Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Jewish love affair with Chinese food

According to a venerable borsht-circuit gag, the Jewish civilization began in 3,000 B.C., and the Chinese civilization began in 2,000 B.C., which proves that Jews can exist without eating Chinese food. The historical accuracy may be flawed, but the joke does underscore the curious passion that American Jews have developed for the Chinese cuisine.

That passion, of course, is shared by much of the Occidental world. The distinctive savoriness and varied textures of Chinese food, its sensual appeal, and the unique cooking techniques employed in Chinese kitchens to accentuate flavors and aromas have excited the Western palate and made Chinese cooking universally popular. But nowhere is the infatuation with the Chinese cuisine more intense than in the American Jewish community.

Chinese restaurateurs recognize this phenomenon, and their establishments have proliferated in the U.S. wherever there is a sizable Jewish population. The Chinese restaurant has become a durable fixture in most Jewish neighborhoods, almost as commonplace as a kosher butcher shop. The Jewish enchantment with Chinese food has also surfaced in Israel, where Chinese restaurants now compete against falafel stands, European-style delicatessens, and other outlets of traditional Jewish cooking.

Actually, there is no single standard Jewish cuisine. Historically, Jews have borrowed the foods of the people among whom they dwell, modified in each case by the requirements of kashrut, the religious dietary laws. As a result, there are various styles of "Jewish cooking": Eastern- and Central-European Ashkenazi types such as Russian-Jewish, Hungarian-Jewish and Romanian-Jewish, plus the Mediterranean or Sephardi-Jewish style of cooking.

Chinese cooking features ingredients and techniques that are alien to each of these. For example, the quick-searing and stir-frying cooking methods perfected by the Chinese create new dimensions of taste wholly dissimilar to the potted and stewed meats and vegetables with which most Jews are familiar. The subtle but profound nuances of flavor and aroma emphasized in Chinese food, the exotic vegetables and condiments, and the preoccupation with the textural effects and color of food are virtually unknown in the Jewish kitchen.

And yet the Jew finds that the lure of the exotic is eased by the touch of the familiar in the Chinese cuisine. Most significant, the Chinese rarely combine dairy and meat products, a practice prohibited by religious Jewish dietary laws. Omnipresent pots of tea invariably grace the tables of both the Chinese and the Jews. The two cuisines favor such common dishes as chicken broth with rice or noodles, and--with the exception of the Szechuan and Hunanese styles--both have a preference for mild seasonings.

Kreplach, a triangular or square dumpling containing chopped meat and usually served in soup, which is a popular Eastern-European Jewish delicacy, is a first cousin to wontons, a Cantonese miniature dumpling used in soup or is deep-fried and eaten as a snack. The taste of stuffed cabbage, another Eastern-European Jewish favorite, resembles the array of sweet and sour dishes prepared by the Chinese. In addition, the noodles or luckshen, which figure prominently in Jewish food, have a counterpart in Chinese lo mein.

Going beyond considerations of the table, those seeking explanations for the Jewish passion for Chinese food might find special meanings in certain cultural values shared by both peoples: the strong family structure, the respect for learning, the powerful work ethic.

There are even intriguing historical links between the Chinese and the Jews. The first Jews, probably merchants from Persia, visited and settled in China around the year 1,000. Their descendants, Oriental in appearance and bearing Chinese names, continued to practice the Jewish religion. In the 13th Century, Marco Polo found several influential Jews at the court of Kubla Khan.

Four centuries later, a Jewish mandarin rebuilt a synagogue in the city of Kaifeng, which had been originally constructed hundreds of years earlier. Built like two adjacent Buddhist temples, the synagogue fell into disuse as the community disappeared during the 18th and 19th Centuries. An exquisite model of the Kaifeng synagogue now stands in Beit Hafutzot, the Museum of the Diaspora in Tel Aviv.

Although such bits of historical and sociological evidence demonstrate that there is a cultural affinity between the Chinese and Jewish peoples, it is highly unlikely that any of these factors have had a profound culinary impact. The Jewish love for Chinese food is essentially an American phenomenon. It has probably been fostered by the ease with which the intricacies of the Chinese cuisine can be adapted to religious Jewish dietary rules.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

An ode to Cheney, Rove & Libby

Recent headline in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:


The headline inspired a longtime friend of mine, Stan Balter, to write the following verse, which he has kindly contributed to my blog...

Said Rove to Libby to Cheney-um:
Saddam must have bought some uranium.
Send Joe Wilson to try
To find where and why.
We'll have a swell casus belli.

Said Libby to Rove to Dick Chen-
Ey--gad, Wilson drives me insane.
The reports from this man
Don't fit in with our plan.
They're not what the White House demands.

Said Rove to Libby to Cheney-ous:
The truth, the real facts, are extraneous.
No problem, relax.
We'll manufacture some facts,
And shout "terror." That always distracts.

Said Cheney to Libby to Rove-r:
Wilson's wife, she works under cover.
If Joe won't play our game,
Too bad for Val Plame.
We'll out her and publish her name.

Said Karl Rove to Cheney and Libby:
Who cares if we are a bit fibby?
We'll leak Val to Novak,
That columnist hack.
He'll dream up the facts that we lack.

Said Cheney: You know our agenda.
There's no one out there who'll defend her.
If we hurt CIA,
That's a small price to pay
As long as King George gets his way.

Said Rove to Libby to Cheney-ous:
I think it is highly hilarious.
She says that she'll sue us.
What harm can she do us?
No chance that the Feds will pursue us.

Said Val to Rove, Libby and Cheney:
You guys think you're really so brainy.
But our country's still free.
All the people will see
That you hurt the whole country, not me.

Shame on Karl and on Scooter and Dickie.
Your schemes are overly tricky.
Your leaks are erroneous.
Your actions felonious.
Dear friends, you're full of baloney-ous.

Monday, August 21, 2006

MEMOIR: Remembering my grandmothers

As I have written in an earlier post, I never knew my two grandfathers. I was fortunate, however, to have known my grandmothers. Both my maternal grandmother, Merkeh (or Mary) Sivin Rabinowitz, and my paternal grandmother, Gelya (or Gussie) Kuchiniak Reichek, played important roles in my early life. Both passed away in their late 80s or early 90s.

The two of them lived long enough to see me married with my own children. The ages when they died are simply estimates because neither ever revealed how old they were. For reasons of either superstitution or etiquette, the elders in my family regarded age as secret information.

I was closer to my maternal grandmother because she lived with my parents when I was a boy. I shared a bedroom with her until I was about 11 years old. I then demanded more privacy for myself and asked to move out of her room. Actually, the move resulted in less privacy because I wound up on a studio couch in our two-bedroom apartment's living room. Grandma, who had lived with my parents since their marriage, died in her very own bedroom at home.

Grandma Rabinowitz was an extremely religious woman. For much of my childhood, my mother worked. So Grandma was the family's primary housekeeper. When she wasn't doing the food shopping, cooking and cleaning our Bronx apartment, she was usually praying at home or in the synagogue around the corner or studying the Bible at home.

It was ironic for my father to wind up living with a mother-in-law who was every bit as strictly religious as his own Hasidic parents. He had left their home at the age of 18 to seek a more secular lifestyle.

My maternal grandfather died in New York City only a few years after the family's arrival in the U.S. from Czarist Russia at the turn of the last century. Grandma never remarried. Two older brothers, who had come to America many years earlier and were prosperous men's clothing manufacturers, supported her until her own children were old enough to work. My mother and her older brother and younger sister all went to work for their uncles.

To my knowledge, none of her brothers (she had two others) were religiously observant. A photo of her husband, taken shortly after his arrival here, shows him without a hat and clean-shaven, indicating that he was also not devout. Even a picture of Grandma's father, taken in Russia in the 1890s, shows him hatless, which was unusual for an Orthodox man in that era. All of which suggests that Grandma's ultra-Orthodox ways may have been a very personal matter. I always wondered whether the early death of her husband was responsible for her strictly religious lifestyle.

Despite a half-century in this country, Grandma never learned to speak English. This presented no problem because she lived in an almost ghetto-like neighborhood where everyone with whom she dealt spoke her language, Yiddish. She spoke Russian to my mother when she didn't want me to understand.

I spoke to Grandma in Yiddish until it became apparent that she understood English. So our conversations became bi-lingual. I can no longer speak Yiddish. I can understand it, but only when spoken with Grandma's Litvak accent, which characterized Jews from Lithuania, Belarus and parts of northeastern Poland.

Grandma was the unofficial matriarch of her synagogue. Unlike most of the other ladies in the congregation, she was a literate women with a vast knowledge of religious matters. On Saturday afternoons, I recall, she would remain in the synagogue after the services, surrounded by at least a dozen elderly women, reading Bible stories to them in Yiddish.

For reasons that I did not understand, I never was entrusted with my own key to our apartment. While Grandma was in the synagogue on Saturday afternoons, without her knowledge I was often playing stickball or touch football. If my parents were not at home and I wanted to get into the apartment, I would have to hide my baseball glove or other evidence of athletic activity under my jacket as I entered the synagogue to retrieve the key from Grandma.

Grandma strived to make me as religiously observant as possible. When I entered elementary school, she encouraged me to wear the abbreviated prayer shawl under my shirt that all ultra-Orthodox Jewish men wear. In the third grade, after taking off my shirt in gym class and seeing that no other boy wore the prayer shawl, I stopped wearing mine. While sharing Grandma's bedroom, I said my morning and evening prayers with her. For a couple of years after my bar-mitzvah, I donned phylacteries as I said my morning prayers while she carefully watched me put them on.

There was always a bit of a crisis in our tiny kosher kitchen if I accidentally used a dish towel, which was carefully reserved for dairy dishes, to wipe a dish on which meat was served. Despite her strenuous efforts to instill in me the religious practices that were so important to her, Grandma Rabinowitz was neither a zealot or a tyrant. She was a gentle, saint-like woman who personified the ethical and moral standards that are supposedly the underpinning of organized religion.

To do her errands, she walked up three flights to our apartment daily until shortly before her death. I cannot recall her ever visiting a doctor or being hospitalized. She had a nephew, a physician, who frequently made combination social/professional visits to check up on her.

My Grandma Reichek, although every bit as religously devout as my maternal grandmother, seemed to me to be more worldly. The reason may have been that she was once a businesswoman, often in contact with non-Jews. She had operated a vegetable oil press in Poland and a dairy store on the Lower East Side during her early years in this country.

She had separated from her husband when I was an infant. Both of them came from Hasidic families and did not meet until the night of their wedding. My grandfather was a rabbi and professional Talmudic scholar, and Grandma was the family's primary breadwinner. I doubt whether this marital division of labor was conducive to a happy marriage.

Like all Hasidic woman, my paternal grandmother wore a wig. Despite her role as a businesswoman, my father said that, as a boy, he could barely recall when she was not pregnant. She had one child when she was already a grandmother. Only four sons and one daughter survived to adulthood. I was one of her 12 grandchildren.

After their children had grown, my grandparents separated. In the mid-1930s, my grandfather moved to Jerusalem so that he could "die in the Holy Land." Grandma lived alone for several years, then moved into an apartment in the Bronx with her married daughter. But the daughter did not keep her home kosher enough to please Grandma. So Grandma moved out. Until she went into a nursing home shortly before her death, she lived alone in several tiny East Bronx apartments.

Of course, each residence was within walking distance of a synagogue. But since she moved so frequently, she never could establish the intimate relationship with a congregation that my other grandmother enjoyed. It must have been a traumatic social comedown for a woman who once had the prestige of being a "rebbetzin," or rabbi's wife, a status she possessed when still living with her husband. He was the founder and leader of what was probably one of the first Hasidic synagogues in the U.S., Beth Hasidim de Palen, at 16 Montgomery Street on New York's Lower East Side.

Every Sunday afternoon my father would faithfully visit his mother, usually with me in tow. Interestingly, every Sunday morning, my mother's brother would show up faithfully at our home to visit my maternal grandmother.

Grandma Reichek had her own ideas about medical treatment. When I was about 6 years old, I suffered a partial paralysis of one side of my face. It was probably a case of Bell's palsy. I recall my parents shuttling me from one doctor to another, none of whom could cure me. Then Grandma stepped into the case.

She instructed my parents to boil a pot full of my urine. A compress was dipped into the urine and applied to the paralyzed side of my face. It remained there for as long as I could tolerate the odor. Within days the paralysis vanished. I doubt whether Grandma ever patented her treatment.

I never got to know many relatives on my paternal grandmother's side. She had several sisters and a brother in the U.S. who probably died when I was a child. My father apparently lost contact with most of their offspring. I have never known anyone bearing Grandma's maiden name, Kuchiniak. Her one brother in this country "Americanized" the name. He was not very imaginative. He took on the name of Cohen.

When Grandma Reichek died, she was buried in a section of a Jewish cemetery in Woodbridge, N.J., established for her Gerer Hasidic sect. In accord with the sect's practice, men and women are segregated in the cemetery. But she has the privilege of being buried in a plot next to another "rebbetzin."

Friday, August 18, 2006

Who are we training the Iraqis to defend against?

Ever since I began publishing this blog in February 2005 I have argued that the invasion of Iraq was the biggest foreign policy blunder in American history. I hesitate to sound like a broken clock, but here I go again.

Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, despite the manipulated use of intelligence data that the Bush Admistration used to justify the war. Although Vice-President Cheney still insists it is so, there was no link between Iraq and Al Qaeda's 9/11 attack, and Saddam's evil regime was not exporting terrorism to foreign territory. It was too busy brutalizing its own population, particularly the Shiites and Kurds.

There is no logic to the Administration's belated objective to introduce democracy--an alien concept--to Iraq. The regional culture there is authoritarian, and what may be desirable to Americans is not necessarily what Muslim societies want. The biggest beneficiary of the Iraq invasion has been neighboring Iran, an anti-American nation that has become a major player in Iraq and a more dangerous source of Islamist terrorism.

Now Iraq is sinking further and further into chaos and violence. Last month the number of roadside bombs planted was the highest total of the war. The anti-American insurgency has continued to strengthen, and both American military and Iraqi civilian casualties are soaring.

Yet President Bush appears isolated from the real world. He and his top advisers boast about "how much progress we're making" in Iraq. They argue simplistically about the need to "stay the course," and warn against the danger of "cutting and running."

The Administration's current goal, it says, is to train and prepare the Iraqi government to defend itself. The big question is: defend itself against whom? No foreign enemy threatens Iraq.

While Washington debates whether a genuine civil war exists in Iraq, the local militias are busy battling each other, often with the involvement of the very military and police forces that we are training and equipping.

In short, the U.S. is caught in the middle. It is time for us to get out because we are weakening ourselves to fight the legitimate war against terrorism.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A tale of two CEOs

In recent years the three initials CEO have become so embedded in the American lexicon that it is no longer necessary to define what they mean. The fabulous salaries and perks, the cases of incredible mismanagement, and the scandals associated with many of them have made the CEO a household figure.

During the late 1960s through the early 1980s, I interviewed and wrote about countless chief executive officers of both giant and lesser corporations for Business Week and Forbes magazines. This is the tale of two of those CEOs. In one case, the man's wife is actually the key figure in the story. I am using pseudonyms for the people involved, and I am disguising the names of the companies, their industries, and their geographic locations.

One CEO, whom I will call Howard Thorpe, headed a highly-diversified industrial company headquartered in the southwest. I will call it Amalgamated Machinery Co. The article, which ran as a cover story in Business Week, focused on the company's aggressive acquisition campaign that had been undertaken under Thorpe's management.

Thorpe was a handsome, charismatic man who apparently possessed all the standard WASP-establishment credentials that are commonplace in upper corporate echelons.
But in my interviews with him, he painted a rags-to-riches portrait of his personal background. He told me that he came from an impoverished rural family, that his father deserted his mother and his siblings when he was a child, and that he had spent many years as a boy in an orphan asylum. He was exceedingly proud that he had succeeded despite an underprivileged and dysfunctional early life. At our last interview, Thorpe told me that he was about to be remarried in a Presbyterian church.

I dutifully recorded these facts in my article. At that time, the major newsweekly magazines rarely published writer bylines, reserving them for unique pieces like personal commentaries and book reviews. At Business Week, however, a reader could learn the name of the writer of a particular article by calling the magazine's librarian.

Shortly after the article about Amalgamated Machinery and its CEO appeared, I received a phone call from an irate woman who introduced herself as Thorpe's sister. "You insulted my father!" she shouted angrily at me. "My father never deserted our family, and Howard was never in an orphan asylum."

Defending myself, I said that this was what her brother had told me. "Oh," she responded wearily, "Howard has always had a tendency to dramatize things."

A few days later, I received another phone call about my article. The caller claimed to have known Thorpe for many years. He said the article had omitted some important background material about Amalgamated's CEO. The caller said that he had belonged to a Bnai Brith lodge with him, and that Thorpe had deserted his wife, had had cosmetic surgery on his nose, and had moved to another city after changing his name.

"Did you expect me to use such personal detail in my article?" I asked the caller. "And do you expect Business Week to publish a correction now?" No, the man said, but he explained that his information might call into question the accuracy of other facts in the article. There were no further reader challenges to my article. Shortly after, Thorpe wrote to the magazine's editor-in-chief and to me, complimenting us about the piece we had published about him and his company.

The dimensions of the other CEO's tale differ markedly from the story about Thorpe and Amalgamated Machinery Co. I will call this man Theodore Morrison. His company, which I will identify as the Paragon Corp., was a giant multinational company founded by his grandfather. It was headquartered in a small New England city.

My interest in writing about Paragon and its CEO was prompted by significant technological developments in the company's primary market that were forcing Paragon to make a drastic change in its basic corporate strategy. The company, which had no internal public relations department, rejected my request for interviews.

Paragon's external relations were handled by a prominent New York public relations firm. In previous months, the firm had been trying to interest me in writing an article about another one of its clients which, unlike Paragon, was eager for publicity. But I was unable to find anything significantly newsworthy about it to justify an article at that time.

Perhaps my ethics were questionable, but I told the PR firm's executives that I would seriously reconsider doing a piece about their publicity-eager client if they could arrange for me to interview Morrison about how Paragon was contending with the technological developments that were forcing it to revamp corporate strategy.

A few weeks later I was granted an invitation to visit Paragon's headquarters and meet the company's top brass. An executive from the PR firm, however, would have to accompany me. I had no objection, and for two days I interviewed Morrison and other key executives and toured the company's local production facilities.

Morrison was a shy and amiable man who, despite his huge wealth, lived modestly. The night before we were scheduled to return to New York, he invited me and the PR executive to his home for dinner. His wife was a strikingly beautful woman who had been born and raised in New York City. When we arrived at their home, their two small children were already asleep.

The dinner, which Mrs. Morrison had prepared, was served in the kitchen. Midway through the dinner, Morrison excused himself and left to attend an important local chamber of commerce meeting, leaving me and the PR executive alone with his wife.

Ever since our arrival in their home, Mrs. Morrison had been drinking heavily. Shortly after her husband's departure, she looked at me flirtatiously and began to complain that her husband was "not an affectionate man." She claimed that his father had deserted his mother for a younger woman and that this boyhood experience had affected Morrison's personality.

Moreover, she complained, her husband was away from home "half the time," flying to inspect Paragon's far-flung overseas factories. She was bored, she said, by their social life in their small New England city.

As she continued to pour out her personal grievances, the PR executive grew increasingly uncomfortable. His face turned red, and I could see perspiration forming on his forehead. As Mrs. Morrison was about to serve dessert, he decided that he and I should leave. He told Mrs. Morrison that we had to get a head start driving to the airport for our return to New York. He quickly headed for the door, practically dragging me with him as we said our good-byes.

The article about Morrison and Paragon's new corporate strategy was published a couple of weeks later in Business Week. It contained photos of Morrison taken by a local free-lance photographer I had hired. Shortly after the article appeared, I received a phone call from Mrs. Morrison. She called to complain that the photos of her husband were very uncomplimentary.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A response to an Israel-basher

I am impelled to respond to a comment from blog reader Tony Flaig, who severely criticizes Israel's defense against Hezbollah [see last post, "A message from an Israeli cousin"]. Mr. Flaig, who lives in Great Britain, charges that Israel is a "keen abuser of innocents" in Lebanon.

He appears to see a moral equivalency between Israel's attacks on Hezbollah, which uses civilians as human shields while deliberately firing rockets at Israeli civilians, with Israel's effort to specifically attack Hezbollah military targets. Because of Hezbollah's tactics, innocent Lebanese civilians sadly die. But while Israelis agonize and weep in grief over the tragic loss of Lebanese children and other civilians, Hezbollah and its supporters celebrate the loss of Israeli lives.

As Harvard law professor Alan M. Dershowitz writes: "When it comes to Israel, a lot of usually smart people stop thinking with their heads and start thinking with their guts. Most smart people know that when an armed criminal takes a hostage and fires from behind him, it is the criminal, not the policeman, who is guilty of murder, if the policeman, in a reasonable effort to stop the criminal from firing, accidentally kills the innocent hostage. The same should be true during wartime. But you wouldn't know it if you listened only to the singular condemnations of Israel by so many in the international community."

Mr. Flaig complains that Israel "bullies and controls its neighbors." That is an extraordinary claim for a tiny country like Israel with a population less than half the city of Cairo's, outnumbered and surrounded by more than a billion Muslims in 22 Arab countries and other Islamic states--most of whom would like to see Israel destroyed. In a perverse role reversal, Israel has become Goliath to the Islamic world's David.

I don't mean to bestow such prominence to Mr. Flaig's personal views. But his criticism reflects the increasing level of Israel-bashing in the world at large. It has been aggravated by Israel's fierce defense--regarded as "disproportionate" by Israel's kneejerk critics--against terrorism from both Hezbollah, supported by Syria and Iran, and the Palestinian Hamas militia.

On the surface, it's puzzling that Hezbollah and Iran are so obsessed with wiping out Israel. Until the current war began, Israel did not occupy any territory in Lebanon, and Iran has no territorial claims against distant Israel. At the risk of sounding jocular about a very serious matter, perhaps the Iranians resent the fact that Israel's president and its former defense minister and armed forces chief of staff, who is now the transportation minister, are both Jewish natives of Iran.

The major focus of Israel-bashing is Israel's so-called occupation of Arab territory. Mr. Flaig makes a peculiar reference to "Israel farming land that does not belong to them." Actually, virtually all the land that constituted the state of Israel when it gained independence in 1948 had been purchased from Arab feudal landowners or had belonged to the former Ottoman Turkish empire. (I remember as a boy in New York during the 1930s soliciting pennies, dimes and quarters for the Jewish National Fund to buy land for Jews in Palestine; I was proud to be awarded the Ussishkin medal--named for a Zionist pioneer leader--for collecting the most money in my Sunday school class.)

Israel acquired additional territory after becoming an independent nation only by successfully defending itself against invasion by neighboring Arab states intent on its destruction. And unlike other countries which acquired and absorbed territory in defensive wars (Russia, e.g., retaining East Prussia and converting it into a Russianized Kaliningrad), Israel has unsuccessfully offered to negotiate the return of land to the Palestinians.

In Gaza, from which Israel unilaterally withdrew last year, the Palestinians demonstrated how meaningless it could be to return land in the hopeful belief that the result might be peace. Instead of devoting themselves to job creation by bolstering their economy and rebuilding their infrastructure, the Palestinians quickly destroyed state-of-the art greenhouses, vandalized synagogues and other structures, and started launching rockets at neighboring Israeli communities.

I often think that the Arab world's primary grievance against Israel derives from sheer envy of Israeli economic achievements during its brief existence as a Jewish state. It introduced modernity in a region where much of the local society was still living in the dark ages. The Israelis drained malarial swamps, tamed the desert with advanced agricultural methods, and created a high-tech, Westernized democracy that was alien to the culture of its neighbors.

These accomplishments may have been hard for the Arabs to tolerate because traces of the philosophy of "dhimmitude" still persist in parts of the Islamic world. Until very recently, Jews--and in some cases Christians--in many Arab lands were treated as "dhimmis." They were identified as infidels who, while called "protected people," were actually treated as second-class citizens. They were subject to special taxes, barred from certain occupations, often required to wear special clothing, and exposed to other humiliating social restrictions. In Yemen, e.g., Jews were not allowed to sit on donkeys so that they would not tower over walking Arabs.

The Israel/Palestine conflict, which is at the heart of the prolonged Middle East crisis, boils down to this: If the Palestinians and their activist allies would abandon their goal of destroying Israel and would lay down their arms, there would be peace. If the Israelis, however, laid down their arms, an independent and secure Jewish state would be wiped out.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A message from an Israeli cousin

Like most people, I have been shocked and saddened by the tragic killing of innocent civilians in Lebanon. But I have also been shocked and saddened by the pommeling Israel is receiving in the arena of world opinion for defending itself in what the Israel-bashers piously claim is a "disproportionate" manner. An Israeli cousin of mine, has e-mailed me the following message. Written by an Israeli journalist, Ben Gaspit, it is the proposed text of a message that Israel's Prime Minister should deliver to explain to the world exactly what the Israelis are fighting for.....

"Ladies and gentlemen, leaders of the world, I, the Prime Minister of Israel, am speaking to you from Jerusalem in the face of the terrible pictures from Kfar Kana. Any human heart, wherever it is, must sicken and recoil at the sight of such pictures. There are no words of comfort that can mitigate the enormity of the tragedy. Still, I am looking you straight in the eye and telling you that the State of Israel will continue its military campaign iin Lebanon.

"The Israel Defense Forces will continue to attack targets from which missiles and Katyusha rockets are fired at hospitals, old age homes and kindergartens in Israel. I have instructed the security forces and the IDF to continue to hunt for the Katyusha stockpiles and launch sites from which these savages are bombarding the State of Israel.

"We will not hesitate, we will not apologize and we will not back off. If they continue to launch missiles into Israel from Kfar Kana, we will continue to bomb Kfar Kana. Today, tomorrow and the day after, there and everywhere. The children of Kfar Kana could now be sleeping peacefully in their homes unmolested, had the agents of the devil not taken over their land and turned the lives of our children into hell.

"Ladies and gentlemen, it's time you understood: the Jewish state will no longer be trampled upon. We will no longer allow anyone to exploit population centers in order to bomb our citizens. No one will be able to hide any more behind women and children in order to kill our women and children. The anarchy is over. You can condemn us, you can boycott us, you can stop visiting us and, if necessary, we will stop visiting you.

"Today I am serving as the voice of 6 million bombarded Israeli citizens who serve as the voice of 6 million murdered Jews who were melted down to dust and ashes by savages in Europe. Those responsible for these evil acts were, and are, barbarians devoid of all humanity, who set themselves one simple goal: to wipe the Jewish race off the face of the earth, as Adolph Hitler said, or to wipe the State of Israel off the map, as Mahmoud Ahmedinjad proclaims.

"And you--just as you did not take those words seriously then, you are ignoring them again now. And that, ladies and gentlemen, leaders of the world, will not happen again. Never again will we wait for bombs that never came to hit the gas chambers. Never again will we wait for salvation that never arrives. Now we have our own air force. The Jewish people are now capable of standing up to those who seek their destruction--those people will no longer be able to hide behind women and children. They will no longer be able to evade their responsibility.

"Every place from which a Katyusha is fired into the State of Israel will be a legitimate target for us to attack. This must be stated clearly and publicly, once and for all. You are welcome to judge us, to ostracize us, to boycott us and to villify us. But to kill us? Absolutely not.

"Four months ago I was elected by hundreds of thousands of citizens to the office of Prime Minister of the government of Israel, on the basis of my plan for unilaterally withdrawing from 90% of the areas of Judea and Samaria, the birthplace and cradle of the Jewish people; to end most of the occupation and to enable the Palestinian people to turn over a new leaf and to calm things down until conditions are ripe for attaining a permanent settlement between us.

"The Prime Minister who preceded me, Ariel Sharon, made a full withdrawal from the Gaza Strip back to the international border, and gave the Palestinians a chance to build a new reality for themselves. The Prime Minister who preceded him, Ehud Barak, ended the lengthy Israeli presence in Lebanon and pulled the IDF back to the international border, leaving the land of the cedars to flourish, develop and establish its democracy and its economy.

"What did the State of Israel get in exchange for all this? Did we win even one minute of quiet? Was our hand, outstretched in peace, met with a handshake of encouragement? Ehud Barak's peace initiative at Camp David let loose on us a wave of suicide bombers who smashed and blew to pieces over 1,000 citizens, men, women, and children. I don't remember you being so enraged then. Maybe that happened because we did not allow TV close-ups of the dismembered body parts of the Israeli youngsters at the Dolphinarium? Or of the shattered lives of the people butchered while celebrating the Passover seder at the Park Hotel in Netanya?

"What can you do--that's the way we are. We don't wave body parts at the camera. We grieve quietly. We do not dance on the roofs at the sight of the bodies of our enemy's children. We express genuine sorrow and regret. That is the monstrous behavior of our enemies.

"And Ariel Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza. What did it get us? A barrage of Kassem missiles fired at peaceful settlements and the kidnapping of soldiers. Then too, I don't recall you reacting with such alarm. And for six years, the withdrawal from Lebanon has drawn the vituperation and crimes of a dangerous, extremist Iranian agent, who took over an entire country in the name of religious fanaticism and is trying to take Israel hostage on his way to Jerusalem--and from there to Paris and London.

"An enormous terrorist infrastructure has been established by Iran on our border, threatening our citizens, growing stronger before our very eyes, awaiting the moment when the land of the Ayatollahs becomes a nuclear power in order to bring us to our knees. And make no mistake--we won't go down alone. You, the leaders of the free and enlightened world, will go down along with us.

"So today, here and now, I am putting an end to this parade of hypocrisy. I don't recall such a wave of reaction in the face of the 100 citizens killed every single day in Iraq. Shiites kill Sunnis, Sunnis kill Shiites, and all of them kill Americans. And I am hard pressed to recall a similar reaction when the Russians destroyed entire villages and burned down large cities in order to repress the revolt in Chechnya. And when NATO bombed Kosovo [and Bosnia] for almost three months and crushed the civilian population. Then you also kept silent.

"What is it about us, the Jews, the minority, the persecuted, that arouses this cosmic sense of justice in you? What do we have that all the others don't?

"In a loud clear voice, looking you straight in the eye, I stand before you openly and I will not apologize. I will not capitulate. I will not whine. This is a battle for our freedom, for our humanity. For the right to lead normal lives within our recognized, legitimate borders. It is also your battle. I pray and I believe that now you will understand that. Because if you don't, you may regret it later, when it's too late."

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