Wednesday, October 01, 2014

A Close Encounter With Ebola

With the first reported case of Ebola in the US today, I thought it might be an appropriate time to share my own recent close encounter with the disease.

I should begin by mentioning (for those who don't know me) that I am a bit of a germophobe.  I'm not sure where such things come from, but from an early age I recall not liking to share drinking glasses or to let anyone take tastes directly from something I was eating.  Naturally, my older sister did both at every opportunity just to see all my fuses pop (hi Val!).  

My wife can attest to the fact that whenever I have had to go anywhere near a hospital, I have washed up afterwards like a doctor prepping for surgery.  And the one time I was hospitalized for a few days I nearly bathed in the sanitizing hand gel they had at the entrance to my room.  I mean, seriously... what do you expect?  These places are full of sick people!

Anyway, as a result of what I would call a mild phobia regarding germs, I usually keep a bottle of hand sanitizer or disposable alcohol hand wipes in my briefcase/hand luggage whenever I travel abroad.

Back at the beginning of July I had a couple of business trips to countries in West Africa.  One of those trips was to Sierra Leone.

Before I left on the trip I was aware that there had been a serious outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.  But when I checked with the Israeli health authorities, I was assured that the only cases in Sierra Leone were in remote areas where that country shared borders with Liberia and Guinea, and since all my meetings were scheduled to take place in the capital - Freetown -  I should be fine.

However, midway through the third day of my visit, I noticed an ominous development:  All of the government buildings I was visiting had set up special stations outside their entrances where masked / gloved employees were requiring everyone who entered to wash their hands in a bleach solution, and some were using thermal scanners to check if anyone had a fever.

I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but that certainly got my 'Spidey Sense' tingling.

I had been given a government driver for the duration of my visit, and on the way back to my hotel I asked him what was going on.  He informed me that several hundred cases of Ebola had been confirmed in the capital and that the country's leading infectious disease expert and several of his nurses had also been confirmed to have contracted Ebola (they all died within weeks).

When I got back to my hotel, I immediately started making calls to find out if I could move up my departing flight.  But the few airlines flying in and out of Freetown were already overbooked with people attempting to leave because of rumors that commercial flights in and out of the country would soon be suspended.

I had one more day of meetings before my scheduled flight out, so I had no choice but to finish my itinerary of meetings and hope that my British Airways flight to London would still be listed when I showed up at the airport.

Getting back to my slight fear of germs, I tend to try to limit physical contact with people I meet on business trips... even in developed countries.  I do this by presenting my business card with two hands upon meeting someone for the first time (which eliminates the need for a handshake in most cases), and within a minute or two of exchanging parting handshakes at the end of a meeting, I usually avail myself of a private moment to wipe my hands with the above mentioned hand sanitizer or towelettes.

To be clear, I don't mean to imply that foreign people are somehow dirty or disease-ridden.  It's just that when traveling to new places, one generally lacks resistance to the local colds and garden-variety maladies, and a hectic travel schedule further degrades one's immune system.   I just hate coming down with something after every business trip, so I tend to err on the side of caution.

Back to the story...

By the time I checked out of my hotel and headed to the airport, the gathering storm had descended on the capital with hundreds of new Ebola cases reported.  

As I stood waiting to check in for my flight, I replayed in my head all of the meetings I'd had and tried to remember if anyone had seemed feverish or in any way out of sorts.  Keep in mind that in tropical areas of sub-Sahara Africa, nearly everyone walks around with a sheen of perspiration... so my imagination had plenty to feed on.

When I got to the airport I was relieved to find my British Airways flight was still operating (I read that they suspended flights to Freetown a few days after I left), so I breathed a sigh of relief when I was finally in the air on my way back to Israel (via London).

But during the flight, I couldn't help looking around at my fellow passengers and wondering who they had come into contact with over the past few weeks.

My suspicions about my fellow passengers seemed to be vindicated when we landed in London, because instead of taxiing to the arrivals gate as expected, the pilot announced that he had been instructed by 'the authorities' to taxi the plane to an isolated area at the edge of Heathrow Airport.

As soon as the plane arrived at the designated area, I looked out the window and saw several police vehicles accompanying a stairway truck pull up beside our airplane.  The pilot came on the intercom and told us to remain in our seats and that representatives of the British Police would be coming onto the plane.

We watched as several armed police wearing protective vests came down the two aisles and continued towards the back of the plane.  Within a few minutes they reappeared with an African man and three children and escorted them off the plane.  It was only then that the fight attendants informed us that apparently there was some sort of domestic custody issue being sorted out (nothing to do with Ebola) and that buses would be coming to take us to the main terminal.

While I was on the ground at Heathrow, I availed myself of the WiFi to do a little research on the Ebola situation in the country I had just left, as well as to educate myself more thoroughly on the disease itself.

It turns out that so long as one doesn't come into direct physical contact with someone who is symptomatic, there is virtually no risk of infection.  The modifying effect of that word 'virtually' did little to assuage my fears.  After all, if the most knowledgeable physician in the country and his staff had taken all necessary precautions and had been infected anyway, there was something that wasn't completely understood about how transmission was taking place.  

I also had no way of knowing with any certainty if any of the dozens of people I had met and shaken hands with during my visit had been symptomatic.

The bottom line was that Ebola has an incubation period of between 6 and 21 days (according to most sources), so from the time I left Sierra Leone, a dire countdown clock had started ticking in my head.

I didn't want to alarm my family or colleagues, but I also didn't want to take any unnecessary risks.  So wherever possible, I kept my distance... and began surreptitiously checking my temperature dozens of times per day with a digital thermometer I carried in my pocket.

I should mention that we don't have A/C in our home, so there were several nights that I woke up feeling a little sweaty and made a mad dash to the bathroom to check to see if I had suddenly developed a fever (I hadn''t).

There is a Jewish custom to say a special prayer in the synagogue after surviving illness, childbirth, or danger (including a hazardous journey or captivity).  Some Jews even have a tradition of reciting this blessing after taking an airplane flight over water.  

Personally, I find the recitation of this blessing of thanksgiving after something as routine as a commercial airplane flight to be a bit ridiculous.  But I suppose that if one contemplates all the things that can possibly go wrong with a pressurized aluminum tube hurtling through the air 35,000 feet above the earth at almost 600 Mph, perhaps offering a few words of thanks isn't such a bad idea.

But after I'd passed 21 days without spiking a fever, you'd better believe I recited that blessing after being called up to the Torah, and then nearly wept with relief;  breathing deeply for what seemed like the first time since landing back in Israel.  

In the time since I returned from that trip, I have become quite the Internet scholar about Ebola.  On the one hand, it remains a terrifying disease that an unprepared and ill-equipped world seems to have terribly underestimated.  But on the other hand, the dire predictions of a 90%+ fatality rate seems to have been replaced with a slightly less apocalyptic figure of 50-55% (still a sobering number to contemplate).

In any event, as I have been following the nearly daily news reports of the growing crisis in West Africa, and now the report of the first confirmed case in the US, I think about the nice people I met during that business trip... hoping that they and their loved ones are okay.  And I wonder if the World Health Organization and other international bodies are up to the task at hand.

For all our sakes, I hope so.

Posted by David Bogner on October 1, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Just A Pound Of Flesh Away From The Presidency

Vice President Biden has had to apologize for an embarrassing gaff he made this week.

Aw heck, why paraphase it when the original article describes it best:

"At a Tuesday conference marking the 40th anniversary of the Legal Services Corporation, Biden recalled anecdotes from his son's experience serving in Iraq and meeting members of the military who were in need of legal help because of problems back at home.

"That's one of the things that he finds was most in need when he was over there in Iraq for a year," Biden said. "That people would come to him and talk about what was happening to them at home in terms of foreclosures, in terms of bad loans that were being ... I mean these Shylocks who took advantage of, um, these women and men while overseas."

Upon being informed that the term 'Shylock' might contain some slight anti-Semitic overtone, Biden said, "I want to apologize to any sheenies and kikes who might have been offended by my use of the word Shylock to describe those Jewish Bankers and moneylenders. In my defense, I have never read 'The Merchant of Venice' or seen it performed. In fact since getting caught plagiarizing, I've taken great pains not to expose myself to anthing of intellectual value that I might inadvertently try to pass off as my own work."

Okay, I made that last part up...

But to offer a historical context, Shakespeare wrote 'The Merchant of Venice' (and all his other works), during a period when all Jews had been expelled from England. Meaning, 'The Bard' can probably be forgiven for relying on inaccurate negative stereotypes of the period since he had probably never seen or met a Jew in real life.

Which begs the question, what's Biden's excuse?

Posted by David Bogner on September 18, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Best Cell Phone I've Ever Owned

Okay, everyone calm down.  

Yes, Apple has just released a new iphone.  But instead of leading the herd in a unique and innovative direction, the folks in Cupertino seem to be following blindly along behind Samsung in a race to make ever-larger mobile phones; a race that can only end with all of us walking around with a tablet the size of a 1970s-era Boom Box resting between our shoulder and ear.

Those who know me know that I am sort of an Apple fanboy.  In fact, with the exception of our middle child who Prefers a Samsung Galaxy (he's always marched to the beat of a different drummer), all of the computers, tablets and phones in our household are made by Apple.

But I have a confession to make:

No cell phone I have ever owned has been nearly as reliable, durable, audible or pocket-able as the Motorola StarTAC I had in the late 90s.

Startac

In fact, if I could buy a brand new StarTAC today that would accept a modern CIM card and work with current cellular networks, I would retire my iPhone in a second! 

Seriously, tell me you don't miss the look and feel of the StarTAC... the way it rested perfectly between your shoulder and chin... and how at the end of a call you could snap it shut with a satisfying 'slap'.

So yeah, you were saying something about a new iPhone being released... ?

Posted by David Bogner on September 10, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 08, 2014

Palestinians Refuse Offer of State Larger than Gaza & West Bank!

Yet it is getting almost no press coverage!!!  How is that possible??!!!

Arutz Sheva is a right wing media outlet in Israel that has a small but loyal following of mostly right wing readers.  As a result, it is largely marginalized by the rest of the Israeli media community and considered by many to be a mouthpiece for a lunatic fringe.

But occasionally, Arutz Sheva reports on stories that are not only of no interest to the rest of the media community, but which those media outlets want to actively bury or ignore.  That's one of the main reasons I stop by there to peruse the headlines during my daily slog through the interwebs.

This morning a story on Arutz Sheva caught my eye. It caught my eye for the simple reason that it is a story that should be plastered across the headlines of every major news outlet in the world, yet inexplicably isn't.  This story is IMHO, quite simply, the most ground breaking story to hit the Middle East in the last 40 years!

For years I've been saying that 'the occupation' that the world has been laying at Israel's feet, is a result of a war that was forced on Israel by several of her neighbors.  How is it that none of these same neighbors - especially the neighbors with whom we have peace treaties - are being asked to help create a solution?

Well, Egypt just stepped up and offered to solve the Palestinian problem in one grand move... and nobody but little right wing lunatic fringe Arutz Sheva is reporting it!

According to the story, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi offered up a huge chunk of the Sinai peninsula adjacent to Gaza in which the Palestinians could establish a state that would be five times larger than Gaza and provide them with more land than if they created a state in the entire West Bank!

Palestinian communities in the West Bank would remain (no transfer of population!!!) and would retain their current autonomy and would be administered by the Palestinian Government of their their new state.

In return for receiving this Gaza-Sinai Palestinian state, the Palestinians would have to give up the so-called 'Right of Return' of refugees to Israel, as well as the demand that Israel return to the 1947 ceasefire lines, and agree to be demilitarized.

If such a plan were to be brought to fruition, the Palestinians would end up with the ample land, ports and location to be able to create a Levant Riviera boasting world class beach resorts, prime cruise destinations and some of the best fishing and scuba diving in the world, not to mention enough space to become a key agricultural supplier to southern Europe!  

Not only that, but given the existence of natural gas and other fossil / mineral reserves in Sinai, there is a good chance that some of this could be exploited by the new Palestinian state.

Both the US and Israeli governments were made aware of the Egyptian offer, and both gave the plan their go-ahead.  Yet Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas rejected the offer out of hand.  

But aside from a little blurb in Arutz Sheva, nobody is talking about it!

How is it that such a historic offer and such a historic refusal have not gotten any meaningful media coverage?

Could it be that the perpetuation of the problem and the resulting vilification of Israel is preferable to creating a regional solution to a problem that has been festering for 70 years?!

Posted by David Bogner on September 8, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Fear of Flooding

The Israeli news outlets reported today that US warplanes carried out four bombing sorties against ISIS (Islamic State in Syria and Iraq) forces in Iraq's Anbar Province.

Naturally, since the US is an ally and the forces being targeted belong to a terror organization, the news is being reported here in a logical, matter-of-fact manner; with the assumption being that most people understand who the players are and why the attack was carried out.

But after the way the western media - The New York Times in particular - savaged Israel for carrying out military operations against a universally recognized terror organization that was engaged in targeting Israeli civilians, I was curious to see how the current US bombing campaign was being reported there.

Here's what I found:

The New York Time's home page, above the fold (meaning what is visible without having to scroll) looked like this (click the image to enlarge):

NYTimes BAU

For your convenience I've circled the date so it is clear we're talking about the same time-frame.

I draw your attention to what is visible without scrolling (which, one would assume, are the most pressing, news-worthy stories of the day):

Center:  A photo of Palestinian children playing in squalor with the caption:  "Children played in a plaza in Al Fawwar, West Bank. Public spaces like the plaza are almost unheard-of in West Bank camps".

Below center:  The article related to the photo, entitled: "Reshaping a West Bank Refugee Camp"

Top left:  An article about influence peddling at some Washington think tanks, entitled: "Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Washington Think Tanks".

Top right:  A fluff piece entitled: "News Analysis: Why Don’t More Men Go Into Teaching?"

In fact, you'd have to scroll well down the home page in order to find the article about the US having carried out a military air-strike on foreign soil!

That article, entitled "U.S. Launches Fresh Air-strikes on ISIS to Protect Dam in Iraq", was refreshing for its complete lack of journalistic curiosity about the types of munitions used, the amount of damage done to infrastructure and the number of civilians who might have been displaced, wounded or (G-d forbid), killed in the strike.

In fact, if one reads the entire article (feel free) not only are these details absent, but entire paragraphs are taken up with earnest explanation of who the people being bombed were, why the strike was necessary and what hung in the balance if the strikes would not have been carried out.  

In short, what was provided in today's piece about a US air-strike in Iraq was pretty much all of the context that was denied to anyone reading about Israeli air-strikes on terror targets in Gaza.

For those who can't be bothered to read the 11 paragraphs that make up the article, I'll do the heavy lifting for you:

Who:  US Warplanes (no type mentioned, but it is probably safe to assume that those being bombed don't possess any), and ISIS terrorists

What:  An air-strike on an ISIS stronghold.  

When:  Saturday night

Where:  Near the strategically important Haditha Dam

Why:  "to stop militants from seizing an important dam on the Euphrates River and prevent the possibility of flood-waters being unleashed toward the capital, Baghdad".

Nice and neat, no?  See how everything makes sense when context is offered?

And to ensure that the reader understands both the legitimacy and legality of the extremely measured use of US military force, here are helpful explanatory phrases full of language that positively exude 'truth, justice and the American way':

"...the limited goals that President Obama set...he had authorized air-strikes in Iraq..."

"Administration officials nonetheless stressed that the strikes around Haditha Dam... were within the constraints of what Mr. Obama initially characterized as a limited campaign to break the ISIS siege of the minority Yazidi population stranded on Mount Sinjar..."

"... as well as to protect American citizens, official personnel and facilities in Erbil, the Kurdish capital, and Baghdad".

The strikes were conducted under authority to protect U.S. personnel and facilities, support humanitarian efforts...".

"...the mission of protecting American citizens and facilities gives the White House wide latitude to support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish militias ..."

 The messeage being delivered is that clearly, someone is in charge, and there are excellent reasons for the actions he is taking.

The Times slavishly adheres to its policy of even-handedness by referring to the ISIS forces as 'militants'.  But at the first opportunity, they availed themselves of the following quote from Pentagon press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby, which uses the terminology the times really wants to ensure their readers see:  “We conducted these strikes to prevent terrorists from further threatening the security of the dam".  [emphasis mine]

Oh, you were bombing terrorists?!  Why didn't you just say so??!!!!

Now, what's so special about this dam that US warplanes had to be dispatched to a foreign country half a world away to protect it from falling into ISIS' hands?

Glad you asked, because the article provides a helpful explanations:

"A significant rupture of the Haditha Dam, officials have said, could send flood-waters through a large number of Iraqi communities and toward the capital, perhaps putting at risk the Baghdad airport, which could threaten Americans in the country."

Notice how far down that list the direct threat to American interests is?  I'll number it for you:

  1. The dam
  2. Iraqi communities
  3. The Baghdad airport (perhaps!)
  4. Americans located in the country

Seems to me that at a distant fourth on the list, it would be far easier to airlift any remaining American citizens out of Iraq than risk getting the US mired in yet another open-ended foreign military adventure.  But who am I to question the leader of the free world?

If nothing else, the reader (at least any reader who read past the midpoint of the article) was provided with an amazing amount of local and regional context to explain why the US had taken this extraordinary step: The US was bombing a bunch of terrorists to keep them from blowing up a dam and flooding a bunch of strategically important Iraqi communities and installations.

Which begs the question, why weren't similar efforts spared by the New York Times to provide regional context to those reading about Israeli attacks on Gaza?

The Times mentions Israeli fears of being flooded with terrorists (who would flow effortlessly into Israeli through tunnels prepared for just such a flood), and deluged with missiles (which rained down from launchers and storage facilities deliberately placed within civilian schools, hospitals and religious institutions), only in passing, if at all throughout weeks of relentless attempts by Hamas terrorists to target Israeli civilians.

Yet in Iraq, The Times reports breathlessly of US warplanes that are somehow able to make perfectly surgical strikes with no civilian losses and without a scratch to civilian infrastructure (or so one must deduce from the lack of reporting to the contrary).  And these attacks, The Times patiently explains to us, are carried out because of a fear of flooding!

Posted by David Bogner on September 7, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 01, 2014

When someone else says it better, I just shut up and listen

Quite honestly, this is absolutely the best written, most clearly reasoned and supported explanation for the media's (and as a result, the worlds') obsessive focus on Israel to the exclusion of nearly everything else going on in the world.  

Best of all, it comes from a media insider who knows where the bodies are buried and isn't afraid to name names.

If you read nothing else today, this week or this month... read this! It is in three sections (the navigation isn't immediately obvious).  Read the whole thing!

Don't thank me... I'm a giver.

    

    Hat tip to reader 'Rich' who left the link for me in a comment.

Posted by David Bogner on September 1, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Home Free

When journalists come to the Middle East to cover anything going on the region, they might visit Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Gaza, etc., but they generally set up their base camp here in Israel because, you know, it's dangerous in all those other places. So while filing reports wearing flack jackets and helmets is good for ratings... you gotta be able to take off the protective gear and relax once in awhile.

And when a journalist or a couple of dozen UN peacekeepers are taken hostage by terrorists in Syria and are subsequently released, they aren't considered to be safe until they cross over into Israeli territory... again, because we actually control the territory over which we claim control, and our government takes seriously its primary responsibility of ensuring the safety and security of its residents.

In short, once you're in Israel, you're home free.

So I'm confused as to why all these media and UN types still insist on telling the world that we're the root of all the problems in the region, and that all those other places where they're getting kidnapped, shot at and beheaded, are okey dokey!

Can someone explain that to me using small words so I'll be sure to understand?

Posted by David Bogner on August 30, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Why do I bother reading this crap?

With all of the verifiable, newsworthy things going on the world today (including the hundreds of rockets that have been fired at Israeli civilian population centers by Hamas in just the past 24 hours), the front page of today's online New York Times featured the following article, top, front and center:

Times crap 1

 

 Pay special attention to the passage from the article that I've highlighted below:

Times crap 2

This is a 17 year old (i.e. old enough to actually be a Hamas or Islamic Jihad combatant), who is the son of a Hamas government official, making completely uncorroborated claims of Israeli misdeeds.

And the reason the Times felt that this story was not only newsworthy, but important enough to place in the top-center spot of their home page is that if his asserions could be corroborated, this would constitute an Israeli Military violation of both International and Israeli law.

Forget the fact that EVERY SINGLE ROCKET FIRED FROM WITHIN CIVILIAN AREAS OF GAZA AT ISRAELI CIVILIANS IS A DOUBLE WAR CRIME!  And the source and destination of those rocket launches can actually be verified!!!

The Times could just as easily have reported that if the IDF had stolen one of the kid's kidneys and sold it on the black market (or used it to bake matzoh for Passover!), it would have also been a violation of  International and Israeli law.  Because without corroboration, or some compelling reason to believe it could be true, this is nothing more than a blood libel dressed up as a news lead... an irrelevant fairy tale, not news!

Unless, of course, you are the New York Times: the self-proclaimed arbiter of what news is fit to print.

Times slogan

Posted by David Bogner on August 25, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

American media seems to sing a different tune...

... when the sh*t hits the fan at home.

A buddy of mine pointed me towards a brilliant bit of satire today. It is a piece illustrating how the US media machine would be covering the current crisis in Ferguson, Missouri if the events were taking place on foreign soil.

Here' s taste:

"FERGUSON — Chinese and Russian officials are warning of a potential humanitarian crisis in the restive American province of Missouri, where ancient communal tensions have boiled over into full-blown violence.

"We must use all means at our disposal to end the violence and restore calm to the region," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in comments to an emergency United Nations Security Council session on the America crisis.

The crisis began a week ago in Ferguson, a remote Missouri village that has been a hotbed of sectarian tension. State security forces shot and killed an unarmed man, which regional analysts say has angered the local population by surfacing deep-seated sectarian grievances. Regime security forces cracked down brutally on largely peaceful protests, worsening the crisis."

Seriously, go read the whole thing.

Makes me care just a little bit less about all those self-righteous media douchebags prancing around Gaza in their flack jackets and helmets reading from crib sheets about a place they couldn't find on a map two months ago, much less have a prayer of following the money to the perps in Hamastan who are trying to cash in on their renewed relevance after their latest unprovoked attacks against the US's only ally in the region.

Posted by David Bogner on August 19, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Charity Begins at Home

An Honest Examination of Responsibility and Allocation of Resources by an Israeli Parent

[A guest post by Zahava]

I’ll be honest. It’s been a rough few months. So rough, I’ve had to force myself to limit my forays onto news sites and social media.

It isn’t that I am less passionate about the various issues which relate to what we Israelis refer to as ‘hamatzav', (literally 'the situation'), than 11 years ago when we made Aliyah at the tail end of the second intifada, or 9 years ago during the painful disengagement from Gaza. It’s simply that I have different responsibilities and priorities today than I had during those periods.

I now run a business in which I have to balance responsibility to both clients and colleagues. I also now have an exceptionally sensitive and bright ten-year-old whose individual needs require me to better manage my resources — to make sure that no matter what HIS needs are, that I am in the best possible position to meet them. This means that I can’t afford to be distracted by anything which might sap my energy or focus, and which might render me less able to be at my best for him.

In fact, it is my role as this particular child’s mother that has prompted me to reluctantly stick my 2 cents back into the blogosphere today.

In recent weeks, one of the most depressing and disheartening aspects of those limited ‘strolls’ through cyberspace, has been exposure to the harsh and often self-righteous condemnation that we Israelis are receiving for allegedly not speaking out and doing enough to protect the children of Gaza.

To which, I must emphatically ask, “Excuse, me?!”

Don’t get me wrong. My heart breaks for the children on the Gazan side of this conflict — along with innocent Gazan civilians of all ages — these people are truly victims. When I consider their conditions, I am filled with nothing but sorrow and concern for their welfare and for their futures. Anyone with the slightest shred of humanity would be upset and worried. And I like to think that my capacity for compassion and empathy place me squarely on the deep end of the humanity pool….

The thing is, not unlike the innocent civilians of Gaza, Israeli parents are consumed with our own urgent pressures and responsibilities in dealing with this conflict. The difference is that thanks to a government and a society which value life — whose core ethic is to compare each individual life to an entire and complete universe — the typical Israeli's proximity to physical danger may be less than our Gazan counterparts, but we are not exactly living a carefree existence over here.

My friend Romi Sussman wrote a stark and honest piece which accurately depicts our struggles to get our families through this conflict intact; physically and spiritually.

The lack of ordinary Israeli citizens stampeding to bemoan the tragic situation which has befallen the children of those devoted to our annihilation doesn’t reflect a lack of compassion or concern on our part. Rather, it indicates that we have our hands full with our own suffering, and with the suffering of those closest to us. Israeli parents are not without concern and worry for the children of our enemies. We are simply fulfilling our more immediate responsibilities to our own children.

In the same way that when traveling by air it is accepted protocol that in the event that oxygen masks are deployed, parents are expected to don their own masks before assisting their children — Israelis’ first obligation is to caring for our own children before caring for someone else's.

Once our safety is secured, we can move onto securing the safety of others.

To take the example one step further, no one would expect a traveling parent of an infant to defer placing their own child’s mask in order to assist another family in getting their children’s masks in place! Obviously, once one's own kids’ safety is secure, a reasonable person would look around to see who else needs help. But until I know my kid is safe — no way, no how am I doing anything else but to focus on my child.

Think about the various natural and man-made disasters that have occurred over the past few decades. There have been quite a few — floods, earthquakes, storms, nuclear reactor failures and medical epidemics to name a few — from Haiti to Africa, from the South Seas and the Indian Ocean to Japan. Which tiny country, boasting only 8 million citizens, routinely steps to the forefront with generous contributions of manpower, financial aid, food and medical supplies? The answer is Israel.

So spare us your righteous indignation. We are in agreement that the ‘rights of the child‘ are undergoing horrific violation in Gaza (as they are in many other places around the world). However we part company on two integral points:

1) The responsibility for Gazan children being placed in harm’s way lies squarely on the shoulders of the folks launching rockets from residential areas, schools and hospitals.
2) While my children and family are under fire, my primary responsibility is to them.

If a parent is able to assist another person’s child without denying their own child adequate protection, this is a wonderful and admirable thing to do. But to expect — or even to insist — that a parent place their own child’s needs after the needs of another’s children… that is as unreasonable as it is intellectually dishonest.

Wanna know the secret to making Israelis more vocal about their concern for Gazan kids and civilians? It’s simple. Remove the threat of terror. Stop the rockets, stop the kidnappings and stop the terror attacks. Then we'll have the headspace to be concerned with the welfare of others.

Trust me, if we can routinely scold each other on the street over 'questionable' choices of dress and food for each other's children, we can certainly spare a few thoughts as to what is best for the children of Gaza.

But so long as we are forced to raise our own children under the threat of multi-layered assault with the stated purpose of destroying Israel and everyone in it? Then don't hold your breath waiting for Israelis to share their indignation over the condition of our enemies’ kids.

We’ve got our hands full with our own children — at the moment, our own children are our most urgent priority.  After all... charity begins at home.

Posted by David Bogner on August 11, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The best idea I've heard so far...

I have to admit that there don't seem to be many palatable options open to Israel in this classic asymmetric conflict in which we've been engaged (against our will).

We're like a big kid on the playground who has been attacked by a much smaller kid.  We only have two options open to us:

Option 1:  Beat the sh*t out of the little kid who has taken a swing at us (and be condemned for beating up a little kid).

Option 2: Turn the other cheek and let the kid bloody our nose, blacken our eyes and pretty much do whatever he wants (and be ridiculed for getting beaten up by a little kid).

So far we've been trying to walk a path somewhere between those two options; by trying to block as many punches and kicks as possible, while hitting back with enough force to try to injure the little kid just enough to get him to lose interest in continuing to hit and kick us for awhile.  

But this approach has sort of blown up in our faces, and has gotten us a double dose of condemnation:  On the one hand we are ridiculed for being a full fledged country at the mercy of a rogue terror organization AND on the other hand, we're berated for picking on a defenseless proto-state.

Enter Professor Yisroel Aumann, who received the Nobel prize for economics in 2005 for his work on conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis.  Professor Aumann has come up with a novel approach to dealing with what seems like an un-winnable conflict: Instead of hitting the opponent... step back and allow the opponent to hit himself.

His suggestion is as simple as it is brilliant:

In a recent lecture he suggested Israel design and build a fully automatic system that would fire a rocket back at Gaza immediately, whenever Gaza terrorists fired a missile at Israel.  Presumably, these missiles would be randomly or automatically aimed in a way that would inflict civilian casualties on the Arab side, just as Hamas seeks to cause civilian casualties on the Israeli side.

He stated that "The goal is truly that the system will be without any human involvement, no human control.  This is very important, because if there is control, they will tell us that we are criminals and murderers and cruel... However,  if there is no control of the system on the Israeli side, the responsibility for civilian deaths caused on the Arab side falls on the people who fired the missiles that set off the Israeli system".  [source]

Technically, this should not be a difficult system to design and implement.  In fact, all of the radar, command & control, computer and missile components already exist.  Someone just needs to give the order to combine them into a self-contained closed system that can be set up to operate autonomously like a house alarm that is armed when the home owner goes out.  

Obviously, it would have to be an order of magnitude more reliable than a house alarm so that it can't be accidentally triggered by anything except an incoming rocket or mortar from Gaza.

In my humble opinion, this is the best and only solution for dealing with asymmetrical threats such as Israel is currently facing from Gaza.  At least, until such time as the world decides to remove the financial incentive for these terror organizations to continue their belligerency.

Posted by David Bogner on August 10, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

And so it begins (again)...

... not that it ever really stopped, mind you.

I'm talking about anti-semitism masquerading as anti-Israel activism.  There are long periods where such sentiments and activism are driven underground because of political considerations (or at least considerations of political correctness).

But whenever Israel's security situation becomes so intolerable that we are forced to retaliate and/or launch any sort of military operation to protect our citizens, the gloves (and masks) come off the anti-semites around the world.

And, of course, leading the charge of those giving full-throated condemnation of Israel is former US President Jimmy Carter, who has accused Israel of "deliberate attacks on civilians" in Gaza, and who recommends that the US and EU "formally recognize Hamas as a legitimate political actor":

"There is no humane or legal justification for the way the Israeli Defense Forces are conducting this war. Israeli bombs, missiles, and artillery have pulverized large parts of Gaza, including thousands of homes, schools, and hospitals. More than 250,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Gaza. Hundreds of Palestinian noncombatants have been killed. Much of Gaza has lost access to water and electricity completely. This is a humanitarian catastrophe.... " .  [source]

It just goes to show, once again, that Jimmy Carter never met a despot or terrorist organization that he didn't like.  And if the despot or terror organization stands against Israel... [~ swoon ~].

It isn't bad enough that we are now engaged in delicate cease-fire negotiations with an unreasonable, intransigent opponent.  Jimmy obviously feels that this is the ideal time to fire the opening shot in this year's Joo Season.

So sit back and watch the boycotts, divestment and sanctions start to pile up at our doorstep.

To paraphrase the excellent essay by Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch:

'If you couldn't be bothered to raise your voice in condemnation when thousands of civilian protesters were killed and injured by the governments of Turkey, Egypt and Libya, when a record number of people were hanged by the government of Iran, when civilians were bombed in Afghanistan, when whole communities were massacred in South Sudan, when 150,000 Syrians were starved and murdered by Assad's forces (among them more Palestinians than perished in the recent Gaza operation), when hundreds in Pakistani civilians were killed by jihadist attacks, when 10,000 Iraqi civilians were killed by terrorists, when scores of villagers were slaughtered in Nigeria... yet you somehow found the time to raise your voice to cry out for Gaza, then you aren't pro-human rights, you are anti-Israel.' [source]

Update:  Britain's Student Union has just voted to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israeli.  [source]

Posted by David Bogner on August 6, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Making the Case for Demilitarizing Gaza

Ironically, it was Hamas, not Israel, that presented the most compelling case for completely demilitarizing Gaza.

Over the past few days, the international media and community have been wringing their hands over the devastation in Gaza, and have been chastising Israel for going further than needed in our attempt to stop the incessant rocket fire on Israeli civilian population centers.

The clear message behind these scoldings was that Hamas' military capabilities had already been devastated and that the continued pounding of Gaza was spiteful and punitive; serving no military purpose... while Israeli leaders insisted that we had not nearly gone far enough.

As Israel struggled to provide an adequate response to these accusations, just minutes before the 72 hour cease fire was to take effect at 8:00 AM this morning, Gaza terror groups under the command of Hamas fired dozens of missiles at communities throughout Israel in a precisely coordinated and premeditated barrage.

This cowardly attack displayed far more than just bad faith.  It demonstrated beyond all doubt that Hamas' Command & Control system remains fully functional, and that despite the destruction of the terror tunnels leading into Israel, their ability to continue striking Israel with impunity remains largely intact.

Therefore, the cornerstone of any long-term ceasefire agreement MUST be the complete demilitarization/disarmament of Hamas and its many subordinate terror groups in Gaza.  

And since the US, EU and UN all feel that Israel has been too brutal in its dealings with Gaza, and that we have been unreasonable in our monitoring of what is allowed to enter Gaza, it must be an international force that will take responsibility for carrying out the disarmament process and subsequent monitoring of all Gaza crossings to ensure no weapons or military equipment are smuggled in.

And most importantly, UNRWA, having been proven to be at best a hapless dupe, and at worst a willing partner, to Palestinian terror, must be disbanded and replaced by UNHCR which is the UN body responsible for all other refugees in the world, and can act as a reliable trustee for the millions of dollars that will soon be pouring into Gaza from around the world.  This is the only way to ensure that the aid money gets spent on improving the lives of innocent Gazans instead of being reinvested in weapons and terror infrastructure for the next, inevitable war.

The resolve of the international community will be tested over the next 72 hours.  If it is found wanting, Israel will have to go it alone and take whatever steps are necessary to provide safety and security to its citizens.

Posted by David Bogner on August 5, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 03, 2014

The frustration of arguing with history deniers

I've recently had several on and off-line discussions about the history of our region with people I'd always considered to be intelligent and well-educated.

Those discussions have led me to the inescapable conclusion that, not only do many people lack even the most rudimentary curiosity about history, but they actually actively avoid any aspect of its study which might contradict / threaten their currently held political views and opinions.

If I only had to contend with the frustration of not having a common pool of knowledge upon which to draw while discussing current events with these people, I would gladly prepare, carry and distribute copies of a short 'Cliff Notes'-style cheat sheet of verifiable (or at least widely accepted) historical events that shaped the near east over the past three millennium (with emphasis placed on the legal ramifications of the events of the last 200 years); No editorializing or interpretation, mind you... 'just the facts' (as Sgt. Joe Friday used to say).

Unfortunately, most people would slam the door on such a historical 'cheat sheet' as automatically as they would a tract or pamphlet being offered door-to-door by religious missionaries.

I'm not sure if it is a lack of confidence in the accuracy of the historical record, or if they simply believe that sheer force of will and modern mores should trump legal precedent and historical fact.

But whatever the reason, anyone who attempts to place current events in any sort of historical context should prepare themselves for blank stares and rather one-sided conversations.

Posted by David Bogner on August 3, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 01, 2014

When all isn't fair in... war

Throughout the current conflict in Gaza, the world has been scolding Israel over the lack of proportionality in the way we have been responding to the unprovoked attacks against us.

European leaders and UN shills have been stressing two main talking point in all their public statements:

1. The 'primitive' nature of the weapons that are being used against us as compared to the sophisticated offensive and defensive tools in our arsenal;

and

2. The disproportionate number of casualties on each side.

Heck, the New York Times even offers a handy box score in every article related to the conflict... y'kmow, so fans tuning in can quickly get a sense of how the game stands.

[Screenshot from today's Times]


Image


The clear message being conveyed is that since their weapons are so crude and inaccurate, and our technological advantage so great... that we should somehow be able to handicap the conflict in such a way as to level the playing field.

In other words, with such a lopsided death toll, something just doesn't seem cricket in the way Israel is playing the game.

What they fail to appreciate (or more likely, willfully ignore), is that, despite having rules... war is not a game. The rules are meant to preserve humanity and protect non-combatants... not ensure a close and exciting match for the spectators.

There is nothing in the Geneva Comventions that requires a better equipped military force to give a head start or handicap to a belligerent adversary with lesser means.

There are, however clear rules regarding the deliberate use of civilians as human shields, and intentionally exploiting schools, hospitals, ambulances, residential dwellings and houses of worship as weapons depots and launch pads.

There are rules that require combatants to wear clearly identifiable uniforms and insignia to distinguish them from non-combatants.

There are rules that prohibit the use of false flags (e.g. enemy uniforms) during attacks, and there are rules that prohibit carrying out attacks under a flag of truce (i.e. during a cease fire that has been offered and accepted by all sides.).

And most cogent to the events of today, there are rules governing the status and treatment of combatants captured, taken prisoner and / or who surrender during hostilities. Such persons are considered Prisoners of War, not kidnap victims.

Yet, throughout this (and all previous conflicts), Israel has been expected to not only offer a handicap, but to play by a different set of rules altogether!

The terrorists in Gaza fire thousands of missiles at our civilian population and the world borrows from the Palestinian lexicon to label it 'resistance' and 'militancy' instead of unprovoked belligerency and terrorism.

They use their own people and civilian infrastructure as shields for military installations, but the world only takes notice when those installations are targeted in our retaliatory strikes.

They dress their combatants in civilian clothing, and the world only notices the blurring of that distinction when tallying up the daily body count (with anyone dressed in street clothes counted as a civilian death).

They ask for, and receive, humanitarian ceasefires... and the world sees nothing wrong with the fact that they use those ceasefires to launch unopposed sneak attacks.

Their captured combatants are treated as Prisoners of War with the Red Cross given full access to assess their conditions and treatment. When one of our soldiers falls into their hands (captured during a cease fire!), the world shrugs and calls him a kidnapping victim, with no rights or expectations of humane treatment, instead of calling him a POW.

I'm not suggesting that Israel abandon it's humanity or disregard our moral / ethical responsibility to try to safeguard non-combatants who are, through no fault of their own, caught in the crossfire.

But there comes a point in warfare where one side declares through word and deed that no quarter will be offered to combatants... and both sides have to assume that none will be given.

That time has, IMHO, arrived.

Israel must continue to hold itself to the highest standards of conduct. But if our enemies are not expected to adhere to modern norms of warfare, I say we have to wage war on their terms... at least in terms of how we treat their combatants.

Without going into specifics, I think we should be guided by a few bits of wisdom passed down to us by a man who knew a thing or two about warfare... and how trying to make it neat, honorable or fair would do nothing but prolong the agony for all involved:

“Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster”


“War is cruelty. There's no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.”


"War is the remedy that our enemies have chosen, and I say let us give them all they want."


~William Tecumseh Sherman~


General Sherman understood then, as we must make the world understand now, that war isn't fair. War is hell.

Posted by David Bogner on August 1, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)