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israel murders 73 year old palestinian

MSM coverage highlights suspect Israeli version of Palestinian murder

Yesterday, Israeli forces in Hebron assassinated a 73 year-old Palestinian woman who was driving to her sister’s home for lunch.  The Israeli occupation army claimed this was a terror attack and she drove at high-speed towards soldiers who opened fire and “neutralized” her.

The 11 second video above was ‘shot’ by an IDF soldier at the scene wearing a GoPro video camera.  I don’t know how Palestinians managed to get it and upload it to YouTube.  But I can tell you that the IDF is pissed–royally pissed.

Maariv writes:

…The security apparatus is extremely anxious because the video taken by a soldier somehow got to Palestinians.  An investigation will be opened into the matter.

Not an investigation into the murder.  But an investigation of the poor shlub who took the video and allowed it to get into the hands of the “enemy.”

tharwat sharawi

73 year-old Palestinian grandmother, Tharwat Sharawi, murdered by IDF.

The video shows that while the woman drove her car at a relatively high rate of speed she at no point intended to harm any soldier.  The soldiers were easily able to get out of her way as she drove toward them.  If she had wanted to hit them she easily could’ve swerved into them and done so.  She didn’t.

Given her advanced age, she likely didn’t even realize what the soldiers wanted her to do.  Or maybe she was talking on a cell phone or texting and not paying close attention to the road.  There were no signs or markers indicating a checkpoint or that soldiers had established a location for inspecting vehicles.

At any rate, the soldiers wanted her to stop her vehicle and she didn’t.  So they killed her.  It’s as simple as that.  Her family’s claims that she was on her way to lunch with her sister are correct.  And she died for it.

Haaretz now reports that the IDF also claimed that it found a “commando knife” in her vehicle.  If they found any such implement it was probably a paring knife she was going to use to peel fruit for lunch!  But Haaretz says that this report is now considered suspect, as is the claim that the woman’s husband was killed in the first Intifada.  Amos Harel, who is no Gideon Levy on Haaretz’s reporting staff, even says that the video shows the soldiers who killed her cannot legitimately claim they feared for their lives.

Frankly, I’ve never heard of any 73 year-old anywhere in the world perpetrating a terror attack of any kind (though there may be an exception someone can find).  Usually 73 year-olds, thinking about their legacy, want to spend as much time as possible with their children and grandchildren, which is precisely what Tharwat Sharawi was doing.

Mainstream media reports say her husband was killed by Israeli forces in 1988 during the first Intifada, as if somehow she’s been nursing the desire for revenge for nearly 30 years and never found the right moment till now.  The journalistic atrocity of reporting this killing is exacerbated by MSM headlines which offer the Israeli narrative, to the exclusion of the actual story offered clearly by her own family (and reported as headlines only in the Arab media, Israel shoots dead 73-year-old Palestinian ‘on her way to lunch’)–that she was on her way to lunch, not heaven.

I have twice been a victim of accidents caused by elderly women.  Once, my bicycle was destroyed when a car crashed into a utility pole which toppled on my bicycle, which had been standing right next to me.  The woman driver seemed confused and probably had some sort of problem with the medications she was using.  Just three weeks ago I was waiting to make a turn at an intersection.  When the car in front of me didn’t move on a green turn arrow I honked my horn.  Then, the car, instead of moving forward, went into reverse and crashed into my own car.  When I got out of the car I was met with a clearly disoriented, confused woman who probably shouldn’t have been driving at all.

Now, I don’t know whether this is what happened in the case of Sharawi.  But I give elderly drivers the benefit of the doubt if at all possible.  I don’t advocate executing them for their deteriorating driving skills.  Israel appears to have different rules of the road.

corporal t idf killer

Kahanist Jewish Press Celebrates Israeli “Terminator”

Apparently, few in the MSM can do independent reporting or bother to question a fraudulent narrative that demands you believe an elderly grandmother would prefer to join the Intifada to kill Israeli soldiers rather than enjoy lunch with her sister.  What are these editors and reporters doing?  Phoning it in?  Do they do any independent thinking at all?

She is the 78th Palestinian murdered by Israeli forces since October 1st.  11 Israelis have died during that period.

Corporal “Tom,” IDF’s “Terminator”

The IDF is bursting it’s buttons with pride at Cpl. T, stationed at Gush Etzion.  Though he’s only served eight months with the Shimson Battalion of the Kfir Brigade, he’s already gotten three notches on his belt.  Three confirmed “kills” of Palestinian “terrorists.”  Though the IDF usually tries to protect the identity of its killers (aka soldiers), this time they made an exception and circulated a photograph of “The Terminator,” as they’ve dubbed him.

I consider him wanted for murder.  If anyone has any information that would identify him please let me know.  An Israeli who reads social media sites reported that he’s been identified as having the first name “Tom” (comment 21, censors don’t bother deleting because I have a screenshot) and is an Orthodox Jew.

When I tweeted a Wanted poster of him on Twitter, a news producer at Israel’s Reshet B, Dani Zaken, accused me of putting a target on T’s back.  Which is ironic given that the soldiers has been doing precisely this to Palestinians for at least eight months.  Zaken also smeared me by saying I was “serving terror” in publishing the photograph.  He didn’t realize, stupidly, that the IDF itself had published the photo and that the Jewish Press, Meir Kahane’s very own preferred publication, had published it proudly.  Making the IDF itself a “servant of terror.”  Or perhaps Zaken meant the IDF was a servant of Israeli terror, in which case he’d have been correct.

New York Times’ Fictional Israeli “Center” Triumphs

I’m sure you’ll be relieved (as I was) to know that Israeli politics is increasingly turning toward “the center.”  Gone are the days of left and right according to the NY Times’ resident Israeli political scholar, Isabel Kershner.  Now, we’ve reached a nice accommodation between the two poles, or so Kershner opines:

…The more mainstream Israeli right and left have gravitated over the last two decades toward a less ideological center, approaching some kind of consensus on the Palestinian issue. For many here, the struggle now is more about how to balance Israel’s security needs with democracy, and the battle against incitement versus free speech.

…Two decades ago, the Israeli right and left were sharply divided between those dreaming of a Greater Israel from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea and the supporters of Mr. Rabin, who subscribed to the formula of land for peace.

Israeli analysts say that neither of these paradigms are relevant anymore…

“Israelis are in an age of pragmatism,” said Yoaz Hendel, a former director of communications in the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “It was very clear in Rabin’s time — you were either for or against giving up territory.”

Today, he said, “very few people here believe you can achieve a utopian peace treaty.”

Pay close attention to this argument, such as it is.  There were two extremes, extreme left and extreme right.  Now neither are relevant.  What is relevant?  The center.  And what is the center when you poke and pull at it a bit?  The position formerly known as the extreme right.

The extreme right position of a unitary Israeli-dominated state from the “river to the sea” is precisely the paradigm that has triumphed in Israel.  The only development that hasn’t yet occurred to formally realize this vision, is that Israel has not formally annexed the West Bank.  But in the current situation it doesn’t need to.  It pours new settlements and settlers into the area at will.  It steals more and more Palestinian land and water.  It controls what it wants and needs and leaves the dregs to the rump  “Palestinian Authority,” which has little credibility among Palestinians and almost no “authority.”

If Kershner had been honest she would’ve written that the Israeli right’s narrative has prevailed.  And it is a far-right narrative, not a centrist one.

Further Kershner “proof” of Israel’s new centrist political paradigm:

Mr. Netanyahu, of the conservative Likud Party, is serving his third consecutive term and heads a government coalition dominated by right-wing and religious parties. He has reined in the more hard-line politicians in his cabinet who are trying to promote legislation that their critics consider anti-democratic, like curbing the powers of the Supreme Court. Unlike some of his ministers, he has endorsed the idea of a Palestinian state, with caveats

Who has Bibi reined in?  This is the most racist, extremist government in Israeli history.  Every serious observer except Kershner seems aware of this.  Yet, because Bibi raps a few extremist ministers on the knuckles with a wink and a nod, this means that “Big Poppa” is really a centrist but his naughty kids have wandered off the reservation.  They do so try his patience.  Thus, he can’t be blamed for their naughtiness.

She wrote this just a day or two before Netanyahu appointed as his chief media/hasbara advisor, a settler who said Pres. Rivlin (viewed as a traitor by the rabid Israeli right) was too insignificant to be worth killing.  When Rivlin and the U.S. State Department (Ran Baratz had derided Secretary of State Kerry as someone who should do stand-up comedy at Israel’s African refugee camp) howled over the appointment, the leader who “reined in the more hard-line politicians” in his circle said he would “review” the appointment–but only after returning from the U.S.

Anyone who has observed Bibi for any length of time (as Kershner should have) knows his modus operandi.  He plays bad cop, worse cop.  He is the bad cop and his ministers are worse cops.  You don’t like the hate and swill of the worse cops?  Well, then you turn for reassurance to the politician who’s merely a bad cop.  Not a good one, certainly.  But not as bad as the worst.  Thus, Kershner buys into the fraudulent narrative which Bibi has spun throughout his career: I’m the grown-up; the other guys are clowns.  But don’t pay any attention to them because I’m the real deal.

The claim that Bibi supports, not a Palestinian state, but “the idea” of one, is ridiculous.  Bibi doesn’t even support the whisper, the shadow, or evanescence of a Palestinian state.  And I do love the qualification she adds, “with caveats.”  What are those caveats?  Only that the Palestinians must first recognize Israel as a Jewish state, renounce their claims to all Palestinian lands to which Israel has claims, including not just the settlement blocs but the Jordan Valley, and renounce the Right of Return.  Those are some “caveats.”  If I could convert them into Bitcoins, I’d be a wealthy man.

Kershner continues with her centrist fairy tale:

In some ways it is [Israeli President] Mr. Rivlin, whose role is chiefly symbolic, who exemplifies the redrawing of the political map. A veteran Likud parliamentarian who has long opposed territorial partition and supported Jewish settlements, he has emerged as a strong voice for tolerance and coexistence.

This is all well and good.  Rivlin does seem a politician of principle.  But in her very own words she indicates Rivlin is virtually powerless to realize any of his views or principles (“whose role is chiefly symbolic”).  Presidents do not make or implement policy.  At best, they are offered a modest bully pulpit from which they may exhort the nation to behave better.  They are a slightly more energetic version of the British monarch.  They can speak publicly about political matters.  But must do so in a tightly constrained fashion.

So it doesn’t matter ultimately whether Rivlin is a voice for tolerance or “coexistence” (and what does this term even mean?).  It cannot be a “strong” voice as she claims because it cannot suggest policy.  In fact, Rivlin’s is a still, very small voice which has absolutely no impact within the ranks of the Likud MKs.  They have long abandoned his principles for an outright racist, fascistic political agenda.  To posit Israel’s president as the locus of some imaginary Israeli center is sheer fiction.

Kershner marshals further evidence to support this claim, saying that Israel remains centrist because it retains its preference for democracy:

Yehuda Ben Meir, an expert on national security and public opinion at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University said despite its [Israel’s extreme right] heightened exposure on social networks…it has not grown significantly, and studies show that a clear majority of Israelis still view democracy as an essential characteristic of their state.

Virtually everything about this passage is false.  Israel’s extreme right has not only grown exponentially, it governs the country.  But what has happened ever since 1967 and the days of Meir Kahane is that the definition of left and right have changed.  What once was extreme right (and even outlawed in the case of Kahane) has become the ‘center.’  What was once the center is now called the ‘left.’  As for the unnamed “studies” Kershner cites, I don’t know who or what she’s referencing.  Repeated Israeli studies I’ve cited here over many years prove that Israelis in huge numbers, often resounding majorities (or pluralities in some cases), reject democratic principles.

If you asked an Israeli, even many extreme right-wing Israelis, whether they view democracy as essential to their state, many would answer yes.  But that doesn’t matter.  If someone agrees that democracy is essential to their nation but rejects almost every tenet of democracy in practice, they can no longer be called democrats or centrists.  They are anti-democratic and right-wing.  And certainly deluding themselves as well.

What is Kershner’s definition of the Israeli Middle Way?  The Jewish Home political platform.  That’s right, the platform of the party that seeks to annex the West Bank and endorses ethnic cleansing-lite:

…Many Israelis appear to be seeking a more moderate middle way. The right-wing Jewish Home party, which sits in the governing coalition and promotes settlement construction, proposes annexing about 60 percent of the West Bank and allowing some kind of autonomy for the 40 percent heavily populated by Palestinians, analysts say.

So the New Israeli Center endorses annexing most of Palestine and leaving the spoiled bits under, not a state, but “some kind” of autonomy.  On which planet has this ever been called centrist?

In short, Isabel Kershner and the entire NY Times coverage of Israel and Palestine is a fraud.  I’m not telling most of you readers anything you didn’t already know.  But it’s important periodically to expose the most egregious examples of this fraud for as many to see as possible.


I don’t usually get too involved in the appointment of lower level Israeli government officials, but this one was too good to pass up.  It brings me great sorrow to inform you of the untimely passing of Mark Regev as Bibi’s chief spokes-flack.  Regev, consummate media propagandist that he is, is moving on to that great hasbara branding opportunity in the sky: London, that is, where he will become Israeli ambassador.  What must’ve recommended him for his new job was all the fabulous lies he managed to tell during BBC interviews, all while keeping a straight face.

As you know (everybody knows this, right?), Israel is on the cutting edge of promoting its brand in the world market.  And social media is where it’s at when it comes to marketing.  Any 12 year-old Mark Zuckerberg can tell you that.  Apparently, Bibi has been studying at Zuckerberg’s feet when he makes his pilgrimage to Israel to announce major Facebook investments in Brand Israel.

ran baratz

Invitation to a Baratz lecture hosted by the Ayn Rand Center, “Why does the economic right lost in the intellectual battle?”

When seeking a replacement for the irreplacable Regev, Bibi naturally turned to the coolest spin doctor (in English) he could find: a hitherto unknown far-right fanboy named Ran Baratz.  His new post has the catchy title, chief of national hasbara and media advisor to the prime minister.

The timing of the appointment is curious to say the least: one week before Netanyahu is scheduled to visit the White House and hondel for an 80% increase in U.S. military aid to Israel (raising it from the current $3-billion to $5-billion if Bibi has his way).  After you read below the atrocious comments Baratz made about America’s Democratic political leadership you’ll wonder what Bibi was thinking.  But the Israeli leader does seem to have impeccable timing for making the grand gesture that sticks his foot squarely in his mouth at the most inauspicious moment.

It almost makes you wonder whether perhaps Bibi does this delberately.  Most leaders seek to put their best foot forward before making imporant foreign trips.  Not him, he’s like a boxer who is always spoiling for a fight.  And if the other side isn’t biting, he’ll provoke them until they do.

All I can say is that I hope to God Baratz joins Bibi on his trip to Washington.  And when he enters the White House I hope they force Baratz to enter by what used to be the servant’s quarters.  Because he isn’t fit for civilized company.  Perhaps the Secret Service may even arrest him for impersonating a human being.

Baratz is a defrocked academic, who earned his PhD in classical Greek philosophy at the Hebrew University.  After completing his degree he taught for a time there, but his contract was not renewed.  It wasn’t a decision on the merits, to hear Baratz tell it.  It was solely based on his far right views.  Because an academic institution which makes Palestinian janitors wear special tags identifying them as non-Jews is certainly one that will persecute right-wing ideologues like Baratz!

Baratz also teaches on the “faculty” of the pro-Israel Tikvah Foundation.  This Foundation is dissatisfied with existing Israel studies programs at American universities.  They’re not pro-Israel enough.  So it’s launched its own.  Baratz appropriate found an ideological home there.  On a related subject, Tikvah is one of the prime funders of Tablet Magazine, another pro-Israel shmatteh.

Baratz also serves as “academic advisor” to the far-rightist group, Im Tirzu, which seeks to purify Israeli academia by ridding it of “post-Zionist” dogma.  He has also had a post-doctoral fellowship at the Likud’s American Enterpise Institute, the Shalem Center.

From academia, Baratz retreated to his settlement to lick his wounds.  He came out fighting, launching a new political website, Midah (“Degree,” as in “proportion”), which featured right-wing political analysis and talking heads.  Because there simply isn’t enough of that in Israeli media.  We don’t have Yisrael HaYom, Maariv, Makor Rishon, Arutz Sheva, the Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, and fourteen other media outlets spewing the same garbage already.  We need yet another variant to satisfy our craving for militaristic, nationalistic rants.

It just so happens that either Bibi’s staff did no due diligence on this charming fellow or it knew exactly what it was getting and signed him up for service knowing he was poison.  Yup, Mr. Baratz has quite a checkered history of incitement and petulant rants all published in plain public view.  Maariv has served some of the best bits up on a platter for the not quite as insane Israeli public to read.

ran baratz

Settler firebrand Daniella Weiss declares Pres. Rivlin “not worth killing.”

The best is his claim that Pres. Reuven Rivlin should be murdered if he was anyone of any consequence (but he isn’t).  You read that right.  Rivlin is one of the oldest of the Likud Old Guard.  But like some truly loyal conservatives he remains true to first principles.  People may not remember this from Israeli political history, but Likud and Herut before it were classical liberal parties in the English tradition.  They believed in the value of the individual and the value of individual liberty.  But the most secular and radical among them (and there were some) believed in according these rights not just to Jews, but to all citizens; including “Arabs.”

So while Rivlin does support a one-state solution, his version of it would accord Palestinian citizens equal rights along with Palestinian non-citizens currently living under Occupation.  Rivlin would make all of them citizens of his unitary state.  This is why the truly nutty settler far-right hates his guts; even to the point of advocating his murder.

On his Facebook page, Baratz features prominently a video of settler leader Daniella Weiss saying of Rivlin:

He’s not important enough to kill.

Baratz’s rejoinder is:

I said the same thing long before her.  But it’s good that practical people [like Weiss] confirm the observations of theoreticians [like Baratz!].

But this Israeli Dr. Johnson wasn’t done yet.  He took again to Facebook to rail against Rivlin for the crime of…flying coach.  Yes, the Israeli president went on a State visit to the Czech Republic and on his return he [shockingly!] flew coach, or as Baratz disdainfully called it “tourist class:”

It says a lot that the President flies tourist class, circulating through the cabin shaking everyone’s hand.  It says that he’s such an inconsequential figure that he has no fear for his life.  We could probably even send him by hang-glider to the Syrian Golan, which is under ISIS control.  The very next day they’ll send him back to us and ask to open negotiations for their immediate return [from Syria] to Iraq [where ISIS originated].  “Just so long as you take him [back]!  Your president goes around camp shaking everyone’s hand, trying to speak to us in Arabic [Rivlin is a fluent Arab-speaker and his father a prominent Arabist] which he doesn’t know, proposes that we all unite since it’s a shame we are all separate tribes.  In short, he has everyone here totally demoralized.  Some here have even begun talk of founding a human rights organization to review the cruel use of jokes as a form of psychological warfare.  The New Israel Fund has already expressed interest.

Baratz has also defended Bibi’s flagrantly false statements about the Mufti’s talks with Hitler about the Holocaust.  In Hebrew that is so confusing it’s even hard to make out what he’s trying to say, he writes:

“It is better for you, Israel, that your prime minister wholeheartedly believes that the Mufti persuaded Hitler to exterminate the Jews than thinking – if only for a split-second of a daydream – that there is the possibility of not living here by the sword. The left accuses Netanyahu of denying the Holocaust, but does not hesitate to prove that it is stuck in the denial of reality, history, common sense and human nature”

A bit long-winded, and full of non sequiturs.  But you get the gist.  Who cares whether Bibi got history right.  He knows what it will take to survive in this jungle.  And all you have to do is stick with him without sweating the small stuff–like facts, and truth.

This is clearly a guy with far too much time on his hands since he got canned from the University.  As you can imagine, Pres. Rivlin is none too pleased with the news that the prime minister’s new chief propagandist would favor murdering him, if he were a person of any consequence.  He reminds Bibi that this jackass is being tasked with representing Israel and its policies before the world.  How does it look to have a professional spin doctor saying it wouldn’t bother him one bit if the president of his own country was murdered?

He’s also one of the settler True Believers when it comes to the rebuilding of the Holy Temple:

The will to build the Third Temple is a worthy Jewish and Zionist cause of the first order…Would that a way could be found to do it.

He says in that clueless way rabid ideologues have that the Jewish Temple could be rebuilt without starting a war with Muslims.  He doesn’t say how.  But if the Muslims refuse to accept it–then indeed, he says, there would be war.  There you have it.  Nice and neat and wrapped in a bow: the historical future of the Jewish people is one of religious holy war.

Our man doesn’t stop with his own president.  Why not insult some Americans too while we’re at it.  He said Secretary of State John Kerry has “the mental age of a 12 year old.”  He also has a “promising career” in his future as a “stand-up comedian in Kansas City, Mosul or the Holot detention facility [where African refugees are imprisoned]. This guy’s a regular comedian himself. Obama? A “modern anti-Semite.”

Baratz now walks about with his tail between his legs.  Well, not exactly.  It’s all a big joke to him.  But you should believe him, he’s learned his lesson.  When I published those comments I did so as a private citizen, he says.  Now, I promise to be more circumspect.  Um, that’s not the way it works, haboob.  You are judged as a public figure by the entirety of your previous experience and statements.  You will not, I promise be much different once in office from what you were before you joined the government.  If you were an oaf before who stuck your foot in your mouth at every opportunity, you will be the same now.  Except that the media, always interested in a good laugh at politicians’ expense, will be watching like a hawk for every misstep and misspeak.  And there will be oh so many of them.  Of that you may be certain.

When asked by a reporter whether he would follow the government “line” or a rightist one (as if there were any difference!), he responded that he didn’t see his job as political and would serve in it as such.  Wonder of wonders.  A man tells the truth (his version of it, anyway) as a private citizen.  Then he’s appointed to a government post and starts lying like a sociopath.

If Israel were a half-sane place I’d say Baratz’s political future was non-existent.  But latter-day Israel is a place where insanity and toadying is rewarded with plum assignments.  So it’s anyone’s guess whether this ass will have a job tomorrow or not.  I’d guess his appointment will be quietly shelved and in another three months we’ll find him quietly placed inside a ministry with a cushy new post.  It’s the way of the world, Likud-world.


Tonight’s post hits very close to home for multiple reasons I’ll explain.  The Jewish Forward (whose assistant editor is a friend, Larry Cohler Esses) published a deeply troubling, but brilliant expose of a Reform rabbi whom the movement permitted to prey on women in at least three separate Jewish communities.  While he was active, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Reform Judaism’s rabbinic professional association did far too little to protect communities from his depredations.  Nor did it do much to police or monitor his behavior.  His current home is right here in Seattle (my first reason this story hit close to home).  Almost as soon as he got here, he attempted to seduce at least one vulnerable young woman who sought his counsel.

Rabbi eric siroka

Rabbi Eric Siroka, sexual predator shielded by the Reform rabbinate

Among the jobs he took when he arrived here was teaching at a communal Hebrew High School.  I know children of friends who attend it, including precisely the sort of young girls he’s preyed on in the past.  The thought that authorities at this Jewish school did so little due diligence before hiring this man and putting local children in his charge is deeply disturbing.

The damage this scandal has caused is two-fold: of course there are the women whom he’s sexually abused.  This is a profound evil.  Suffering from which some may never recover.  But just as disturbing is the damage it has caused to the credibility of CCAR and the Reform movement.  Read this article, paying close attention to the interviews and statements made by the rabbinic peers who were tasked with maintaining ethical standards for the movement.  Read the response by the congregation rabbi at the temple where Rabbi Siroka is a congregant:

Rabbi David Lipper, senior rabbi of Temple B’nai Torah…called the allegations “hearsay.”

Lipper said he is aware that Siroka was expelled from the CCAR. But Lipper added that because Siroka is not engaged in a rabbinic capacity at the synagogue, he is “not concerned” about the circumstances surrounding Siroka’s expulsion.

Lipper said that Siroka’s occasional teaching at his synagogue was a “personnel decision and not for public consumption.”

“I’m not a judge of other rabbis,” Lipper said. “I don’t live my life in judgment of other people.”

He added, “I’m not sure what your endgame is in doing this story.”

Given the multiple scandals over similar incidents during the past few years at synagogues in New York and Washington, Rabbi Lipper better come up with a better, more transparent response than the obtuse one he’s adopted here.  If I belonged to this synagogue I wouldn’t permit any child I knew to be alone in the same room with him or to teach any child I knew anything.  How can a spiritual leader who is a sexual predator be permitted to teach Torah or Talmud?

Clearly, this man needs very serious psychological counseling and behavior therapy to change his patterns of thought and conduct.  And as a Jew, if he underwent such treatment and emerged a “reformed” individual, I might argue that his teshuvah, if documented by professional authorities, deserved consideration.  But he’s been expelled by the CCAR.  He’s clearly refused such offers of help from his colleagues.  Thus he deserves no consideration from anyone in any position of authority in any Jewish community.  He must be shunned until he changes.  He must not be allowed to harm more women, as he surely will.

The institutions of the American Jewish community are declining in strength and popularity.  Jews here are becoming increasingly secular.  They are turning away from organized religious expression, including synagogues.  Though Reform Judaism is by far the most popular movement in this country, scandals like this should and will rock it’s crediblity.  And they should.

Any institution must earn ongoing respect from those it serves.  If it betrays their trust then it no longer serves a useful purpose.  I’m not saying the Reform movement will fall due to this single incident.  But if it failed so badly regarding this particular tragic situation, there are scores of others in which it either has or will fail in future.  That is, of course, unless proper lessons are learned.  Unless women who are abused are believed and their testimony is encouraged.  Based on what I read here, that has not happened in the CCAR.  They have a big problem and better fix it.

As in all religions, Jews place their spiritual leaders on a pedestal.  Some exploit the privileges they’re given.  In doing so, they betray themselves, their own families, those to whom they’re ministering, and most of all the entire Jewish community.

But today’s era is different than the past.  We can no longer afford to accord rabbis and other communal leaders with the deference they automatically earned by dint of their titles alone.  We must do due diligence before hiring anyone serving in such a sensitive position.  In fact, if your synagogue has hired an educational director or rabbi in the recent past and you didn’t examine more than his or her references, you’ve opened yourself to moral and legal liability.

As someone who grew up in the Conservative movement, I never personally experienced such a profound betrayal and what follows does not reach to the profound low depths of the actions of Rabbi Siroka.  But I have encountered rabbis and educators who displayed warning signs that no one took seriously.

I attended Camp Ramah in the late 1960s and there met some of the most extraordinary Jewish teachers I’ve ever had the privilege to study with: Rabbi Joe Lukinsky, Professors Alan Mintz and Joseph Riemer.  Some of the counselors too played extraordinary roles in supporting the development of a child from a troubled family.

But there were others who didn’t play such a constructive role.  Rabbi David Mogilner once publicly shamed me in front of a room full of campers by shouting at me for forgetting to wear my kippah at dinner.  He never apologized, never said a word to me afterward.  This Jewish educator had a similar experience to mine and went on to have a close relationship with Mogilner.  But that wasn’t my experience.  I considered leaving camp, which is probably what he wanted me to do.  But unfortunately, at 16, you sometimes don’t realize you have alternatives.  You suck it up when you should move on.

This is a Jewish educator revered by many who knew and worked with him.  But if he emotionally abused me in public do you think there are no other children he similarly abused?  Do you think any colleague would’ve cared to hear such a story about him or done anything about it?  Mogilner died some years ago, which is why I’m using his real name in this account.

During one summer, I was befriended by a teacher at the Camp, who became a sort of mentor.  I was a young, shy, inquisitive, searching child.  Home life was filled with emotional turmoil and abuse.  The teacher was a charismatic, slightly mysterious man who offered warmth, caring and unconditional affection.  I remember one Shabbat I sat in his study.  As he was beaming at me, he said something which should have made me run from the room and out his front door.  Though this incident is nearly fifty years old, I can remember him saying: “What a shame that we can only express our love for each other spiritually.”  Those may not have been the precise words, but they are very close to them.

I was probably 16 at the time.  I didn’t know what this meant.  I didn’t know anything about sexual predators or pedophilia.  I was a young, impressionable boy basking in the attention and admiration of an older man.  Think Socrates and his young disciples.

Luckily, nothing did happen.  He maintained boundaries and didn’t attempt to cross them.  Perhaps unconsciously I didn’t want, or permit them to be crossed.

This man went on to become a distinguished Jewish communal leader in a field I won’t disclose.  He has educated and trained Jewish youth for decades.  Do I know how he’s behaved with others?  No.  That’s why I’ve protected his identity.  I only know what happened to me.  Luckily, I wasn’t damaged.  Perhaps I didn’t permit myself to be.  But there are others needier or more inclined who may have been.

Finally, the Los Angeles Jewish community permitted a known sexual predator who’d moved there from Australia to educate children in the Orthodox community.  As part of the revelations in the case of Manny Wax, leading Australian Chabad rabbis and this individual were exposed as either sexual predators or facilitators of, and apologists for abuse.  When the accusations first began there one of the abusers, Daniel “Gug” Hayman, moved with his family to Los Angeles.  Jewish Family Service and psychologists from the Orthodox community were tasked with monitoring him and determining whether he could work with children.  Astonishingly, they approved him working among the same sorts of young people he’d serially abused at home in Australia.

Two of the local psychologists who served Orthodox Jewish clients who suffered sex abuse were Debbie Fox and Michael Held.  Fox, in particular, shielded Hayman when she served in this liaison role between the perpetrator and the community.

Held and I were roommates in graduate school in Los Angeles, before he became frum.  We have had no contact for decades.  In researching this post, I discovered another case in which one of Michael’s patients was murdered, in part because he didn’t report abuse at the hands of her husband to proper authorities.  When you’ve known someone and felt as close to someone as I did to Michael at one time (even long ago) and you hear such a story, you feel a sense of betrayal.  You wonder how the person you knew could behave in such an unprofessional and reckless fashion.

I have always held Rabbi Elliot Dorff in the greatest admiration.  He is former Rector the American Jewish University and a leading rabbinic ethicist.  When I first began blogging, I wrote a long confessional essay about Judaism and child abuse.  Rabbi Dorff was the only rabbi to whom I sent the essay who responded.  When I sent the essay to the magazine published by the Reform rabbinate the reader assigned to evaluate it had a visceral, angry response.  He refused to concede that rabbis had an affirmative obligation to detect or monitor child abuse among their youth.  I suppose in light of the above scandal, that’s unsurprising.  But Dorff’s comments were both sympathetic and learned.

I knew he had served as a past president of L.A. Jewish Family Service.  I wrote to him and asked for his response to this troubling episode.  Even this most sensitive and caring Jewish ethicist closed ranks in communal solidarity.  He told me that the current president had assured him that there had been no ethical lapses in the case of Gug Hayman.  It never sheltered him, he was never one of its clients, Family Service had acted professionally and ethically and could not be held accountable for the actions of Debbie Fox.  These are the sorts of statements written by lawyers, not people.  But people are the ones who read these statements and find them wanting.

Which brings me to my final observation: there are individuals in this world who are thoughtful and sensitive; who care for the needy and vulnerable; who are learned in the ways of Jewish tradition.  But when they are forced to make a choice between their own individual values and those of the community, they invariably choose to suppress their individual views.  They speak on behalf of a corporate community.  One that closes ranks in order to protect its own.

I can almost read Rabbi Dorff’s mind in this: Family Service does enormous good for thousands of its clients.  If it failed in one instance, should we permit the entire enterprise be destroyed for the sake of this one mistake?  So isn’t it better to lay that matter to rest and focus on the good that is done for so many?

My response is that if you do not do what Manny Waks did and tear up evil root and branch, then of what use is all the good that you do?  How can you compromise with evil?  How can you sweep it away as if it didn’t exist?  This is what those Chabad rabbis tried to do for so many years.  They permitted evil, turned a blind eye to it.  I’m not arguing that Jewish Family Service behaved as badly, since it dealt with only this one bad apple and over a relatively short period of time.  But in my view it failed morally.  It exposed Orthodox Jewish children to a sexual predator.  Something that should never have happened.  And it did happen because good people, people who should have known better exercised too much mercy and not enough justice.

Maariv hezbollah attack censor

Israel’s military censor prohibited Israeli media from reporting what its citizens were seeing with their own eyes–sorties of IAF war planes flying north toward Syria

Just as Russia escalates its military involvement in Syria and meets with the IDF central command in Moscow to coördinate both sides’ operational activity there, Israel attacked Hezbollah targets there over the past few days.  Though Israeli security sources told Haaretz that they were not involved and refused to comment to the Jerusalem Post, my own confidential Israeli source confirms the attack.

At least 12 Israeli jets approached Syria through Lebanese air space and attacked a supposed weapons convoy near the Syrian-Lebanese border.  Maariv reports that Israelis in the north witnessed the sorties flying over their skies, but that the military censor prohibited Israeli media from reporting this.  I presume they feared that Assad read the Hebrew press and might scramble his anti-aircraft units based on what he read.

Despite the meetings in Moscow held over the past few weeks, my source tells me that the IDF gave Russia no advance notice of its actions and that this was “within the frame of understandings with Moscow.”  This article suggests that Russia could seriously complicate the war plans of the various outside powers meddling in Syria.  But in this particular instance, Russia appears to have stayed out of the fray.

This tells me a number of things: first, that Israel and Russia have divided up Syria in much the same way that European colonial powers divided up China in an earlier era.  Israel and Russia appear to have agreed to have certain spheres of influence in which they would hold sway militarily.  It’s somewhat reminiscent of Israel’s sphere of influence in southern Lebanon which was policed by its Christian Arab proxy, South Lebanon Army.

For Syria, the deal is that Israel will act against its enemies in the western zone along the Lebanese-Israeli border, including Hezbollah and other Islamist elements; while Russia will take on its own Islamist enemies in the Syrian north and northeast.  Though Russia claims it is attacking ISIS targets, Turkey has claimed that it is instead targeting rebel forces sponsored by that country in those areas.

As I feared and posted in the past, the various powers exerting their influence in Syria seem to plan to divide up the country into cantons based on which rebel groups happen to hold sway.  There is no neat border delimiting who controls what; and the sides keep jockeying and fighting to increase their territorial sway.  But the general outlines of a Syria fragmented into various ethnic-sectarian factions is clear.

This is something like what transpired during the Lebanese civil war, which lasted for fifteen years and brought untold suffering to that nation.  Twenty-five years after its end, Lebanon still has not fully recovered.  Ironically, it was a then all-powerful Hafez al-Assad who finally intervened to end that conflict.  He had the benefit of very few outside powers, aside from Israel, intervening in that war.

There is no such regional strongman who can solve the problems of Syria in this instance.  And there are far too many outside powers who have staked out positions and interests for this to happen.  Those powers are far too fragmented to come up with a joint vision for the future of Syria.  Which is why this war may continue as long as Lebanon’s, if not longer.

sheldon adelson big money in politics

In Sheldon We Trust

Sheldon Adelson and Marco Rubio have been seen snuggling together for months now.  The Guardian reports the casino magnate is poised to buy his first stake in Rubio Inc.  Rubio needs billionaires to ride to the GOP presidential nomination and Adelson is looking for a pro-Israel horse to ride to victory the sweepstakes.

The Las Vegas mogul already has a controlling interest in Bibi Inc. (and literally owns Bibiton-Yisrael HaYom, Israel’s most popular daily newspaper), a wholly owned subsidiary of Israel Lobby Co.  He’s seeking a complementary U.S. brand to round out his portfolio.

Adelson is seeking insurance not just regarding protecting Israeli interests, but protecting his own financial interests.  That’s why Rubio sponsored a bill to ban internet gambling, a venture that could eventually eat into, if not destroy his gambling resort empire.  He faces the same problem that bookstores and other brick and mortar stores faced when Amazon entered the retail space.  While brick and mortar has not died, it has become far more of a niche than it was earlier as internet commerce expands rapidly.  Adelson understands this could be his fate as well unless he buys a Congress member or fifty to spearhead his cause.

Rubio of course denies he’s sold anyone a stake in his corporate entity:

“When someone supports me, they buy into my agenda, I’m not buying into theirs.”

Sure you don’t.  And the moon is made of green cheese and babies come from storks.

After this week’s dismal debate performance by Jeb Bush and Rubio’s supposedly cool-as-ice performance, another critical pro-Israel billionaire donor is laying his bet down on the Florida contender.  Paul Singer, founder of the hedge fund powerhouse, Elliott Management, and largest individual donor to GOP election races, has gone “all in” on Rubio.  To give a sense of the king of Republican bundlers prowess, he’s the third largest individual donor ($11.5-million) among all contributors to either party in 2014.  And that’s just counting his own money and not the bundling he does by schnorring from his partners and other Wall Street vultures.

This means two things: Jeb Bush is dead meat. And Marco Rubio will likely (but not necessarily) be the eventual GOP nominee.  If he is, we can expect more of the same sort of slavish pro-Israelism we saw in Newt Gingrich (Adelson’s early favorite) and Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign.

But we shouldn’t expect much pushback from the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, because Haim Saban has bought a majority stake in Hillary Inc.  Saban, is very well-connected and engaged in active Inside the Beltway machinations, will ensure Hillary will toe a pro-Israel line.  Just as fellow-Hollywood producer/financier, Arnon Milchan, has revealed his own work as an agent on behalf of the Mossad, I have little doubt Saban has played a similar role.

In a Hillary-Rubio matchup my money is on Hillary.  Rubio is a callow, empty suit.  While he has moxie in spades, he has no gravitas, no mastery of any issues.  He has a good backstory, child of immigrants makes good, which is what appeals to Adelson (who prides himself on his own Horatio Alger story).  But a campaign and presidency needs more than a backstory.

But don’t underestimate the hundreds of millions which GOP 1%ers will flood into the campaign coffers.  In 2008, Adelson alone poured $150 million into Republican races.  I predict that Singer and Adelson alone, this go round, could contribute as much as $500-million.  I always make such predictions before the campaigns swing into high-gear.  In 2008, I predicted $100-million from Adelson when such a number seemed insane.  Turns out he gave even more.  That’s why I’m going high this time around with $500-million.  Adelson alone could give that much.  But I’m trying to be slightly conservative in predicting their joint giving could match that number.

Most of us predicted disaster for our political process from Citizens United.  But as far as the presidential election race is concerned, Adelson proved last time that even $150-million couldn’t buy the race for a lackluster candidate.  So it’s likely that all those Wall Street 1%ers may be shut out again in 2016.

If Hillary wins you can expect even less movement on the Israel-Palestine issue than during Obama’s presidency.  I don’t know which is worse, trying and failing as Obama did, or not trying at all, as is likely with Hillary.  This makes even worse regional violence not only likely, but certain.

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I first heard about this astonishing video yesterday and spent the entire day attempting to verify its authenticity (for reasons I’ll explain). But this morning, Middle East Eye and Maan published stories definitively authenticating the video’s provenance. Aside from the reporting of the story at MEE and Maan, there’s one further critical aspect of this video which wasn’t mentioned.

The IDF soldier speaking through a loudspeaker to the Aida camp residents threatens to use “gas” to kill them all. In other words, he’s not speaking about tear gas, which is the usual method used to disperse crowds (and which was later used copiously). He’s attempting to escalate the conventional tactics by frightening them into believing the army would actually exterminate all the residents of the camp, a deliberate echo of tactics used by the Nazis in the Holocaust:

“Inhabitants of Aida, we are the Israeli occupation forces, if you throw stones we will hit you with gas until you die. The children, the youth, and the old people, all of you – we won’t spare any of you”.

During the assault of the protesters, Qassan Abu Aker, 25, was arrested. The speakerphone announcement continued, “We have arrested one of you, he’s with us now. We took him from his home, and we will kill him while you’re watching as long as you throw stones.”

The chilling message concluded: “We will blind your eyes with gas until you die, your homes, your families, brothers, sons, everyone”.

As if to prove the potency of this threat, an 8 month old baby from the village of Beit Fajr was killed by Israeli tear gas earlier today.  Both Aida camp and Beit Fajr are located near Bethlehem.

This conjures up two scenarios that would be present in the minds of both camp residents and the IDF itself. The first is reports that Syrian rebels and/or Syrian government forces used chemical weapons against their targets. In such attacks, hundreds have died over the past year or more.  The second, and even more ominous, is the use of Zyklon B gas in extermination camps like Auschwitz. There can be little doubt that no matter what the Palestinian residents might’ve thought, the Holocaust was in the minds of whatever military intelligence officer came up with the script that the Arabic-speaking soldier used in attempting to terrorize camp residents.

I’m not an expert in international law, but the threat to use chemical weapons to exterminate an entire refugee camp would appear to me to be a clear war crime. It is, after all, a threat to engage in genocide.

Such tactics aren’t surprising considering the new moral lows to which Israel has sunk in the past few weeks. I am just wondering when the world will sit up and take notice of Israel’s increasing degradation and the echoing of tactics and attitudes employed by previous generations of war criminals convicted of genocide. How low do we have to sink?

And anyone who thinks that the rhetoric employed by the soldier in this video is a one-off aberration is deluded. The Holocaust and Rwanda genocide began with words and ideas and gradually turned into conviction and action. The world is now in a position to intervene before mass slaughter happens. It likely will not as it did not in those earlier episodes. But it could.

It remains to be seen whether this story will be picked up the MSM.  But one mainstream publication you can be sure will ignore is the NY Times and its Israel bureau chief, Jodi Rudoren and her trusty sidekick, Diaa Hadid.  If I am right, consider this scenario: say a Palestinian security agency blasted a Hebrew message inside a settlement claiming it would gas residents to death.  What would be the reaction of world media?  Double-standard?  You betcha.

The Times of Israel has now confirmed the story and reported the Border Policeman who threatened the camp with a Holocaust has been suspended:

Border Police officials called the policeman’s actions “a grave incident,” and vowed that the case would be handled “to the fullest extent of the law.”

They told Channel 2 news the officer has been suspended from all operations until the end of the inquiry, and that his continued service in the force would be reviewed.

What a laugh: the most disgusting, violent, brutish police force perhaps in all the western world calls this a grave incident, when its officers routinely murder unarmed Palestinians in cold blood, including

But the only thing he’s likely to be disciplined for is referring to his police unit as the “army of occupation,” since it disturbs the conventional narrative.  As for threatening mass murder, he’ll probably get a promotion for that.

NOTE: There was much discussion yesterday of the IDF speaker’s reference to the army as the “Israel occupation army.” Arabic-speakers on social media noted that the IDF never uses a standard Palestinian usage to refer to itself–until now apparently. I hesitated to post about the video till I could authenticate it. But Maan and MEE have found the original person who recorded it and he has confirmed that the IDF usage was real. Apparently, now even the IDF itself confirms that it is an occupying army. This would further strengthen the Palestinian claim that Israel is illegally occupying its territory (a claim the Israeli hasbara apparatus rejects).  In other words, if you “occupy” the land of another people, you cannot also own the land or claim it is your nation’s sovereign territory (which is the standard Israeli hasbara claim).


Israel Channel 2 News interviewed one of the mob who lynched and murder Habtom Zarhoum at a Beersheba bus station.  He had come to Beersheba from his home to attempt to get a work visa from a government office.  As he waited for a bus, a Palestinian stabbed and killed an IDF soldier and then began attacking bystanders.  Bus station security guards then shot and wounded Zarhoum, an innocent bystander.  The shooter claimed that he did so because Habtom didn’t appear like the other victims who were fleeing.  Which is true because he was Eritrean and not Israeli.

memorial for habtom zarhoum

African refugees hold memorial for Habtom Zarhoum in Tel Aviv

After the shooting of the innocent refugee and as he lay immobile on the ground, the mob attacked him, firing six bullets into his body, hurling a row of chairs at his head and stomping on his body with full force.  Among the attackers were Israeli security personnel including an officer in the Israeli prison service, Ronen Cohen.  He was the one who threw the chairs on top of the victim and kicked him in the head as captured on video.  In his interview, Cohen dismissed any thought of wrongdoing:

“I came to save lives and now they want to judge me.  If I’d only shot him they wouldn’t have done anything [to me].  So because I neutralized him from the State’s point of view I’m a criminal?

The scene was full of others kicking him from every side.  The terrorist [he appears to be referring to the original Palestinian attacker, but conveniently could be referring to the Eritrean] had opened fire.  Glass was flying everywhere.  Soldiers and riot police were running toward the terrorist.  They left him [Habtom] alone.  I lifted a bench.  He made a movement with his hand and I made a gesture to my mouth that he shouldn’t move.  He moved and I thought he would bring out a weapon so I kicked him.

The reporter asked him: “At this point [when you attacked Zarhoum], he’d been shot three times.  Why did you continue to strike him after he’d been neutralized?”

“Because a solider had been murdered right next to me.  A policeman had been shot.  He wasn’t neutralized as long as he was moving.  I hadn’t come hot-headed from home.  I hadn’t come hoping to beat someone up because of the color of his skin.  My only goal was the help.  Not to harm anyone.  I’m a level-headed person.  I’m no psychopath; not a criminal as they’re trying to make me out to be.  My advice to bystanders is not to get involved with incidents like this because they’ll get messed up.”

I have nothing to apologize for.  In my eyes, he was a terrorist.  About what should I apologize?  I apologize in hindsight that he wasn’t…that he was an Eritrean citizen.  About that I do apologize.  But to apologize for him being a terrorist?   I don’t apologize.  And if it happened again, and one time more, and twenty times more, I would act exactly the same way.”

zarhoum memorial

Zarhoum memorial  (Activestills.org)

Cohen’s lawyer has the unmitigated chutzpah to claim that the State wants to take his client and “hang him from the highest tree.”  The invocation of the terminology of the lynch is especially offensive given what his client did to Habtom.

There was a memorial to the victim in Tel Aviv.  Here is the audio.  If you wish to donate to a legal fund established to seek justice for Habtom and his family, please contribute.

It’s worth noting that four Israeli members of the lynch mob were arrested by police.  They were released after four hours in jail.  The State refuses to prosecute them for murder and instead will charge them with grievous bodily harm, a much lower charge.  Though the sentence could be as long as 20 years if convicted, it will be much shorter, if they even serve a day in jail.

There are Israeli peace activists arrested at non-violent demonstrations whose “crime” is little more than holding a protest.  They are kept in jail for nearly an entire day and only released (without charge) because police would have to appear before a judge in order to detain them longer than 24 hours.  Palestinians are arrested and detained for weeks, months or years on vague suspicions of infractions.

Yet if you’re an Israeli Jew you can murder a non-Jew, call it terror, and get off scot-free.  The worst that will happen to Cohen is that he might be fired and lose his pension.  Hartoum lost his life.  To a foul crime perpetrated by an Israeli Jewish lynch mob as sinister as the worst Ku Klux Klan lynching the south had to offer.  And these Israelis will get as little punishment as southern whites got for their acts of murder.

H/t David Sheen and Ofer Neiman

Today, also brings news (Hebrew version) that Israeli Palestinian graduate student, Asra’a Zidan Abed, who was shot six times at the Afula bus station and accused of being a knife-wielding terrorist, has been cleared of all charges against her.  She was mentally ill, had suffered through several psychiatric hospitalizations, attempted to commit suicide and had had her baby removed from her custody.

Though police still claim she waved a knife (a fact still in dispute), she never attempted to use it and may’ve hoped the police would kill her.  It’s unbelievable that given her history the prosecution still intends to prosecute her on criminal charges.  For what?  For nearly being killed by trigger-finger Israeli police?

In closing, Tom “Terrific” Friedman penned another one of his mealy-mouthed op-eds in which he blamed Palestinians for the failure of peace in the Middle East.  He blamed Israel too.  But blaming both sides equally is like blaming the mote of dust that irritates the eyes of a terminal cancer patient.  Which one will kill him?

Here’s the doozy he brought forth from that florid pen of his:

I visited Monday with Israel’s very decent defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon.

Indeed, the same Yaalon who fundraises around the world with Kahanist Moshe Feiglin under the sponsorship of the Kahane kids.  The Yaalon who’s responsible for IDF murders of unarmed Palestinian children, including 500 during Operation Protective Edge.  How very “decent” of him.

But he does have one good final phrase that deserves mention:

I truly worry that Israel is slowly committing suicide…

To which I would add…not so ‘slowly.’