My Mideast Punchlines: Oh God, wherefore art thou?

A former chief rabbi of Israel was convicted of fraud on Monday for his part in a bonus-scam that allegedly swindled hundreds of millions of shekels from the government in civil servants’ wages.

The Jerusalem District Court found Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron guilty of fraud offences including fraud in aggravated circumstances, falsifying documents, and breach of trust.

He is the second former chief rabbi to be convicted of fraud this year after former Ashkenazi chief rabbi Yona Metzger pleaded guilty to fraud, theft, conspiracy, breach of trust, money laundering, tax offences and accepting bribes involving some NIS 10 million ($2.6 million) under a plea bargain.

Metzger is currently serving a 3.5-year prison sentence at Ma’asiyahu Prison in the central Israeli town of Ramle.


There’s no fraud like a religious fraud. Canonised saints apart, the Catholic religion has been full of them since Paul of Tarsas. The trade in relics kept the monasteries afloat for centuries. The ayatollahs of Iran sit on vast fortunes. Yet we always seem more shocked when rabbis pray to Mammon.

As far as Bakshi is concerned, his surname is a clue. It is not that far removed from baksheesh. God help us.

My Mideast Punchlines: lippy Tayyip vents again ….

In an acerbic speech, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Muslims to visit the Temple Mount en masse in solidarity with the Palestinians against “racist Israel.”

Erdogan also railed against Knesset legislation restricting Muslim calls to prayer at late hours and the possible relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Separately, in a meeting with visiting PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, Erdogan warned against the “judaisation of Jerusalem,” according to Israeli media reports.

“As a Muslim community, we need to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque often, each day that Jerusalem is under occupation is an insult to us.”

The words pot, kettle and black come to mind. Jerusalem is more free today than it was for 400 years under Turkish rule. Turkey is less free today since Erdogan came to power. Hundreds of journalists have been flung in jail, along with thousands of ordinary citizens who have dared to oppose him. Tayyip gives it plenty of lip, but, in essence, Recep’s rule is a recipe for tyranny.

My Mideast Punchlines: a swear box in reverse….

Israeli coffee chain Cafe Cafe, fed up with rude customers, is offering two shekels (25p) discount to coffee drinkers who mind their Ps and Qs.

Israelis are notoriously blunt and/or rude, so anything that encourages them to be more civil is to be welcomed. Perhaps they could do the same sort of thing to encourage more polite driving on the roads. “After you. No, after you!”

Don’t hold your breath, folks.


My Mideast Punchlines: earth to earth, ashes to ashes……

Palestinian farmers harvesting crops have been sent into a fenced field in the Jordan Valley clearly marked with signs in Hebrew, English and Arabic warning of mines and prohibiting entry. A number of critical injuries and deaths have occurred in the past to trespassers who have entered minefields.

Say the Israelis, “There are irresponsible individuals encouraging the Arabs living in the area to trespass on firing zones, in this specific case an active minefield clearly surrounded by signs. If, God forbid, a tragedy occurs, those who encourage the incursions will point the finger of blame at the State of Israel, even though they themselves are the ones actually responsible for this insanity.”

Gives new meaning to the term ‘crop duster’.

My Mideast Punchlines: caught with his trousers dow–, er, up!

Say it ain’t so! Security cameras appear to have caught Palestinian hunger-strike leader Marwan Barghouti scoffing food on the sly. The Israeli Prison Service released this video, though Barghouti’s wife called the footage “fake.”

More on the story at the Times of Israel, Ynet and Jerusalem Post.

“Fowl!” cried Mrs Barghouti, it wasn’t a chicken laffa; it was a bacon sandwich.”

Of course, no one has asked the salient question: why, if you haven’t eaten anything for a week, would you need to take a dump — and keep your trousers up, to boot. Looks suspiciously to me like an Israeli Tortit (Wrap) chocolate bar hidden in a message from an unknown admirer. Probably said,  ‘bal’afia, habibi’  (to your health, old chap)!


My Mideast Punchlines: don’t be cross….

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby made a surprise visit to Gaza on Thursday. The Anglican Church leader “joined a lunch reception to hear from the Christian community about the particular challenges they face in Gaza.”

Not easy when most people are too afraid to turn up. It doesn’t pay to be a cross Christian these days. Still, the hummus was no doubt delightful.

My Mideast Punchlines: a bonanza of non-sequiters…quack, quack.

Non-sequitur 1 (Wall Street Journal): Hamas dropped a longstanding call for Israel’s destruction and accepted the notion of a Palestinian state based on Israeli borders before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The group, however, said it would continue not to recognise Israel’s right to exist and would eventually seek to control all of historic Palestine, making up Israeli territory, the West Bank and Gaza.

Non-sequiter 2 (AP): It has also dropped explicit language calling for Israel’s destruction, though it retains the goal of eventually “liberating” all of historic Palestine, which includes what is now Israel.

It doesn’t matter what terms Hamas uses to couch its charter. If it talks like a duck…..etc., etc.


My Mideast Punchlines: now you see him, now you don’t…

A proposed official royal visit to Israel was quashed by Britain’s Foreign Office, according to The Sun.

Prince Charles was set to travel to Israel to honour thousands of British war dead at the centenary of the WW1 Palestine Campaign and the historic Balfour Declaration.

But insiders say the controversial trip – unofficially pencilled in for later this year – has now been binned.

It is feared the decision may have been taken to avoid upsetting Arab nations in the region who regularly host UK Royals.

Oh, no, we can’t go upsetting the Arabs, can we? Well, at least not until their oil runs out, or foreign office mandarins cease their romantic imaginings of riding across the desert, keffiyahs billowing in the wind. Then we can feel free to say what we really think about the Arabs and their misogynistic religion. Meanwhile, Britain should honour the Jewish spy group, the NILI, for not having to mark the deaths of tens of thousands of more British war dead. The NILI — not T.E. Lawrence — were responsible for enabling Britain’s victory and gaining of the League of Nations mandate to rule Palestine, a bit of a poisoned chalice when you think about it.

My Mideast Punchlines: so what’s new?

Hamas announced that, as widely expected, Ismail Haniyeh was elected chairman of the terror group’s Politburo. It’s not clear when Haniyeh will formally take over the position, replacing Khaled Mashaal.

So Hamas replaces leader committed to Israel’s destruction with leader committed to Israel’s destruction. Politburo — don’t you just love that word? Seems to imply that with Hamas it’s all just politics. In reality, there’s no difference between Hamas’ ‘Politburo’ and its military wing. Two ends of the same rocket, so to speak.

My Mideast Punchlines: what a gas…..

At a news conference held in Qatar, Hamas presented its new manifesto in a clear attempt to make itself more palatable to a Western audience as well as so-called moderate Arab states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Some major media fell for it, with the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the Independent (no surprise, this one) sporting such headlines as “Hamas Drops Call for Israel’s Destruction”. The Irish Times, bless ’em, even went so far as to suggest Hamas “moves to end peace deadlock”.

The new document may seem more moderate, but in reality nothing has changed. While the document accepts the 1967 borders as a “national consensus formula,” Hamas still calls for the “full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea,” which is poetic code for “the destruction of Israel.”

Unless you believe the media is wilfully looking at Hamas through rose-tinted spectacles (heaven forbid!), the only conclusion one can come to is that they are employing journalists whose reading skills haven’t developed since nursery. What part of this ‘revised’ charter do they not understand? Hamas is like hummus: the more you consume its propaganda, the more gas you produce.