All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Thursday, 31 August 2006

A Message To Nasrallah



Out of the bottoms of babes...

Monday, 28 August 2006

Movie Review: Snakes On The Plane

Firstly, a word of warning, if you are an ophiophilist, stay away from this film, unless you are masochistic in the extreme. For the rest of us ophidiophobics, this is a highly entertaining movie.

True, there were some gory moments, but the script is so over-the-top in its gleeful depiction of the snakes having their dinner (on humans of course), that you can’t help but laugh and cringe - often at the same time.

I thoroughly enjoyed the ride, from start to finish, although it really did get a little too gruesome at times, hence the loss of a star in the rating.

Go and see, but leave eating the popcorn until the credits.

Recommended for those who enjoy very black comedies.

The Teacher’s Rating

****

Birthdays

This week, we are celebrating a slew of birthdays. My father’s was two days ago, Michal’s is today and Shira’s will be on Thursday.

I won’t reveal how old my dad is, but everyone who sees him comments as to how young he still looks. Thank G-d he’s in good health and long may this remain. I live for the moments when he sees his granddaughters and his face lights up. Happy birthday dad!

Michal is six today. She hasn’t had the easiest time, being the third of four girls, particularly when her older sisters cast such long shadows and set extremely high academic standards. However, in her own way, Michal is starting to come through and make a mark of her very own.

She is blessed with both looks and charm and has already demonstrated a keen eye for the clothes she chooses to wear. I know that this year will see her shine like never before and it’s not before time, because she deserves to have her moment in the spotlight.

We recently went bowling and Michal wiped the floor with the three of us (Dassi was on a day camp), finishing off one game with a score of 116. Not bad for a child, a week shy of her sixth birthday. She also pushed herself in her swimming and achieved her 5 metre badge. Could this be a clue as to where her talents really lie?

Happy birthday Michali.

Shira, wonderful/scary little monster that she is, hits the big number three on Thursday (THANK G-D) and starts big school next week She has managed the almost impossible and already proved herself to be more than a match for her older siblings. She has charm, intelligence and razor-sharp observational skills, no mean feat for a 36 month old kid.

Shira will stomp her way through the next twelve months. Hopefully, she won’t finish off the rest of the family in the process!

Happy birthday Shir-Shir….and mazel tov to all of you very special individuals.

Sunday, 27 August 2006

Fab Liverpool 8 - The Beatles Estate

I'm sure you will be relieved to read that this is my last posting on the trip.

I had to include this site because it really is strange. Liverpool Council felt that the best way to honour the Beatles was to name a council estate after them. This is situated in one of the poorest areas of Liverpool, Edge Hill.

Just to give you an idea of the layout, you have a long, winding road (!) called John Lennon Drive, with three much smaller roads branching off of it. These are (in order of location) - George Harrison Close, Paul McCartney Way and Ringo Starr Drive.

At the end of John Lennon drive, we were horrified to note two adjacent houses that had been firebombed.

Why Liverpool Council chose to honour the greatest popular musical group by having a council estate named after them, is a total mystery to me. Odder still, was my desire to go there (thanks again John) and take photographs!

Here's the evidence (I also took pictures of the roads, but I don't think the residents would be too happy to have their homes splashed all over the internet):



I just love the barbed wire!










Only Ringo showed up to officially inaugurate his road.

So here, on this wierd, but strangely appropriate note, I bid farewell to Liverpool and thank you for following my trip through what has been a pretty incredible few days.

Fab Liverpool 7 - Liverpool John Lennon Airport

Having visited the important places (including the rebuilt Cavern Club), we spent the rest of the time going into wierdsville.

Our first port of call was the Liverpool John Lennon Airport...



...where we were greeted with this sign:



...and this rather interesting artifact!



I'm sure you would admit that it's not the most usual view you would expect to see in an airport car-park!

Fab Liverpool 6 - John and Paul's Homes

Although the coach passed infront of the houses at 251 Menlove Avenue (John's) and 20 Forthlin Road, we only went in as part of the National Trust tour. We did stop outside Paul's house when we took the coach tour, but only went in on the next day.

The custodian of the house picked us up from Speke Hall, a historic country house in the east of the city and took us to both abodes.

The visit to John's house was fascinating and quite moving. We walked around and I spent quite a bit of time in his bedroom, imagining him sitting there with Paul and writing songs like Love Me Do and Please Please Me.

I can honestly tell you that it was a real thrill to find myself in the very same room, at 20 Forthlin Road, where John and Paul wrote such classics as I Saw Her Standing There and When I'm 64.

This was the 12 seater mini-bus we travelled in:


Fab Liverpool 5b - Penny Lane



On the left (out of sight), you have the barbershop, the shelter on the roundabout is in the centre and the bank on the right.

Below, a very proud Beatles fan!

Fab Liverpool 5a - Penny Lane

This was surely the highlight of the tour and I returned here numerous times to take photos for the following montage.

You cannot appreciate this site, unless you walk/drive around it with the song playing in your head.

I'm going to try to bring the song to life for you with the help of a few photographs.

In Penny Lane, There is a barber showing photographs....



On the corner is a banker with a motorcar (the Lloyds Bank on the corner)...



In Penny Lane, there is a fireman with an hourglass (the Allerton Fire Station down the road) ...




Behind the shelter in the middle of the roundabout, the pretty nurse...



In the next post, you will see Penny Lane, with all it's components together, under blue suburban skies!

Fab Liverpool 4 - Strawberry Field

Amongst the many areas we visited on the coach tour, one of the most moving were the outside gates of the Salvation Army's Strawberry Field orphans home. Just being there and hearing the song in your head, made for a very special experience.

Sadly, the home and grounds (which haven't already been developed) are now for sale. Let's hope that this important landmarked isn't destroyed and lost for future generations of fans.



Fab Liverpool 3 - The Beatles Story Museum

We made our way to the beautifully restored Albert Dock and into the Beatles Story Museum, which is a must if you're a fan visiting Liverpool. You walk through numerous sets that recreate key moments in the Beatles' lives. To say more, would be to spoil a really great trip.



Having gone through, we made our way to the bus stop to pick up the Magical Mystery coach tour of Beatles' related places in Liverpool.

I can feel that I'm probably starting to bore you with my travelogue...but bear with me because the best is yet to come!

Saturday, 26 August 2006

Fab Liverpool 2 - The Police Incident

In my last post, I didn't mention that although two of us came up to Liverpool, we in fact travelled with a third person...well sort of.

A little while ago, I downloaded a genuine John Cleese voice to give me directions when using the Tom Tom Sattelite Navigation system in my car. "John" proved to be invaluable throughout the holiday as he directed us all over the place.

On the first evening, fresh in from London, we felt hungry and decided to go out looking for somewhere to eat. I reckoned that where there was a tourist information bureau, there would be probably be some eateries. We were advised to go to Birkenhead and I dutifully followed the instructions.

We arrived at the deserted ferry terminal and realised that, although the Liverpool skyline was charming to look at, it didn't fulfil our gastronomic needs. A man who was there advised us to get to a "better part of Wirral" like Hoylake, where we would be sure to find some grub. I turned the car around and started to make my way back across the peninsula. No sooner had we left the car park than I saw a police car and let him pass infront of me.

I drove on a roads that strangely lacked markings and was soon flagged down by the very same police car who asked me why I had been "hugging the left kerb"! He worked out that we were indeed lost (John notwithstanding) and gave us directions to Hoylake. As he spoke, his fellow officer gave my car a good looking over.

So, two hours after I'd arrived, I was already being stopped by the police!

We made our way to Hoylake and after much tooing and froing, managed to get something to eat. I won't bore you with the details, but rest assured, it was Kosher.

The next day, we made our way back to the ferry terminal (which is decidedly safer during the day time) and waited for the boat to arrive.



It was a pretty quick ride and yes, we did hear the last bars of "Ferry Cross The Mersey" as we docked into Liverpool.

Fab Liverpool 1 - Accommodation

I'm back from what might be one of the most unforgettable weeks of my life. My friend S. and I went up to Liverpool for four days, stayed five and returned to London, with the sights and sounds of the city, stampeding their way through our minds.

Firstly a word of warning. If you are not a Beatles fan, please skip this entry, because it is going to be very, very anorakish. However if you are...

Roll up for the mystery tour....ssstep right this way!

Rather than boring you with a day to day report, I am compartmentalising the different locations. Since there are a considerable number of photographs, I am going to post each section separately.

We stayed in a charming bed and breakfast (B&B) guest house called The Cheriton. This was situated in the beautiful suburb of Caldy, which forms part of Wirral, a picturesque peninsula that sits on the River Mersey and faces Liverpool.

Here are few photos of the Cheriton's magnificent gardens:




The house is run by a lovely couple, Sonja and Gordon Smith who took us under their wings and treated us as though we were members of their very own family. Sonja went out of her way to make our stay pleasurable, from providing maps and guides to pointing out areas of particular beauty and interest. I would strongly recommend this guest house to anyone thinking of visiting the area. If you do go, please tell them that I made the recommendation.

You can find details of the Cheriton Guest House here.

Sunday, 20 August 2006

My Hajj

I bumped into my English high school teacher this morning on the way to Shul (synagogue) and told him about my forthcoming pilgrimage to Liverpool on Monday. He suggested that I was in fact carrying out my Hajj, a term which I immediately decided to use as a moniker to describe my long awaited trip.

I will therefore be giving all of you guys a rest, whilst I go on my Beatles Hajj, for four days, starting Monday. I expect that it will be a religious experience and will only serve to further cement (if at all possible) my total adoration of the Fab Four and their splendiferous music.

NB: I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for that teacher, since he coached me to an ‘A’ in my English Literature ‘O’ Level when I was 16. You don’t forget things like that.

Thursday, 17 August 2006

The Teacher And The Prime Minister

A few weeks ago, I wrote a letter to Tony Blair, explaining how I, as a Jew and Zionist, really appreciated his unwavering support for Israel. I also noted that he was one of the few world leaders to understand what was really going on in the Middle East.

Today, I received a response from Downing Street, written on 15th August:

“Dear Mr…..,

The Prime Minister has asked me to thank you for your recent letter and to tell you that the views you expressed have been carefully noted.

Yours sincerely,

MD
Direct Communications Office”

I would like to believe that Mr Blair has read my letter and not just passed it on to one of his plebs. At least the letter has been personally signed by MD, so that’s a start!

The Nervous Teacher

My Year 13’s get their ‘A’ level results today.

I don’t know who is the more nervous. If they do really well, it will make me look good, even though I only taught them one unit. However, if they flunk that unit, what will it say about my teaching?

Yeah, I’m nervous…

Wednesday, 16 August 2006

Iranian Childrens' TV

This is the kind of TV programming that Iranian kids are shown.
Please note that the picture freezes between 04:14 and 05:13, although the dialogue continues.

At 05:14 the animation resumes. If you are Iranian, I would be fascinated to know what is said during that minute - please feel free to leave a comment.




My kids watch Dora the Explorer and Recess.

His Lasting Flame

For all you Elvis fans out there, please know that I really do feel for you today.

Right On: The Real Blunder In Lebanon

By Michael Freund, The Jerusalem Post.

Not since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait has a Middle Eastern leader made such a grievous strategic mistake, both in underestimating his foe and miscalculating the impact of his own course of action.

Inexperience at the helm combined with hesitation and uncertainty produced an unmitigated fiasco, one that raises serious questions about whether this person is truly fit to lead.

While many might view the above description as referring to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his handling of the war in the north, there is in fact another figure in the region, one to whom it would appear to be even more applicable. And that person is none other than Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Sure, Teheran and its ally in Damascus are no doubt celebrating Israel's agreement to the dubious UN cease-fire. If you listen carefully enough, you can probably still hear them clinking their glasses together as they toast the damage that was done to the Jewish state.

Over the course of a month, their nasty little proxy group in Lebanon managed to fire some 4,000 rockets at Israel, inflict grave damage to its economy and send a third of its populace into bomb shelters. They killed 156 Israelis, wounded more than 3,000 others, and pierced the country's aura of military invincibility.

But at the end of the day, these achievements, if one can call them that, will end up exacting a heavy price from Syria and Iran. Inevitably, the trouble they have stirred up in the region over the past month is bound to boomerang right back at them.

Indeed, by transferring advanced rockets and weaponry to Hizbullah, Teheran and Damascus have just unwittingly proven one of the Bush Administration's central contentions regarding the need for preemptive action against rogue states in the global war on terror.

The two countries have demonstrated that they are ready and willing to share missile systems with a terrorist organization, thus strengthening the case that they must be prevented from obtaining weapons of mass destruction at all costs.

This very point was at the heart of an important speech made by US President George W. Bush last October in which he outlined America's strategy for fighting terror across the globe. Speaking at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, Bush made clear that, "we're determined to deny weapons of mass destruction to outlaw regimes, and to their terrorist allies who would use them without hesitation."

Furthermore, he stated, "Any government that chooses to be an ally of terror has also chosen to be an enemy of civilization. And the civilized world must hold those regimes to account."

THUS, BY supplying weapons to Hizbullah, Syria and Iran have inadvertently provided concrete evidence for all the world to see of just how dangerous the combination of "outlaw regimes" and their "terrorist allies" can be.

In this respect, Israel is fortunate that the conflict erupted when it did, because had it occurred in another five or ten years, who knows what types of horrific weapons might then have been found in Hizbullah's arsenal.

And so, by inciting the start of hostilities last month in an effort to divert the world's attention from their nuclear program, Iran may actually end up achieving precisely the opposite.

Through their actions, Iran has just made the case, better than the most eloquent of Washington press spokesmen ever could, as to why they pose a grave and immediate threat to the entire free world with their obstinate pursuit of nuclear weapons. And it is this very same argument, which the Iranians have just unwittingly bolstered, that Bush may one day soon choose to make in justifying the need for possible military action against Iran to stop their drive toward nuclear weapons.

In other words, to borrow Lenin's phrase, Iran and Syria may have just sold the rope from which they themselves will eventually hang.

Moreover, the violence of the past month has also been an educational process of sorts for both the American and Israeli publics, underlining in very stark terms the danger posed by Iran and Syria.

Their intractable opposition to the West, and their willingness to wreak havoc on Israel and its citizens, only served to highlight their status as a menace that must be tackled as quickly as possible.

So if Bashar Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad thought that igniting a war along Israel's northern border would somehow help them to save their own skins, they may soon find out just how sorely mistaken they were.

And, like Saddam, their blundering adventure abroad may yet come back to haunt them sooner than they imagine.

Unfinished Business

There is definitely an air of unfinished business hanging around the hills and valleys of Lebanon. Like many others, I am disappointed that Israel chose to finish her campaign before achieving all the objectives she had set herself.

I don’t trust the UN to carry out its mandate, at least in the mid to long term time range and the refusal of Hezbollah to give up its weapons doesn’t exactly fill me with the greatest confidence that things are going to get better.

I appreciate the pressure that Israel was under to enter the cease-fire but really, what was the point, if this was only delaying the inevitable resumption of hostilities in the near future? No doubt, Hezbollah is currently feverishly stockpiling its weapons cache and I start wondering whether the lives of so many young men and civilians were tragically sacrificed for an operation that was halted before it had a chance to achieve any tangible results (e.g. the return of the soldiers or the significant reduction of a missile threat to Northern and central Israel).

I wouldn’t say that Israel has lost, but she certainly hasn’t achieved what she needed to do. There is definitely some unfinished business which will need to be dealt with very soon.

Finishing off Nasrallah would be a good start.

Tuesday, 15 August 2006

The Other Side Of Israel

Here are some photos that you won't (surprise surprise) see on the CNN, or BBC or even Sky websites. They show a side of Israel that the media conveniently choose to ignore. It gives me great pride to share these with you:








Monday, 14 August 2006

Yalla Ya Nasrallah!



If you have any doubt about the spirit and the determination of Israel
at this dangerous time for us, our soldiers, and our nation, watch this
video clip and be uplifted by this latest Israeli song that is top of the
hit parade.

"Yalla Ya Nasrallah,
We'll screw you, Inshallah,
And send you back to Allah,
With all the Hezb-Allah !!"

Apparently, according to the Powerline blog, periodically, as a form of psychological warfare, the Israelis have been hacking into Lebanese television and playing this video. It must drive the Hizbullah mad (he he he).

The subtitles don't do the Hebrew justice, although the chorus pretty much sums up the contempt we feel for this Nazi.

The Thinking In Tehran

This is a fascinating exposé of the thinking going on in Iran right now.
I found the article on Debka.com, an intelligence site.

Tehran Takes Gloomy View of the Lebanon War and Truce
August 14, 2006, 3:35 PM (GMT+02:00)

While the damage caused Israel’s military reputation tops Western assessments of the Lebanon war, DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources report an entirely different perception taking hold in ruling circles in Tehran.

After UN Security Council resolution 1701 calling for a truce was carried Friday, Aug. 11, the heads of the regime received two separate evaluations of the situation in Lebanon – one from Iran’s foreign ministry and one from its supreme national security council. Both were bleak: their compilers were concerned that Iran had been manipulatively robbed of its primary deterrent asset ahead of a probable nuclear confrontation with the United States and Israel.

While the foreign ministry report highlighted the negative aspects of the UN resolution, the council’s document complained that Hizballah squandered thousands of rockets – either by firing them into Israel or having them destroyed by the Israeli air force.

The writer of this report is furious over the waste of Iran’s most important military investment in Lebanon merely for the sake of a conflict with Israeli over two kidnapped soldiers.

It took Iran two decades to build up Hizballah’s rocket inventory.

DEBKAfile’s sources estimate that Hizballah’s adventure wiped out most of the vast sum of $4-6 bn the Iranian treasury sunk into building its military strength. The organization was meant to be strong and effective enough to provide Iran with a formidable deterrent to Israel embarking on a military operation to destroy the Islamic regime’s nuclear infrastructure.

To this end, Tehran bought the Israeli military doctrine of preferring to fight its wars on enemy soil. In the mid-1980s, Iran decided to act on this doctrine by coupling its nuclear development program with Israel’s encirclement and the weakening its deterrence strength. The Jewish state was identified at the time as the only country likely to take vigorous action to spike Iran’s nuclear aspirations.

The ayatollahs accordingly promoted Hizballah’s rise as a socio-political force in Lebanon, at the same time building up its military might and capabilities for inflicting damage of strategic dimensions to Israel’s infrastructure.

That effort was accelerated after Israeli forces withdrew from the Lebanese security zone in May 2000. A bunker network and chain of fortified positions were constructed, containing war rooms equipped with the finest western hi-tech gadgetry, including night vision gear, computers and electronics, as well as protective devices against bacteriological and chemical warfare.
This fortified network was designed for assault and defense alike.


Short- medium- and long-range rockets gave the hard edge to Hizballah’s ablity to conduct a destructive war against Israel and its civilians – when the time was right for Tehran. Therefore, Iran’s rulers are hopping mad and deeply anxious over news of the huge damage sustained by Hizballah’s rocket inventory, which was proudly touted before the war as numbering 13,000 pieces.

Hizballah fighters, they are informed, managed to fire only a small number of Khaibar-1 rockets, most of which hit Haifa and Afula, while nearly 100 were destroyed or disabled by Israeli air strikes.

The long-range Zelzal-1 and Zelzal-2, designed for hitting Tel Aviv and the nuclear reactor at Dimona have been degraded even more. Iran sent over to Lebanon 50 of those missiles. The keys to the Zelzal stores stayed in the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers who were in command of Hizballah. Nasrallah and his officers had no access to these stores. But Tehran has learned that Israel was able to destroy most of the 22 Zelzal launchers provided.

That is not the end of the catalogue of misfortunes for the Islamic rulers of Iran.

The UN Security Council embodied in resolution 1701 a chapter requiring Hizballah to disarm – in the face of a stern warning issued by supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in person in the early days of the war. Revolutionary Guards commanders went so far as to boast: “No one alive is capable of disarming Hizballah.”

The disarming of Hizballah would therefore be a bad knock to the supreme ruler’s authority and prestige as well as a disastrous blow for the deterrent force so painstakingly and expensively fashioned as a second front line to protect the Islamic republic from a safe distance.

Dr Wafa Sultan

The Terrorist Plot In London (Dry Bones)

The Murderous Yellow Wind

Shabbat/Saturday was a particularly bloody day in the annals of Israeli military history when twenty four young men lost their lives. An extremely sad day for the Jewish people.

Each of these souls’ deaths is a tragedy in itself, but one struck me as being particularly devastating.

Staff Sgt. Uri Grossman, 20 was the son of famed novelist and peace activist David Grossman (author of The Yellow Wind, 1988). He was killed on active duty in Lebanon when his tank was hit by a missile. He was a member of a unit who took part in Israel's final push deep into Lebanon, which was aimed at maximizing Israeli gains against Hezbollah guerrillas before a UN-ordered ceasefire came into force (at 5 am this morning) .

This came a day after his father publicly stated that he “could no longer support Israel's battle in Lebanon after the government there offered to send troops to patrol the border to prevent future attacks on Israel”.

David Grossman has gained a great deal of respect amongst many people for the quality of his writing as well as leftish political views. I can’t say that I am one of his fans, but today, my heart is right there with his. We may have a different attitude on the way to proceed vis-√†-vis the Palestinians, but at the end of the day, we are both members of the same tribe and we both, in different ways, care deeply about the State of Israel.

I am sure that I won’t be the only person to find the killing of this peace activist’s son, ironic but more important, extraordinarily poignant

Sunday, 13 August 2006

Movie Review: Monster House (3D)

With producers like Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg, you know that you’re in for something special – and believe me, I wasn’t disappointed.

This is a dazzling, hilarious, creepy and yes, pretty scary movie.

The animation is so good that you wonder if you’re not looking at actual real-life footage. The characterizations, in particular that of Chowder are quite remarkable and the story grips you in a vice (come to think of it, pretty much the same way the house treats it’s visitors…)

I would strongly caution against taking kids to this movie, unless they are older (we’re talking at least aged ten) because it is quite frightening at times (I jumped in my seat at one point), but if you’re up to it, this is wonderfully delicious treat of a movie.

Please do yourself a favour and travel those extra miles/kilometres to see it in 3D, as it well worth the effort.

The Teacher’s Rating

* * * * *
In my opinion, the best animated movie since The Incredibles.

A Huge Mistake Or Tactical Manoeuvring?

I’ve got to say that I think Israel is making a huge mistake by agreeing to this cease-fire. I do not want to see our boys in Lebanon, any more than their parents want them there – but I just feel instinctively that this agreement will only lead to more bloodshed.

I’m sure that the Hezbollah and Iranians are dancing in the street at the thought that, by agreeing to the ceasefire, Israel is, for all intents and purposes, admitting defeat. The kidnapped soldiers have not been returned, the missiles are still falling and Hezbollah remains intact, with its arsenal virtually untouched.

Finally, I don’t trust the UN at all…

….on the other hand, it might be a tactical ploy by Israel to see whether the Lebanese or Hizballah will change their minds about signing on.

Maybe a case of who will blink first?

Resha'im

There is a concept in our religion of someone (either Jewish or not) who is a Tzaddik – a saintly man, and the obverse, a person who is Rashah – an evil man.

Unfortunately, there are far fewer tzaddikim (the plural of Tzaddik) than there are Resha’im.

I think of a recent (Gentile) Tzaddik and immediately Pope John XXIII comes to mind. I would also say that Tony Blair (at least in his dealings with the Jewish people), with his unwavering support for Israel has behaved in a saintly manner. He may not be a Tzaddik, but he’s certainly on the way to getting there.

Sadly, we also have more than our fair share of Resha’im at present.
The more obvious ones are the odious President of Iran and his sidekick, Nasrallah.

However in Britain, we seem to be afflicted with a few politicians who are without a doubt enemies of the Jewish people, although they will claim that it is Israel they have a problem with – not the Jews (an oxymoron if I ever heard one).

One notable Rashah is George Galloway, an utterly despicable individual whose deep-seated hatred of both the Jewish people and the State of Israel knows no bounds. His latest open support for the Hezbollah, a listed terrorist organisation is particularly shocking – and revealing at the same time.

Unfortunately, Resha’im, like wolves, hunt in packs and Galloway’s mate, Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, is likewise predisposed to spewing out his particularly venomous dislike of the Jewish people. His comparison of a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard only served to convince us of his innate dislike of me and my people.

There are a few others, although these two are the more notorious examples.

Here’s a message to you guys:

G-d always, always, comes to the aid of our people. He might take his time, but eventually, all enemies of the Jews get their comeuppance (Arafat, anyone?). To the Jewish people, you two and your Arab buddies are Resha’im – evil people and you will get your just desserts.

I don’t have a problem with people who criticize Israel, in the same way as I understand those who have issues with any other country in the world. The difference is that Resha’im like Galloway and Livingstone don’t have the balls to admit to all of us that, instead of being anti-Zionists, they are just good ole Jew haters.

At least Mel Gibson had the decency to admit his prejudices.

So, why don’t you guys come clean?

If you do, you will gain more respect (strangely enough, the misnomer that Galloway has used to christen his bastard political party) if you admit that it’s the Jews you have a problem with, as opposed to just the State of Israel.

Then again, if you were half-way decent, you’d probably have realised that by now.

Saturday, 12 August 2006

Lebanon - Myths And Facts

Israel's Mossad Interrogates A Hezbollah Terrorist

Damn Damn Damn Statistics

Whichever way you look at it, today’s news is pretty grim:

“Hizbullah guerrillas shot down an Israel Air Force helicopter over southern Lebanon.

Seven soldiers were killed and eleven others were seriously wounded in clashes with Hizbullah operatives throughout southern Lebanon.

One soldier from Brigade 7 was killed after an anti-tank missile hit his tank in the village of Kantara in the eastern sector.

One soldier was killed and five seriously wounded during clashes between a force from the Nahal Brigade's Battalion 931 and Hizbullah gunmen in the village of Randuyia in the western sector. In the same village two other soldiers were killed- one from the Nahal and the other from Armoured Brigade 401 - during clashes with guerrillas.

Two other soldiers were killed and one more was seriously wounded when a tank reversed into the soldiers from Battalion 51 of the Golani Brigade in the village of Hadta in the central sector. In the same village, one Golani soldier, from Batallion 12, was killed during clashes with Hizbullah gunmen.

Another soldier was seriously wounded after his D9 armoured bulldozer drove over a large explosive device in the village of Atiri in the central sector. An officer from Brigade 401 was also seriously wounded and three were lightly wounded after an anti-tank missile hit their tank in the village of Dir Sirin in the western sector.


Meanwhile, on the ground, over 70 soldiers were wounded, as violent clashes continued between IDF troops and Hizbullah gunmen.”

We read the numbers and weep because each of these guys could be one of our sons or daughters. They are not terrorists; they are simply kids who are fighting to protect their and our brethren in Israel. To hear that terrorists are now downing helicopters with missiles is no less heartbreaking than reading about young men being accidentally crushed by a tank.

It might give the Hezbollah great pleasure and satisfaction to hear of the deaths, but we must not fall into the trap of just accepting the dead as ‘casualties of war’. Anyone who weeps for the civilians of Lebanon, if they have any feeling at all, must also cry when they hear about 19 year old boys whose lives have been cut short, defending their fellow citizens.

Mothers will be burying their children over the next few days.

Jewish, Muslim and Christian mothers.

Damn the Hezbollah.
Damn them to hell for what they are doing to my people.
Damn them to hell for they are doing to the Lebanese.

And damn them to hell for their miserable, evil presence in our world.

Damn them all.

Friday, 11 August 2006

Photo Fraud In Lebanon

Please click the above link.

Scary

Green Helmet Acting As Cynical Movie Director In Qana

Please be aware that some people might find the following footage very upsetting.

However, I feel the need to post it here, to highlight the depths that some people will go to, in order to further their evil aims.

It goes without saying that the child pictured below was tragically killed as result of the war and not in way targeted by the Israeli forces.



I was personally shocked by the disrespect shown to the young boy's body.

Is this really what this world has come to?

"Reuters Strikes Other News Outlets" by Sheera Claire Frenkel

At first everyone thought they were just blowing smoke, but the debunking of a Reuters photograph by a group of Web sites has launched a fiery online war in which bloggers have taken on the mainstream media.

Bloggers, or writers on web logs, were the first to reveal that a Reuters photograph depicting plumes of black smoke rising over Beirut was doctored to enhance smoke above the city. The Web site www.LittleGreenFootballs.com is credited with first revealing the scandal, which has been dubbed Reutersgate, but the affair has spread far wider than the Reuters News Agency and into several of the most esteemed media outlets.

More than a dozen accusations of staged or doctored photographs have made their way through various Web sites in the past several weeks. None has been treated by the news outlets as seriously as the original Reuters incident, which saw the photographer Adnin Hajj fired and over 900 of his photos removed from the Reuters wire list. But numerous other outlets - including the BBC, The New York Times and AP - have been forced to recall photos or change captions following inaccuracies pointed out in online forums.

The fact that the online community rather than fellow mainstream media has become a watchdog of accuracy has surprised many who originally derided blogs as being "devoid of accuracy."

"In a blog you don't have to be accurate to anyone but yourself and your readers," said Laya Millman from the Jewlicious.com blog. "There is a great deal of accountability because, if you get anything wrong, the readers will quickly, very quickly, point it out."

As was demonstrated in the case with the Reuters photograph, blogs come with their own teams of investigators: the thousands of readers who stream through the site. Within hours of Charles Johnson's posting on Little Green Footballs, readers of the Web site had gone to work uncovering an array of damning evidence against Hajj, the most serious of which - a second doctored photograph, an Israeli plane altered to make it look as though it was dropping a series of bombs - may have pushed Reuters to fire Hajj after initially announcing that the freelance photographer would be suspended. That photograph, which was discovered by blogger Rusty Shackleford of The Jawa Report, included an illustrated account of how the photos had been doctored.

Photographs whose veracity has been questioned by blogs in the past few weeks since Reutersgate began include:


Two pictures used by The Associated Press and Reuters, in which the same woman appeared to be crying over the destruction of her Beirut home. Distinguished by a red-checkered scarf and scar on her right cheek, the woman was pictured crying in front of two different locations two weeks apart.

Several photographs of a bombed bridge in Beirut which appear on Reuters and AFP with the different captions stating that the bridge had been bombed on July 18, July 24 and August 5. Bloggers claim that the striking image was photographed to look like several different bombings in order to make destruction in Beirut appear more severe.

In The New York Times photo essay "Attack on Tyre," a photograph of a man who appears dead is accompanied with the caption reading "bodies were still buried under the rubble." However, in a later photograph in the same series, the same man appears to be walking in the foreground of a photo. The Times issued a correction for the first photograph, stating that the man was injured.

Some claim that the online controversy over the photos has gotten out of hand, with many blogs now launching investigations and hurling accusations at a variety of news sources.

"These accusations can be very damning, and need to be handled with care and not thrown out by any angry blogger," said one anonymous poster on Little Green Footballs.

In the meantime, however, Little Green Footballs - along with many other online forums - has been flooded with investigations into mainstream media, with the entire army of its hundreds of thousands of readers eagerly at hand.

Our First Decade

Today, Dana and I are celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary. As we commemorate this important milestone in our lives, I have thinking about how fortunate I am to have her still standing by her man - despite the overwhelming pressure she's sometimes felt to ditch me.

I am not the easiest of people to be around. Let alone, to live with. Our first nine years were a constant struggle of me not having found a job I was happy with. At times, things looked pretty desperate, particularly when I was out of work and seeking social security. Yet, throughout, she stayed with me and shared my frustrations and negativity and cried her own bitter tears. I have come to realise how truly blessed I am to have met and married such a very special human being.

There have been good times, in particular, the arrival and growth of our four amazing daughters and I, for one, feel more contented with my life than ever before, although I know that this feeling is not shared by both of us. Yet, here we are, ten years on, older, if not a little wiser and looking straight ahead at the future, hopefully prepared for whatever will appear in our journey.

Dana says that I'm not romantic enough for her. She claims that I used to be more so when we met. I concede that she may be right and with this in mind, I am trying to rekindle the old magic that initially drew us together.

Last night, we went out and I took her to the park where I officially proposed. It is called Primrose Hill and from here, you can see the London skyline. Yes, it was a little contrived (and cold!) but from there we went to a film she had wanted to see called "The Break-Up".

I know it's probably not the most appropriate movie to watch on an anniversary, but it really didn't matter, because we both had such a good time.

I don't know if I can be as romantic as I was back then, but I'm going to try. Our anniversary, special as it is, means that, after ten years, we are still standing under the same canopy, braving the rain (it poured on 11th August 1996) and looking out for the sun to break through the clouds.
Dana, thank you for being here with me and still occasionally smiling at my jokes.

Here's to the next decade and beyond.

xxx

Thursday, 10 August 2006

The Raw Truth

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Transparency

Surprise surprise.

British police have uncovered a plot to blow up at least ten aircraft in mid-air between the UK and US. Passengers have been barred from carrying hand luggage onto any flights and are reduced to putting their essentials into transparent plastic bags.

I’ll repeat that:

People are walking around airports carrying their essential belongings in transparent plastic bags.

Welcome to our world circa 2006.

No doubt, this is an Al Qaeda  influenced plot and of course, Israel will be held responsible for bringing about this situation. The mere fact that such an operation probably took months, if not years to put together, will be conveniently brushed aside and the “conflict in the Middle East” will be bandied around as a convenient reason for Islamic nutters to go around blowing people up.

When will people get it into their dense, impenetrable skulls that Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and such like are one and the same?

When will it become apparent that the war Israel is currently fighting is the same one that every single country who cares a damn about freedom – should be signing up to?

People, how can I put this in a way that you will understand and be able to convince others of?

WE ARE AT WAR.

You may not think it, you may not even believe it, but whether or not you like it, it is an irrefutable fact.

Western Governments who are pandering to the Islamic cause are only helping to fuel the advances of the enemy. Instead of criticising Israel, they should be pumping every dollar they can afford, into the Israeli economy. They should be standing up, en masse in the UN and bolstering Israel’s position, instead of ridiculously accusing her of “disproportionate force”.

I could of course be wrong and misguided and the “situation in the Middle East” might not be given as a cause for the airline plot.

Then again, maybe we not at war and September 11th, Bali, London, Madrid et al were all just figments of our imagination.

Weren’t they?

Tuesday, 8 August 2006

Reuters Gets Photoshopped VI

Credit where credit it due - the BBC have reported the incident and you can read the fully story here.

The Difference Between Israel and Hizbullah

Monday, 7 August 2006

Reuters Gets Photoshopped V

I received this email from Reuters:

“Response (Z) - 08/07/2006 08:53 AM

Dear Reader,

Thank you for contacting Reuters with your comments regarding the Reuters photo of burning buildings in Beirut. The photo has been corrected and you can read our Editor's comments on the matter at the following webpage:
http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsRoom.aspx.

Please note that due to the huge volume of e-mails sent to the Editor daily, we may be unable to provide a response. However, all comments are read and taken into consideration.

We appreciate your feedback and we hope that you continue to use and enjoy the Reuters website.

Kind Regards,

Z

Reuters Corporate Webmaster”

Reuters Gets Photoshopped IV

Reuters Gets Photoshopped III

Here are some more details regarding Reuters admission that the picture was doctored:

From Honest Reporting.com

“Faced with an onslaught of bloggers taking up the case and demonstrating how clearly the picture had been doctored, Reuters finally came clean and admitted that the picture was a lie. Attempting to stop the worldwide distribution, Reuters issued this "photo kill" with the accompanying text:




PICTURE KILL FOR LBN20 TRANSMITTED AT APPROXIMATELY 1408GMT ON AUGUST 5, 2006. PHOTO EDITING SOFTWARE WAS IMPROPERLY USED ON THIS IMAGE. A CORRECTED VERSION WILL IMMEDIATELY FOLLOW THIS ADVISORY. PLEASE REMOVE THE IMAGE FROM YOUR SYSTEMS. WE ARE SORRY FOR ANY INCONVENIENCE. “

This episode demonstrates the power of the blogger.... people, we rock!

Sunday, 6 August 2006

Reuters Gets Photoshopped II

It’s nice to see that we can make a difference, as witnessed by this piece on the ynet site. I was one of a number of people who emailed Reuters to ask them to investigate the photos:

Reuters admits altering Beirut photo

Reuters withdraws photograph of Beirut after Air Force attack after US blogs, photographers point out 'blatant evidence of manipulation.' Reuters' head of PR says in response, 'Reuters has suspended photographer until investigations are completed into changes made to photograph.' Photographer who sent altered image is same Reuters photographer behind many of images from Qana, which have also been subject of suspicions for being staged.

A Reuters photograph of smoke rising from buildings in Beirut has been withdrawn after coming under attack by American web logs. The blogs accused Reuters of distorting the photograph to include more smoke and damage.

The photograph showed two very heavy plumes of black smoke billowing from buildings in Beirut after an Air Force attack on the Lebanese capital. Reuters has since withdrawn the photograph from its website, along a message admitting that the image was distorted, and an apology to editors.

In the message, Reuters said that "photo editing software was improperly used on this image. A corrected version will immediately follow this advisory. We are sorry for any inconvience."

Reuters' head of PR Moira Whittle said in response: "Reuters has suspended a photographer until investigations are completed into changes made to a photograph showing smoke billowing from buildings following an air strike on Beirut. Reuters takes such matters extremely seriously as it is strictly against company editorial policy to alter pictures."

"As soon as the allegation came to light, the photograph, filed on Saturday 5 August, was removed from the file and a replacement, showing the same scene, was sent. The explanation for the removal was the improper use of photo-editing software," she added.

Earlier, Charles Johnson, of the Little Green Footballs blog , which has exposed a previous attempt at fraud by a major American news corporation, wrote : "This Reuters photograph shows blatant evidence of manipulation. Notice the repeating patterns in the smoke; this is almost certainly caused by using the Photoshop "clone" tool to add more smoke to the image."

Johnson added: "Smoke simply does not contain repeating symmetrical patterns like this, and you can see the repetition in both plumes of smoke. There's really no question about it."

A series of close ups are then posted on the blog, showing that "it's not only the plumes of smoke that were 'enhanced.' There are also cloned buildings." The close ups do appear to show exact replicas of buildings appearing next to one another in the photograph.

The Sports Shooter web forum , used by professional photographers, also examined the photo, with many users concluding that the image has been doctored.

"I'll second the cloned smoke...but it looks so obvious that I don't know how the photographer could have gotten away with it," wrote one user.

After further research, Johnson posted a photograph he says is the original image taken before distortions were made, showing much lighter smoke rising.

Other blogs have also analyzed the photographs, and reached similar conclusions, such as Left & Right , which states: "The photo has been doctored, quite badly."

The author of the Ace of Spades blog wrote: "Even I can see the very suspicious "clonings" of picture elements here. And I'm an idiot."

The Hot Air blog also looked at the photo, describing the image as "the worst Photoshop I have ever seen."

Adnan Hajj, the photographer who sent the altered image, was also the Reuters photographer behind many of the images from Qana - which have also been the subject of suspicions for being staged.

Reuters Gets Photoshopped?

There is strong evidence that a photographer at Reuters, Adnan Hajj has been doctoring photos to incriminate Israel even more in the bombing of Lebanon.

If true, this is a gross manipulation of the public’s perception of the war and Reuters has a duty to launch in immediate investigation. If not, it risks harming the reputation it so prides itself with.

Then again, the BBC will print the pictures whether or not they are authentic, as they lost any sense of “proportionality” (there’s a word you hear banded around a lot these days) years ago in reporting what is actually going on the war, as opposed to their institutionalised distortion of the truth.

Have a look for yourself here and please feel free to leave a comment voicing your own opinion of whether or not you think the photos are faked.

Saturday, 5 August 2006

Friday, 4 August 2006

A Sincere Apology

For those of you who have come here looking for some insights into teaching, I sincerely apologise that not a single recent posting has anything whatsoever to do with the teaching profession.

I’m sure you will appreciate that, with a month to go of holidays (yeehah), I am concentrating on some other issues that shape my world. However, please still feel free to stay, read, comment, vote etc.

I intend to start writing about the profession again when I start realising that I’ve got classes to instruct and not a single resource prepared for this endeavour.

Unfortunately (or not), I haven’t yet come to this realisation.

New Poll Questions

As a point of note, I’ve just changed all the poll questions and replaced them with new ones. I will try to update them more often (it’s amazing the things you think about when you’ve got time on your hands….one more month of holidays….nice!).

Please do vote as I can then gauge what you think about the site from your responses.

G-d Bless Tony Blair

A few days ago, Tony Blair made, what I believe to be, one of the greatest speeches of the last quarter century. This world leader has a clarity of vision that is frankly breathtaking. He can see exactly what is going on and is one of the few leaders to really appreciate the threat of Fundementalist Islam.

I recently wrote to him to express my appreciation of his stance on the Middle East and in particular, his unwavering support of Israel. He is a true friend of the Jewish people.

It takes a very courageous man to stand up for his beliefs and risk his political career for what he believes is the right path to take. I am in no doubt that Tony Blair will go do in future as one of the greatest leaders of the Western World, ranking alongside such luminaries as Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln.

With all of the above in mind, I have reproduced his speech in its entirety.

British PM Tony Blair
Speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, August 1, 2006


Overnight, the news came through that as well as continuing conflict in the Lebanon, Britain's Armed Forces suffered losses in Iraq and Afghanistan. It brings home yet again the extraordinary courage and commitment of our armed forces who risk their lives and in some cases tragically lose them, defending our country's security and that of the wider world. These are people of whom we should be very proud.

I know the US has suffered heavy losses too in Iraq and in Afghanistan. We should never forget how much we owe these people, how great their bravery, and their sacrifice.

I planned the basis of this speech several weeks ago. The crisis in the Lebanon has not changed its thesis. It has brought it into sharp relief.

The purpose of the provocation that began the conflict was clear. It was to create chaos, division and bloodshed, to provoke retaliation by Israel that would lead to Arab and Muslim opinion being inflamed, not against those who started the aggression but against those who responded to it.

It is still possible even now to come out of this crisis with a better long-term prospect for the cause of moderation in the Middle East succeeding. But it would be absurd not to face up to the immediate damage to that cause which has been done.

We will continue to do all we can to halt the hostilities. But once that has happened, we must commit ourselves to a complete renaissance of our strategy to defeat those that threaten us. There is an arc of extremism now stretching across the Middle East and touching, with increasing definition, countries far outside that region. To defeat it will need an alliance of moderation, that paints a different future in which Muslim, Jew and Christian; Arab and Western; wealthy and developing nations can make progress in peace and harmony with each other. My argument to you today is this: we will not win the battle against this global extremism unless we win it at the level of values as much as force, unless we show we are even-handed, fair and just in our application of those values to the world.

The point is this. This is war, but of a completely unconventional kind.

9/11 in the US, 7/7 in the UK, 11/3 in Madrid, the countless terrorist attacks in countries as disparate as Indonesia or Algeria, what is now happening in Afghanistan and in Indonesia, the continuing conflict in Lebanon and Palestine, it is all part of the same thing. What are the values that govern the future of the world? Are they those of tolerance, freedom, respect for difference and diversity or those of reaction, division and hatred? My point is that this war can't be won in a conventional way. It can only be won by showing that our values are stronger, better and more just, more fair than the alternative. Doing this, however, requires us to change dramatically the focus of our policy.

Unless we re-appraise our strategy, unless we revitalise the broader global agenda on poverty, climate change, trade, and in respect of the Middle East, bend every sinew of our will to making peace between Israel and Palestine, we will not win. And this is a battle we must win.
What is happening today out in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and beyond is an elemental struggle about the values that will shape our future.

It is in part a struggle between what I will call Reactionary Islam and Moderate, Mainstream Islam. But its implications go far wider. We are fighting a war, but not just against terrorism but about how the world should govern itself in the early 21st century, about global values.
The root causes of the current crisis are supremely indicative of this. Ever since September 11th, the US has embarked on a policy of intervention in order to protect its and our future security. Hence Afghanistan. Hence Iraq. Hence the broader Middle East initiative in support of moves towards democracy in the Arab world.The point about these interventions, however, military and otherwise, is that they were not just about changing regimes but changing the values systems governing the nations concerned. The banner was not actually "regime change" it was "values change".

What we have done therefore in intervening in this way, is far more momentous than possibly we appreciated at the time.

Of course the fanatics, attached to a completely wrong and reactionary view of Islam, had been engaging in terrorism for years before September 11th. In Chechnya, in India and Pakistan, in Algeria, in many other Muslim countries, atrocities were occurring. But we did not feel the impact directly. So we were not bending our eye or our will to it as we should have. We had barely heard of the Taleban. We rather inclined to the view that where there was terrorism, perhaps it was partly the fault of the governments of the countries concerned.

We were in error. In fact, these acts of terrorism were not isolated incidents. They were part of a growing movement. A movement that believed Muslims had departed from their proper faith, were being taken over by Western culture, were being governed treacherously by Muslims complicit in this take-over, whereas the true way to recover not just the true faith, but Muslim confidence and self esteem, was to take on the West and all its works.

Sometimes political strategy comes deliberatively, sometimes by instinct. For this movement, it was probably by instinct. It has an ideology, a world-view, it has deep convictions and the determination of the fanatic. It resembles in many ways early revolutionary Communism. It doesn't always need structures and command centres or even explicit communication. It knows what it thinks.

Its strategy in the late 1990s became clear. If they were merely fighting with Islam, they ran the risk that fellow Muslims - being as decent and fair-minded as anyone else - would choose to reject their fanaticism. A battle about Islam was just Muslim versus Muslim. They realised they had to create a completely different battle in Muslim minds: Muslim versus Western.

This is what September 11th did. Still now, I am amazed at how many people will say, in effect, there is increased terrorism today because we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. They seem to forget entirely that September 11th predated either. The West didn't attack this movement. We were attacked. Until then we had largely ignored it.

The reason I say our response was even more momentous than it seemed at the time, is this. We could have chosen security as the battleground. But we didn't. We chose values. We said we didn't want another Taleban or a different Saddam. Rightly, in my view, we realised that you can't defeat a fanatical ideology just by imprisoning or killing its leaders; you have to defeat its ideas.

There is a host of analysis written about mistakes made in Iraq or Afghanistan, much of it with hindsight but some of it with justification. But it all misses one vital point. The moment we decided not to change regime but to change the value system, we made both Iraq and Afghanistan into existential battles for Reactionary Islam. We posed a threat not to their activities simply: but to their values, to the roots of their existence.

We committed ourselves to supporting Moderate, Mainstream Islam. In almost pristine form, the battles in Iraq or Afghanistan became battles between the majority of Muslims in either country who wanted democracy and the minority who realise that this rings the death-knell of their ideology.

What is more, in doing this, we widened the definition of Reactionary Islam. It is not just Al-Qaeda who felt threatened by the prospect of two brutal dictatorships - one secular, one religious - becoming tolerant democracies. Any other country who could see that change in those countries might result in change in theirs, immediately also felt under threat. Syria and Iran, for example. No matter that previously, in what was effectively another political age, many of those under threat hated each other. Suddenly new alliances became formed under the impulsion of the common threat.

So in Iraq, Syria allowed Al-Qaeda operatives to cross the border. Iran has supported extremist Shia there. The purpose of the terrorism in Iraq is absolutelysimple: carnage, causing sectarian hatred, leading to civil war.

However, there was one cause which, the world over, unites Islam, one issue that even the most westernised Muslims find unjust and, perhaps worse, humiliating: Palestine. Here a moderate leadership was squeezed between its own inability to control the radical elements and the political stagnation of the peace process. When Prime Minister Sharon took the brave step of disengagement from Gaza, it could have been and should have been the opportunity to re-start the process. But the squeeze was too great and as ever because these processes never stay still, instead of moving forward, it fell back. Hamas won the election. Even then, had moderate elements in Hamas been able to show progress, the situation might have been saved. But they couldn't.

So the opportunity passed to Reactionary Islam and they seized it: first in Gaza, then in Lebanon. They knew what would happen. Their terrorism would provoke massive retaliation by Israel. Within days, the world would forget the original provocation and be shocked by the retaliation. They want to trap the Moderates between support for America and an Arab street furious at what they see nightly on their television. This is what has happened.

For them, what is vital is that the struggle is defined in their terms: Islam versus the West; that instead of Muslims seeing this as about democracy versus dictatorship, they see only the bombs and the brutality of war, and sent from Israel.

In this way, they hope that the arc of extremism that now stretches across the region, will sweep away the fledgling but faltering steps Modern Islam wants to take into the future.
To turn all of this around requires us first to perceive the nature of the struggle we are fighting and secondly to have a realistic strategy to win it. At present we are challenged on both fronts.

As to the first, it is almost incredible to me that so much of Western opinion appears to buy the idea that the emergence of this global terrorism is somehow our fault. For a start, it is indeed global. No-one who ever half bothers to look at the spread and range of activity related to this terrorism can fail to see its presence in virtually every major nation in the world. It is directed at the United States and its allies, of course. But it is also directed at nations who could not conceivably be said to be allies of the West. It is also rubbish to suggest that it is the product of poverty. It is true it will use the cause of poverty. But its fanatics are hardly the champions of economic development. It is based on religious extremism. That is the fact. And not any religious extremism; but a specifically Muslim version.

What it is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan is not about those countries' liberation from US occupation. It is actually the only reason for the continuing presence of our troops. And it is they not us who are doing the slaughter of the innocent and doing it deliberately.

Its purpose is explicitly to prevent those countries becoming democracies and not "Western style" democracies, any sort of democracy. It is to prevent Palestine living side by side with Israel; not to fight for the coming into being of a Palestinian State, but for the going out of being, of an Israeli State. It is not wanting Muslim countries to modernise but to retreat into governance by a semi-feudal religious oligarchy.

Yet despite all of this, which I consider virtually obvious, we look at the bloodshed in Iraq and say that's a reason for leaving; we listen to the propaganda that tells us its all because of our suppression of Muslims and have parts of our opinion seriously believing that if we only got out of Iraq and Afghanistan, it would all stop.

And most contemporaneously, and in some ways most perniciously, a very large and, I fear, growing part of our opinion looks at Israel, and thinks we pay too great a price for supporting it and sympathises with Muslim opinion that condemns it. Absent from so much of the coverage, is any understanding of the Israeli predicament.

I, and any halfway sentient human being, regards the loss of civilian life in Lebanon as unacceptable, grieves for that nation, is sickened by its plight and wants the war to stop now. But just for a moment, put yourself in Israel's place. It has a crisis in Gaza, sparked by the kidnap of a solider by Hamas. Suddenly, without warning, Hizbollah who have been continuing to operate in Southern Lebanon for two years in defiance of UN Resolution 1559, cross the UN blue line, kill eight Israeli soldiers and kidnap two more. They then fire rockets indiscriminately at the civilian population in Northern Israel.

Hizbollah gets their weapons from Iran. Iran are now also financing militant elements in Hamas. Iran's President has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map". And he's trying to acquire a nuclear weapon. Just to complete the picture, Israel's main neighbour along its eastern flank is Syria who support Hizbollah and house the hardline leaders of Hamas.

It's not exactly a situation conducive to a feeling of security is it?

But the central point is this. In the end, even the issue of Israel is just part of the same, wider struggle for the soul of the region. If we recognised this struggle for what it truly is, we would be at least along the first steps of the path to winning it. But a vast part of the Western opinion is not remotely near this yet.

Whatever the outward manifestation at any one time - in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Iraq and add to that in Afghanistan, in Kashmir, in a host of other nations including now some in Africa - it is a global fight about global values; it is about modernisation, within Islam and outside of it; it is about whether our value system can be shown to be sufficiently robust, true, principled and appealing that it beats theirs. Islamist extremism's whole strategy is based on a presumed sense of grievance that can motivate people to divide against each other. Our answer has to be a set of values strong enough to unite people with each other.

This is not just about security or military tactics. It is about hearts and minds about inspiring people, persuading them, showing them what our values at their best stand for.

Just to state it in these terms, is to underline how much we have to do. Convincing our own opinion of the nature of the battle is hard enough. But we then have to empower Moderate, Mainstream Islam to defeat Reactionary Islam. And because so much focus is now, world-wide on this issue, it is becoming itself a kind of surrogate for all the other issues the rest of the world has with the West. In other words, fail on this and across the range, everything gets harder.
Why are we not yet succeeding? Because we are not being bold enough, consistent enough, thorough enough, in fighting for the values we believe in.

We start this battle with some self-evident challenges. Iraq's political process has worked in an extraordinary way. But the continued sectarian bloodshed is appalling: and threatens its progress deeply. In Afghanistan, the Taleban are making a determined effort to return and using the drugs trade a front. Years of anti-Israeli and therefore anti-American teaching and propaganda has left the Arab street often wildly divorced from the practical politics of their governments. Iran and, to a lesser extent, Syria are a constant source of de-stabilisation and reaction. The purpose of terrorism - whether in Iran, Afghanistan, Lebanon or Palestine is never just the terrorist act itself. It is to use the act to trigger a chain reaction, to expunge any willingness to negotiate or compromise. Unfortunately it frequently works, as we know from our own experience in Northern Ireland, though thankfully the huge progress made in the last decade there, shows that it can also be overcome.

So, short-term, we can't say we are winning. But, there are many reasons for long-term optimism. Across the Middle East, there is a process of modernisation as well as reaction. It is unnoticed but it is there: in the UAE; in Bahrain; in Kuwait; in Qatar. In Egypt, there is debate about the speed of change but not about its direction. In Libya and Algeria, there is both greater stability and a gradual but significant opening up.

Most of all, there is one incontrovertible truth that should give us hope. In Iraq, in Afghanistan, and of course in the Lebanon, any time that people are permitted a chance to embrace democracy, they do so. The lie - that democracy, the rule of law, human rights are Western concepts, alien to Islam - has been exposed. In countries as disparate as Turkey and Indonesia, there is an emerging strength in Moderate Islam that should greatly encourage us.

So the struggle is finely poised. The question is: how do we empower the moderates to defeat the extremists?

First, naturally, we should support, nurture, build strong alliances with all those in the Middle East who are on the modernising path.

Secondly, we need, as President Bush said on Friday, to re-energise the MEPP between Israel and Palestine; and we need to do it in a dramatic and profound manner.

I want to explain why I think this issue is so utterly fundamental to all we are trying to do. I know it can be very irritating for Israel to be told that this issue is of cardinal importance, as if it is on their shoulders that the weight of the troubles of the region should always fall. I know also their fear that in our anxiety for wider reasons to secure a settlement, we sacrifice the vital interests of Israel.

Let me make it clear. I would never put Israel's security at risk.

Instead I want, what we all now acknowledge we need: a two state solution. The Palestinian State must be independent, viable but also democratic and not threaten Israel's safety.
This is what the majority of Israelis and Palestinians want.

Its significance for the broader issue of the Middle East and for the battle within Islam, is this. The real impact of a settlement is more than correcting the plight of the Palestinians. It is that such a settlement would be the living, tangible, visible proof that the region and therefore the world can accommodate different faiths and cultures, even those who have been in vehement opposition to each other. It is, in other words, the total and complete rejection of the case of Reactionary Islam. It destroys not just their most effective rallying call, it fatally undermines their basic ideology.

And, for sure, it empowers Moderate, Mainstream Islam enormously. They are able to point to progress as demonstration that their allies, ie us, are even-handed not selective, do care about justice for Muslims as much as Christians or Jews.

But, and it is a big 'but', this progress will not happen unless we change radically our degree of focus, effort and engagement, especially with the Palestinian side. In this the active leadership of the US is essential but so also is the participation of Europe, of Russia and of the UN. We need relentlessly, vigorously, to put a viable Palestinian Government on its feet, to offer a vision of how the Roadmap to final status negotiation can happen and then pursue it, week in, week out, 'til its done. Nothing else will do. Nothing else is more important to the success of our foreign policy.

Third, we need to see Iraq through its crisis and out to the place its people want: a non-sectarian, democratic state. The Iraqi and Afghan fight for democracy is our fight. Same values. Same enemy. Victory for them is victory for us all.

Fourth, we need to make clear to Syria and Iran that there is a choice: come in to the international community and play by the same rules as the rest of us; or be confronted. Their support of terrorism, their deliberate export of instability, their desire to see wrecked the democratic prospect in Iraq, is utterly unjustifiable, dangerous and wrong. If they keep raising the stakes, they will find they have miscalculated.

From the above it is clear that from now on, we need a whole strategy for the Middle East. If we are faced with an arc of extremism, we need a corresponding arc of moderation and reconciliation. Each part is linked. Progress between Israel and Palestine affects Iraq. Progress in Iraq affects democracy in the region. Progress for Moderate, Mainstream Islam anywhere puts Reactionary Islam on the defensive everywhere. But none of it happens unless in each individual part the necessary energy and commitment is displayed not fitfully, but continuously.
I said at the outset that the result of this struggle had effects wider than the region itself. Plainly that applies to our own security. This Global Islamist terrorism began in the Middle East. Sort the Middle East and it will inexorably decline. The read-across, for example, from the region to the Muslim communities in Europe is almost instant.

But there is a less obvious sense in which the outcome determines the success of our wider world-view. For me, a victory for the moderates means an Islam that is open: open to globalisation, open to working with others of different faiths, open to alliances with other nations.
In this way, this struggle is in fact part of a far wider debate.

Though Left and Right still matter in politics, the increasing divide today is between open and closed. Is the answer to globalisation, protectionism or free trade?

Is the answer to the pressure of mass migration, managed immigration or closed borders?
Is the answer to global security threats, isolationism or engagement?
Those are very big questions for US and for Europe.

Without hesitation, I am on the open side of the argument. The way for us to handle the challenge of globalisation, is to compete better, more intelligently, more flexibly. We have to give our people confidence we can compete. See competition as a threat and we are already on the way to losing.

Immigration is the toughest issue in Europe right now and you know something of it here in California. People get scared of it for understandable reasons. It needs to be controlled. There have to be rules. Many of the Conventions dealing with it post WWII are out of date. All that is true. But, properly managed, immigrants give a country dynamism, drive, new ideas as well as new blood.

And as for isolationism, that is a perennial risk in the US and EU policy. My point here is very simple: global terrorism means we can't opt-out even if we wanted to. The world is inter-dependent. To be engaged is only modern realpolitik.

But we only win people to these positions if our policy is not just about interests but about values, not just about what is necessary but about what is right.

Which brings me to my final reflection about US policy. My advice is: always be in the lead, always at the forefront, always engaged in building alliances, in reaching out, in showing that whereas unilateral action can never be ruled out, it is not the preference.

How we get a sensible, balanced but effective framework to tackle climate change after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 should be an American priority.

America wants a low-carbon economy; it is investing heavily in clean technology; it needs China and India to grow substantially. The world is ready for a new start here. Lead it.
The same is true for the WTO talks, now precariously in the balance; or for Africa, whose poverty is shameful.

If we are championing the cause of development in Africa, it is right in itself but it is also sending the message of moral purpose, that reinforces our value system as credible in all other aspects of policy.

It serves one other objective. There is a risk that the world, after the Cold War, goes back to a global policy based on spheres of influence. Think ahead. Think China, within 20 or 30 years, surely the world's other super-power. Think Russia and its precious energy reserves. Think India. I believe all of these great emerging powers want a benign relationship with the West. But I also believe that the stronger and more appealing our world-view is, the more it is seen as based not just on power but on justice, the easier it will be for us to shape the future in which Europe and the US will no longer, economically or politically, be transcendant. Long before then, we want Moderate, Mainstream Islam to triumph over Reactionary Islam.

That is why I say this struggle is one about values. Our values are worth struggling for. They represent humanity's progress throughout the ages and at each point we have had to fight for them and defend them. As a new age beckons, it is time to fight for them again.

The Media Aims Its Missiles

This is an excellent article from The Jerusalem Post.

Large sections of the international media are not only misreporting the current conflict in Lebanon. They are actively fanning the flames.

The BBC World Service has a strong claim to be the number one villain. It has increasingly come to sound like a virtual propaganda tool for Hizbullah, and as it desperately attempts to prove that Israel is guilty of committing "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity," it has introduced a new charge - one which I have heard several times on air in recent days.

The newscaster reads out carefully selected "audience comments," and among these we are told that "Israel's attack on Lebanon" will serve as "a huge recruitment drive for al-Qaida worldwide." But if anything is going to win new recruits for bin Laden and his like, it will not be Israel's defensive actions, which are far less damaging than western TV stations have been trying to convince us, but the inflammatory and hopelessly one-sided way in which they are being reported by those very same news organizations.

While the slanted comments and interviews are bad enough, the degree of pictorial distortion is even worse. The way many TV stations worldwide are portraying it, you would think that Beirut has begun to look like Dresden and Hamburg in the aftermath of World War II air raids.

International television channels have used the same footage of Beirut over and over, showing the destruction of a few individual buildings in a manner which suggests that half the city has been razed.

A careful look at aerial satellite photos of the areas targeted by Israel in Beirut shows that certain specific buildings housing Hizbullah command centers in the city's southern suburbs have been singled out. Most of the rest of Beirut, apart from strategic sites like airport runways used to ferry Hizbullah men and weapons in and out of Lebanon, has been left pretty much untouched.

From the distorted imagery, selective witness accounts, and almost round-the-clock emphasis on casualties, you would be forgiven for thinking that the level of death and destruction in Lebanon is on a par with that in Darfur, where Arab militias are slaughtering hundreds of thousands of non-Arabs, or with the 2004 tsunami that killed half a million in Southeast Asia.
In fact Israel has taken great care to avoid killing civilians - even though this has proven extremely difficult and often tragically impossible, since members of Hizbullah, the self-styled "Party of God," have deliberately ensconced themselves in civilian homes. Nevertheless the civilian death toll has been mercifully low compared to other international conflicts in recent years.

THE BBC, which courtesy of the British tax payer is the world's biggest and most lavishly funded news organization, would of course never reveal how selective their reports are, since this might spoil their campaign to demonize Israel and those who support her. But one senior British journalist, working for another company, last week let slip how the news media allows its Mideast coverage to be distorted.

CNN "senior international correspondent" Nic Robertson admitted that his anti-Israel report from Beirut on July 18 about civilian casualties in Lebanon, was stage-managed from start to finish by Hizbullah. He revealed that his story was heavily influenced by Hizbullah's "press officer" and that Hizbullah has "very, very sophisticated and slick media operations."
When pressed a few days later about his reporting on the CNN program "Reliable Sources," Robertson acknowledged that Hizbullah militants had instructed the CNN camera team where and what to film. Hizbullah "had control of the situation," Robertson said. "They designated the places that we went to, and we certainly didn't have time to go into the houses or lift up the rubble to see what was underneath."

Robertson added that Hizbullah has "very, very good control over its areas in the south of Beirut. They deny journalists access into those areas. You don't get in there without their permission. We didn't have enough time to see if perhaps there was somebody there who was, you know, a taxi driver by day, and a Hizbullah fighter by night."

Yet "Reliable Sources," presented by Washington Post writer Howard Kurtz, is broadcast only on the American version of CNN. So CNN International viewers around the world will not have had the opportunity to learn from CNN's correspondent that the pictures they saw from Beirut were carefully selected for them by Hizbullah.

Another journalist let the cat out of the bag last week. Writing on his blog while reporting from southern Lebanon, Time magazine contributor Christopher Allbritton, casually mentioned in the middle of a posting: "To the south, along the curve of the coast, Hizbullah is launching Katyushas, but I'm loathe to say too much about them. The Party of God has a copy of every journalist's passport, and they've already hassled a number of us and threatened one."

Robertson is not the only foreign journalist to have shown viewers Hizbullah-selected footage from Beirut. NBC's Richard Engel, CBS's Elizabeth Palmer, and a host of European and other networks, were also taken around the damaged areas by Hizbullah minders. Palmer commented on her report that "Hizbullah is also determined that outsiders will only see what it wants them to see."

Palmer's honesty is helpful. But it doesn't prevent the damage being done by organizations like the BBC.

First the BBC gave the impression that Israel had flattened the greater part of Beirut. Then to follow up its lop-sided coverage, its website helpfully carried full details of the assembly points for an anti-Israel march due to take place in London, but did not give any detail for a rally in support of Israel also held in London a short time later.

THE COVERAGE of the present war by the BBC has been quite extraordinary, and even staunch BBC supporters in London seem rather embarrassed - in conversation, not on the air, unfortunately.

If the BBC were just a British problem that would be one thing, but it is not. No other station broadcasts so extensively in dozens of languages, on TV, radio and online.

Its radio service alone attracts over 163 million listeners. It pours forth its worldview in almost every language of the Middle East: Pashto, Persian, Arabic and Turkish.

It is not just that the supposed crimes of Israel are completely overplayed, but the fact that this is a two-sided war (started, of course, by Hizbullah) is all but obscured. As a result, in spite of hundreds of hours of broadcast by dozens of BBC reporters and studio anchors, you wouldn't really know that hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been living in bomb shelters for weeks now, tired, afraid, but resilient; that a grandmother and her seven-year old grandson were killed by a Katyusha during a Sabbath dinner; that several other Israeli children have died.
You wouldn't have any real understanding of what it is like to have over 2000 Iranian and Syrian rockets rain down indiscriminately on towns, villages and farms across one third of your country, aimed at killing civilians.

You wouldn't really appreciate that Hizbullah, far from being some rag-tag militia, is in effect a division in the Iranian revolutionary guards, with relatively advanced weapons (UAVs that have flown over northern Israel, extended-range artillery rockets, anti-ship cruise missiles), and that it has a global terror reach, having already killed 114 people in Argentina.

The BBC and others have carried report after report on the damaged Lebanese tourist industry, but none on the damaged Israeli one, even though at least one hotel in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee, was hit by a Hizbullah rocket. There are reports on Lebanese children who don't know where they will be going to school, but none on Israeli ones.

The relentless broadcast attacks on Israel have led to some in the print media indulging in explicit anti-Semitism.

Many have grown accustomed to left-wing papers like the Guardian allowing their Mideast coverage to spill over into something akin to anti-Semitism. For example, last month a cartoon by the Guardian's Martin Rowson depicted Stars of David being used as knuckle dusters on a bloody fist.

Now the Conservative-leaning Daily Telegraph, Britain's best-selling quality daily, and previously one of the only papers in Europe to give Israel a fair hearing, has got in on the act. The cartoon at the top of the Telegraph comment page last Saturday showed two identical scenes of devastation, exactly the same in every detail. One was labeled: "Warsaw 1943"; the other: "Tyre, 2006."

A politician had already given the cue for this horrendous libel. Conservative MP Sir Peter Tapsell told the House of Commons that British Prime Minister Tony Blair was "colluding" with US President George Bush in giving Israel the okay to wage a war crime "gravely reminiscent of the Nazi atrocity on the Jewish quarter of Warsaw."

THE PICTURE isn't entirely bleak. Some British and European politicians, on both left and right, have been supportive of Israel. So have some magazines, such as the Spectator. So have a number of individual newspaper commentators.

But meanwhile anti-Semitic coverage and cartoons are spreading across the globe. Norway's third largest paper, the Oslo daily Dagbladet, ran a cartoon comparing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to the infamous Nazi commander SS Major Amon Goeth who indiscriminately murdered Jews by firing at them from his balcony and was depicted by Ralph Fiennes in Steven Spielberg's film Schindler's List. (A month earlier Dagbladet published an article, "The Third Tower," which questioned whether Muslims were really responsible for the September 11 attacks.)

Antonio Neri Licon of Mexico's El Economista drew what appeared to be a Nazi soldier with stars of David on his uniform. The "soldier" was surrounded by eyes that he had apparently gouged out.

A cartoon in the South African Sunday Times depicted Ehud Olmert with a butchers knife covered in blood. In the leading Australian daily The Age, a cartoon showed a wine glass full of blood being drunk in a scene reminiscent of a medieval blood libel. In New Zealand, veteran cartoonist Tom Stott came up with a drawing which equated Israel with al-Qaida.

At least one leading European politician has also vented his prejudice through visual symbolism. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero wore an Arab scarf during an event at which he condemned Israel, but not Hizbullah, who he presumably thinks should not be stopped from killing Israelis.

It's entirely predictable that all this violent media distortion should lead to Jews being attacked and even murdered, as happened at a Seattle Jewish center last week.

When live Jews can't be found, dead ones are targeted. In Belgium last week, the urn that contained ashes from Auschwitz was desecrated at the Brussels memorial to the 25,411 Belgian Jews deported to Nazi death camps. It was smashed and excrement smeared over it. The silence from Belgian leaders following this desecration was deafening.

Others Jews continued to be killed in Israel itself without it being mentioned in the media abroad. Last Thursday, for example, 60-year-old Dr. Daniel Ya'akovi was murdered by the Aqsa Martyrs‚ Brigade, the terrorist group within Fatah that Yasser Arafat set up five years ago using European Union aid money. But this is far from being an exclusively Jewish issue. Some international journalists seem to find it amusing or exciting to bait the Jews. They don't understand yet that Hizbullah is part of a worldwide radical Islamist movement that has plans, and not pleasant ones, for all those - Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Jew - who don't abide by its wishes.