Saturday, November 25, 2006

I have had no interest in blogging lately but not for lack of anything to say. I'm actually bursting with thoughts on a variety of topics. But they all seem inconsequential in the light of a number of not unrelated circumstances. The Iranians will soon have nuclear warheads pointed in our direction and it's quite clear that nobody is going to do anything about it, including us.

The Europeans are awash in nihilism: they have no sense of purpose, no will to fight, no will to have children. They have subordinated their national identities to a soulless mega-bureaucracy that enforces arbitrary standards on the diameter of toilet bowls and such. They want the Jews dead.

And what are the Jews up to? We are descending into barbarism. The gay parade and some of the reactions to it; ugly violence within Satmar, Ponevezh, Lubavitch; the humiliation of the dispossessed of Gush Katif; the abandonment of the city of Sderot to the mercies of Hamas rockets with no reaction; a justice system that gets more brazenly corrupt from day to day; a government run by spinmeisters.

All these phenomena were set into motion long ago. Europe self-destructed in World War II. National identities never recovered. Instead most European countries turned into bland secular welfare states infantilized by their dependence on the United States for security. They are united only by their contempt for any people that has retained any sense of purpose, decency and identity.

And all the problems of the Jews listed above point to one thing: a lack of leadership. This too has its roots in Europe's self-destruction. If you want to know where today's Jewish religious, moral and political leaders are, you need look no further than right here (warning: graphic).

It is taking time but we will recover. Europe won't.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Amnon Rubinstein's interview in the Jerusalem Post yesterday was astonishing. He issued as sweeping a condemnation of the police and prosecution as one could hope to get from someone in his position. Rubinstein is no right-wing hothead; he is a level-headed liberal who has been a Minister and a law school dean. If he is saying this stuff, he knows a lot more than he is letting on.

The background is that of the last six Justice Ministers, Sheetrit and Hanegbi were under investigation during their entire tenure (and hence scared of the very people they were supposedly in charge of) and Yaakov Neeman and Haim Ramon were forced out of office on trumped-up charges the moment they made a few independent noises. Only Yossi Beilin and Tomi Lapid were spared the wrath of their underlings and it isn't hard to imagine why.

Here is what is known so far about the most recent case, the dumping of Haim Ramon:

-Ramon was reconsidering whether to appoint Dorit Beinish as Chief Justice and was planning to turn some of the discussions of the Judicial Appointments committee into public hearings.
- The case against Ramon rests in large part on hearsay testimony from Gad Shamni and Shula Zaken, two people extremely close to Olmert. Zaken's phone, in Olmert's office, was bugged by police, presumably with her agreement (her agreement has not been confirmed). The information so obtained was not disclosed to Ramon's lawyers, as it should have been by law.
-Miri Golan, formerly head of the National Fraud Squad of the Israeli Police, coerced the alleged victim into testifying, telling her falsely that she had a legal obligation to do so. Golan has been accused of being deeply involved in the cover-up of an earlier major scandal.
-The indictment against Ramon was brought just in time to get him out of the Justice Ministry before Beinish's appointment was to come up. The system never works that quickly, especially in high profile cases such as this.
-As soon as Meir Sheetrit took over for Ramon, he announced that Beinish would be appointed Chief Justice and that all the discussions of the Judicial Appointments committee would remain secret.

Plenty of dirt will no doubt still come out. In the meantime here is what Rubinstein had to say:

The ongoing trial of former justice minister Haim Ramon for alleged sexual misconduct is an example of blatant and systematic "abuse of authority" by the State Attorney's Office that calls into question the very trustworthiness of Israel's legal system, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya president Amnon Rubinstein told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

"To my knowledge, [the case] marks the first time the State Attorney's Office has lied to attorneys," Rubinstein said, referring to the office's false claim early in the investigation that it had not carried out secret wiretaps.

Not only was the false claim itself a criminal act, according to Rubinstein, but the way prosecutors obtained "testimony from the plaintiff has a criminal aspect to it. They [reportedly] told [the plaintiff], 'If you don't lodge a complaint, there will be a trial held against you.' This had no basis in reality! It's an abuse of authority."

The final result, Rubinstein said, was the "expulsion of an Israeli justice minister. And," he added, "it's the second time. The first was [Yaakov] Neeman."

In 1996, Neeman was charged with submitting a perjured court affidavit relating to witness Martin Brown in the Aryeh Deri case. The prosecutors never so much as interviewed Brown, and all that was wrong with Neeman's document was a date - an error that could result from a mere typo.

The charges were summarily and ignominiously tossed out of court, Neeman was unable to reassume his office.

Rubinstein, who is perhaps the foremost authority on Israeli constitutional law, said the consequences of such conduct on the part of the highest law-enforcement authorities in the country were devastating to the proper functioning of the state.

"People are too frightened to even speak about this," he said. "Over the past 20 years, every single prime minister has been the target of investigation... and despite all the noise from the State Attorney's Office, there wasn't a single conviction. You call in all these prime ministers for investigation, and the investigation is publicized all over the world, and there are no [time] limits to these investigations."

One example was "the investigation of [former prime minister] Bibi [Netanyahu]" in the Amedi affair, he said. "As an MK, I asked what crime [Netanyahu] was suspected of committing. I asked, and nobody could answer it. What was the crime with Amedi, that he hired someone he knew when he was prime minister to transport furniture? What's wrong with that? I'm glad I defended him then, even though I wasn't in his political camp."

So dysfunctional was the behavior of the State Attorney's Office in the Ramon affair, Rubinstein said, that the entire legal system must be reexamined to ensure that such conduct does not recur. "This is abuse of power," he declared, quoting historian Lord Acton's maxim that "absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Rubinstein gave three recommendations to end the systematic "abuse" he said was evidenced in the Ramon affair.

"First, the trial against Haim Ramon must be ended." For Rubinstein, the trial gives the impression that "it's a political witch-hunt," and that "Israel is an insane asylum: While witch-hunts aren't conducted by politicians against government officials, as in some backward countries, they are conducted by government officials against politicians!

"Second," he continued, "there must be an investigation of the State Attorney's Office and the police." Such an investigation could not be conducted by any existing branch of the law-enforcement system, including the Police Investigations Department in the Justice Ministry, he said.

"We need a special prosecutor, as in the United States. When you can't trust the system, you have to bring someone in from the outside. The government should establish this specially for this case," he said.

Rubinstein's third recommendation is for the "establishment of a committee of legal experts to reexamine the entire judicial system." Many problematic aspects of the system had to be reviewed, such as "an attorney-general who is [also] the prosecutor-general, the legal adviser to the government, oversees the State Attorney's Office and gives instructions to the police."

While he believes Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz is an "honest and wise" man, the nature of his office "has to be examined."

So wary is Rubinstein of interference by law-enforcement authorities in such reforms that he even suggested bringing in a legal expert from abroad to oversee the committee, since only a foreigner would be immune to police investigation.After all, "The government is frightened of the State Attorney's Office, and even of its own shadow," he said.

Rubinstein also proposed three reforms that could be implemented immediately.

"For all criminal cases, I would have the trial begin only after a hearing is held for the defendant," he said, repeating a recommendation he unsuccessfully tried to pass as a legislator. It was rejected following Finance Ministry reservations over the cost of the measure.

"More importantly," he said, "I would make leaking the details of an investigation to the media a criminal offense."

And finally, Rubinstein recommended "limiting the length of an investigation, both the questioning at the police station during the day and the overall length of a secret investigation. That way there won't be a situation in which, for his kiss, Haim Ramon is investigated in the international spotlight for seven hours at the police station; or [Minister for Strategic Affairs Avigdor] Lieberman being investigated for seven years without even knowing when it will end."

Those elements of Israel's legal system that were turning so patently abusive, Rubinstein said, were "all Israeli inventions. The Israeli legal system created things that don't exist anywhere else in the world."

For example, "In the entire world, there are no indictable offenses that don't get a hearing. In the United States there's a grand jury; in England a committing magistrate; in France a judge investigator," he said. Only in Israel, "One person decides, and one more sends to prison."

While he firmly believes Israel is blessed with "very high-quality" judges, Rubinstein's comparison of Israel's law-enforcement agencies with those abroad has convinced him that "if Israel were to join the European Union, the European Court for Human Rights would cancel a large portion of Israel's criminal law."

"We were always proud of our judicial system. In the past few years, however, I'm not proud of it."

Friday, November 03, 2006

Some studies show they could very well be 10% of the population.

Yet they cannot express their true feelings publicly because a powerful establishment enforces a rigid orthodoxy.

If they were to march under the banner of their authentic identities it would provoke horrible violence.

It is a testament to the weakness of Israeli democracy that even rational public discussion of the topic is suppressed.

None are so marginalized in Israel as those who believe.....

....that Rabin's political legacy is a blight and that the circumstances of his murder have never been fully explained.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Myths are important. As part of a proper Jewish education, children should be taught myths as history. An early belief in myths as literal truth will frame human history for them in a way that will stay with them forever. They will be better people and better Jews for it.

At some point a person should achieve sufficient intellectual maturity to recognize myths as, well, myths. If a person has been properly socialized from an early enough age, the moral impact of these myths will not diminish. If a person's intellectual development is accorded the proper respect by those in positions of authority, this awakening need not be traumatic.

Unfortunately, things don't always work out that well. The idiots who never quite get it seem to be attracted to chinukh. And the half-wits who think they deserve a Nobel Prize for figuring it out seem to have a compulsion to ruin myths for everyone else.

Smooth transitions to more mature intellectual attitudes about cherished childhood beliefs are difficult enough as it is. But when the idiots and the half-wits egg each other into an arms race there's no hope at all.