My Mideast Punchlines: open sesame…

In a bizarre and highly irregular case, senior officers in an elite intelligence unit were harshly punished on Friday for ordering unnecessary missions by a Palestinian agent and later lying about it, the Israel Defense Forces said. The operations: buying tubs of tehina in the West Bank.

One lieutenant colonel was removed from his position and another was sentenced to 28 days in prison for ordering the missions. Other senior officers involved in the affair received official censure, but no other punishments.

Earlier this month, Channel 12 interviewed an officer from Military Intelligence Unit 504, responsible for cultivating and operating human assets in enemy countries, who revealed that on at least two occasions he had been ordered by his commanders to use one of his spies to purchase jars of the sesame seed paste as a gift for the IDF’s chief intelligence officer.

biffQuite right too. Unit 504, a unit feared by friend and foe alike, should concentrate on Hamas rather than hummus, and the Tanzim (a militant faction of Fatah) rather than tahina. By their arrogant actions, the hapless officers opened a jar of tsuris (Yiddish for trouble) for themselves. Open sesame, indeed.

My Mideast Punchlines: dusty bin…

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas firmly rejected the Trump administration’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Tuesday, calling it the “the slap of the century.”

Abbas addressed the plan in a speech to senior Palestinian leaders, including representatives of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups, at the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah.

My Mideast Punchlines: planting a seed…

Prince Charles has said he would want to visit Iran, praising the Iranian nation as “remarkable”, while also describing himself as a peacemaker.

In an interview given to the Sunday Times at the World Economic Forum in Davos and published on Saturday, the heir to the throne said: “Yes, obviously I would like to [go to Iran].”

He went on to praise Iran for its contributions in “human knowledge, culture, poetry, art”, saying that Iranian people were “remarkable.”

biffAt first sight, it might seem preposterous that a man who has discussions with plants would having something in common with the ayatollahs. But you never know, the clerics might see themselves as kindred spirits, given that they have an apocalyptic belief that the world must come to a virtual end so that the twelfth imam (in this usage meaning a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad through his cousin Ali and his daughter Fatimah ) did not die but went into a spiritual form of existence known as occultation, and will return at the end of time as a messianic Mahdi to restore justice and equity on earth.

Makes talking to plants seem entirely logical.

My Mideast Punchlines: woof, woof…

The US administration will publish its long-anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal today.

President Trump predicted that the Palestinians will “ultimately” come around to giving their support. “They probably won’t want it initially. I think in the end they will,” he said. “I think in the end they’re going to want it. It’s very good for them. In fact, it’s overly good to them. So we’ll see what happens. Now without them, we don’t do the deal. And that’s okay.”

If no peace deal can be achieved, he said, “life goes on.”

Israel’s Channel 12 news on Monday reported that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas called Trump “a dog, son of a dog” in a meeting with Fatah officials over the past day. The report did not cite any sources, and the PA denied it, with an official in Abbas’s office saying no formal meeting of Fatah leadership took place on Monday or Sunday.

biffAbbas has previous form with his dog comments about Trump. What is it with Arabs and dogs? Maybe it’s because they regard canines as unclean. Well, I think I can speak on behalf of the Radford family bitch, Toffee. She may not know who she is, but she is certainly sentient. The pain caused to her sensitivities by Holocaust denier Abbas’ comments cannot be overstated. Upon hearing of the Palestinian leader’s alleged comment, Toffee said, “woof, woof,” which, using Google Translate, means “faecal orifice.”


My Mideast Punchlines: dream, dream, dream…

Having persecuted and purged their Jews as punishment for the rebirth of Israel, many Arabs now realise they shot themselves in the foot.

A million Jews lived in Arab countries in the 20th century. Today, just a few thousand are left, mostly in Morocco and Tunisia.

The purging of the Jews caused a crisis in almost every Arab country from which they came. Despite their relatively limited numbers, the Jews’ impact on society, culture, economy, and trade was crucial to the development of those countries, and their loss was felt. After the Jews were evicted from Iraq and Egypt, for example, those countries experienced crisis after crisis.

There is now a palpable longing in most Arab states for the Jews to return. Many believe that only with a Jewish presence will their countries blossom and develop as they did in the past.

biffWell, having a wife whose family members suffered pogroms in Aden before being expelled, I can’t imagine the queues to return will be very long. Basically, the 850,000 Jews thrown out of Arab countries around the time of the establishment of the State of Israel learned pretty quickly that any hardships encountered in the nascent state were preferable to ending up in unmarked graves in their erstwhile homelands. Is there one Judenrein country in the Middle East that isn’t a failed state? Since 1948, Arabs have been slaughtering fellow Arabs on an industrial scale. The upside is, no Jews, no scapegoats. It all really boils down to a question of trust. So it’s worth repeating the axiom of my late and beloved father-in-law Shmuel. He used to say: you can’t trust an Arab forty years in his grave. So to those Arabs who yearn to see a Jewish return, I simply say: dream on and singalong to the Everly Brothers:

My Mideast Punchlines: contract capers…

An Iranian lawmaker announced a 3 million dollar contract to “whoever kills Trump,” Iranian semi-official News agency reported.

“On behalf of people of Kerman province, we will pay 3 million dollar award in cash to whoever kills Trump,” Ahmad Hamzeh told parliamentarians, according to ISNA.

Kerman is the hometown of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top commander of the Quds Force who was killed by a US drone on Jan. 3 in Iraq.

biffApparently, there’s no truth to the rumour that Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi and presidential wannabe Bernie Sanders are vying for the task.

My Mideast Punchlines: Newspeak, a.k.a. bullsh**t

Iran supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds force should be viewed as a “humanitarian organisation with human values,” while delivering the morning prayer sermon on Friday.

In the sermon Khamenei was expected to throw his support behind the elite Revolutionary Guards after their belated admission that they had downed an airliner in error sparked days of rage on the streets.

biffI am reminded of George Orwell’s Newspeak in 1984. Don’t be surprised if the mad mullahs create a dystopian “Minipax (Ministry of Peace, i.e. Ministry of War).” This, Orwell explains, is similar to “the characteristic features of political language… in totalitarian countries” of the early 20th century. Make that early 21st century.

Newspeak isn’t just a set of buzzwords, but the deliberate replacement of one set of words in the language for another. The transition is still in progress in the fictional 1984, but is expected to be completed “by about the year 2050.” We can’t wait that long. The regime is struggling now more than ever, and Ayatollah Khamanei should remember the Iranian proverb, when misfortune moves over you, even jelly will break your teeth. Opposition to the regime is mounting, so he should also remember that you can close the city gates, but you can’t close the people’s mouths. Are we witnessing the beginning of the endgame? I sincerely hope so.

My Mideast Punchline: moon landing…

Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s Executive Committee, recently described International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s announcement of her intention to investigate alleged war crimes in the Palestinian territories as akin to late US astronaut Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon.

Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969. While on the moon, he famously uttered the words: “One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.”

“It is my belief that I can compare this step to the steps of Neil Armstrong when he put his foot on the moon in 1969,” Erekat told Al Jazeera last week. “I do not want to exaggerate with regard to this matter, but the inability to achieve peace throughout these years…was because the Israeli occupation authorities have not been questioned and held accountable.”

biffWhen Erekat, an inveterate liar, says that he does not want to exaggerate, you can always be sure that the opposite is true. When it comes to reality, Erekat indeed lives on the Moon. How can we forget his most famous exaggeration, his claim that 500 Palestinians were killed in the Battle of Jenin in 2002? The real figure was 53, with 23 IDF soldiers also being killed. “Massacre, massacre,” bleated Erekat and his then boss Yasser Arafat. Yes, Saeb, the only thing massacred was the truth.

My Mideast Punchlines: memories….

Iran announced Saturday that its military “unintentionally” shot down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed earlier this week outside Tehran, killing all 176 aboard, after the government had repeatedly denied Western accusations that it was responsible.

A military statement carried by Iranian state media said the plane was mistaken for a “hostile target” after it turned toward a “sensitive military centre” of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The military was at its “highest level of readiness,” it said, amid the heightened tensions with the United States.

biffThis incident inevitably brought back personal memories for me. As a freelance journalist way back in October, 1973, I was aboard the first El Al plane to fly to Israel following the outbreak of the Yom Kippur war. Accompanying me were Yael and our baby son, Max. Yael wanted to be with her parents. Five of her six brothers were fighting on various fronts. It was a night flight, and we were told to keep the cabin window shutters lowered. Of course, we were aware that we could be shot down. Egypt’s SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) were not as accurate as today’s, but they still managed to down 102 Israeli warplanes. However, we had inordinate faith in Israel to protect us. Once over the eastern Mediterranean, I peeked out of my window. Reassuringly, we were being shepherded by Israeli jet fighters into a blacked out Ben Gurion airport. The mood was sombre. Many passengers were ex-pat reservists voluntarily returning to their units. Some would not survive the war. They were the real heroes.

My Mideast Punchlines: the price of martyrdom…

Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah warned Sunday that the assassination of IRGC-Quds Force Commander Qassem Solemani marked a new era in the Middle East and that the response will be “just punishment” for the crime.

According to Nasrallah, “Soleimani got what he sought on that night: Martyrdom. This was his wish since he was a young man, when he first fought on the front lines in Iran.

“Desire for martyrdom flips the balance of power between us and the enemy. The enemy’s highest punishment against us is to kill us, but our highest desire is to be martyrs. So, we cannot be defeated. When we are victorious, we are victorious. When we are martyred, we also triumph.”

biff“Uncle” Hassan needs to be reminded that there is a major difference between a suicide bomber and someone who is blown to bits by surprise. In order to save his John Thomas for use with the promised 72 virgins, the suicide bomber bandages his penis. Preparation, you see, is everything. So, Uncle, being a eunuch in the afterlife is not much of an attraction to your average martyr, is it? In the West, we think differently. When we are victorious, we are victorious. When we are martyred, we are…..dead.