For the German speakers

Lila from Letters from Rungholt straight to the point of just what lies in the core of creating lasting peace in the near east: do away with terrorism – for absolutely everybody’s sake! The PA needs more than hatred and bombs. It needs infrastructure and a strong entrepreneurial sprit. Plus a strong, peaceful partnership with its neighbor Israel, I personally would like to add.

Wenn mich jemand fragte –

the school and the Kassamim

I am putting together research on communities in southern Israel right now and there is one image that just does not want to get out of my head any more: The moment a mother confessed to being a little worried sometimes by her son attending a high school in Sderot. “There are the kassamim, you know.”, she told me, “If it is really bad they even close the school.”

"When we visited the family with the children, the young boy said "he brought a piece of a kassam home one time, but my parents did not let me keep it."

“When we visited the family with the children, the young boy said he brought a piece of a kassam home one time, but [his] parents did not let me keep it.” – Carry Jarrett

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine sending your child to school knowing that at any time, with only fifteen seconds worth of warning, a rocket might strike their school bus on the open road? Maybe if we stopped seeing Israel as a faraway backwards country but as the western society – just like our countries – we could start to grasp the meaning. These are people like you and I. These are teenage children like all the noisy ones you meet on the bus every day. Smart, sometimes withdrawn but good kids. They have dreams and they have plans for the future.

And they live with that knowledge deep in their head that in just a few years’ time they will be soldiers.

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine raising your children with all the love in your heart, keeping them as close and secure as you can only to see them become part of a tide of soldiers. While you and I went to university, founded a home and started a family these young people spent years armed waiting for what seems to be the unavoidable conflict that strikes generation after generation. They are young adults like all the ones you find swarming the bars and the parks. They do not want to go to war, to see these things. They want to get going with their lives; to travel, to study and to move in with their boyfriend. They are into fashion and the latest hair styles, they are into sports and technology and music – not into guns.


Don’t get me wrong. The situation in Gaza is so disgraceful I am out of decent words to describe it. It is almost surreal to imagine that boarder, on the one side a cruel dictatorship, unimaginable povery and an infrastructure that most closely resembles that of some godsforsaken African tribal lands fifty years ago. On the other side a high-tech civilisation with one of the highest overall levels of education and technology utilisation in the world. How can the two of them possibly even exist on the same planet, let alone only a stone’s throw away? But nonetheless it is reality.

But what the Frigg is Israel to do? It is not the shut border crossing, that is the problem. The problem is Hamas, a terrorist regime almost as bad as the Islamic State next door. Opening those borders won’t change a thing for Gaza residents but it will allow more weapons to be built, more deaths, more warfare. Have you ever thought about it, why it is Egypt that has completely shut down their border crossing at Rafah and is on a crusade against smuggler tunnels right now? Why they are going as far as bulldozing their own city of Rafah? Those are their Muslim brothers after all, Egypt has no motive for cutting off Gaza other than the safety of its own territory and population.


If it was your country, would you tolerate your children driving to school under rocket fire or not being able to go to school at all? Think of European countries in turmoil, of brutal regimes taking over strips of land adjacent to your own border. Use your fantasy. What would you want your government to do?

Think about it. Think about what the US Americans did to Afghanistan and Iraq, on the other side of the world, after a single terror attack. Think about military intervention in Syria and Iraq against Islamic State just because governments are worried of future terror attacks on their own soil. Think about what our governments are doing to other countries without any proven danger to their civilian populations whatsoever.

Think about that and think about the boy riding the bus to Sderot every day before you demonise Israel.

– Migdalit

Drying up the Nile – the al Jazeera Spy Cables

The cache of spy cables recently released by al Jazeera – and copied by most western news outlets – seem to be but the latest in a series of leaked intelligence sources. This time though US American agency mostly get a break with South Africa and the all famous Israeli intelligence service Mossad at the centre of it all.

At the beginning of the week one cable in particular, a Mossad brief to South African intelligence agency SSA gained attention throughout global news outlets: “Spy Cables reveal Mossad concluded that Iran was not producing nuclear weapons, after PM sounded alarm at UN in 2012.” al Jazeera reported:

A secret cable obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit reveals that Mossad sent a top-secret cable to South Africa on October 22, 2012, that laid out a “bottom line” assessment of Iran’s nuclear work.

It appears to contradict the picture painted by Netanyahu of Tehran racing towards acquisition of a nuclear bomb.

Writing that Iran had not begun the work needed to build any kind of nuclear weapon, the Mossad cable said the Islamic Republic’s scientists are “working to close gaps in areas that appear legitimate such as enrichment reactors”.

Little surprise the report was passed on throughout media outlets around the globe seemingly proving Israel’s (or at least its prime minister Netanyahu’s) warmongering using false threats against a nation that might have the rhetorics but not taken the actions to be a threat.
I have to admit it did raise my eyebrows too.

Bibi Netanyahu's all famous red line (C) the Guardian

Bibi Netanyahu’s all famous and much-mocked red line (C) the Guardian

And then, the other day, I leisurely scrolled through my news feed and found this gem from the same cache of al Jazeera spy cable leaks at the Guardian:

Israel has been trying for decades, the report says, to undermine Egypt’s vital Nile water source so that it becomes preoccupied with water shortages rather than the Arab-Israeli conflict. “Towards this end Israel’s Ministry of Science and Technology conducted extensive experiments, and eventually created a type of plant that flourishes on the surface or the banks of the Nile and that absorbs such large quantities of water as to significantly reduce the volume of water that reaches Egypt.”

Frankly, I did not know whether to laugh or cry about it. A water sucking plant in order to dry out the Nile? Seriousely? This one fits right in with the old rumour about Mossad handing out libido enhancing candy to faithful Egyptian wives so as to undermine the fabric of their Muslim society.

Do people actually believe these things?

And more importantly: How did a fairy tale like this end up as a classified spy cable right out there with the really juicy stuff?

What it really showed to me though was that you have to take leaks like the recent al Jazeera one with a grain of salt. As the Guardian’s Seumas Milne and Ewen MacAskill caution in above-mentioned article:

Intelligence agencies thrive on impressing politicians and the public with their mystique, exploits real or imagined, and possession of information that supposedly gives them a unique understanding of the world.


In the world of espionage, today as in the past, spies peppering reports with half-truths, rumours, the outlandish and the downright ridiculous is par for the course, the secret cables show – and not that remote from the lucrative fantasies and inventions of Graham Greene’s fictional MI6 agent in Our Man In Havana.

So while, yes, I can absolutely see a character such as Bibi Netanyahu right out ignoring the intelligence he is given if it is inconvenient for his own agenda this particular one just does not add up. Yes, Netanyahu might well have been exaggerating the threat in order to make his point. But there being no conceivable treat whatsoever, no sign for a non-peaceful nuclear program at all in Iran as the cable suggests? It just does not quite fit in with the activity we have seen around the Irani nuclear program – such as the Stuxnet worm targeting Irani nuclear centrifuges just to name an example.

Also we need to remember that intelligence agencies the world over are adapt at placing misinformation or intentionally “leaking” material. The al Jazeera article itself hints at a schism between Mossad and Netanyahu, quoting former head of Mossad Meir Dagan’s concern about the prime minister prematurely embarking on war with Iran which he thought was “a stupid idea”. There is ample motive for the agency to distribute de-escalating material if they indeed have come to mistrust Netanyahu.

It is simply careless to be dismissing Iran as a nuclear threat to Israel just yet without doing our homework on this leaked so-called “intelligence”. As usual in Israel there as more to it than meets the eye.

– Migdalit

70 Years

Since I did not get around to writing a post that lives up to the anniversary I will substitute Wren’s because I don’t think I could have written it any better.

It is very easy to demonise Germans for the Shoah and comfort ourselves with the idea that “it” can never happen again; it is a lot harder to start thinking about the idea that the Shoah did not exactly happen in a vacuum.
As a nice lady in Yad vaShem once told me: This is not about finding more people to blame, after 70 years we should really be moving past blame. It is about understanding why it happened so it will not happen again.

The Druid Bird

‘It seems all the stories we heard about the concentration camps in Germany were almost all true. But the only people in these camps were Jews and political prisoners. We both agreed that the Jews should be exterminated and the political prisoners were just fools.’

Garfield, 2004: 509, Our Hidden Lives, Random House, London.

Yesterday marked 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, to mark the occasion this week’s Wednesday post is going to be an insight into post-war Britain… and it’s probably not what you’re expecting.

I read a book recently about writing historical fiction, the book emphasised the importance of giving your characters era appropriate attitudes. When you’re writing characters that lived many years ago you have to understand and accept that they’re not going to have 21st century attitudes towards equality and discrimination. They’re probably going to be sexist, racist and xenophobic.

After the First World War…

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