Wednesday, January 22, 2014

 

Love is What Matters Most

"If two people really loved each other, they couldn't be separated no matter what happened."--Christopher Tracy, "Under the Cherry Moon"

Money, accomplishments and championships are great but I have learned that without love none of those things matter very much. Love comes in many forms but without love there is no meaning. Last year, I offered this definition of love:  

Love is an easy word to throw around and many people use it far too casually. 

True love is innocent, pure and deep.

True love is based not on how much you can get but how much you can give.

I was searching for something that I thought I had glimpsed and that I hoped existed but that I had not yet experienced--but Julie Sheil has helped me to understand and enjoy love at a level that I could not previously imagine. I have always been driven, self-centered and very narrowly focused on specific, individual goals--but I have learned that life can only be fully appreciated by opening one's heart and mind to a wider perspective that includes another person's dreams, hopes and goals.

I once thought that opening my heart would make me weak, soft and vulnerable, that it would prevent me from reaching my goals--but now I see that the opposite is true: opening my heart frees my mind from irrelevant concerns and provides a serenity that my soul lacked.

The power of love cannot be adequately described by mere words--it is mystical, mysterious, powerful and wonderful, though it can also be overwhelming and frightening. Here is my humble attempt to express the joy and peace that I feel, rendered in the form of an alphabetical acrostic about the most special and most beautiful woman who I have ever met:

Just the prettiest smile in the world, a smile that can light up a room and make my heart sing with joy.

Unique ability to soothe my soul and focus my energies in positive directions.

Lovely, piercing eyes--windows to a fiery, yet caring soul.

Incredible lust for life--you love to learn new things, try new experiences, find out what the world has to offer.

Enormous patience when dealing with the gaps in my knowledge about certain day to day matters.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

 

Caroline Glick Describes Why Barack Obama's Mideast Policy is Misguided

Few writers speak truth to power about the Mideast as clearly and emphatically as Caroline Glick. President Barack Obama's policies vis a vis Israel, Iran and the PLO are misguided and destined to bring misery not just to the Mideast but to the whole world, as Glick masterfully explains in her most recent column. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon has been harshly criticized by the Obama administration for privately expressing grave concerns about U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's bizarre obsession with forcing Israel to make concessions to the PLO but Glick notes that Ya'alon's assessment of Kerry's ignorance about the true nature of the Mideast political situation is echoed even by Israel's Arab enemies; Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab nations are very upset about the United States' reluctance to do anything to stop Iran's rapidly developing nuclear weapons program.

Glick astutely observes that U.S. officials feel free to publicly blast Ya'alon even though they held their tongues not long ago when Saudi Prince Alaweed bin Talal told journalist Jeffrey Greenberg, "There’s no confidence in the Obama administration doing the right thing with Iran. We’re really concerned--Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Middle Eastern countries about this." The Obama administration is not the least bit afraid that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have the courage to challenge their policies and/or speak up in support of Ya'alon; they know that Netanyahu will hang Ya'alon out to dry just like Netanyahu has betrayed the voters who thought that he would uphold the anti-terrorism principles that he espoused for years in his eloquent speeches and books, words that now seem hollow because of his consistent failure to implement them in his policy decisions.

Glick describes why Obama's Mideast policies are viewed with contempt by friend and foe alike:

Syria is a humanitarian and geopolitical nightmare with global implications.


Rather than do everything possible to strengthen moderate forces in Syria, like the Kurds, and cultivate, train and arm regime opponents who can fight both the Assad regime and al-Qaida rebels, Kerry has devoted himself to demanding that Israel release more Palestinian terrorist murderers from prison.


Rather than protect Lebanon from the predations of Iran and Syria to ensure its independence, Kerry is holding marathon meetings with Netanyahu to try to coerce him into helping the PLO build another Jew-free terrorist state in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.


Rather than try to blunt the growing power of Hezbollah--Iran’s terrorist army--in Syria, the US’s policy is inviting Iran, the party most responsible for the war, to join the phony peacemakers club at Geneva.


As for the rest of the region, from Tunisia to Bahrain, from Egypt and Libya to Iraq, and Yemen, Kerry and the Obama administration as a whole are content to watch on the sidelines as al-Qaida reemerges as a significant force, and as Iran undermines stability in country after country.


Then of course, there is Iran itself, and its nuclear weapons program.


After the six-party nuclear deal with Iran was concluded on Monday, Iran’s leaders declared victory over the US. They boasted that the most dangerous components of their nuclear weapons program are unaffected by the deal they just concluded with the Americans. They laid a wreath on the grave of Hezbollah arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh, who masterminded the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 243 US servicemen. And they forced Lebanon’s Sunnis to accept a Hezbollah-dominated government.


Obama administration officials publicly accused Ya'alon and Israel of being "ungrateful" but Glick sets the record straight:

Americans are getting the same message from allies throughout the Middle East. Under Obama, America’s regional policies are so counterproductive that the US has come to be seen as the foreign policy equivalent of a drunk driver.

As the US’s strongest ally, and also as a country that has depended for decades on US support, Israel is a passenger in the back seat of the car. On the one hand, we are happy for the ride. On the other hand, the administration’s driving is endangering our survival.


The United States and the rest of the world will long rue the fact that Barack Obama was granted two terms to misguide U.S. Mideast policy--but Israelis have to hope and pray that their country merely survives long enough to rue that fact, because even though Iran's nuclear program is a global threat it is an existential threat primarily for Israel, a reality that Netanyahuu can ill afford to ignore for much longer. 

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

 

Ariel Sharon's Legacy is Tainted by his Abandonment of Fundamental Historical and Legal Principles

Ariel Sharon, who passed away on January 11, 2014 after spending eight years in a coma, was a bold and imaginative military leader who played an essential role in Israel's victories in the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War. During most of his subsequent political career, Sharon strongly supported Israel's right--and need--to maintain control over Judea, Samaria and Gaza, three areas that not only are part of Biblical Israel (and the modern Palestine Mandate) but also essential buffer zones against aggression by Israel's Arab neighbors. Sharon was considered, by allies and enemies alike, as one of the founding fathers of the settler movement; he made his name as a proud advocate of the right of the Jewish people to return to their historic homeland in its entirety and his legacy is largely based on his ideology regarding Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Sharon permanently tarnished that legacy when, as Prime Minister, he betrayed the principles he had spent a lifetime upholding.

Prior to becoming Prime Minister, Sharon understood that language is important and he consistently said that Israel had "liberated" Judea, Samaria and Gaza, even though many people incorrectly insist on calling those territories "occupied." According to international law, Judea, Samaria and Gaza are unallocated portions of the Palestine Mandate. Those who refer to Israel as an "illegal occupier" are misinterpreting and/or misunderstanding international law.

Israel has a strong claim to Judea, Samaria and Gaza based on a host of international legal documents, including the Palestine Mandate and the Balfour Declaration, but even if one disregards those historical/legal precedents it is important to remember that Jordan and Egypt used Judea/Samaria and Gaza respectively as staging grounds for wars of aggression against Israel (and, prior to those wars, those countries used those territories as staging grounds for terrorist attacks against Israel).

Israel's policies of appeasement--and the attitude of large segments of the international political and media communities--make no sense, because instead of Israel begging that the Arab countries recognize her right to exist (a right that every other country in the world correctly takes for granted) in exchange for receiving land that had been used as staging grounds for anti-Israel aggression Israel should have been asking for reparations as the victim of unprovoked attacks. If Canada attacked the northern United States and the United States responded by capturing Quebec one can rest assured that the United States would not return Quebec in exchange for Canadian recognition of the United States' right to exist--and even that analogy does not go far enough, because in that scenario the United States' only claim to Quebec would be that Quebec had been used as a staging ground for an aggressive war, while in contrast Israel's valid claim to Judea, Samaria and Gaza predates the repeated Arab attempts to annihilate the Jewish State.

If international law is interpreted any other way then that would mean that Country A could attack Country B, lose land during the subsequent war and then insist that Country B either return that land or offer reparations. Furthermore, Jordan--which occupied Judea and Samaria from 1948 and 1967--was never recognized internationally as the rightful owner of those areas and Egypt's claim to Gaza is dubious as well. The "illegal occupier" of Judea and Samaria was Jordan, not Israel! In 1970, three years after the Six Day War, former State Department Legal Advisor Stephen Schwebel explained the legal status of Judea and Samaria: "Where the prior holder of territory had seized that territory unlawfully, the state which subsequently takes that territory in the lawful exercise of self-defense has, against that prior holder, better title."

Israel's intimate ties to Judea, Samaria and Gaza are not just legal formalities; the rich Jewish history associated with Judea, Samaria and Gaza predates the creation of both Christianity and Islam. It is also worth mentioning that not only has there never been an Arab country called "Palestine" but that the p sound does not even exist in Arabic; the word Palestine has been co-opted and corrupted in recent decades by Israel's enemies but it originated as a Latin term used by the Roman occupiers to rename Judea, the ancient Jewish state that had provided particularly tough resistance to Roman conquest. The Arabic word Filastin is simply a transliteration of the Latin term and the assertion that there is a distinctive Palestinian Arab people separate from the larger Arab community is a late 20th century propaganda phenomenon--arguably the most successful propaganda campaign ever, completely turning historical truth upside down (the Jerusalem Post was originally called the Palestine Post but just a few decades later Israel's enemies have convinced most of the world that there is such a thing as a separate Palestinian Arab nation, which historically makes about as much sense as saying that there is a separate Michigan nation that is entitled to exist independently of the United States).

Sharon's military achievements and his bold advocacy for Israel's rights made him a hero in the eyes of Israrel's supporters and a villain in the eyes of Israel's enemies--but after Sharon became Israel's Prime Minister in 2001 he made a shocking and abrupt ideological transformation, unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza and four communities in Samaria and making plans for more unilateral withdrawals from Judea and Samaria; if he had not been incapacitated by a stroke in 2006 there is no telling how much more damage Sharon might have done to Israel's security and how many thousands of Jewish residents he may have uprooted from their homes. It is a bitter historical irony that Sharon, the general who helped save Israel from defeat in several wars, became a Prime Minister who inflicted ethnic cleansing on his own people, forcibly removing Jewish families from their homes.

Yitzhak Shamir was a man of principle, in stark contrast to Israeli Prime Ministers Shimon Peres, Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu. Ariel Sharon will always be a seminal figure in Israeli and Jewish history but his ultimate legacy is that he betrayed his most cherished principles and he betrayed the voters who elected him because they believed that he would uphold those very principles.

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

 

Israel Desperately Needs a Prime Minister with Menachem Begin's Courage and Foresight

It has been so long since Israel had a Prime Minister who possessed courage and a sense of history that it is easy to forget what it sounds like when an Israeli leader actually speaks truth to power. Benjamin Netanyahu knows the truth and he used to speak it when he represented Israel at the United Nations but as soon as he enters the Prime Minister's office--first from 1996-99, then from 2009 to the present--he loses his mind and his backbone.

Menachem Begin survived the Holocaust and he fought in Israel's War of Independence. Those experiences reinforced what he had always known to be true: the Jewish people must return to their homeland and reestablish an independent state where Jewish culture can thrive and where Jewish people will be safe from persecution and free to live openly as Jews, the same basic rights that every other nation expects to enjoy.

Michael Freund's column about the most recent misguided U.S. Mideast "peace plan" recalls Begin's response to a similarly misguided plan three decades ago. Begin wrote a personal letter to U.S. President Ronald Reagan that included these powerful words:

What some call the "West Bank," Mr. President, is Judea and Samaria; and this simple historic truth will never change. There are cynics who deride history. They may continue their derision as they wish, but I will stand by the truth. And the truth is that millennia ago there was a Jewish kingdom of Judea and Samaria where our kings knelt to God, where our prophets brought forth the vision of eternal peace, where we developed a rather rich civilization which we took with us, in our hearts and in our minds, on our long global trek for over 18 centuries; and, with it, we came back home.

Israel will not survive unless her citizens elect a Prime Minister who speaks the truth--and acts on it--the way that Menachem Begin did. In 1981, Begin's administration bravely destroyed Saddam Hussein's Osirak nuclear weapons facility as Begin vowed that he "will not be the man in whose time there will be a second Holocaust." No one else had the courage and the foresight to do what Begin did--and Begin was roundly criticized at the time, in what William Safire described as "an orgy of hypocrisy," by nations and commentators who had been silent as France, Italy and other countries conspired with Iraq to develop a nuclear weapons program whose primary target was the Jewish State. Netanyahu is not built from the same moral fiber as Begin, which means that it is unlikely that under Netanyahu's watch Israel will have the necessary resolve to confront Iran, whose leaders have clearly and repeatedly stated their goal to destroy Israel. Israel cannot expect to be saved by anyone else--and if Israel does not act then the Iranians will develop a nuclear weapon and deploy it against Israel.

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