The Kamm Papers – Everyone Should be Ashamed

I usually try not to rant too much on my blog, but the Kamm fiasco has really gotten the best of me. Everyone involved in this thing has screwed up – big time. Simple as that.

I was a bit hesitant at first to write about this, seeing as how not all the details of the case have been revealed and I am currently relying solely on bits and pieces of information from the media and the indictment against Kamm.

But now that the ridiculous gag order has been removed, it’s time to deal with the real issues at hand. Everyone is taking sides: you’re either with the IDF, the Shabak and the State – or you’re with Haaretz, its reporter Uri Blau and the whistleblower, Anat Kamm.

But I’ve got beef with everybody.

The State and the Army

The most outrageous, utterly disgraceful aspect of this story is the conduct of State and the IDF. Based on Kamm’s leak to Blau, Haaretz reported in November 2008 that the Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, and other generals were basically saying: “Screw the Supreme Court. To hell with the rule of law. Down with democracy. I’m the Army and I’m calling the shots”.

What the Kamm Papers allegedly show is that IDF commanders approved targeted killings even when the targets could have been quietly arrested – in blatant disregard of the High Court of Justice that ruled against such measures in December 2006.

The fact that nothing has been done since November 2008 against the top brass in this case is ridiculous. What’s also ridiculous is the fact that then-Attorney General Meni Mazuz, when informed of the Papers, decided to help the IDF in its quest to find where the leak came from – instead (!) of investigating the Haaretz claim that Ashkenazi and his buddies are above the law!

Haaretz claimed then that senior legal experts believed that the IDF went specifically against the court’s orders. Why has nothing been done since then to prove this??

Furthermore, why did the military censor okay the Haaretz report in the first place if these Papers were so secret to begin with?!

The Shabak

The Shabak, together with the State, should also be ashamed, of course. First for the ridiculous gag that was finally lifted. Second, for leveling the grave charge of espionage against Kamm. Why is this espionage? All she did was hand them to a reporter – not to the Iranian intelligence service! The censor approved the article, as I said before.

And why is she being charged with espionage when other IDF officers who took documents out of bases got away with a mere slap on the wrist.

And why has the Shabak told every Arab intelligence agency in the world that Blau is walking around London with a mountain of classified documents? Amir Mizroch of the Jerusalem Post has an idea:

Why, if there is an Israeli journalist somewhere in London who has in his possession thousands of top-secret IDF documents, would Israel’s security agency want everyone to know?

Wouldn’t this information, disseminated around the world over the Internet, radio, TV and print, paint a big, bright bulls-eye on Haaretz journalist Uri Blau, waiting out the storm in London? Wouldn’t it make Blau an attractive target for enemy intelligence agencies and terrorist groups operating in the UK?

It’s almost as if Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, by releasing all of this information Thursday, was saying to Syrian, Lebanese, Palestinian, Hizbullah and Iranian intelligence agents in London: ‘Yalla, be our guests, go get Uri Blau.’

And then, by this reasoning, wouldn’t Blau, sitting in a quiet café in Islington or Belsize Park, suddenly feel an overwhelming urge to make a beeline for the Israeli Embassy and seek safety within its walls?

I guess that’s one way to get their hands on him. But it may also prove that the Kamm Papers may not be extremely important to Israel, and as journalist Dimi Reider points out, they’re probably “only dangerous to top brass, and/or that the main objective of the authorities here is to get even.”

Anat Kamm

Anat Kamm had the right idea. I don’t know if it’s her age or other factors that came into play – but one has to ask: how could she be so reckless?! Was there really a need to take 2,000 documents to prove that targeted killings were taking place? Anat, couldn’t you have done a little filtering and given Blau one paper, or two, or three? Did you really have to copy and fork over 2,000?

If what the indictment says is true, that these papers include deployments orders, plans on future military operations, info on weapons – what does this have to with exposing the crime, with ideology, with your just cause to blow the whistle? The minute you did that, you weakened your moral act and made it easier to bash the left.

Anat, I can only imagine what tough a time this is for you – but if this turns out to be true, your cause was good but your gross negligence has hurt left wingers more than you think. As if it wasn’t hard enough for us already – now we’re all spies. Great.

Uri Blau and Haaretz

I’m a former employee of Haaretz and their website currently links to this blog. But Haaretz, yeah – you guessed it – has also screwed up in this case.

By hastily deciding to publish the classified documents, Haaretz Editor Dov Alfon and Blau gave up on being the responsible adults and taking care of their source – which should have been high on their agenda considering the nature of the documents and the age of their source.

Former Haaretz Editor, Hanoch Marmari, wrote in January:

“I have no doubt that it was possible to tell the story that was published in the Haaretz Weekend supplement without mentioning the documents. But even if there was a need to mention them, it could have been done in a manner that would not let the army know that any individual had seen them, and certainly not that someone is still holding them. Therefore, publishing the photocopied documents was a grave mistake. The first and almost certain meaning of this mistake is the targeted killing of the source.”

Oh, Haaretz… As if your image wasn’t tarnished enough already in the Israeli public. You’re in for a rough ride, for sure.

Final Conclusion

If you ask me, if there was such a thing as unisex jailhouses, I’d put Anat Kamm and Gabi Ashkenazi (if indeed he disregarded the court’s orders) in the same cell.

Kamm for 30 days.

Ashkenazi for 30 years.

Now, if you don’t mind, let me cool off and try to enjoy the Super-Clasico tomorrow.

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Forgive me father for I know not what I do

Netanyahu’s Pravda – also known as Yisrael Hayom in some circles – let some public figures ask for forgiveness and repent on their paper ahead of Yom Kippur. I’ve chosen my three “favorites”.

The activist

Here’s what Arieh Eldad, a right wing extremist member of Knesset, had to say:

MK Ariel Eldad (photo: Flickr/lisang)

“I’d like to ask forgiveness from the citizens of Judea and Samaria. My colleagues and I did not prevent the prime minister of Israel from freezing construction in the Jewish settlements for the past 10 months”.

Mr. Eldad, I hope – with G-d’s help – that you will in a few years time be asking forgiveness from all those settlers you pushed into Palestinian land, when they will be evacuated and see their homes and lives ruined – just as I hope you asked forgiveness from the settlers of Gush Katif, who are still struggling due to your extreme policies.

The parliamentarian

And here’s what MK Anastasia Michaeli, a comrade from Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party, had to say:

” Yom Kippur is an excellent opportunity to ask forgiveness first and foremost from my family, my 8 children and my beloved husband, who unfortunately do not get as much attention as they should”.

Maybe, Anastasia, that’s because you spend your days in the plenum teaching us what democracy is all about. For example, by attacking fellow Knesset members.

Based on this video, where you’re seen being held back by others before you strangle Arab MK Hanin Zoabi (Balad), I have a pretty good idea who you could ask forgiveness from. But there are probably better chances of me fasting on Yom Kippur than you doing that…

The merciful

And last but not least, my favorite bearded racist of all times (second only to his mentor, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef) – Interior Minister Eli Yishai. After deciding to deport 400 children of foreign workers, a-la-Sarkozy-gypsy-style, I actually was naive enough to hope he was going to show some heart.

“I want to ask forgiveness from all the people of Israel, from each and every one who saw himself hurt from anything that I said…

A different forgiveness is the one that should be asked by the foreign workers from the children, first of all their own children, that they hurt during the last campaign against the law passed by the government of Israel. They should apologize for using them for their own purposes, and maybe even for causing them mental damage and severe trauma. They should also ask forgiveness from their families abroad. They have father and mothers and sisters and brothers that they abandoned there and now they must go back to them”.

Oh, Eli, Eli, Eli. Ya think? It’s like you’re on another planet.

You should be asking those kids for forgiveness. But do me a favor: Don’t! Spare them having to thank and shake the hand of a backward, primitive man like you. Heck, maybe letting them leave this place, this state that you and your likes are turning into a fascist state, is the best thing that could have happened to them.

The author

I wrote this post on Yom Kippur. Forgive me.

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Tribe One and Tribe Two: From “proximity” to “direct”

(To fully enjoy, read the first episode of Tribe One and Tribe Two here)
Our first interlude –
I remember,
I do!
Concluded with hope for Tribe One and Tribe Two

The two showed that when they are willing,
They’re able
To even approach the negotiating table

But Oy!
Look what happened!
(Hold on to your socks)
They failed!
They trashed those proximity talks!

Wow, no one saw that come!
How could they?
Who knew?
I really had high hopes for those,
Didn’t you?

You smile and you sneer
You make light of this chasm?
How dare you?
What nerve,
to display such sarcasm!

Since then
Since that failure you knew to envision
The Tribes have returned to a track of collision

Tribe Two tried to send out a boat to its mates
A Gaza-bound convoy
With goods stocked in crates

But Tribe One got word of it lickety split
“You will not break my siege!
I will not stand for it!”

Tribe One sent some soldiers,
The best it could find
To board that flotilla
To go change their mind

But alas,
The “peace activists” on the bateau
They greeted those soldiers
With quite a fierce blow

One with a rod,
and one with a dagger
Those surefooted soldiers
Soon started to stagger

It didn’t end well
Though the soldiers were skilled
The blood of 9 fighters from Tribe Two was spilled

The outrage was fierce
And the world turned irate
“What’s wrong with Tribe One?
Can’t they ever think straight?”

The pressure got tighter
Tribe One felt its grip
So it eased its infarction surrounding the Strip

Since then it’s been quiet
There’s been much less drama
But someone’s been busy –
A cat named Obama!

“I’m tired of this nonsense,
with all due respect,
Forget the ‘proximity’ –
Let’s go ‘direct’”!

The cat tipped his hat
And said “Stop the artillery!”
And just then he ushered in Clinton, the Hillary

The Hillary
had a wan look on her face
Like she’d bite anyone
who dared get on her case

“Now listen!”
She screamed
But it sounded quite shrill
(One wonders if this is the tone saved for Bill…)

“Next Thursday we’re meeting
With Hosni and King,
and you’d better come with what I told you to bring!”

She just kept on yelling
It’s all she could do
But she sure sent a chill up Tribe One and Tribe Two

They RSVP’d
with a no-brainer “yes!”
“If they want us to talk,
we should do so,
We guess”

But now I must sadly,
proceed to unveil:
Tribe One and Tribe Two
think these talks are to fail.

So here we have come
With Tribe One and Tribe Two
With the Cat in the Hat and the Hillary, too

Will they talk?
Will they speak?
Will they negotiate?
Are Tribe One and Tribe Two to step up to the plate?

(Stay tuned after the failure of the talks, for my next best-seller:
One Talks,
Two Talks,
Three Talks,
Blood!)

Cross posted at +972

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Reservoir Dogs: The most heated debate in Israel you probably never heard of

One of the most heated debates you’ve probably never heard of going on in Israel these days is over natural gas. Ever since reports began to surface on the huge reservoirs of gas off the coast of Israel, the discussion over who the it belongs to and how much money everybody is going to make from it seems to get uglier by the day. In fact, this is probably one of the most intense debates you’ll find today between tycoons and regulators around the world.

But now, what until recently was solely an economic discussion has suddenly turned political. Left vs. Right. Zionists against “anti-Zionist traitors”. “Israeli gas vs. Arab gas”.

This is a complicated story, but one that should be told, if only due to the huge amounts of money involved and its possible ramifications. According to the financial daily Calcalist, the argument is over approximately 500 million dollars a year – for the next 20-40 years, depending on exactly how much gas there is. That’s over 1% of Israel’s tax revenue in 2009. Sums like this could not only change the standard of living in Israel itself, but also its geopolitical and economic standings in the area.

So what’s the story, and how did politics suddenly get involved? First, let’s look at the stars of this gas opera:

* The three little reservoirs: Yam Thetys, about 30 km off the shores of Ashdod, held 32 BCM (billion cubic meters) of natural gas before it started to pump gas to Israel. This reservoir is controlled by Noble Energy and Yitzhak Tshuva’s Delek Group (more on them later…), and after signing an agreement in 2002 with the Israeli Electric Company, the gas started flowing in 2004. As of today, there are about 20 BCM left in the reservoir and it’s annual revenue has reached  about 520 million dollars a year.

Tamar and Dalit: Off the coast of Haifa, Tamar and Dalit are two huge reservoirs with a combined 252 BCM, supposedly to be available by 2012. Annual revenues are expected to hover around 2 billion dollars. Noble and Tshuva control this one, too.

Leviathan: An appropriate name for this humongous reservoir. The latest reports say there’s at least a 50% chance of finding gas in Leviathan, which is a reservoir that basically surrounds Tamar and Dalit. In the gas industry, 50% are considered very good numbers. If the estimates are correct, Leviathan could have a whopping 453 BCM, which could produce annual revenues of 2.3 billion dollars. And yes, Noble and Tshuva control this whale of a reservoir, too.

* 12.5%: The rate of annual royalties that must be paid by the drillers of Israeli gas reservoirs to the State of Israel, according to a law written in… 1952. Yup. This law hasn’t been updated for decades. And why would it have? Israelis have always considered it a given that they’re screwed. The typical kvetching went along the lines of: “Everybody (all our “enemies”) around us has have gas and oil, except for us poor Jews”.

Compared to other countries, Israel has one of the lowest royalty rates around. And when it comes to Noble Energy drillings, Israeli royalties are the lowest it’s paying compared to its activities in the U.S., Ecuador, China, the Northern Sea and Africa.

* The entrepeneurs: Noble Energy is one of the biggest companies in the U.S. and drills all over the world. Based in Houston, Texas, it had a second quarter revenue of 750 million dollars in 2010. Noble holds 47.1% in Yam Thetys, 36% inTamar and Dalit, and 39.6% in Leviathan.

Yitzhak Tshuva is one of Israel’s richest. He owns the Delek Group, which is involved in energy and infrastructure, real estate, insurance and financial services and automotive sectors. He also controls an energy company called Avner. Delek and Avner hold 53% of Yam Thetys, 31% of Tamar, and 45% of Leviathan.

* Yuval Steinitz. In early April, Israel’s Finance Minister says he thinks it might be time to take a look at Israel’s royalty policy if 12.5%, which is indeed very low. He appoints Professor Eitan Shashinsky to head a committee to review the said policy.

* The Shashinsky Committee immediately comes under pressure from the entrepeneurs, from Israeli officials – even U.S. officials have reportedly complained to Israeli counterparts about the possibility of hurting Noble’s income –  and from anyone who anything to say about it. Reports surface that the committee is considering hiking the royalties up to 24%. That difference, of 11.5%, was calulated by Calcalist to be 500 million dollars a year – the basis for the argument.

So, just until a few months ago everything seems to be doing well. But then comes the announcement in early June by Noble Energy that Leviathan is way bigger than they thought, and that the chances of pumping gas from it are fairly high. Here’s where things start to get messy.

A debate is held for weeks over the issue of raising the royalties or not in all the financial media. The reasons ranging between the need for Israel to act for the benefit of its citizens to the need to be “fair” with tycoons who went into a deal on certain terms. All arguments are legitimate and well founded. Until, of course, the politics start to stink everything up.

* New Israel Fund – On the 21st of July the NIF, along with other NGO’s send a letter to the committee recommending a hike in royalties. The NIF does not do this for any known political reason, but as we all know, lately anything the NIF attracts a lot of attention.

* The Forum for the Land of Israel – Upon hearing of the NIF’s involvment, the Forum smells blood and goes on a nationwide campaign to smear the NIF’s involvment, with ads that say: “Warning: The NIF is fighting for Arab gas”. The forum also points out that Shashinsky’s wife is a member of the NIF, thus posing a conflict of interests for the chairman.

The forum’s campaign cost 2 million shekels, and was run by EDK – a media consulting firm headed by Moshe Klugehft, who also happened to spearhead the ugly Im Tirzu campaign against the NIF and its chairman Naomi Chazan. Klugheft is also MK Ronit Tirosh’s media advisor and when MK’s needed someone to write a song for them to sing in praise of the commandos who boarded the Mavi Marmara, guess who wrote the lyrics? You got it, Klugheft.

Yossi Meiman – So now you must be asking ‘Wait, what did they mean by ‘Arab gas’?” Well, the forum claims that if royalties are raised, the gas from the sole competitor to Israeli suppliers will be cheaper. And that sole competitor, who will apparently gain from this hike, is Yossi Meiman. Another Israeli tycoon. Who’s also into gas. And with his companies Merhav and Ampel holds 21% of EMG – the Egyptian gas company that supplies to Israel.

Yossi Meiman. Holdings in EMG (Nir Landau for Walla!)

 

As pressures mount on the committee, Steinitz holds a special press conference just yesterday in defense of Shashinsky and the other members.

“The personal smears against Prof. Eytan Sheshinski, the harassment, the demonstrations in front of his house, the attempts to meddle with him and his family … all this is unacceptable,” Steinitz said.

“Anyone who wishes to express his opinion can do so, and those who are involved in the oil and gas sector, if they have the money, are entitled to hire half the publicists in the country and pay them hundreds of thousands of dollars for their opinion,” Steinitz said.

“It’s legitimate, and it’s legitimate to publish the opinion across entire pages in the press, but it is inconceivable that they would try to personally harass and attack the committee and its members. All the more so the committee chairman – a well-known professor who took on the task as a volunteer and agreed to my request to chair it.”

So there you have it folks. That’s what this discussion has turned into: If you’re a lefty, you’re for hiking the royalties, weakening Israel and strengthening the Arabs. If you’re a righty, well – it’s pretty obvious.

What’s funny is, that here is where Yuval Steinitz and myself don’t fit into the mold. Steinitz, a known hawk in the Likud – wants to raise royalties. And me? Well, you all know I’m a lefty. But I’ll bet you didn’t know I’m for keeping the royalties as they are. At least for the current drillings. For all I care, they can raise them to 50% – as long as it’s not retroactively.

So, this is probably the only case I’ll ever find myself at odds with the NIF. Certainly the only case I’ll find myself on the same side of a fascist movement like the Forum for the Land of Israel.

See, the things is – Noble and Tshuva put their money where their mouth is. They invested – and so did the people who bought their stock – in a deal with certain numbers and certain business plans. They took the chance and drilled, not knowing what was going to come out, if anything. They gambled. And they won a jackpot.

In a way, these entrepeneurs shook hands with the State of Israel. And now, Israel is basically saying that it was crossing its fingers behind its back the whole time. In business, you just don’t do that.

In fact, Israel should be thankful that Noble and Tshuva took the chance, since the state will be getting millions on taxing the revenues and from the royalties. Trying to double the royalties seems nothing more than greedy.

So, are the royalties low? Yes.

Should they be raised retroactively? No.

Why? The answer couldn’t be any more simple:

 It’s just not fair.

(This article was also posted on +972 and The Huffington Post. Ami Kaufman is an editor at Calcalist)

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Israeli’s Photos on Facebook Cause Uproar

An Israeli citizen has caused outrage after posting photos of himself smiling beside taped up boxes in a Facebook album called “The Best Move of My Life“.

Ami Kaufman, 37, who has been living in the posh northern Tel Aviv neighborhood of Bavli for the past two years with his wife and 2 daughters, was shown on Israeli news websites sitting beside dozens of boxes, all packed up and ready to go.

In one of the photos it appears Kaufman is holding a roll of tape, as if about to further humiliate the pieces of carton.

Kaufman admitted the photos were “thoughtless” but insisted he did not humiliate them and was surprised the pictures offended people.

He said: “I still don’t understand what wasn’t OK. There was no statement of violence, disrespect, anything that would hurt those boxes.”

Some of the comments on the pictures from Kaufman’s Facebook friends seem to have only added oil to the fire. On one picture, Lee’ad Leevneh writes: “Yeah, you wrap that box – wrap it tight!”. Another friend, Sara Miller, takes the humiliation one step further: “That box looks like it could barely hold a pillow”.

The Israeli-Russian mover Victor said the photos were “disgraceful”, and said he was calling off the transfer of Kaufman’s belongings until he apologized to cardboard boxes worldwide. “We can’t have people treating boxes like they’re nothing, or worse – like Palestinians. Moving to Bat Yam is one thing, but this? A line must be drawn.”

Kaufman insisted his only mistake was uploading the pictures to Facebook, and that if Victor doesn’t do the job – he’ll find another Victor who will.

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Was the Summer of 2009!

Dedicated to Eden Abergil and those Best Years of Her Life

(play video and sing along with the brand new words for Bryan Adam’s mega-hit)

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9f06QZCVUHg

I got my first M-16
Got it and it felt real fine
Made me want to be an officer
Was the summer of 2009

Me and Shani from the unit
Hand cuffed some Arabs nice and hard
Fadi yelled, Ahmed tried to run for it
He shoulda known, he’d never get far

Oh when I look back now
The summer seemed to last forever
And if I had the choice
Ya – I’d always wanna be there
Those were the best days of my life

Ain’t no use in complainin’
When you got a job to do
Spent my evenin’s down at the checkpoint
And that’s when I met you

Standin on your stolen land
You asked me if I’d lift the blindfold
I told you to just shut up
I knew I had to get the picture
Those were the best days of my life

Back in the summer of 2009!

Man we were killin’ time
We were “the sexiest like that”
We needed to unwind
I wish the occupation could last forever, forever oh

And now the times are changin’
Look at everything that’s come and gone
Sometimes when I hold that M16
I think about you and how “you had a hard-on”

Standin’ on your stolen land
You asked me if I’d lift the blindfold
I told you to just shut up
I knew I had to get the picture
Those were the best days of my life

Back in summer of 2009!

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Izzie in HolyLand – Part 13

Sunday

The intercom buzzes outside of Izzie’s office in Jerusalem

Secretary: Yes, Ms. Holyland?

Izzie: Ruti, what’s on my schedule today?

Secretary: Ms. Holyland today you have to convince your cabinet to vote for deporting 400 children who were born in Israel, speak Hebrew with an Israeli accent, were educated here but were unfortunate to have slanted eyes.

Izzie: Gotcha. I’ll take care of it.

Secretary: Anything else, Ms. Holyland?

Izzie: No, that’s it. Oh, wait – did you tell the police I want that “el archive” or something demolished?

Secretary: El Arakiv?

Izzie: Yeah, that one.

Secretary: Yes, Ms. Holyland, they’re tearing down the homes of people who were there before the State was founded as we speak.

Izzie: Excellent. OK, gotta go. Can’t let those ministers wait too long! They get cranky…

Monday

Buzzzzzz!

Secretary: Yes, Ms. Holyland?

Izzie: Morning Ruti! So, whatta we got today?

Secretary: Today you’re pushing for the approval of the conversion bill.

Izzie: The one Avigdor and Yishai want?

Secretary: Yes, Ms. HolyLand. Problem is, the American Jewry isn’t too happy with it.

Izzie: Oh. OK. So, what should I do?

Secretary: Up to you. But opposing it could bring down your coalition.

Izzie: Ah, well… you shoulda said that before. It’s a no brainer. Tell Eli and Avigdor I’ll let ‘em have it. God, I love those clowns…

Secretary: Yes, Ms. HolyLand. They are pretty funny.

Izzie: Oh, and how’d that thing in el Dorado go yesterday?

Secretary: el Arakiv?

Izzie: It’s not Arakivo?

Secretary: No, it’s pronounced el Arakiv.

Izzie: OK. How’d it go?

Secretary: Well, it went well. Everything was demolished. But the people are building it up again with help from Jewish citizens.

Izzie: Really? Tell ‘em to go in there and tear it down again.

Secretary: Yes, Ms. HolyLand.

Tuesday

Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

Izzie: Ruti?

Secretary: Yes Ms Holyland?

Izzie: What do I do today?

Secretary: Today you’re testifying for the Turkel committee.

Izzie: The turtle committee? Ruti, are you stoned or something? And if so, why didn’t you offer me anything?

Secretary: No Ms. HolyLand. I’m sober. The Turkel Committee, the one investigating the Gaza Flotilla disaster. Do you have your answers prepared?

Izzie: Yeah, I’ll be fine.

Secretary: What will you say?

Izzie: Basically that I bear full responsibility but I am in no way responsible.

Secretary: That may be problematic.

Izzie: Bite me. How’d things go in la bastillia yesterday?

Secretary: You mean el Arakiv?

Izzie: Whatever…

Secretary: They tore it down again, but they’re rebuilding once more.

Izzie: Jesus, what is UP with these people?! Tell them to tear it down again.

Secretary: Yes Ms. HolyLand.

Wednesday

Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

Izzie: Ruti, you there?

Secretary: I’m always here, Ms. HolyLand.

Izzie: Ramadan Kareem, Ruti!

Secretary: Thank you Ms. HolyLand. But I’m Jewish.

Izzie: Of course you are, you think I’d let anyone endanger the demographics of a Jewish Prime Minister’s Office?

Secretary: Of course not, Ms. HolyLand.

Izzie: So, what’s on the menu today, Ruti? Get it? Menu? Ramadan? Get it?

Secretary: Yes Ms. HolyLand. Very sophisticated humor, Mam.

Izzie: Thanks, but I’ll keep my day job.

Secretary: Which today includes talks with Senator George Mitchell.

Izzie: Georgie boy?

Secretary: Yes, Ms. HolyLand.

Izzie: Oh, this is gonna be great. I love screwing with this guy’s brains. He’s all like “Hey, I brought peace to Ireland, look at me!”… Hehe, he cracks me up.

Secretary: Yes, Ms. HolyLand, he indeed is quite the character.

Izzie: So, I assume we’re all done with los alamitos, right?

Secretary: You mean el Arakiv?

Izzie: F-ck it, I give up. Yes.

Secretary: Well, they’re stubborn down there. They keep rebuilding what we tear down.

Izzie: Dammit! Why can’t we get this petty little job done already?! Alright, I want tanks in there tomorrow morning.

Secretary: Yes, Ms. HolyLand.

Izzie: Do it!

Secretary: Yes, Ms. HolyLand!

Thursday

Buzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

Izzie: Hey, Ruti honey…

Secretary: Hello Ms. Holyland. You sound happy…

Izzie: Well, you know. It’s Thursday, weekend’s here tomorrow.

Secretary: Well, you have an easy day today, Ms. HolyLand. You just have to go to the doctor to check out that infection in your foot.

Izzie: Yeah, that was nasty. You should have seen all the puss… yuck…

Secretary: That’s a bit too much information, Ms. HolyLand.

Izzie: Whatever. Speaking of information, what’s going on in los ruinos del bedouinos?

Secretary: El Arakiv?

Izzie: Yeah, el Ara-fuckin’-kiv. Whassup?

Secretary: Well, it looks like –

Izzie: God dammit Ruti!!!!! That’s it! I’ve had it! Send in the F-16s!!!! I want that place wiped off the face of the planet!!!!

Secretary: Mam, we can’t do that.

Izzie: Why not, they’re the enemy!!!!! They’re taking over the Negev!!!!!

Secretary: That’s not entirely correct, Ms. HolyLand….

Izzie: Oh yeah??? Why not??? You mean they’re not taking over the Negev?

Secretary: No… I mean you can’t call people who are Israeli citizens and serve in the army an “enemy”.

Izzie: Shit. I hate this job. Have a good weekend, Ruti.

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Posted in Featured Half & Half Izzie in Holyland by Ami Kaufman. 1 Comment

Chock Full o’ Racism

I’ve been thinking a lot about racism lately.

During the past two weeks I’ve seen what some people might call “subtle” racism in Israel, but it seems to be so abundant that people feel free to blurt things out without any pangs of conscience whatsoever. And in my opinion, it’s not “subtle” at all to begin with.

As part of our house hunt, I’ve been meeting a lot of real estate agents. One of them is actually a really nice guy, originally from my home town of Haifa. On one of our last visits to a house for sale in south Tel Aviv, the agent spoke to us about the price, as we stood in front of it after touring the inside with the owners.

“Look”, he says, “This is a great deal. The price is 1.5 million shekels – but they won’t go down a shekel. You gotta understand, they’re Yemenite. They’re not like us Ashkenazim”.

Little did our nice agent know that my wife, standing right next to him, was of Iraqi descent.

Another agent, a much younger guy, was similar in his bluntness. With him I saw a garden flat in an area just on the border of a neighborhood called Kfar Shalem – a place that doesn’t have the best reputation in Tel Aviv. The closeness worried me, so I asked him what kind of people live in the building and in the area. “Are there young couples moving in?”

“Listen”, he says, “it’s a very colorful neighborhood, you get a really diverse population here. But don’t worry, there are’nt any Arabs.”

Well thank G-d for that.

While searching for a house to buy, Karen and I have decided to meanwhile move to Bat Yam to save on some dough. Bat Yam is a town that’s also had a bad reputation for years, but seems to be changing due to the high real estate price trend drizzling down from the Greater Tel Aviv area.

So, alongside the house hunt began the “gan (kindergarden) hunt” for our two little girls. And what do you know? Yup. Some more racism.

First place I go to is run by one of those women who wears very tight and revealing  clothes – but really shouldn’t be wearing very tight and revealing clothes. You know those kind, right? Anyway, after keeping me there over 40 minutes lecturing me about her education philosophy, she tells me why she won’t just take any kid into her gan.

“Kids that curse, kids that are violent – I’ll have nothing of it. It means the parents are bad educators, it’s a broken home. And me? I’ll even take an ETHIOPIAN child into my gan – but not a child from a broken home! Oh, no – I won’t!”

How big of her… even an Ethiopian…

I ride my motorcycle to the other part of town, and meet another gan owner who claims to have a B.A. in psychology. Key word being “claims”.

She asks me where I’m coming from, and I tell her Tel Aviv. “Ah, I live in Tel Aviv, close to here. In Ajami”.

Ajami is a neighborhood in Jaffa.

“But I’m leaving Ajami, I can’t take it anymore”.

“Really? Why? What happened?”

“It’s the Arabs, I don’t want my children growing up with those barbarians. I look at them and I can see the hate in their eyes.”

And as I watched her spew her venom, I saw the hate in HER eyes.

But lately I’ve been wondering if I myself am racist. Just this week I had a beer (or two) with some friends of mine, Lisa and Rachel, and the discussion eventually came to the topic of Arsim. Rachel said the word was terrible, equivalent to “nigger”.

That struck a nerve. I use the word often. She claimed it’s a derogatory term that is always connected to Mizrahim. I told her, as I once wrote on my blog, that when people use the word today they don’t necessarily mean Mizrahim – but a certain type of behaviour that transcends ethnicity.

But Rachel pointed that this “certain type of behaviour” will always be associated with Mizrahim. I found it hard to argue with that.

So, what does that make me? And what does it make me for not wanting to move to a certain neighborhood because of its population? Who am I to say this neighborhood or that street has a bad reputation? Am I subconsciously a racist?Surely I can’t be accused of that, right? I mean, all over the world people chose where to live by these criteria, no? How am I any different?

Maybe I should start to practice what I preach.

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Posted in Featured Half & Half by Ami Kaufman. 9 Comments

Diana, Elvis and BDS

It’s the night before her show in Israel, and Diana Krall has her suitcase at the door, ready to go to the airport.

Diana: OK Hun, I’m ready. The taxi’ll be here in a few minutes.

Elvis Costello: OK.

Diana: So, are you going to just sit there or are you going to come here and say goodbye?

Elvis gets up and gives her a little peck on her left cheek. He walks back to his chair, picks up a book

Elvis: Have a great trip.

Diana is astounded

Diana: Did you just peck me? Was that a fucking “peck”?

Elvis: Call it whatever you want.

Diana: OK, WHAT’S your problem?

Elvis: Nothing.

Diana: Is this because I’m going to Israel?

Elvis: Could be.

Diana: OK. Well, I thought we talked about this. You said we can each have our own opinion on things.

Elvis: Well, I just don’t like your opinion. I’m entitled to not like your opinion, aren’t I? Or have we turned into some kind of fascist state, like, I dunno… ummm…. ISRAEL!

Diana: OK, first: that’s the last time you raise your voice at me, “four-eyes”. Second, let’s keep the tones down, it’s ruining my cool-funky-jazz vibe. Third, Israel is not a fascist state. And I’m going, whether you like it or not.

Elvis: Fine. Support apartheid. I don’t care.

Diana: Yeah, yeah, yeah, go ahead, use the good ‘ole “Israeli apartheid” one, I love those. Next thing you know you’ll be on a flotilla to Gaza, knife in hand and disguised as a peace activist.

Elvis: They WERE peace activists!

Diana: Shut up! You’ll wake the twins, dammit!

Elvis: Sorry, sorry… shhhh…

Diana: The odds that those guys were peace activists are about the same as me playing “Great Balls of Fire” with my stiletos.

Elvis: You could probably make a nice cover for that one, you know?

Diana: I know! I can actually hear myself churning it out of my jazz-machine.

Elvis: Seriously, you should do it.

Diana: I will! G-d, I love you baby! You really get me… Why do we have to fight?

Elvis: We don’t. Stay home. Just cancel at the last minute. That’s what I did.

Diana: That’s just mean.

Elvis: Yeah… I know, hehe.

Diana: Seriously, that was uncalled for, Elvis.

Elvis: Yeah, whatever.

Diana: Don’t “whatever” me. It’s not like you didn’t know there was an occupation going on. You didn’t have to sell each and every ticket and then get a fucking conscience!

Elvis: Shhhh you’ll wake the fuckin’ twins!

Diana: Don’t use that word with the twins in the same sentence, you moron!

Elvis stands right in front of her

Elvis: Did you just call me a moron?

Diana takes one step closer. Their noses are almost touching

Diana: Yeah!

Elvis: Oh yeah?

Diana: Yeah!

Elvis looks at Diana, then takes a quick glance at the bedroom. Diana follows his gaze. He looks back at her

Elvis: Make-up sex?

Diana: Oh yeah!

Elvis: But what about the show?

Diana: Aw fuck ‘em, I can’t stand Israelis anyway. Come on!

They run to the bedroom. Downstairs, the taxi is honking

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Posted in Featured Half & Half by Ami Kaufman. 3 Comments

Nip/Schmuck

A few weeks ago I went to the doctor. My throat was sore. Turns out I had strep. After he prescribed me some meds, he said: “By the way, I’d go check out some of those moles”.

I have a lot of moles. I inherited them. Throughout the years I had them checked, and some have been removed. But in the past few years I’ve kind of neglected the issue. So, I thought it was a good idea to go get them checked, too.

The skin doctor at my HMO was nice but reprimanded me for the neglect. “A fair skinned guy like you with all these moles? You just can’t do that”. So, she said I would have to have some removed and come back in another 6 months and maybe get some more done.

I thought it was kind of sad that in the year 2010, the procedure was this:
Doctor: Do you have a cellphone?
Me: Yup. Why?
Doctor: Do you have a camera on your cellphone?
Me: Yup. Why?
Doctor: Show me how to take a picture on it. Then, you can show the surgeon which one to take off. I’ll write the location here on the computer, but you should show the pic to him anyway”.

She then proceeded to circle the moles she wanted to remove with a pen. Then, with much difficulty, she attempted to take fotos of them with my camera. Remember, this is 2010.

A week later I had an appointment with the plastic surgeon, who looked at the fotos on my phone and at what the skin doctor wrote in her computer. He could not have looked more confused, even with all the botox he was surely pumping into his face. The man couldn’t break into a smile even if Seinfeld was right in front of him.

The plastic surgeon scheduled a date for my surgery a week after I came back from my trip to NY.

So, today is the big day and I’m off to the clinic. As I arrive, I see the plastic surgeon rushing patients into the nurse’s room. He’s got a syringe, and he’s going from patient to patient, infusing local anaesthetic into each one of them next to the moles to be removed. He spends less than a minute with each person.

When he comes to me, the syringe is in the air and he asks: “OK, where is it?”
Me: “I’m removing three today. I have pics on my cellphone, but don’t you have the location on your computer?”
Plastic surgeon: “Just show me”.

Here begins an attempt to show him with my phone exactly which ones they are. And a comedy of errors ensues. I look away as he puts one shot into my chest. This was my first mistake. After a few seconds I realize he put it next to the wrong mole. But he’s already left to get more anaesthetic.

I call out from behind the screen: “Doctor, you put it on the wrong mole.”
Plastic surgeon: “I did?”
Me: “Yes. See? It’s this one”, as I point to the one next to it.
Plastic surgeon: “But this one doesn’t look good either”.
Me: “But this isn’t the one that the skin doctor circled!”
Plastic surgeon: “So, what do you want me to do? Do you want me to take out the other one?”
Me: “You’re asking ME what to do? I don’t know! Which doctor has more say? You or she? I just don’t want cancer! Can you base your decision on that?”
Plastic surgeon: “Then we’ll take out the one I want to”.

He then calls a nurse in to shave off the hair around my moles (I’m a hairy guy…), and tells me to show the nurse which moles to shave. The nurse comes and shaves the moles.

Now I’m told to leave the nurse’s room and wait. After half an hour I’m called in. “The doctor will soon be ready for you.”

I sit on a bed in the nurse’s room, and the plastic surgeon comes out, taking some gloves off. As he sees me, he says I can go into the surgery room. I walk inside, only to notice that an old man, shirtless, was still getting off the bed. Out of respect for the man, I waited a few more minutes so he could leave the room without any pressure – and fully dressed.

I go in, and was told by the nurse to take my shirt off and lay down. She lays on my stomach some sort of black pad, which I later understand has something to do with helping to close the wound before it is stitched.

The plastic surgeon comes in and begins to cut out the mole on my chest. After he does this, he asks the nurse to help her with something, apparently it has to to with that aforementioned black pad. As she does, I suddenly feel a sharp burning sensation on my stomach where the pad is. It hurts. It’s really burning. I proceed to tell them of this pain, and the nurse says: “Oops, sorry. It wasn’t on right. It shouldn’t hurt now”, as she readjusts the pad.

Next, we’re off to the second mole. As the plastic surgeon begins the incision, I feel excruciating pain. He continues to make a second incision – but this time I scream at the top of my lungs: “It hurts!!!!”

Plastic surgeon: “It hurts? Wait a minute”, and then he tugs at a point a bit lower on my abdomen, “does that hurt?”

Me: “No.”

Plastic surgeon makes a face. “She shaved off the wrong mole”.

So, apparently I just learned how it felt to be carved up while still alive. I didn’t like it.

Me: “You were taking out the wrong mole!?!??”

Plastic surgeon: “Well, it doesn’t really matter. I want to take that one out, too. Look at it this way – you got another operation!”

Me: “But how did this happen???” I’m about to lose it…

Plastic surgeon: “Didn’t you notice she was shaving off the wrong mole?”

OK. So, it’s my fault… At this point I wanted to leave – but seeing as how I wasn’t stitched up and had one more mole to go, I thought it best to not piss off the doctor just yet.

He then proceeded to take out the third and final mole on my arm. He stitched me up, gave me a piece of paper with some care instructions for my wound, and without an apology, without a smile (the botox obstacle?), he sent me on my way.

One of those days I want to forget.

And I’m supposed to get two more out next week.

Don’t think so…

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Posted in Featured Half & Half by Ami Kaufman. 5 Comments

The Top 10 IDF Dance Videos

Hey everybody!

This week we bring you Half & Half’s definitive list of IDF dance videos! Let’s see which group of boys or girls in green makes it to number one! (Some clips can only be seen on Youtube itself, so just click – and come back for more!)

10.

Coming in at number 10 we’ve got some new recruits during basic training on their way to the dining hall. We can tell these guys are newbies, and that they’re not combat – they just radiate of “lame-ness”. Hence their coming in last…

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWhbbPL2f3A&feature=related

9.

At number 9 we’ve got some affirmative action going on, with a group of Druze soldiers during some sort of dabke dance, just minutes before they beat the crap out of a Palestinian. Be sure to wait till the end of the clip, one of ’em gets “down” on the jeep hood. We give them an “E” for effort and a “C” for coolness.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxBJVTwyIj8&feature=related

8.

Coming at number 8 we’ve got the only girls in the list, doing some Avril Lavigne. Filmed somewhere at a checkpoint near you, these gals bust some sexy moves even with M-16s dangling between their legs. Sort of a turn-on\turn-off kinda feel…

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbXb9RFlcok

7.

Next come the Soulja Boy clips. The following warriors get an “A” for keeping in sync much throughout the clip, but get a “C” for choreography and an “F” for flexibility. Come on guys, move ‘dem hips! You’re so tight down there!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqHWhmombCY&feature=related

6.

The next Soulja Boy clip is only up here due to the soulja in the centa of the frame, watch this kid bust some moves! You go white boy! Who said Ashkenazis can’t shake their booty?

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdSzP-73A44&feature=related

5.

At number 5 we’ve got a feel good, tear-jerker clip that some of you out there might think it should be at number 1. You guys live in la-la-land…. There won’t be peace, trust me. Go on, let a cute little video clip smother you with sticky peace hallucinations… Enjoy!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEXvc1_vVEg&feature=related

4.

My Facebook friend Diaa Hadid summed this one up nicely:

“This is so gay. And not in the cool homosexual way. Like, really gay.”

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmLlKDRNZcc

3.

When I first came across Yaniv, I said to myself: “I have to sign this guy up! What a talent!” And then I remembered I’m not an agent. Nonetheless, Yaniv is probably the best IDF dancer there is, and he isn’t at number 1 due to bad video directing and poor screenplay. But he gets 2 videos on the list! The Spanish one is hysterical!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5l_aWbR_0E&feature=related

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUXehzHsbSA&feature=related

2.

And at number 2 we’ve got the latest addition with some soldiers to Kesha’s hit in the casbah in Hebron. Yeah yeah, Rock the Casbah, hah hah, you’re funny.

Not.

Anyway, apparently these guys got in trouble for this, so that’s why they’re at number 2. They sacrificed their ass to shake some booty.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoieZVapUww&feature=related

1.

And heading the list, the best IDF dance video ever made, goes to…..

(drum roll…)

….. these two lazy jobnik schmucks, who between having sex on base and eating burgers at the Azrieli mall for 3 years while I ate saltwater in the Navy had time to make a mighty cool dance clip (wow, someone’s bitter!)

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykFyQ2ByxgE&feature=related

That’s it from us here at Half & Half!

Be sure to check us out next week, when we bring you the Top 10 Checkpoint Insults!

See ya then!

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Posted in Featured Half & Half by Ami Kaufman. 13 Comments