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Tag: America (page 1 of 14)

What the Wall Street protests are all about

Alan Grayson clearly describing the issues that are driving the Wall Street protests across the US (Bill Mahr):
“They’re complaining about the fact that Wall Street wrecked the economy three years ago and nobody’s been held responsible to it.”

Unique Israeli Artist Jack Jaget

Jack Jaget is a graduate of Music and Art High School and the Cooper Union Art School of New York. For some years he was the Art Director at the World Publishing Company. Once, this master designed books for most major publishing companies in the States, for which he won many awards, among these:

Best 50 Books – American Institute of Graphic Arts, AIGA children’s book selection (A total of 14 books), honor book for the Caldecott Medal, and he was a member of AIGA and the American Heritage of Graphic Arts.

In 1974 Jaget, his wife and three children immigrated to Israel and founded a graphic studio which turned out designs for companies, hotels and banks such as the Sheraton and Carlton Penta, Bank Hapoalim, the BIRD Foundation, and others.
Hebrew Wood Mezuzah Case by Jack Jaget
Wood-working has long been Jack’s great love – so he turned it into an occupation. Each Jack Jaget piece is individually fashioned in various woods and decorated with gold leaf. All of the metallic parts are gold plated. He uses the finest lacquer finishes, to give his creations a unique and mysterious Middle Ages aura.

A number of Jack’s pieces have been presented to CEOs and notable scholars. Among well-known personalities who were the recipients of Jack’s books are, the late King of Jordan, as well as US President George W. Bush.

His work includes; Bibles, Tehillim, Sidurim, Pesach Haggadot, Machzorim, Tzadakah Boxes, Torah Pointers and Mezuzah Cases.

Netanyahu: Be Fearless

The article placed Motzei Shabbat on Yahoo, by Associated Press writer, Karoun Demirjian, should not have too many readers gasping in shock. She voices the plausible chance that the United States could cut funding to Israel in order to “squeeze” them – get Netanyahu, who declared the settlement freeze in the first place, to fall in line and stop housing all of those Jews to the east of Jerusalem.

Obama speaking at AIPACIsrael gets an annual sum of $3 billion from the Americans, the largest recipient of US aid, with Afghanistan coming in second (the Taliban devastated country). All of which is earmarked for the IDF, and spent on F-15s and F-16s, jet fuel, high-end munitions and missile defense systems. The deal is that the money filters back into the US economy because Israel agrees to spend it on such weapon manufacturing companies as, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing and others. Good for America.

Israel and America have been on a collision course since before Obama actually took office, and of course the flash point is West Bank Housing. If the United States decides to “squeeze” Israel, we will lose 20% of our annual defense budget, but the sum amounts to just 2% of Israel’s gross domestic product. Be fearless.

Before we demonize the American president, that is before he gives us a reason, recall that it was the Bush Administration who pressured Sharon’s Kadima government to cut out the Gaza Strip, devastating millions of Jews and spelling decades of future war with Hamas. The dandyism of the self-interested United States is a dangerous influence. Be fearless.

If we have learned anything from America, let’s recall Benjamin Franklin who in the face of adversity only worked harder, becoming less dependant on others and less fearful of his enemies. On greed and the weapon of currency he said: “He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.” If Obama would trade military intelligence and economic income to appease the Palestinians who stomp on their flag, that’s their business. If it’s to appease someone else, I want to know who! Be fearless.

Even Theodore Herzl would have admitted: a Jewish State has meaning beyond industry and international trade. It is indeed, a Jewish state, not part of an American empire, no matter how you slice the cake. Be fearless.

Mr. Campbell

Tom CampbellRepublican US Senate candidate, former congressman, Tom Campbell, running in the state of California was accused by his opponents of anti-Semitism and taking an anti-Israel stance. He denies these accusations.

His opponents, Carly Fiorina and Chuck DeVore have claimed that Campbell opposes Israel because of the way he has voted while in office and because of the donations which he accepted from Sami al-Arian, a prominent leader of Islamic Jihad.

When asked whether he has ever supported Israel during his ten years in the House of Representatives his response was, “There’s no place for calling me an anti-Semite and then denying it. That whispering campaign, that silent slander stops today.”

Campbell was a Stanford law professor and spearheaded a House of Representatives claim against former President Bill Clinton for the manner in which he commanded the war in Kosovo.
Fiorina mentioned that Campbell voted in favor of a cut in financial aid to the Jewish Country and was one of 34 members of the House who voted against the move to define Jerusalem as its undivided capital – 435 others supported the move.

DeVore called Campbell “a friend to our enemies”, alluding to the fact that he accepted $1,300 from al-Arian in 2000, after he was arrested on suspicion of running an Islamic Jihad campaign in the University of South Florida.

Former Commandos Rescue American from Abusive Husband in PA

What do you do when your daughter is trapped in Tulkarm with an abusive Arab husband and the Palestinian Authority won’t do anything about it, much less the Israeli Army who won’t risk a diplomatic incident over some woman’s domestic abuse issues?

Israeli Commando KnifeSimple. You call on some former commando badass Israelis to take care of the situation themselves. The woman in question, an American citizen, was being held captive by her husband, who refused to let her out of the house and threatened that if she left, she’d never see her two-year-old son again. So the woman’s parents called an Israeli who used to serve in an elite IDF commando unit, and explained the situation to him. He then took responsibility for solving the predicament, enlisted a few of his old buddies from back in the army days, and put a sort of vigilante mission together.

The team began gathering intelligence on the family’s routine, kept doing this for a period of a few weeks, and after enough had been gathered, they staged the rescue. This of course required infiltrating Palestinian Authority territory, something that can at any time result in another kidnapping. Fortunately, everything worked out, the woman and her son were rescued, and the US Consulate was notified.

The woman’s parents offered to give the rescuers a reward, but they refused, saying they did not embark on the mission for the money. Good work, men. Keep making us proud.

Greenback bashed again as exchange slips below NIS 4

Shrinking Dollar
The U.S. Dollar, also known recently as “Obama Bucks” slipped below the NS 4 benchmark rate Friday for the first time in five months. The greenback’s international weakness, aggravated by the ongoing world recession and the immanent possible bankruptcy of giant U.S. automaker General Motors has resulted in the US currency falling against other major currencies, especially the Euro and Japanese Yen. The Shekel has continued to strengthen following the announcement by Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer that the BoI will discontinue purchasing dollars as it has recently to help maintain it’s exchange rate and assist Israeli exports with a lower Shekel rate.

Fischer had tried to prop up the sagging greenback due to fears that Israeli exports would suffer, especially those destined for American markets. Another reason for the BoI purchasing dollars was due to an already large foreign currency reserve by the bank in that currency which would mean a loss of profits if the currency went down to the rate it was at it’s low point of NS 3.30 about a year ago. All this news is a bit discouraging for many people who are receiving pensions and other incomes in US dollars and have to exchange them for Shekels. Apartment sales to Americans also suffer when the dollar rate falls as prices for properties in Israel become more expensive.

For people who remember the early to mid 1980’s, when inflation in Israel reached nearly 400% and the former “old Shekel” was depreciating daily against the dollar and other currencies, this business seems almost comical – unless one is living on dollar based investments and pensions that is. A Citibank economist was recently quoted a saying “we think the Israeli central bank could soon find itself in a position where it is neither necessary nor desirable to continue it’s policy of purchasing foreign exchange (dollars) at the rate of $100 million a day”. That’s obviously what has happened in that the BoI is simply flooded with dollars.

In the long run, however, it’s obvious that the economy of Israel is tied considerably to what is happening in America; and too strong a Shekel rate is counter productive

for Israel’s exporters, especially in the current recessionary economy.

Americobsession – The Final Chapter

Part 5 of 5

My last post – consisting of a kind of “psychoanalytic” reading of the American pop-culture craze in Israel – sent me searching for the opinions of other youngish Israelis, some like myself (American-born immigrant to Israel), others not at all. I corresponded with people from various backgrounds: American-Israelis, Israelis with American-born parents, Israelis with one American and one Israeli parent, the religious, the secular, and some natives whose parents literally planted the first seeds of Modern Israel.

AmericobsessionI asked six highly intelligent individuals three questions related to the induction and subsequent effects of pop-culture Americanization in Israel. If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll find the bases of the questions to be obvious. What I have already done is set up a problem that I think is prevalent to the whole country, and perhaps the whole world. I wrote out a fairly one-sided view of young Israeli culture. That admitted, I decided to ask some other people what they thought, partly with the hopes of finding out that I was right in my claims, and partly with the hopes that those claims would challenged.

Question 1: “Do you believe that there is a thriving Israeli culture amongst teenagers today?” The first response was as follows:

You may call it thriving in the sense of being in transition. Historically, in the first decades of the Israeli state, western influence was perceived as threatening to Jewish-Israeli authenticity. So the influence and acceptance of foreign influence is relatively new, and perhaps taken to an extreme. But still youth organizations/movements in Israel are popular and though they are influenced by foreign elements, they are still inherently “Israeli.” Some try to deal with the Israel-Palestinian conflict, others with the secular / conservative one, and most focus on the army as a significant rite of passage in Israeli identity formation.

Another interviewee made an excellent point regarding the various sub-groups amongst Israelis and how these divides amongst individuals may also cause a shift in opinions about America’s pop-culture influence:
I suppose that really depends on where you live. I would definitely say that the majority of Israeli teenagers are much more taken in by American culture, than the Israeli one. And even the Israeli one seems very American at times. Although, I would add that here in the south (and in other places in Israel as well), there is a different, “Israeli” culture – an “arsi” one, (how would that translate to English?) that is definitely not American, and has more of a middle eastern flavor – the music, clothes, food, all goes with it.

(By the way, and if anyone is willing to translate “arsi” for our readers, we would all love to read it).

The responses to the first question were fairly unanimous. Most people said that there is in fact a culture specific to young Israelis that has its roots outside the American pop-culture that has seeped into the country’s existing art/tv/music culture. However, if we look at the next question, we’ll see that some of those who expressed their opinion regarding the existence of an Israeli-specific pop-culture also expressed concerns regarding the heavy influence of American pop.

Question 2: Do you fear that American popular culture has had or will have too great an influence over young Israelis?

– I definitely see the seeds of American pop culture sprouting here in Israel, and fear it will only become worse. I believe there are too many negative qualities in American culture – competition, an idealization of external qualities, nothing sincere, and of course, that terrible “American dream” – that clash with what we are trying to build here in Israel. These values do not coincide with the Zionist, pluralistic, socialist and multicultural understandings that Israeli society needs to deal with, considering its geography, history, society and religion, and what’s more, American popular culture, in my mind, only obstructs the path to constructing a moral, happy, peaceful society.

– Not really; it’s a hodgepodge of internal and external cultural contradictions and influences, not all American. Israeli music (specifically that mixture of Sephardic and Ashkenazi influences) is as equally influential as American pop culture on Israeli youth; “Eretz Nehederet” is as essential to Israeli youth culture as any American prime time TV show or Latin telenovela. We have McDonald’s, Pepsi and Levis, but also Falafel, Humus, Zara, Adidas and Puma. I think that the foreign influence, which is a global problem, will gradually balance itself off against the Israeli one. American culture is perhaps the most pervasive foreign influence because we share a similar multicultural / multiethnic background — that’s why, I think, American culture is so appealing to us.

Most responses to the above question leaned towards the side of disgruntlement and frustration. Others, however, took into account the complexities of Israeli culture and all of its influences.

And finally, Question 3: Although pop-globalization is said to be happening all over the world, do you feel that it has affected young Israelis any differently than in other places, especially considering U.S.-Israel relations? A couple of answers:

- Is the situation better / different in South Africa? No, I think it’s a global problem.

- I don’t know, I really don’t know how it is all over the world. I know that there are a lot of Israelis working in the US after the army, which does appear to be particularly “Israeli”. I guess that has something to do with an Israeli, youthful vision of America.. So my hunch is that yes, Israel has been affected differently, and I think Israel-US relations do contribute to it (just look at all the American flags on Yom Haazmaut! It drives me wild)…

And so yes, the influence is here, it’s creepy in its excess, but I what I was reminded of is that globalization does not discriminate based on nation: the crap is everywhere. And hence, perhaps we should all take comfort in the fact that youngsters in Iran are drinking CocaCola, in Lebanon they’re chowing down McGrills, and the top requested hit on Middle East Music TV is Spears’ “Womanizer” – and these are all facts.

Who knows? American pop-culture globalization may soon bring peace to the Middle East – one pair of China-made baseball caps at a time.

Written by Alana Sobelman

AIG Israel and the American bailout scandals

While the ongoing AIG bailout money scandal appears to be gathering momentum in the U.S. many people in Israel are wondering how this may be affecting the insurance consortium’s affiliate in this country, especially in light of the on-going economic recession that is now fully entrenched in Israel. AIG’s attempt to have an increasing share of the Israel insurance market has not been without problems, as the local company, which began business in Israel in the late 1990’s, appears to be investing a considerable sum of money in TV advertising to help maintain a positive image with an increasingly skeptical public.

AIG began its operations in Israel in the late 1990’s by marketing direct automobile insurance in competition with another company, I.D.I. Insurance Company Ltd, otherwise known as “Betuah Yashir” or Direct Insurance. As of June, 2007, AIG Israel had managed to acquire a 3% share of the Israeli insurance market, with annual sales revenues of $100 million and a profit of $10 million. For years, the company sustained losses in the insurance products it marketed to its Israeli customers, which later expanded to household and mortgage insurance covers, as well as life and health insurance products. While it earlier used more simplified types of media advertising, it has recently used high profile personalities from the Israeli entertainment world, including TV and theatre acting personality Avi Kushnir, and transsexual singing star Dana International, who was hired to advertise the company’s Lady AIG insurance packages.

AIG Israel, headed by Hava-Friedman Shapira, has undergone a massive TV “hasbara” or PR campaign to try to insure its existing and potential customers that everything is OK with the Israeli branch of AIG despite the problems its big brother in America is now experiencing, especially after the revelations that a good part of the money the company was given by US Treasury to keep it solvent has been paid out to its high level management in the form of bonuses. Kushnir has literally earned the title of being known as “Mr. AIG Israel” for the clever and cute commercials he has appeared in for AIG, including being dressed as a woman to promote the company’s “Lady AIG” insurance package, along with Dana International, for women drivers over age 30 who have a good driving record. He was also aired in a special PR commercial that came out soon after the near-collapse of the American AIG and the initial bailout from the US government last October. The commercial shows him walking onto center stage and saying the words: “I saw…..I heard……it’s all right now” in order to show AIG’s Israeli policy holders that they have nothing to worry about.

Kushnir has since been seen in a different commercial in which he tells the viewing public that in spite of many companies conducting massive layoffs of employees, AIG is actually hiring people to work in the company’s sales and customer service departments. It’s understandable why this may be happening; since insurance companies make a good part of their total revenues from selling policies, as well as renewing existing ones. More than likely, the company surely needs extra help to try and bring in more insurance customers, and especially to keep existing policy holders from deserting the company in favor of other insurers. With all that is going on with AIG in America, who might not be just a bit edgy when the time comes to renew an automobile or other type of personal insurance policy. And this reality is something that even Kushnir or Dana will have a hard time trying to prevent AIG policy holders from saying: “I saw…..I heard….I left!”

Coping with the Americobession

AmericobsessionIt seems that American pop-culture and the English language have together saturated what could have been a thriving Israeli culture of sophisticated art, film, literature, and music. Just flip through the channels: Top Model, Top Israeli Model, American Idol, Israeli Idol, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Survivor, Israeli Millionaire, Martha Stewart, Oprah, Dr. Phil. You’ll find television commercials for Israeli products that are entirely in English; you’ll even find plasticized American traditions such as the classic lemonade stand scenario reenacted for commercial purposes in the same nostalgic fashion that’s been done before—white picket fence and all.

Then turn that tuning dial: Britney, Ricky Martin, Rihanna, Jessica Simpson.

And then transliterate from Hebrew the words on any one of those street billboards: HOT, Orange, Super Pharm, New Pharm, Mega, Super Sell, BIG, SMILE.

And lest we forget the vulgar expressions that come out of endless attempts to capture American pop-culture through misinformed translations on clothing: the tagline “Pussy King” on the face of a so-called Burger King T-shirt (usually worn by an Israeli guy showing off the two months he spent driving an ice-cream truck in New Jersey); or a perfectly classy looking woman sporting the slogan “Kiss It” across the back pockets of her 1,000NIS ($250) pair of jeans.

Any efforts—if they ever existed—to halt American globalization in Israel have capsized, making way for newer and more counterfeit ways to promote all of the products, sights, and sounds that are already themselves carbon copies of what was once considered quality in American culture. A double-fallacy, and an especially unfortunate scenario for those of us Americans who have seen it all before.

As to why this has happened, it seems like an old topic already—American political support of Israel leads to financial support, which logically leads to a dribbling in of McFlurries, Coca Cola, Pink and Ashley Simpson. But in my three years here I have noticed a frightening upsurge in what I’ll call the “Americobsession” that draws me to conclude that so much of the flashy crap I was hoping to escape from when I left America, is now on the prowl to suck me right back in. I once figuratively spat at the windows of WalMart and gave my dollars to Nader. And now I seek news updates from the FOX network and question Obama’s willingness to use military force. Is it true? Have I become more American since I’ve moved to Israel? Or have I simply become more Israeli by surrendering to American influence?

The four posts that follow will include a few different investigations into the rampant and largely incurable Israeli obsession with all things American. We’ll lightly skim the pages of Freud and talk to some Israelis and Americans on the street in order to find out what exactly it is about all of that junk from the States that makes young Israelis trade in their Arik Einstein for Hootie and the Blowfish, their ‘Operation Grandma’ for ‘Team America’, and their individual tastes for a load of very expensive dribble. Americans have already fallen for it. Must Israelis now shovel the shekels for a cargo full of bad leftovers?

Written by guest writer Alana Sobelman

The US Elections and Israel

I was asked to provide my take on the Impact of the US elections on Israel. I got a little carried away….
In terms of the US elections and impact on Israel.

I think that the impact is significant and that we are all aware of it especially in these hard financial times. The relationship between Israel and the US is historically close and obviously there is a genuine interest in keeping that relationship going. Just from the fact that out of 3 major TV channels at least 2 are showing all week long specials on the elections and the candidates, you realize that the interest level is more then casual.

Impact is a scary word. It can sometimes refer to an adverse effect and I think some people are worried about that with Obama – especially when compared with McCain. McCain is “more of the same” and in this race seems to be the “sure thing” in terms of Israel. He is a Naval Academy grad and an “old army man” (I know the pun…) so that makes him good for Israel. The unknown here is Obama. Will Obama be good for Israel seems to be the million dollar question and the papers and commentators in Israel ask it all the time. But media fed fear is a great ratings/money maker and so I don’t really consider it a good basis for a decision.

I look at a combination of the Job and the Man. I think the presidency of the world’s largest corporation is a difficult gig and brings with it a very steep learning curve. I think that many “presidents to be” had one set of rock solid opinions when they stepped up to the plate and then faced with the realities of the land, the advice of experienced consultants and even previous leaders arrived at different decisions when it came down to executing strategy. Israel and the Middle East is
a traditional “Hot Potato” – period. It’s a foreign policy swamp/nightmare for any US president because of the strategic importance of the area and the volatile population in the region. Finding a steady partner in that swamp is the only way to wade through this particular swamp and this is a lesson that every US president in the last 50 years has had to learn, pretty much the first week on the job.

Now for the man. I like Obama. I think he will be first of all – good for America. I think more of the same is not a good idea for so many obvious reasons. I also think the idea of bringing in a man that will finish his first term of presidency at the age of 76 and the second term (maybe..) at the age of 80 is a problem, especially considering the second in command is an Alaskan with a set of values taken from the middle ages.

Obama is a political loner and in many cases even an outsider. I also don’t think of him as black. He is a determined, dynamic, educated, new world, self made man. He has been able to learn and adapt quickly. He has been able to learn from his mistakes. And, he has been able to stand and fight when needed. All important qualities for a future president.

I also think that these are the characteristics that make this candidate very likely to learn the importance of Israel to the US and value the long standing relationship with this country.

In the long run the Clean & Green policy that Obama wants to move forward will start to reduce the impact of the Middle East on the rest of the world. You need to make that assumption carefully because not “all things remain equal” in this world, but that is a possibility. I also see that as a positive development because it will make the countries in the region look at developing other resources and capabilities in their respective countries and that might actually mean a higher education
rate and real social progress – which of course means less room for fundamentalism and ignorance.
Who knows….

Mofaz refuses debating

The Kadima primary is just a few weeks away, and there are currently 4 candidates. Avi Dichter, one of the candidates, suggested having a televised debate, where the candidates can voice their opinions on the urging matters of the Israeli society. However, Minister of Transportation, Shaul Mofaz refuses to participate in such a debate, making the suggestion virtually pointless. Mr. Dichter is very unpleased with Mofaz’ refusal, and he may even push to have a 3-way debate instead.

As I’ve previously mentioned here on the blog, political debates do only good, no matter the political context.

Shiri is back

Shiri Maimon, who represented Israeli in the 2005 Eurovision song contest, came to fame as the second runner-up in the first season of the Israeli version of ‘American Idol’. Now she’s back with a new video clip, and her usual brash attitude.

Bye-Bye Olympics

Michael PhelpsWell, the 2008 Summer Olympics come to a close today. It’s been a unique journey.

First of all, the day the games began, Russia and Georgia had spiraled fast into a state of war, shocking the entire world.

Next, we had the bad weather in Beijing, and the murder of an American tourist by a Chinese citizen. The violence didn’t stop there, as we’ve seen yesterday the Cuban taekwondo contender kicking a judge in the head!

As for the winners, it’s been the time of their lives for Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, breaking several astounding records and demonstrating the ingenuity of the human spirit and body. On the Israeli front, Shahar Tzuberi made us all proud with his bronze medal in windsurfing, and rhythmic gymnast Irina Risenzon raised our hopes by making it to the final round.

Nevertheless, the big winners are no doubt the Chinese. They have gained many gold medals, but no less importantly, they’re enjoying the warm embrace of the West despite their failure to improve their human rights record or their environmental attitude. Yesterday they even had the audacity to block the iTunes service within the whole of China, because several guest Olympic athletes downloaded Tibetan protest music via Apple’s internet store. And they do it even before the closing ceremony!

The next summer show will take place in London 4 years from now, but I’m sure plenty water will flow under the bridge by then.

How the Georgian conflict might affect Israel?

KremlinThe war in Georgia heightens the tension between Russia and the US, reminding many of us of the Cold War era. How this shift in the international arena might affect the state of Israel?

Well, first of all, there’s Iran. A growing involvement of American forces in Eastern Europe would make it virtually unable to open a new front in Iran. Furthermore, Russia’s backing is essential for any UN sanctions on Iran, and such backing is already quickly evaporating as the old tensions between the superpowers come to life again.

When faced with the pressure to choose sides, Israel will surely align itself with America. This could severely affect the large Russian population within Israel, which could become disgruntled and more alienated. In addition, Russia may make it more difficult for Jews in Russia to make Aliyah, which is a vital process in maintaining the delicate demographic balance in this country.

Finally, the prolongation of this conflict will have serious worldwide economic implications, especially on oil prices and on the American currency. Are we prepared to stand the tide?

The Americanization of Tel Aviv

Human Narration on BNarrator.com

Something is happening in Tel Aviv, especially in the northern neighborhood of Ramat Aviv. In the past two years, one could hear much more of the English language walking down the streests of the city. The reason is the relatively high number of foreign Jewish students who arrive to study at Tel Aviv University.

Most of these foreign students reside in the students’ dormitories, located near the university in Ramat Aviv. In fact, the situation sometimes cause dissatisfaction among the Israeli students, since their American counterparts are given preference in the dormitories’ admission process. In addition, the result of having more foreign students who get admitted into highly selective faculties — such as law and medicine — is correspondingly having less Israeli students admitted to these faculties.

Nevertheless, I think all these American students add a unique flavor to the city’s atmosphere, and they strengthen the bonds between Israel and the Jewish community abroad.

Besides, it broadens the dating pool. ;)

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