In the UK, they have the Shipping Forecast; in Israel, they have text message alerts of incoming missiles:
"The rocket sensor will create a virtual ellipse (of the predicted impact zone) and all phones in that area will receive a warning," the Jerusalem Post quoted Chilik Soffer, a senior official at the Israeli Home Front Command, as saying.
There's an intriguing article in the Guardian about the descendents of German Nazis who converted to Judaism and moved to Israel. The article interviews several such converts (the son of a SS man who's an Orthodox rabbi, a left-wing lesbian campaigner for Palestinian rights, and a professor of Jewish Studies who is related to Hitler, and who describes his (Israeli-born, Arab-hating) son as a "fascist").
One somewhat obvious explanation for this phenomenon is that of assuagement of guilt by rejecting the oppressor population one came from identifying with the victims, and this explanation is floated by an expert on the psychology of the children of perpetrators. Interestingly, though, none of those interviewed, when asked for why they converted to Judaism, mention the Holocaust or Nazism, instead giving theological reasons:
"During my theological studies at university it became clear that I couldn't be a minister in the church," he says. "I concluded that Christianity was paganism. One of [its] most important dogmas is that God became man, and if God becomes man then man also can become God." He pauses. "Hitler became a kind of god."
I tell Bar-On they talk obsessively about the Trinity. But is incredulity really a reason for abandoning a religion with a three-in-one god for one that still believes bushes talk and that waves are parted by the will of God? "That is another way of saying what I have already told you," he says. "They want to join the community of the victim. They may have their own way of rationalising it."
Some miscellaneous web links from today:
- Scientists in Britain have developed a robot for teaching social skills to autistic children. The robot, named KASPAR (presumably a reference to Kaspar Hauser) can smile, gesticulate and simulate emotions such as surprise and sadness and acts as a "social mediator".
- A taxonomy of terrorist group logos, taken from Wikipedia. There are a lot of swords and AK-47s there, along with a few stars (mostly from the Marxist-influenced, rather than nationalist or Islamist, groups).
- In a year's time, Israel will have a national internet censorship firewall, blocking all adult content, with those wishing to access it being able to do so by signing a "perverts' register". If the Israelis make this work, there'll probably be pressure in Australia to implement something like this (after all, there is theoretical bipartisan support for a national firewall).
- A WIRED article looking at the subculture of people who deliberately try to fly as many miles as possible for the lowest price, and the strategies they employ.
(via Boing Boing, /.) ¶ 0
The Israeli government, realising it has somewhat of an image problem in key tourism markets, has decided on a possible solution: pictures of h0tt soldier chyxx in their underwear, in the lads' magazine Maxim:
In the magazine, one of the women, Yarden, describes how she enjoyed firing her M16 rifle before she entered the military intelligence corps, while Nivit says her job in intelligence was so secret that she cannot talk about it. There is nothing military about the photographs, however, which are taken in different locations in Tel Aviv
Israel is keen to sell itself as a western country with beaches and nightclubs rather than a country full of religious zealots which has been in a permanent state of emergency since its creation.Needless to say, not everyone's happy with this.
The European Broadcasting Union is threatening to bar Israel's entry in the Eurovision Song Contest because of its "political" lyrics. The song, "Push The Button" by Teapacks, appears to allude to suicide bombings and/or the threat of Iranian nuclear attacks, and possibly mention Israel's nuclear weapons in somewhat ambiguous tones.
The words of the song - in English, French and Hebrew, - have already been interpreted as addressing fears of a strike by Iran as well as attacks by Palestinian militants. In one verse the band sing: "The world is full of terror/ If someone makes an error/ He's gonna blow us up to biddy biddy kingdom come/ There are some crazy rulers they hide and try to fool us/ With demonic, technologic willingness to harm."The lyrics (well, the English ones) are reproduced; the article says it is "an occasionally Queen-like musical blend of rap, rock and more oriental sound", though in my mind, I can hear a faux-Jamaican accent.
Want a glimpse of a possible future of air travel in the age of al-Qaeda? Look no further than Israel and its national carrier, El Al, which despite being a prize target for Islamic militants across the world, has never lost a plane:
At a checkpoint before Ben Gurion airport vehicles come under scrutiny. Passengers may be picked out for passport checks. There is another spot check and a metal detector as they enter the terminal. Then they join the queue for questioning.
"What was the purpose of your visit to Israel? What did you do here? Who did you meet? Which cities did you visit? Is this your only passport? How many times have you been to Israel? Do you speak Arabic? Have you any knives?"
The questions come thick and fast. Officials are not interested in these details. They are looking for inconsistencies that suggest someone is hiding something.Of course, El Al-level security is labour-intensive and would cost a fortune. Though we'd only need to keep it up until the oil runs out.
Hezbollah militants abduct Israeli soldiers and fire missiles at Israeli cities. Israel bombs the hell out of Lebanon. Lebanese musician/artist Mazen Kerbaj records an minimalistic trumpet improvisation over the sound of exploding bombs.
(via Boing Boing) ¶ 0
Apparently Hamas, the hardline Islamist group forming the Palestinian government, is on the verge of recognising Israel's right to exist, a huge concession coming from a group vowed to annihilate the Jewish state and replace it with an Islamic theocracy. While this won't immediately bring peace to the Middle East, it could be the latest in a long line of initially promising first steps.
Finland's metal monsters ran away with Eurovision, winning it with 292 points; a lead of 44. The runners-up were: Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Romania and Sweden.
The bottom 3 were: France, Israel and Malta, with Malta
being the only ones to get nul getting one mercy point from Albania. I guess eyebrows just don't do it.
Lordi are taking to the stage, kissing the Greco-American woman, holding up the prize and giving a mighty roar, and getting back on stage with a reprise of their winning song as the credits roll.
Your Humble Narrator is watching the Eurovision Song Contest. We're up to song 6 (Spain's Las Ketchup doing a number titled "Bloody Mary"; given that the chorus seems to go "Duty Free Duty Free Duty Free", I think it's about cheap booze).
The first few songs have been interesting enough. Moldova did a vaguely hip-hop-flavoured Latin-dance-pop number with choregoraphy that ventured across the line between raunchy and wrong. The Israeli entrant (by a black American member of some Black Hebrew sect or other) was a syrupy R&B ballad, partly in Hebrew, which may have been about world peace, Zionist nationalism or neither. The Swiss entry was 100% pure Eurofromage.
We're now on to the Maltese entry, a pumpin' disco number. Those are some serious eyebrows there. And now we've got some German banjo-pickin' country music, with a blonde singer and a Bert Newton lookalike wearing a cowboy hat. Yee-ha!
A Palestinian man blew himself up in self-defence in a restaurant in Tel Aviv, according to a spokesman of the Palestinian Hamas government. The bombing was not organised by Hamas, though defended by them as "self-defence", to near-universal condemnation. Which suggests that they've given up on trying to convince the West that they're reasonable people.
A Danish newspaper publishes cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, offending Muslims. Iran retaliates by running a contest for the most offensive Holocaust-related cartoons. And now, a group of Israeli cartoonists are not taking this lying down, and running their own anti-Semitic cartoon contest, to show the Iranians that they won't be bested:
Amitai Sandy, the publisher of Tel-Aviv, Israel-based Dimona Comix, and founder of the contest jokes, "We'll show the world we can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew hating cartoons ever published! No Iranian will beat us on our home turf!"A truly inspired move.
(via Boing Boing) ¶ 1
American Holy Man and political powerbroker Pat Robertson, who previously called for the assassination of Venezuelan leftist president Hugo Chavez, is at it again, this time claiming that God smote Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon for giving up the Gaza Strip:
"He was dividing God's land, and I would say, 'Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the [European Union], the United Nations or the United States of America,'" Robertson told viewers of his long-running television show, "The 700 Club." "God says, 'This land belongs to me, and you'd better leave it alone,'" he said.Robertson's statements (though softened by his admission that Sharon was "a very likable person") have drawwn criticism from everyone from the Israeli government (whose spokesman compared him to Iranian hothead Mahmoud Ahmadine-Jihad) to liberal and secularist groups (no great surprise there), though probably resonated with too many big-haired yahoos for anyone to dismiss him as a harmless crank.
Today, in theological news: the Catholic church is set to abolish the concept of limbo, as a place for the souls of unbaptised children and virtuous heathens, saying that it "has always been just a theological hypothesis".
Meanwhile, terminally ill patients in Israel will be allowed euthanasia, as long as it's carried out by machines and not humans, as that would be forbidden under Jewish law:
A special timer will be fitted to a patient's respirator which will sound an alarm 12 hours before turning it off.
Normally, carers would override the alarm and keep the respirator turned on but, if various stringent conditions are met, including the giving of consent by the patient or legal guardian, the alarm would not be overridden.
Similar timing devices, known as Sabbath clocks, are used in the homes of orthodox Jews so that light switches and electrical devices can be turned on during the Sabbath without offending religious strictures.As Jamie Zawinski said, "Judaism is so awesome -- it's the only religion composed entirely of loopholes!"
For his latest act, vaguely subversive stencil artist Banksy has visited the West Bank and painted the controversial Israeli "security wall"; pictures are here.
The activity doesn't seem to have made him many friends; Israeli troops didn't see the humour in it and pointed their guns at him, while an old Palestinian man complained that it made the hated wall look beautiful.
In Israel, life imitates a Monty Python skit:
An indignant Israeli is suing a pet shop that he says sold him a dying parrot, reports the Ma'ariv newspaper. Itzik Simowitz of the southern city of Beersheba contends the shop cheated him because the Galerita-type cockatoo not only failed to utter a word when he got it home, but was also extremely ill. Mr. Simowitz adds that the shop owner assured him the parrot was not ill but merely needed time to adjust to its new environment.
(via bOING bOING)
Australia has come in in 41st place in Reporters Without Borders' annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index; which is below all EU members, several other Eastern European countries, South Africa and Hong Kong; in contrast, New Zealand ranked ninth, only slightly below the 8 nations sharing first place. Australia's dismal showing has to do partly with restricted press access to refugees, though chances are that media ownership concentration, defamation laws and attempts to force journalists to reveal their sources have also contributed.
The bottom of the list is held, predictably, by North Korea (at #167), with Cuba just above it. Saudi Arabia is at #159, three places ahead of China, while Singapore is at #147. Brazil, a popular recent poster child of the Third Way, languishes at #66. The US's arrest of journalists at anti-Bush protests and restrictions on journalistic visas have knocked it down to #22. Meanwhile, in the Middle East, Israel is at #36 (shared with Bulgaria), except in the occupied territories, where it is at #115 (shared with Gabon), though ahead of the Palestinian Authority (#127, slightly better than Egypt and Somalia).
First place is shared by Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia and Switzerland.
Natasha, a 5-year-old black macaque monkey at a zoo near Tel Aviv, recently suffered a near-fatal bout of stomach flu. She, however, made a full recovery, with one change: she now walks exclusively on her hind legs, much as humans do. Veterinarians are unsure of why this is so, but one possible explanation is brain damage caused by the flu.
Among recent news stories: intelligence "chatter" suggests impending al-Qaeda terrorist attack, possibly timed to coincide with the US elections (could this be the much-speculated-about October Surprise?). Meanwhile, in Israel, a group of soldiers are being investigated over an art exhibition detailing the brutalisation of Palestinians; it seems (from the report) to be more a case of them acting as whistle-blowers than Lynndie England Mk. 2. In the United Nations, the US has given up on renewing its immunity from war crimes prosecution, after realising that they weren't going to get it; however, in Iraq, they are pushing for immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law, with, of course, the full agreement of the Iraqi people. And in England and Wales, authorities are re-examining more than 100 murders which they suspect of being "honour killings"; there appears to be a sophisticated infrastructure for such killings, with "bounty hunters" making a business out of tracking down victims.
- Parrot knows 950 words, has grammar, can coin phrases and shows evidence of a sense of humour. Which calls into question the accepted belief that parrots act as sound-recording devices. Mind you, the article also claims that the parrot has telepathic abilities, which makes it sound rather dubious. Perhaps the BBC News has been acquired by Pravda?
- FBI computer expert talks about (in)security:
American companies have tried to respond to the massive fraud being perpetrated online. One common preventive, adopted by most companies that sell products online, has been to refuse shipments outside of North America, or allow international shipping, except for Eastern Europe. Criminals have figured out a way around this, however. They hire folks to act as middlemen for them. Basically, these people get paid to sit at home, sign for packages from Dell, Amazon, and other companies, and then turn around and reship the packages to Russia, Belorussia, and Ukraine. You know those signs you see on telephone poles that read "Make money! Work at home!"? A lot of that "work" is actually laundering products for the Russian mob. Of course, anyone caught acting as a middleman denies knowledge of their employer: "I had no idea why I was shipping 25 Dell computers a day to Minsk! I just assumed they liked computers!"
Dave also had a great quotation for us: "If you're a bad guy and you want to frustrate law enforcement, use a Mac." Basically, police and government agencies know what to do with seized Windows machines. They can recover whatever information they want, with tools that they've used countless times. The same holds true, but to a lesser degree, for Unix-based machines. But Macs evidently stymie most law enforcement personnel. They just don't know how to recover data on them. So what do they do? By and large, law enforcement personnel in American end up sending impounded Macs needing data recovery to the acknowledged North American Mac experts: the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Evidently the Mounties have built up a knowledge and technique for Mac forensics that is second to none.
- The amazing story of three blind brothers who became Israel's most formidable phone phreaks, partly by dint of their acute senses of hearing:
Two hours into an afternoon-long interview with the Hebrew-speaking Badirs, my translator's lips lock. He shrugs and tells me that the Badirs have shifted into a secret code. Ramy later explains that as kids he and Muzher developed their own language - reordering letters in mathematically complex ways - after they discovered that other boys were snooping on their conversations.
Ramy, Muzher, and Shadde were arrested on a variety of charges relating to computer fraud in connection with their hacks of the radio station and Bency Levy's phone sex operation. Police took them from their home in wrist and leg cuffs, but even in custody, they could not help but show off by conversing in their secret language and announcing telephone numbers that were being keyed in by law enforcers.
- Warning: blogging can endanger your career, relationships or general wellbeing: (via FmH)
"The blogging community is terribly incestuous," Lapatine admits. "If the relationship doesn't go well, all your mutual friends will read about it. This," he adds, "is how a friend of mine learned that he had halitosis and was a bad dancer."
Some bloggers run into difficulties from seemingly mundane reports about their daily thoughts and activities. "As an Asian girl, I get weird Asian-fetish e-mails from people who read [my] site," says Lia Bulaong, the twentysomething Manhattan author of Cheesedip (she includes tame photographs of herself in everyday clothes). "Also, stalkers I had in college that I didn't know about have come out of the woodwork."
- The prognosis for the upcoming Hitchhiker's Guide film looks somewhat dubious, what with Karey "Chicken Run" Kirkpatrick rewriting the script (undoubtedly crushing out anything that doesn't fit the standard Hollywood rules of characterisation and plot) and a rapper being cast as Ford Prefect. The thing about Trillian having been rewritten as a "brilliant scientist" also seems dubious. But you knew that already.
- A proposed Trainspotting-themed tour of Edinburgh has run into problems because the city has been cleaned up too much, with many of the locations in the novel and film no longer existing in any recognisable form (via Lev)
FBI urges police to look out for people carrying almanacs, as they may be terrorists looking for targets to attack. There appear to be no plans for a national registry of almanac owners, or embedded RFID chips in all almanacs, though borrowing one from your local library could result in your name being secretly reported to the authorities. (via kmusser)
Meanwhile, an Israeli firm that is importing Chinese workers (presumably to replace those troublesome Palestinians) is requiring them to sign contracts prohibiting them from having sex with Israelis or trying to convert them; those violating the contracts, which also ban any religious or political activity, will be sent back to China at their own expense. (via jwz)
An interesting look at the recent rise of anti-semitism in Europe:
The forum asserts that the most dangerous strand has its roots in Islam and that the rising number of Muslims in Europe is responsible for fuelling terror attacks, street violence and general harassment of Jews... it was revealed that the EU's racism watchdog has suppressed a report on anti-semitism because it concluded that Muslims were behind many incidents.
Deborah Lipstadt, the academic who won a libel victory after describing the rightwing historian David Irving as a Holocaust denier, this month described the "new" anti-semitism as directed at the "Rambo Jew, the Jew who is the aggressor".
"Sharon has a long record of calling Israeli critics of his policies traitors, and foreign critics anti-semites. The left is concerned that Sharon's policies are endangering Israel's future by fuelling virulent and violent anti-semitism."
The question arises of how closely criticism of Israeli policies (which, it must be said, have been somewhat hard-line in recent years) is connected with anti-semitic ideology. On one hand, it's implausible to assume that ideological anti-semites haven't jumped on this bandwagon (after all, there were reports of neo-Nazis joining the radical vegetarian/animal-rights movement looking for sufficiently zealous extremists to network with, a somewhat more bizarre scenario; closer to the situation, there were reports of neo-Nazi front groups joining the anti-capitalist protest movement, and trying to replace criticism of globalisation with discussion of "globalism", aka the cosmopolitan Elders-of-Zion bête noire). On the other hand, tarring all criticism of Israel with the brush of anti-semitism is obviously absurd, as much as accusing all critics of the Bush administration of despising Americans.
Israeli settlers are planning to use guard pigs to defend settlements from attackers. Pigs are believed to have a better sense of smell than dogs; also, contact of any sort with a pig renders Islamic militants ineligible for martyrdom and the statutory 70 virgins (or was it raisins?). The one catch is that the raising of pigs is forbidden in orthodox Judaism, though settlers are requesting a special exemption for this scheme from their rabbis. (Though couldn't the bombers get a special exemption for fighting off Israeli guard pigs from their imams?)
And while we're on the topic of martyrdom, suicide bombers in Iraq are apparently kidnapping babies, wrapping them in explosives and leaving them in public places as bombs. I suppose if you believe in martyrdom and the absolute rightness of your cause, any act of depravity that helps The Cause can be justified; those innocent bystanders you slaughtered in the course of Getting Your Message Across will get their recompense in the afterlife. (via mitch)
I recently read a very interesting book (Where You're At, by Patrick Neate) about the spread of hip-hop culture from the inner cities of America to places like Japan, Brazil and South Africa, becoming a sort of lingua franca of globalised pop culture. Today I found an article which ties in to that, about multi-ethnic hip-hop in Israel, a scene which includes everybody from marginalised Arabs to Ethiopians and Moroccan Jewish rappers rhyming in French. I saw another piece some time ago about Palestinian youths on the West Bank taking to rap to voice their grievances; perhaps we really do live on a hip-hop planet.
Those who thought that Tony Blair was completely spineless have just been proven wrong. The British government has threatened to put import duties on Israeli produce originating in the occupied territories to protest illegal settlements. Oooh; I bet Shazza's quaking in his boots.
Space shuttle Columbia explodes, killing all on board, much as happened in the Challenger disaster in 1986. The shuttle's crew did include the first-ever Israeli astronaut, a fighter pilot who bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, and security was reportedly extremely tight around the mission. Terrorist involvement is considered unlikely. (I wonder if any terrorist groups will rush to claim credit for it anyway.)
The Israeli military is facing a problem, as reservists are refusing to serve in the occupied territories on moral grounds. The reservists' objections are that the occupation of the territories is undemocratic or immoral, and that Orthodox Jews are exempted from service. Military service is compulsory in Israel.
Ariel Sharon wins Israel by a landslide. We can probably expect the next Six-Day War to commence any minute now.
One novel way of solving the problem of who controls Jerusalem: hand it over to God. Of course, if God fails to materialise or send His angels to personally take charge of the city, the problem of selecting His mortal representatives could be quite contentious.