Thursday, November 07, 2002
In case you ever wonder why we have roadblocks...

Because -- and this seems to have escaped the people of Berkeley, CA -- the Palestinian national pastime is trying to get bombs through.

The Forgotten Dead

Events occur here so quickly that we often don't have time to really take them in before the next thing happens. So it goes with the suicide bombing in Kfar Saba on Monday evening.

In the sick calculus of our times, it was a minor attack. "Only" two people died. It's the kind of thing that makes the evening news but isn't big enough to pre-empt regularly scheduled programming. By the next day, it's almost forgotten, especially when a big news story like the early elections eclipses it. So, we move on and forget about the dead and the wounded, some of whom will suffer from this attack for the rest of their lives.

I thought it would be worth making the effort to remember this one. The two killed were both recent immigrants from Argentina. Gaston Parapierian was a 15-year-old kid. Julio Pedro Magram, 51, was a security guard making not a lot more than minimum wage. On Monday evening Magram stopped the terrorist from entering the area of the open-air mall. Magram lost his life, but probably saved dozens of people from getting killed or maimed.

Parapierian and Magram left the economic and political turmoil in Argentina to look for a better life here. Instead, they ran headfirst into The Situation.

The Frogs and the Terrorists

Not that we need any more reasons to hate the French, but this story really pisses me off. The French ambassador here met with families of the three soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah two years ago and who apparently died in captivity.

Now, the French -- who have a long and noble history of meddling in Lebanese affairs, usually with horrendous consequences -- have lately become all pally-pally with Hizbullah (which, to remind everyone, were the group responsible for blowing up the Marine barracks in Beirut in '83, for kidnapping a dozen American and British hostages in the mid-'80s, and for keeping up a border war with Israel for nearly 20 years).

When the father of one of the kidnapped soldiers suggested in a roundabout way that France might use these newfound ties to help the families get some information about the soldiers, the Ambassador went nuts and stormed out of the meeting.

Hate... the

Wednesday, November 06, 2002
Our New FM

I can't say I'm all that thrilled about the new Foreign Minister, even if he only serves as an interim one.

On the credit side, Bibi is one of the few people in Israeli government who knows how to talk to the world media. His English is fluent, he knows how to stay on message, and he knows how to get the word out.

However, I spent much of the late '90s developing an active hatred of the man. Now, the events of the last couple of years have driven my own politics much nearer to Bibi's, but a lot of the hatred still lingers on.

Netanyahu is our Nixon figure, a paranoid, driven politician without any qualms or morals. His tenureship in the Prime Minister's office is one of the worst ever. His divisive speaking style helped fan a lot of the intra-Israeli hatred of the Rabin years and beyond. And his dirty dealings helped rot the political system from within.

The thought of his smug, smirking countenance filling my television screen every night again leaves me feeling a bit queasy.

My worst nightmare is that Netanyahu somehow manages to win the Likud primaries and ends up as Prime Minister again. On the other hand he may lose out big and Sharon may form a national unity government without him. Oh, the fun days lie ahead.

Here we go again...
January 28. Mark your calendars, kids, coz it's election time here again. That is unless they move it ahead to January 21 or 14. Or unless something finally moves with Saddam, in which case they might move it back.

I can't say I'm too excited about the upcoming elections. I suppose the short campaign period is preferable to a long, drawn-out one which is what would have happened had the government stayed together. At least this way there isn't time for the politicians to try to bribe the voters with all sorts of economic goodies.

The main advantage I can see of having new elections is that it should pare down the number of small parties in the Knesset.

A bit of explanation for those not versed in vagaries of the Israeli voting system: In the last two or three elections, we put two voting slips in the envelopes. On the one we chose the candidate we wanted for Prime Minister. On the other we chose the party we wanted in the Knesset. The result of this system was that instead of 6 or 7 parties in the Knesset we suddenly had 20. The resulting instability has already taken down three governments before their time.

So, we're back to the old one-slip system whereby you only choose the party. And hopefully this will eliminate some of the teeny tiny confessional parties which have sprung up over the years. Now I just have to decide who to vote for.

According to the polls, a majority of the people favor another national unity government after the elections. Which means that come February or March, we'll be right back where we were two weeks ago, possibly with a slightly different cast of characters. The only variables still to be decided are the leaders of Likud and Labor.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002
Elections. Woo hoo.

After a fruitless week trying to cobble together a new coalition, Sharon decides to throw in the towel and calls for new elections. Just what the country needs: costly, unnecessary elections which will most likely find us with a similar national unity government. I'm so happy, I could plotz.

Birthday Wishes

I wanted to take the opportunity to give a shout-out to my father, who turns 60 today.

Happy birthday, Dad!

Monday, November 04, 2002
Three Bullets, Seven Years continued

Rabin was murdered seven years ago today.

One of the themes that came up during the official government commemoration a few weeks ago was the seven lean years from the Biblical story of Joseph.

According to this line of thinking, the problems we are suffering at the moment -- the crumbling economy, the internal tensions, and above all the war with the neighbors -- are a kind of Biblical punishment that we could have avoided had Rabin not been murdered.

Indeed, Rabin has taken on an almost mythological stature in death that doesn't quite jibe with the grumpy, almost pathologically shy politician he was in life. I suppose part of this myth-making around a murdered statesman is natural. (After all, look how JFK was transformed from a second-rate president and first-rate pussy hound into Saint Jack). And it should be said that in his second administration Rabin was one of this country's better Prime Ministers, certainly head and shoulders above the four failures who succeeded him.

And yet, I have the same uneasiness about the mythologizing seven years on that I did during the weeks after the assassination when posters appeared showing Rabin's face with the slogan "He who makes peace from above." The slogan is taken from a prayer. "He who makes peace from above" is a referance to God.

A number of people from Peres to Barak have opined that if Rabin had been alive the Oslo process would not have devolved into an ongoing war.

Rabin wouldn't have ordered the assassination of the terrorist Yihya Ayash in late 1995. Therefore Hamas wouldn't have launched the campaign of bus bombings in early 1996 that helped Netanyahu get elected. Therefore Rabin, not Bibi, would have been Prime Minister in the late '90s and seen the Oslo process through to its conclusion. He would have found ways to square the various circles. And everything would be okay today.

It's a nice, albeit fanciful thought. For one, given what we know today about Arafat's treachery and perfidy it's hard to tell how Rabin would have handled the crisis that would have blown up sooner or later around the issue of Jerusalem or the Palestinian demand for the right of return to Israel proper.

Also, there's no guarantee that Rabin would have seen the process through to the end even if he had lived. We tend to forget that he was trailing in the opinion polls and might very well have lost to Netanyahu in the election of 1996.

Who knows? Personally, I'd like to focus less on the seven lean years and try to remember Rabin the man. My one salient image of him is at my grandfather's annual Independence Day party in 1995. The loss I commemorate today is not "He who makes peace from above", but that same guy at the party, standing by the keg, chain smoking and kibbitzing with friends.

Sunday, November 03, 2002
Three Bullets, Seven Years

Last night was the annual rally commemorating the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin on Nov. 4, 1995. By all accounts it was a dejected affair, with the continuing Intifada and Labor's recent resignation from the government putting a damper on what has become an annual rallying point for the Peace camp.

It's hard to believe that seven years have passed since that evening. By now, the assassination has begun its transition from fresh tragedy to distant historical event.

The shock and visceral sadness have definitely faded. In the first year or two after the assassination, my eyes would still well up when I heard Clinton's "Shalom, haver" speech or government spokesman Eitan Haber announcing Rabin's death at the hospital. Noa Ben Artzi's eulogy for her grandfather would have me wiping tears from my eyes every time.

And, as the event itself has begun to change, the memorials each November have also taken on different tones depending on the political circumstances of the time.

The first Rabin commemorations at the Square were filled with intense political bitterness. During the Netanyahu days, a lot of us at the time felt that the same man who had helped whip up the incitement against Rabin had ultimately benefited from Rabin's assassination and had inherited the throne.

Once Bibi was shown the door in '99, we felt a sense of redemption, of a deep wrong being righted. The Rabin commemoration 4 years after his murder was a bittersweet affair. We commemorated the murder of the man, even as we felt that his vision would finally be realized.

And then the Intifada started and everything went to crap.

I didn't attend the memorial rally last night, for a couple of reasons. Mainly, I don't feel like being reminded again how far we've slipped from the days of hope and how surly my politics have become. By now, the Rabin commemoration has become, if not purely political then very much a purely partisan affair. It is the annual gathering for the dovish wing of the Labor Party, Meretz, and the rest of the peace-at-any-cost crowd.

Many of the folks gathered last night dream of a revival of the Left, whose ranks have been greatly thinned by the general rightward drift -- Arafat's main gift to the Israeli political system. The was the other reason I didn't feel like attending last night's rally. I no longer identify with Labor, much less Meretz, and harbor a certain degree of antipathy to them. This makes me sad.

Seven years is a long time. The elementary school kids that Vicky teaches have no memories -- or very hazy ones -- of that night in 1995. Some of them weren't even born yet. I was born 7 years after the Kennedy assassination. The children born here today will probably regard Rabin in the same way I regard JFK, as a figure who belongs to history rather than the present.