Saturday, November 29, 2014

Facebook Privacy Changes

Given Facebook's change in guidelines on January 1, 2015, I declare that from this day forward any time I use a web site copiously, ignorantly, and for free, I agree to suffering the consequences until the unforeseeable future when I shall stop using said web site. If these posts were personal property, then I should keep them as such instead of constantly branding my virtual image to the world. However, it's too much fun and it's my only social outlet. (just kidding, not really #verylonely) Not to mention, this round of changes actually enhances my so-called privacy, not reduces it. However, if Mark is using my images for his ads, I hope he at least will Waze me the addresses of the billboards. Oh, right, Google bought Waze after it bought Blogger, three more free products I use that exploit my personal information.

I guess I need this little Waze guy to protect me.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Unreciprocated Rainbow

Today on my way to work, as a car was cutting me off, I saw a stunning rainbow. The rainbow followed me to school and was a magnificent site through the window of the Humanities teacher’s office that also serves as the school’s second-floor bomb shelter.  Sitting at this desk last week, I checked my Twitter account to learn of the terror attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem that left four dead as they said their morning prayers.

Meanwhile, Arabs in Israel are also being attacked, but by right wing Jewish nationalists. Over the weekend, some set fire to a home in an Arab village where two women were sleeping, but escaped.

The bad behavior on both sides seems to never cease. Eight and nine year old Palestinians in Jerusalem are being encouraged by their parents to skip school and throw stones and incendiary devices at Israeli police and soldiers.

Then looking at news from the United States, I was overcome with the horror of the UVA rape cases reported by Rolling Stone. Not to mention, the Congress’s desire to de-science the EPA. Meanwhile, I wonder if the United States was too naive in trying to make a nuclear deal with the Iranians.


I remember at Jewish camp when I was nine or ten years old, we discussed the following: who will bring Messianic peace: God or people?  There was no one answer, but the idea (it was a Reform camp) was that our actions change the world and God might chip in, too. This was a bit different from the Orthodox Jewish school, I attended that taught God judges our acts of loving kindness, but has the final say on all matters.

As I’ve gotten older, I have found myself to be less religious. Perhaps that will change again later in my life. However, because of the longevity of today’s rainbow, I have been  contemplating the Biblical food story. After Noah spends 40 days on the ark, God promises him to never destroy the world again. The rainbow is a symbol of that covenant.

But now, 20 minutes into writing this, the rainbow has disappeared. And I’m wondering if the story would have had a better ending had Noah promised God the same. Instead, he goes off to plant vineyard, presumably to forget his time on the ark.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Fox News Panelists, Anchors and Experts need to stand up to racism, bigotry, sexism and slander

In our 24 news hour culture which promotes vile, so-called-discourse as a means of discussing controversial topics, there are those who are equally as culpable as the propagators of misinformation protected as expert opinion: the bystanders.

The bystanders are the other experts, panelists, or anchors who do nothing to challenge the opinions of their dangerous and inflammatory peers, but cheer them, remain silent, or offer meek retorts instead of speaking out against statements that are just plain wrong.

 I am going to provide three example of this, but it happens just about everyday where talk over substance is the mode of operation.

On an August episode of “Out Numbered,” the hosts were talking about congressional opposition to First Lady Michelle Obama’s nutritional standards in schools. One of the panelist, Fox’s medical expert whose name I don’t want to use because he has earned undeserved notoriety from this exchange:

 “What is (Michelle Obama) eating?” he asked. “She needs to drop a few."
 “You did not just say that!” co-host Harris Faulkner said while the other women had their mouths drop open.
“We’re taking nutritional advice from who?” the doctor opined. “Let’s be honest. There’s not Frenchs fries? That’s all kale and carrots? I don’t buy it.”

Then they continued on to other pressing matters.

Harris might deserve 1/8th of a point for at least saying something, but it was not nearly forcefully enough especially given that it is her show, and what is wrong with her co-hosts? Does the cat have their tongues? Even Harris’s meek response should have been replaced with a more resounding one, calling out the doctor (who is a psychiatrist, not a nutrition expert) for his slander of the first lady. By not doing so, she might as well have endorsed his views.

Because of the controversy of the segment, they invited back the good doctor and at least, thank God, stood up for themselves when he told the four women that in addition to Michelle Obama, they needed to lose a few pounds.

"I'll tell you what the bottom line is," co-host Sandra Smith said. "In future appearances, maybe think about what you're going to say before you say it."

"It thought about it this time!" the Good Doctor insisted. "Listen if I came here on the couch and had a drink and you smelled it on my breath, wouldn't you say, 'Hey, … what's going on?'"

"I wish you were drinking now because that would explain this crazy behavior," co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle lamented. "Hell, no, you didn't just tell a Puerto Rican woman she needs to lose five pounds."

Perhaps you are thinking, who cares, it’s just about the First Lady’s weight? However, this perhaps minor issue is one example, but there are many more. This brings me to another Fox News frequent contributor who I also won’t name, because he doesn’t deserve the praise he’s received from fascists from the following exchange on Fox’s “Cashin In.”

The topic at hand was ISIS and American Muslims. The contributor who will be referred to now as Miss Piggy (sorry Miss Piggy!) said:

“We should have been profiling on September 12, 2001. Let’s take a trip down memory lane here: The last war this country won, we put Japanese-Americans in internment camps. We dropped nuclear bombs on residential city centers. So, yes, profiling would be at least a good start. It’s not on skin color, however, it’s on ideology: Muslim, Islamists, jihadist. That’s a good start but it’s only a start. We need to stop giving Korans to Gitmo prisoners, we need to stop having Ramadan and Iftar celebrations in the White House. We need to stop saying the enemy is not Islamic. They are.”

The Japanese Internment is considered to be, next to murdering the Native American populations and slavery, the third worst thing the American government has ever done. The U.S. government apologized for interning the Japanese. It was horrible.

Now Miss Piggy is a financial analyst. Why is he commenting on international affairs? Because Fox News asks him to, that’s why. But what’s most troubling about Miss Piggy’s comments is that no one challenged them. The show has a host, Eric Bolling, and two other panelists who seemed to think was he said was perfectly fine. Miss Piggy did end up giving the definition of a half-hearted apology a week later. However, the panelists and Bolling never said a word.

How amazing would it be if Bolling had responded to the apology, "Thanks Miss Piggy. And I apologize to our viewers for not pointing out that your comment was inappropriate, callous, and had no added value when discussing ISIS."

Perhaps Bolling’s lack of response is no surprise giving his own idiotic “Boobs on the Ground” comment made about Major Mariam Al Mansouri, the UAE’s first female fighter pilot who led its airstrikes against ISIS at the end of September. Bolling also apologized, twice in fact, for his sexist comments crediting his wife and US female military members for helping him see the light. Who didn’t say much of anything: the other four panelists sitting at the table including the female reporter who so proudly reported on Major Mansouri.

I'm going to use cable news rhetoric now: To the bystander panelists and reporters, you are a joke. Perhaps journalism is mostly dead anyways on cable news channels, but if it’s not, you are hammering the nail in its coffin by not challenging slander, racism, and sexism on your shows. How do you look in the mirror every day? I guess it’s the pay check that helps you, because it’s certainly not credibility that’s getting you out of bed.

You know it’s a sad day in broadcast journalist when Ben Affleck is the star panelist from the past few months, calling out Sam Harris and Bill Maher for their “Islam is the problem” statements on Live with Bill Mauer. While the show is partially scripted comedy, like the Daily Show, Colbert Report, and the John Oliver Show, the writers and hosts are often more informed about the issues and appropriately reactive to them than many of the panelists and anchors of the  Fox News (?) Channel.

Here’s the exchange:  

Maher: But you're saying the idea that someone should be killed if they leave the Islamic religion is just a few bad apples? 

Affleck: The people who would actually believe in that you murder someone if they leave Islam is not the majority of Muslims at all...

Thank you Mr. Affleck for standing up to the host and his sidekick. Perhaps you could do a training at Fox News in between promoting Gone Girl and Batman.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Response to David Harris Gershon's "For a Moral World to exist, Israel must kill innocent Palestinians"

David, I just wanted to include this in the comments section, but the comments section of your article was closed.  I encourage everyone to read the article. It's very thoughtful and well written. David makes excellent points. My takeaway from it is that there is really never a moral war when civilians are killed. 

But there are details of your article that I just couldn't get on board with 100 percent. I'm having trouble getting on board with anything, honestly. I find myself responding emotionally to everything and very stressed about teaching my course "Middle East History" to Jews, Muslims, Bahai, Christians, Hindus from all over the world first semester. 

So, I turned to my Israeli husband, who I would describe as amazingly smart, thoughtful, liberal and perhaps most importantly, reasonable. I interviewed him about your article. He had read it before I did, not knowing it was you who wrote it.

This is written in the spirit of conversation and friendship, not as an attack on your ideas. I also don't agree with everything my husband says in this interview, but he makes good points. My thoughts are in red. 

I hope one day that we can all get together and watch The Daily Show. We've watched the clip from yesterday 10 times.
Air Strike after Unity Government was Announced

They objected to the unity government between Hamas and Fatah, but my husband doesn’t believe that the air strike you are referring to was because of that. “The Air Force attacks all the time in response to terrorist movements or retaliation to rocket fire. We hear about two rockets fired at S'derot and no one even thinks about it, but the military responds to it or movements of arms on the ground.”

Me: I'm not so sure. I just don't know. 

The Kidnapping and the West Bank Search

They suspected they were dead; they didn’t know. Was it a wide scope operation at least in part to behead Hamas in the West Bank? Yes, but that’s because they kidnapped children. Rogue criminals is NOT TRUE. The two suspects are known Hamas activists who have served time in Israeli jails.

They weren’t pillaging and raping, they were getting intelligence. 

Me: Arresting people without due process is problematic....I also don't think they knew for sure that they were dead, but I think they probably assumed that they were dead. Dead or alive, the bodies are deemed sacred, and their recovery was also important. Also, Netanyahu should know how sacred words are given the role of words and the assassination of Rabin. His language before and after the funeral was inflammatory. 


The blockade of Gaza isn’t a collective punishment. it's to punish Hamas. In 2007 Hamas had a coup d'├ętat where they murdered and expelled the Fatah officials and formed another party, essentially seceding from the PA which is the elected head of the Palestinians (who Israel negotiates with). The head of the PA is the president. Israel started blockading because Hamas is a terrorist organization. If there is no blockade you will have more rockets from Iran and Syria, and more tunnels. How do you ensure no arms shipments if there is no blockade? 

Me: I agree with him, but I think they should ease it as much as possible, to the fullest extent, so that there are no restrictions on civilian supplies. 

Death of Civilians

Civilian people die in Gaza. How many civilians died in WWII, Afghanistan and Iraq? War has civilian casualties. As an IDF soldier, we don’t try to kill civilians, we try to minimize civilian casualties. 

Me: I agree with him, but I don't think when so many civilians are killed, that Israel has the moral high ground. I just don't think war and morality are usually ever synonymous. Israel's justification, if there is any, is based on sovereignty, not morality.

Goals of the Operation

I don’t know if the best policy is to keep the operation going, because it would be seen as a giveaway to Hamas to stop now. If they objectives are to deal with the tunnels, deal with the tunnels and get out. 

Me: This ground operation will do little except reset the cycle of violence and buy, maybe at most, another five years. 

Peace with Hamas?

I don’t believe in conquering Gaza and overthrowing Hamas. I hope the unity government would provide a return to a peace process. But, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Hamas is a Islamic, Jihadist movement that wants every piece of land that we live on. I doubt all of the sudden Hamas will say that the land is not Waqf (as to article 11 of the Hamas charter) and that Jews can live on it.

My hope is that the Palestinians will relegate Hamas to an organization like the Klan.

I and a lot of other Israelis don’t think the Palestinians are always wrong and Israel is always right. But Hamas is not dissimilar from the same people who run Isis or Al Quaeda or all these other Sunni Jihadist organizations. Once they decided in 2007 (Hamas) to take Gaza by force, they have to take responsibility for the people there and how their actions affect them.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Educational Resources on Arab-Israeli Conflict, Middle East

If you are looking for resources on the Arab-Israeli conflict or the Middle East in general, please see below.

1. This is a very recent poll of Palestinians and their views on politics, religion and economy.  

2. This is a very recent poll asking people from different countries what they think the likelihood is of a two-state solution.
Mounting Pessimism about Two-State Israeli-Palestinian Solution
3. Another poll
How support in Muslim countries for suicide bombing against civilians has changed over time

4. Another poll
Hamas viewed negatively in countries with big Muslim populations, even Palestinian territories

5. Another poll
Concerns about Islamic extremism on the rise in the Middle East

6. Good, cogent explanation of history of Sunni-Shia split 

7. Forty maps that explain the Middle East 

The resources below are on the longer side. 

7. Have you ever heard that the Oslo Accords are to blame for everything? This is a nuanced explanation of the failures of Oslo that isn't filled with vitriolic rhetoric. I used this in my International Relations Class. (PDF)
Liberalism and the Collapse of the Oslo Peace Process in the Middle East by Jonathan Rynhold

8. I wish every single person in the world would read this book. It is read as part of our Middle East Studies Curriculum. It is the Palestinian and Jewish narratives of Israel/Palestine written by Israelis and Palestinians respectively. (BOOK)
 Side by Side: Parallel Histories of the Arab-Israeli conflict 

9. The following book is the best resource on the Middle East out there. I've been using it with students of all ages for 12 years. (BOOK)
The Middle East published by Congressional Quarterly

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Selfies and Death Camps

Good evening!

I've had an article published in eJewish Philanthropy about the role of the educator on trips to Poland.

Click here to read it. Let me know what you think!

I've published a few articles there. Take a look if you are interested. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Bamba Challenge

It is 90 minutes before I will go pick up my almost 18-month-old from day care and I’m a bit stressed.  Or maybe stressed is too strong of a word, but a little tense. Every day after day care I take her to a park. I bring with me a sippy cup of water, a couple of rice cakes, and a cut-up apple, in case she gets hungry

At 5 p.m., almost every kid in Israel is at the park. It’s one good thing about living here: children rule the world and out-door play spaces are a priority. Within a half-mile radius, there are at least four huge parks, one in front of my building. But the best park is by her day care. It has the perfect playground equipment for her age and it also has some items that challenge her.

Here is what I am anticipating:

I will take her out of the stroller, she will run to go play, and this all goes well until I hear a pop and the smell of peanut butter. I will look at Maya, she will be looking at the bag of Bamba, and she will run to it, because she wants some.

Bamba, for those unfamiliar, is Israeli Cheetos but peanut butter flavored. It has been the staple of Israel children since ancient times, okay not ancient times, but the feeling among many Israeli parents is “Take away my Bamba, take away my freedom.”
My nemesis: the Bamba baby.

The eating of Bamba is seen even to represent the differences in Israeli and American society. The educational organization where I used to work used to say: When an American opens a bag of chips, they only open it to take one chip at a time and then to save some for later. When an Israeli opens a bag of chips or Bamba, they open it widely so everyone can have some.  Hence, Israelis are more communal.

And although for kids and teenagers, that is totally true, but for toddlers, it’s a bit different. First of all, I don’t know anyone else at the park. The second they hear me speak English to Maya, I am a foreigner to them. So, I’m not really comfortable with Maya grabbing Bamba from some other kid’s bag that she doesn’t know. Does the kid’s parent want Maya taking one? And let’s face it, who can just have one Cheeto? In the end, Maya will want more than one piece of Bamba and she doesn’t understand why that’s impolite, and one is all that she can have.  

And then all hell breaks loose. Yesterday, after moving her away from the Bamba, she had the mother of all tantrums. I ended up carrying her home from the park for a half-mile. Worse, she was hysterical and threw up the healthy snack I had given her.

So the obvious solution would be to just say screw it, and bring Bamba to the park today or not take her to the park.

I don’t want to not take her to the park. She goes to bed at 8:15, and if we come home at 5:15, she won’t have very much activity for three hours.  She needs the park. 

And about the Bamba. Bamba does have some nutritional value, but its ingredients are really not healthy and it has a lot of the "bad" fat in it. I’m not a crazy person about what my daughter eats. I know she eats Bamba sometimes at daycare, and I don’t flip out about it. Often times, I pick her up from day care and she has a cookie hanging from her mouth. I just choose to give her healthy snacks and meals, which by the way, she likes.

Because of my own difficult, lifetime struggles with food, I read a book called Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense by Ellyn Satter. It has really helped me figure out how to feed Maya nutritionally without being obsessive or overly indulgent.

Dinner tonight; chicken breast, carrots, squash and sweet potatoes.

I just want her to be healthy.  

I just want her to be happy.  

We’ll see what today brings.

Hopefully it will not be Bambastic.