Archive for the ‘Antartica’ Category

The Jews Down Under

March 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Compiled by Garry Fabian

A new slant on Dubai killing.

MELBOURNE,10 March – The article below was written by Paul Howes, National Secretary of the Australian Workers Union, who has always been a strong supporter of Israel.

It’s fascinating how one word can change so dramatically the meaning of one sentence.

Since the allegations emerged surrounding the use  of Australian passports in the assassination of  Hamas arms smuggler Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai
it’s interesting to read how different Australian  journalists have referred to the man.

Some journalists and commentators have taken to  referring to al-Mabhouh as a “Palestinian  militant” implying therefore, that he, and indeed Hamas, as a whole are some kind of national liberation movement – not unlike Fretilin in East
Timor or the American revolutionaries of 1776.

It’s unfortunate that so few of them seem to have  sat down and read Hamas’ own weird, extreme conspiracy theory, fascist racist charter.

Amongst other things, the charter repeatedly  names the Freemasons, Lions and Rotary clubs as Zionist fronts, saying that all are actually spying outfits using Jewish money to take control of the world and make movies and create other PR
events to, amongst other things, undermine the  morality of the good Muslim woman!

So categorising al-Mabhouh and Hamas as  “militants” or “national liberation fighters” is not just plain wrong, it provides a cover for  Hamas to hide the reality of this ugly  Islamo-fascist terrorist organisation under the cloak of international law.

Let’s be clear: the death of al-Mabhouh is a  positive outcome for those who believe in peace and justice.

Yes, I accept that a liberal conscience will  worry about the compelling moral arguments against extrajudicial killings.

But we’re talking about a man who has turned  Palestinian children into human bombs to murder  and terrorise Israeli civilians, not to mention  the terror Hamas has waged against Palestinians  who are deeply worried about Hamas’ fundamentalism being imposed by authoritarian diktat.

Al-Mahbouh and his Damascus military faction are  said to be responsible for undermining the  negotiations between Israel and Hamas to release
the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The question of the use of Australian passports  in the operation in Dubai raises many issues for the Australian Government.

Traditionally, Australia has been a loyal friend  of Israel, no matter which party is in
government. This is something that should make us all proud.

Some have argued that if Israel has illegally  used Australian passports, this is not the action of a friend. Maybe.

But in my view, friends stand by each other in  the good times and the bad, and a friend is  someone who lends a hand when the going gets tough.

That’s why I’m proud that our nation has played a small, and accidental role, in the removal of the terrorist al-Mabhouh from our planet.

Many may say that’s to be expected of a  pro-Israeli. But it should be clear that
al-Mabhouh’s death is quietly welcomed by the  vast majority of the moderate Arab world.

Al-Mabhouh will be mourned only in the capitals  of the despotic Middle East regimes such as Iran and Syria.

Many anti-Israel activists around the world, and  in Australia, have seized on the passport issue  to develop a new front to push their anti-Israeli  propaganda. That, too, is to be expected.

But Australians shouldn’t fall for the giant lie  they are pushing. Israelis are actually allied  with a clear majority of the Arab world fighting a war against the forces of anti-democratic Islamo-fascism.

The world defeated Nazism. Now the world must  support those countries fighting Islamo-fascism.

It is a war that is being fought on the streets of Tehran, where democratic forces battle that Islamic dictatorship; it’s being fought on the streets of Gaza, after Hamas launched their coup there; it’s being fought in Lebanon against  Hezbollah and in the mountains of Afghanistan against the remains of al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

The fighters had a small victory in a Dubai hotel.

The Australian Government has a responsibility to protect Australian interests abroad and while some may say the possible illegal use of  Australian passports in the Dubai operation is against our national interests, I say they are wrong.

It is in our nation’s interest and the interests  of the world as a whole, to ensure democracy, liberty and freedom thrives.

It is in our interest to ensure that a free, secular and healthy democratic Palestinian state is created.

It is in our interest to ensure that when private citizens leave their homes and go to work or school that they don’t have to fear suicide bombers will kill them.

This is not an easy war to fight, or to win. It has to be fought in many different theatres.

But it is in our interest to ensure that all human beings regardless of their sex, race,
religion, sexual orientation and political belief can live their lives free from persecution or harassment.

Hamas and al-Mabhouh stand against all these values – values we hold dear.

Therefore, it is in our nation’s interest to do whatever we can to remove these vile people from power – by any means necessary.

Paul Howes is national secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union


Fourth Australian identity in Dubai assassinationMELBOURNE, 9 March – Interpol yesterday named the  27th suspect in the case – Joshua Aaron Krycer – as they issued arrest warrants over the January murder.

An arrest warrant for the person pretending to be  Joshua Krycer was issued – he was the only “new” person added to the 26 suspects already named by Dubai police.

The real Joshua Krycer lives in Israel, having  moved from Melbourne three years ago.

He works at one of Jerusalem’s largest hospitals,  the Shaare Zedeck Medical Centre, where he is a certified speech therapist.

The hospital’s website says Mr Krycer is an  expert in speech therapy and swallowing difficulties and offers diagnosis, treatment, follow-up and recommendation for continued care after discharge from the hospital.

Tackling the injustice of agonot

MELBOURNE, 10 March – Orthodox rabbis have met  with Jewish women’s rights advocates to discuss  the anomaly of agunot– ­women whose husbands will
not grant them a Jewish divorce.

The meeting was held in Melbourne last week  between the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) and the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia (NCJWA) – and the person who brought them together was Israeli lawyer Sharon Shenhav,
an advocate for women’s justice within Jewish law.

Following the meeting, Shenhav  said she was pleased that local rabbis are taking the plight of agunot seriously through the recent introduction of pre-nuptial agreements.

“Agunot are absolutely still relevant and a problem,” she said of the phenomenon, which has lasted for centuries.

She heard from the rabbis, who represented Chabad, Mizrachi and modern Orthodox congregations, that the pre-nuptial agreements ­ which must be strongly recommended to all couples married by an Orthodox rabbi in Victoria ­ have
been issued more than 600 times already, with only one couple expressing disagreement with the document.

During her trip to Australia as NCJWA scholar-in residence, Shenhav met with people who are or who know an agunah, including one woman whose husband disappeared 57 years ago.

Shanhav said pre-nuptials are an important step forward, but that Australia is behind the times in bringing them in. Israel has had them for more than two decades, mainstream Orthodox American couples have been signing them for 20 years and they have been in place in Britain for at least a decade.

“It’s nothing new, but I am delighted Australian rabbis have taken to it.”

At last year’s RCV AGM, former president Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant advocated for pre-nuptial agreements to become compulsory. He was defeated though, largely by some of the older rabbis.

However Shanhav was unwilling to blame the older generation for dragging their feet on agunot.

“It [the meeting] crossed all age groups and all showed genuine concern about the problem.”

Current RCV head Rabbi Yaakov Glasman spoke compassionately of women who find themselves unable to break free of a troublesome marriage.

“It is our sincere hope that the women who are suffering as a result of this issue will be freed without further delay, and the RCV is working hard to pre-empt such cases occurring in the future,” he said.

Cycle club gets star recruit

MELBOURNE, 11 March – Matt Sherwin is in the top handful of club cyclists in Victoria. He hasconsistently been at the peak of the A-grade competition in recent years, and is a walk-up start at any club in the state.

So his choice to saddle up for the fledgling Maccabi Cycling Club (MCC) is remarkable.

His decision wasn’t based on the standard of cyclists at the Maccabi club — there are few riders that can go with him — nor was it a choice based on prestige or resources.

MCC is a club on the move. It is one of the fastest-growing Maccabi clubs and while it has been developing exponentially since its inception late last year — thanks to an explosion in the sport’s popularity among Melbourne Jews — it is
still very much in its infancy.

In fact, Sherwin’s motivation for choosing Maccabi isn’t really based on competition at all.

“Cycling offers so much more than a competitive element,” Sherwin said.

“It offers a lot of social interaction andcamaraderie. Then there’s the fitness element .there’s so many benefits for such a wide range of people. Cycling’s not confined to the racing element.”

Time and again, Jewish athletes have abandoned the Maccabi movement as they approach the elite level, but as a proud member of Melbourne’s Jewish community, this was not a consideration for Sherwin, who is dedicated to growing the sport at the grassroots level.

Prior to joining Maccabi, Sherwin was racing for the Carnegie Caulfield Cycling Club, the biggestclub of its kind in Australia and one of the biggest in the world. In 2007, he spent a year in the US, racing for professional team Sakonnet Technology.

“It was a bit of a decision to move across, but supporting the community was a big motivator,” Sherwin said during a recent interview

“I wanted to help promote the club because it’s a very tough market out there. I wanted to give abit of exposure to the club to help get it off the ground.”

Maccabi Cycling was launched in August last yearand caters to all riders. It will launch a juniordevelopment team later this year and already has around 80 members. Late last month, the club rodefor a charity event through Marysville to help raise money for victims of the Black Saturday bushfires.

In Maccabi colours, Sherwin is a near-permanent fixture in the top five and, in January, wasasked to compete in the Jayco Bay Criterium Series – one of the fastest criterium races in the world – as part of a team comprising riders from Canberra and Victoria.

Sherwin has now turned his attention to making the jump from club level to open level, and plans to compete overseas again.

“I’m probably at a level in between the professionals we have in Australia and the restof the world and club level. The next step is very difficult because you’re racing against professional riders a lot, but it’s a step I’m in the process of taking at the moment,” Sherwin said.

New Settlement plan not Helpful – Australian Foreign Minister

CANBERRA, 11 March –  Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has criticised Israel’s decision to allowthe building of more homes in Ramat Shlomo, an
ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood of Jerusalem.

Speaking to Sky News on Thursday, Smith called the decision, made on Tuesday, a “bad” one.

“I share the view that this is a bad decision at the wrong time,” he said. “It’s not a helpful contribution to the peace process. It’s not a helpful contribution to the very hard work that’sbeen going on behind-the-scenes, including from the United States, to try and get Israel and thePalestinian Authority together for so-called proximity talks.”

Approval for 1600 additional houses in the burgeoning area –  where media reports put the average household at seven or eight people – was given by Israel’s Interior Ministry. It iscontroversial because the building would be beyond the Green Line, but the Netanyahu Government said it never agreed to halt construction in Jerusalem.

The approval followed closely on the heals of United States Vice President Joe Biden’s express support for new, indirect peace talks during a visit to Israel this week. That support is basedon the cessation of settlement building in the Palestinian territories.

Smith said Australia continues to support a freeze on Israeli buildings beyond the Green Line, including East Jerusalem.

“Issues of settlement and East Jerusalem andJerusalem can be part of a final agreement,” Smith said.

“What we are very, very desperate to achieve inthe Middle East is a long term enduring peace where Israel has the right to exist as a state in
a context of peace and security, and thePalestinian people have their own state as well,also existing in a context of peace and security.”

He said the announcement was “not helpful” in promoting the peace process.

Jewish radio to hit the airwaves

MELBOURNE, 12 March – The local  Jewish community is set to have its very own radio station after a temporary licence was granted to Melbourne Jewish Radio.

But it has been no easy feat for the station, named Lion FM, with the founding committee having engaged in a long and arduous application process
with the Australian Communication Media Authority (ACMA).

“The application process was extremely difficultand many times people probably counted us out. I have a belief that nothing worthwhile in life comes easily and sometimes you need to dig in and fight for something,” Melbourne Jewish Radio secretary Stephen Fennell said.

“Some 18 months after we began this process, herewe are about to begin our maiden broadcast. Thisis such a great achievement for the community.”

Expected to be broadcasting full time within the next six weeks, Lion FM will cater to differentlistening groups. It will include a mix of news and current affairs, light entertainment, music and special interest programs.

As with the nature of the programming, the Lion FM team is also a mix of people from different sectors of the community.

“People from all walks of life have joined us  over the journey and many more come on board every day. We have established subcommittees to implement the requirements for the station, which is all voluntary at this point,” Fennell said.

Among the volunteers is lawyer and Glen Eira councillor Michael Lipshutz, who holds the position of station president.

Lipshutz believes the station will play an important role in bringing more Jewish news andinformation to Jews and non-Jews alike.

“Jewish audiences want more media. Particularly with Israel always on the back foot and the Jewish community on the back foot because of anti-Semitism, we need to reach out to the general public as well as the Jewish community,” he said, adding that it is particularly pertinent for younger generations who are becoming “less
associated with the Jewish community”.

To be transmitted on 96.1 FM, the station must construct its own antenna to carry the signal,and will test broadcast for a few weeks as per its ACMA requirements. Once official broadcasting begins, Melbourne Jewish Radio must prove to the
ACMA that it is able to successfully run the station before a permanent licence is granted.

Lipshutz said the group is seeking community support to raise $300,000 to ensure the success of the station.

Anti-Semitism unlikely to go away

SYDNEY, 10 March – A final peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians would not eliminatethe rising levels of western anti-Semitism, according to pre-eminent Holocaust scholar Professor Yehuda Bauer.

Speaking at Sydney’s Mandelbaum House last Thursday, he told the audience, including University of Sydney chancellor and NSW Governor Marie Bashir, that a multi-pronged approach is required to battle anti-Semitism, including the
use of mass communication channels to present the “facts on the ground”.

“Analyses show reasonably clearly that what is being attacked is Israel as a Jewish state, not just as another state, and that the current conflict serves as a trigger that releases people from a politically correct attitude of opposing anti-Semitism,” the academic said in Sydney last week.

The reason for this, he said, is because anti-Semitism is not only a prejudice, but also a “historically ingrained cultural phenomenon” in the Christian-Muslim world that exists latently and can be aroused by a conflict such as the current one in the Middle East.

Prof Bauer, a past winner of the prestigious Israel Prize and professor emeritus of Holocaust studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is currently touring Australia. He will be the keynote speaker at Monash University’s upcoming
Holocaust Aftermath Conference on March 14 and 15.

An elaborate mix of ideological campaigns is also called for, he said, to battle anti-Semitism in the Muslim world, where radical Islam is growing and outspokenly anti-Semitic messages are increasingly gaining acceptance with the mainstream.

“This is very clear in Pakistan, for instance, where there is not a single Jew,” he said.
There are competing, non-radical interpretations of Islam, he stressed, and it’s up to a “non-patronising western stance” to support those voices “willing to enter the fray”.

“Anti-Semitism is a global scourge, and it’s directed against all civilised societies. That ishow it should be seen,” Prof Bauer said.

Kosher label review “cautiously welcomed

MELBOURNE 12 March – Kosher authorities have “cautiously welcomed” a federal
government-sponsored review of kosher labelling.

Currently being conducted by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), the review is part of a sweeping evaluation of food labelling laws sparked by consumer concerns over inaccurate and inconsistent food labels.

A recently released issues paper by the COAG committee stated that there is “consumer desire for clarification of the terms”, including “kosher”.

Starting this week, the committee will kick off its consultation process, inviting submissions and conducting public meetings in capital cities across Australia and New Zealand until May 7. A final report is expected by early December.

Kashrut authorities were this week tentatively optimistic about the review.

NSW Kashrut Authority’s (KA) rabbinic coordinator, Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, stated that, in principle, government assistance in defining what is labelled kosher could help stamp out, what he called, kosher fraud.

“It’s a good thing, but we need to work out how it’s going to happen,” Rabbi Gutnick said.

“Of course, the government is not qualified to determine what is kosher – this must be determined by the rabbinic kashrut bodies of the various states,” he stressed.

“Perhaps ‘kosher’ for the purposes of legislation would mean something supervised as such by an independent rabbinic body, not the manufacturer themselves.”

Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant, the kashrut committee chair of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia (ORA), said he could also see “significant benefits” coming from such a review in regards to fraudulent advertising, but he also remained cautious.

“The matter does need careful consideration, and I do question the driving force behind this particular initiative,” he said. “I think the kashrut authorities will share a measure of concern about it.”

Regarding plans to make a formal submission to the review panel, he added: “It’s certainly something ORA should be considering, and I’ll bring it up with the committee and see what their responses are.”

Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Robert Goot also said he would be liaising with kashrut authorities and ORA on how to proceed with a submission “consistent with Jewish religious practice”.

Shabbat in Antarctica

A “Real Cool Story from the ends of the earth” – In a small chapel overlooking a frozen sea inlet, Dick Heyman leads a tiny congregation in a Shabbat-evening service. “Blessed are you, endless one, who makes the evenings fall,” he
says, opening the Ma’ariv service with an English rendition of the prayer Asher Bidvaro.

“Oh, wait,” Heyman says, pausing. “We can’t say that here.”

Heyman is right. This January Shabbat service — the first ever in Antarctica to the knowledge of anyone present — is taking place in a dimly lit chapel. But it’s bright as day outside, and it has been that way for nearly six months.

Here, on the McMurdo Sound near the Antarctic coast, the last sunrise was in August, and the sun won’t dip below the horizon again until the end of February. Few things are black or white, but Antarctica is one of them. Save for a brief
transition in March, the continent enjoys either 24-hour darkness or 24-hour light.

The stubborn sun presents some secular challenges to the scientists and staff here: sunglasses are a must, even at midnight. But the odd solar schedule may also have implications for Shabbat, the timing of which is determined by the coming and going of the sun and stars.

“Part of lighting Shabbat candles is to have light in the darkness,” Heyman explains to his congregants, “but we don’t have darkness until February”.

In this multipurpose chapel, a small hodgepodge of staff members – Jewish and non-Jewish, the committed and the idly curious, including two Christian chaplains – listen respectfully to Heyman. At McMurdo Station, a research outpost
with the largest community in Antarctica – around 1100 summertime residents – he is effectively the chacham, or knowledgeable communal leader.

Heyman, a child of German Holocaust refugees, grew up a Reform Jew in the Forest Hills section of Queens in the US. In Antarctica, he works 50-hour weeks as a network engineer, connecting the remote base to the rest of the world. He has
been in information technology for 25 years, but this is his first season on the ice. His four-month stint is the longest he has been away from his family of four in Fort Collins, Colorado. So, though he describes himself as “not especially religious” and recalls that he had his bar mitzvah in a Presbyterian church, Heyman
decided to hold a Shabbat service to remind him of home.

With the help of rabbis from Congregation Har Shalom in Fort Collins, Heyman printed out prayer booklets, planned an oneg – an informal Friday night Shabbat service – and baked a challah for the occasion. The 64-year-old estimates that
there are upward of 20 Jews on the base, but only eight congregants besides himself have shown up to enjoy the festivities, plus myself, a non-participating reporter. Only six participants are Jewish.

The others, including the two Christian chaplains, are among the curious. “I’m from the Judeo-Christian tradition,” says Reverend Philip Gibbs, a 62-year-old New Zealander. “So when something Jewish is going on, I want to see it.”

Even some of the Jews present admit to little inthe way of Jewish background, leading Heyman to punctuate the service with frequent commentary
and explanation as he moves along.

As it turns out, Heyman is not the first to ponder the problem of Shabbat in the face of a non-setting sun. In the 18th century, the Vilna Gaon suggested that ambiguous cases should followthe solar calendar of Jerusalem, a proposal accepted today as law.

But according to Rabbi Michael Paley, scholar-in-residence at the Jewish Resource
Centre of UJA-Federation of New York, the law extends only to land masses contiguous with Israel, making Antarctica something of a halachic no-man’s-land.

When the situation is uncertain, Rabbi Paley explained, the precise timing of Shabbat could become a community decision. Fortunately, Rabbi Paley’s psak, or ruling, is consistent with Heyman’s intuitions.

“There’s never been a Jewish pope,” Heyman says, “so there can be some interpretation”.

The engineer-cum-chazan decides to follow a custom of referring to the sundown of the nearest community – in this case, the ironically named Christchurch, New Zealand. Christchurch is home to the nearest off-continent base of the United
States Antarctic Program, and McMurdo Station – which is located at nearly the same longitude as New Zealand’s Milford Sound but much further
south – runs on Christchurch time, allowing Ma’ariv to begin around dinnertime instead of 10hours later, as it would on Jerusalem time.

But as soon as one problem is solved, another arises. Following the custom of facing towards Jerusalem to pray, Heyman instinctively instructs his congregation to turn east, as do Jews who live in the West.

“Grid east or true east?” Philip Fitzgerald asks.

The 33-year-old carpenter and Jew from Juneau, Alaska, has a point. At McMurdo, a few hundred miles from the geographic South Pole, cardinal directions are skewed. Almost everywhere one turns is geographically north. This has led
navigators to develop an artificial “grid” system for designating directions in Antarctica.

For someone standing at or near the South Pole, “grid north” is defined as facing in the direction that aligns with the prime meridian – the longitudinal line that passes through the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England. “Grid south” aligns with the International Date Line, running through the opposite side of the globe, in the Pacific Ocean.

“Grid east” passes through Bangladesh between India and the Gobi Desert, and bears no relation to Jerusalem. But neither does true east, which simply makes a short lap around the South Pole before looping back to McMurdo.

So where to face? Heyman and his congregation settle on true east, concluding that thinking of Jerusalem is what counts.

Rabbi Paley thinks they could have found Jerusalem on a map and simply faced that way.

“But the world is round,” he said. “Eventually you’ll get there.”

For Heyman, the spirit of his Shabbat service trumps the details: during kiddush, accompanying the challah and wine are some tasty (if untimely) latkes, made from roasted potatoes he had been hoarding from the cafeteria.

For Kenneth Iserson, 60, the sight of the Shabbat candles brings him back to his Conservative Jewish upbringing outside Washington. Now professor emeritus at the University of Arizona, Prof Iserson came to Antarctica to serve as the
lead physician on the research base.

“Those are the first candles I’ve seen lit at McMurdo,” he says.

Heyman adds that he doesn’t know if another Antarctic Shabbat service is on the horizon. But if he does hold the service again, he says he’ll take extra care to scour the base for more congregants.

“I’m happy with the turnout,” Heyman says. “But there have got to be more than six Jews in Antarctica.”

Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

American Wealth and International Affairs

February 3, 2010 Leave a comment
By Ira Sharkansky
JERUSALEM–Money, money everywhere, but not enough. That’s the message from the massive deficit already apparent and projected for the United States. It comes from too many wars, too many tax cuts, too many entitlement programs, and too much exploitation by highly paid capitalists who forced the government into unprecedented bail-outs. Who’s to blame is problematic. Any quest for responsibility will produce a political dog fight that worsens the chances of getting cooperation to deal with it.

A newspaper headline captures the strategic threat, “Huge Deficits May Alter U.S. Politics and Global Power.”

At stake is the war on terror, health reform, tax and spending leverages to increase employment, along with prosaic domestic programs that are suffering on account of financial problems among states and localities. There is also a prospect of Chinese influence on American policy due to government bonds they have acquired from selling consumer and industrial goods to Americans, Europeans and others. The same changes in international commerce have also brought about the closing of factories throughout countries where shopping is a favored pastime.

It is too early to write finish to the power of North America and Europe. The Chinese cannot unload their bonds without reducing their value, and hurting themselves along with the United States. America and Europe are wealthy, and may be wise enough to avoid disaster. Yet signs of trouble include the interruption of medical evacuations from Haiti to the United States due to arguments as to which institutions would pay for treatment, and the president’s comments that the country could not afford an endless war in Afghanistan, a country his experts warned was unrepairable.

The dismay over deficits may be more important for the prospect of health reform than the loss of a Massachusetts Senate seat. The country with the best medical facilities in the world may continue to have them unavailable to much of its population. Large numbers will get only emergency treatment in public hospitals, and others who think they have paid for decent care will suffer the stinginess of insurance companies.

While avoiding the temptation of indicating which president or which bloc of Congress has contributed what portion to the deficit, it is useful to identify some traits of the United States that contribute to its problem.

The financial problems of the United States (national, state, and local governments) suffer from taxes that are lower than those of other western democracies, as well as from the costs of its overseas commitments. Americans concerned to deal with their deficits should not focus on their domestic programs, which generally are less generous than those of other democracies.

Wealth may be the single most important factor responsible for American prominence in international conflicts. Resources per capita in the United States are lower than in Luxembourg, Norway, Switzerland, Ireland, Denmark, Iceland, The Netherlands, and Sweden, suggesting that the average individual in those countries is better off than the average American. However, the American population is larger, and the overall wealth of the United States is greater than those countries. This gives the American government leverage not possessed by others. Military power derives from the total wealth of the United States, as well as its being the greatest surviving western power at the end of World War II, and then one of the two major players in the Cold War.

Being the lone superpower left standing in 1990 invited endless appeals for assistance, and made the United States the most attractive target for those whose targets are capitalism, individualism, the rich, and the non-Muslim. The World Trade Center fell as a result of the second attack on the icon of all that was viewed to be evil. The Gulf War of 1991 was a prelude to major military investments, largely American, in the area from Iraq eastward and southward. Iran’s animosity to the United States dates from intense opposition to the friends of the Shah and the hostage taking of 1979-81. It does not seem to be diminishing under the Obama effort at engagement.

The prominence of the United States, as opposed to that of Britain, France, Germany, or Russia in international politics is not only a product of wealth and military power. The structure of American government also has made its contribution to the role the country has chosen for itself. The separation of power, and the competition between Congress and the presidency adds to the heroic defense of national values not so apparent in the parliamentary regimes of Europe. The unity between executive and legislature may facilitate the willingness to accommodate hostile forces, most apparent in going along with Muslim and Third World demands in the United Nations, or abstaining alongside American nays.

Somewhere in the American mix is the power of the Jewish lobby. One must be careful of exaggerating. It is far from dominant. Insofar as Israel is often a target of Muslim and other Third World countries, however, Jewish influence in Congress and the White House is among the factors responsible for United States vetoes in the Security Council, and votes against resolutions in the General Assembly and other UN organs where European governments are generally not as outspoken.

While on the subject of Jews, it is appropriate to continue with the advantages of a country that is beleaguered, but also small and limited in its responsibilities. Israel devotes three or four times the percentage of its resources to security as the United States, and has suffered perhaps 10 times the casualties on a proportional basis since World War II, but it has advantages that the American giant can envy. While American troops fight from bases on every continent but Australia and Antartica, Israel’s military operations are restricted to a couple of hundred miles from the center of its country, plus the occasional operation further afield. The cultures and languages of America’s  enemies are beyond the ken of its intelligence capabilities, while Israel has operated throughout its history with agents in places not so foreign to those who direct and analyze the gathering of intelligence. Israel can get credit for the quick dispatch of a few well trained people, with appropriate equipment to Haiti and other disaster areas. The United States starts slower, but does the heavy lifting of prolonged care and the refurbishing of infrastructure. Israel’s airport and national airline led the world in security, but they deal with a smaller number of flights than those at a sizable American or European airport, and need not bother with inflated demands to treat every passenger as posing the same risk. Israeli security personnel pay less attention to aged Jews than to young Arabs.


Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

Climate change poses question ‘Will Israel be here in 2500’?

December 26, 2009 1 comment

By Danny Bloom

CHIAYI CITY, Taiwan — Two recent newspaper articles about climate change in the far distant
future, say 2500 or so, (titled, respectively, “How much more proof is needed for people to act?” and “Ignoring the future — the psychology of denial”) emphasized the importance of facing major issues that will have an impact on the future of the human species.

Climate change is indeed an issue that is on everyone’s mind, and while Israel seems to be far removed from the experts who recently made their way to Copenhagen to try to hammer out blueprints to prevent global warming from having a Doomsday impact on humankind, Israel will also be on the front lines of these issues. Why? Because Israel will not exist as a country by the year 2500. Everyone there will have migrated north to Russia and Alaska.

Despite most observers’ belief that solutions lie in mitigation, there are a growing number of climatologists and scientists who believe that the A-word — adaptation — must be confronted head-on, too. The fact is — despite the head-in-the-sand protestations of deniers like former Alaskan Governor Sara Palin in the US — that we cannot stop climate change or global warming. The Earth’s atmosphere has already passed the tipping point, and in the next 500 years, temperatures and sea levels will rise considerably and millions, even billions, of people from the tropical and temperate zones will be forced to migrate in search of food, fuel and shelter. This includes the people of Israel.

By the year 2500, Israel will be largely uninhabited, except for a few stragglers eking out a subsistence life in the Golan Heights. The rest of the population will have migrated north to Russia’s northern coast or northern parts of Alaska and Canada to find safe harbor from the devastating impact of global warming.

Okay, how do I know all this, you ask? I don’t know. I am just saying that we all must be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

By the year 2500, most likely, Israelis en masse will have left the country for faraway northern regions to find shelter in UN-funded climate refuges in places such as Russia, Canada and Alaska. Israeli climate refugees will join millions of others from India, Vietnam,Thailand, Japan and the Philippines. It won’t be a pretty picture.

When I asked a professor at National Taiwan University in Taipei if this was a possible future scenario for Israel and other nations in the Middle East some 500 years from now, he said it was very possible, and that these issues needed to be addressed now, if only as a thought exercise, and even if it all sounded like a science fiction movie script. When I asked acclaimed British scientist James Lovelock if such a scenario for Israel was likely, he said to me in an e-mail: “It may very well happen, yes.”

We humans cannot engineer our way out of global warming, although
scientists who believe in geo-engineering have offered theories on how
to do it. There are no easy fixes. Humankind has pumped too many
greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the result of the industrial
revolution that gave us trains, planes, automobiles and much more,
enabling us to live comfortable and trendy lives — and now there is so
much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that the Earth cannot recover.

Israel, like the rest of the world, is doomed to a bleak future filled with billions of climate refugees seeking shelter in the far north, and
in places like New Zealand, Tasmania and Antarctica in the far south.

Meetings in Copenhagen and Rio de Janeiro and at the UN in Manhattan
will not stop global warming.

What we need to focus on now is preparing future generations for what
our world will become in the next 500 years and how best to survive

For the next 100 to 200 years or so, life will go on as normal in
Israel in terms of climate change and global warming issues. There is
nothing to worry about now. For the next 100 years posh department
stores will hawk their trendy items, computer firms will launch their
latest gadgets and airline companies will continue to offer passengers
quick passage here and there, to the Maldives and to Manhattan, for
business and for pleasure.

But in the next 500 years, according to Lovelock and other scientists
who are not afraid to think outside the box and push the envelope,
things are going to get bad. Unspeakably bad.

Those of us who are alive today won’t suffer, and the next few
generations will be fine, too. The big trouble will probably start
around 2200 — and last for some 300 years or so.

By 2500, Israel will be history, and so will be all the nations of Africa,
Asia, the Americas and Europe.

We are entering uncharted waters, and as the waters rise and the
temperatures go up, future generations will have some important
choices to make: where to live, how to live, how to grow food, how to
power their climate refugee settlements, how to plan and how to pray.

Danny Bloom is a Jewish writer based in Taiwan where he blogs daily
about climate change and global warming at his “Northwardho” blog.