a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Good one, Jay

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 23rd May 2003

Jay Leno, on the “Tonight Show”: “Saudi Arabia has just announced they’ve foiled a terrorist plot … apparently, they cancelled a check.”

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More bombings

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 21st May 2003

Sad to say, I lost track, there have been so many terrorist attacks in Israel in the last week. Israeli blogger Imshin provides links to brief bios of each victim in a bus bombing in Jerusalem that left 7 dead, not counting the shithead who did it. The contrast between the apparently relatively affluent teenage engineering student bomber and the 5AM shift workers he murdered was striking. Imshin writes,

Why are the cold-blooded murders of these people seen by so many as fitting revenge of the weak? Why is this young, good looking, physically strong and economically secure kid perceived as being more desperate than a 67 year old economics lecturer making his way in the soft early morning light to his dead end job as a guard in a car park?

Gil Shterzer (“Israeli Guy”) posts a devastating photo of two victims of the attack. I think one victim in the photo is Mr. Ostinsky, the car park guard.

It’s hard to disagree with Imshin’s (apparent) support for the security wall, or Gil Shterzer’s angry call to “waste” Hamas leaders like Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi or Mahmoud Al-Zahaar in retaliation. May be easier said than done, though.

I continue to support ending the West Bank/Gaza settlements, and think the “road map” or the Nusseibeh/Ayalon agreement could be ways out of the conflict. But I read (via Imshin) that Arafat is insisting on “right of return” again, which together with non-stop suicide bombings makes either peace plan seem like it should be in your bookstore’s “fantasy” section. What does Abu Mazen say? If that matters.

Meanwhile, consider helping Israeli terror victims by supporting NAVAH.

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Missing tourists may be hostages for release of terrorists

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 18th April 2003

Based on reports by Austrian news magazine “profil”, the German daily Die Welt is reporting that Algerian officials are in contact with kidnappers of at least some of the tourists who have gone missing in the Sahara over the past month:

The goal is apparently to force the release of four Algerian extremists recently sentenced in Frankfurt for planning an attack on the Strassburg Christmas Market. The German foreign ministry did not want to comment. “Nothing is being ruled out” in the investigation and all leads are being persued, a spokesman said. Officially, all countries involved are still viewing kidnapping only as a possible scenario about the tourists’ whereabouts.

The missing tourists include fifteen Germans — who are reportedly separated from the other tourists. Die Welt speculates that this indicates the action is specifically directed against Germany.

The remaining missing persons include ten Austrians, four Swiss, one Dutch person, and one Swede. Die Welt also reports that the elite GSG-9 anti-terror unit is already in Algeria to assist with the investigation.

The four Islamic extremists were convicted on March 10 to ten to twelve year sentences for the planned bombing, which was to have taken place in December 2000. There was no proof of a connection to Al Qaeda.

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Haifa, March 5, 2pm

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 7th March 2003

Haifa suicide bomber kills 15, including 7 teenagers and one 12-year old. From the Jerusalem Post, the father of a boy lost in the bombing:

Yossi Mendelevitch described the news of his son’s death as “an ink blot, spreading across the consciousness.”

Called to the national forensic institute in Tel Aviv, he was warned to bring Yuval’s dental x-rays so that he would not have to view what the bomb had left of his boy.

“I want to remember Yuval whole,” he said. “In one piece.”

In today’s Washington Post, I read that Mr. Mendelevitch added this, reacting to deaths in the Gaza Strip following fighting there, in which an Israeli tank shell killed eight people putting out a fire:

“I’m not looking for revenge — I’m not fulfilled when 11 innocent people get killed in Gaza,” Yossi Mendelevich said just before leaving his Haifa apartment to bury his son. “If it’s 11 militants, I would be happy. But this worthless killing will not solve anything.”

Israeli blogger “Civax” is posting victims’ portraits like Yuval’s, above, and writes:

I’m sure the Palestinians will get the country they deserve, eventually. But every such attack just kicks it further away. I don’t have any illusion that we’ll manage to kill all the terrorists ever. But I sure hope we’ll take care of as many of them as possible.


Terrorism doesn’t end with the funerals. Its effect ripples for years — sometimes for life. NAVAH was established to assure victims of terror that they are not alone, that there is a place in our heart that feels their pain, and shares their suffering. The volunteers of NAVAH spend hours visiting victims after each attack, sitting by their bedsides, listening to them and encouraging them. […]

What sets NAVAH apart is that it is usually the first grant that victims of terror receive, enabling them to get the help they need during the first crucial weeks after an attack. In general, most of the victims of terror are ordinary Israelis, with few financial resources.

Donations start at $18.

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In solidarity

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 20th October 2002

image from the Australian National Botanic Gardens web site; see -wattle- link below


A Memorial Service to commemorate the large number of Australians who lost their lives in the bombing attacks in Bali on Saturday 12 October will be held in Washington, DC.

The Memorial Service will be held at the National Cathedral, Massachusetts & Wisconsin Avenues NW, Washington DC, at 11.00 am on Thursday 24 October 2002.

The image is of wattle, the floral emblem of Australia. The Australian prime minister asked that people wear it today in remembrance of the victims of the Bali attack.

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Bali, October 12, 2002

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 17th October 2002

I posted an abbreviated version of the following to the Australian Embassy here in Washington, D.C.:

My condolences to the surviving victims of the Bali atrocity, to all victims’ families, and to all Australians, Indonesians, and others affected by the attack.

I’m shocked, saddened, and deeply angered by what happened. I support any help the United States can provide to find and punish the perpetrators and their accomplices. Australians have been steadfast friends to Americans and the United States; I know we should and will be the same for you, in any way that is asked for.

I see that October 20 will be a national day of mourning in Australia; I’ll be thinking of you.

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When lying gets to be a habit

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 20th August 2002

Terror Leader Is Dead, Palestinian Reports Say: The Associated Press, citing two Palestinian officials in Ramallah who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Abu Nidal’s body had been found in his Baghdad apartment with multiple bullet wounds, though they described his death as a suicide.

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Decent comments in Der Spiegel on Daniel Pearl

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 26th February 2002

It was nice to read Spiegel reporter Claus Christian Malzahn’s decent essay On the death of Daniel Pearl: comments by a reporter. Mr. Malzahn, who has reported from Pakistan himself, doesn’t abuse the occasion for political theories about America, but just writes as a reporter. Excerpts:

[Pearl’s] interviewees in Karachi didn’t want to make any statements, but instead wanted revenge for the lost war in Afghanistan. The American reporter was an easy victim: they didn’t even need to kidnap him, Pearl came to the appointment with a notepad and a ballpoint pen. He had asked for the conversation, because he wanted to illuminate the background of an attempted plane hijacking. He was close to a good story — too close. […]

Daniel Pearl’s very pregnant wife, who is expecting their child in May, said in a CNN interview that her husband understood his work as dialogue. He had been a very open man, his friends confirm. “If you invited him to dinner, you had to buy for ten,” remembers a London colleague. Once Pearl even brought people along to a party who he had just met at an underground station.

The killers in Karachi apparently killed a pretty nice guy. Pearl is my age. I didn’t know him, but his death has shocked me.

Not a ringing call to arms, nor is that always needed or called for. A good man in a good profession died for no good reason. It helps to know others mourn him, too, “even” in Europe.

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Palestinian opinions, Israeli settlements: neither help

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 2nd February 2002

On Tuesday, I briefly noted some of the results of a survey by a Palestinian polling group. Gary Farber (“Amygdala”) picked up on that; yesterday, he wrote in far more detail about that survey than I did. He broke up his comments in to three parts; have a look. Farber itemizes findings like these:


  • An overwhelming majority, ranging between 91%-98%, views all Israeli violent acts against Palestinians as acts of terror.
  • An overwhelming majority, ranging between 81%-87%, does not view Palestinian violent acts against Israelis as acts of terrorism.
  • While 94% would view as an act of terrorism a future use by Israel of chemical and biological weapons against Palestinians, only 26% would view the same act as terrorism if carried out by Palestinians against Israelis.

Now, the final item above is just ugly; the 74% of Palestinians who accord themselves the unbridled right to use heinous weapons are evidence of a population in a vicious frame of mind. Many of the other poll findings are equally unsettling; yet settlements, checkpoints, and all the rest of the real grievances of occupied Palestinian (or, if you prefer, occupied Jordanian) life can not be excuses for contemplating chemical attacks, or for carrying out suicide bombings and other mass attacks on civilian targets.

But as Farber points out, polls like these are snapshots; I would add that this one is a wartime snapshot. Americans themselves are in the grip of wartime thinking; “and rightly so,” we think and I agree. But not so long ago, we weren’t; we now contemplate wars (plural) each of which Americans would have rejected out of hand prior to September 11. Similarly, not so long ago, Palestinian polling numbers looked very different, too; indeed, this point is developed within the polling director’s article in Foreign Affairs which I also mentioned on Tuesday. Substantial majorities supported the peace process, radical Islamist groups were much less popular; in July, 2000 the level of support for violence was around half of the roughly 60% figure it would be one year later.

What has changed is that an an Oslo peace accord was derailed by Palestinian radicals — but also by Israeli ones. Remember the 1994 Hebron mosque massacre? At least 39 people died in a hail of bullets — and the perpetrator’s grave has been turned into a shrine by radical Israelis. Remember who killed Rabin? But mainly, remember that since the 1993 Oslo accord, over 20,000 housing units — over half financed with public funds — were started in the occupied areas.* A self-respecting, patriotic Palestinian would be about as fed up with Israel now as many Americans are about Al Qaeda, and that can make for a lot of ugly opinions, especially if you’re losing. And so an uprising began, one that is morphing into a war before our eyes. The Palestininan Authority fans the flames with its school curricula, its media and information policy, and its attitude towards violence — whether that attitude amounts to “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” or direct support for weapons shipments, bombings, riots, and the rest of it. I believe that Arafat and the Palestinians made a dreadful miscalculation in turning down the Barak proposals at the 2000 Camp David summit. But Israel has arguably pursued a miscalculated, two-faced strategy of its own since Oslo as well, a strategy that even Barak shared in.

I don’t for a second hold with suicide bombings of civilian targets. That, more than anything else, is why I have been closing my eyes to the settlements issue; the people who do such things are not seeking real negotiations, in my view. If Israel dismantled every settlement and retreated to pre-1967 borders, such people would continue their war; to them, Israel itself is the provocation, not the settlements. Such people must be defeated no matter what; at the end of the day, Israel’s right to defend its citizens against such criminality is paramount and undeniable, by any means necessary.

But in the long run, and in fact even in the middle and short run, Israel’s right to occupy Palestinian(/Jordanian) land and provoke, humiliate, and sometimes abuse its inhabitants is not paramount and is eminently deniable**. I should think even the most fiery “warbloggers” over here (in fact, especially the most fiery ones) might well find themselves ardent Palestinian nationalists if they were to walk a mile in Palestinian shoes, and would find themselves sorely tempted to split hairs, set aside scruples, and lie, cheat, steal and kill generally in the fight against their enemies.

Under the current circumstances, a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories may be the best outcome we can realistically hope for. But that outcome will be fought tooth and nail by many settlers, a sizeable number of whom have come to view their settlements as part of God’s plan, more than some return to their literal ancestors’ homeland. That can’t be good enough for the rest of us; any old Tom, Menachem, or Mohammed can come along claiming he’s doing Yahweh’s, the Lord’s, or Allah’s will. Americans owe it to themselves and their Israeli friends to resume urging Israel to cease settlement construction, and ultimately to find a way to end the occupation. That doesn’t amount to “letting the terrorists win”; it amounts to being honest with ourselves and our friends.

*The Oslo accord took no specific position on the settlements issue. The chief ongoing argument against the settlements is that they violate the Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention stating that “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Israel’s supporters argue that the settlements are not illegal under international law. But the very double-edged argument is that Jews and Israelis have a “right of return” to the lands they were expelled from after 1948; this very assertion by Palestinians to land within Israel’s pre-1967 borders that they were just as arguably expelled from after 1948 is considered the deal-killer sine qua non by many Israel supporters. The legalities of the matter may be in dispute; but the Israeli position seems intransigent, and based on the calculation that the settlements can be defended by force, just as Israel’s pre-1967 borders can be defended by force. That’s no better a basis for negotiations than the Palestinian one many Israelis suspect, bent on pushing Israel back into the sea.

**Even by soldiers in its own army, it seems: the New York Times reports “Reservists Balk at Occupation, Roiling Israel“.

Update: Jim Henley and Charles Johnson respond (+/- favorably, +/- skeptically). Read their comments for yourself, of course; summarizing, Henley points out that the Barak proposal wasn’t all that great, and left settlements in place. Johnson points out that there will still be lots of Arab troublemakers egging Palestinians on to continue the fight, even if Israel withdraws. I join in a discussion of Johnson’s post.

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From a recent Palestinian poll

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 30th January 2002

The poll was conducted by PSR (see prior post) from December 24-29, 2001, questioning 1357 Palestinians in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; margin of error +/- 3%. Among the most telling results:

  • 92% support attacks against settlers, 58% support attacks against civilians inside Israel.
  • In the event of a peace agreement, 66% would support joint Palestinian-Israeli economic institutions and ventures — but only 6% would support adopting school curriculum that recognizes Israel and teaches children not to demand return of all Palestine to Palestinians.
  • 94% oppose the US campaign against Bin Laden; only 16% believe that Bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
  • Only 17% would support a political system “as in Iran” for the future Palestinian state. 42% said they would prefer a system “as in other Arab countries, like in Egypt, Jordan, and Syria; and 19% said they would prefer a system “as in the US, Europe and Israel.”It’s hard to pick the most depressing item above, but I’d pick number 2; it tells me Israel’s right to exist is not really acknowledged at all by 94% of Palestinians, that any settlement is just a preliminary truce before the next round of bombings. But maybe I’m missing something.

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