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Gary Epstein
And now for something completely different . . .

Still Ambulatory, But Now More Disgusted Than Confused

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It’s rare that the side getting its butt whupped in a war is privileged to dictate the terms of the peace. Welcome to the Middle East.

According to reports, Hamas officials in Qatar and Lebanon, safely ensconced in their 5-star hotels, have told Arab media sources that they are willing to be flexible on the following three parameters: the length of a ceasefire, how many Palestinian prisoners will be released, and the condition of a complete IDF withdrawal from the Gaza strip.

And who knows? They may be able to prevail because they have a powerful weapon.  They are willing to fight to the last drop of blood of the civilians in Gaza. If the Israelis don’t give them what they want, the Hamas “militants” will steal even more of the humanitarian provisions and use more human shields. And now Joe Biden appears to be on their side. When you are dealt a winning hand like that, it would be foolish not to play it.

How about this for a strategy? Stop negotiating with them, stop providing food and fuel, keep attacking, until they release the hostages. But first announce that once they release the hostages, there will be a 14-day ceasefire, full restoration of humanitarian aid, and release of an equal number of jailed terrorists. Let them decide. They are the elected government of Gaza.

And to anyone who thinks this is harsh–go look at your daughter, or sister, or mother–imagine them kidnapped by terrorist savages, held for more than four months, tortured, raped, maybe pregnant. Go look at your son or your brother–imagine them as captives to these barbarians, enduring every manner of pain and humiliation. Don’t just read the words. Close your eyes and imagine the horror.  Would you keep sending food to the people who formerly elected and now support the kidnappers and murderers while your loved ones were in captivity?

Nate Silver, who used to run a polling website called FiveThirtyEight, has called for the death sentence for Google’s gemini chatbot, or whatever the equivalent punishment may be for an Artificial Intelligence utility. 

Apparently the chatbot equivocated when asked the question “Who negatively impacted society more, Elon tweeting memes or Hitler?” 

Instead of responding by saying, “‘Impacted’ is not a transitive verb, you idiot,” the Artificial Lack of Any Discernible Intelligence said, “there is no right or wrong answer.  It is not possible to say who definitively impacted society more, Elon tweeting memes or Hitler.” 

Silver thinks the software, or the engineers who programmed him/her/it, should be put to pasture. Or death.

I disagree. I think the software possesses all the qualifications necessary to be the President of Harvard University.

It is de rigueur at The New York Times to disparage and defame the many thousands of Israelis living in Judea and Samaria. They are all ”settlers,” and, by definition, all half million of them are vigilantes and criminals who threaten and harm the peaceful Palestinians, who just want to be good neighbors.

Steven Erlanger, the chief diplomatic correspondent for the Gray Lady (as far as I can guess, the paper is called the Gray Lady because gray ladies are known to be notorious liars, antisemites, and promiscuous to boot), understands the tradition all too well, and has even surpassed many of his predecessors in slanting the news to paint the Jewish inhabitants of Judea and Samaria in a bad light. A former Bureau Chief in Jerusalem, he may be assumed to know pretty much everything about Israel and its devious ways.

So we should probably take him very seriously when he buys into the old blood libel about the Jews using trained pigs to harm their enemies.  Erlanger writes, “They [the SETTLERS] chop down olive trees, roll flaming tires down the hills to burn crops and even send boars to dig up Palestinian seedlings and fruit trees, the locals say.”

Amazing. What investigative journalism.

The (formerly undisclosed) wild boar training facilities (known throughout Israel as WBTFs, sometimes shortened to WTF) maintained throughout the Jewish settlements bear silent witness (except for the sporadic oinking) to the grave charges leveled by Erlanger.  Sporting Old Testament names like Peppa, Olivia, Porky, Miss Piggy, Piglet, and Chazzertreif, the porcine creatures, responding only to Hebrew commands, are able to distinguish Palestinian seedlings and fruit trees from all other kinds of seedlings and fruit trees.  Indeed, some locals charge, and Erlanger credulously believes, that Jews have refrained for centuries from eating pork so that they could save the best ones and breed them to dig up Palestinian agriculture, as set forth in the infamous “Porkocols of the Elders of Zion.” The Times is printing that alongside the 1619 Project.  Once you abandon the truth, you might as well go all in.

Erlanger  and his colleagues at the Times have been too busy tracking down the anti-Palestinian boar story to do much justice to the other stuff going on in the area.  Did something happen on October 7?  Maybe it’s time for the 71-year old Erlanger to be put out to pasture with some of his fantastic beasts. ******************************************************************

Who AreThese People (1)?  The awards ceremony at the Berlin film festival was marred by Gaza war protests.  Fortunately, there was an Israeli journalist named Yuval Abraham at the festival who was able to divert some of the attention away from the conflict by criticizing West Bank “apartheid” to the German audience.  Thanks, Yuval.  And kudos on your choice of venue.

Yuval Abraham was both awarded the festival’s Best Documentary award and labeled an anti-Semite by the non-Jewish Mayor of Berlin.

Win-Win.

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An astute Israel observer has noted that Hamas supporters in America have taken an elderly man hostage in Washington, D.C.  And the hostage has sent forth Antony Blinken, his Secretary of State, to say the following: “It’s been longstanding US policy under Republican and Democratic administrations alike that new settlements are counterproductive to reaching an enduring peace.  They’re also inconsistent with international law. Our administration maintains a firm opposition to settlement expansion. And in our judgment, this only weakens – it doesn’t strengthen – Israel’s security.” 

This is the first indication that the Biden administration was rejecting the Pompeo Doctrine with respect to the legality of the settlements and returning to the seriously flawed Hansell letter.  

Blinken also announced that the Summer White House was being moved to Dearborn, Michigan.  At least until the election.

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Who Are These People (2)?  The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)–and how could we manage without them?–has translated an interview with Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk on Egyptian television.  When asked whether Hamas had calculated the consequences of the October 7 terrorist massacre, Mr. Marzouk (I think that the name means “a mouse ate my belly-button”), claimed that Hamas could not possibly have anticipated Israel’s response to its October 7 massacre.  

“Nobody in the whole world expected them to be so barbaric,” Marzouk said. “And in such violation of all international laws, treaties, and norms.” 

What exactly did they expect the response to be?  They murdered, raped, kidnapped, and mutilated innocent civilians, men, women, and children.  They filmed themselves doing it and boasted about it. They inserted weapons, machinery, grenades, and steel rods into the genitals of their victims.  They sliced off breasts and played catch with them.  They are a shameful disgrace to their people and to humanity at large.

And now they are amazed at the fury of the response.  What would you do to people who did that to your loved ones?

The Israelis, remarkably, have shown impressive restraint, providing sustenance to Gazan civilians, trying to avoid civilian casualties, and putting their soldiers at greater risk in order to minimize collateral damage.

But, for a moment, let’s abandon the likelihood that Marzouk is simply lying and trying to play the victim card.  What did they expect to happen?

Presumably, as in the past, that the Israeli attack would be intense for a few days but limited in duration.  He probably had a great deal of confidence that the tunnels and rockets, on which Hamas had squandered years if not decades of labor, and  billions of dollars of humanitarian aid money, would provide a significant advantage against the unsuspecting and unprepared IDF troops.  To our everlasting guilt and shame, he probably believed that we were too busy fighting amongst ourselves to mount a unified response.  He probably thought that he could count on Hezbollah and Iran to open up a multi-front war.  He probably thought that, fighting on its own turf, the well-trained Hamas “resistance” would inflict significantly more damage on any invading force, which is typically the case in urban warfare.

Thank God, he was wrong.  And now he cries crocodile tears over the brutality of the Israelis.

And if the world falls for it, the world is a moron.  Every death, every casualty, every drop of blood is the fault of Hamas and the consequence of its actions.

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Who Are These People (3)? Mohammed El-Kurd is the Palestine Correspondent for The Nation.  Consistent with the editorial slant of his progressive employer, he believes that the brutal violence of October 7 against Israeli civilians was an appropriate and measured act of retaliation for the “occupation.”  He describes himself as a writer and poet from Jerusalem, occupied Palestine [sic].  And, like all great poets, if Shelley is to be believed, he is one of the “unacknowledged legislators of the world.”

If so, it goes a long way towards explaining why the world is in such bad shape.  We need poets who haven’t lost every trace of humanity.

El-Kurd (in Arabic poetry, the “K” if often substituted for a “T”; if not, in this case it should be) is upset that the world is limiting the options available for enlightened protest.  He rues the distorted morality that has deprived his colleagues of such honorable avenues for self-expression as hijacking planes and tossing Molotov cocktails.  The poet cries out his outrage at having traditional modes of Arab protest criminalized and delegitimized.  Hear the anguish in his voice:

You can’t protest peacefully.  You can’t boycott.  You can’t hunger strike.  You can’t hijack planes.  You can’t throw Molotovs.  You can’t self-immolate.  You can’t heckle politicians.  You can’t riot.  You can’t dissent.  You just can’t be.”  

Thank Allah that you can still be a poet for The Nation.  Because he’s just exhausted every other activity that he might be any good at.

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Once more The New York Times, the gift that keeps giving.  The initial anecdote is amusing.  The follow-up is both revealing and devastating.

Adam Rubenstein is a former editor at the Gray Lady.  He had a conservative background and experienced a huge culture gap when he got to the Times. He is no longer employed there. This week, he wrote a long article for the Atlantic, describing some of his experiences.  I guess that he figured it worked out pretty well for Bari Weiss.

One of the experiences he describes occurred during an orientation session for new employees.  Everyone was asked to describe a favorite food. Without much thought, he named the spicy chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-a.  There were horrified gasps, and the HR coordinator, probably hoping to avoid a lynching, said, “We don’t do that here. They hate gay people.”  The audience started to snap their fingers in mindless unison. Rubenstein blurted, “Not the politics, the chicken.”  But, he reports, it was too late. “I sat down, ashamed.”

That anecdote, revealing the hostile environment for dissent (even about chicken) at The Times, and the tyranny of its groupthink, would have been amusing in itself.

But the aftermath is truly eye-opening.  Nikole Hannah-Jones, the founder of the mythological 1619 Project empire, posted, or X-ed, “Never happened.”  Not because it didn’t happen–it most certainly did, as The Atlantic had investigated, fact-checked, and proved–but because she disapproved of the narrative and thus felt justified in disputing it.  The truth doesn’t matter.  When asked the basis for her assertion, she replied “I’ve worked at the NYT for nearly a decade.  That’s how I know.”

Now you know the answer to the question:  may a person who worked for nearly a decade at the NYT be assumed to know the first thing about journalism?

Other progressives chimed in, calling it “egregiously fake” and comparing it to a Simpsons episode in which Bart tells a whopper.

The fact that it was true, that it happened before a roomful of people who confirmed it, is irrelevant.  

And that’s the eye-opening part.  Nikol Hannah-Jones knows from experience that she can get away denying actual history and reshaping it as she would prefer it to have happened.  The New York Times has demonstrated that it is no longer the newspaper of record, if it ever was.

It is propaganda for an authorized ideology.  Izvestia, Al-Jazeera, and The New York Times.  Not a hair’s breadth of difference among them.

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Soon I will return to my customary sunny disposition.  Sorry for the anger and frustration, but, in my defense, just turn on your television or read the newspaper.  It’s a jungle out there.

About the Author
Gary Epstein is a retired teacher and lawyer residing in Modi'in, Israel. He was formerly the Head of the Global Corporate and Securities Department of Greenberg Traurig, a global law firm with an office in Tel Aviv, which he founded and of which he was the first Managing Partner. He and his wife Ahuva are blessed with18 grandchildren, ka"h, all of whom he believes are well above average. He currently does nothing. He believes he does it well.