penguins on parade
The entire ‘penguin’ (hiloni slang for haredi, because of their drab uniform of black suits and white shirts) is parasitic. If Haredi Judaism can’t teach young men to manage their sexual feelings in an adult manner, there’s something wrong with it. For psychiatric infantilisation of haredim, see here – RB
IDF rejects request for earplugs when women sing
Jeremy Sharon, JPost, Apr 24 2012
Several religious soldiers requested last week to wear earplugs or listen to MP3 players during a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony in which women were singing, as well as for upcoming ceremonies for Remembrance Day and Independence Day. The army refused the request but said that the soldiers could take a book of Psalms into the ceremony to read from if they wished. The issue of religious soldiers being present in ceremonies with women singing exploded in September last year, when four soldiers were expelled from an officers course for refusing to return to an event in which women were singing. The IDF General Staff subsequently issued a directive in January obligating all soldiers, religious or otherwise, to be present in all official army ceremonies even if they involve women singing. Jewish law generally prohibits men from listening to a woman sing in person. Initially reported by the Galei Israel radio station, the group of approximately 10 soldiers who requested to use earplugs or MP3 players are currently in basic training and are serving in a field intelligence unit. The IDF confirmed the details of the story. They enlisted within the hesder framework, through which national-religious men combine army service with yeshiva study. The soldiers who made the request are from the Or Etzion Hesder Yeshiva, headed by Rabbi Haim Druckman, a prominent national-religious figure. Separately, leading national-religious Rabbi Dov Lior, municipal rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba, ruled on Sunday that men should not attend theater performances in which women perform, even if the women do not sing and are dressed modestly. According to Lior, who was writing in response to a question on the Yeshiva.org website, attending such events are not compatible with the Jewish concept of modesty. Following the opening in September of a cultural center in Kiryat Arba, Lior said that only performances of educational merit or national values should be staged.
More than your average bear would want to know about the blabosphere’s view of Syria. This roundup via Jadaliyya, Apr 19. Jadaliyya by the way is still flaunting its left-wing academic shtick, this time with a ‘call for papers,’ which means ‘state your institutional affiliation,’ i.e. which capitalist pseudo-knowledge mill you slave for. I am not part of this academic rip-off and never have been – RB
Regional and International perspectives
Syria: First Round of a Ceasefire Nicolas Nassif has a somewhat reductionist analysis of the Syrian uprising, comparing and contrasting Syria to Lebanon of the 1970s.
Kofi Annan is Right; negotiation is key for Syria Patrick Seale argues that negotiation is key for a successful new Syrian political system.
Syria and the Usual Suspects Thomas Knapp insulting Syrian demonstrators who started the uprising (which was made in the USA according to Knapp) whilst rightly problematising the McCain and Lieberman visit to Turkey.
McCain and Lieberman Meet with the Free Syria Army bizarre and unneeded ‘support’ from the Republicans, does the FSA represent Syria?
Will more Diplomacy Save Syria Al-Jazeera guests discuss the peace plan.
Can UN Observers end the Cycle of Violence? Hussein Ibish, Hussein al-Harbi and Haitham al-Sibahie give analysis of variable quality regarding the utility of the UN ceasefire on Al-Jazeera English’s Inside Syria programme.
Who Broke Syria? James Harkin argues that the international community and the media “made things worse” for Syrians.
Cautious Hope for Syria Mark Lynch’s skeptical yet optimistic outlook on the Annan Plan.
Cross-talk: Still Syria: Diana Johnstone, Joshua Landis and Josef Olmert sharing their views on intervention and the opposition.
The Roving Eye: What’s goin’ on at the Turkish-Syrian border? Pepe Escobar discusses matters of sovereignty as Turkey’s shelters of the FSA right at the Turco-Syrian border.
The Libyan precedent is not a hopeful one for Syria Peter Feaver in Foreign Policy.
Annan’s Syria plan the only game in town Michael Wahid Hanna puts the case for Annan’s plan in Foreign Policy.
Imperialism and the Left
Syria and the Left Odai al-Zoubi takes issue with George Galloway and Noam Chomsky’s divergent approaches.
Imperialism and the Syrian Revolution John Rees argues that “the main enemy is at home” and that the opposition need to rid itself from imperial powers who want to determine Syria’s future.
The Opposition Movements
Syria Opposition Creates Tribal Assembly Daily Star notes this new development.
The Simple Truths of the Syrian Uprising Muhamad Dibo argues that it is the Syrian people who have the highest authority in deciding the future of their country.
On Syrian narratives
Syria`s Propaganda War Jess Hills on the challenges of reporting from outside Syria.
Assad`s End Exiled Syrian activist reframes the revolution and suggests an overemphasis on the SFA and militarized elements is distorting the real picture.
Does the Syrian regime fight imperialism, or is it the legacy of imperialism? Adbulhamit Bilici on Prof Şükrü Hanioğlu’s historical approach to the uprising.
Nasrallah to Assange: Hezbollah talked to Syria opposition; we want dialogue, US & Israel want civil war Predictable commentary from Nasrallah on Syria. Why is he surprised that revolutionaries were not willing to have dialogue with the regime?
One Year After the beginning of the revolution Khalil Habash with sensible analysis for International Viewpoint.
Syria: Bashar Lives up to his Name Orientalist pap from the Socialist Party of Great Britain; Alwyn Edgar attempts a historical survey before cautioning that Bashar’s successors could make him look like Little Bo Peep.
Images of our Syrian revolution: leaked in a losing gamble? Mohamad al-Attar on visual memory, its actual role and potential for the Syrian revolution.
On the Perils of Sectarianism in Syria Robin Yassin-Kassab: stick with the anecdotal beginnings for a snapshot of the historical underpinnings of sectarianism.
The Kurdish Dimension to Turkey’s Syria Policy Golol Tul in Foreign Policy; Syria putting Turkey to the test.
Will Syria’s Sectarian Divisions Spill Over Into Turkey? Soner Cagaptay seems to overemphasise the significance of the Alevis in Turkey and their position re Syria.
Policy and Human Rights Reports
Syria`s Phase of Radicalisation International Crisis’s group’s assessment of the current state of the Syrian uprising.
In Cold Blood Human Rights Watch issue report documenting summary executions by Syria’s security forces and pro-government militias.
Enough academic claptrap, let’s have some good old-fashioned WW1-style propaganda:
Hungry Syrian soldiers desert Golan defenses, prowl for food
DEBKAfile, Apr 23 2012
The wretched plight of the troops manning Syrian defense divisions defending the Golan border and Mt. Hermon was clearly visible from lookout points on the Israeli side in the last two days, debkafile’s military sources report. The regular water and food supplies to their bases, the backbone of Syria’s defense lines against Israel, were stopped and redirected to the units fighting anti-Assad rebels in other parts of the country. Large groups of armed soldiers have gone AWOL to hunt for food. For the first time in years, some have approached the border fence. They don’t ask Israeli soldiers for food, but parcels thrown across the fence vanish in a trice. According to our sources, the 5th Division posted in the Golan town of Quneitra has suffered the largest number of desertions, estimated at more than 1,500 officers and men, around 15% of the full complement. But hundreds of dropouts occur daily from the 15th, 9th and 7th Divisions stationed in central and southern Golan. The district commands have meanwhile lost control of the Syrian-Israeli border deployment. Military facilities are deserted with no one to guard against trespassers. Gangs, local and from across Syria’s eastern borders with Jordan and Iraq, were quick to realize the bases are unguarded and have begun stripping them of equipment and looting everything they can lay hands on. These gangs are working stealthily so as not to drawing the attention of Assad’s security forces which might stop the looting. But they are most likely being used by Assad’s Sunni enemies in Iraq and Jordan as vehicles to plant terrorist cells inside Syria for attacking military targets. This is what happened at the Golan village of Sahm al-Jolan near Quneitra Friday Apr 20 when a large (100 kilo) bomb blew up as a Syrian military convoy was passing through. At least 10 soldiers were killed and 35 injured. The Syrian authorities stated that a remote-controlled explosive device blew up against a bus carrying soldiers. It is believed that a Jordanian Sunni terrorist band was responsible. That day too, five Syrian soldiers were killed in another attack in the southern Syrian town of Karak near the flashpoint town of Deraa.
Girl on PA TV recites Egyptian poem: “Zion is a devil with a tail”
Palestinian Media Watch, Apr 23 2012
PA TV (Fatah) program for kids, “The Best Home”, Apr 7 2012:
Host: “Laila, what do you want to recite next?”
Laila: “When I was young I was taught that Arabness is my honor…
and that our lands extend from one end to the other,
and that our wars were for the Al-Aqsa Mosque,
and that our enemy, Zion, is Satan with a tail
Our division is by your hands [Arab rulers]. May your hands be cut off.
We are fed up with our division, while all people are uniting.’”
Host: “Bravo, bravo, bravo.”
Mother & daughter suicide bomber fantasy
And now for something completely different — jobs for the penguins, hooray:
Haredim foresee growing employment rates in sector
Kobi Nahshoni, Ynet, Apr 23 2012
A recent study conducted by the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry predicted that Israel will see a 6% drop in its workforce within 20 years, especially due to the growing ultra-Orthodox and Arab population shares. But activists in the religious sector dismiss the forecast, noting the growing rates of employed haredim. Attorney Yoav Laloum, chairman of the Noar KaHalacha, an organization that advocates against discrimination in the haredi sector, said:
I don’t see the pessimistic predictions coming true. The Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry must increase employment opportunities for haredim instead of hiding behind gloomy statistics, which help all those ultra-Orthodox elements who do everything possible to block the welcome developments in the sector. I expect continued growth in the numbers of ultra-religious individuals who get a higher education.
According to Ariel Deri, the director of the Haredi College of Jerusalem, a sharp rise in the number of haredim who entered the workforce registered over the past five years. He said:
This trend is affected, first and foremost, by the placement system that allows the haredim to integrate in the workplace without compromising their lifestyle and world view. If the government, public agencies and education institutions maintain this trend, it would certainly increase the percentage of haredi employees in the workforce. We must remember that these kinds of processes raise many concerns, which is why much caution and forethought are required. Today we can already see a second generation of haredim who are integrating, whose kids go to quality schools from the start. All that’s left for the government is to show openness toward the population’s unique characteristics, and allow the group to take the necessary steps, at its own place. This will certainly make the forecasts much more positive.
Attorney Yechezkel Rosenblum of the Tov movement, which represents working haredim, said that the growing rates of employment in the sector deems the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry’s study irrelevant. Rosenblum noted that a growing number ultra-Orthodox individuals in their early 20s are getting jobs these days, and that it’s becoming increasingly legitimate for yeshiva students “who don’t really study” to go to work. Among women, he added, the employment rates match those of the rest of the population. He said:
More and more haredim feel a national responsibility. In my opinion, the future is ‘black’, not in the pessimistic sense, but in the sense of the haredi contribution to society.
Egypt terminates deal to supply Israel with natural gas
Lisa Goldman, +972 Mag, Apr 22 2012
According to several news reports, Egypt has terminated a deal to supply Israel with natural gas. Egyptian sources say that the deal was canceled over a legal dispute, as well as Israel’s failure to pay for the gas over the past four months; Israeli government sources, meanwhile, insist they have paid all the money they owe. Several Israeli officials, including Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, have expressed deep concern, with Mofaz calling the unilateral termination of the gas supply a “blatant violation of the peace treaty” that “requires a US response,” and Steinitz saying it was a dangerous precedent that threatens bilateral ties between Egypt and Israel. The gas deal in fact has nothing to do with the Israel-Egypt peace treaty of 1979. It is a commercial deal that was negotiated between private Egyptian and Israeli business concerns in 2005. The deal was renegotiated in 2009, in the most opaque manner imaginable. No tenders were issued and the terms of the deal were not made public. The Egypt-Israel natural gas deal is resented by most Egyptians, who view it as a sleazy arrangement that allowed Hosni Mubarak, his sons and their cronies to pocket billions of dollars by selling one of Egypt’s most valuable natural resources at a price that is now well below market value, and to Israel, which is deeply unpopular in Egypt. Egypt’s natural gas pipeline has been sabotaged 14 times since Hosni Mubarak was deposed in Feb 2011. Egyptian economist Mohamed El Dahshan does an impressive job of armchair investigative journalism in this blog post, in which he demonstrates the extent to which the natural gas deal was, as he puts it, “a barely concealed cesspool of clientelism, personal relationships and private interests, breaches of government procedure, of transparency rules, and of corporate governance.”
The name Hussein Salem appears several times in El Dahshan’s investigative piece about the gas deal. Salem, 77, is a wealthy businessman who was close to Hosni Mubarak; he was also one of the main Egyptian players in the negotiation of the gas deal with Israel. A few days before Mubarak was forced to resign, Salem fled Egypt for Spain. A month later, he was arrested by the Spanish authorities, who froze assets that included $47m in cash. This does not include his real estate assets, and this is only the money he kept in Spain. Bloomberg reports that Salem’s son has about $4b in hidden assets, according to an Egyptian judicial committee. Salem was held in custody for 11 months, pending a court decision regarding Egypt’s request for extradition. Last month Spain’s National Court ruled that Salem was to be extradited. He has already been tried and convicted in absentia on corruption charges, and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He is believed to have siphoned off $714m in public money.
Israel currently relies on Egypt for about 40% of its natural gas needs. But this situation was set to change, whether or not Egypt terminated its supply of gas. In Dec 2010, the Israeli government announced the discovery of a huge natural gas field off the Mediterranean coast, named Leviathan; Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau called it “the most important energy news since the founding of the state.” The field is so big that Israel is now poised to become an exporter of natural gas within about four years. The biggest financial beneficiary of this discovery will be private interests; specifically, Yitzhak Tshuva, an immensely rich Israeli businessman who is a controlling shareholder in Delek Group, which has a 22.67% drilling interest in the oil field. Tshuva’s international real estate investments include New York’s Plaza Hotel. According to the Israeli financial newspaper Globes, Tshuva and several other companies are currently negotiating a $4b deal to supply natural gas to power plants and other companies. Drilling, which commenced in Jan 2012, is expected to yield 600 million barrels of oil. Meanwhile, the government-appointed Sheshinski Committee recently recommended a very substantial tax increase on profits from offshore drilling, from 30% to between 52% and 60%. This, naturally, upset Tshuva and the other investors in the Leviathan natural gas field. No wonder Yuval Steinitz, the finance minister who supported the Sheshinski Committee and approved of its recommendations, is rather concerned at Egypt terminating its supply of natural gas to Israel, at a price that is below market value. It is convenient for Israeli government officials to respond to Egypt’s termination of the natural gas supply by bringing up the peace treaty and making dark comments about harm to bilateral relations. This sort of thing is easy to sell to the Israeli public, with its fears of the post-Mubarak Islamist parliament and its anti-Israel rhetoric. But Yuval Steinitz and Shaul Mofaz know very well that the gas deal has nothing to do with the peace treaty. Finance Minister Steinitz is probably well aware, too, that without competition from Egypt, the Israeli companies that own the drilling rights to Leviathan have a lot more bargaining power.