November 28, 2013

Arik Einstein and the Israeli Soundtrack

On the day Arik Einstein dies I understand what my students and my son’s friends mean when they say, wistfully, as if they had experienced it, that they wish they’d been there for the sixties. Many things happened in the sixties, meaning the whole era, that might prompt the next generations to imagine going back in time. But I think the biggest is the music.

Were I able to time travel, yes, I’d do a number of things differently. But I would not change the soundtrack.

Our soundtrack played around the world. It played in Israel too, though here there was a parallel, wonderful soundtrack playing that, like most things about Israel, I learned of only when I first visited a dozen years ago.

I particularly loved Arik Einstein not only for his rich, soulful voice, but also for the fact that he enunciated so clearly, allowing me, with very limited Hebrew, to understand a lot of words. I looked up the lyrics in English for my favorites. I know some songs by heart.

But I’ll never know the words to the Israeli soundtrack; it can never sing like the soundtrack that defined my growing up.

Arik Einstein’s songs are playing nonstop on the TV and radio and in the cafes of Tel Aviv; before the funeral a huge gathering took place at Rabin Square and then at night, along with the first candle on the giant chanukiah, there were candles on the ground arranged in the shape of a heart and spelling out Arik, and Israelis of all ages singing his songs.

Like the young people who know about the sixties but who have a different soundtrack playing in their heads, I have a different kind of sadness along with sharing this loss, a different absence to have not shared that defining music live.

November 25, 2013

What Kind of Deal with Iran?

Three days after the Supreme Leader of Iran called Israel a “rabid dog” and said that Israelis are “not human,” a deal was signed that makes the President of Iran very happy:

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday the deal reached with six world powers in Geneva ‘recognized Iran's nuclear rights’ by allowing it to continue to enrich uranium and that Tehran's enrichment activities would proceed similar to before… The president also said the success of the talks so far was due to the "guidelines offered" by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In the USA, John Kerry said “We will stand by Israel 100%.”

But in IsraelDeputy Defense Minister Danny Danon denounced the agreement as an ‘excellent deal for Iran and a dangerous one for the world, neutralizing the sanctions instead of the centrifuges. The agreement does not dismantle even a single centrifuge or reactor, but is a critical blow to sanctions.’

Back in the USA, analysis of the actual text of the "interim agreement" confirms that the deal does not ask Iran to give up anything significant and yet provides it with more money to continue whatever their leaders want to continue doing – like funding Assad and Hezbollah and building the nuclear program.
It wasn’t an open mic that caught the Ayatollah’s words -- he was voicing official state policy (and speaking before cheering crowds chanting "death to America; death to Israel"). 
When state sponsored genocidal rhetoric is no big deal – we have a bad deal.

November 21, 2013

For Whom Is Iran Building Weapons?

On CNN, Jack Tapper sets up an interview with Israeli spokesman Mark Regev designed to focus on Israel’s relationship with America. But Regev keeps the focus on Iran’s relationship with nuclear weapons, and leaves a very dramatic impression on “the average viewer at home” (Tapper’s term).

Regev’s points:

1. This “deal” seems a lot like the deal with North Korea and we know how well that worked out.

2. The idea that fewer sanctions will result in Iran discontinuing its building of nuclear weapons is based on the “falsehood” that Iran is somehow going to be motivated by fewer sanctions, small steps taken by the West, when Iran has not yet dismantled a “single centrifuge.”

3. The big one: Iran is building “intercontinental missiles,” says Mark Regev.  “They’re not building them for us; they already have missiles that can reach Israel. They’re building them for you, for targets in America and Western Europe.”

Here's the interview:

November 14, 2013

Press coverage of IDF soldier's murder

Today is the funeral for Eden Atias, the young man who was stabbed to death this week while dosing on a bus in the town of Afula. Below is some coverage from Israel.

But other English language coverage, or lack of it, "shames us" says this media commentator.  Rueters includes, as straight information, that the teenage killer was "motivated" by the fact that he has relatives in Israeli prison. The terrorist did tell police that he set out from nearby Jenin, entering Israel illegally, to kill Israelis as revenge for his cousins' imprisonment. The news service leaves out that these relatives were imprisoned for committing murders and gives no other information. AP moves quickly to discussion of possible new apartment building and includes a picture of apartments in another area from 2005, though the main photo does show a women crying out after the attack. On Israeli television news you could hear this women scream "why? why?" in Hebrew.

While Eden Atias is mourned here, there is not likely to be a lot of coverage elsewhere of Hamas's "welcoming" of such attacks.

Thousands of mourners attend funeral of slain IDF soldier
11/14/2013 01:57

Private Eden Atias 
Photo: FacebookPrivate Eden Atias
Thousands of mourners attended the funeral Wednesday night of murdered soldier Private Eden Atias who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian teen in Afula earlier in the day.
The 18-year-old Atias was laid to rest at 11 p.m. Wednesday at the military cemetery in Upper Nazareth.
Atias’s father, who is currently in prison, was brought to the funeral in his prison uniform accompanied by Prisons Service guards.
Earlier Wednesday evening, some 150 people protested at the Afula central bus station, where Atias was murdered, condemning the government's peace negotiations with the Palestinians, Israel Radio reported.
The demonstrators noted that Atias' murder was the fourth such attack since talks resumed in July.
Atias, a resident of Upper Nazareth, was on his way back to his base Wednesday morning and, according to some reports, was asleep in his seat when a Palestinian teen from the West Bank stabbed him.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the soldier was critically wounded at the scene and taken to the Emek Medical Center in Afula, where he died shortly thereafter. Rosenfeld added that the attack is being treated as ideologically-motivated, as the man told investigators he stabbed the soldier because he has a relative in an Israeli prison.
Sec.-Lt. Yitzhak Maimon, an IDF officer who first arrested the Palestinian youth who carried out the deadly knife attack, told how he arrived at Afula’s central bus station, when he saw an incident unfolding on a bus. He described boarding the vehicle, moving to the back seats, and seeing “a terrorist who seconds earlier stabbed a soldier. Within seconds, when I understood that this is a terror attack, I took responsibility for the incident. I directed my weapon at the terrorist, cocked the gun, and the terrorist froze and gave himself up on the spot.”
continue reading here
New York Times "outrage" coverage here
Update: The Times apologized for the photo they ran but left the photo online.

November 08, 2013

How Big is Israel? How Small is the San Francisco Bay Area?

The San Francisco Bay Area and Israel are about the same size!

They’re also about the same population. The SF Bay has somewhat fewer people and is losing population while Israel is growing in population.

In terms of geography, the Bay Area may be considered either a little bigger or a little smaller than Israel depending mostly on where you live in the Bay. Since there are no official borders to the Bay Area, people in the farthest north reaches do not necessarily consider the farthest south reaches really Bay Area – and the reverse, and so on.

Even in such close proximity to a map of Israel there is nothing analogous to say about borders here.

The California map above is typical in that it includes nine counties in the Bay Area.  Some maps give the Bay 12 counties, which I think is really overstating the range of the Bay Area.  Again, no analogy.

Imagine these counties rearranged in the shape of Israel. Now, especially if you’re from the West Coast, you have a good image of how small, or big, is Israel. Also, given its similar size to Israel, the size of the Bay Area can be suggested by the map below.

It is useful to look at facts on the ground, so to speak.

November 05, 2013

Why Israel Doesn’t Excel At Public Relations

It’s too nice here.  Too entertaining. Too busy. Too intense. Too productive. Too successful. Too much going on. Too crazy.  So the crazy stuff that’s said about Israel – that felt very pressing to me in California – seems ridiculous here.

Ride the light rail in Jerusalem crushed against every possible demographic of Israel and then talk back to people who shout about “apartheid”? Hang out at the beach, the river, the cafes in Tel Aviv and then worry about the lack of worry about Iran?

Time Magazine had a cover story a few years ago that was outrageous. The title was “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.” It was a hit piece, really, criticizing Israelis for going on with their lives even though there is no peace settlement (not counting the one with Jordan and the one with Egypt). The story I've wondered about is Why Israeli PR Doesn’t Fight Back Harder. But being here now, it makes sense.

Because it’s hard to be riled up about how misrepresented Israel is when you are in the midst of everyday life that is misrepresented.  It’s hard to take it seriously.  It's hard to believe it's even happening.