Wednesday, March 23, 2016

On Brussels, Sbarro and moral clarity

The scene outside Sbarro pizzeria after the attack
Occasionally, after a  high profile terror attack, friends say: "I suppose this brings it all back to you."

I politely agree with them.

But the truth is there is nothing to be "brought back". The murder of our Malki in the Sbarro pizzeria massacre of 2001 never "goes anywhere" whence it can be "brought back." It has been with us ever since, each hour of each day.

But the coverage of yesterday's Brussels attacks did trigger new ponderings about Malki. Her murder pre-dated smartphones so, as far we know, no footage of the Sbarro explosion exists. Even the still photos of the carnage are, like all images Israel releases of terror attacks, censored of horror. Whether this is wise is a debate for another post, but the upshot is that the chilling impact of that massacre has been dulled for the public and for posterity.

But when I watched footage of the Brussels bombings and heard the accompanying audio, I immediately transferred that to Malki's end. I realized that the same chaos and confusion, the racing for cover and - most upsetting - the cries and screams must have engulfed Malki in her last moments. Perhaps even she herself screamed, moaned or cried.

These are new thoughts, fresh pain. The murder of a child is the grief that never stops taking.

Once again, when Netanyahu condemns terrorism and seeks the support of world leaders in fighting a common enemy, I am reminded of his hypocrisy. Of his dishonesty.

First, here is what he told AIPAC yesterday:
"The only way to defeat these terrorists is to join together and fight them together. That’s how we’ll defeat terrorism – with political unity and with moral clarity. I think we have that in abundance.”
Now let's recall the moral clarity that this same man himself exhibited in June 2012.

Below is an excerpt from a piece I wrote then. At that time, Ahlam Tamimi, Malki's murderer, whom Netanyahu released and repatriated to her homeland, Jordan, in October 2011, was demanding that her fiance/cousin be permitted to join her there. She wanted very much to get married already and was growing impatient with Mr. Netanyahu's government.  Her terrorist supporters were tweeting away about how cruel he was to bar the star-crossed couple from reuniting.

Below is an excerpt from a piece ["So you thought Netanyahu is tough on terrorism? Not exactly", Times of Israel, June 15, 2012] I wrote then:
"Three weeks ago, the Arab media reported that al-Tamimi presented himself at the Allenby Bridge seeking to enter Jordan and was refused. Ahlam Tamimi claimed the Israelis had agreed to allow her fiancé to join her and then reneged.
The matter received no local coverage, so we contacted the Shabak, Israel’s General Security Service, on May 22. We asked whether Tamimi’s claim was accurate. Despite several followup phone calls and e-mails, it was only on June 6 when a response finally arrived by fax from the Prime Minister’s Office. It curtly stated that “after consideration” permission had been given for Nizar al-Tamimi to go abroad subject to his undertaking to remain away for five years. It said he had not yet departed.
We immediately retained a lawyer to petition the High Court of Justice to have this decision reversed. We sent all the papers and affidavits to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Justice. In addition, we faxed and emailed a personal letter to Netanyahu begging him to reconsider this move.
We asked the government’s lawyer to agree to close the borders to Nizar al-Tamimi pending the urgent High Court hearing. We never imagined how ridiculous that request was. The following day, the government’s lawyer responded to ours with the news that Nizar al-Tamimi had been allowed to cross over to Jordan three days earlier."
Moral clarity?  Sounds more like hogwash to me.

[A version of this piece is cross-posted on the Times of Israel blog.]

Friday, March 18, 2016

Perhaps you *can* fool everyone all of the time

[Image Source]
Aleh has begun spreading its disingenuous tentacles beyond Jewish and Israeli media. And, true to form, they tell the standard Aleh fairy tale.

In this instance, it was the Huffington Post on January 24, 2016 with a piece ["How Developmentally Disabled Adults Are Transforming Criminals in Israel"] that had originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post six months earlier [here].

It hailed Aleh Negev's "one-of-a-kind program... to help rehabilitate nonviolent inmates by having them volunteer with developmentally disabled adults residing in the rehabilitation village in the Negev." (I wrote about that in a previous post.)

It goes on: "The goal is to give these prisoners during their jail time a set of tools to help them when they return to society and a new perspective on life,” explained Orna Ben-Tal, who helps direct the program in the South."

It is baffling that the Huffington Post  would promote a program that - everyone concedes - does not exist anywhere else in the world and benefits convicted criminals on the backs of individuals with disabilities.

The conundrum deepens in light of the fact that only a two months earlier, the Huffington Post published [here] a piece lauding J.K. Rowling and her determination to end institutionalization throughout the world.
Harry Potter author and Lumos founder J.K. Rowling reflected recently about a visit to an orphanage 10 years ago: “I was shown into a room full of totally silent babies. They had learned that crying brought no comfort and their lack of interest in eye contact was eerie. The photographer wanted me to smile; I wanted to cry.”
Soon after, J.K. Rowling launched Lumos as an international non-profit organization to bring an end to child institutionalism worldwide by 2050. Lumos works with governments to strengthen families and build community services, such as inclusive education, health care and social services that help vulnerable families to stay together.
One can only scratch one's head when champions of inclusion and equality for people with disabilities swallow Aleh's gobbledy gook.

Just last week we learned of another such dupe, Nina Paul of Cincinnati, Ohio, the national president of Jewish National Fund’s Women for Israel (WFI) campaign since October 2015.

Here [link] is what she thought of Aleh:
As it turns out, inclusion is a highly personal cause for Paul, whose son Max had a rare brain tumor removed at age 8 and has gone on to live with behavioral issues. Paul also grew up with a brother who was born with brain damage. After moving Max in and out of various facilities around the country, Paul says she realized there was “no magic bullet out there” for him. He has now lived at home for eight and a half years and benefits from constant two-on-one professional care.
What Paul says she wishes Max had earlier in his life was a facility like Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran, a rehabilitation village and JNF partner organization that serves people with severe disabilities in southern Israel.
“When I came to Aleh Negev, and I saw this facility, the beauty of the place and the wonderful people and therapies they offer, I just started to cry, because I said, ‘My God, had we had this kind of a facility in the [United] States when I was searching…it would have made a huge difference [for Max].’ And that’s when I said, ‘OK, this is where my heart is in the work I do with JNF,’” she says.
Why on earth a mother who has chosen to raise her disabled child at home and advocates actively for inclusion would cry for joy at the sight of Aleh Negev is anyone's guess.  An institution remote and distant from any broader community and from the residents' families is the last solution you'd expect such a woman to laud.

I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. It's fair to presume that her tour of that institution - let's call a spade a spade; that is what it is, not a facility and not a village - was brief and selective. She probably wasn't told by her guides that young children, even babies, are taken from their parents and siblings to live out their lives in that large institution. Her guides probably didn't share with her either that millions of government dollars are poured into Aleh coffers while parents who choose to love and care for their  impaired children at home must struggle with pittance.      

Two crying women inspecting institutions for children with disabilities. But tears of two very different  sorts. I know which sort well up in my eyes every time I am subjected to Aleh propaganda. How about you?