Wednesday, September 29, 2010

When the punishment fits the crime

Writing in the Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby writes "Ultimate evil calls for ultimate penalty."

"ELECTED OFFICIALS don't usually acknowledge wanting to torture people in dark alleys, so it made news recently when Boston Mayor Thomas Menino expressed such a wish during a talk at Emerson College.
"Menino had been speaking about the murder of Richel Nova, a Domino's pizza delivery driver who was brutally stabbed to death after being lured to an abandoned house in Hyde Park on Sept. 2. The suspects charged with Nova's late-night slaughter -- two teens and a 20-year-old -- are accused of lying in wait with knives, stabbing him repeatedly in the chest and throat, and rifling his pockets for money as he lay dying. Then, prosecutors say, the three drove off in Nova's car and ate most of the pizza from its blood-stained box."
"Maybe you guys can tell me," he said to the Emerson students, "what do they think when they do that? Don't they think life is worth anything?"

"A student asked Menino whether the three suspects ought to be tried in a state that, unlike Massachusetts, authorizes the death penalty.

"I'm not in favor of the death penalty," he answered. The death penalty is "a hot-button issue that doesn't solve anything. . . It's unfair. I just don't think the death penalty is the way to go."
Now Menino gets in trouble, he says,

"If I saw these guys in a dark alley, I'd like to have a fight with them," the mayor said. "I'd do some things that would be worse than the death penalty. . . . I would slowly torture them."
Torture, Mr. Mayor? You can imagine what comes next, the stuff hit the fan. Prosecutors, fearing that Menino had tainted any possible jury selection, forced him to retract his statement about torture. According to Jacoby,

“But the mayor took back the wrong words. It is his blanket opposition to the death penalty he ought to rethink, not his healthy and perfectly understandable urge to give Nova's killers a taste of the unspeakable evil they inflicted on their victim. It may not have been very genteel to speculate out loud about making the perpetrators suffer, but Menino was only giving voice to an innate and normal human craving: the desire to see justice done, to see those who prey on the weak or innocent get what they deserve.”
Where and when, in Massachusetts and other states that have outlawed the death penalty, does the punishment fit the crime? And what does that absence of punishment do to the rest of society?

To read what Jacoby has to say, go here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hamas video threatening Gilad Shalit

Hamas posted a video of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit on Youtube on Monday, suggesting he would be killed if a deal was not soon reached.

In the animated video, two masked men are shown standing on either side of Gilad Schalit in a dark room, with one of them holding an AK-47 assualt rifle.

From the folks at Hamas. At the end of the 24-second video, gun shots are heard as the movie goes black and the words "Is the mission completed?" are seen written in Arabic.

Sad, very sad.

Stephen M. Flatow

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

From Israel a Christmas Blessing by President Shimon Peres

Israel's president Shimon Peres extends Christmas wishes to Israel's Christian community; a growing one at that.

I give him credit and that's what I have to say.
Stephen M. Flatow

Monday, September 20, 2010

Israel and solar power

A side of Israel many people don't see - its technology side.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Frida Ghitis - "Middle East peace requires courage"

Frida Ghitis writing in the Miami Herald - "Middle East peace requires courage"

One of the most extraordinary moments in recent Middle East history came in 1993, when the world discovered that Israeli and Palestinian teams had held secret peace talks. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, formerly sworn enemies, came together on the White House lawn, formalizing their commitment to peace. The decision, and that memorably awkward hand-shake, prodded along by President Bill Clinton, required uncommon courage. They called it the Peace of the Brave. [Ed. - Yes, they did and it gave rise to a new vocabulary, such as, a Sacrifice for the Peace, to describe the murders of innocent civilians such as Alisa Flatow.]
The term deserves dusting off because it highlights one of the key requirements for peace, and one whose absence could prove the undoing of the new effort unfolding under U.S. sponsorship. Bravery, courage, are indispensable because no matter how comforting the idea of peace, reaching an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians is a frighteningly dangerous process.

To reach a deal, the leaders -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas -- must make compromises that will break the hearts of millions of their followers. They will have to accept terms that will anger some enough that they will kill. And they will have to sign on to borders that could make their land -- especially in Israel's case -- vulnerable to unthinkable risks.

The euphoric events of 1993 gave way to disappointment, but they also helped draw the blueprint guiding the new quest for peace.

No one claims the new effort suffers from unrealistic expectations. Skepticism about its chances for success prevails. I call it skepticism and not pessimism, because many who claim peace is impossible in fact hope for failure. By their standards, they are optimistic.

When the leaders of Iran, Hamas or Hezbollah say the process will fail they remind us of their plan. Their solution is the destruction of Israel and its replacement with a fundamentalist Muslim regime; an alternative, backed by weapons, militias and money, that looms over the peace talks like a thick dark shadow, but also provides some of the impetus to persevere.

Ironically, the negotiating sides already agree on the solution's rough outlines. With the possible exception of the future of Jerusalem, everyone knows what is required for peace.

Even more frustrating is that the subject of closest agreement has become the most contentious. Partly because of missteps by the Obama administration, the issue of settlements has moved front and center and could provide a timid Mahmoud Abbas a way out of the talks. Abbas says without a settlement freeze he will pull out. Netanyahu says that, like all other differences, this should be resolved "through direct continuous talks.''

Already in the Clinton days that problem was essentially solved. Settlements take up about 4 percent of the disputed land. Most settlers live on a few large blocs, which in an agreement would be swapped for equal amounts of land within Israel proper.

To be sure, tough disagreements remain. But a basic obstacle to peace today is that Abbas, the Palestinian representative, appears to lack the power, the legitimacy and, yes, the courage, to close a deal.

Abbas, who rules only over the West Bank, asked for permission not just from Palestinians but from the Arab League, to start negotiations. When talks started in Washington, Hamas, which controls Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinians, signaled its rejection by murdering more Israelis. The London-based Arab newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi editorialized that Abbas "negotiates without being granted the authorization to do so by his people.''

Adding irony to this sad situation, majorities of Palestinians and Israelis desperately want a peace deal. Contrary to what an ill-informed article in Time recently argued, Israelis are eager for peace. For years a vast majority of Israelis has expressed strong support for a two-state solution. A recent War and Peace Index poll found 80 percent support negotiations, easily outnumbering opponents of compromise.

A majority of Palestinians also back negotiations. But in the Arab world, public opinion carries less weight. Writing in the influential Arab daily Ashar al-Awsat, Mamoun Fandy wrote, ``The Palestinian division is not simply an internal one, as some may think, but is first an Arab division, and secondly a regional one.'' Even if Abbas achieved an agreement, he argued, he would find much of the Arab world pressuring Palestinians to reject it.

That's why Abbas announced shortly after leaving Washington that, "I can't allow myself to make even one concession.'' If he meant that, the new peace process is already over. Clearly, these are not the words from a man with the courage to make the peace of the brave. But then, Arafat ultimately lost his nerve. Maybe Abbas can find his.

Read the column on-line.

I know that Netanyahu has made previous decisions that did not rest well with sectors of his political support, but he made them anyway. Abbas, considered a terrorist by Yitzhak Rabin, does not, in my opinion, have either the willingness or the guts to make similar decisions. Will we back to base one again? The next days and weeks will tell.

What do you think?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Building a mosque near Ground Zero - opinions for and against

Sunday’s edition of the Asbury Park Press contains dueling op-eds on the proposed construction of a mosque near the World Trade Center site. The op-eds are written by Aref Assaf, president of the American Arab Forum located in Paterson, NJ, who is in favor of the mosque’s construction, and John Skoufis, a retired chemist who lives in Denville, NJ, who is not in favor of its construction.

Mr. Assaf frequently writes about Palestinian issues and finds it hard to condemn terrorism unequivocally. I had not read anything by Mr. Skoufis before today but a Google search indicates he brings a “conservative” approach to many issues.

Assaf begins,

“President Barack Obama's remarks supporting the right to build a mosque near ground zero reverberated across the country, nationalizing a passionate debate over the project. The dispute is the most prominent in a series of debates around the country where Muslims have sought to build mosques.”

[A comment from your editor, Mr. Obama’s support was tempered by his questioning the smartness of building a mosque so close to Ground Zero. This is a typical Assaf ploy. But enough from me.]

He continues

"Shamefully, Republican leaders and right-wing media pundits have made it their objective to use the issue not only to undermine public support for Obama but as a tool in the upcoming midterm elections. Gratefully, a few Republican leaders have sided with what's right. Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have decided that scapegoating American Muslims was, in fact, too costly politically."

Read the full op-ed.

This is from John Skoufis,

"The proposed building of a mosque/cultural center near ground zero has engendered vociferous debate from extremists on both sides of the issue. One side tries to marginalize opponents by portraying them as bigots and Islamophobes while the other side makes unfounded claims that all Muslims are terrorists.

"We need to tune both out and discuss, rationally, our position.

"I will leave it to others to make their case for condemning those who object to this building. But the siren cry of bigotry and First Amendment and legal rights do not suffice since the vast majority, more than 70 percent, believe this mosque has both legal and constitutional rights to build while simultaneously objecting to the location. Some 70 percent of Americans cannot be labeled as bigots or against religious freedom."

Read the full op-ed.

What do you think?