December 11, 2002
The contents of today’s paper have inspired me to write again.
In Israel, there is traditionally 1 English language daily, the Jerusalem Post. (In pre-Israel days, it was the Palestine Post…). It’s a respected paper, even internationally. It has moved somewhat to the right in recent years – although still quite independent. And, much to my regret, but perhaps unavoidably, American sports dominate the sports pages. Most days, it includes sections and articles from the Wall Street Journal.
A 2nd English language daily hit the shelves not too long ago. As in many other countries, the IHT combined with a local paper, which in turn puts out an English translation. In Germany, it’s the Frankfurt Allgemeine; in Italy, I believe, it’s Corsa della Sera. Here, it’s Ha-Aretz (the country).
So what was so interesting in today’s Post? Central theme is, perhaps, corruption; at least a lack of true democracy.
The leader concentrates on the recent primaries of the two major parties, Labour and Likud. Likud’s system is unfair, as they only tally the votes among the 2,900 members of the central committee, which results in such distortions. For instance, the former secretary of Bibi Netanyahu has been given a high position on the list, thereby guaranteeing him a position in the next Knesset. Even worse is the case of the former driver (chauffeur) of another member, Avigdor Lieberman, who will also get in. Note the names of Ruhama Avraham and Michael Goralovsky, and let’s see where they are in 2 years time.
So, is the Labour electoral system any better? On the face of it, yes. They do go to the full 110,000 members of the party. But 5 of the top 12 on the list, including the new leader, Amram Mitzna, are former army generals. OK, there have been cases of generals making it in politics, although it is arguable whether ex-General Arik Sharon has yet crossed the road into being a politician, despite his admittedly many years in politics. It appears to be becoming a habit in believing that a general can make it in politics. Perhaps worse, it sends a wrong message to those in the army: that becoming a general is a passport to the Knesset. It will change the general’s focus from their critical military tasks.
There’s a partly-amusing article by an Indian Hindu who is a project co-ordinator at the European Institute for Asian Studies, a Brussels think tank. He has been visiting Israel. One final MUST during his stay was to visit the Dome of the Rock. Most religious places of the world are open to all visitors of any religion. Not so the Muslim places. Most are banned to non-Muslims. Of course, the situation in Jerusalem is a little special, but the rules are the same as those in Mecca. Our friend decided to become Pakistani for a day. (Despite being the country with the 2nd most Muslims in the World, India is not known as Muslim state).
He became a rarity: an Indian who smiles when saying ‘Pakistan’. Already the taxi-driver and the shopkeepers near the entrance were suspicious. The two AK47-toting guards stropped him. He was kept waiting 15 minutes while 1 guard fetched the Imam. The latter t hen started asking questions, such as “Can you quote the first 5 lines of the Koran?” and “Complete the words of the following prayer”.
He bought a postcard instead.
Someone should run a study of Saudi Arabia’s strongest supporters within the U.S. political community. Our reporter scratched the surface and found that MANY former U.S. ambassadors to the Saudis have, since leaving the job, come into large sums of money (or special funds and committees to which they are connected) and have become outspoken supporters of the Saudi regime. One leading Saudi diplomat, Mohammed Al-Khilewi, who defected to the US in 1994, put it this way: “When it comes to the Saudi-American relationship, the Whote House should be called ‘The White Tent’!
It rained heavily here yesterday, and more rain is forecast. This is one of the many things for which we pray. We fear that the next Middle East war will be started over water rights.
Thanks for your perseverance.