Haggai's Place

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Your humble narrator is...
...a research analyst at a think tank in the Washington DC area. Born in Israel, raised in Kentucky, movie fanatic and sports nut.
My first-hand account of the Palestinian divestment conference at the U. of Michigan

:: Saturday, December 14, 2002 ::

Curse you, Spartans
Kentucky loses its first big home game of the season, 71-67 to Michigan State. Shooting a lousy 10 of 18 on free throws certainly doesn't help in a close game. The Cats will have to play a lot better to have any chance in their next game, a week from now against top-10 Indiana.
10:30 PM
This is one of the stranger search requests that this site has turned up on:

Google search: pampers kids bedwetting 1994

And I'm number one! Why the 1994 at the end? I certainly hope that anyone who wore Pampers and wet his or her bed in 1994 isn't still engaged in either of those activities eight years later.
1:19 PM
:: Friday, December 13, 2002 ::
Syria: It's OK when Israelis are attacked
Somewhat surprisingly, the UN Security Council finally got around to condemning the terrorist attacks in Kenya of a couple of weeks back that were directed against an Israeli hotel and airliner. Not surprisingly, the vote was 14-1 with Syria voting against it:
Syria's UN Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe said his government condemned the Kenyan attack but could not support the resolution "because it cannot accept the mention of Israel several times" when innocent Palestinian civilians are dying as a result of Israeli attacks.
By the way, Syria is a member of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee.
10:52 PM
Fun with competing flyers
Being a big college campus, the U. of Michigan has a lot of signs and flyers up that are protesting the potential war with Iraq. I saw a couple of flyers today that, on second look, are in opposition to the usual ones:
NO WAR IN IRAQ--Long Live Ethnic Cleansing

WAR IS NEVER A SOLUTION--Singing Kumbaya Would Have Stopped The Nazis
Nicely done.
3:23 PM
:: Thursday, December 12, 2002 ::
Tough, but not as hard as it looks
Here's a good logic puzzle I came across recently:
A prison warden meets with 23 prisoners when they arrive. He tells them:

You may meet together today and plan a strategy, but after today you will be in isolated cells and have no communication with one another.

There is in this prison a "switch room" which contains two light switches, labelled "A" and "B", each of which can be in the "on" or "off" position. I am not telling you their present positions. The switches are not connected to any appliance. After today, from time to time, whenever I feel so inclined, I will select one prisoner at random and escort him to the "switch room", and this prisoner will select one of the two switches and reverse its position (e.g. if it was "on", he will turn it "off"); the prisoner will then be led back to his cell. Nobody else will ever enter the "switch room".

Each prisoner will visit the switch room aribtrarily often. That is, for any N it is true that eventually each of you will visit the switch room at least N times.

At any time, any of you may declare to me: "We have all visited the switch room." If it is true (each of the 23 prisoners has visited the switch room at least once), then you will all be set free. If it is false (someone has not yet visited the switch room), you will all remain here forever, with no chance of parole.

Devise for the prisoners a strategy which will guarantee their release.
I read about this problem elsewhere and then saw it posted on an IBM website which posts monthly problems, usually of a very mathematical flavor, but this one is just logic. I didn't manage to figure it out before caving in and looking at the solution. My problem, not atypical for a mathematician, was that I made it way too complicated. If you want to figure it out before looking at the answer, here are a couple of hints that I think would have pointed me in the right direction:

(1) Not every prisoner needs to know that they've all visited the room--if only one of them knows, that's good enough.

(2) The number of prisoners in the problem is chosen arbitrarily. The solution can work for any number of prisoners, not just 23.
6:26 PM
:: Wednesday, December 11, 2002 ::
There's only one Keith Bogans
Another adaptation of a soccer chant, this one for a player who has a really good game. Kentucky's senior guard led the way as the Cats pummelled Tulane by 16 points in the Green Wave's own New Orleans neighborhood. Bogans is on his way to a great year, and I'm happy that he's put his game back together after a lousy season last year.
6:02 PM
:: Tuesday, December 10, 2002 ::
Topical commentary from both sides
A great Middle East website that I check weekly is bitterlemons, which deals with a conflict- related topic each week with articles from two Israelis and two Palestinians. It's run by Yossi Alpher, a former Mossad official, diplomat and think-tank director, and Ghassan Khatib, a Palestinian politician and activist. They both post every week (with occasional holidays off, like this week for the end of Ramadan), and they also get another person on each side to post. Alpher is a really sharp analyst, and Khatib is, well, a Palestinian activist. This week's edition is about "what the other side doesn't understand." Alpher points out that:
Some of the difficulties go back to Arab/Palestinian misinterpretation and abuse of international norms and resolutions beginning many years ago. Dwelling upon them might seem like pointless quibbling if it were not the Palestinians who constantly insist on the principle of "international legitimacy." Here are some of the more obvious examples:

--UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947, which the Palestine Liberation Organization recognized in 1988, creates "independent Arab and Jewish states" in mandatory Palestine. This is the most fundamental "international legitimacy" of all. Yet most Palestinians, indeed most Arabs, increasingly including Israeli Palestinians, acknowledge 181 while implicitly or explicitly rejecting the notion that Israel is a legitimate Jewish state and that there is a Jewish people.
--UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948, which the Arabs voted against, does not establish a "right of return" of 1948 refugees. Yet it is cited by Palestinians as the source of that right, which in turn implies the delegitimizing of Israel as a Jewish state.
--UN Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967 mandates an Israeli withdrawal from "territories" (in the binding English version) and not "the territories." Yet Palestinians cite 242 as justification for demanding Israel's withdrawal to the 1967 lines, and insist on adding the definite article.
--Those 1967 lines separating Israel from the West Bank and Gaza are armistice lines, not international borders. They are substantively different from Israel's international borders with Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. This too is relevant for the nature of Israeli withdrawal.

It is of course legitimate for the Palestinians to demand withdrawal to the 1967 borders--but not under false pretenses...

A majority of Israelis, this writer included, oppose many of the settlements and call for their removal, but this does not mean that Israelis sanction attacks against settlers. When Palestinian Authority Interior Minister Hani al-Hassan states (Haaretz, 29 October 2002) that "the settlers cannot be considered civilians" he is ideologically not far from the spokesmen of the Islamist organizations who argue that Israel is a militarized society in which all Jews, including women and children, are fair game. At least the Islamists are not trying to persuade Israelis of the justice of their cause; but al-Hassan, who sends me a Rosh HaShana card every year, presumably is. Hence he, and those who think like him, must be put on notice that their concept of who is and is not an Israeli civilian is unacceptable to all Israelis.
I have quite a bit of trouble making sense out of this argument that Khatib attempts to make:
From a Palestinian perspective, the results of the Camp David negotiations and the subsequent exchange of positions provide an ideal example of Israeli misunderstanding or distortion of the Palestinian position. As was to be expected, the refugee problem was one of the issues that did not see significant progress in those talks. To be more specific, while the Israeli side continued its well-known insistence on refusing to accept the right of return and or the actual return of any refugees, Palestinians insisted that the right of return and an actual return (regardless of exact numbers) be part of the different components of a solution of the refugee problem.

But the subsequent impression among Israeli politicians and the public, however, was entirely skewed. They believed that the deadlock resulted simply because Palestinians were "not serious" in considering the end of occupation the end of the conflict. Israelis thought that after Israel had accepted the central Palestinian demand of ending the occupation, Palestinians were now only hedging because, in truth, they weren't interested in living in peace side by side with Israel. Indeed, Israelis thought that Palestinians were only holding on to the refugee issue in order to undermine Israel by demanding the return of four to six million Palestinian refugees and, therefore, demographically "conquering" the Jewish state.

The truth is that Palestinians--the vast majority of the public and their leadership--were serious in their willingness to genuinely recognize Israel inside its 1967 borders, had the two sides come to an agreement on ending the occupation and solving the refugee problem. They had and have no intention of using the solution for the refugee problem to gain a foothold in the lands of 1948; Palestinians have already made that great compromise.

But Palestinians are equally genuine in their insistence that this conflict cannot be terminated in good faith without finding a solution for the refugee problem that reflects the relevant stipulations of international law. What the negotiations must be about, therefore, is maneuvering between the necessity of recognizing the right of return and practicing that return, on the one hand, and honoring the Palestinians' genuine commitment to recognize the state of Israel, on the other.
Retired Israeli general and current think-tank analyst Shlomo Brom expounds on some of the assumptions behind this fraudulence:
The first thing the Palestinians have difficulty understanding is that each of the parties has its own narrative, and each is different from the other. There is no chance whatsoever that Israelis will accept the Palestinian narrative regarding the creation of the State of Israel and the definition of justice that derives from it, and will agree that this form the basis for defining the relationship between the two sides. Each party has its own definition of justice. In the eyes of the Israeli side, a fair settlement should provide a reasonable solution for the vital needs of both parties; questions of narrative and historical justice should be left to the historians.

Palestinians do not sufficiently understand Israelis' sense of existential threat and vulnerability, among other reasons due to Israel's image as a regional power. They don't appreciate the way this sense of threat contributes to the perception of many Israelis that issues like the refugees or, in the Palestinian term, the "right of return," are existential threats to Israel. Nor do Palestinians understand that it is Israeli threat perceptions that inform Israeli security demands, and not some Israeli plot to "withdraw" ostensibly from the occupied territories while in fact "staying".

Palestinian violence was a pernicious phenomenon throughout the Oslo process, and to a large extent precipitated its failure. The Palestinians never comprehended the depth of influence of Palestinian violence on the Israeli perception of the chances of reaching a peaceful settlement with them. Of course they understood that Israelis do not want Palestinian violence, but they still thought of it as a tool that could be employed or withdrawn at their whim, and ignored the malignant effect of this behavior on Israeli thinking.

This misperception is linked to Palestinians' lack of understanding of the difference in approach between themselves and Israel regarding the nature of agreements. The Israeli approach is juridical, sticks closely to the literal wording of the agreement, and insists on its execution to the letter. Not infrequently the Palestinians pursue ambiguous or equivocal wording that enables them to act in one way while representing that they are doing the opposite, or to present an interpretation favorable to their interests at a later juncture. To this we must add a generally lenient approach to the very existence of agreements. This misunderstanding has caused additional damage to Israeli trust in Palestinians.

11:43 PM
:: Monday, December 09, 2002 ::
Quick quiz
Who was the Prime Minister of Israel during the Six Day War? Michael Oren writes about that not very well remembered man:
A recent conference held at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem examined the question of "Leadership in the Crucible of Decision." Though the focus was on Israeli prime ministers of the last decade-Yitzhak Rabin, Benjamin Netanyahu, Yitzhak Shamir, and Ehud Barak-participating historians referred at length to the earlier models of Menachem Begin, Moshe Sharett, and David Ben-Gurion. The event was followed by a Haifa University symposium devoted to the legacy of another Israeli leader, Moshe Dayan. Conspicuously missing from these colloquia was any mention, much less serious discussion, of a leader whose contributions to the creation of modern Israel were extraordinary, and who guided the country through a desperate crisis to its greatest military triumph. Completely ignored was Israel's third prime minister, Levi Eshkol...

He modernized and expanded the IDF, transforming it into a highly mobile army capable of winning a multiple-front war against formidable enemies. Moreover, Eshkol understood far better than other Israeli statesmen the necessity of guaranteeing American support for Israel, and of resisting pressure to initiate military action before that support was secured. Once the Six Day War began, however, he rebuffed international demands to halt Israel's advance before it had achieved its objectives. Throughout this struggle, Eshkol maintained and even broadened his coalition government, rallying hawks and doves, religious and secular Jews, around his policy. Finally, Eshkol was pivotal in determining the outcome of the two most fateful battles in the war-indeed, in all of Israel's history-for Jerusalem and the Golan Heights...

Eshkol's policies...had a pivotal impact on the course of the war. Arab leaders were deceived into believing that Israel would never attack, leaving their own armies exposed to a surprise assault. The IDF, meanwhile, completed its mobilization, practiced offensives, and primed itself for battle. "We were all a bunch of war-horses who never understood Eshkol," Rehavam Ze'evi, the IDF deputy chief of operations during the war, remembered. "In retrospect, I can see that he was right. Thanks to his wisdom, the army was totally trained for war. That was Eshkol's blessing. He proved himself."
Some of Oren's article is adapted from his recent book Six Days of War, which I finally got around to ordering.
9:21 PM
:: Sunday, December 08, 2002 ::
Fun with math
I saw a talk at Michigan a couple of weeks ago about mathematical work being done with respect to some M.C. Escher artwork. Specifically, the people working on the project were trying to figure out what could be going on inside the white spot that Escher left in the middle of this drawing. They ended up using what is known in Dutch as the "Droste effect," named after a brand of hot cocoa, where a picture contains a smaller image of itself. Being a sophisticated intellectual myself, I thought of this high-culture example of the same effect. You can see animations of some of the filled-in versions of the Escher drawing on the project's web-site. The one on the right in this link achieves the Droste effect by rotating as it zooms in, according to a specific mathematical rule--it's really amazing!
5:57 PM
It's better when the professionals do it
I see that LGF noticed this before I did, but it's still worth posting. There's nothing more cathartic on the blogosphere than Fisking some lie-filled screed, but nothing tops a professional version of that cherished activity. Noted Middle East historian Martin Kramer does precisely that to Edward Said's latest plunge into hypocrisy (Kramer doesn't have permalinks--it's the Tues., Dec. 3rd post, "Edward Said CRASSHes"):
Edward Said, celebrity professor and advocate for Palestine, has just ended a stretch at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities—acronym CRASSH—at Cambridge University in England. Between his lectures on "The Example of Auerbach's Mimesis" and "Return to Philology" (serious people never left it), Said huddled in his rooms to settle an old score with the Iraqi dissident Kanan Makiya. The result is an emission that is truly breathtaking for its sheer hypocrisy...

Makiya doesn't need me to defend him, and I won't. I'm more interested in the patent hypocrisy of Said's charges. He hardly makes an accusation against Makiya that couldn't be made—usually with more justification—against himself. I'd describe it as a suicide character-bombing.

For example, Said tells us that that before Makiya went into exile, he was "an associate of his father's architectural firm in Iraq." That firm did business with the regime. In the next paragraph, Said steals second base: Makiya was a "beneficiary of the Iraqi regime's munificence." By the end of that paragraph, Said has stolen home plate: "Makiya himself had worked for Saddam." It's a crude spin on a typical case of son-works-for-dad. And the irony here is that Said's own father, a Cairene businessman, also kept his son in the office, and compromised him. In fact, according to Said's own memoirs (p. 289), he signed a business contract for his father that criminalized him. "For the next fifteen years," writes Said, "I was unable to return to Egypt because that particular contract, and I as its unsuspecting signatory, were ruled to be in contravention of the exchange-control law." So shall we visit the sins of businessmen fathers on their sons? If we were to apply Said's severe judgment of Makiya to himself, we would have to include money laundering among his past occupations.
There's a lot more, and it gets even better. Check it out.
4:20 PM

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