Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"Now just where did the term "Palestinian" come from?"

Attended a conference this week, there were participants from many European countries. The object of the conference was to try to find ways of combating anti Semitism.

As the opening speaker put it, whereas in essence, the self declared elites of Europe found it necessary in the past to whisper their views in the corridors or over tea, they now feel able to openly declare their views and consequently it has become open season to deligitmize the sate of Israel.

Sitting next to one participant from Norway, he asked me “where is information available on the origin of the term “Palestinian”. Having been asked this question by a strong supporter of Israel prompted me to offer the following in this current blog. The full information can be found at

The term "Palestine" is derived from the Philistines, an Aegean people who, in the 12th Century B.C.E., settled along the Mediterranean coastal plain of what are now Israel and the Gaza Strip. In the second century C.E., after crushing the last Jewish revolt, the Romans first applied the name “Palaestina” to Judea (the southern portion of what is now called the West Bank) in an attempt to minimize Jewish identification with the land of Israel. The Arabic word "Filastin" is derived from this Latin name.

Jews entered the Land of Israel about 1300 B.C.E., and the second king, David, established Jerusalem as the capital around 1000 B.C.E. The northern part of Israel lasted until 722 B.C.E., when the Assyrians destroyed it, and the southern kingdom survived until the Babylonian conquest in 586 B.C.E. The Jewish people enjoyed brief periods of sovereignty afterward before most Jews were finally driven from their homeland in 135 C.E.

In fact, if not for foreign conquerors, Israel would be 3,000 years old today.

Prior to partition, Palestinian Arabs did not view themselves as having a separate identity. When the First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations met in Jerusalem in February 1919 to choose Palestinian representatives for the Paris Peace Conference, the following resolution was adopted:

“We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it has never been separated from it at any time. We are connected with it by national, religious, linguistic, natural, economic and geographical bonds.”

In 1937, a local Arab leader, Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, told the Peel Commission, which ultimately suggested the partition of Palestine: "There is no such country [as Palestine]! 'Palestine' is an invented. There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for century’s part of Syria."

The representative of the Arab Higher Committee to the United Nations submitted a statement to the General Assembly in May 1947 that said "Palestine was part of the Province of Syria" and that, "politically, the Arabs of Palestine were not independent in the sense of forming a separate political entity."

A few years later, Ahmed Shuqeiri, later the chairman of the PLO, told the Security Council: "It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria."

Monday, February 25, 2008

New Immigrants for Haifa?

Last week saw a visit from a representative of Nefesh B’Nefesh (NB’N) to the local Haifa council. NB’N is an organization helping those families and individuals planning to settle in Israel get through their planning and on arrival, the initial inevitable beaurocracy that surrounds all immigrants.

The organization has been very successful in bringing people from the USA, Britain and Canada; however as one living in Haifa, it seems to me that the limit of the vision of NB’N seems to end in Netanya with not much idea of what exists north of there.

The meeting with the local council and members of the Anglo community aimed to get NB’N to focus more on the North of the country. As the Mayor of Haifa put it, “Without settlement of new immigrants in the North of the country, we are de facto returning to the borders defined in the original partition plan.”

There was the opportunity to see how many jobs are available in the fields of High Tec and in the local hospitals. NB’N informed the meetings that they had 20,000 potential immigrants in the pipeline. Let’s hope a few thousand of those reach the North instead of the English speaking enclaves in Netanya, Tel Aviv, Bet Shemesh and Modi’in

Friday, February 22, 2008

Hospital and Things

I awoke on Tuesday morning, my wife looked at me (yes, she still does even after 45 years!!) and in shock told me that I had gone yellow skinned.

This started a train of events that led me within 3 hours to the emergency ward of the Benei Zion hospital in Haifa and a 3 day sojourn.

Cutting out all the gory details, it appears that a couple of small stones and some “botz” (this can be roughly translated as “mud” but the term is also used colloquially for Turkish coffee) had caused a blockage in the gall bladder. The tests and preparation were carried out within 3 hours and I then found myself in a ward awaiting a cat scan and ultimately a procedure to remove the offending “intruders”.

This short stay gave me my own personal insight into our so called “Apartheid State”.In the emergency room, I could be forgiven for thinking I was in Russia, it seemed to be the dominant language in use and even the television was screening a Russian language programme.

In the ward I was taken to, there was a really friendly guy, a Druze, from Daliyat el Carmel in the first bed, we had some great conversation but it came to an abrupt end when he was released and sent home. Then there was an Arab citizen from Shfaram with whom I spent a lot of time talking. One subject we all agreed upon was the tremendous health care facilities available to all throughout the country. I really wonder if any of our opponents pushing the apartheid story really know what life is like here. Probably not – it would destroy their “agenda”.

And so after three days, I am back at home, the only criticism of my time in hospital was the absence of Wi-Fi but then one does need a break from the computer now and again – no?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tourism on the Increase

The Central Bureau of Statistics is reporting a great start to tourism for the year 2008. The number of visitors was a whopping 57% above January 2007 and 34% above 2006. (In 2006 we were still feeling the effects of the Lebanon war in Jan 2007).

Of these visitors 27% more than in 2007 arrived by air and 100% more by land and sea.

One interesting statistic is that 5 times last years total entered the country for a one day trip. For those uncertain of what Israel is all about, a one day trip allows an overview which can give confidence in a longer trip at a later stage. Many of these visitors were from Russia, Poland and Ukraine, countries which offer a great potential for increased tourism this year.

Here in Haifa there is a clear indication of an increase in tourists with more coaches on the road visiting the usual tourist spots like the Bahai temple and the Druze villages of Issfiya and Daliat al Carmel.

A recent visit to one of the popular hotels in the city also had indications of a large group of visitors.

In spite of the threats around us from Hamas and Hizbollah, tourists still feel confident in the security arrangements in the country and are showing their confidence with the feet by coming here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Earthquakes and Other Damage

We faced an earthquake yesterday, reported to be 4.0 on the Richter scale. The epicenter was in Lebanon but here in Haifa I don’t think anyone realized it had happened.

Israel 21C reports that this region has been hit by major earthquakes throughout the past 2,000 years, and experts predict that another devastating earthquake is imminent and the damage will be widespread. Many fear such a disaster could add to the volatile situation in the Middle East.

A new four-year project, which includes partners from Al-Balqa University in Jordan, and An Najah University in Nablus, could mitigate these risks and improve the region's stability. Tel Aviv University seismologist, Dr. Hillel Wust-Bloch has masterminded a new earthquake mapping research partnership between Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli scientists, who will simultaneously deploy six seismic microscopes in the Jericho region. Let’s hope he will succeed with the technical side of the project and also the cooperation of the team will set a pattern for the future.

This week also saw the completion of work on Haifa’s cable car which travels from the Stella Maris point on the Carmel down to the shore, one and half years after damage was incurred in the Lebanon war.

Haifa's aerial cable car was set up in the middle of the 1980s, and offered rides via six round, orange cars that ferry visitors from Bat Galim, along the shore, to the Stella Maris monastery high on the Carmel mountain. Before it closed, it was carrying some 200,000 people per year, mainly on holidays and at vacation times, and brought in NIS 800,000 to one million shekels every year.

Whilst most damage was repaired rapidly, this is the last of the major repairs to be completed.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

More and More Kassams

I make no bones about it. Why try to write something new when from the front line in the Negev, a letter expresses one's sentiments exactly. The following is from a letter I received from a contact at a Kibbutz on the Gaza border in the south. As he says "..before anyone criticizes me for how I feel,please don't,until you have been in my shoes and the shoes of the people of Sedrot".

'What was up until now is nothing compared to what will be,' Popular Resistance Committees threatens after claiming responsibility for Friday's rocket barrages towards Israel's south. Israelis should run for the sake of their children's safety, says terror group. More than 20 Qassams have been launched towards Israeli communities since daybreak, causing no injuries but damaging property

Friday evening when Jews are celebrating Shabbat,all over the world,we in Israel are getting hit with Rockets, 20 of them on Friday. This is how one family had their Shabbat shattered

"I am sick and tired of Israel being blamed for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza,and being told that we are using collective punishment on the people of innocent people in Gaza,but where is the call for the humanitarian crisis and collective punishment on the people of Sedrot and my Kibbutz and others living under the threat of rockets,you only hear silence on that,but to my suggestion on what to do. Like I said,I thought I would never say this but here goes:

For every Kassams or mortar that falls in Israel and does damage,Israel should go in and destroy one city block in Gaza,and the heck with our image,my people come first and if they day after day are trying to kill us,then why should I care how they feel.

Yes after reading what I wrote,I still don't believe I would think that way,but that is how I feel today.

I can not forget these innocent people in Gaza,celebrated the terror attack that killed a women and seriously hurt her husband by passing our sweets in the street, now where they get all those sweets when I hear they are starving.

Talking about food and them starving and having no electricity and no Electric power in the hospitals,well that is a lie on their part. Like I wrote in one letter they have electricity,they are being cut 5% not 100% food is coming in daily that I can see with my own eyes and I have others who see this with me,to confirm what I am saying. Their hospital power was not shut off,Hammas just cut them off and shift the blame on Israel. I also ask,why when they complain of starving,why do they have enough weapons coming in,why can they not bring food in the same places they are smuggling these weapons in,oh by the way,why can they not get help from Egypt,they share a border with them,and if Egypt wants all the food they want can come in to Gaza from Egypt."

Any other comment is, I feel, unnecessary

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Agricultural Terror? Surely Not!!

It seems that it was rather premature to suggest in the earlier blog that the terrorists who attacked Dimona had made it into Israel through the porous Israel Egyptian border. The fact that the Anti terrorist barrier around the west Bank has still not been completed, particularly in the area around Hebron was enough to allow these terrorists through.

Now it seems that officials at the Agriculture Ministry are deeply concerned about the porous border between Gaza and Egypt and say the risk of animal and plant diseases spreading to Israel has significantly increased since the breaching of the frontier last month.

This week, Israel is sending 100,000 vaccination doses into Gaza to help farmers immunize their live-stock against four diseases as part of a strategy to stop the spread of infections into Israel.

The Jerusalem Post reports that Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon might soon decide to permanently end all movement of agricultural goods from Gaza to Israel, or from Gaza to Europe via Israel, due to the large quantities of livestock and plants that have entered the Strip from Egypt without any form of quality control, the ministry said In a statement.

For the past six months, no Gazan livestock has been allowed to enter Israel or the West Bank, but the ministry cautioned that the recent border breach had increased the chances of dangerous livestock diseases finding their way into Israel since "diseases don't respect official boundaries."

In December, four Egyptians died of bird flu. Since the disease first appeared in Egypt in 2006, 43 human infections - 19 of them fatal - have been confirmed by the Egyptian Health Ministry.

Israeli and Palestinian veterinary services are cooperating with each other and exchanging information, but it is not known what has entered Gaza,.

“The threat to Israel's crops and plant life has also increased, the director of Plant Protection and Inspection Services at the Agriculture Ministry”, told the Jerusalem Post

"Egypt is an African state. It has insects that can seriously harm crops and trees. There are large numbers of flies in Egypt that devour fruit, and they can enter Gaza. In fact, that is what is happening," the director said.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Back to Normal

When I started making notes for this blog, I was looking at the snow that came and went in Jerusalem, at the rains and storm that came and went in Haifa plus of course the Winograd report that also seems to have come and gone.

Life seemed to have returned to normal. The cafes were full of people; the beach scene in Haifa was just as though nothing had happened, the Winograd debate in the Knesset came and went; it was business as usual and then yesterday – BOOM – another suicide bombing, the first for a year.

There is no doubt that Hamas had many motives for breaking down the wall separating Gaza from Egypt and many press pundits have filled column inches galore with their views.

One objective is now quite clear and that was to use the porous border between Egypt and Israel to allow terrorists to gain access to targets inside Israel. And what targets are aimed at? Again, it is civilians, the young, the old, it doesn’t matter to Hamas. If that is not against all international conventions, what is? And will the United Nations condemn the attack in a resolution? – not likely.

If Hamas really wanted a “State” for the Palestinians, why are money and goods channeled to the terror network at the expense of improving the lifestyle of the citizens?

From 1967 – 1991, the start of the first intifada, Israel built for the Palestinians, 6 universities, 20 community colleges, 166 health clinics, hospitals, electrical and water infrastructure, etc., etc. Just how much of the vast sums of money being donated to the Palestinian authority in the next few years is going to be used for building a state?