Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Sliding Down The Slippery Slope

As per my post a few weeks ago and, after 23 months great months of blogging (though I only posted during 13), I regret to announce that, as of today, The Slippery Slope will not be updated for at least the next twelve months.

Beginning next Tuesday I will be a Legislative Fellow for a major American Jewish organization in Washington, D.C. and cannot continue blogging during my fellowship. Between traveling to Silver Spring, Maryland tomorrow to move into my new apartment (searching for an apartment was the road trip I took a few weeks back), returning to New York on Friday ahead of my cousin's wedding on Sunday evening, traveling back to Maryland on Monday (and everything else in between), I do not forsee myself having time to blog between now and next Tuesday. Therefore, this will be my last post.

I'd like to thank the readers who have visited this site over 7,230 times during the past almost two years. In particular, I'd like to thank ZS (formerly of Egged, now of Adversaria) for inspiring me to begin this venture; it has been educational, rewarding, enjoyable, and a lot of fun. Thank you for commenting so frequently and keeping me honest.

Thank you to E.D. of E-agle.com for hosting us here at www.TheSlipperySlope.org.

Thank you to my friends for being so supportive of my seemingly "nerdy" hobby.

Lastly, thank you to YOU: the readers, commenters, and friends who've stumbled down "The Slope," especially in the past few months. I won't single anyone out because I might miss someone but if you've ever commented, read, or emailed-thank you so much for your support.

I will now slide down the slippery slope and look forward to seeing you all at the bottom.

Thank you and goodnight.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Results of the meeting in Abu Dis-The Fight for Jerusalem Has Begun

Not surprisingly, Palestinian Prime Minister, Ahmed Qurei (Abu Alla) pronounced at the aforementioned meeting that, "The fight for Jerusalem has begun."
"We will not allow Israel to say, 'we have finished pulling out of Gaza' while at the same time expanding towns in the West Bank and around Jerusalem," he said.

"We call on the United States, the Quartet and the world to show responsibility for this," he said.

Nope, they won't be satisfied even momentarily with taking control of Gaza. Unlike the Israeli government, they've retained the vision of "Eretz Yisrael hasheleima," though in the opposite sense. How scary.

More details, courtesy of Ynet:

The cabinet meeting was intended to open a PA public relations campaign against the fence, especially in the Jerusalem area. Ministers viewed a presentation about settlement expansion around Jerusalem, according to which, thousands of new apartments are planned in the Maaleh Adumim and Gush Etzion areas.

Palestinians report that just in the last few days, four expropriation orders, covering 1,800 dunams (444 acres,) were issued for settlement expansion. Expropriated areas included Jerusalem-area villages such as al-Azariyya, Abu Dis, and A-Tur.

Qureia said that in light of Israel's security fence, the world must understand that Jerusalem and the West Bank are in "danger."

"The fence endangers the entire peace process, and not only the Israeli-Palestinian one. Peace throughout the region is endangered," he said.

No, what endangers the entire peace process are things like the suicide bombing in Be'er Sheva this morning. Yes, Be'er Sheva which is completely pre-'48. Due to alert guards, there were no fatalities but there were dozens of injuries including at least two serious ones.
"From our perspective, the only viable country would be with the 1967 borders," he said, "not a series of disconnected cantons."

"From our perspective, the fight for Jerusalem has begun. And it is a dangerous war. No Arab, Palestinian – Christian or Muslim – will accept Israel's racist plans," he said.

It's only a war if you want it to be and it will only be a dangerous one if you want it to be, Mr. Prime Minister.

It's Never Too Little, It's Never Too Late, And It's Never Enough

The words above, regarding one's limud hatorah, were spoken by Rav Yissochar Frand at the 11th Siyum HaShas back in March . I'm afraid that the Palestinians were listening and took his mussar to heart. According to JPost, the Palestinian Authority is holding its first ever cabinet meeting in Abu Dis, East Jerusalem, within the next few hours "to express the Palestinians' concern over Israel's plan to expand settlements."

Their audacity is simply astounding, though believable given their history. In case you've forgotten, the last civilians left Gaza less than a week ago (though Palestinians are still shooting at the Israeli troops that are cleaning up the place) and the Palestinians are already working on taking Jerusalem.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The NYTimes fabricates quotes to fit their anti-Israel agenda

After Dov Bear and The Town Crier malign the Bush Administration, let's see how (if) they respond to the truth or if they're happier just bashing GOP Jews..

This is just crazy and it speaks for itself.

Hat Tip: Jewish Current Issues

Condoleezza Rice and The New York Times

Last week, The New York Times published a story on their exclusive interview with Condoleezza Rice.

The first two paragraphs portrayed a Secretary of State focused, in the midst of a traumatic Israeli withdrawal, on signaling Israel that another one was next:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday offered sympathy for the Israeli settlers who are being removed from their homes in Gaza but also made it clear that she expected Israel and the Palestinians to take further steps in short order toward the creation of a Palestinian state.

"Everyone empathizes with what the Israelis are facing," Ms. Rice said in an interview. But she added, "It cannot be Gaza only."

Since the Roadmap calls for the dismantlement of Palestinian terrorist capabilities and infrastructure in Phase I -- and does not require Israel to remove a single settlement (other than certain “outposts”) during that phase -- Rice’s comments seemed gratuitously insulting. One would have thought she would emphasize the need for the Palestinians -- after a unilateral Israeli withdrawal that went far beyond their initial Roadmap requirements -- to comply with their own Roadmap obligations.


The transcript of the interview was posted by the State Department this week. It shows that the purported quote -- made the centerpiece of the Times story -- was constructed by the Times from two separate, unrelated comments by Rice -- one taken out of context, the other not even accurately quoted.

The first part was lifted from Rice’s response to the Times’ question about how she could “assure that [Gaza] is not the last step for a good while?”

I know, in having talked to [Sharon and his government] and watched how hard and I think everybody empathizes with what every Israeli has to be feeling and with people uprooting from homes that they have been in for a generation and the difficulty and the pain that that causes. And so I watched Prime Minister Sharon's address to the nation and it was really remarkable statesmanship.

* * *

And it's very easy to kind of move on to the next thing, but if you stop and reflect and pause, it also helps you to see that because -- and, you know, and we all hope that it continues to go relatively smoothly -- that because of this experience you would hope that confidence and trust between the Palestinians and the Israelis is also grown up because they had to have practically daily contact and meetings at every level of government in order to be able to pull this off. And if they indeed do, I think you will have created conditions and a level of trust that is unparalleled between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

* * *

So I don't think you're going to see just something stop. I do think you'll have some momentum coming out of this.

The Times then asked other questions, including “And so what should Israel do right now, after Gaza?” [can you discern a certain theme to the Times’ questions?] and then [continuing with the same theme] “Do you think you’ll go back there in the fall to keep the momentum going?”:

Let’s see, you know, what’s required. . . . But by no means do I think that this is the end.

The other thing is, just to close off this question, the question has been put repeatedly to the Israelis and to us that it cannot be Gaza only and everybody says no, it cannot be Gaza only. There is, after all, even a link to the West Bank and the four settlements that are going to be dismantled in the West Bank. Everybody, I believe, understands that what we're trying to do is to create momentum toward reenergizing the roadmap and through that momentum toward the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state.

It was not Rice dictating to Israel that it “cannot be Gaza only.” She was stating what others had been “repeatedly” telling Israel and the United States, and responding that there were four settlements in the West Bank being dismantled, with a Roadmap for the future.

Given the requirement in that Roadmap that the Palestinians dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure in Phase I, it is strange that the Times did not see fit to quote extensively from the following portion of the interview -- and indeed why they did not highlight it in the lead paragraphs of their story:

SECRETARY RICE: . . . [Y]ou cannot simply let a terrorist organization sit forever, that you cannot -- that there is an obligation in the roadmap to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism, not just coexist with it. . . . And so that is one of the most important next elements. I know that the Palestinians have been concerned and so are the Israelis, to have calm in this period of time. It has been a good thing that thus far the Palestinian factions have more or less respected that calm, but that isn't a substitute for the dismantling of the terrorist organizations, because as Abu Mazen himself has said, you can only have one authority and one gun.


SECRETARY RICE: So the answer to the question, what comes next, is that one of the obligations in the roadmap is that the Palestinian Authority should have unified security forces that are all under the authority of the Palestinian Authority and its leadership, its elected leadership. There will be elections in January. But the Palestinian Authority is going to have to deal with the infrastructure of terrorism, that's one of its obligations.

QUESTION: So the -- is it still then the U.S. position that disarmament, dismantling are the next steps for Israel in the expected steps on the right --

SECRETARY RICE: No, I'm not talking about a sequencing here because the roadmap is assiduously not sequencing one step after another. It gives, in parallel, certain obligations to both sides. And the obligation of the Palestinians has to do with the dismantling of terrorist infrastructure and organizations and they're going to have to do it.

Instead of manufacturing a lead quote to fit their own priority, the Times might have informed its readers that Rice emphasized the dismantlement of Palestinian terrorism four times -- in response to questions from the Times that sought to emphasize next steps by Israel:

“[T]here is an obligation in the roadmap to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism, not just coexist with it”

“[A cease-fire] isn’t a substitute for the dismantling of the terrorist organizations”

“So the answer to the question, what comes next, is . . . the Palestinian Authority is going to have to deal with the infrastructure of terrorism, that’s one of its obligations.”

“[T]he obligation of the Palestinians has to do with the dismantling of terrorist infrastructure and organizations and they’re going to have to do it.”

That would have been news that was fit to print.

Metzitzah b'Peh - Not Punny!

"This is a very delicate area, so to speak."
-- New York City Health Commissioner, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden discussing the issue of metzitzah b'peh.

One other interesting quote is from famous Rabbi Dovid Niederman, President of the UJO in Williamsburg (the Chasidic umbrella organization there), who says,
We do not change. We will not change.
I think that's a stupid way to explain your community's opposition to doing metzitzah with a plastic suction utensil. Yes, we're an am k'shei oref, but our religion (even the Chasidic elements which strive so hard to insulate and maintain the so-called purity of the shtetl within their neighborhoods and communities) has changed over the years and saying otherwise is ignoring reality and history.

Death Toll from Disengagement=1

Today, the woman from the far-right West Bank town of Kedumim who set herself on fire at the Yad Mordechai junction in the Negev to protest the disengagement in Gaza last week succumbed to the severe burns that covered 70% of her body.

Baruch dayan ha'emes but it really didn't have to be this way.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Iraq reporter sounds very much like a college student

On Daily Nightly today Richard Engel, Nightly's correspondent in Baghdad, lets us in on his experiences in Iraq's capital today; the day the constitution drafting committee was to submit its final draft of the nation's new Constitution to parliament. In the end, nothing happened.

These two lines appeared in his short two paragraph entry:
My first instinct was to go straight back to bed and wait until things sorted themselves out.
I thought the best solution was to go to sleep and wait until things sorted themselves out.
So aside from the bombs, bullets, mortars, and IED's, sounds like a pretty easy job, huh?

Making it easier for me to get into law school

According to National Law Journal,
Fewer people (-2%) applied to law schools for the upcoming academic year, and the number of minority enrollments dropped (-1%), according to information released by 19 of the country's top schools...At the same time, enrollment of women increased, but by less than 1 percentage point.

The upshot of the results means that law schools, which enrolled virtually the same number of students this year compared with last year, selected their incoming classes from a smaller pool of applicants. The figures also indicate that classes starting this fall will have less ethnic diversity but a slightly more balanced male-female composition.

Applications at all law schools have steadily increased in the past few years, but have flattened out at the top schools...What may be fueling the decline is an impression among undergraduates that law schools are becoming more choosy in their selection processes, passing over recent undergraduates for more mature applicants with more life experience. You need a wow-factor in your story.

Some 119,306 attorney hopefuls sent applications to the top schools, with enrollment equaling 6,083. Last year, 122,029 people applied to the schools, with the incoming class totaling 6,037. The average class size this year is 320, compared with 317 last year.

Women make up 44.6% of this fall's class at the responding schools, compared with 44.3% last year. The number of women entering this year's classes totaled 2,717, while the number of women entering last year's classes equaled 2,676.
If those numbers keep going down, perhaps my GPA, LSAT score (four weeks from today), and job experience from the upcoming year will constitute enough of a "Wow factor" to get me in to a top-tier law school. Here's hoping they do!

(Hat tip: Adversaria)

Don't be blocked from content by passwords any longer!

Have you ever read an article online, click a link to a related site only to find that the content is subscription-only and you aren't a subscriber? Well, with the help of "BugMeNot.com" that problem will vanish. Go to their website for more details and cherish the freedom!

Calling all Blue Fringe Fans

Since some readers valiantly defended Blue Fringe when I dismissed an article that equated them with Coldplay and Dave Matthews Band, here's a posting about an upcoming gig they're playing at the Young Israel of Holliswood next Wednesday evening to benefit the refugees of Gush Katif.

Blue Fringe

Wednesday, August 31st @ 7:00pm
at the
Young Israel of Hillcrest (86-25 Francis Lewis Blvd)
Cost: $20
Spaces are limited! Reserve your tickets now!
Call (718) 380-8491

Raffle!!! Win a free iPod!

Co-sponsored by:
Sushi Metsuyan
Young Israel of Holliswood
Young Israel of Jamaica Estates
Utopia Jewish Center
Hillcrest Jewish Center
Anonymous Donor

All proceeds go to the families who [sic] have been displaced from their homes in Gush Katif and the Shomron.

Anti-SUV Bumper Sticker Slogans

I hate SUV's, think they're terribly wasteful, are economically detrimental to our country (do some research on the ridiculous tax breaks new SUV owners can receive), they excessively pollute our environment, and unecessarily endanger others on the road. I firmly believe that if we had less of them on our nation's highways (they're currently 54% of the vehicles on the road!) we would have been able to entirely avoid any extension of daylight savings time (more here). Finally, as gas approaches $3 per gallon sales are beginning to decline. But it's already too late; prices will never fall back to where they used to be even six months ago.

Last year, Gregg Easterbrook told us how incentives to move away from SUVs and toward hybrids could have a cumulatively important effect on our oil consumption:
A simple one-third increase in the mileage of new vehicles would have a remarkably beneficial impact on the United States-Persian Gulf relationship, and quickly.
Here's the math. About 17 million new cars and "light trucks" (SUVs, pickups, and minivans) are sold in the United States each year and driven, on average, about 12,000 miles annually. If the fuel efficiency of 17 million vehicles driven 12,000 miles annually rose by one-third, from a real-world 17 MPG to a real-world 23 MPG, that would save about 200 gallons of gasoline annually per vehicle, or about 3.4 billion gallons of gasoline. Since a barrel of petroleum yields 20 gallons of gasoline, about 170 million barrels of oil would be saved.
Perhaps you think, Aha! With U.S. petroleum demand at 20 million barrels daily, this MPG initiative has saved just about one week's worth of oil. Yes--in the first year, the MPG increase would have little effect, in much the same way that, in their first year, few investments yield much return. But remember the miracle of compounding! In the second year, with two model-years' worth of vehicles at the higher MPG, 340 million barrels of oil are saved. The next year, the savings is 510 million barrels, the next year 680 million, and so on. In just the fifth year of this initiative, we would need to purchase about 850 million fewer barrels of petroleum--approximately the amount the United States imports each year from the Persian Gulf states.
Fortunately, while Ford and GM stock plummets, they're still spending enough money on K Street to head off any significant measures in Congress that would force them to improve the fuel efficiency of their respective fleets. (Notice how there was no tightening of CAFE regulations in the recently-passed energy bill.)

Andrew Sullivan (from whom the last paragraph was lifted) has spent a good part of the last three days blogging about the issue, too (I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII,). He was inspired by a great piece by Fareed Zakaria (I read the article when it was published in WaPo on Tuesday neglected to post it), and said that he's
well aware that the notion that the Bush administration has any interest in energy independence or taxing gas or deterring SUVs is about as likely as their demanding subsidies for sex-changes
but might as well vent. That said, he kicked off a contest for the best anti-SUV bumper sticker slogan beginning with "My car doesn't subsidize Saudi terror." Some other good
  • How many soldiers-per-gallon does your SUV get?
  • Osama Loves Your SUV.
  • U.S. troops died for your SUV -- Drive it proudly.
  • I'm funding terrorists, ask me how.

Frist to Speak for Republican Jewish Coalition in New York

Just arrived in my inbox:
Join us!

Republican Jewish Coalition
Breakfast with
U.S. Senate Majority Leader

Bill Frist, M.D.

"Looking to the Future: National Security and Other
Challenges Facing the 109th Congress"

Monday, September 12th, 8:30am-9:45am SHARP!!!

Harmonie Club
4 East 60th Street (Off Fifth Avenue)

THIS IS A MEMBERS ONLY EVENT!! Annual membership in the RJC is $75.
RSVP by Sept. 8 by email or phone. Seating is limited! Dietary laws observed.

For RJC LEADERSHIP ONLY (starting at $1,000/year), an Exclusive Roundtable Discussion will take place prior to the breakfast.
Call our office for more information about the benefits of Leadership.

Please forward to your friends and colleagues.

email: newyork@rjchq.org
phone: 212-922-0839
web: http://www.rjchq.org

While I met Frist in person (even got a picture with him) at last year's AIPAC/RJC/UJC party at Chelsea Piers ahead of the Republican Convention, it would be nice to hear him speak again and hear the Q&A that, I'm sure, will follow his speech. Alas, I'll be closer to his office than he will be that day and will, thus, miss the breakfast and speech entirely. (Perhaps I'll get to see him over the course of the year anyway, but that won't be bloggable.)

He is, of course, raising money for his presidential bid and trying to get his message out to the wealthy donors before other '08 candidates reach their pockets first. Therefore, it makes great $en$e for him to come to Manhattan, the most concentrated source of Republican funds in America; a county that has invested more than $100 million in the GOP and President Bush since 2000.

My new favorite journalist

Is Martin Peretz of The New Republic. (See I, II)

Today, for the September 5th issue of the magazine, he published another article about Israel, the Gaza disengagement, the Palestinians etc. It's a long piece (well worth the read-I'll post it as a comment for those interested) that doesn't seem to connect all of its different ideas as well as the author usually does, but here are some of the better portions:
Words, not blows; and, in most cases, the arguments between soldiers and settlers ended with a hug, revealing the deeper truth that the Jewish polis may be divided between messianism and realism but is very much one. The civil war that had been widely feared turned out to be a lot of civil and very little war.
And what of the politics in the days and months ahead? Condoleezza Rice is impatient. Even before the evacuation has been completed--it is not just the people who have to be removed, but all the houses torn down (at the insistence of the Palestinians!) and the entire military infrastructure disassembled--she hardly lets a day go by without insisting that Israel give more, including weapons that she cannot assure won't be used against its soldiers and citizens. If she doesn't give Sharon a breather, the secretary of state will soon have Bibi Netanyahu to deal with.
[That's the contrapositive of what Alon Pinkas wrote just last week in Ynet.]
The wrenching experience of the dissolution of Jewish Gaza should be a caution to those Israelis who anticipate a similar and overall fate for the settlements in the West Bank. This will not be repeated; the Israeli body politic simply will not permit it. The fact is that the Israeli settlements of Gaza were different: They were Israel's stepchildren. It was almost as if they were in a foreign land.
There are several towns with quite sizeable populations deep in the West Bank. (Remember: In any of these characterizations a word like "deep" may mean as little as five miles.) They pose a larger problem than the obstinate and isolated little pockets that the Israeli army and police are extricating from Samaria in these very days. These real communities cannot simply be picked up and moved. As difficult a problem as they may pose, they are living organisms with three generations of inhabitants having their souls and bodies entwined with their immediate environment. You cannot simply expel 10,000 individuals here and 10,000 there and 10,000 elsewhere and say this is being done in the interest of making peace.

The remainder of the Israeli settlements and settlers are not at all stepchildren. These constitute what Sharon calls the settlement blocs. The contours of the fence include these, and the fence expresses the logic of the two-state solution. Nothing else does.

Psychologically and geographically, these small cities and towns are as much Israel as Beersheba and Tiberias. You do not cross checkpoints to get to them. They are suburbs of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, in some cases adjoining suburbs. They are vibrant, pulsating, and growing by natural birth rate and internal migration. (They are not inhabited by people whom a typical New Republic reader might consider weirdos.)
[I'm not so sure about that; the 'typical' TNR readers I know well would definitely consider the settlers 'weirdos.')]
They are not up for grabs. Any negotiating team with goodwill and good sense could find ways to compensate the Palestinians with the kind of hardscrabble land the Israelis encountered when they first came there three and four decades ago (with the support of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, incidentally, who also saw them as no obstacle to peace if the Palestinians really wanted peace). The Palestinians claim to adore this land, but one wonders why they never did anything more with it.
lose observers of the Palestinians will tell you to put your money on Hamas in the elections scheduled for January 25. And Hamas has been making its point of view abundantly clear. Do you recall the name Khaled Mashaal, the Hamas official whom an Israeli agent tried to kill in Amman in January 1997, to the outrage of nearly everyone?...Mashaal told reporters in Beirut and major Arab TV stations, according to the Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, that the Israeli withdrawals marked the beginning of the end of the Zionist dream in Palestine. One of Mashaal's lieutenants, Mahmoud Zahar, impressed upon the pan-Arab daily Arshaq Al Awsat that "neither the liberation of the Gaza Strip nor the liberation of the West Bank or even Jerusalem will suffice us. Hamas will pursue the armed struggle until the liberation of all our lands. We don't recognize the state of Israel or its right to hold on to one inch of Palestine. Palestine is an Islamic land belonging to all the Muslims." After a meeting with Qurei, Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders informed reporters that they were assured that "there would be no attempt" by the PA "to collect weapons from the resistance groups." No PA officials denied this. Well, Prime Minister Sharon, can't you find some more generous common ground with these folks? Secretary Rice, have you heard about this in your morning briefings? [emphasis added]
Saul Singer astutely observed that the Greater Israel movement may have been broken by--of all people--Ariel Sharon, but what almost nobody has noticed is that Greater Palestine is still alive. Its irredentist and jihadist idea suffuses each and every Palestinian crowd. "Palestinians," Singer wrote, "including Abbas, do not even have to call their goal 'Greater Palestine' because to them that is what the word 'Palestine' means. The Palestine of Palestinian maps, poetry, dreams, and legal claims includes all of Israel." There is no reason for great optimism. Gaza will be a relief to Israel. But partial relief: It does not change the stakes or even the odds.

More Praise for Israel

First the New York Times praised Israel and now even the United Nations Security Council is joining in. with the UN Undersecretary for Diplomatic Affairs placing the onus on on Abu Mazen to
develop a security system that will guarantee that the Authority will be the only power that can use force.
As expected, there was a necessary amount of Israel bashing, too, mostly focusing on Israel's new construction plans in the Muslim quarter in east Jerusalem, Maale Adumim, Gush Etzion and the Jordan Valley.

Still, I think it's a step forward. Last year the UN held an all-day conference on anti-Semitism (which I was privileged to attend), a day to recognize the Holocaust will be on the agenda when the General Assembly meets next month, so while the UN is still funding Palestinian flags that celebrate Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, there seems to be a few baby steps in the right direction...ok, maybe infant steps is a better description. But steps, nonetheless.

Disengagement from...Tel Aviv?

Yes, according to Ynet, residents of Tel Aviv came home and found the following letter in their mailboxes yesterday:

Residents of north Tel Aviv:

According to the Disengagement Law of 2005 and in accordance with the government and by order of the prime minister, you are required to evacuate your homes and to leave the north Tel Aviv area – Shiekh Munis, no later than August 31, 2005 at 12:00 midnight.

At that time, the 'voluntary' stage of the pullout will end, and roadblocks will be placed at the entrances to Ramat Aviv, Neveh Avivim, Afka, Maoz Aviv, Hadar Yosef, Naot Afka, Ramot Tzahala, Shikun Dan and Yisgav. Further entry of Israeli civilians to these areas will be forbidden.

Beginning at midnight on August 31, 2005, it will be illegal for Jews to be present in north Tel Aviv/ Sheikh Munis.

For years, the IDF has protected the settlements of the Tel Aviv area as partners, with a feeling of national responsibility. We will carry out this mission, too, with feelings of partnership and with deep understanding for your pain.

But the IDF, as the army of a democratic country and beholden to the rule of law, will carry out its orders to the fullest.

Beginning at 12:01 on September 6, 2005, your forced eviction will begin. At that time, security forces will evict residents who have chosen to stay in the area and require security forces to clash with in order to carry out the law.

I am confident your commitment to the rule of law and the continuity of our nation will guide your protests.

I pray for the wellbeing of us all – Israeli citizens resident in Tel Aviv, the IDF and police forces.

With respect and admiration,
Ariel Sharon
Director, Disengagement Program

The letter appeared to be an "official" letter, complete with IDF stamp, and referred to north Tel Aviv as Sheikh Munis, the name of the Arab village that occupied the area before Israel gained independence.

Very cute.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The future of Religious Zionism?

Does part of it means that (more here)
The time has come to be proud of who we are: Nationalist Religious Zionists, integrating Torah with worldly pursuits, Torah with science, Torah with law, Torah with economics.
Doesn't that seem very similar to Yeshiva University's "Torah U'mada" approach? Isn't this just the basic tenet of modern orthodoxy, namely learning Torah with full diligence while remaining sufficiently engaged in the world as to be able to function well among non-Jews while retaining our heritage, lifestyle, and Torah values?

Praising the New York Times

Two days ago I bashed the New York Times. Today, it's time to praise them for their praise of Ariel Sharon in today's editorial.

Some quotes:
This page has never been shy about criticizing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. But this week the last Jewish settlers left Gaza, completing Israel's withdrawal from the desert it took control of 38 years ago. And yesterday, Israeli soldiers completed the evacuation of four much smaller settlements among the hundreds on the West Bank. This is the first time Israel has abandoned communities in lands the Palestinians claim for their future state, so it is incumbent upon us - and all of Mr. Sharon's many critics - to reflect on this extraordinary accomplishment.
Mr. Sharon can take pride in his own actions. He was resolute in the face of condemnation from extreme right-wing members of his own Likud Party, which may well fracture from the strain of the Gaza pullout. As the father of the Israeli settlements and a member of the bloc that has always favored a greater Israel, Mr. Sharon has nevertheless demonstrated that he is able to carry out a territorial compromise, a necessity if there is ever going to be any chance for peace.
Maybe I'm just knitpicking but doesn't it seem odd to only praise the man who made the decision and not the thousands of people who carried it out, the almost ten thousand people who were the victims (so to speak), and all the others involved, i.e. the people of the State of Israel?

I'll take praise of Sharon over bashing him any day-at least they acknowledge that they often criticize him and are capable of praising him sometimes-but why couldn't they go just a tad further? Am I being a tad too greedy? Perhaps. But is that so unreasonable? I don't think so.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Help the new Israeli refugees...

...by clicking here.

Please spread the word, this is the least we can do if we're not there 'on the ground' to lend a hand.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Letter from Rav Aharon Lichtenstein to Rav Avraham Shapira

This is a translated letter from Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion ("Gush") to Rav Avraham Shapira, Rosh Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav, regarding the latter's ruling that soldiers should disobey their commanders in Gaza.

It is posted, in full, in the comment section because no "jump" is available in Blogger and, at eight pages, it's too long to post in full on this main page.

Bashing NYT's coverage of the disengagement

Since Dov Bear thinks everything is okay over at The New York Times, I'll leave it it in the able hands of pro-disengagement The New Republic editor-in-chief, Martin Peretz to prove him wrong. And since it requires a subscription but I think it's important for everyone to read, I'll post the entire article. Any emphasis is mine.


Trying Times
by Martin Peretz

Only at TNR Online / Post date 08.19.05

I am back from some exacting days in Gaza and will write next week in TNR about why my experience there was so searing and what it told me about the future of the West Bank. It was a primary event of contemporary history in one of the most punishing conflicts in the world. But in today's world, the coverage of primary events is itself a primary event; and so before I collect my thoughts and impressions of what I saw in the Gazan sands, I want to take care of some less dramatic but nonetheless important business.

I suppose most habits are bad, and in bed with my laptop I have reverted to one of my worst: not being able to begin the morning, even a late morning, without reading The New York Times. In Cambridge, my home page is actually the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, a not very popular daily that is read mostly by the beautiful souls of the country, but also a bracing wake-up. (You won't find another Israeli paper so smug and so wrong--and, like the Times, so indispensable.) Elsewhere, it's the Times that's my home page. A few months ago, I read a very scholarly and immensely devastating book, Buried by The Times: The Holocaust and America's Most Important Newspaper (Cambridge University Press), by Laurel Leff. Its conclusion: that the Times simply ignored or buried in the back pages what its correspondents, editors, and owners deeply knew and grasped, which was that European Jewry--a whole civilization, really--was being exterminated by the Germans and their allies in Europe. Well, another book could be written about the complicated and often ugly history of the Times' relationship to Zionism and Israel, a relationship that has frequently been marred by antipathy and anxiety, and sometimes even with prejudice. In any case, why do I bring this up now?

It's one thing to read the Times' news pages (it may even be necessary) or the Sunday book review (which under a new editor is becoming richer and deeper), but it's another matter, mind-numbing and masochistic, to go regularly to its editorials. Take the top "lede" today, Thursday night, as I write. Its subject was the withdrawal from Gaza. I hasten to declare that I support this withdrawal, and I believe that this may be a tragedy for the settlers, but it is emphatically not a tragedy for Israel. Quite the reverse. These settlements were never an appropriate project for Zionism. I always thought they were doomed. Sharon's action is a sign of serious strategic and historical reflection. I would have thought that the Times concurs in these opinions--indeed, that these opinions would amount to its editorial position. But not so. The Times editorial board has elected not to tell the whole story, and to draw conclusions that are perverse in their pro-Palestinian emphasis. "Some Gaza settlers pinned orange stars to their chests in a reference to the Holocaust," which, of course, if you were a reader of the Times during the years of the Jewish catastrophe you wouldn't have the slightest inkling ever happened. Now, I, too, was in Gaza, at four settlements, to be exact, including Neve Dekalim, the largest one. I'm on the alert for details. I saw exactly two such badges. (The wartime Jewish stigmata were actually in yellow. The settlers' orange derives, rather weirdly, from the Ukrainian revolution last year. Details, details.) Probably there were more and certainly in Keren Atzmona which had exactly 150 residents, probably three-fourths of them children. Anyway, the yellow star psycho-drama was, according to Ha'aretz, a production of one family. It was certainly not a phenomenon of the settler resistance. But the Times editorialist was in Times Square, not in Gaza. He or she merely picked the symbolism that suited his or her fancy. It's true that there were, here and there, other weird allusions to the Nazis; but they were so marginal that the most striking reality was the reality of those who so wanted to ridicule the expellees that any grotesquerie would do. (On another note: A Spanish language reporter on a bus into Gaza was calling a settler in one of the really tiny settlements on his cell phone. "Are you being overwhelmed by the number of outside demonstrators, maybe hundreds and hundreds?" he asked. The person at the other end had two seconds, maybe three to answer. And then the journalist answered his own question: "Oh, so you are being overwhelmed by the hundreds of outside demonstrators." This is the careful makings of a news story.)

There was far more hysteria and hatred vented at the police in Chicago in 1968 (I was there) and at the marches on the Pentagon or the bust at Columbia University than there was in Gaza, and there were many more injured. No question about it. But it did not fit the Times' editorial line to admit the fact that almost no one was really hurt, and no one was killed, in Gaza. (I was not at Kfar Darom, the most extreme settlement, where paint, eggs, oil, and some apparently not-very-dangerous chemical agent were thrown at police and army by demonstrators. A few were injured, apparently none seriously. In any event, this distress occurred long after the Times editorial appeared.) For killings, the Times had to focus on the West Bank, where a "settler grabbed a security guard's gun and opened fire, killing several [there were actually four] Palestinians." The Times went on to say that this was "an act that Prime Minister Sharon rightly denounced as 'Jewish terror.'" (What he, in fact, said was that "it was an exceptionally grave Jewish act of terror.") It is indeed Jewish terror, as the atrocity in Shfaram was "Jewish terror," and the Jews of Israel have notably identified the crime with the extremism in their own political culture. Once again, the renunciation and the denunciation cut through the entire society. But do the Times editorialists have no shame? Finally, they have shed their reluctance to call an act of terror "terror," but only when they can put the adjective "Jewish" before it. Was the Dolphinarium bombing in Tel Aviv, which merited no Times editorial, not Palestinian terror? And to how many of the dozens and dozens of other helter-skelter murders of Israelis has the Times affixed the term? The Jewish killer, standing in the Petakh Tikvah courtroom, asserted that "I hope someone also kills Sharon." When has a Palestinian terrorist been arrested and brought to a Palestinian court as an accused? Does the Times editorial page ever call the murder of 30, 40 innocent Iraqis a day--looking for work or at the market--terrorism? Hardly. It is insurgency.

The New York Times is weighty. So it backs up its argument with history, but it's potted history. The history of Gaza, for example. Gaza, the Times tells us, was part of British Mandate Palestine. It was not assigned to the Jews either under the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan or the 1949 Cease Fire Agreements. All true. But the Partition Plan had proposed an Arab state that included the West Bank and Gaza. After Israel's War of Independence, the West Bank was controlled by Jordan and Gaza by Egypt. Why did the Arab state envisioned by the United Nations not come into being? Ask the Palestinians and their Arab friends. Ask the Times. After the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the Israelis wanted to disgorge Gaza. But Egypt wouldn't take it (although it took back the Sinai) and the Palestinians weren't talking to anybody. Frankly, the Arab world wanted to eternalize the Palestinian refugee problem, and it did.

"Gaza represents the worst side of Israel's settlement movement." It is actually a very diverse movement, even among the relatively small number of the 8,500 Gaza settlers, perhaps 60-70 percent of whom are children. In fact, most of the Gaza settlers are thoroughly committed to farming the land and have produced fruitfully from it: as much as 15 percent of Israel's agricultural produce. Let's admit it: The Arabs had Gaza for a thousand years. There were no Zionists to blame for its backwardness. Why did they make exactly nothing of Gaza? We will see what they will make of the hundreds of acres of greenhouses the Israelis have left behind. Anyone taking bets?

I saw no Meir Kahane photographs, as I did recently in Hebron. Some of the Gazan Jews that I saw were undeniably vicious, but most, even in this vortex of high tension and expulsion, were sweet; angry, but thoughtful and restrained. Settlers did not carry guns. Some pushed back when they were pushed; others retreated. But the most obstinate did not push anyone around; they withdrew to their synagogues and prayed, some in a trance. There are trance parties in Tel Aviv, and there are trance protests in Gaza.

I always disbelieved in the Gaza venture. Too few Jews, too many Arabs. It was arrogant. But the cute and coarse Times citation of one Israeli official who claimed that Israel always intended to use the Gaza Strip as a bargaining chip is preposterous. Who is that anonymous Israeli official? In any event, the notion that any government would invest millions and millions of dollars and entangle the lives of thousands of its citizens in a venture consigned to be shut down eventually, with high emotional and spiritual resonance, entirely as a bargaining chip--this notion defies the imagination. It shows that the Times editorialist is either gullible or very inventive. "The problem," said the Israeli, "is that Israel fell in love with its chips." If it did, why did it give them up? And for exactly nothing, not even a piece of paper? After all, a bargaining chip gets you something.

This Times lede is called "Gaza Reality Check." OK, then, let's check the Times' sense of reality. The editorial admits that "there is plenty of reason to worry about how the new Gaza will be governed"--and that single sentence is all it concedes about the future of Gaza. Does Israel need to worry about how Gaza is governed? You bet. And the transparency of what goes in and out of Gaza's port and airport is one of those details of concern? After all, through these points of entry will come heavy arms. Or does the Times think that only computers and blue jeans will enter Gaza? Do the Palestinians need to worry about how Gaza is governed? Absolutely. But, rest assured, the Times will fix on any guarantees that Israel will insist upon to keep Gaza from being infested with advanced weapons as denying "the Palestinians their chance at a better life."

One more point: The Times asserts that "most Gaza families live on less than $2 a day." I remember a wise economist, now dead, telling a class that "statistics can be made to prove anything except the truth." But if this blithe and unsupported assertion by the Times is true, then, at best, the Gaza Palestinians are so far from being a community or an expression of national solidarity that it is hard to imagine them being governed at all. If this is so, there goes their chance at a better life already. And the Jews will not be to blame.

How the Palestinians see it

While we Jews a sad to see a Jewish government disengage from Gaza and return even one inch of Eretz Yisrael back to the Arabs, the Palestinians are not happy about it either. No, instead of being content their government is distributing documents such as the one below (which I found on the blog of "A diary of a mother under occupation") which decries settlers moving into the West Bank from Gaza.

They're relentless. Instead of being satisfied with what they have and what they've gotten ostensibly for free, they already have their sights set on the West Bank and are figuring out ways of getting Israel to disengage from that land, too. If people are getting kicked out of Gaza isn't it reasonable that some will move to the West Bank, home to their ideological brothers and where land is cheaper than in, say Jerusalem (which they also want 'back) or Tel Aviv?

The graphic illustrates that there are double the number of Palestinians in the West Bank than in Gaza and that Israeli settlers are still only one quarter of the territory's inhabitants, not-so-subtly implying that there should be a similar disengagement from the West Bank, too. To buttress the point it tells us "The number of new settlers Israel is making room for this year alone" and "Palestinian land to be de facto annexed to Israel by the Wall (imagine they even capitalize it!), settlement fences, settlement expansion, and infrastructure development."


New from Google

Today Google has introduced a new product, Google Sidebar, as part of version two of its still-in-beta-testing Google Desktop Search. Here's the 4-1-1 according to today's WSJ:

Sidebar presents consumers with a pane of customized information -- such as weather forecasts, stock quotes, news headlines, text feeds from favorite Web sites, photo slideshows and email alerts -- that sits alongside whatever else the user is viewing. It provides some functions similar to Yahoo's popular MyYahoo customized Web-page service.

Significantly, Sidebar, which is available starting today at Google's Web site, includes a text-editor function, which allows consumers to type and save text notes. That feature, and future Sidebar add-ins, could provide a starting point for an attack on Microsoft's Office software franchise, which includes the ubiquitous word-processing software, Microsoft Word. Another add-in to Sidebar allows users to track "to do" lists, a function included in Microsoft's Outlook software.

I think I'm becoming a Google groupie. Here's a short list of their products I use frequently: Gmail, Google Search, Blogger, Google Desktop Search, Google Maps, Hello and Picasa. As of today, you can add another one to the list.

UPDATE: Ironically, a quick check of the top news stories on the customizeable Google News (how could I have forgotten that off the above list!?!) yielded some more information via USA Today:

Google Desktop 2, available Monday as a public beta test, is the company's latest volley against Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. as all three race to expand their presence on PC desktops.

The latest Google offering includes several twists. Beyond providing search results, it monitors the user's behavior and presents relevant information in a resizable and moveable vertical window called the Sidebar.

One module aggregates e-mail messages from a variety of accounts, including Google's Gmail service or the user's Internet provider. Others display stock prices, personalized news headlines, weather reports and what's popular on the Web.

Another module pulls Really Simple Syndication feeds from Web sites that have been visited and offer that service. Unlike other feed aggregators, the user need not take any action for a feed to be added.ls of its users surfing habits back to Google.

Sure, I just set up my Bloglines account last week and now it seems like all that work was for naught. Serves me right for waiting this long I suppose.

How he won $153M

For all you law junkies out there, here's the profile that the WSJ put together on Mark Lanier, the plaintiff attorney from Houston who successfully argued his client's case for a reward of $153M (!!!) against Merck for the wrongful death suit involving its drug, Vioxx. His stratagem were soooo creative, I hope I get to do something like that one day (and make some cash like that, too!).

The Lawyer Who Beat Merck

August 19, 2005 7:25 p.m.

ANGLETON, Texas -- The attorney who handed Merck & Co. a loss in the first Vioxx wrongful-death case was 44-year-old Mark Lanier, a flamboyant, larger-than-life Texas plaintiff's attorney.

On Friday, a jury ruled that Merck's painkiller Vioxx, since withdrawn from the market, had killed Robert Ernst, a 59-year-old marathoner, in 2001. In winning the case, Mr. Lanier, of The Lanier Law Firm, in Houston, had to overcome a serious hurdle: Vioxx has been tied to heart attacks and strokes, but not to arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, the stated cause of death for Mr. Ernst.

The arsenal Mr. Lanier wielded included "shadow jurors," demographically matched to the actual jury, who, without knowing he had hired them, reported back through a third party their impressions and leanings in the trial. He also hired a jury consultant who, a couple of days before closing remarks, helped Mr. Lanier hone his pitch to individual jurors, invoking their favorite celebrities (he mentioned Oprah) and reminding them of his role preaching Sundays at a Baptist church.

In court, Mr. Lanier spoke loudly, gestured forcefully and roamed the courtroom as if it were a stage. He displayed PowerPoint slides in his opening statement portraying Merck as an ATM machine giving cash to executives.

To argue that Merck bamboozled the Food and Drug Administration by flooding it with data obscuring Vioxx's problems, he had workers start to wheel 157 boxes of paper into the courtroom for the trial, District Court of Brazoria County, Texas, which is south of Houston. The parade of boxes finally stopped when a defense attorney objected that the stack obstructed her view of the jury.

He set two trophies Mr. Ernst won for participating in marathons on the witness stand as Mrs. Ernst recounted the day he died. A huge portrait of the couple on their wedding day faced the jury on a large screen.

Mr. Lanier has previously won big decisions against corporate adversaries, including a $115 million damage award -- later settled for an undisclosed amount -- in 1998 against an asbestos maker on behalf of 21 steelworkers. That victory came in the same courthouse here and before the same judge who presided over the Vioxx case.

In all, Mr. Lanier says he has won 45 of the 50 cases he has tried in Texas. This trial makes it 46.

In the Vioxx trial, jurors connected to Mr. Lanier. At one point, he compared atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, to a tarp holding a load of garbage onto a pickup truck. Derrick Chizer, a 43-year-old service representative for Social Security on the jury, complained that Merck lawyers and witnesses tossed around medical terms without explaining them, but he said, "Mr. Lanier broke all the medical words down, he explained each one of those words."

Pretty cool, huh?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

NYT on the Future Israel/PA, specifically Dati L'Umi

A very good roundup of each side's current position with a glimpse of what the future has in store for Israel, it's right and left wings, as well as the Palestinian Authority, its impotent Prime Minister, and it's all-powerful terrorist elements.

Like pouring salt on a deep wound

As if being evicted from your house isn't bad enough, imagine getting kicked out of your hotel room on Sunday at 10am instead of ten days from now (as planned) without being told where you can go.

Or arriving at a hotel at 3:30am on Thursday night only to be told that there are no rooms available for you and the other ten members of your family.

There are also reports that there is rampant looting in the evacuated houses of the Gaza Strip and that those who did not take everything with them when they left last week will have little to pack up when they come back.

A "senior IDF officer" told Yediot that,
the critical mistake was that the IDF was not given the responsibility of taking care of the settlers from the evacuation through the temporary solution. The Disengagement Authority assigned heartless, brainless people who are chasing their tails. Inadequate planning causes the evacuees further trauma.

I Aspire...sorta

The sick (read: hocker) part of me that wishes I had a BlackBerry or Treo to play with aspires to be one of the subjects in this article on gadget etiquette. I think I'm fairly considerate with my cellphone usage (including calls, texts, and instant messages) and think I'm quite capable of being a responsible BlackBerry user given the opportunity.

The guy described here, on the other hand, had better learn quickly or else...
"I was gushing emotionally about our healthy little baby inside" when he took out his BlackBerry [in her obstetrician's waiting room].
Lesson for all: It's never smart to ignore a hormonal woman, let alone a pregnant one.

Hollow Words

Anyone else find this article, by Rabbi Avi Shafran of Agudath Israel of America, ringing hollow in their minds? I can't put my finger on it but it just seems fake and insincere to me.

I need help

I'm making lists of things I'll need to bring with me/buy for my new apartment.

But I still feel like my list is woefully incomplete.

Those of you with experience, could you please tell me what kinds of things might not be obvious "must haves" but are essential nonetheless?

Thanks in advance.

Sharon Returning to New York

Ariel Sharon (along with his foreign minister, Silvan Shalom) will attend the opening of the UN General Assembly next month. He will try to garner international support for the disengagement and will meet with other foreign leaders (possibly POTUS).

Let's hope he'll get a better welcome than he did last time.

Related (in chronological order): I, II, III, IV, V, VI

They're eating their rugelach

A study by Israel's Health Ministry found that Israeli eating habits are actually relatively low in fat. How is this possible? Anyone who's ever been to Israel knows how awesome their breads, pitas, rugelach (one word: Marzipan!!!), chummus, and gummy candies are. Of course, they also have a great variety of fruits and vegetables (check out this week's parsha for more details) but still!

Some other stats:
  • Israelis consume only about half the calcium required on a daily basis
  • Israelis consume between three and six servings of fruits "or" vegetables (not both?) instead of the five recommended to them by nutritionists.

  • Arabs eat more whole grains (bread and pitas included) than Jews, and

  • Jews eat more pastry than Arabs do
  • The study also showed that Israeli Jews eat more 1.6 times more sweets than Israeli Arabs [it's gotta be the rugelach!!!]
One unsurprising finding was that Jewish Israelis eat more on Thursdays, Fridays and Shabbatot.
That can be attributed to Thursday night chulent at mishmar, and then the Shabbos seudos on Friday and Shabbos. But, as we learned in high school, the calories ingested on Shabbos/Yom Tov are calorie-free, right? ;)

At least he didn't check out women

The new issue of US News & World Report (hitting newsstands this week) has an article on Jack Abramoff that says absolutely nothing new (seriously, I'm not sure why they chose this week in particular to publish it) aside from this little quote:
"I never once saw Jack check out a woman in that restaurant," recalls an employee, "and the place was packed with pretty women."
Well, at least he's makpid on lo sasuru...though I'm not sure that'll get him far in both beis din shel mata and beis din shel ma'alah considering everything else he did do.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Mashiach is here

Well, at least according to the nutjobs that paid for this billboard along the West Side Highway here in New York City (picture taken by a friend's Sidekick, hence the poor quality).

So mashiach isn't here yet but Shabbos certainly is coming...have a great Shabbos Nachamu everyone!

Tight job market

Former White House Jewish liaison, Jay Lefkowitz, is back working for his old boss as Special Envoy on Human Rights in North Korea (everyone knows that the most important people in DC have the shortest job titles, right?). I guess "former senior Administration official" didn't get him a cushy enough job in the private sector.

I hope they have kosher food in Pyongyang.

Fun with Form Letters

From Best of the Web:
The Web site of Rep. John Conyers, a far-left Detroit Democrat, has a page on which Cindy Sheehan sympathizers can fill out a form to send a letter to the editor in support of her.

Which reminds us of a joke. What do you call Angry Left form letters?

Mad libs!


Bobby pins on kippot are assur!?!

This is one of the best posts that Dov Bear has put up in some time (well, not the post itself but the comment thread that is uproariously hysterically funny). He quotes his child's school handbook which declares that
...yarmulka pins, leather yarmulkas, crochted yarmulkas, or yarmulkas with words or the names of organizations are expreslly forbidden.
I be a sheigitz because I wear both a black kippa sruga and two bobby pins!

I fully agree about not having words or names of 'organizations' on a kippa (though organizations are words, silly!). After all, a kippa is something that reminds us that He above us, is supposed to maintain a modicum of yiras shamayim in the wearer etc. and having "Mets" written on it is quite sacreligious. Nonetheless, the other regulations seem to, IMHO, perpetuate the myth that many in the yeshiva world are far too focused on superficiality rather than improving the penimius of a person.

The end of spam comments

A friend sent me a link to an article that detailed a new Blogger feature: blogging with Microsoft Word. Yes, you can create and edit posts from Word that get posted directly to your blog! So far my Internet connection has always timed out and I haven't been able to use it successfully but I'm guessing it works.

I explored what other updates Blogger added recently and found the answer to spam comments. From now on all commenters on this blog will have to use the word verification system (just released yesterday!) that prevents automated commenters from spamming my blog. It will add a small extra step to the process but it's well worth it in the end.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

It's that time again...

Yup, it's Thursday, which means that it's time to go through the Jewish Week and find some fun stuff to post about. (I had intended to post this last night but things got a bit out of hand.)

[For some reason, the Jewish Press has yet to update their website...the print copy of their paper is already in my house with more on the R' Tendler case and a spectacular op-ed about Yachad which I'll post if they put it up online.]

So far as I could tell there's nothing too interesting in any of the articles. So, we turn to the letters page. Ah! Now here's some bloggable material!

Most sarcastic letter of the week:
Abortion Decision

Marla Feldman certainly got it right in her Opinion piece when she wrote that “the overwhelming consensus of American Jewry supports” abortion on demand (“Roe As A Jewish Issue,” Aug. 5). After all, how do Reform rabbis and their congregations make decisions on the burning issues of the day? With abortion, as with other areas of Jewish life, convenience and expediency win over authentic halacha hands down.

Malka Weinstock
Staten Island, N.Y.
It's so good, it almost seemed serious!

But this one takes the cake as The Letter of the Week:
Too Simplistic

As someone who appreciates Gary Rosenblatt’s intelligence and integrity as a journalist, I was surprised at his column “Disengagement: Why U.S. Jews Are Quiet” (Aug. 12).

It is far too simplistic to say those Americans who support disengagement must be ill informed. I know there are Americans — as well as Israelis, for that matter — who are well informed and even empathize with the hardships of the Gaza settlers but believe the disengagement from Gaza is in Israel’s best interest.

Alan Fell
New York, N.Y.
So good on so many levels, where to begin? Well, I'll start from the top.

First, Excuse me? Gary Rosenblatt has integrity as a journalist? See I, II, III, IV, V.

Second, saying that "I know there are Americans who are well informed and even empathize with the hardships of the Gaza settlers but believe the disengagement from Gaza is in Israel's best interest" does nothing to substantiate your conclusion. A) What you cite as "proof" is purely anecdotal ("I know...") and is contradicted by several studies published recently (as cited in Rosenblatt's article). B) People can have beliefs but that certainly doesn't make them well informed.

Now, I'm debating whether to add this to the next list we'll surely compile about NYJW (wow, then we'll have six items to list!) in the future. On the one hand, they didn't write it. On the other, they did publish this trash and should be held accountable.

I'm leaning towards the latter, how about you?

"Lubavitch Lunatics" - The Real Story

Late last night I received an instant message from a former colleague at Yachad. It was a link to this picture.
When I saw it, I immediately thought of my post earlier in the day. Yes, this was clearly one of the Lubavitch protesters who, after infiltrating Gush Katif to protest the disengagment, threatened to commit mass suicide.

My friend told me that this was her cousin, a Lubavitcher chasid who's not a resident of Israel but of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. She said that they were not actually going to commit suicide but were merely using the threat as a way to get more troops to the area which would (somehow-I didn't understand this part) allow more protesters to get into the area. You see, it was an empty threat. An empty threat of suicide. So that made it ok she told me.

She said so what if he doesn't live in Israel, let alone Gush Katif? It's his land just like it's my land and he happens to be more passionate about it than I am. He doesn't think the government is doing the right thing and he's going to do everything in his power to prevent it from happening she told me.

I tried to explain that threatening suicide will not solve anything, aside from bad PR. If they did kill themselves it would be the biggest tragedy of the entire operation. And if they're just using it as a ploy and the world comes to think that all settlers are crazy and suicidal when it's only the ones who come from America who are that crazy, then that's a person that Israel doesn't need on its soil. There are ways to protest things effectively; suicide is not one of those ways. We always say that Judaism, as compared to the Arabs, values life. This is not how we show it.

Mort Klein a racist?

This, from the most recent issue of the Forward regarding a group of Neturei Karta joining the ZOA-sponsored anti-disengagement demonstration outside the United Nations this past Tuesday:

Despite the crowd's discontentment with Sharon and the Israeli government, protesters reacted angrily to the sudden appearance of a small band of anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Jews. As the men, members of the Neturei Karta sect, crossed the street and approached the gathering, the crowd booed loudly.

"This is the most lunatic face of Judaism on the face of the earth," ZOA's Klein said from the stage. "They won't even marry people outside of their sect — that's why they have so many diseases."

Excuse me? Isn't that what the Nazis said about Jews sixty years ago?

I think it's completely unacceptable for a Jew, let alone the president of a pro-Israel/Jewish organization, to utter anything of the sort, especially at a rally. This is simply outrageous, please call the ZOA at (212) 481-1500 and express your opinion.

Congratulations to me

The following is the post that I thought I lost yesterday. There have been many times that I've come to appreciate and have been willing to suffer through my laptop's slow performance that is the result of running Google Desktop Search. Well, I'm even more appreciative now that I was able to retrieve the text of the post on my graduation that I posted yesterday but lost when I got spammed. You see, all I had to do was run a search for "The Slippery Slope" on my computer and I found 256 cached versions of the site! Why didn't think of it sooner!?! If you don't have it yet, get it now! Here's the original post in full:

In just under three years, I've graduated college. Just in time, too, because I don't think I'd be able to afford traveling 60 miles each day with gasoline prices quickly approaching $3 per gallon (I'll be taking mass transit next year on my way to work at an undisclosed location).

Oh, and sitting in traffic won't be missed either. The longest it ever took me to get to/from was two hours and forty five minutes; that, for a trip that takes 35 minutes without traffic and 50 on average. I refused to deal with it yesterday, though. With emergency construction on the Goethals Bridge yesterday, traffic was backed up for the length of the Staten Island Expressway, across the Verazanno Bridge, and all the way back to Cropsy Ave on the Belt Parkway!...it's ok, it was a good excuse to visit Burgers Bar for the first time-IT'S AWESOME!!! (The hashgacha of the franchise stores in Israel is commonly regarded as "sketchy" but the one here in Brooklyn -- Coney Island Ave between Ave. O & P -- is completely legit.)

Yesterday I returned the key to the office I've been working in for the past three months as well as the key to the office of the club whose executive board I sat on. I drove out of the parking lot for the last time as a student (I'll be back on September 29 to take the LSAT) and was quite sad. It's been a great three years. I think I've grown a lot as a person. I was successfully able to balance yeshiva and college for a full three years (though some weeks, i.e. finals week, were not as strong as others) and while I still wish I would have learned more, I'm not disappointed. It was soooo difficult to arrange a schedule around yeshiva but I was committed to it and, b"H, I was able to succeed. I was able to learn parts of Chullin, Kiddushin, and Pesachim b'iyun, was recently mesayem all of Sotah b'kius, learned more hilchos Shabbos, hashkafa, became close with a rebbi and two chavrusas (and other friends from yeshiva) I'll stay close with for a long long time, and become a better eved HaShem while winning various academic awards and honors throughout college and maintaining a darn good GPA (the lowest among my siblings but only by a few hundreths so I think that's ok). I don't mean to boast but after having conversations with others not in my situation, I honestly feel that people who go to YU or girls who don't have the zechus of dealing with it or people who don't have the committment have no idea what a challenge it is and can't fully appreciate it. I really learned a lot about myself, especially my strengths and weaknesses. I met so many great people and professors, made many new friends, and had my first "serious relationship" with a girl (for tachlis, of course).

In that respect, almost as much as I'll remember college and the classes I took and the things I learned will be the extra-curricular things I was fortunate to do while in college. I danced at the weddings of several friends (not my own but I think that's a good thing), lost a few friends (not physically, we're just not close anymore), lost relatives of some close friends, made some new ones, became a huge fan of Rabbi Yisroel Reisman's navi shiurim in Flatbush on motzei Shabbos, was able to go to Israel for two consecutive winter vacations (I'd never been there before!!!...yes, now everyone knows I didn't go to yeshiva the year after high school-it was not my decision, please don't blame me), became "legal" to buy and drink alcohol (I've only bought three times and twice was for Shabbos, while the last was for a friend's BBQ), worked for Bais Ezra, Camp HASC, Yachad, and Governor Pataki's Jewish liaison, became a member of the Republican National Committee, Republican Jewish Coalition, and this great thing we call the blogosphere, was "in the house" (and on the actual convention floor) during last year's Republican National Convention (as well as many other related events), got locked on a beach at night, sat inside the United Nations for a day, was a member of the studio audience of a television show for the first time (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart...soooo funny!!!...and the only reason I'd ever get cable television, but still not worth it), got into two very minor car accidents (only one required any financial expenditure), bought the laptop I'm currently using and am faithfully devoted to, removed the television from my bedroom, grew a beard for the first time (sefira/"three weeks"-always shaved as soon as possible; I HATE the beard because it makes me look older and itches like crazy and doesn't look professional or good on me), went to Great Adventure for free and cut every single line to every ride I went on (ah, one of the many perks of going with Yachad on Chol HaMoed Pesach!), ditched class for Mets opening day, learned the joys of text messaging, wrote at least three 20+ page documents, enjoyed the benefits of independence, learned through experience how to drive in/around each of NYC's five boroughs and many of its neighboring counties and states and soooo much more. So much has happened, it's sad to say goodbye to such a busy and fun and productive era of my life and move on to another; one that appears murky at best right now.

But I must. I must move on and focus on the future in my new apartment at my new job and in my completely new (perhaps lonely and not as full of torah) neighborhood and make the most of it. And I will.