Turtleboy of the month: John Cena, apologizing for calling Taiwan a country

I’ve got nothing

Actor and WWE star John Cena was slammed online starting late Monday evening and continuing well into Tuesday morning after apologizing to communist China for calling Taiwan a “country.”

Cena called Taiwan a “country” during a promotional video for his upcoming movie “Fast & Furious 9.” In his apology, Cena said [emphasis added]:

Hi China, I’m John Cena. I’m in the middle of Fast and Furious 9 promotions. I’m doing a lot of interviews. I made a mistake in one of my interviews. Everyone was asking me if I could use Chinese – [movie] staff gave me a lot of information, so there was a lot of interviews and information.

I made one mistake. I have to say something very, very, very important now. I love and respect China and Chinese people. I’m very, very sorry about my mistake. I apologize, I apologize, I’m very sorry. You must understand that I really love, really respect China and the Chinese people. My apologies. See you.

Like Taiwan isn’t largely inhabited by Chinese people themselves — so it’s OK to diss non-Communist Chinese?

“Ooh Xi, I wanna be your turtle-boy!” [to the tune of “I Wanna Be Your Dog”]

It’s such a crowded field for the worst turtle-boy of the month, but this one is special. Like, short-bus special.

UPDATE: Razorfist weight in [language alert]:

“Kohlenklau”, or how Germany’s transportation constraints led to crippling coal shortages during WW II

Returning for a while to research for the Operation Flash sequel.

I have previously blogged about Germany’s shortage of petroleum during WW II, and how they compensated using synthetic fuel from coal liquefaction processes that had already been developed during the Weimar era.

It should be kept in mind that every ton of gasoline from coal liquefaction required input (as feedstock or energy source) of 5 tons of high-grade coal to as much as 22 (!) tons of inferior “Braunkohl” (lignite). Well, you might say, coal was pretty much the only natural resource Germany had in relative abundance.

So why was there a domestic shortage of coal? Growing up, neighbors who had been forced civilian laborers in Germany remember propaganda posters about a named “Kohlenklau”

(coal grabber)

“Kohlenklau” is out and about! He grabs the gas and steals the light, robs electricity and coal. Do not tolerate it! GRAB HIM!

— and there was even an honest-to-G-d board game [!] “Jagd auf Kohlenklau” [hunt for Kohlenklau]!

Game board.
See http://www.giochidelloca.it/scheda.php?id=1245 (in Italian) or https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/66875/jagd-auf-kohlenklau

So what gives? TIK explains in this video, drawing primarily on the book by A. C. Mierzejewski, The Most Valuable Asset of the Reich: A History of the German National Railway, Vol. 2, 1933-1945; University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2000.

In fact, between 1924 and 1933, Germany was the 2nd largest producer of coal, after the USA. But it’s not enough to dig up coal — you need to get it to where it is needed, be it cities (for use as domestic fuel), steel factories, coal liquefaction plants,…

And this is where it went pear-shaped. Germany did have an extensive railway network, but it was managed in the classic command-economy style at its Göring worst[*], and the limited capacity and rolling stock had to also meet the exigencies of troop transport and supply.

Even years before the Allied air forces were able to systematically target railway lines and junctions in Germany’s heartland, a capacity crunch had hit hard. It apparently got to the point where miners in the Ruhr area had to be regularly sent home, as mined coal was backed up because of train shortages. Even marshaling yards were dysfunctional because of a lack of marshaling locomotives.

So coal rations for the civilian population had to be shrunk to free up more coal (read: more coal transportation capacity) for the military and military industries. When too many people started grumbling, local party leaders would seize coal supplies and divert them from the war effort…

And all because, for all the much-vaunted reputation of the Wehrmacht as a high-tech [of the day] army and of the Reich as an industrial powerhouse, its transportation logistics were actually severely lacking even before the RAF, the USAAF, and various Resistance sabotage actions started gumming them up further…

[*] one of Göring’s ministerial portfolios was that for the “Four-Year Plan”. Multiple competing and overlapping fiefdoms in each sector of society was a feature of the Third Reich, one calculated both to have the potentates competing for results and too preoccupied with fighting each other to ever get serious about replacing the Führer [y”sh]…

COVID19 mini-update, May 25, 2021: Yesterday’s “conspiracy theory” about lab origin now embraced by Fauci?!

You may recall that, right back to the beginning of the pandemic, some people were speculating that this was either an escaped bioweapon [very dubious] or the result of a lab leak during “gain of function” research. This was pooh-poohed all over as a conspiracy theory, but from the beginning there were mainstream media sources who questioned the CCP’s official narrative: as I reported on April 15 last year,

Washington Post, in a rare display of journalism, dropped a bombshell (archive copy at http://archive.is/Tg5oo in case it gets “airbrushed”)” It appears that my friend “masgramondou” was not far off the mark with his origin theory for the epidemic.

The other day, the Wall Street Journal reported that back in November 2019, three employees of the Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalized with a disease that wasn’r idenitfied at the time, but with hindsight might well have been COVID.

And now, Dr. Anthony “Weathervane” Fauci is saying he is not sure about natural origin. Which leaves a number of media sites furiously retro-editing their earlier report. Tim Pool has comments:

Jordan Schachtel [via Instapindit], however, argues that the real COVID19 crisis was caused by the Chinese disinformation operation accompanying it.

But why not embrace the healing power of “and”? A lab accident, the regime faces a major PR debacle, then improvises “making lemons into lemonade”…

ָADDENDUM: Israel drops nearly all remaining restrictions June 1, including the “green tag” program.

ADDENDUM 2: Welcome, Instapundit readers! Check out the cover story in the UK Spectator by veteran science journalist Matt Ridley [himself a Ph.D. biologist]: The COVID lab leak theory is looking increasingly plausible.

In March last year, it was widely agreed by everybody sensible, me included, that talk of the pandemic originating in a laboratory was pseudoscientific nonsense almost on a par with UFOs and the Loch Ness monster. My own reasoning was that Mother Nature is a better genetic engineer than we will ever be, so something as accomplished at infection and spread could not possibly have been put together in a lab. 

Today, the mood has changed. Even Dr Anthony Fauci, the US President’s chief medical advisor, now says he is ‘not convinced’ the virus emerged naturally. This month a letter in Science magazine from 18 senior virologists and other experts — including a close collaborator of the Wuhan lab at the centre of the debate, Ralph Baric — demanded that such a hypothesis be taken seriously. Suddenly, too, journalists have woken up and begun writing articles admitting they might have been hasty in dismissing a lab leak as a Trumpian conspiracy theory last year. CNN reported this week that the Biden administration shut down the State Department’s investigation into this.

The turning point, ironically, was the ‘press conference’ on 9 February in Wuhan where a team of western scientists representing the World Health Organisation sat meekly through a three-hour propaganda session at the end of a 12-day study tour. Strictly chaperoned throughout, the western scientists (approved by the Chinese government) had mainly listened to presentations by their Chinese colleagues during their visit and done no research themselves. Yet the result was presented to the world as if it was the WHO’s conclusion. 

The press conference was told that the lab leak theory was ‘extremely unlikely’ and would not be investigated further, because the scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology said so during a three-hour visit by the study team. By contrast, the theory favoured by the Chinese government — that the virus reached Wuhan on frozen meat from a rabbit or ferret-badger farm in southern China or southeast Asia — was said to be plausible, despite a total lack of evidence. 

So risible was this little stage play that even WHO’s director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, had to backtrack a few days later: ‘All hypotheses remain open and require further study.’ […]

The problem is partly that journalists confused two different theories last year: that the virus might have escaped from a laboratory openly doing research that was intended to prevent a pandemic, or that a secret project to create a nasty virus for use as a bioweapon had either gone wrong or succeeded all too well. The latter theory remains implausible; the former has never been so. 

Go read the whole thing. “The purpose of all these virus hunts and experiments was to predict and avert the next pandemic. At best they failed in that; at worst they might have caused it.

ADDENDUM 3: well, well… Facebook ends ban on posts assering COVID-19 was man-made (WSJ)

ADDENDUM 4: US Senate unanimously passed amendment to end US federal funding of “gain of function research” in China. [This research was originally begun as a US-Chinese joint venture, then forcibly shut down in the US in 2015 because of the risk involved, after which it continued in China, apparently with some US funding.]

ADDENDUM 5: more from Tim Pool: Fauci faces firing as massive scandal about to erupt after Fauci admits funding went to Wuhan lab

COVID19 mini-update, May 23, 2021: Preliminary results indicate Pfizer, Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccines largely remain effective against Indian variant

I have been winding down COVID19 coverage on the blog, but this item seemed worth highlighting in light of the more contagious Indian strain. The first results are in concerning effectiveness of the two main vaccines used in the UK, the mRNA-based Pfizer and the viral vector-based Oxford/Astrazeneca. A preprint can be read here:


An annotated excerpt [my annotations in square brackets], with some line breaks added. 95%CI stands for “95% confidence interval”:

Effectiveness was notably lower after 1 dose of vaccine with B.1.617.2 [“Indian variant”] cases 33.5% (95%CI: 20.6 to 44.3) compared to B.1.1.7 [“British variant”] cases 51.1% (95%CI: 47.3 to 54.7) with similar results for both vaccines.

With BNT162b2 [=Pfizer/BioNTech] 2 dose effectiveness [is] reduced from 93.4% (95%CI: 90.4 to 95.5) with B.1.1.7 to 87.9% (95%CI: 78.2 to 93.2) with B.1.617.2.

With ChAdOx1 [=Oxford/Astrazeneca] 2 dose effectiveness reduced from 66.1% (95% CI: 54.0 to 75.0) with B.1.1.7 to 59.8% (95%CI: 28.9 to 77.3) with B.1.617.2.

Sequenced cases detected after 1 or 2 doses of vaccination had higher odds of infection with B.1.617.2 compared to unvaccinated cases (OR 1.40; 95%CI: 1.13-1.75). [In plain English: among the small group who got infected despite vaccination, the Indian/British case mix was definitely more ‘Indian’ than among the unvaccinated reference group.]


After 2 doses of either vaccine there were only modest differences in vaccine effectiveness with the B.1.617.2 [“Indian”] variant. Absolute differences in vaccine effectiveness were more marked with dose 1. This would support maximising vaccine uptake with 2 doses among vulnerable groups.

To be fair, the confidence intervals on these numbers need tightening up with much more data, particularly for Oxford/Astrazeneca, but the results for Pfizer are a little tighter — and in fact the confidence intervals for British and Indian variants still overlap. When more extensive data will be available, I would place my money on Pfizer [and its Irish twin Moderna] turning out to be a little, but not a whole lot, less effective. Likely, the same would hold for recovery from past COVID19 infection. (An insider here told me that based on preliminary data in Israel, past infection is not greatly different in protection to a 2-dose Pfizer regime.)

My bottom line is guarded optimism: with some caution, I expect that populations where the combined percentage of 2-dose vaccinations and COVID recoveries is high enough to transition into functional herd immunity territory will remain resilient toward the new Indian variant.

Table 2 from the preprint

PLO head honcho in 1977: “Palestinian identity is just a tactical ploy” [blast from the past]

Blast from the past: “Palestinian national identity” is a surprisingly [to some] recent phenomenon. As recently as 1977, a PLO [!] head honcho openly said in an interview with a Dutch newspaper that this was adopted for tactical reasons only. See the full blog post below.

And here in 2002, we see Azmi Bishara [then an MK for the Arab nationalist Balad party] say on live TV “there is no such thing as a Palestinian people, that is a colonialist invention. There is the Arab nation and that is all”. 



Anyway, here is the original post from 2014  in its entirety.

PLO head honcho in 1977: “Palestinian identity is just a tactical ploy”

There is an amusing story (probably apocryphal) about Zvi Yechezkeli, the Channel 10 Arab Affairs correspondent, giving a lecture at Bir-Zeit University in the West Bank. He starts off with a story (he speaks Arabic fluently) about Moses (“Mussa” for them) climbing on Har Nevo, seeing the Promised Land, and bathing in the Jordan. When he comes out his clothes were missing.

“And Moses said: The Palestinians have stolen my clothes!”

Students yell out in protest: “But there were no Palestinians then!”

Yechezkeli: “OK, now that we have established that, I can start my lecture.”


The truth of the matter is, the concept of a “Palestinian” national identity is a fairly recent one in Arab politics: I know older people in Israel who remember when the word just meant: a resident of the British Mandate of Palestine. (They were never able to sell Jews on that name: British coins from the era list the Hebrew acronym for Eretz Yisrael/Land of Israel next to “Palestine” in English and “Falasteen” in Arabic.)

The only other entity called “Palestine” that ever existed in the region was of course when the Romans, after the Second Jewish Revolt/Bar-Kochba Rebellion in 132-135 CE, punitively renamed the province of Judea as “Palestina” after the Philistines/Pelishtim, a Mediterranean seafaring people that used to live in the area of Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Gaza. (Ashkelon, or Ascalion as the Romans called it, was a major port city in Roman times: an interesting archeological park in the city is well worth visiting.) Needless to say, the Philistines no longer existed then, and today’s “Palestinians” are unrelated. During the Ottoman Empire, the whole area — sparsely populated then, as Mark Twain relates in “Innocents Abroad” — wasn’t even a separate province but just part of the sanjak (Ottoman province) of Southern Syria.

When Israel was born, pan-Arabism was king. The “Palestinian Liberation Organization” (PLO) was only founded in 1964, with a flag that is basically the Jordanian flag with the 7-pointed star removed. (A variant was also the flag of the short-lived Hejaz kingdom that preceded Saudi Arabia.)

I have always suspected that the sudden stress on a nebulous “Palestinian” national identity was a propaganda ploy for marketing purposes. Several websites, however (e.g., this one), refer to a 1977 interview by Zuhair Mohsen, then the leader of one wing of the PLO, where he basically openly says so. The quote that is circulating on the Internet appears to be a roundtrip translation, but a Dutch-speaking friend sent me a scan of the original newspaper article [Trouw, March 31, 1977, “Wij zijn alleen Palestijn om politieke redenen”], accompanied by his English translation: being fluent in Dutch, I can vouch for the translation. Here goes, starting from the 4th column, and the heading “Geen volk” (not a people):


According to Mohsen there is in fact no separate Palestinian people. “Between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians, and Lebanese there are no differences. We are part of one people, the Arab nation. Look: I have family members with Palestinian, Lebanese, Jordanian, and Syrian citizenship. We are one people. Only for political reasons we carefully stress our Palestinian identity. Namely, it is of national important for the [struggle of the] Arabs against Zionism to foster the existence of the Palestinians. Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity is there only for tactical reasons. The foundation of a Palestinian state is a new means for continuing the struggle against Israel and for Arab unity.”
Mohsen’s logic is actually very simple: “Because Golda Meir states that there is no [such thing as a] Palestinian people, I say that there is a Palestinian people, distinct from Jordan.”
Also the strategy Mohsen wants to follow is very simple: “A separate Palestinian entity should stand up for the national rights in the then remaining occupied territories. The Jordanian government cannot speak for Palestinians in Israel, Lebanon, or Syrian. Jordan is a state with defined border. It cannot lay claim to, for example, Haifa or Jaffa, Jerusalem, or Beersheba. Jordan can only speak on behalf of Jordanians and the Palestinians on Jordan. The Palestinian state would have the right to act on behalf of all Palestinians in the Arab world and elsewhere. Once we will have acquired our rights in all Palestine, we must not delay the reunification of Jordan and Palestine for a single moment.”
One need not wonder why postmodern academics are often so enamored with the Palestinian cause, since they are so in love with “constructed” identities. (The acronym “conlang” for “constructed language” comes to mind ;))
Here (thanks to my daughter) is a more recent example: (Arabic TV clip, subtitles by MEMRI): a Hamas spokestool pleads with the Egyptians to donate more money, fuel, etc. and in trying to convince them, says:
We are your brothers. Half of the Palestinians are Egyptians and the other half Saudis.
Mais bien sûr. It has never been about building a home for a constructed nation called “the Palestinians”: it has always been about delegitimizing, demonizing, and trying to destroy the only country in the region that is not under Islamic rule. Even the leftist academic, Camp David negotiator, and onetime foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami exasperatedly reached that conclusion (“End of the road”, Haaretz, September 14, 2001: English translation here):

But when all is said and done, after eight months of negotiations, I reach the conclusion that we are in a confrontation with a national movement in which there are serious pathological elements. It is a very sad movement, a very tragic movement, which at its core doesn’t have the ability to set itself positive goals.

“At the end of the process, it is impossible not to form the impression that the Palestinians don’t want a solution as much as they want to place Israel in the dock of the accused. More than they want a state of their own, they want to denounce our state. [Missing from translation: “In the deepest sense of the word, theirs is a negative ethos.”] That is why, contrary to the Zionist movement, they are incapable of compromising. Because they have no image of the future society that they want and for which it is worth compromising.

ADDENDUM: here is a scan of the original interview

Spin, strangeness, and charm

There is an amusing story (probably apocryphal) about Zvi Yechezkeli, the Channel 10 Arab Affairs correspondent, giving a lecture at Bir-Zeit University in the West Bank. He starts off with a story (he speaks Arabic fluently) about Moses (“Mussa” for them) climbing on Har Nevo, seeing the Promised Land, and bathing in the Jordan. When he comes out his clothes were missing.

“And Moses said: The Palestinians have stolen my clothes!”

Students yell out in protest: “But there were no Palestinians then!”

Yechezkeli: “OK, now that we have established that, I can start my lecture.”


The truth of the matter is, the concept of a “Palestinian” national identity is a fairly recent one in Arab politics: I know older people in Israel who remember when the word just meant: a resident of the British Mandate of Palestine. (They were never able to sell Jews on that name: British coins from…

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[After the fire] Arabs: Hamas Does Not Care About Palestinian Suffering

The ceasefire since 2am appears to be holding at least for now. Both sides claim victory for very different reasons. Seth Frantzman has a scorecard of sorts. Meanwhile:

(1) There is a Dutch expression, “Ik ken mijn Pappenheimers” [literally: I know my Pappenheimers; freely: I know who I’m dealing with, they’re not fooling me]. This is a reference to the soldiers of Count Gottfried zu Pappenheim, a field marshal for the Habsburgs whose troops were the main perpetrators of the infamous Sack of Magdeburg.

Khaled Abu Toameh, award-winning journalist and longtime Arab affairs correspondent of the Jerusalem Post, thoroughly knows his Pappenheimers. And, it seems, at least some of the Arab media he is rounding up here, know their Pappenheimers better than the self-righteous Western regressives“progressives”.

While many in the West denounced Israel for its military strikes in the Gaza Strip over the past week, prominent Arab writers and political analysts held the Iranian-backed Hamas responsible for the violence and bloodshed. These Arabs evidently understand what the anti-Israel activists around the world fail to see — that Hamas has brought nothing but disaster and despair to the two million Palestinians living under its rule in the Gaza Strip. These Arabs also seem to understand that Israel is not waging war on the Palestinians, but against an Islamist terrorist group whose charter openly calls for jihad (holy war) and the elimination of Israel. These Arabs can also see that if one cares about the Palestinians, why would one want them ruled by terrorists who place weapons caches near hospitals and schools, and use children as human shields? […]

The message that the Arab writers and political analysts are trying to send to those Westerners who consider themselves “pro-Palestinian” is: Hamas serves as a pawn in the hands of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood in the fight against Israel and the West.

There is another message that the Arabs are seeking to send to those in the West who are demonstrating against Israel: Criticism of Hamas does not make you anti-Palestinian; on the contrary, holding Hamas responsible for the violence and bloodletting actually serves the interests of the Palestinians.

How ironic that Arab Muslims are lashing out at Hamas while Israel-haters around the world see no evil in its actions, including the indiscriminate firing of thousands of rockets and missiles into Israel.

GO READ THE WHOLE LONG THING – Emirati, Saudi, Bahraini, Jordanian,… voices for common sense.

Elsewhere on the same website, KAT explains why he thinks Biden’s actions are emboldening Iran and its proxies.

(2) Col. Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, posted some choice comments on the same website. The fighting was still at its height when he wrote his remarks: go read the whole thing, but let me give you a taste:

In a conflict designed by Hamas to maximise civilian deaths, some are inevitable. It is too early to accurately assess casualty figures or ratios of civilians to fighters killed, but current assessments suggest the IDF have been even more successful in minimising civilian casualties during this campaign than in previous engagements in Gaza. Many in the media, human rights groups and international bodies have rushed to characterise all civilian casualties (other than those inflicted by Hamas, of course) as war crimes. But the Geneva Conventions disagree. Inflicting civilian casualties is not illegal provided a military operation is necessary for the prosecution of a war, they are not disproportionate to the planned military gain and that combatant commanders do not intentionally target civilians while doing all they can to avoid hitting them.

The media takes reports from the Gaza health ministry as authoritative and objective. That is disingenuous and they know it. The health ministry is controlled by Hamas and follows their every order. For example, of around 2,000 rockets fired so far by Hamas during this conflict, approximately 400 have fallen short, landing inside Gaza. Some of these have killed civilians and the health ministry has attributed all of them to IDF action.

Counterintuitively, the most effective means of saving Gazan civilian lives has been Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. Despite Hamas efforts to overwhelm it, Iron Dome has had a 90% success rate in preventing missiles from Gaza hitting their targets. Not only has this saved the lives of countless Israeli civilians but it has also meant the IDF campaign can be more deliberate, discriminating and precise. If hundreds of Israelis were dying under Hamas rockets, the IDF would have no choice other than to strike Gaza with much greater ferocity and ground forces would already have entered the Gaza Strip, unavoidably inflicting vastly more civilian casualties than we have seen so far.

Despite all of this, as the media unceasingly show us, the real victims in this campaign have indeed been Gaza civilians. But they usually get the cause wrong. Every one is due to Hamas’s unprovoked aggression against Israel. None would have occurred without it. Once this round of fighting is over, Hamas will work to build back better for next time — that is, to regenerate their military capability rather than civilian infrastructure. If Western governments, international bodies and human rights groups are genuinely interested in avoiding suffering in Gaza, they should start now, striving to end Hamas’s reign of terror rather than support it by parroting their

baleful narrative.

Speaking of war fatalities on the other side: YNet, quoting the Gaza “Ministry of Health”, yesterday mentioned 230 dead [compared to 2,203 during the 2014 confrontation, almost 10x more]. Of these claimed figures, 56 children and 39 women. That leaves 135 men: if these were all civilian fatalities, you would statistically expect roughly gender parity, give or take a few: the male excess of 96 is probably a lowball estimate for the number of Ḥamas and Islamic Jihad operatives.

(3) Former Israeli defense minister (and hitech executive) Naftali Bennett has some choice words for whom he sarcastically calls “the sages of the age”. I honestly only knew one of the three by name (Trevor Noah, and I had enough of his ‘comfortably smug’ shtick after about 15 seconds). I think the video would have been much more effective without the loud electronic background music (and I’m saying this as an avid synth freak myself), but he’s got them

Also, Alan Dershowitz has some harsh words.

Have a nice weekend and to my Jewish readers, shabbat shalom

Israel under fire update: Egyptian cease-fire efforts; surprising Saudi media tone; Prof. Eugene Kontorovich; Gad Saad

(1) Joe Biden is now pressuring Netanyahu for a ceasefire, but word just came in that the US intends to veto a UNSC resolution.

Roi Kais from KAN-11 (formerly Channel 1 of the Israel Broadcast Authority) spoke to a source close to Egyptian strongman al-Sissi. Summarizing from memory: Ḥamas is willing to enter a mutual ceasefire, as it has achieved its ‘victory picture’ for its supporters. Their demands concerning Jerusalem had been dismissed by the Egyptians as “not realistic”, and supposedly they had swallowed them. Netanyahu supposedly was unwilling as, thus Roi Kais’s source, ‘he is still looking for his victory picture’.

(2) Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, international law professor first at Northwestern U., presently at George Mason U. in suburban DC, was earlier interviewed by RT (formerly Russia Today) about the situation. He explained to low-information journalists that “proportionality” in international law means something very different from what people think.

Then his video was banned twice by YouTube — I suspect following reporting by HamAss useful idiots and intervention by some sympathetic low-level YouTube employee. Meanwhile, the video has been restored: you can watch it below.

(3) Meanwhile, MEMRI reports that in recent days, Saudi media has started severely criticizing HamAss and the other terrorist organizations in the Gaza strip.

Multiple commentators point the finger at Iran. For example, in the London-based Saudi newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat [“The Middle East”] points the finger at Iran:

“Who stoked the flames of the political fire in Palestine? Who launched rockets at Israel? Why did they choose this timing at the end of the holy month of Ramadan? In whose interest is this warfare waged? Will it serve the Palestinian people and state or another party? These are not absurd questions but rather crucial ones to come up with a realistic and rational response to the absurdity of these recurring events. Whoever stoked the flames is well aware that their actions would leave dozens of dead and wounded, cause towers to be demolished and properties destroyed, in service of Iranian regime’s agenda and its steady approach since the ‘Khomeini revolution’: exploiting Palestine to achieve the goals of that fundamentalist theocratic regime. Today, the Iranian regime needs to stoke the flames in Palestine and shout the slogan of ‘Jerusalem’ and to revive the concept of ‘resistance’ that was revealed to the Arab people and whose goals and objectives were known and clearly manifested in multiple crises in the recent past.

“The Iranian orders were clear. They consisted of launching a large number of locally manufactured missiles at Israel in order to improve the negotiations conditions for Iran in Vienna and to use Palestine as a bargaining chip for any future negotiations in the region. Indeed, the orders were executed, but at the expense of the Palestinian people, their security and their lives.

“Targeting Israel with rockets was part of the Iranian regime’s strategy in the region not to fight Israel, but to fight Arab countries and to kill and destroy Arab people in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. This is a tried and true strategy for some servants and soldiers of the Iranian project in the region, where the orders of another country having its own agenda are executed on the Palestinian territory. This country is only concerned with the Palestinian people or the Palestinian cause to the extent that it serves its interests and imperial ambitions to project power and impose hegemony, and to display pictures of some leaders kissing the hands of the “turbaned emperor” everywhere.

A female columnist in the same paper writes:

[the bloodshed] in Palestine is a sin committed by the failing leaders in both areas: [both] the Gaza Strip and the West Bank…

“The Palestinian cause is an Arab cause which has deprived [Arabs] of sleep for dozens of years, and like all the Arab causes, it has a place in the [Arab] conscience and heart. At the same time, as Arabs and Muslims we are shocked at the Palestinian failure to handle this crisis. If the [Palestinian] owners of the land and the cause have failed, all the external efforts to reach an arrangement and keep the situation in check, great as they may be, will certainly not succeed and will be nothing but pain relief. At the very least, the Palestinian elections should have been held, instead of postponing them with unconvincing excuses, which do not help the Palestinian situation one whit. This shows us that the cause is not being handled by intelligent [people].

“In Gaza, [now steeped] in fear, the stench of death and the sounds of weeping, the Hamas movement, which rules the Strip in tyranny, has decided to adopt the frightening approach of storing weapons and launching missiles [from populated areas], when it knows that Israel responds to the missiles and targets the launch-sites. And thus, within a few hours we see the civilians [of Gaza] falling like flies under the Israeli fire! Who can conceive of such a thing? This is a wretched spectacle whose price is the blood of the children and the innocent people [of Gaza], whom Hamas did not consult or ask whether they agree to pay with their lives for living near the stores of ammunition.

“The Palestinian cause is suffering because the Palestinian leaders have a priority list that is different from that of the Palestinian citizen, and because they [share] the political considerations of external elements, and have aspirations for the crisis to continue because it lays golden eggs for them.

Read the whole report. Elsewhere, a “Palestinian activist” criticizes Israel for… not doing more to topple HamAss. Palestinian Activist Mohammed Massad Calls On Israelis To Topple Hamas And The Palestinian Authority: You Have No Goal And Without A Goal You Will Never Be Right And Will Never Win

(4) Gad Saad makes a sarcastic apology, on behalf of his and his wife’s Lebanese-Jewish and Egyptian-Jewish ancestors,

Also, and somewhat relatedly, a source familiar with Iran told me that state-controlled media notwithstanding, there is widespread grumbling that the regime spends so much money on shoring up its proxies against Israel while common people in Iran are struggling to keep their heads above water.

ADDENDUM: The Jerusalem Post is asking the Israeli intelligence director some tough questions about Qatari funding to HamAss. The paper claims that he facilitated such funding ” to prevent an economic implosion in Gaza following the P[alestinian] A[uthority] cutting off its funding to Hamas due to ongoing strife between the two groups.”

ADDENDUM 2: the lone Republican Congressman who supported a resolution calling for a quick ceasefire has now walked back his position, a spokesperson saying he’d underestimated the level of HamAss infrastructure and now understands the concerns of his colleagues that Israel just needs more time “to reestablish deterrence”.

ADDENDUM 3: MEMRI has a translation of an al-Jazeera documentary [!] about missile production in Gaza.

ADDENDUM 4: Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) shares a devastating video answer to Rancida TreifRashida Tlaib by an Arab Israeli named Yosef / Yusuf Ḥaddad, [Joe Smith, in Arabic.*t HamAss rockets have directly killed both Gazans (a nontrivial percentage of rockets fall short inside the strip) and Israeli Arabs (not to mention foreign workers); that 250,000 Gazans had their power cut off because a HamAss missile fell on a power line;… and in general, concludes that only certain “Palestinian lives matter” for the odious congresscritter, namely those that advance “the cause”.


[*] Ḥaddad, meaning smith, is a common Arabic last name one also finds among Jews from Arab countries

Israel under fire update: goals on both sides; Arab reporter beaten by Ḥamas for not wearing a headscarf; Thai foreign workers killed

(1) Khaled Abu Toameh, the longtime Arab affairs correspondent of the Jerusalem Post, is as well plugged-in to the thought process on the other side as anyone. Summarizing his argument, Abbas originally brought up the BS arguments about Jerusalem, thus deflecting attention from his canceling elections in the 15th (or 16th) year of his 4-year term; Ḥamas could not be seen as caring less about Jerusalem than Fataḥ, so started rocket fire; this cost it way more dearly than it expected, and if they give up now, they will lose a lot of credibility on the “Palestinian street” for so much damage and so many “fighters” killed with nothing to show for it; so they are now jonesing for something, anything, that they can spin to their populace as a victory about Jerusalem .

The IDF, for its part, is determined to make Ḥamas pay as hard as it can (with the boundary condition of keeping civilian casualties as low as reasonably possible) not only to discourage them from trying this stunt again but to send a “don’t y’all get ideas!” signal to Ḥezbollah in the North.

I do note that “Palestinian Authority” President Maḥmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu Mazen) has been remarkably quiet in the past few days, probably hoping Israel will cut his Islamist competitors down to size.

(2) Meanwhile at the EU:

The EU held its Foreign Affairs Council meeting via teleconference on Tuesday, with serious divisions over what to include in its statements, which led to the meeting to end without a formal conclusion.The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said Hungary was the only country to oppose an FAC statement, which can only be made by consensus.The statement would have said that the “priority is the immediate cessation of all violence and the implementation of a ceasefire,” Borrell said. […]“We condemn the rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups on Israeli territory. We fully support Israel’s right to [self] defense, but we have also considered and stated it has to be done in a proportionate matter, respecting international humanitarian law.”He also said that after a ceasefire, there must be a relaunch of engagement aiming at a two-state solution, saying “only a true political solution can bring peace.”“The status quo is not an option, because violence will come again,” Borrell asserted.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told AFP soon after the FAC: “I have a general problem with these European statements on Israel… These are usually very much one-sided, and these statements do not help, especially not under current circumstances, when the tension is so high.”

The EU is Israel’s biggest trade partner and a big aid donor to the Palestinians. Some member states – led by Luxembourg, along with Belgium, Ireland, Malta, Finland and others – have called to do more to promote Palestinian statehood, including threatening economic sanctions on Israel. Other countries, including Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Austria, Greece, Cyprus and Poland, have defended Israel’s interests. Austria flew an Israeli flag over the federal chancellery in Vienna on Friday.Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias landed in Israel on Tuesday, meeting with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, as well as Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh.

(3) During a mortar barrage on the Eshkol cluster of agricultural villages, a grenade hit a packing shed, killing two Thai workers there and wounding several others.

(4) A woman “Palestinian journalist”, while reporting and filming at the border fence, was beaten with lemon tree branches by Ḥamas operatives for “wearing immodest clothing” (specifically: for not wearing a facial veil).

oh so woke of the “progressive” “left” to make common cause with such

(5) Colonel Richard Kemp on Sky News Australia:

https://www.ynetnews.com/article/SkNyD2Wu00 (via HonestReporting ).

And Bret Stephens in the NYT: Israel must crush Hamas, for the Palestinians’s sake

And via “Aussie Dave” Lange at http://www.israellycool.com, some unepected support from people in Arab and Islamic countries.


ADDENDUM: Podcast by “Reform Muslim” Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, who blames it all on the change in the White House. (Hat tip: Michael Isenberg on MeWe.) https://cms.megaphone.fm/channel/BMDC7351725732?selected=BMDC9948233310 Listening in while drinking morning coffee: “…Islamic Jihad openly admitted it started the fire on purpose… it is not even claiming to act in defense… Sheikh Jarraḥ is just a distraction…”

Israel under fire, [not-so-]mini-update for Shavuot

(1) It appears that before bringing down the “media tower” in Gaza City, aside from making a “roof knock” visit first to give everybody a chance to evacuate the building, they shared information with US officials about the Hamas intelligence offices in the same building:

Israel shared intelligence with the US showing how Hamas operated inside the same building with the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera in Gaza, officials in Jerusalem said on Sunday.Officials in more than one government office confirmed that US President Joe Biden’s phone call to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday was, in part, about the bombing of the building, and that Israel showed Biden and American officials the intelligence behind the action.

“We showed them the smoking gun proving Hamas worked out of that building,” a senior diplomatic source said. “I understand they found the explanation satisfactory.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed the source’s remark, when asked about The Jerusalem Post’s reporting in an interview with US TV show Face the Nation.“We share all the intelligence with our American friends,” he said. “The intelligence we had is about an intelligence office for [Hamas] housed in that building that plots and organizes terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians. It is a perfectly legit target.”

Rick Moran recalls a 2014 expose by former AP reporter Matti Friedman:

After Operation Protective Edge in 2014, former AP reporter Matti Friedman wrote in The Atlantic: “Hamas understood that reporters could be intimidated when necessary and that they would not report the intimidation… The AP staff in Gaza City would witness a rocket launch right beside their office, endangering reporters and other civilians nearby – and the AP wouldn’t report it, not even in AP articles about Israeli claims that Hamas was launching rockets from residential areas.”

Read Matti Friedman’s whole article here.

Related: This CNN Contributor Hates Israel So Much, He Praises Hitler For Killing Jews. Yes, Really. (via Instapundit) Go read and weep. No satirist could exaggerate the corruption of the mainstream media today. [UPDATE: he’s been fired, but there’s a bunch of others like him at Contemptible News Network.]

(2) This and that:

  • This afternoon, a senior commander of the “Palestinian Islamic Jihad” (a terror organization even more psychotic than HamAss, and often continuing to fire rockets when HamAss finally enters a cease-fire) was sent to the 9th circle of Hell where he belongs.
  • Days ago, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at an Arab home in Jaffa, causing severe burns in a 12-year old boy. Now Israel24 reports that the perpetrators have been arrested and turn out to be… Arab. What is the true story here? Mistaken target identity? False flag attack? Or an internecine feud or gang turf war mistaken for a nationalistically-motivated attack? My money is on the latter, with the first as backup.
  • At a Channel 11 (KAN) news stream, veteran diplomat Ron Prosor expanded at some length about the toxic role of Qatar in this region — speaking with two tongues, and stirring the pot to bolster its own influence in the region — and quipped about it being “Club Med for Terrorists”. [His eponymous 2014 op-ed in the New York Times.]

(3) My online friend, marine biologist, homesteader, and author extraordinaire Dave Freer sent me the following (quoted with permission):

You know… has anyone ever worked out what the amount of money channeled into Hamass’s terrorism (which Israel is then forced to spend to cope with) would add up to? I’ll bet that if instead of ‘we’ll steal it from the Jews’ as a future plan, they’d set out to out-compete, out-educate, out-modernize, and work their asses off (as many in Israel have) with the same expenditure… that Gaza could be as wealthy and comfortable as Singapore, and its Jewish neighbor a lot better off than now, and happy to trade and co-operate…. but the same pricks would not be in power in Gaza if they did that. They need a poor, ignorant, resentful populace.

(4) Unrelated (?) to the war, Mrs. Arbel and I watched the Shavuot-themed 1960 movie The Book of Ruth and enjoyed it to a surprising degree. Now I just found the whole thing on YouTube. Enjoy and Chag Sameach!

ADDENDUM: heh (via Instapundit)

Espionage buffs may recognize “Kamel Amin Thaabet” as the Arab cover name of Israel’s master spy Eli Cohen [hy”d]


AD-ADDENDUM, blast from the past: this 2009 video shows an al-Arabiya reporter on live TV being surprised by a missile launch from right under her office .

Israel under fire update: US pressuring Israel for cease-fire; video of drone operator told to abort strike because children on the target site; former Hamas member: “Hamas is the worst enemy of the Palestinian people”

(1) IDF officers say: “we have enough targets to keep striking“, but US and other friendly countries are pressuring Israel for a cease-fire. Netanyahu is normally not keen on war in the first place, less so than more left-wing colleagues (as even a flaming leftist colleague and friend remarked — yes, in Israel friendships across political lines are nothing unusual), and the IDF appears to have achieved several important objectives, but the question is what else they want to wrap up before the pressure for a cease-fire becomes impossible to withstand.

Israel is going to great lengths to (with the aid of technology) try and avoid civilian casualties: YNet has “gun camera video” of a drone operator being told by the command center to abort a strike because there are children present at the target site. [VIDEO IN HEBREW WILL OPEN IN NEW WINDOW]

But the longer an operation like this goes on, the greater the risk of a mishap — or of Hamass deliberately placing innocents in the line of Israeli fire, and even using a double agent to “give pinpointed target information” that ensures an Israeli strike with massive collateral damage.

(2) Here you have the announcer of the Palestinian Authority TV literally saying to his people “your lives are unimportant” (in Arabic, English subtitles by Palestinian Media Watch).

I guess that explains this sort of thing: Gaza rocket aimed at Modi`in to ‘avenge’ Palestinian deaths hits West Bank town.

And speak of cutting off your nose to spite your face: failed amas rocket launch costs 250K Palestinians their electricity.

Meanwhile, in Western capitals, we are being treated to the absurdist spectacle of self-declared “progressives” marching with Hamas sympathizers in support of one of the most regressive, obscurantist, theocratic, misogynistic, and hardcore homophobic regimes on the planet. [What’s more, one used as a cat’s paw in a proxy war by a powerful regime of the same ilk, albeit nominally belonging to a different branch of fundamentalist Islam.] It would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. Speaking as an avid student of history: it isn’t the first time that a movement has betrayed everything it stood for blinded by irrational hatred of a group “not on board with the program” and alas, it won’t be the last.

(3) The best video of the day is a 2017 statement by a former member of Hamas, Mosab Ḥassan Yousef [“the Green Prince”], speaking for UN Watch at a UN gathering (I cannot be sure if it’s the UNGA or one of the councils):

(scroll forward to 0:36 if the timestamp link didn’t work)

Amen. There is no worse enemy of the Palestinian Arabs than the theo-mafiocracy lording it over Gaza, and attempting to lord it over the West Bank as well.

To my Christian readers of the Western communion: happy Pentecost.

To my fellow Jews: chag shavuot sameach!

ADDENDUM (via Instapundit): Jeffrey Herf has a look at the 1988 Hamas Covenant, which he accurately describes as “fascist” — in fact, entire sections read like they were cribbed verbatim from the scribblings of a certain failed Austrian painter and his familiars. Go read the whole thing.

ADDENDUM 2: Ḥaviv Rettig Gur argues that Ḥamas has already reached its real objective for this round — and that it has less to do with Israel proper than with the West Bank, specifically with consigning Ḥamas’s secular-nationalist rival, Abu Mazen’s Fataḥ, to irrelevance.


Israel under fire update: rockets fall on Arab towns too; UAE tells Gaza their planned infrastructure projects won’t go through unless they stop; the Iron Dome system in a nutshell

(1) So we just had several Red Alert sirens. One direct hit on an apartment building in Ramat-Gan (a borough of Tel-Aviv), killing one (it was an older building without the “safe rooms” that became mandatory in 1992), while two people got mild inhalation damage.

My long-suffering spouse, who was driving on a highway at the time, had to get out of the car and duck for cover repeatedly. I can think of a few bleeding heart concern trolls that I wish would come “share this experience” before pontificating on how we should just accept this and not retaliate.

Several missiles actually fell on Arab towns like Taibe. And at least some went out to celebrate this. Does this give you an idea how obsessed these “Banu Khameer” can be?!?

(2) Flying pig moment of the day: the United Arab Emirates had indeed earlier agreed to carry out several infrastructure projects in Gaza. Now according to the Times of Israel, quoting the Hebrew business daily Globes:

A senior UAE official tells the paper that such projects will not move forward if Hamas does not maintain calm in the territory.

“We are still ready and willing to promote civil projects in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority and under UN management [in Gaza], but our necessary condition is calm,” the unnamed official says.

“If Hamas does not commit to complete calm, it is dooming the residents of the Strip to a life of suffering. Its leaders must understand that their policies are first and foremost hurting the people of Gaza.”

(3) So what is this Iron Dome (Hebrew: kipat barzel, כיפת ברזל) really? Wikipedia has a pretty detailed article.

Launch of a Tamir missile from an Iron Dome box launcher

It was developed by Rafael [Israel’s weapon systems development authority] with several local development partners, and presently in partnership with US defense manufacturer Raytheon.

Here’s a video interview about Iron Dome by Jane’s Defence Weekly with somebody from Raytheon:

And here is a video by an Indian lecturer about the system:

In a nutshell, an Iron Dome battery consists of three components: (a) a phased-array radar system for locating and tracking the missiles; (b) 3-4 truck-mounted box launchers with 20 (4×5) “Tamir” (Hebrew acronym for til meyaret, interceptor missile) each, and (c) a truck-based BMC (battle management and weapon control) center. The system is designed for rockets fired at distances between 5 and 75 km —- anything longer-ranged is a job for the Arrow system, successor to Patriot.

If the BMC (presumably its human operator, based on the calculated trajectory) determines an incoming missile will fall somewhere harmless (open field, the sea) no interceptor is fired, otherwise one or more Tamir are fired off in response.

The concept was originally approved for development in the wake of the 2006 Second Lebanon War, when the entire North of the country suffered from bombardment by Hezbollah missiles. A competing system, Nautilus (based on a chemical laser) might in principle have been superior further down the line, but then-defense minister Amir Peretz — socialist dinosaur as he might be — made the wisest decision of his career, possibly remembering the French proverb (first coined by Voltaire) that the best is the enemy of good enough. (Le meilleur est l’ennemi du bien.)

How effective is Iron Dome? 80% or 90% of assigned targets, depending on who you ask. Good enough, at any rate, that the US military has ordered several batteries for its own use. Recent upgrades have extended intercept capabilities to heavy mortars as well as UAVs.

Like any system with a finite cyclic rate of fire and missile supply, it can in principle be overwhelmed by mass launches —- and that is exactly what the Islamofascists have been trying this round. The couple rockets that get through out of the 100-150 rocket salvos still are consistent with the stated effectiveness of the system though.

(4) Via Sarah Hoyt, a music video for the day:


For by ruses shalt thou wage war (Proverbs 24:6), Israel vs. Hamas “Tunnel Metro” edition

כי בתחבולות תעשה לך מלחמה
For by ruses shalt thou wage war (Proverbs 24:6)

Israel vs. Hamas “Tunnel Metro” edition

Read the whole thing. The moneygrafs (emphases mine):

At midnight, the IDF Spokesperson’s English department tweeted that “IDF air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip.” The foreign media jumped at the tweet, interpreting it to mean that Israel was sending ground forces into Gaza, a major escalation in the current operation and a sign that it was far from over. Websites of media outlets around the world, including the Washington Postand ABC, reported the incursion. “Israeli troops have entered the Gaza Strip as conflict with Palestinians escalates, Israeli military says,” was the tweet put out by the Washington Post

The problem was that there was no ground invasion. Yes, the IDF had deployed troops along the border but they did not cross into Gaza. What did happen was in the air where 160 aircraft had assembled for a massive bombing run over the Gaza Strip. Their target was what the IDF called Hamas’s “Metro”, an underground network of tunnels where Hamas stored its weapons and used to move throughout Gaza hidden from Israeli aircraft.The “Metro” had been built in the years after the 2014 war in the Gaza Strip, also known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge. It was a network of dozens of kilometers of tunnels that crisscrossed Gaza and provided safety from Israeli aerial incursions. 

According to reports, due to the deployment along the border and the news coming out in the foreign media of a ground incursion, Hamas and Islamic Jihad sent their first-line of defense into the tunnels to start taking up positions. These were the anti-tank missile teams and mortar squads meant to strike at incoming Israeli ground forces. What they did not know was that there was no ground offensive. Instead, once they were out of the tunnels, they were exposed to Israeli aircraft. Within minutes, the “Metro” attack went ahead

Israel: Rocket fire and riots in mixed Jewish-Arab towns; Netanyahu gets a new lease on political life? [UPDATED]

We spent the last two nights sleeping in the “safe room” of our suburban Tel Aviv apartment, woken up a couple of times by rocket alert sirens. As I am typing this, I hear Iron Dome intercept booms.

You can ask Mrs. Arbel: when this latest round of rocket fire and internal violence started, I predicted it would give Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu another lease on political life. Now just an hour ago, the Times of Israel reports that Yamina leader Naftali Bennett has bolted from the attempts by center-left Yair Lapid to assemble a “change coalition”, and instead has reached a deal with acting PM Netanyahu and with Ra`am leader Mansour Abbas to back direct election of the PM. In exchange, Bennett and his secular #2, Ayelet Shaked, will get reserved spots on the Likud slate and be given the Defense and Foreign portfolios. (A Channel 1 talking head claimed Bennett was finally convinced by Shaked none of his electorate would follow him into a Lapid government.)

In contrast, New Hope, Gideon Saar’s “Likud without Bibi” faction, reaffirmed they will not join a Netanyahu-led coalition.

Rocket fire continues, with HamAss claiming its latest creation can reach Eilat (!), though that may well be empty bluster, Yesterday, in the town of Sderot bordering the Gaza Strip, a rocket appears to have penetrated the metal hatch and window of a safe-room, and killed a 5-year old boy inside. Yes, over a thousand missiles fored at “the Zionist enemy” achieving deaths of several fellow Arabs, an Indian nurse, and a five-year old boy. I would not insult the insane by calling HamAss insane.

Most worrying is the spiraling violence in mixed Jewish-Arab towns. It began with Arab mobs torching synagogues and attacking Jewish civilians for the crime of being Jewish; then our own crabgrass started acting in kind and now it’s going both ways. (Some of these appear to be out-of-town agitators.) Politicians across the spectrum have condemned the violence and many have expressed anguish, up to and including the head of state, President Reuven “Ruby” Rivlin.

“Like everyone, I watched with deep shock, a heavy heart and great anger the violent and unrestrained disturbances that claimed lives, generated mental anguish, and set alight restaurants and houses of prayer. People’s homes were pelted with rocks, synagogues were torched, people were beaten with barbaric cruelty. I remembered the days when, as a child in Jerusalem, we dreamed of the day when we would have a sovereign state, an Israeli government, an Israeli army, an Israeli police force, with a system of Israeli law and justice. The violent disturbances we saw yesterday are a genuine threat to Israeli sovereignty. We must not allow it – even through silence – but must speak out clearly to commit to the rule of law in Israel, and to our shared existence. We must not allow extremists to set the tone. We must not allow violence to triumph. We represent the moderate majority, Jews and Arabs, who have lived here together for 73 years and want to continue to live together in the State of Israel, a Jewish and democratic, democratic and Jewish state that is committed to the security, welfare and prosperity of all its people. All of them!”
Rivlin made the point that extremists are the only ones who benefit from their brutality, while ordinary citizens pay the price.


“Extremists are the only ones who benefit from their brutality, while ordinary citizens pay the price.”

Police forces seem overwhelmed, but reject offers to deploy the army as “the soldiers have no experience in policing civilians”. Border Police (literally Border Guard, Mishmar HaGvul) is technically part of the IDF but has some features of a paramilitary police force like the Marechaussee in the Netherlands, the Gendarmerie in France, or the Carabinieri in Italy. Netanyahu mulls the use of ma`atzar minhali, administrative detention.

Is the fabric of Jewish-Arab coexistence fraying? In fields like healthcare, you do find solid coexistence — people of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds share a unifying purpose. The COVID19 epidemic saw Jewish and Arab doctors and nurses work together more closely than ever, as I could see with my own eyes.

There are other sectors like that. And some towns have a long tradition of Jewish-Arab mostly-peaceful coexistence. But there is endemic violent crime in many Arab towns — in fact, one of the Ra`am [United Arab List]’s program points was combating it. I suspect many of the participants in lynch mobs would otherwise be out on the streets enforcing the protection rackets of their gangs, instead of directing their evil energies toward more ‘respectable’ nationalistic random mob violence.

An elder statesman at work remarked sardonically “nigmar ha-corona, chozerim la-shigra” (COVID is over, we’re going back to routine)… 😉

ADDENDUM: here is a good backgrounder on the Sheikh Jarraḥ eviction dispute. The Supreme Court, in its capacity as court of final instance, have now postponed their decision — wisely, in light of the passions around it. But the bottom line is: this was an excuse, not a reason.

ADDENDUM 2: more on the Sheikh Jarrach story, from Tovah Lazaroff in the Jerusalem Post, who is trying to see a human-interest story from the perspective of the residents themselves. My own summary and analysis in a nutshell: the land was owned by two Jewish organizations before the War of Independence. After East Jerusalem came under Jordanian occupation (1948-1967), the Jordanians expropriated the Jewish owners and made the land state property. They then offered a small group of Arab refugees the chance to build small homes there, in exchange for relinquishing their refugee benefits. Crucially (see previous link), the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan remained owner of the land — had they transferred title to the Arab families, both Israeli real estate law and extensive jurisprudence would have favored the families.

After Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War, the original Jewish ownership was restored, but the owners chose to let the matter lay quiet. Recently, a foundation dedicated to settling Jews in East Jerusalem bought the title off the original owners, and started eviction proceedings on the ground that land tenancy fees had not been paid. On the flip side, the owners had the status of ‘protected tenants’ —- even ordinary eviction proceedings are difficult here, the law favoring the tenants (friends of mine went through the seven fires of Hell, as we saw here, to evict their deadbeat [Jewish] longtime tenants), but this is enormously more the cases for protected tenants. The case has been tied up in Israel’s court system for years, and finally reached our Supreme Court. The latter is widely perceived as both leftist and activist: it is reasonable to say that if any plausible legal grounds existed for upholding tenancy, the court would find in the tenants’ favor. The ruling was to have been made public last Monday, but alternate PM of the caretaker government, Benny Gantz, in his capacity as Justice Minister, requested and obtained a delay from the Supreme Court until after the unrest would die down.

ADDENDUM 3: Chief Police commissioner Yaacov “Kobi” Shabbat directly accuses Kahanist MK Itamar Ben-Gvir of traveling around with a group of rabble-rousers to fan the flames every time the police seem to be getting unrest under control. The bizarre maneuver engineered by Netanyahu [to induce a joint electoral list between Smotrich’s and Ben-Gvir’s so they could together clear the 4 MKs electoral threshold] seems to be another exercise in the law of unintended consequences. [And that’s the most polite thing I can saw about it.]

ADDENDUM 4: MEMRI (an Arab- and Farsi-language media monitoring group) translates remarks by a senior Iranian aerospace type claiming they exported designs and know-how for the new HamAss missile types. Subtracting the inevitable bluster, you see what a toxic presence the Mullahs’ regime is in this region.

Developing: rocket fire on central Israel; Update: major rioting in Lod

About an hour ago we got an alert siren to enter our safe rooms or shelters. The Islamic Jihad [y”sh] claim they now have developed some new missile that can punch through our Iron Dome anti-missile system, but I am rather skeptical of that claim. Seems more like they are launching volleys of 150 or so rockets all at once in an attempt to flood the system.

Earlier today, two rockets on the coastal town of Ashkelon, north of the Gaza Strip, killed two people, one a senior citizen, the other a 32-year old Indian live-in nurse named Soumia Santosh. (Her charge, a woman in her nineties, was badly hurt but not killed.)

In Ḥolon, south of Tel-Aviv, four people were injured, two seriously, two moderately, when a rocket exploded next to a bus. In the Tel Aviv borough of Givatayim, shards from an intercepted rocket hit the roof of a house, injuring the occupants lightly. Update: one woman in her 50s killed in Rishon le-Tziyon. [Link in Hebrew, but lots of images there.]

Veteran Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh comments on the background. In a word: a bid for relevance by Ḥamas [Ham-Ass] and its cat’s paws, now that the upcoming elections in the West Bank have been canceled for the umpteenth time by local potentate Abu Mazen, in a transparent attempt to forestall a Ḥamas takeover of the West Bank through the ballot box.


NB: it is the last nght of Ramadan, leading up to the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr (freely: festival of release from Ramadan daylight fasting) tomorrow night.

UPDATE: reports that 630 rockets total were fired since yesterday, 480 of which entered Israeli airspace, 150 others fell short inside the Gaza Strip itself.

And Israellycool on why he believes 3 “Palestinian children” were actually killed by an errant rocket from “their” side. More from Elder of Ziyon.

UPDATE 2: Unprecedented rioting in mixed Arab-Jewish city of Lod:: local state of emergency declared. This is the first time in 21 years we are seeing this type of rioting anywhere.

UPDATE3: https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/police-say-2-killed-in-rocket-attack-on-lod/ two more dead in Lod, both from the Arab community. [UPDATE: KAN Israel TV, formerly Channel 1, reports their names as Khalil Awad and his daughter Nadine.]

UPDATE 4: “Change bloc” coalition falls apart before it started? Neither the Netanyahu nor “Change” blocks could muster a 61-seat majority without the participation of the most bizarre kingmaker in Israeli history, the “moderate” Islamist Ra`am (United Arab List) of Mansour Abbas.[*] His participation in a Netanyahu coalition was vetoed by far-right Betzalel Smotrich’s list; now Abbas had nearly signed on the dotted line with the “Change bloc” until they expressed support for IDF actions and he broke off negotiations. So it looks like Netanyahu, our longest-serving prime minister in history, and of late desperate to hang on to his seat lest he be convicted at his corruption trial, has a new lease on political life “thanks” to the unholy alliance of Abu Mazen and Hamas. Who said life in Israel is boring?

UPDATE 5: guided anti-tank missile fired from Gaza Strip at civilian [!] vehicle. Two people critically wounded, one in serious condition. Hamass [sic] has claimed responsibility. UPDATE: one died of his wounds.

UPDATE6L Brief profiles of the dead

[*] Not to be confused with “Palestinian Authority President” Maḥmoud Abbas, a.k.a. Abu Mazen, currently in the 16th year of a 4-year term.

Porphyria and “Mad King” George III

Upon the death of Elizabeth I of the house of Tudor, James VI of Scotland — the Protestant son of her Catholic cousin Mary Stuart[*] — succeed her as James I of England, the first Stuart monarch of that country. (The 1707 Act of Union merging the crowns of England and Scotland into the single Kingdom of Great Britain was still a century into the future; James just ruled both countries in personal union, i.e., as a single head wearing two crowns.)

James I & VI was something of an eccentric genius — highly learned, yet of unpredictable temper and suffering from what seemed like psychosomatic ailments. Unusually for the time, his personal physician, the Geneva-born Huguenot Théodore Turquet de Mayerne, kept a detailed log, and noted urine “colored red like Alicante wine”.

The red color is caused by the presence of chemical compounds known as porphyrins.

Porphin, the simplest porphyrin

These chemical compounds are building blocks for important enzymes, chief of all hemoglobin, the oxygen and CO2 transporter in red blood cells. The complex synthesis of these compounds happens in the liver: a variety of mutations that cause defects in the synthesis chain lead to an accumulation of porphyrins, and hence a condition known as porphyria. (The name was first coined by Hippocrates, from the Greek porphyros=purple.)

Did his descendant, King George III of the House of Hanover, inherit the condition?

The theory that King George III suffered from Variegate Porphyria was first put forward in 1966 by a British mother/son psychiatrist team, Ida Macalpine and Richard Hunter, citing the tell-tale symptom of purple urine as proof. 

They confidently put forward their claims in a paper in the British Medical Journal entitled “The Insanity of King George III: A Classic Case of Porphyria”, which was followed up in 1968 by a further paper “Porphyria in the Royal Houses of Stuart, Hanover and Prussia”. The theory formed the basis of a long-running play by Alan Bennett, The Madness of George III, which was later adapted for a film starring Nigel Hawthorne in the title role. George III’s recurring bouts of illness resulted in withdrawal from society to recuperate out of the public eye at Kew Palace, near Richmond. George was often violent and talked incessantly and often obscenely for hours at a time. He was subjected to the appalling medical treatment of the day, bound and gagged and strapped into a chair for hours. His urine was reported to have been blood red by his physicians. George eventually made a recovery and in the following twelve years suffered only slight attacks of his illness. In 1810, he suffered a total relapse, from which he was never to recover. The Queen continued to visit her husband but he failed to recognise her. His eldest son, George, Prince of Wales [=the future George IV, Ed.] was appointed Regent.


The latter, of course, gave his name to the period and style we call the Regency, and to the genre of (historically, at least, clean) aristocratic romance novels we call Regencies. George III, of course, was the king against whom the North American colonists famously rose in revolt — angered at being taxed without representation — which led to the founding of the United States of America.

But is the porphyria theory just an educated guess? Variegate porphyria happens to be an autosomally dominant hereditary disease. (Owing to a “founder effect” (a small founder population), it is particularly common among South African Boers, has an incidence as high as 1 in 300 in South Africa.) It would have been enough for one ancestor — such as Mary Stuart — to have had the condition, for it to be propagated down the line.

But it isn’t like you can just dig up the bones of all these monarchs and recover a sample of DNA in good enough shape to be genome-sequenced. But since, again, the gene for variegate porphyria is dominant, you could go down the generations of offspring to find somebody (alive or dead) you can extract a DNA sample from that is in good enough shape for gene sequencing.

This is exactly what was done in the late 1990s on the remains of Princess Charlotte of Prussia, Duchess of Saxe-Meiningen (1860-1919), the eldest granddaughter of Queen Victoria (via her eldest daughter Victoria, Princess Royal) and hence a great-great-granddaughter of George III. After historian John Röhl found in her correspondence that she suffered of porphyria-like symptoms and even specifically mentioned “dark red urine”, he and geneticists Martin Warren and David Hunt got permission to exhume her grave at Schloss Altenstein in Thuringia (not far from J. S. Bach’s birthplace Eisenach). There, they extracted a DNA sample, in which Warren and Hunt found the specific mutation responsible.

More in this fascinating documentary here (the Princess Charlotte segment starts at 38:50). To think of it that a trivial genetic code change determined the fate of royal houses and their realms… http://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2230.1999.00484.x

[*] As told in great detail by Simon Singh in a chapter of his book on the history of cryptography, Mary Stuart might have lived if he had used a better level of encryption to communicate with her co-conspirators in the Babington Plot against Elizabeth I.

ADDENDUM: see also Prince William of Gloucester (1941-1972), a first cousin of Elizabeth II who was conclusively diagnosed with porphyria.

Of Dutch (Nederlands), “Flemish” (Vlaams), and “tussentaal” (intermediate language) as a koiné

I would not want to feed all the people who have told me that the two national languages of Belgium are French and “Flemish”, rather than Dutch.[*] Yet I am old enough to remember it being referred to by my elementary school teachers as ABN, Algemeen Beschaafd Nederlands — “Common Civilized [!] Dutch”. (By the time I entered junior high school, ABN gave way to the somewhat more politically correct Algemeen Nederlands — Common Dutch, or Standard Dutch if you like. The Van Dale dictionary — the Dutch equivalent of the OED or Merriam-Webster — refers to specific usages in Flanders as Zuidnederlands — Southern Dutch.

In terms of the written language, e.g. as used by the newspaper De Standaard which I have frequently quoted in my COVID19 updates about Belgium, the variant used in Flanders is no more different from that used in The Netherlands than Oxford and American English are, probably less. The spelling differences of the latter two — like defense vs. defence, amortize vs. amortise,… — are completely absent between Algemeen Nederlands and Zuidnederlands. There are vocabulary differences, just like there are between British and American English — “Zuidnederlands” contains a fair number of French loanwords and calques (loan translations) from French, unsurprisingly given the exposure to Belgium’s second official language. The linguistic term for a situation like Oxford vs. American English, or (written) Algemeen Nederlands vs. Zuidnederlands, is a “pluricentric language”. (English of course also has Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand varieties, although these are definitely part of a cluster with Oxford/British English, distinct from American English.)

But what about the spoken language? Now here things get murkier.

At the local level, especially among older people in rural areas, local dialects used to be commonly spoken, and to an extent still are. These come in four dialect clusters:

  • Brabants/Brabantian as spoken in the provinces of Brabant and Antwerp, particularly the Dutch-speaking minority in Brussels and the majority population of Antwerp. (It’s quite possible that the 2nd language there today is Moroccan Arabic, and the 3rd Yiddish.)
  • Oostvlaams/East Flemish dialects as spoken in the province of Oostvlaanderen/East Flanders, e.g. in the city of Ghent
  • Westvlaams/West Flemish dialects as spoken in the North Sea coastal province of Westvlaanderen/West Flanders, e.g., in towns like Brugge/Bruges, Oostende/Ostend, and Ieper/Ypres
  • Limburgs/Limburgian, which is linguistically closer to Plattdeutsch/Low German, as spoken in the Easternmost province as well as in adjacent Dutch Limburg.

The border between Dutch and Plattdeutsch/Low German is a classic example of a dialect continuum: the dialects of Aachen (Germany), Maastricht (Dutch Limburg), and Hasselt (Belgian Limburg) are mutually intelligible to a surprising degree. In contrast, dialects from “Bachten de Kupe” (the area of West Flanders enclosed by the sea, the Ijzer/Yser river, and the French border) border on incomprehensible to speakers of Brabant or Limburg dialects, or to the Dutch.

What happens in such a situation in most countries is that the two parties switch to their Dachsprache, “roof language” or “umbrella language” — e.g., a Bavarian and somebody from the Ruhr area will speak standard German to each other. Moroccan and Syrian Arabic, for instance, have limited mutual intelligibility, so when people from these places meet, they will usually communicate in Modern Standard Arabic.

Likewise in Flanders, any type of official, formal speech is likely to be in what you could call “newsreader Dutch”, standard Dutch but without the stereotypical “Hollands” accent, and with occasional Belgicisms.

Informally, however, one often hears people speak a form of what Flemish linguists call “tussentaal” (in-between language, intermediate language), or sometimes “soapvlaams” (soap opera Flemish) or “Verkavelingsvlaams” (housing development Flemish): a kind-of “common denominator of dialects”. Tussentaal is not in significant use as a written language (except, e.g., when representing dialect speech in Dutch-language fiction, or for effect). And while it is definitely true that highly educated speakers often speak what amounts to Algemeen Zuidnederlands, tussentaal is not a basilect (language of low socioeconomic strata) — tussentaal is spoken to greater or lesser extent in all social classes.

An example of a universal feature of all Flemish dialects that you will hear in tussentaal is the archaic “gij” or “ge” (thou) as the all-purpose second person pronoun, instead of the standard Dutch trio “jij” (singular familiar you), “U” (singular respectful you), and “jullie” (plural you). In many dialects, and often in tussentaal, one might hear “gijlie” for 2nd person plural, much like “y’all” in the American South.

So what is Tussentaal really? Is it a regiolect (i.e., a regional dialect), or a cluster of regiolects? (Tussentaal is not homogenous across Flanders.)

Or is it rather a koiné language? The term originates with Koiné Greek, the “common Greek” in which the Christian New Testament was written (as distinct from the literary Attic Greek which some of us still learned in High School). Koiné arose as a kind-of lingua franca dialect between different Greek dialects. The Wikipedia article [caveat lector] on modern koiné languages cites spoken Québecois French and Australian English as two modern examples. (The formal written languages, in both cases, are slight variants of standard French and Oxford English, respectively.) The concept of a koiné, besides coexistence with local dialects, does admit of a mild degree of regional (and socio-economic) variation, so that does seem to be the best fit.

[*] In fact, German has official status in Belgium as well, because of the German-speaking cantons of Eupen-Malmédy-St.-Vith, which were attached to Belgium as part of the post-WW I Versailles Treaty.

ADDENDUM: perhaps I should mention the related term diglossia, the parallel existence of consistent formal and informal varieties of a language that are different enough in grammar and syntax (not just vocabulary) to qualify as separate languages, rather than just formal and informal registers of the same language. The textbook example is vulgar Latin (from vulgus=common people) vs. classical literary Latin: while classical Latin has the complex grammatical cases and declensions system “beloved” by us in high school, they were largely absent in the “vulgar” variant spoken between people. (It was not a written language, except for satirical renderings in comedies — which is how we even known how it worked.)

Something with German, where the Mundart (“the oral variety”) has a simplified de facto grammar lacking many of the grammatical features of Standard [High] German such as cases, T-V (in this case, Du-Sie) distinction, …

However, this is not the case with Tussentaal. Standard Dutch is no more difficult grammatically than “Tussentaal”: if anything, the reverse. The tussentaal as spoken in Limburg may contain grammatical cases (like German does), which other than in some fixed expressions went the way of the dodo in Standard Dutch.

Today 76 years ago: VE Day 1945, and the very last German holdouts by… the North Pole

A British movietone newsreel about that long-awaited Victory in Europe Day.

There was fighting going on until the last day — and indeed for some days beyond, in some cases by German troops trying to exfiltrate through Russian lines to surrender to the Western Allies.

There was no parallel to decades-long Japanese holdouts like Hiroo Onoda, whose story was the inspiration of the concept album “Nude” by progressive rock band Camel. Two German U-boats, U-530 and U-977, set course for Argentina, which led to lots of postwar speculation and legends.

The very last German troops to lay down their weapons to the Western Allies were the 11-man crew of a Kriegsmarine weather station on Nordaustlandet, the 2nd largest island (after Spitsbergen) in the Svalbard archipelago. They had learned of the surrender by radio, but no transportation could be spared to retrieve them until a Norwegian walrus hunting ship laid anchor on September 4, 1945. (See the German Wikipedia page on Operation Haudegen as well as this page on War History Online and on Amusing Planet.) The station commander, Lt. Wilhelm Dege, apparently wrote a book about his experiences titled “War North of [the] 80[th parallel].” The station still stands and is occasionally used as an emergency shelter by explorers of that inhospitable place.

Operation Haudegen
Image from https://www.amusingplanet.com/2020/01/the-last-german-surrender.html

UPDATE: original title said “66 years” — fixed (thanks, OranWoody!)

COVID19 mini-update, May 7, 2021: The Lancet paper on efficacy of Pfizer in Israel; Germany says, “patents are not the bottleneck, production capacity is”

(1) My homeland has effectively been a country-sized Phase IV trial for Pfizer. Analysis of the efficacy of the vaccine on this mass scale has been circulating in preprint form, but now the paper has been published after peer review in The Lancet.

Haas, E. J.; Angulo, F. J.; McLaughlin, J. M.; Anis, E.; Singer, S. R.; Khan, F.; Brooks, N.; Smaja, M.; Mircus, G.; Pan, K.; Southern, J.; Swerdlow, D. L.; Jodar, L.; Levy, Y.; Alroy-Preis, S. Impact and Effectiveness of MRNA BNT162b2 Vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 Infections and COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalisations, and Deaths Following a Nationwide Vaccination Campaign in Israel: An Observational Study Using National Surveillance Data. Lancet 2021.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)00947-8 [Paper appears to be Open Access]

(These funny links you see are called DOIs, or Digital Object Identifiers, in scholarly publishing: they are maintained at a central database by the various publishers, and are meant to be link rot-proof permalinks to scholarly papers. They can also be looked up in CrossRef.org and you will get all the human-readable “metadata” like authors, title, journal name,… with a single click.)

The figures are actually similar to what was reported in earlier studies, but the uncertainty intervals have shrunk drastically because, well, we’re talking a sample of millions now, not 30,000 or so participants in a Phase III trial.

The moneygraf from the abstract:

During the analysis period (Jan 24 to April 3, 2021), there were 232 268 SARS-CoV-2 infections, 7694 COVID-19 hospitalisations, 4481 severe or critical COVID-19 hospitalisations, and 1113 COVID-19 deaths in people aged 16 years or older. By April 3, 2021, 4 714 932 (72·1%) of 6 538 911 people aged 16 years and older were fully vaccinated with two doses of BNT162b2. Adjusted estimates of vaccine effectiveness at 7 days or longer after the second dose were 95·3% (95% CI 94·9–95·7; incidence rate 91·5 per 100 000 person-days in unvaccinated vs 3·1 per 100 000 person-days in fully vaccinated individuals) against SARS-CoV-2 infection, 91·5% (90·7–92·2; 40·9 vs 1·8 per 100 000 person-days) against asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection, 97·0% (96·7–97·2; 32·5 vs 0·8 per 100 000 person-days) against symptomatic COVID-19, 97·2% (96·8–97·5; 4·6 vs 0·3 per 100 000 person-days) against COVID-19-related hospitalisation, 97·5% (97·1–97·8; 2·7 vs 0·2 per 100 000 person-days) against severe or critical COVID-19-related hospitalisation, and 96·7% (96·0–97·3; 0·6 vs 0·1 per 100 000 person-days) against COVID-19-related death. In all age groups, as vaccine coverage increased, the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 outcomes declined. 8006 of 8472 samples tested showed a spike gene target failure, giving an estimated prevalence of the B.1.1.7 [“British”] variant of 94·5% among SARS-CoV-2 infections.

Summarizing in table form:

Effectiveness against:percentageconfidence interval
Any level of SARS-CoV-2 infection95.394.9 — 95.7
Asymptomatic COVID-1991.590.7 — 92.2
Symptomatic COVID-1997.096.7 — 97.2
Hospitalization for COVID-1997.296.8 — 97.5
Severe or critical COVID-1997.597.1 — 97.8
Death related to COVID-1996.796.0 — 97.3
Effectiveness of Pfizer two-vaccine regime in Israel (mostly B.1.1.7 epidemic)

Lots more in the paper itself, which is not paywalled: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)00947-8

(2) The recent proposal to make COVID19 vaccines patent-free is predictably raising the ire of the pharmaceutical industry. And here we have the topsy-turvy situation that statist Germany is telling the US, “not so fast!” and “beware of unintended consequences”. Also, more pertinently perhaps, “it is not intellectual property that’s the bottleneck, but production capacity”.

The EU, and especially European Commission chair, the German Ursula von der Leyen — learned this to their chagrin with the Oxford/AstraZeneca fracas. The low per-dose cost and permissive IP of that vaccine helped them little when the factories couldn’t churn out the doses fast enough. (It reminds me a little bit of “free healthcare” not being very useful if you have a 6-month wait for a specialist and a 2-year wait for surgery.)

(3) I have had my differences with Paul Mirengoff at times, but on this one he’s dead on target. It is a good reminder that (a) most journalists, and nearly all opinion journalists, are innumerate, and the exceptions rarely have more than the most superficial understanding of statistics; (b) while the “woke left” is setting new benchmarks in intellectual dishonesty every day, they sadly do not have a monopoly. I have to keep reminding myself that one can be a expert in one area of human endeavor and a complete fool in another outside one’s expertise.

Let me sign off with a little musical balm for the soul, courtesy of Franz Liszt and Paul Barton. Have a good weekend and, for my coreligionists, shabbat shalom

Concert Etude S.144 Nr. 3 in Db major, “Un Sospiro”

The Sixtus affair, Emperor “Karl the Unready”, and the end of the Habsburg empire

Yesterday I saw a documentary on (then newly) declassified documents about what to me was an unknown episode in the First World War. Briefly, the last Habsburg emperor, Karl I was persuaded by his consort, Empress Zita of Bourbon-Parma, to make back-channel approaches to the Allies via her brother Sixtus, an officer in the Belgian army. (She saw the famine and privations striking Vienna, and correctly saw that the Dual Monarchy would not survive unless Austria-Hungary extricated itself from the war.)

When the German leadership — Kaiser Wilhelm II, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and his chief of staff Erich Ludendorff — found out, this blew up famously. See all about it in the fascinating documentary below.

I couldn’t help thinking that Karl I should really have been called Karl the Unready. Yes, I know that “Aethelred the Unready” really meant “Aethelred the unwilling to listen to counsel”, but I could not resist the pun. Karl I had not expected to ever come to the throne following the very long reign of Franz Joseph (who’s up there with Louis XIV, Elizabeth I of England, [Addendum: Queen Victoria, Hirohito], and Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom in the shortlist of longest-ruling monarchs). However, first the heir apparent, the melancholy Crown Prince Rudolph, had killed himself and his lover in a suicide pact at the Mayerling hunting lodge.

Rudolf having been an only son, Franz Joseph’s younger brother Archduke Karl Ludwig became the heir presumptive, but he died in 1896 from typhoid fever, presumably contracted on a trip to Eretz Israel and Egypt. All hopes had then been put on his son, Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Franz Ferdinand appears to have been a garrulous sort, but he was clear-sighted in one regard: the only way the Habsburg dual monarchy could survive was its reform into a federation of states for all the nationalities. It is quite possible that, had the assassin’s bullet at Sarajevo missed and had he lived to succeed Franz Joseph when the latter died of old age in 1916, the Habsburgs might still be on the throne ruling a form of Central European Commonwealth. (It is unlikely that World War Two would ever have broken out in this timeline: hmm, I see an alternate history project once I’m done with Valkyrie 1943…)

Franz Ferdinand had married a commoner in a morganatic marriage (a.k.a., a “left-hand marriage”), i.e., one in which the offspring are excluded from the line of succession. Suddenly, Franz Ferdinand nephew, Karl Ludwig’s grandson Karl, found himself the heir presumptive, his father Archduke Otto Franz having died of syphilis in 1906.

Karl wasn’t a wastrel or a roué like his father had been: he was a devout Catholic and appears to have been an enthusiastic military officer who studied on the side, but had never been prepared for his duties as head of state for the simple reason nobody expected those to befall him.

Karl would die a broken man in exile on Madeira: after Austria declared itself a republic in 1918. He had tried repeatedly to reclaim the other Habsburg throne, that of Hungary, where Admiral Miklos Horthy was nominally his Regent: Horthy, however, refused to play ball and vacate his position, as we have covered here previously. Zita outlived him by many decades; Karl’s nominal heir, Otto von Habsburg, would go on to play a major role in post-WW II politics at the level of what would become the European Union.

Allow me to include a Biographics video on Emperor Franz Joseph, the predecessor under whose reign the prewar Viennese culture we think of came to be. His Empress Elisabeth “Sisi” (from the Bavarian royal House of Wittelsbach) is the second player in this video, and was instrumental in reforming the Austrian empire into the Austro-Hungarian “Royal and Imperial” dual monarchy.