Brooks Hilliard: ‘Speaking of wine, Happy Passover. I am convinced one of the major reasons Jews tend to be progressive or liberal is that we grew up with the story every year of how we, personally, were slaves in Egypt. It’s awful hard not to empathize with those who’ve emerged from slavery when you know you’re one of them.’

☞ Not to mention, fast-forwarding a few thousand years, the bullied, the oppressed, the discriminated against, and the massively exterminated. Which I wouldn’t mention, except that it sort of ties in with – leapfrogging this next item – what follows.


Jim Martona: “When ordering wine in restaurants, mustn’t all logic FLY OUT THE WINDOW if one is not to look like a no-class lout? I mean, isn’t ‘sommelier’ actually French for ‘I smell money?’  Logic/emotion is a balancing act.  Last week I ordered a $68 bottle of wine in the chi-chi Manhattan restaurant La Grenouille. I admit it was the most I’ve ever paid for wine. Imagine my shock when the waiter brought out a HALF-BOTTLE!  I guess my dinner companion and I didn’t read the menu closely enough.  We made damn sure to savor that wine!”

☞ Don’t feel bad, Jim – you’re young.  That same $68 invested at 10% in a Roth IRA and passed on to your grandchildren at your death, 50 years from now, when they’re 10, would have grown to throw off only $285,000 a year for them from ages 70 to 90, and by then, not only will you be long, long gone, $285,000 will be worth bupkis.

Well, that’s not entirely true: after 110 years of 3% inflation, $285,000 shrinks to the equivalent of $11,000.  But “invested at 10%” is an awfully aggressive assumption and, in any event, 110 years is a long time to wait.  What’s more, why shouldn’t your grandkids have to make it on their own, as you have?  Keeps life challenging. Drink up!

Indeed, at the rate we’re going, it’s not entirely clear anyone will be here 110 years from now, which is all the more reason to drink up – and to hope that good-hearted men and women (just getting more women involved would likely help) can find a way to live in peace.

Which I suppose brings us to this, which, having been unable to find a link to it, I have lifted from the Sunday, March 10, London Daily Mail):

The Daily Mail

By Peter Hitchens

Almost everything you think you know about the Middle East is untrue. For anyone who knows the region’s geography and history, the nightly news bulletins are a torture to watch, with their soppy editorialising about ‘peace’ and their depiction of Arab and Israeli as squabbling children in need of a clip round the ear from wise Western world statesman.

Those world statesmen are not much better. In normal life, it is a sign of being unhinged if you do the same thing over and over again and expect to get a different result. But in the business of Middle East diplomacy, such behaviour could earn you a Nobel Peace Prize. Since 1978, Israel has been urged to give up a little more land in return for a promise of peace, which always seems to evaporate. The land, however, has gone for good.

The whole logic of the argument is odd and hypocritical. America, a vast territorial empire with harmless neighbours to north and south and huge oceans to East and West, urges Israel, one third the size of the single State of Florida and with foes on every hand, to give up ‘land for peace’. So does Britain, a secure island entirely surrounded by deep water and with no obvious enemies in sight.

The phrase ‘land for peace’ is interesting in itself. It is actually another way of describing the appeasement forced on Czechoslovakia by her supposed friends in 1938. This was also supposed to promise peace, but actually made the country impossible to defend and opened the gates for an invasion a few months later. Those responsible for this cowardly stupidity are still reviled 60 years on. Those who urge it on Israel in the present day are praised.

Look at a map. Israel and the Occupied Territories fit comfortably inside the borders of England, with plenty of space to spare. Then look at the absurd shape of it.

Any general, asked to defend such a country, would groan with despair. At one point, between Qalqilya and the Mediterranean, it is so narrow that a tank could cross it in 18 minutes and a jet bomber in 18 seconds. Its only international airport is within easy rocket range of potentially hostile territory. So are its capital and its principal highway. It is worth mentioning that it is also within missile range of Iran and Iraq, not far over the eastern horizon, and that Iraq and Iran agree on only one thing – their loathing of Israel. Within living memory it has three times been the target of invasions from its neighbours, in 1948, 1967 and 1973. During the Gulf War it was bombarded with Iraqi Scud missiles. You might pardon its inhabitants for being a little nervous about their security.

The astonishing thing is that so many Israelis, despite this danger, have sought peace treaties with their neighbours based on a trust they have no reason to feel. Almost the entire Israeli media; the country’s largest political party; most of its authors, academics and artists, campaign constantly for their own state to make risky concessions to its enemies. Even its conservative leaders have made such concessions, especially by handing back the Sinai desert, with its valuable oil and strategically vital territory, to Egypt in 1978. The last left-wing premier, Ehud Barak, was prepared to hand over half of Jerusalem to Arab control two years ago. His offer was turned down.

He also sought to give back the Golan Heights to Syria, but was rebuffed. This militarily vital piece of ground was originally part of the League of Nations mandate of Palestine when its borders were fixed in 1920. It was then handed over by Britain in a deal with the French, who controlled Syria, in 1923. Israel captured it in bloody fighting in 1967.

In the same year Israel conquered the famous ‘Occupied Territories’ which are now supposed to be turned into a Palestinian state alongside Israel. You might think that Israel had seized them illegally from their rightful owner. In fact this is not true. They were grabbed by armed force, together with the eastern and holiest part of Jerusalem, by the country then known as Transjordan in 1948. Transjordan ethnically cleansed all Jews from this land and from its sector of Jerusalem, and promptly renamed itself ‘Jordan.’ During its 19 years of Jordanian rule, the area was never described as ‘occupied territory’.

At that time there were also no demands for independence from the Palestinian people. The Gaza strip was gobbled up by Egypt in the same year, to a chorus of silence from the world protest industry.

Israel has many blots on its past and is not a perfect society. Some of its founders were shameful terrorists as many British army veterans and others have reason to know. During the 1948 war there is little doubt that Israelis drove some Arabs from their homes, though the Arab radio stations were also urging them to flee to give Arab invading armies a clear run in their invasion.

But it is not some kind of crude oppressor. Would you know from the BBC that Israel had a million Arab citizens with full civil and voting rights, with the sole exception that they are not requiredto do military service? The arrangement is far from perfect, and in recent years relations have grown worse, but no Arab country gives such rights to Jews, if it even permits them to live within its borders.

Then there are the ‘refugees’ in their squalid townships. Why are they still there? About 650,000 Arabs fled from what is now Israel in 1948. There are now about five million officially classified refugees. More than £1.5 billion has been spent by the UN on housing and feeding them, mainly provided by Western nations. Most of the Arab states refuse to grant them citizenship or to pay towards their maintenance. They have a political interest in preventing this weeping sore from ever healing, since the refugees’ plight is excellent anti-Israel propaganda. They still promote the idea that they may one day return to their lost homes. For if they did so, Israel would cease to exist, its Jews a minority in an Arab state.

Compare the Palestinians with the 12 million Germans expelled from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Hungary and Romania after World War Two. All have long ago been absorbed into Germany, and few seriously dream of returning to their lost homes. This often bloody transfer of population was done with the approval of the great powers of the day, and is now largely forgotten. Or compare them with the 14 million people caught in the wrong place by the bloody India-Pakistan partition of 1947. Nearly 8 million Hindus fled from Pakistan and 6 million Muslims streamed out of India. None of them is still in a refugee camp. Nor are the 900,000 Jews driven – often with great savagery and persecution – from Arab countries after the foundation of Israel, most of whom settled in Israel.

Yet none of the supposed efforts for ‘peace’ have managed to achieve the civilised resettlement in Arab countries of these refugees. Why not, since they share a common religion, language and culture with the whole of the vast Arab world, and might surely have benefited from some of that Arab world’s huge oil wealth?

The reason is that most of the West has lazily accepted the TV news idea that this is just a squabble between people who are equally misguided.  It has swallowed the Palestinian claim that they are the oppressed. Yet Jewish Israel occupies a tiny part of the Arab and Muslim Middle East. They have all ignored the simple fact that, if Israel is to survive, it needs sensible borders. At the moment, it would rather have a frontier that is defensible and unrecognised, than one that is recognised but cannot be defended.

We are supposed to be engaged in a war against terrorism. Here is a great opportunity to defeat and finish terrorism in one of its greatest bases. If peace is what the Arab world wants, America is now in a unique position to arrange it. Her military and diplomatic power is at its zenith. Instead of asking Israel to give land for peace, why do we not ask the Arabs, who have so much more land, to give some of theirs, so that Israel’s borders are no longer an invitation to invasion?

At the same time we could end forever the grievance which has kept this useless conflict alive. A new Marshall plan could resettle the refugees in a matter of years, throughout the area in peace and comfort. Their politically impossible ‘right of return; could be bargained away forever. Joint unhindered access to Jerusalem’s holy places could be agreed by international treaty. So could the end of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propaganda in Arab schools, newspapers and broadcast media, which frequently stain themselves with libels worthy of the German Nazis. But for this to happen, the Arab world needs to understand that no amount of terror, no amount of threats, will shift the Western world from its defence of Israel’s right to secure existence. It needs to understand that it must stop using anti-Israel sentiment as a safety valve for the discontent in its own ill-managed societies, whose despotism, squalor and brutality rarely if ever feature on the TV news bulletins. By similar resolve in the Cold War, the free nations of he world persuaded a mighty Communist power to reform itself and abandon its support for aggression and terror. It can be done, but only if we have the will and the understanding, and learn to see beyond the oversimplified mages of tank and slingshot, suicide bomber and soldier, to the real problem.


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