RIP Ariel Sharon

January 12th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

After eight years in a coma, Ariel Sharon has mercifully died.

The Herald has a good biography of his life from the Associated Press. His life and legacy are complex. He has been a war hero, but also a disgraced leader over the 1982 massacres. He ultimately became Prime Minister and turned away from his previous hardline views and did what no other Israeli PM has done – withdrawing settlements from disputed territories. He left Likud to form the centrist Kadima and it became Israel’s most popular party.

While unlikely, it is possible we may have got some sort of peace settlement if he had not had his stroke just before the elections. Israelis seem more prepared to accept a peace settlement if it is pushed by a politician who has a strong military background – I guess they are seen as acting from a position of strength, not weakness.

His legacy is mixed, and we’ll never know what may have happened if his stroke had not occurred. But I am glad he finally has his rest after eight years in a coma.

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A small but symbolic tweet

September 6th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

 

This tweet was from the President of the Islamic Republic Republic of Iran.

The Washington Post reports:

The tweet called special attention to Iran’s Jews – there are thought to be perhaps 25,000 living largely in peace – but it’s the reference to “all Jews” that seems especially significant. Given the long-standing enmity between Iran and Israel, and the years of official Iranian rhetoric condemning Israel in often anti-Semitic language, this is quite a shift.

After eight years of fiercely anti-Israeli rhetoric from former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his government, which often veered well into anti-Semitism, it’s difficult to separate discussion of Jews in Iranian political discourse from discussion of Israel. That’s obviously not a particularly helpful habit. But the point is that this tweet, purportedly from Iran’s president, seemed to be offering a very small gesture of goodwill at least partially toward Israelis, who can usually expect nothing but hateful rhetoric from Iranian rulers. It’s not exactly a unilateral declaration of peace – tomorrow, Iran will probably still support Hezbollah – but it’s yet another hint of Rouhani’s efforts to dramatically soften Iranian foreign policy and rhetoric.

The former President talked often of wiping out Israel and denied the Holocaust occurred. This one sends Rosh Hashanah greetings to all Jews. It is just symbolic, but a very welcome change of tone.

A spokesperson has tried to deny the account is the President’s, and it may be run by someone on his behalf, but it is thought he approves any messages on it.

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Don’t lie to Israeli immigration

March 17th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Bevan Hurley at HoS reports:

A peace activist was detained for 48 hours before being sent back to New Zealand for trying to enter Israel on a tourist visa.

The point being she was not a tourist and lied.

Amy Thomson, 26, was held at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv on February 26. She tried to enter the country for a three-month voluntary internship at a non-government organisation promoting peace.

Thomson said the Israel Palestinian Centre for Research and Information told her she should claim to be a tourist.

Well that says a lot about them.

Israel, of all countries, has every reason to be vigilant about who can enter their country. Lying is a bad way to get in.

Suspicions were raised when Israeli immigration authorities saw she had recently visited Lebanon, which is in ongoing conflict with Israel.

Ha, I had just come from Iran when I entered Israel and had also been to Kuwait, Egypt and Turkey. so I also got a lengthy interrogation. I didn’t mind so much as she was cute :-)

Thomson was questioned for eight hours about her visit to Israel, who she knew, and her intentions.

During which time she lied. They can spot liars. And how stupid is this – Her Linked In profile refers to her intended internship.

One interrogator mockingly congratulated her for winning a $500 prize for an essay she had written on Iranian politics which appeared on the Massey University website.

Oh my God – Mossad know how to use Google. The fiends.

“I felt humiliated and ashamed. Eventually it seemed to me that he had found something out and knew that I had lied about something.”

Exhausted, after a 24 hour flight and 12 hours questioning, Thomson admitted that she was to work for a non-governmental organisation.

Should have said that from the beginning, and applied for the correct visa.

She said she regretted not being honest but it was a valuable experience.

“I know what it’s like for the Palestinians to deal with what they deal with every single day.”

Oh Good God.

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The Israeli Election Compass

January 21st, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Israel Democracy Institute have developed an election compass where you can see which parties in Israel are closest to you, if you were an Israeli voter.

israelpc

I ended up in the bottom left quadrant, fairly near Kadima overall but slightly to the left of Labor on the horizontal axis (peace, territories, security, religion) but slightly more centrist than Likud on the vertical axis (economy, welfare, human rights, law).

Hat Tip: Tim G

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Will this get widely reported?

November 22nd, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Houston Chronicle reports:

Masked gunmen publicly shot dead six suspected collaborators with Israel in a large Gaza City intersection Tuesday, witnesses said. An Associated Press reporter saw a mob surrounding five of the bloodied corpses shortly after the killing.

Some in the crowd stomped and spit on the bodies. A sixth corpse was tied to a motorcycle and dragged through the streets as people screamed, “Spy! Spy!”

No doubt the evidence was carefully considered in a fair trial.

Witnesses said a van stopped in the intersection, and four masked men pushed the six suspected informers out of the vehicle. Salim Mahmoud, 18, said the gunmen ordered the six to lie face down in the street and then shot them dead. Another witness, 13-year-old Mokhmen al-Gazhali, said the informers were killed one by one, as he mimicked the sound of gunfire.

They said only a few people were in the street at first — most Gazans have been staying indoors because of the Israeli airstrikes — but the crowd quickly grew after the killings. Eventually several hundred men pushed and shoved to get a close look at the bodies, lying in a jumble on the ground. One man spit at the corpses, another kicked the head of one of the dead men.

“They should have been killed in a more brutal fashion so others don’t even think about working with the occupation (Israel),” said one of the bystanders, 24-year-old Ashraf Maher.

One body was then tied by a cable to the back of a motorcycle and dragged through the streets. A number of gunmen on motorcycles rode along as the body was pulled past a house of mourning for victims of an Israeli airstrike.

Funnily enough, Hamas brutally murdering Palestinians gets far fewer headlines, than Israel missile strikes killing Palestinians.

UPDATE1: A Hamas official has criticised the killings, or at least criticised “The way these collaborators were killed and the images after their death …”. 

UPDATE2: Egypt has announced a truce between Israel and Hamas. This is a good thing. Now if Hamas could just drop their objective of destroying Israel, then a durable peace for land settlement could be contemplated.

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No mention of affiliation

November 21st, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stacey Kirk at Stuff reports:

Nowhere in the Gaza Strip is safe from Israel’s “terrifying” bombardment, a New Zealander living in Gaza City says.

Speaking via Skype while military drones could be heard hovering over her house, freelance journalist Julie Webb-Pullman said it was an “absolutely terrifying” place to be. …

She said yesterday a group of people were targeted by an Israeli drone which killed a nine-year-old girl and her brother.

“It’s a crime against humanity what’s occurring, kids are being targeted, [Sunday] alone 31 people were killed – 10 of those children, six were women and five were babies and toddlers,” she said.

“They are not military targets, they are civilians. Israel is committing war crimes plain and simple.”

Now I am not suggesting the views of Ms Webb-Pullman should not be reported, as she is able to report first hand.

But surely the media have an obligation not to present her as a disinterested freelance journalist!

She is a long-standing political activist for the communist regime in Cuba, the revolutionary leftist Zapatistas, and the Kia Ora Gaza and NZ Palestine Human Rights Campaign. She disputes that Israel even has a right to exist as a legitimate state, and people can judge this statement for themselves:

New Zealand’s Prime Minister might have his own personal reasons for choosing to forget such behaviour and welcome a Zionist embassy in New Zealand

This is short-hand for those Jews stick together.

Now again I am not in any way suggesting no one should be reporting what Webb-Pullman says. What I am saying is that merely describing her as a freelance journalist, and the implication of neutrality is grossly misleading and does readers a disservice.

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Obama on Israel

November 19th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

At the start of a three-day trip to Southeast Asia, President Obama said at a news conference in Bangkok on Sunday that Israel has a right to defend itself.

“There’s no country on Earth would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside it’s borders. So we are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians. And we will continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself.”

It’s funny how weeks and weeks of missile attacks on Israel rarely warrant even a minor news story. It is only when they strike back that the world’s media give it 24/7 coverage!

But, the president added, “we are actively working with all the parties in the region to see if we can end those missiles being fired without further escalation of violence in the region.”

It is sad when people die on either side. I note however that for Hamas their definition of success is killing as many civilians as possible while for Israel, it is killing as few civilians as possible.

No doubt many from the safety of their homes, advocate that Israel should do nothing about rocket attacks on them from Gaza. Maybe they believe that they threaten only a few homes near the border. Well thanks to the Israeli Embassy, here is some perspective.

A peace settlement on 1967 borders is only possible if there is actual peace for land. But when the land already given up is used to launch thousands of rocket attacks on civilians, then it hardly provides much of an incentive to give up even more land.

 

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Pallywood Returns to Gaza

November 17th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

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AUSA President and Israel

September 10th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Students for Justice in Palestine has Facebooked:

In July, the AUSA President took a ten day trip to visit illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine. The trip was funded by the Israeli government which targeted two prominent young leaders from both young labour and young Nats and our AUSA president.

Students for Justice in Palestine call for an official apology from the President of our Students’ Association, Arena Williams, for her disregard for human rights, for visiting an apartheid country under an international boycott, for being unfair and bias on such a contentious issue, for not representing or consulting with students, for not adequately addressing student concerns after they had been raised directly with her, for not being direct, transparent or inclusive and for her disregard for New Zealand’s long history of social justice, especially since AUSA stood up against South African apartheid in the 80′s by supporting the international boycott movement.

Say NO to Israeli apartheid and NO to the normalisation of Israeli occupation. Instead of normalising relations with Israel we need to look towards the student unions worldwide who have officially recognised BDS policies as part of their constitutions.

Censure the AUSA President’s trip to apartheid-Israel.

Wednesday 1pm Quad.

I believe AUSA is better served by focusing on student welfare and education, rather than the Middle East.
However just like other employees, student presidents can take leave. And I see nothing wrong with people visiting Israel, as a guest of their Government. In fact I have done it myself. That doesn’t mean you automatically agree with everything Israel does. But it actually allows you an opportunity to learn more about their perspective, and debate issues and behaviour with them.
I’ve also been to Iran. That doesn’t mean I endorse their Government. What was good about Iran was meeting so many lovely Iranians, and realising that we should avoid conflating a country with a Government.
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Religious fanaticism

December 30th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Sadly all religions have fanatics. Of course the proportion of a religion who are fanatics is not the same in each religion, but here’s an example of some in Israel:

A shy 8-year-old schoolgirl has unwittingly found herself on the front line of Israel’s latest religious war.

Naama Margolese is a ponytailed, bespectacled second-grader who is afraid of walking to her religious Jewish girls school for fear of ultra-Orthodox extremists who have spat on her and called her a whore for dressing “immodestly.”

Anyone who calls an eight year old girl a whore should be ashamed of themselves, because their God most definitely will be.

The girls school that Naama attends in the city of Beit Shemesh, to the west of Jerusalem, is on the border between an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood and a community of modern Orthodox Jewish residents, many of them American immigrants.

The ultra-Orthodox consider the school, which moved to its present site at the beginning of the school year, an encroachment on their territory. Dozens of black-hatted men jeer and physically accost the girls almost daily, claiming their very presence is a provocation.

No, firing guns is a provocation. Yelling whore at eight year olds is provocation. Going to school is not.

The televised images of Naama sobbing as she walked to school shocked many Israelis, elicited statements of outrage from the country’s leadership, sparked a Facebook page with nearly 10,000 followers dedicated to “protecting little Naama” and a demonstration was held in her honour. As the case has attracted attention, extremists have heckled and thrown eggs and rocks at journalists descending on town.

“Who’s afraid of an 8-year-old student?” said Sunday’s main headline in the leading Yediot Ahronot daily.

Beit Shemesh’s growing ultra-Orthodox population has erected street signs calling for the separation of sexes on the pavements, dispatched “modesty patrols” to enforce a chaste female appearance and hurled stones at offenders and outsiders.

Great to read of the response from most normal Israelis. The fanatics sound like they would be happy living with the Taliban.

Naama’s case has been especially shocking because of her young age and because she attends a religious school and dresses with long sleeves and a skirt. Extremists, however, consider even that outfit, standard in mainstream Jewish religious schools, to be immodest.

Maybe a hajib?

Protesters held signs reading, “Free Israel from religious coercion,” and “Stop Israel from becoming Iran.”

The abuse and segregation of women in Israel in ultra-Orthodox areas is nothing new, and critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye.

The ultra-Orthodox are perennial king-makers in Israeli coalition politics – two such parties serve as key members of the ruling coalition. They receive generous government subsidies, and police have traditionally been reluctant to enter their communities.

Worth remembering this story, when our own extremists advocate getting rid of a threshold for MMP, so we would end up like Israel (which has been increasing their threshold).

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The cost of leaving no one behind

October 26th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Probably because of the Holocaust. Israelis have a culture where they hate leaving any Israeli behind.  They will move mountain and earth to recover a solider.

hence there was much rejoicing in Israel last week when they negotiated the return of Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped from Israel by Hamas in 2006.

For his return, Hamas got 1,027 convicted prisoners released whom between them had killed 569 Israeli civilians.

Already one woman released has vowed to become a suicide bomber again. She says it has been her ambition since childhood, and has encouraged dozens of cheering schoolchildren to follow her lead. She almost blew up a hospital last time. She may succeed this time.

I admire Israel’s willingness to leave no one behind. But I wonder if the price they have paid is too high, and if it will result in more deaths. Releasing prisoners is good if part of a peace treaty. Releasing them so they can go out again and try to blow up more hospitals and civilians is not so good.

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Looks fair

September 2nd, 2011 at 4:24 pm by David Farrar

YNet reports:

UN’s Palmer Report says Israel’s Gaza blockade legal, slams ‘reckless’ violence of Turkish activists facing IDF soldiers; however, Israel’s deadly raid on vessel characterized as ‘excessive, unreasonable’

A long-anticipated United Nations report on Israel‘s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound ship in 2010 justifies Israel’s blockade of the Strip, but accuses the IDF of using “excessive and unreasonable” force to stop the vessel.

 The UN’s Palmer Report was first published by the New York Times Thursday evening. The full report is available here.

Addressing Israel’s Gaza blockade, the UN’s Palmer Report notes that the Jewish state “faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza.”

“The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law,” the report says.

The UN panel noted that Israeli forces who boarded the Mavi Marmara in order to prevent it from breaching the blockade faced “organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers,” adding that the violence required the IDF to use force.

I thought that Sir Geoffrey would do a fair job, and without having read the full report, it looks like he did.

The summary that the blockade was legal, that the passengers were armed and violent but that the Israelis used excessive force in responding is pretty much what I expected would be the situation.

Sadly Turkey is rejecting the recommended settlement.

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Where is the line on boycotts?

August 16th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Australian reports:

ANTI-Israel activists face investigation for alleged secondary boycotts under landmark attempts by the Baillieu government to curb the global campaign to target companies and businesses linked to the Jewish nation.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission has been asked to investigate anti-Israeli campaigners who have joined the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions group to determine if they should be prosecuted for threatening stores with Israeli ownership or connections.

The ACCC has been asked to consider injunctive relief and damages after 19 people were arrested following an ugly clash between police and protesters outside the Max Brenner store in Melbourne’s CBD on July 1.

The protesters allegedly blocked potential customers from entering the store as part of an “orchestrated campaign” to impose what the government believes is a secondary boycott on the chocolate and coffee store. …

Mr O’Brien told The Australian it was unacceptable to single out any businesses but that it was especially concerning given the 20th-century history behind attacks on Jewish businesses.

“I am concerned that the persons and organisations who caused these disturbances may have engaged in secondary boycotts for the purpose of causing substantial loss or damage to Max Brenner’s business,” he said. …

The Max Brenner shops have allegedly been targeted by the BDS movement for supplying to the Israeli defence forces.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd recently met with Victorian federal Labor MP Michael Danby at the same Max Brenner store as the BDS protest. “I don’t think in 21st-century Australia there is a place for the attempted boycott of a Jewish business,” Mr Rudd said at the time. “I thought we had learned that from history.”

Nostradamus highlighted this story to me. He noted:

I think this is a story with potentially huge implications, and that’s not just because I’m a corporate and commercial lawyer.

No surprise that the usual suspects are behind the anti-Israel protest.  I’ve highlighted them below for you.  But, unlike John Minto making a nuisance of himself at a tennis match, these guys are taking things much further: it’s one thing for a person to say “I’m not going to shop at ABC because they support XYZ”; it’s quite another to prevent other law-abiding customers from entering a shop.

All of this raises an interesting philosophical principle.  Even if one sympathises with the BDS movement (which I don’t), how far can they legitimately take their protest?  And how much of a direct link (real or imagined) between a company and Israel does there need to be before the BDS movement gains a semblance of legitimacy?

I think blocking others from entering clearly crosses the line, and good on the Victorian Government for looking at legal action.

And while I can respect the diversity of views on Israel, targeting a shop because they may have sold chocolates to the IDF seems rather over-kill. If they were selling them guns, then I could understand the rationale more.

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Once bitten twice shy

July 23rd, 2011 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Derek Cheng at NZ Herald reports:

 The Israelis at the centre of spying suspicions say the allegations are ridiculous and insulting – and they are demanding an apology. …

Mr Jordan said last night he and his friends were backpackers, not spies.

“It’s a big lie, and it’s rubbish,” he told 3 News.

“When I was in New Zealand, I was just a backpacker and was travelling New Zealand.” …

Israeli search and rescue team head Hilik Magnus said he helped facilitate their quick departure.

It was “ridiculous, impolite and even rude” to think that their swift departure was suspicious, he said.

“What should three youngsters do when one of their friends has died? Stay in the park without their belongings? Should they sit in the park and wait? Or should they go home, hug their families and share their sorrow with the family of their friend [who died]?” …

Mr Magnus, who led a seven-person team to Christchurch, said it was “total bullshit” to think that any spy activity was going on.

He denied reports that his team was caught in the Red Zone and had to be escorted out by police.

He said the team was allowed in the restricted area only once – under police supervision – to retrieve to belongings of dead Israelis Mr Levy and Mr Ingel.

“We are going to demand an apology [from the Southland Times, which broke the story] and if they don’t do it, we are going to sue. It is a stupid story. Nothing connected to reality.”

I have great sympathy for the three young backpackers who not only lost a mate, but had these allegations to deal with. Likewise it has been tough on the families of other Israelis killed.

And if there were factual errors in the Southland Times story, they should of course be corrected.

But in terms of the issue of the initial suspicions of the security agencies, the reality is once bitten twice shy. The attempt to get false NZ passports a few years ago by Israeli intelligence agencies was incredibly stupid and damaging. If that attempt had never occurred, then I doubt this whole issue would have occurred. But it is natural for our security agencies to be more vigilant or suspicious when there is a track record like Israel has.

I am a defender of much of what Israel does, as they do get treated unfairly and discriminated against in many ways. But I am not an uncritical defender. Actions have consequences, and if you abuse a friendly country’s hospitality once, then it is no surprise that security agencies will be more vigilant in future.

The young Israelis and their families (and the USAR team led by Mr Magnus) are innocent victims in all this, and will be justifiably angry at having to defend their names and reputations. They have my sympathy. But some of their anger should be directed at the former Israeli Government which authorised the attempted passport identity theft in the 2000s. If they had not done that, this whole episode might not have ever happened.

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Mossad and the Earthquake

July 20th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Fred Tulett in the Southland Times reports:

Prime Minister John Key has confirmed one of three Israelis killed in the Christchurch earthquake was carrying multiple passports but is refusing to go into further detail because it is not in the national interest.

The police national computer has been under scrutiny in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake in February because of fears Israeli agents loaded software into the system that would allow backdoor access to highly sensitive intelligence files. …

The Security Intelligence Service ordered the checks as part of an urgent investigation of what one SIS officer described as the suspicious activities of several groups of Israelis during and immediately after the earthquake.

Three Israelis were among the 181 people who died when the earthquake destroyed most of Christchurch’s central business district on February 22. One was found to be carrying at least five passports.

On Sunday, February 26, Mizrahi’s body was recovered from the van and taken to the morgue where, during routine identity checks, he was found to be carrying at least five passports.

Meanwhile, the search and rescue squad dispatched from Israel had arrived in Christchurch but the offer of help was rejected by New Zealand authorities because the squad did not have accreditation from the United Nations.

According to Israeli newspaper reports, the squad was being funded by the parents of two other Israelis killed in the earthquake, Ofer Levy and Gabi Ingel, both 22, who were said to be in New Zealand on a backpacking holiday. The parents made repeated public appeals for the Israeli team to join the rescue, appeals that were dismissed by the New Zealand authorities until squad members were discovered in the sealed off “red zone” of the central city.

Readers may recall I had some minor involvement at the time. I blogged on 4 March:

As a disclosure, one of the dead Israelis is a close friend of one of my good Israeli friends – in fact the person who hosted me in Israel in November 2009. He approached me for assistance in getting a favourable decision made on getting the Israeli team admitted, and I put them in touch with the appropriate MFAT officials. I have no criticism of the MFAT officials who were very responsive and helpful, my criticism is of the ultimate decision maker, which I presume is someone in Civil Defence.

The family I was trying to help is the Ingel family. Their son, who was killed, is not under any suspicion at all of Mossad involvement. I have absolutely no doubt that the parents just genuinely wanted to maximise the chances of finding their son alive.

In terms of the other dead Israeli, with the alleged five passports, I have no first hand knowledge or involvement. The number of passports he had is not confirmed, and many Israelis do have multiple passports due to travel restrictions. I’m not aware of a suggestion that any of the passports were under a fake name, which would suggest something different.

I did become aware some months ago that there were suspicions over the Israeli who was killed in the van. But the evidence is very circumstantial – multiple passports, only a few tributes on a Facebook page etc. At the end of the day, I don’t know anything beyond what is in the paper, and that isn’t enough to make a conclusion on.

The PM is saying it is not in the national interest for him to comment. That to me suggests that the Government does think there may have been improper behaviour, but can’t prove it. And you don’t generally have Governments speculate on these issues unless they have proof.

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Lunch with Daniel Pipes

August 25th, 2010 at 3:27 pm by David Farrar

Just returned from the Wellington Club where myself and around eight journalists had lunch with Daniel Pipes, who has authored more than a dozen books on the Middle East or Islam. The Israeli Ambassador kindly hosted the lunch.

Daniel spoke on five broad topics, and we had a lively Q+A. I’ll go through them, off memory.

Iraq & Afghanistan

Pipes was very pessimistic for both countries, and said that the aim of transforming the countries into modern democratic states has and will fail. Worse, he believes they won’t even achieve the status of “a decent place to live”.

What makes his view of significance, if he was a supporter of the invasions of both countries. So he is saying, that the US has failed and will fail.

I asked whether the US were too ambitious trying to turn Iraq into a post-war Germany or Japan, and whether they would have been better to basically shoot Saddam, and the next ten in the line of succession, tell No 11 that he is now in charge, that he should leave the Kurds alone, and bring in some elections and basically pull out, leaving the infrastructure, the Baath party, the army etc intact.

Pipes basically agreed, and said that has been his long held position – that the US should have found a strongman, who was more palatable than Saddam, and left him in charge. It would not have achieved a secular liberal democracy, but it might achieve the country becoming a semi-decent place to live.

US Policy

Pipes made a strong case that in terms of foreign policy, there is very little difference between Bush and Obama. Obama at one stage had more troops in Iraq and Afghanistan than under Bush. Also Obama has approved 50 attacks from unmanned drones, compared to 38 under the entire Bush presidency.

Obama’s outreach to Islamic states, with his Cairo speech did result in a more favourable impression of the US at the time. But a year later, the views of the US in the Islamic world have shrunk back to what they were under Bush.

Iran

Pipes thinks there is no doubt Iran is developing nuclear weapon – and that in fact it is a logical thing for Iran to do, as it makes you a military power, but in a far cheaper fashion than an increase in conventional forces.

He decried both the Bush and Obama strategy on Iran on the basis he has yet to work out what either of them is.

Pipes believes the threat of a nuclear armed Iran, under its current leadership, is so dangerous, that a military strike will be necessary.

I actually pushed back against this, on the basis that most Iranians want to get rid of their President, and an attack on their nuclear facilities is the one thing which will make his popularity soar, and guarantee the hardliners keep control for at least a generation.

Pipes said that he does think that Iran is the one country where the Islamic leadership is under real threat, and if left alone they are likely to be removed from power in the future. However he still regards the danger in the interim of an Islamic Iran with nuclear weapons to be so great, that he still thinks a strike is needed – but accepts the consequences will be a massive increase in terrorism etc.

Israel & Palestine

Pipes is a pessimist on a diplomatic solution. He asserts that you only have diplomatic solutions after the war is over, not as a way to stop a war. Until one side “wins” diplomacy will not work.

His preferred course of action is to try and increase the proportion of Palestinians who accept Israel has a right to exist from 20% to over 50%. He says only when a majority of Palestinians accept they will not succeed with their desire to destroy Israel, will a diplomatic solution have any chance of working.

Islam and Europe

Pipes says the growing Islamic population in Europe is partly due to the indigenous populations not producing enough children to maintain population, and partly the desire of people in Islamic countries to move to places with a better standard of living.

He says that there are three possible paths ahead:

  1. Europe muddles through with peaceful co-existence. He says that he sees no evidence at all that this is the likely scenario.
  2. Over time Europe becomes more “Islamised” with Islam as the dominant religion in Europe, and wide-spread sharia law – even some Islamic states in Europe.
  3. A massive back-lash from the indigenous Europeans, with neo-fascist and even fascist parties gaining support across the Europe.

A vigorous discussion on this topic. Canada was held up as one of the few Western countries which has managed Muslim immigration, which has not been radical Islamists. I suggested that NZ has also been successful at having Muslim immigrants, with almost no radicalisation here.

Pipes suggestion for keeping it that way, is that one should not discriminate against Muslims who wish to migrate here, but that one should absolutely discriminate against Islamists.

He said many people do not get the difference between Islam/Muslims and Islamism/Islamists. He says Islam is a religion like Judaism, Christianity etc. Islamism is a political belief like communism, zionism, fascism.

Was a very interesting 90 minute lunch and discussion, even if somewhat depressing in terms of the outlook for key conflicts, and for Europe. Barry Soper commented that it made him glad to live in New Zealand – for which I have to agree.

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Editorials 8 June 2010

June 8th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald says work can make you better:

For some time, the startling increase in the number of people on sickness and invalids benefits has been as vexing as it is worrying. Have we become a sickly society? Is this the logical consequence of an ageing population? The relentless rise in the number of such beneficiaries – from 1.2 per cent of the working-age group in 1980 to 4.8 per cent today – suggested other factors were at work. Indeed, it is now apparent that a major factor is mental illness. Psychological disorders, led by stress and depression, accounted for the entire increase in sickness benefits and a third of the increase in invalids benefits from 1996 to 2002. This has obvious implications for those charged with getting as many beneficiaries as possible back into the workforce. …

Happily, it has just been highlighted by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, which, in a position statement, noted that “the evidence is compelling: for most individuals, good work improves general health and wellbeing and reduces psychological stress”. The college points to a recent British review, which found the beneficial effects of work outweighed any risks, with the benefits much greater than the harmful effects of long-term unemployment or prolonged sickness absence.

I’ve had a couple of brief periods of unemployment or under-employment. During those times I did volunteer work so I was still doing something, rather than nothing.

The Press focuses on the proposed Gaza flotilla inquiry:

The Israelis also fear what they see as the stitch-up that the Goldstone inquiry into the assault on Gaza a couple of years ago became. Although it was led by a respected South African former judge, Richard Goldstone, and made some efforts at even-handedness, that inquiry’s findings were quickly unpicked by critics as weighted unfairly towards the Palestinians and ultimately were easily dismissed. One of Palmer’s tasks, if he gets the job, will be to ensure that the inquiry is conducted with a scrupulous regard to impartiality. A properly conducted inquiry might help defuse some of the tension that the raid has generated. It might go some way to averting serious and lasting diplomatic damage that at the moment seems inevitable.

I may not agree with Sir Geoffrey on alcohol reform, but I think he would be a very good choice for this role. NZ is one of the few countries seen pretty much as an honest broker, and a proper inquiry would be very beneficial.

The Dom Post talks road safety:

Last year 10 people died on the roads over Queen’s Birthday Weekend. By late yesterday this year’s toll was one. That is good news, but it is still one too many.

Aroha Ormsby was killed when she was thrown from a car. Her death leaves three young children motherless, and friends and family confronting a personal tragedy that will never be revealed by a study of the bald statistics.

The death of Ms Ormsby – and of the hundreds of other New Zealanders killed each year – is why the police were right to trial a lower tolerance for those who break the speed limit. As long as there are New Zealanders dying on the roads there can be no slackening in the effort to make the roads safer.

The sceptics will point to the atrocious weather over the holiday break, and say that the low toll and lower speeds owe as much to people staying home or slowing down in the rain. That will have played a role but so too will the increased prospect of a ticket.

I certainly think the appalling weather was the major contributor. I also think it is unwise to jump to conclusions based on just two data points.

They should remember that the 100kmh limit is just that – a legal limit. It is not meant to be treated as an infinitely flexible guideline, something that applies unless the road is clear and it’s a sunny day, or unless there is a car that needs overtaking

I hope the editorial writer has never over taken a car by exceeding the limit. Never mind that to overtake a car travelling 90 km/hr means you need a straight road with no cars coming for at least 2,000 metres to do so without exceeding 100 km/hr.

The ODT looks at Labour’s mud and smears:

The Labour Party seems unable to get over the fact that John Key is wealthy, and it has frequently made attempts to imply or demonstrate that he gained his wealth deviously, and continues to do so.

None of these efforts has succeeded.

Helen Clark tried it when she claimed Mr Key personally profited from the 1993 privatisation of Tranz Rail, because he had been a former director of Bankers Trust, which won a contract to advise the then National government on the sale.

At the relevant time, however, Mr Key was nowhere near the sale; he was operating as a foreign exchange dealer.

Ms Clark may have been badly advised, but this did not slow her attempts to muddy the Prime Minister’s credibility, especially in the business and commercial world.

Clark and Labour’s view seem to be if you made your money in business, you must be corrupt – the only honest way to earn money is as a teacher, academic or unionist.

The latest attempt has been made by another senior party figure, the Dunedin North MP, Peter Hodgson, who has tried to show the Prime Minister knows what assets are held in his “blind trust”, implying that a conflict of interest has or can arise where government policy is concerned, to Mr Key’s financial advantage.

That is a serious claim to make where public figures are concerned who hold positions where they can influence policy.

Mr Hodgson’s “evidence” – it hardly justifies the description – has been successful to the extent that Mr Key, in responding, seems to have had some knowledge of one asset in particular.

It is no more than that, however: there is no shred of proof that his knowledge – if he had it – has been used to influence policy to his advantage.

Key’s crime is that three weeks after the blind trust was set up, he referred to owning a vineyard that was now in the blind trust.

That appears to be the end of the latest attempt to impugn the Prime Minister for his wealth, but it is unlikely to be the last.

The ODT has got to the heart of the real crime – that John Key is wealthy. You can just feel the envy and hatred blister as they snidely refer to his holiday home in Hawaii. How dare he have become wealthy.

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Palmer to head Gaza inquiry?

June 6th, 2010 at 5:02 pm by David Farrar

Haaretz reports:

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has conveyed a proposal to Israel to set up an international commission of inquiry into the raid on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla a week ago.

The head of the committee would be former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer, an expert on maritime law. Committee members would include representatives from the United States, Turkey and Israel.

Senior officials at the Foreign Ministry said Israel should consider the idea favorably.
I think this is a very good thing. It would reinforce NZ’s role as a honest broker who doesn’t take sides, and I think Sir Geoffrey would be scrupulously fair.
With so many allegations on both side, an independent inquiry which establishes what happened, and what was legal, would be very useful.
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Editorials 2 June 2010

June 2nd, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

All four editorials are on the Israeli action on the high seas. First the Herald:

Israel can hardly claim to be surprised by the universal international condemnation of its commando raid on ships taking humanitarian aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip.

There is a sad familiarity about the episode, which left at least nine activists dead.

Here, as in last year’s military offensive against Gaza, Israel has reacted with force completely disproportionate to the situation. …

It should be noted that Israel had suggested that the flotilla should offload its 10,000 tonnes of medical and building supplies at the Israeli port of Ashdod before it was handed over to the United Nations for delivery to Gaza.

That was a reasonable compromise. Indeed, if such moderation were pursued, the people of Gaza might come to recognise an alternative to an extremism that, according to Israel, has led Hamas to place a higher emphasis on the securing of arms than the wellbeing of the Palestinian people.

Hamas has no interest in peace or welfare of its people. Its goal is to destory Israel.

The Press:

Like any nation Israel is entitled to defend itself and protect its citizens.

It regards Gaza, controlled by the hardline Hamas organisation, as a major threat to its security. This view is understandable as there is a history of attacks on Israel from Gaza using rockets and other weaponry undoubtedly smuggled into the territory.

These attacks have prompted incursions into Gaza by Israeli soldiers. They are also the rationale for the three-year Israeli and Egyptian blockade which is designed to prevent weapons being smuggled into Gaza amidst genuine aid.

But as is often the case, sympathy for Israel’s security quickly evaporates when it resorts to excessive force. That was so this week when its soldiers stormed aid vessels in the Free Gaza flotilla.

Two wrongs do not make a right.

The Dom Post:

Israel believes its problems can be solved with bullets. It is wrong, and deserves the condemnation now raining down on its head for attacking a ship bringing aid to Gaza and killing at least 10 of those aboard.

There is no doubt that the actions of the “Gaza Freedom flotilla” were designed to be provocative and turn the world spotlight on the plight of the Palestinians suffering in Gaza as the result of Israeli-imposed sanctions.

However, it was not “an armada of hate and violence”, as Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Daniel Ayalon, has dubbed it.

Israel must explain why it believed there was no other way of reacting to the flotilla than with an assault launched in international waters in the hours of darkness by a highly trained and – by all accounts – lethally efficient commando unit. It must say why other options to deal with what was a policing problem were not used.

The Dom Post is the most condemnatory of the four editorials.

The ODT:

There should be no doubt, now, about the outcome of the most serious waterborne challenge to Israel’s counterproductive blockade of the Gaza, despite the swamp of propaganda and “spin” from all sides.

People died, many were injured, Israel’s global reputation suffered another public relations defeat, and the people of Gaza continued to be pawns in a hostile diplomatic and strategic contest. …

The Government did make the point, however, that the “situation in Gaza is not sustainable”.

Indeed it is not.

It is deeply regrettable that Israel and Hamas refuse to recognise that reality.

A rational description of Israel’s high seas assault is that it was a severe over-reaction to a situation that could – and should – have been managed in a far more moderate, less assertive manner.

The commandos “slid from helicopters into a violent crowd, which attacked them with sticks.

It’s no wonder the troops opened fire in self-defence,” as one Israeli commentator put it, with more than a trace of irony.

By so doing, he added, “Israel walked straight into the trap that the flotilla organisers set . . .”

If this was really a planned effort to meet and contain the flotilla, it must be counted a tactical and military failure; an opportunity for Israel to earn praise ended in fiasco.

This is the reality. The Israeli Defence Forces should have been better prepared for violence and rather than helicopter troops on board would have been better to disable the vessels, user water cannons etc before boarding.

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Israel wrong

June 1st, 2010 at 8:53 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Israeli commandos last night stormed six ships carrying hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists on an aid mission to the blockaded Gaza Strip, killing at least 10 people and wounding dozens after encountering unexpected resistance as the forces boarded the vessels.

The operation in international waters off the Gaza coast was a nightmare scenario for Israel and looked certain to further damage its international standing, strain already tense relations with Turkey and draw unwanted attention to Gaza’s plight.

If the boats were still in international waters, then Israel did not have the legal right to board them. It would be a different matter in my mind, if they had waited until they were in Israeli waters.

As for the regrettable deaths, I do believe that the Israeli soldiers only opened fire after they were attacked. However if you are boarding a ship in international waters, then you are likely to get attacked.

To my mind Israel has blundered badly in its actions. The only defence I can think of is if the boats were found to be bringing in weapons, in which case they could be considered an enemy ship.

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The US-Israel Free Trade Agreement

April 22nd, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

An e-mail from the US Democratic Leadership Council highlights that 25 years ago Israel and the US signed a free trade agreement.

The change in aid and trade in that time has been massive

  1. Aid has reduced from $3.7b to $2.3b
  2. Services trade has gone from $1.0b to $7.5b
  3. Goods trade has gone from $2.4b to $44.2b

The US used to supply more in aid, than trade to Israel. Now their trade is more than 20 times greater than their aid.

Europe and the US should drop their trade barriers so that we have more trade, and less need for aid.

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Editorials 23 March 2010

March 23rd, 2010 at 12:20 pm by David Farrar

The Herald supports a new approach on whaling:

There comes a moment in intractable disputes when someone or something turns existing thinking upside down to reveal an altogether new approach to resolution. Upending the chess board, as it is known in some political circles, can unlock minds and banish stalemate. It was evident in the end of apartheid in South Africa and the troubles in Northern Ireland and in the change in fortunes for American troops in Iraq once some Sunni insurgents were co-opted to the general cause of peace. Domestically, the cross-party accord on the anti-smacking legislation removed that emotional political pit from the 2008 general election campaign. Now, a new way of Saving the Whales has emerged. …

For New Zealand to be party to an agreement which allows the hunting of whales by Japan, Iceland and Norway after two generations of bumper-sticker policy to the contrary is, superficially, preposterous. Yet if the end, rather than the means, is of real importance in this cause, then surely the status quo is equally preposterous. Whaling for “scientific research” would be one of the most offensive euphemisms and dangerous policy constructs in international affairs. In truth, the ability of New Zealand and allied nations to force Japan and others to stop their scientific lie, given the economic and diplomatic realities, is as depleted as the whale pods they seek to protect.

The Government should pursue the possibility of a qualified moratorium, one that could allow those of a nationalist whaling sentiment to save face while committing, over time, to stopping the barbarism. Either way, whales will die. But whole species could be saved.

Labour continues to support purity over practicality.

Both The Press and the Dom Post say Sharples is wrong. First The Press:

At regular intervals the Maori Party co-leader, Pita Sharples, makes statements guaranteed to raise the hackles of many New Zealanders.

His latest offering was to describe the principles of “one vote for one person” and “democratic elections” as artificial political concoctions. …

But to criticise cornerstones of our democratic system of governance does a disservice to the pioneers of electoral reform in Britain and New Zealand, especially as Sharples was speaking as Maori Affairs Minister and not as his party’s co-leader. Over centuries the franchise was widened until the present position was reached in which, with very few exceptions, all those 18 years and older have one vote, or two under MMP.

And the Dom Post:

Democracy (from the Greek demokratia) is an amalgam of two Greek terms: demos meaning people and kratia meaning power. It denotes government by the people or, literally, people power. It is a simple but incredibly powerful concept that has improved the quality of life of virtually everyone who has had the good fortune to be born into a state in which one person’s vote counts the same as every other person’s.

It is also a concept which millions, including New Zealanders, have given their lives to defend, and a concept that has to be defended against muddled thinking as well as evil doing.

Into that first category must be put Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples’ recent musings on the nature of democracy. According to Dr Sharples, the essence of democracy is not one person one vote, which he describes as an “artificial political concoction” but “goals towards equity … and inclusiveness”. …

Democracy is not simply one of many alternatives on a menu from which nations can choose with impunity. It is the only form of government that gives the meanest citizen the same power at the ballot box as the rich, the only system that has ever protected individual rights, the only system that ensures the peaceful transfer of power and the only system in which weak minorities have consistently been able to press their causes.

Hear hear.

And the ODT on the US and Israel:

While all these countries find much in common with Israel, and much to admire about it, its intransigence in the field of international relations is evidently a source of frustration and anxiety.

As much as Mr Obama is soft-pedalling in public over the recent spat, in private there is little doubt the Administration is furious.

The US desperately needs alliances, and sympathy, in the Middle East beyond its traditional bonds with Israel if it is to maintain pressure against Iran’s acquisition of the bomb.

One sure way it sees of achieving this is through making progress in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, an objective that, from time to time, seems to slip down Mr Netanyahu’s, and Israel’s, agenda.

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Editorials 18 March 2010

March 18th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald focuses on the departure of Vanda Vitali:

The trust board was also keen to see the museum throw off austerity and become part of an international trend typified by Te Papa. Part of this was a restructuring that left 46 personnel, many of them senior staff, without jobs.

Amid accusations that this meant core museum displays were being downgraded, the board backed Dr Vitali to the hilt for most of her tenure. Its support began to waver late last year, however, after a series of public relations disasters.

It is questionable who should bear the responsibility for these. Did the board, having appointed Dr Vitali and provided a mandate, fail to give sufficient direction and guidance?

Did it not recognise sufficiently that, as a Canadian, she was operating in an unfamiliar cultural context? Or did the director, like many set on instituting change, not see finesse and heedfulness as part of her job description? …

It must not become fusty and tradition-bound. Dr Vitali’s achievement can be measured by comments lamenting her resignation.

One of the more notable came from Naida Glavish, of the Ngati Whatua Runanga, who said she had brought the museum “back to life”. An initial reservation about Dr Vitali was her sensitivity to the Maori and Pacific exhibitions.

Museums are always seeking a balance. In Auckland’s case, that involves using flair and imagination to attract local people, while also catering for overseas tourists’ major interest, the Polynesian treasures.

Dr Vitali wrought major change in a short time. With a little finesse, the correct balance can be struck.

Is Te Papa still looking for a CEO? :-)

The Dominion Post is unhappy with Israel:

The timing of Israel’s announcement of a new 1600-house Jewish development in East Jerusalem was the equivalent of a one-fingered salute to the United States and to the peace process.

It demonstrates a contempt for the Obama Administration so withering that it diminishes the American ability to broker any deal. The administration had last year demanded a freeze on Jewish settlements, but eventually got only a partial, temporary halt – except in Jerusalem.

Why should the Palestinians pay any heed to what Washington wants, when the Israelis clearly don’t? It will also raise questions even among those sympathetic to Israel whether its current leadership has any intention of reaching a negotiated settlement.

I am a friend and supporter of Israel, but on this issue I agree they are wrong. They really should stop building new settlements. It makes the job of achieving a peace agreement a lot lot harder, for little gain.

The Press focuses on bad driving:

It is the common complaint of many New Zealand motorists. Truck drivers hog the road and, being oblivious to other road users, are responsible for accidents and near misses, both in urban areas and on the open road.

Those who subscribe to this jaundiced view should be taking a hard look at the video footage on The Press’s website. This footage, which was taken from cameras mounted in Canterbury Waste Services (CWS) trucks and which has created great public interest, has graphic images of other road users behaving recklessly and illegally.

It includes video images of one car overtaking a truck and forcing oncoming traffic to take evasive action. Other footage shows motorists not stopping at red lights or compulsory stop signs, failing to adhere to the give-way rule at other intersections, adopting some appalling driving techniques at roundabouts, and skidding due to a failure to drive to the conditions.

Luckily Wellington drivers are better than that :-)

The ODT looks at child abuse in the Catholic Church:

It is hard to believe the senior ranks of the Roman Catholic Church, increasingly under siege in Fortress Vatican, have any real appreciation of the extent of the calamity facing them.

For if they did, surely they, and Pope Benedict XVI, would be cutting a radically different course from that now being offered to a confused, disappointed and sometimes angry congregation.

Prominent among the strategies it has adopted in the face of what is beginning to seem like a perfect storm of recent revelations – of sexual abuse cases and “cover-ups” in Brazil, the United States, Ireland, the Netherlands, Austria, Italy, Germany and, periodically, in this country and Australia – has been the time-honoured tactic of attacking the messenger. …

It just reminds me of the South Park episode where a priest calls on the gathered Cardinals to stop priests having sex with little boys, and the response back is that as they can’t have sex with women, if they stop having sex with little boys, then they’ll get to have no sex at all!

Abstinence is not natural in my opinion!

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Editorials 1 March 2010

March 1st, 2010 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial does not appear to be online.

The Press looks at the furore over the forged passports by Mossad:

British police officers have arrived in Israel in an attempt to find out who or what stole the identities of six British-Israeli nationals and used them in the assassination in Dubai last month of a leader of the Palestinian Hamas organisation. The chances that the police will find anything worthwhile is exceedingly remote. If the murder was carried out by the Israeli foreign intelligence agency Mossad, as Dubai alleges and many others suspect, the Israeli Government will see to it that the truth never emerges. If it was perpetrated by some other actor – and the possibility that the killing was carried out by Arab agents from Hamas or elsewhere as part of some internecine feud has not been entirely ruled out – there is no chance that any plodding Western investigation is going to get to the bottom of it.

Maybe iPredict should do a market on who was it. My money will be on Mossad!

The victim was Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, co-founder of the military wing of Hamas, the radical Islamic organisation that controls the Gaza Strip. What Mabhouh was doing in Dubai without security protection is not known. As someone well aware that he was a target for assassination from a variety of quarters, Mabhouh seldom ventured far from Damascus where he was heavily protected. It appears likely he was involved in arranging a further illicit shipment of weapons from Iran for Hamas’s continuing attacks on Israel and for some reason felt secure travelling without guards. If this is the case, it is likely that Israeli intelligence seized the chance to carry out a strike that had probably been planned for some time.

Hamas is at war with Israel. Their policy is to destroy Israel. It is hard to argue that the co-founder of the military wing is not a legitimate military target.

The Dom Post welcomes a review of employment law:

Four years ago, a Tauranga company concerned about the theft of company property installed motion-sensitive cameras on its premises.

The cameras filmed a worker placing a cardboard box containing cakes of soap under a bench. Another worker, who subsequently admitted stealing company property, was filmed taking a box from under the bench and putting it in his car. The company believed it was a clear case of theft. It asked the worker who had placed the box under the bench to explain his actions. He refused. The company sacked him.

End of story? No. The worker took his case to the Employment Relations Authority. The authority found in favour of the employer. The worker appealed to the Employment Court. It took a different view.

It found the worker had been unjustifiably dismissed because his employer had not followed proper procedures. It had given him only selected portions of the surveillance tape, it had not put in writing the misdeeds of which he was accused, and it had wrongly concluded that the worker’s representative was stalling when he put off meetings because of other commitments. The company was ordered to pay the employee $12,000 for lost wages and $7000 for distress.

A good example of the case for change.

The ODT looks at home insulation:

Large-scale taxpayer subsiding of home insulation would seem an unlikely policy for a right-of-centre political party.

But that is what pragmatic National did and, by and large, Prime Minister John Key and his colleagues will be pleased with the outcome.

As are the Greens!

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McCarten on Israel

February 28th, 2010 at 11:27 am by David Farrar

Matt McCarten writes:

It seems we can’t get over the myth we’ve created of the little plucky nation of Israel defending itself against the Islamic hordes intent on destroying them.

The fact is Israel has the fourth largest military machine in the world and is the only nuclear power in the region.

Is Israel a little nation? Well it is around 20,000 square kilometres in size. That’s a bit smaller than Vermont – one of the smallest states in the US.

And Israel’s four neighbours have a land area of 1,290,000 square kilometres. That is around 60 to 65 times the size.

Are there Islamic hordes intent on destroying them? Yes. Not all Islamic countries and definitely not all Islamic people, but a fair few of each. It is probably the only cpuntry on Earth that

Does Israel have the 4th largest military machine in the world? No. For number of active personnel they are ranked 34th. And even if you include reserves they are still only the 20th largest.

They are the only nuclear power, but sadly not for long I suspect.

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