Monday, July 31, 2006
Who is a terrorist?
I appreciate everyone's patience. I haven't been responding to comments over the past couple of days because I have been busy corresponding with the many generous people who sent in donations to check if they want to earmark the donation for something specific and to get permission to list them on the 'Trepp Honor Roll'.
That said, there have been some very interesting comments and emails and I'd like to address a couple of them here:
First of all, an email from a reader calling himself Bruin74 and a comment from the lovely and talented Seattle blogger Lachlan both raised the same issue of how to classify the guy who shot up the Jewish Federation in the Emerald City on Friday.
The main contention seemed to be that because this guy seems at first scratch to be mentally unstable with a troubled family history... perhaps it was unfair to label him a terrorist, and his rampage an act of terrorism.
Before I weigh in I'd like to bring up a few historical examples that I feel relate directly to the topic under discussion:
In the Southern United States in the years before and during the struggle for Civil Rights, lynchings and other deadly attacks against African Americans, black-owned businesses and places of worship with predominantly black membership, were endemic. Undoubtedly many of these attacks (perhaps even most) were carried out on behalf of organized hate groups such as the KKK. But there were certainly many free-lance lynchings and deliberate attacks on people and property that were carried out by weak minded individuals who acted based on their sympathies for ideas advanced by groups like the KKK... and out of their own shaky handle on the difference between right and wrong.
Back before Jerusalem was reunited in the Six Day War of 1967, it spent 19 years as a divided city with a high wall running between Jordanian East Jerusalem and Israeli West Jerusalem. Every few days there would be shooting from the Jordanian side of the wall towards Israelis walking in West Jerusalem. Each time this happened the Israelis would file a formal complaint with the international authorities and the Jordanians would reply that the culprit had been a mentally unstable soldier who was acting on his own and would invariably regret the loss of life or damage to property caused by the shooter. In a bit of typical black humor, the Israelis took to calling the frequent shooters 'HaMeshugah HaToran' (roughly, the person whose turn it was to be crazy).
There have been several well documented attacks on foreign tourists in Egypt by heavily armed individuals. Each and every time a bus-load of tourists has been targeted, the Egyptian government has issued a standard statement (I think they have a pre-printed form at the press office) deploring the attack and assuring the world that the perp was mentally unstable and not connected to any organized terrorist organization.
In July of 2002, an Egyptian named Hesham Mohamed Hadayet walked into Los Angeles International Airport, made his way past several other airline's ticket counter and approached the El Al counter before opening fire with a handgun. He killed two people and wounded another four. Within minutes the FBI and local police were on the news announcing the preliminary details of the shooting and assuring the public that this did not appear to be an act of terrorism, but rather a random act of violence by an unstable individual. Even as documented evidence continued to mount that his attack was premeditated and that he had harbored violent feelings towards Jews/Israelis for some time, the US government didn't budge from its assertion that this was the act of a lone madman who may or may not have been aware of the ethnicity/nationality of his victims. It wasn't until much later that the authorities quietly admitted that the shooting was an act of hate/terror.
What do all these examples have in common?
They all assume the following:
- That a lack of clear membership/affiliation with an organized group means a lone/unaffiliated violent actor lacks the same motivation as people associated with an established group.
- Mental instability of an individual shields him from the assumption that his actions could have been inspired, or even ordered, by a group or organization.
- That weapons and other terror resources magically appear in the hands of individual actors.
- That there is no duplicity involved in a terror/hate group's openly advocating, and even carrying out, a specific type of violence against Jews/Israelis while simultaneously denouncing identical acts performed by individuals who are not card-carrying members of their organization or (ostensibly) directly under their orders.
Let's think for a moment about who the majority of terrorists are... and who they are not:
- You will not see family members or close associates of any senior members of a terrorist organization strapping on a suicide belt.
- They tend to be people from the fringes of the society from which the terrorist organizations pull their membership.
- They are sometimes mentally ill.
- They are frequently adolescents or post-adolescents who are ripe for emotional manipulation.
- They are frequently people who are open to coercion because of insurmountable debts, perceived breaches in family or individual honor, etc.
- Contrary to popular belief, terrorist are not by definition poor. Middle class disaffection can be equally responsible for an individual's decision to carry out violent acts.
This latest attack in Seattle is a perfect test case. While no group or terror organization has stepped up to claim the actions of this individual shooter, the results bear the hallmarks of an actor who was either ordered to carry out a terror attack... or who decided on his own to emulate previous actions carried out by terrorist organizations.
That he is mentally unstable (perhaps even 'bipolar', to use a word I admit to only partially understanding) is sort of besides the point. Even assuming for the moment that he is a lone actor (something of which I am not yet convinced), he was able to...
... formulate complex political opinions about who he wanted to harm.
... navigate the process of acquiring two semi-automatic handguns and ammunition.
... identify a Jewish/Israeli target in a city that, when compared with places like New York, Chicago and LA, has a dearth of 'quality', identifiably Jewish targets.
... come up with a simple and effective plan for breaching the security entrance of the Seattle Jewish Federation building (he took a 13 year old girl hostage and threatened to shoot her if the door wasn't opened immediately).
... appreciate that what he was doing was wrong and come up with an effective exit strategy based on the fact that immediately after shooting his first victim he forced her to dial the police so he could open negotiations for his safe passage out of the building.
Therefore I ask you the following three questions, dear readers:
Is membership in an organization required for an act to qualify as terrorism?
Does the actor need to be of sound mind and free of ulterior motivation to be labeled a terrorist?
Does it make a difference to the victims if they were targeted because of the same criteria used by terrorist organizations if the person who kills or wounds them is acting as a free agent?
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Proud, Connected, Appalled and Overwhelmed
Proud: I was extremely worried last year when the whole of religious Zionist youth were systematically vilified by the government, media and political left, and labeled as selfish, unpatriotic and uncaring about the welfare of the State of Israel. They were castigated by these quarters of our society for daring to protest against a policy of disengagement they felt was not only wrong... but actively dangerous.
These kids tried to engage the country in a dialog about how appeasement has been tried too many times and has never been successful. They tried to get intelligent people to admit that unilateral concessions only reward terror and have given our enemies newfound confidence in terror as a negotiating tool. Unfortunately they were shouted (and sometimes beaten) down with the worst sort of insults.
For their trouble, an entire generation of religious youth were marginalized by their countrymen and told that they were a selfish - even dangerous - burden on Israeli society.
A year ago I worried that instead of continuing to volunteer for the most elite of the combat units, these kids would opt out and become 'jobniks' (rear echelon, non-combat soldiers) and leave the hero work to others. I was worried that instead of heeding the call to fill the ranks of the IDF officer's corps (thus extending their army service by years), they would do their required three years quietly and without distinction.
But I am proud beyond words to see the precious youth of my community still competing for the most elite of the elite combat assignments. Many quietly come home from grueling training wearing officer's insignia on their sweat-stained uniforms instead of looking forward to discharge after 'only' three years.
Rather than allowing themselves to be drafted into non-combat units due to lower medical profiles, many kids with foot, ankle and knee problems are scheduling elective corrective surgery while still in high school so they will be physically ready for the rigorous 'giboosh' (screening camps) for the ultra-elite units such as Shayetet 13, Magellan, Duvdavan, Shaldag, Egoz, 669 and Sayeret Matkal.
Those who are 'only' selected for 'regular' Paratrooper, Golani or Givati units are warmly congratulated by their peers, but many bear an inner shame at not having gained admission to the most dangerous duty.
One example of the kind of selflessness one finds in these young religious Zionists is exemplified by the son of some close friends of ours. He was selected for the Golani Brigade and went through their famously demanding training. Upon completing the course at the top of his class, he was one of a very few soldiers who was hand picked to enter a program to become an instructor sergeant for the next batch of incoming conscripts.
Not only was this an extremely prestigious plum for all his hard work, but his parents were obviously relieved to know that he would now be out of harm's way at least for the next 6 - 8 months.
However, the moment hostilities broke out in the north and this young man heard that his friends were in the thick of it, he demanded that his commanders immediately transfer him back to fight with his unit. His parents now sit at home with a mix of trepidation and pride knowing that their son is one of those painted heroes one sees on the news going in and out of harms way.
Another example of selflessness that has transcended the generations is the case of a coworker of mine. His son volunteered for the Paratroops and has been serving in this combat unit for almost a year now. My coworker also did his army service in the Paratroops and has continued to serve in his reserve unit well past the required age of 40. Friday his emergency reserve call up notice arrived and he put on his red Paratrooper boots and went off to join his son in serving his country.
As I've said many times before on a number of topics, I think the government, media and political left owe these kids - the same ones that were vilified in Gush Katif and bludgeoned in Amona - a huge apology. In many ways, these kids would have been perfectly justified in telling the country to go to hell; 'you made your bed, now sleep in it!' But as always, they put the needs of the country first.
I couldn't be prouder.
Connected: As one of the communities that (for the time being anyway) remains out of enemy rocket range, my town has become host to several hundred people who have left their homes because of the relentless rocket bombardment from Hamas and Hezbollah. Some of our neighbors have volunteered to create youth activities for the children who are visiting. Others do endless loads of laundry. Still others prepare meals and do shopping for families whose pride makes it difficult to accept such kindnesses.
We have been paired with a lovely family from Hatzor who have been displaced from their home. We got to know them a little bit over Shabbat, and late into Saturday night we sat over cake and tea listening to them talk about their temporary displacement as though they were simply having renovations done. During the course of the conversation the father let it slip that the only way they even know that their beautiful house is still standing is that every day they call the answering machine... and breath a sign of relief when it continues to pick up. Yet immediately they go back to talking about their home and community as though they are simply on vacation... and tell us how they can't wait to play host to us.
I'd really like that... may it be soon.
Appalled: That word doesn't even come close to adequately describing my feelings about the terrorist attack at the Jewish Federation of Seattle.
There I've said it. Terrorist. Attack.
I'm sure the FBI and police will be falling all over themselves trying to make this Muslim Terrorist out to be a lone kook who just happened to be Muslim and who just happened to wander in off the street into a Jewish
target of opportunity organization, and who was simply aiming his two loaded semi-automatic handguns at completely random people... not knowing they were Jews.
Just watch. They did the same thing a few years ago when the El Al ticket counter at LAX was targeted by a lone Muslim gunman.
For those keeping score for the purposes of moral equivalence... one woman was executed in cold blood and five others were wounded by a Muslim gunman for the sole crime of being Jewish. If this was a random event, then this coincidence has to be like winning the Irish sweepstakes without even buying a ticket!
Speaking of lotteries... if they are holding one to see who gets to pull the switch at this guy's execution (does Washington State even have the death penalty???), I need to buy a few tickets. Y'know, forget that. This guy deserves to have his skin ripped off while he is still alive and then be buried alive in a barrel filled with salt pork. Enjoy your virgins now, dipstick!
Overwhelmed: I have to say that I was completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity in response to Friday's fund-raiser here at treppenwitz. In less than 24 hours you people plunked down almost $1000 of your hard-earned money to help make life a little easier for the soldiers who are on active and reserve duty over here.
I am in the process of putting together an honor roll that will be posted near the top of the page (I have to check to see how/if people want to be listed), and I will continue to add names and links as donations come in.
For those who would like to participate in this ongoing effort, please scroll down the page on the lower right hand side (in the 'Flotsam & Jetsam' section) and click on the little button that looks like this:
By clicking on that button (the one down the page... not this one) you will be taken to a secure site where you can donate any amount from one dollar and up. I assure you that even a dollar or two goes a long way. Nothing is too little and no contribution is unimportant.
This is not meant to take your contributions away from any other worthwhile organization (of which there are many). It is simply my own grassroots effort to direct funds to lesser known channels which I know for a fact have 0% operating overhead and 100% of the funds are spent on active duty and reserve soldiers.
One favor though. Please don't divert any funds from your student loans (as one thoughtful commenter suggested she intended to do). That is above and beyond the call. However, if you want to forgo your regular double latte and donate a few morning's $tarbuck$ money... that's perfectly OK.
[Note: While it may seem that this post places undue emphasis on the importance of elite combat soldiers in the IDF, I want to assure readers that there are very few unimportant jobs in the Israel Defense forces. My intention was not to disparage soldiers who serve in non-elite and/or non-combat roles. I was simply pointing out that certain volunteer positions involve an elevated level of personal risk to those who choose to serve in them. This is the antithesis of 'selfish' or unpatriotic' behavior.]
Friday, July 28, 2006
Photo Friday (vol. LXXI) [mundane edition]
Yes, today's single picture couldn't possible be more mundane. It appears to be our trusty family car with the way back and rear seat stuffed with... something. See if you can figure out what that 'something' (actually two kinds of something) is:
This is actually a picture of several hundred IDF reserve soldiers breathing a sigh of relief.
Still don't see it? Let me explain.
Yesterday morning a chain of events, not unlike hundreds of similar chains of events going on all over Israel, led a fellow blogger and neighbor to give someone my cell phone number.
You still look puzzled so I'll back up even further.
It seems that one of the issues nobody is likely to read about in newspapers or on blogs (except, perhaps this one) is that thousands of reservists who were called up in the past two weeks are suffering from a similar fate: They only packed underwear and socks for a few days (if that).
Now we have a situation where all these reservists (and a lot of the front line soldiers) are in position and on 'round the clock availability... with no opportunity to launder their, ahem, undergarments. Dirty uniforms and equipment are par for the course and nobody really thinks twice about wearing the same set of fatigues for a week or two. But the stuff that comes in direct contact with your body is quite another thing.
So a bunch of people got together and took up a donation to buy several thousand pairs of socks and underwear from the discounted Shekem (I think it's called 'shekel' now) soldiers store system. The problem is that the warehouse from which the stuff had to be picked up was in Beer Sheva.
Enter my neighbor, fellow blogger and bourbon aficionado Ben Chorin who mentioned to the guy organizing the great underwear airlift (it will actually be driven - not flown - up north today) that he has a friend (moi) who works in Beer Sheva and would probably pick the stuff up if you asked him.
So at 10:00AM yesterday morning my cell phone rings and I end up a link in the chain now known as 'The great underwear airlift of July 06'.
I know this is really mundane stuff to the rest of you, but I shared this story to point out the need to seek out opportunities to give. There are plenty of larger organizations that are doing great work and they deserve your time, energy and donations.
But there are also little opportunities that nobody would normally think of that are equally important. This one found me...and if you keep your ears open others might find you.
If you don't want to wait for that to happen, you can feel free to scroll way down the page on the right hand side and click the little orange and gray button that says 'spoil soldiers'. You know... the one that looks just like this one:
If you click on it (the one down below... not this one) you will be taken to a secure paypal site where you can donate anywhere from one dollar up to your entire family fortune (please show some restraint) with the assurance that I will personally spend every penny on small, worthwhile projects such as the one described in this post.
Another example of how I spend your generous donations is the weekly cake and drinks I drop off with soldiers manning (and womanning) roadblocks along my commute to work. These days they are largely reservists who are serving far from their family to keep Israel's cities safe from infiltrators.
Oh, and of course I have just gotten word that there will definately be another - even larger - underwear airlift... this one possibly to include undershirts as well... in the coming weeks. I'm ready to chip in... how about you?
Anyway, that's it for today. I hope you all seek out mundane opportunities to help and/or assist me with my own mundane efforts.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Bridge over troubled waters
The first year of marriage is a period of adjustment. Two people who have grown accustomed to being beholden to nobody suddenly find themselves sharing bathroom and closet space, not to mention having to check with someone else about what to have for dinner.
It's no small wonder that many marriages founder in the stormy waters of this first year.
When I first met my wife she was a vegetarian of long standing (12 years) who was teetering on the precipice of reintroducing a little meat into her diet. I, on the other hand, considered the sprig of parsley that arrived as a garnish on a steak to be a 'side salad'.
During that first year our eating habits slowly gravitated towards a shaky middle ground. I acknowledged the existence of vegetables other than the boiled carrot from the pot of Shabbat chicken soup... and Zahava's occasional nibbling at meat allowed her blood iron level to creep into non-anemic territory for the first time in over a decade.
Then towards the end of our first year of marriage we experienced a marital crisis while driving across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge that threatened to toss our fledgling union onto the rocks below.
I need to stop at this point and provide a little background information for the uninitiated.
The 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av (called Tisha B'Av) is a date on which all manner of horrible things have befallen the Jews throughout history. The destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem were only two of the terrible fates that befell us on this date.
Tisha B'Av is observed with a full day of fasting and refraining from all personal pleasures such as marital relations, and even the wearing jewelry and leather. If you see your Jewish friends wearing tennis shoes with business attire in August... this is probably the explanation.
Anyway, the nine days leading up to this tragic anniversary are universally referred to as (surprise, surprise) 'the nine days'. During 'the nine days', observant Jews refrain from listening to music, avoid public celebrations and abstain from drinking wine or eating meat. The only exception to this last rule is on the Shabbat that falls during 'the nine days', when meat is permitted.
Back to our story...
During the first year of marriage it is quite common for a couple to be invited out to other people's homes for shabbat meals... or even for the entire Shabbat if the friends doing the inviting don't live within walking distance. Zahava and I enjoyed many such invitations and were blessed to have friends who were accomplished hosts and chefs.
So, towards the end of our first year of marriage we received an invitation to stay with friends of Zahava's who lived in Staten Island for the Shabbat that fell during 'the nine days'. I didn't know them, but since this first year was also supposed to also be a period of getting to meet one another's extended circle of friends, this wasn't really surprising.
Anyhoo, after having gone almost a full week without meat of any kind, we were in the car on the way to visit these friends and the very idea of a nice plate of shabbat chicken or maybe even moist slice from a roast of beef was making me weak with anticipation.
You have to understand... 'the nine days' is a difficult period for me. I don't just enjoy meat. My food pyramid is the opposite of what you learned in Jr. High School health-ed class:
The Treppenwitz Food Pyramid
The broad base of my food pyramid consists of protein and fat (meat & poultry)... the middle is more protein and fat (cheeses, fish, eggs, etc.)... and the top (where you were probably guessing carbohydrates might reside) is an odd grab-bag including heavy cream, coffee, bourbon, and the occasional soup carrot or parsley. Oh yeah, to avoid succumbing to things like 'scurvy' or 'beriberi' I take a daily multivitamin.
So here we are driving across one of the longest, busiest bridges in the world with no possibility of turning around and going home, when my lovely bride figures the time is right to casually mention that the friends we were going to visit during the only carnivorous window of opportunity in 'the nine days' were vegetarians. No wait, let me correct that... that they were strict VEGANS!
You can imagine that I didn't buy her excuse that it had 'just slipped her mind'.
It turned out that her friends were as nice as nice could be. Really. Salt of the earth... bright, personable. But the food.... Oh. My. G-d. The food. To my carnivorous palate, everything tasted and smelled like carob or cardboard. I mean, how many different ways can you prepare tofu and sprouts???
I'm sure that to people averse to eating animal products their menu was a veritable shmorgesborg of earthly delights. But for me it was like that forlorn, empty feeling one gets while standing in the doorway of some earthy-crunchy health food store, breathing in that stale vitamin and bean curd aroma.
I'm happy to say that Zahava and I weathered that particular storm, and our marriage was stronger for it. But you can bet that in every subsequent years we have stayed at home to enjoy a carnivorous banquet on the Shabbat during 'the nine days'... which starts this year at sunset tomorrow.
Is it Shabbat yet? [~drool~]
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
A knack for missing opportunities
Nobody has yet to improve upon the late Abba Iban's assertion that "the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity". That statement sums up with startling clarity and simplicity the ability of the Palestinians to shoot themselves in the foot if given half a chance.
I bring this up, because with the whole word's mostly negative attention focused firmly on Hezbollah, one would think the Palestinians would just sit quietly and pretend for a moment that they haven't been acting in concert with the other terrorist organizations in the region. For a change, they could actually get to be the kid who has just helped set off a stink bomb in the school bathroom but who stands angelically by while the principal yells at another guilty party who actually got caught. The Palestinians could have been the Eddie Haskell of the middle east!
But noooo. True to form, they have missed yet another opportunity... just the latest in a long line of missed opportunities:
Take for example the first Gulf war. If anyone on the planet should have just shut up and kept their head down while a rogue nation was beaten like a rented mule... it would be the Palestinians. All they had to do to win a huge PR victory and come away with some serious political capital (not to mention dispel their image as perpetual thugs and terrorists) was to say nothing. Do nothing. Instead they were among the few people in the known world who actually took to the streets to demonstrate in favor of Saddam's Iraqi regime... and even obligingly burned a few American flags for the media.
Then in 2001 they were seen taking to the streets - this time in celebration, not protest - as Al Qaeda gave the US a black eye with an unprovoked, premeditated mega-terror attack on September 11th. Again, in order to score huge PR points and appear almost human(e), all the Palestinians had to do was shut up for a couple of days and hide their glee at seeing images of American corpses on TV. Instead they were filmed dancing in the streets and passing out candy to their children in celebration of the American carnage. To their credit, they realized their mistake in time to threaten the cameramen and try to force them to turn over the footage. But their bad luck held out and at least one film crew managed to smuggle out a tape.
Then in the second Gulf war the Palestinians again backed the wrong horse. They were so enthusiastic about Saddam's chances this time around that they actually sent mujahideen to fight in Iraq against the infidel... and are still doing so!
Amazingly, much of the western world has forgiven the Palestinians every one of these lapses. Apologists around the world have gone through mental contortions trying to explain what the Palestinians really meant. 'They were quoted out of context'. 'The cameras lied'. 'It was a religious holiday and that is why they were dancing in the streets, firing in the air and burning American flags'.
The same can be said about the political capital the Palestinians have squandered after every single Israeli concession. It doesn't matter whether we're talking about Oslo or Camp David or any of the other occasions when Israel has bent over and metaphorically grabbed its ankles at the negotiating table in pursuit of an elusive deal that promised to allow some semblance of co-existence with the Palestinians. Immediately on the heels of every negotiation they have simply continued with their 'war of stages' and have unabashedly used Israeli concessions as a springboard for launching the next round of violence.
When Israel finally abandoned negotiations and decided to go the questionable route of unilateralism, the Palestinians could be forgiven for being angry at being left out of the discussions. After all, being denied a seat at the table and having your future borders defined by your enemy is a huge humiliation. But in the wake of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza they were presented with a sterling opportunity to prove to Israel (and the rest of the world) that they could take all that money the world had pledged for building the infrastructure for the Palestinian proto-state, and actually take charge of their own destiny.
Instead, the money that started pouring in from all quarters went down the same black hole as always and the Gaza strip became the gathering place for a collection of bad-guys of the sort not seen since the lynch-mob sign-up scene in 'Blazing Saddles'.
And of course, immediately after the last Israeli left Gaza the Palestinians forgot all about state-building and started firing rockets at Israeli population centers and tunneling under their new borders in order to murder and kidnap as many Israelis as possible.
So when Hezbollah crossed the internationally recognized/approved border to kill and kidnap Israeli soldiers only a few weeks after Hamas had done the same... the timing seemed a little too convenient. Any school principal worth his/her salt would have looked around and realized that more than one kid was involved in setting off the stink bombs, and the Palestinians would have been hauled into the office right along with Hezbollah.
But remarkably, the world got its usual case of amnesia the moment Hezbollah started raining rockets down on northern Israel... and it appeared that the Palestinians were on the verge of actually sitting quietly and getting to play the good kid for a change.
But instead the Qassams (and occasional Ketyusha) resumed being fired from Gaza at Israeli cities in the south, and Palestinian attempts to infiltrate and carry out suicide attacks were redoubled.
The cherry on the top of all this opportunity-missing came in an an article I read yesterday that was chock full of quotes from Palestinian sources that all seemed to be falling over themselves in a headlong rush to be the first to miss the next opportunity. Here are the money quotes:
"Palestinians took to the streets in Ramallah on Tuesday to protest the visit of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The protesters marched towards the Muqata'a compound, chanting slogans in support of Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah."
So much for staying quiet and letting the other kid take the rap for a change.
"The [leaflets distributed at the protests] accused Israel of waging a war of "genocide" against the Palestinians and Lebanese after receiving a green light from the US administration."
They just love the word 'genocide'... almost as much as they love the words 'war crimes' and 'atrocities'. But somehow they never seem to ask themselves how to define deliberately targeting Israeli civilians for several decades; 'measured responses' maybe?
"In a statement issued in the Gaza Strip, the committees claimed that Rice was "plotting" behind the scenes "to isolate Lebanon from Palestine."
Um, I'm confused. Even according to the Palestinian narrative 'Palestine' and Lebanon are distinct entities and a clear separation is appropriate and necessary... especially in time of war.
"The US... wanted to calm the situation in the PA territories to give Israel time to crush Hizbullah."
Well, actually they probably have this one right. But if the Palestinians wanted to maintain plausible deniability about acting in concert with Hezbollah... this was a silly accusation to make.
"We call on President Mahmoud Abbas to respect the feelings of the Palestinian people and to refrain from meeting with Rice and succumbing to her arrogant dictates that will only bring our people more humiliation and suffering."
Uh huh. And nothing you have done with your newfound autonomy has brought humiliation and suffering on your people.
"Osama al-Mazini, a Hamas political leader, said Rice's visit was designed to help Israel following its "defeat" in the PA territories and Lebanon. "
This is what is known in political circles as 'wishful thinking'... or in layman's terms; 'counting one's chickens before they are hatched'.
"The Americans are 120 percent biased in favor of Israel. That's why Rice is coming to save Israel from defeat and humiliation. The US always intervenes when Israel is in trouble."
And here I thought it was only Israelis that were bad at math. As to who is actually on the ropes, please see my earlier assessment of the Palestinian penchant for always backing the wrong horse.
"[Rice is] also coming here to provide Israel with political and moral support after the severe blows it suffered at the hands of Hizbullah in Lebanon."
OK, I'm confused. Which is it? Either Israel has to be stopped because it is destroying /humiliating Hezbollah... or Israel is being destroyed/humiliated by Hezbollah. It can't be both.
"The Americans and the Israelis are also hoping to defeat the Palestinians by waging a war on Hizbullah in Lebanon."
Again, if you are trying to preserve the illusion that Hamas and Hezbollah aren't in cahoots, it might behoove you not to mention them in terms that suggest to an alert listener that a military alliance exists between the two organizations. Shhhhhh
"The Americans want a new Middle East devoid of jihad, resistance, liberation, martyrdom, retaliation and dignity. These are all terms that disturb the Americans."
OK, I can't really argue with this one... especially if the reader is meant to infer that the words 'dignity' and 'liberation' are meant to belong to the same set as the other words on the list.
"The Americans' problem is that they have never learned from their past mistakes. They are continuing to rely on the same corrupt and weak horses in the Middle East."
Not to sound like a broken recored here, but... Hello Kettle? Hi, it's the pot calling. Guess what? You're black!
[Sorry about the overdose of political blogging lately. This is supposed to be a journal about life in Israel. Unfortunately, when life here becomes dominated by politics my journal usually follows suit.]
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
The higher math of relative safety
During the years of the Intifada everyone suddenly became accomplished statisticians. Instead of sleeping, the darkest hours of the night were spent crunching shaky data and calculating baseless odds. And in the gray light of the early morning the results of these nocturnal math sessions were used to draw the arbitrary red lines for the coming day:
'I'll take taxis but not buses from now on'
'I'll stay in Tel Aviv and avoid Jerusalem until things get better'
'I'll tell my daughter she can go into coffee shops, but only to make a take-out order'
'I'll wait a few more days without hearing about shooting before I'll visit my cousins in Gilo'
'I'll stay inside the green line until things calm down'
'I'll visit Israel in the winter... it'll be safer without so many tourists there'
...and so on... and so on...
And the funny thing? Since almost all the people walking around today who made such calculated decisions are still alive to tell the tale... their statistical analysis must have been right on the money!
Who knew we were such a mathematically-gifted people?!
But what we studiously ignore in our rush to award ourselves a gold star is that there are thousands of people who...
... avoided buses and were maimed or killed waiting for taxis or walking down the sidewalk.
... were blown up in 'safe' Tel Aviv neighborhoods.
... lost loved ones who were in the coffee shot take-out line 'for just a second'.
... miscalculated the intervals between shootings from Beit Jalla into Gilo.
... avoided dangerous places like the west bank, but were torn apart by a bomb at their favorite mall in Natanya.
... watched friends return with beautiful Israeli summer vacation tans, but who had the misfortune of stumbling upon an inexplicable mid-winter terror attack.
Now once again we are lying awake at night recalculating the odds. We wake up to the morning news and draw our red lines over breakfast, certain that they will save us from the intentions of a determined enemy:
'I won't go to the north this August... better to wait until the fall'
'I won't go out to the shops here in Haifa but I should be safe out on my balcony'
'I'll let the kids play in the garden but not down the street'
... and so on... and so on...
But the truth we refuse to admit is that we are poor at math. The data on which we are basing our calculations is hopelessly flawed (or non-existent). Our approach to statistics would be more familiar to a theologian than a mathematician. We have invented a higher, faith-based form of math... and live our lives devoutly by its rules.
We ignore the inconvenient fact that it is statistically much more dangerous to drive on Israel's overcrowded roads and highways than to do any of the things we now forbid ourselves and our families. We refuse to accept that the risks we face from hamburgers and cigarettes are statistical certainties compared with the imaginary comfort offered by the foolish red lines we draw in our daily lives.
If we were to allow ourselves to think about such things, we would realize that our odds of 'winning' are really no better than the old ladies' who sit in smoky bingo halls with their good luck charms arrayed on the table in front of them.
All we know for sure is that, for us, waking up tomorrow to recalculate the odds and draw a new set of red lines is considered a win.
[I wrote this post after the recent arrival of a few dozen refugee families from Haifa and Karmiel to our 'west bank' settlement of Efrat. These are people for whom a trip into 'the territories' would have once crossed all red lines and flown in the face of their mathematical calculations for safety. Yet they are now watching in wonder as their children play with perfectly nice settler children on quiet, tree-lined streets in the cool, crisp air of Gush Etzion. And as they digest this new and puzzling data, they just might be coming to question their statistical definition of relative safety.]
Monday, July 24, 2006
Reviewing the rules
It's been a while since we've had to go over the rules of civil discourse here at treppenwitz. Considering that there are a lot of newcomers who seem anxious to participate in the discussions here but who are apparently unaware of the local culture, it looks as though a short review might be in order.
First of all, this site does not adhere to a strict party line. We do not require that comments or commenters be right wing, left wing, religious or secular. I happen to be just right of center on most defense-related topics... but I'll be the first to admit that I've learned far more from people who don't share my opinions than from those who do.
However, I do not allow the gratuitous use of insults, profanity or intentionally demeaning references to individuals or groups. If you disagree with something I have said or with a comment left by someone else, you MUST figure out a way to attack the idea... not the person expressing it. If you mount a personal attack on an individual (or on the group to which you think the individual belongs) instead of dealing directly with the issue at hand... your comment will almost certainly be deleted.
Second, you must leave a valid email address with your comment. If I think you have crossed a line with something you have said (and being the site owner, what I think counts for a lot), I will often email you and offer you the opportunity to modify your comment so that it can be resubmitted and become part of the discussion. I have done this with countless comments from both the right and left, and more often than not the commenter is more than willing to restate his/her position in such a way that is not unnecessarily offensive or confrontational. But if you use a bogus email address I can't give you that opportunity... your comment will just go away without a trace.
Next, if your position is such that it cannot co-exist with other positions (e.g. calling for the destruction of Israel or for the killing of all Palestinians/Arabs), I will assume you are not interested in exchanging ideas and will delete your comment. An example of when this rule might be set aside would be the theoretical discussion of what might happen if the current conflict became global or if non-conventional weapons were introduced into the conflict. In that case, the discussion would center on what extenuating circumstances might have to exist for such a thing to come to pass... not your desire that it should do so.
Another no-no: Leaving a comment that has no direct connection to the post on which it is left. This is a sure way to have your comment deleted. The same can be said for leaving unrelated links to sites that support your agenda but do not relate to the current discussion. Don't do it.
There is no moderator here other than the site owner (me). A recent commenter from Escondido California claimed that she was "the moderator of this forum" and took exception to my deleting a few comments, saying "not one utterance of a vile or curse word was made by the one posting whose posts you did not like. They have only uttered what you refuse to or prefer not to hear. There are ways to get around that."
I beg to differ. Here are a couple of samples of the comments that have gotten the ax in the past 48 hours:
Your[sic] an idiot [name of another commenter]. You are also probably an Nazi who would gas little children whose race you believed was sub-human. Your posts indicate you hate Arab people with such a vengeance you can justify any action that eliminates them from the face of the earth. You are one sad little bastard.
Just to review... what's wrong here? Correct, the writer attacked another commenter rather than discussing the topic. Oh, and the gratuitous and insulting use of profanity was the kiss of death.
Another one... this time directed at me:
Censorship?? Is the truth hurting here? What next, book burning coz we know where that will end. You should know better but I guess your current situation shows you have learnt nothing from history. And I still think [name of another commenter] is a sick crazy dickhead.
Again, it completely ignored the topic under discussion, brought in gratuitous accusations of nazi-like behavior... and then ended with yet another defiant bit of profanity. Hasta La Bye-Bye!
To be fair, there are a few regular commenters here who like to test my patience and frequently cross the lines of propriety. However I haven't banned them because they will always allow themselves to be reeled back in. I don't like that they take advantage of this leeway... but I view it in the same light as I would a smarmy courtroom attorney who blurts out a statement he/she knows will not stand up to opposing counsel's objection, but which the jury will now be unable to forget no matter how sternly the judge instructs them to disregard it. In other words when it gets to be too much I send them an email or an IM (the blogger equivalent of being called into chambers) and read them the riot act.
One last thing. I try to hold myself to the same standards of conduct to which I hold commenters. However, being the site-owner does have certain privileges. If you look through the archives you will see that I almost always apologize publicly for crossing the line. True, I may not be the boss of you (as my kids like to say), but I reserve the right to break the rules occasionally... and to exclude you from the discussions if you try to follow suit. I know... not fair, but there it is.
If you want to share your ideas - even unpopular/controversial ideas - you are welcome to do so. But if your intention is to interrupt the flow of ideas and be deliberately disruptive to the community here at treppenwitz... You will be barred from participating. We do not feed trolls in this forum.
This isn't some town square where you can get up on a soap box and shout anything you want. This is my living room. I may not have invited you here, but I left the door open... you walked in... and that makes you my guest. Please act the part or I will show you the door.
OK, (hopefully) 'nuff said.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Look, there is no excuse I can offer that will make this post OK. It is selfish and thoughtless on too many levels to count. But I'm guessing I'm not alone in having these thoughts so I may as well be the one to put on a 'kick me' sign and write about them.
In case you've been living under a rock, Israel is at war.
We are at war in the south in an attempt to reign in the peace-loving Palestinians currently firing Qassam rockets at Sderot and Ashqelon... not to mention attempting to head off the tunnel diggers/ infiltrators. Forget the fact that when we handed over every inch of Gaza a year ago, we were assured by our leaders that by now the Gazans would be engaged in the difficult task of state-building, not terrorism. The current attacks make no sense according to our leaders... not to mention the accepted Palestinian narrative of struggle against occupation.
We are at war in the east (or west... depending on whether you are using the Jordan River as a reference) trying to deal with the daily shootings, Molotov cocktails and attempted infiltrations/suicide bombings. All of these ongoing attacks come on the direct orders of the democratically elected Palestinian leadership we were assured had been swept into power on an anti-corruption platform... not because of their unambiguous call for Israel's destruction. "The Palestinians are simply tired of Fatah", I was told. "They aren't endorsing Hamas' military agenda".
And of course we are at war in the north, fighting against an entity that, again, according to the Palestinians own narrative should have no dog in this fight whatsoever! I mean seriously... Hezbollah has no plausible claims against Israel... unless you count the inconvenient fact that Israel continues to exist. Hezbollah is a radical, Iranian-backed militant group whose raison d'être was to oppose Israel's presence in Lebanon after the 1982 invasion. Once Israel withdrew they had no plausible reason to continue with the struggle. They'd won!
The double irony is that the IDF's occupation of southern Lebanon in the 80s was to try to rescue northern Israel from the sort of bombardment it is presently suffering... and, when we withdrew from southern Lebanon the decision makers pooh-poohed all warnings that such a unilateral move (i.e. without getting anything in return) would make Israel appear weak/vulnerable to Hezbollah.
I know... it seems petty to keep score, right? It's childish to point out three specific warnings - all of which came to pass - that were brushed aside as 'alarmist Likud propaganda'. Forget the fact that Kadima/Labor & Co. seem to have the collective memory of a goldfish when it comes to learning from past mistakes. Every time they blink it's a new day. But again, why quibble. Mistakes happen. Everyone's entitled to 15 or 20 identical miscalculations when dealing with the same armed thugs who are sworn to your destruction, right?
Anyway... glad I got that out of my system!
So what do I have to feel guilty about?
I'm feeling guilty because while my country is at war... while my friends' children are on the battlefield putting their lives on the line... while entire communities in the north and south are living in bomb shelters because of unprecedented levels of rocket attacks... I am sitting here fretting over what will become of my family's vacation plans.
There, I've said it. I'm a shallow, self-absorbed person.
The only reason I'm writing this is because know I'm not alone. Not by a long shot.
Nearly everyone I have spoken with lately seems to be wrestling with the same kind of guilty quandary. August vacation time is almost upon us and one of two scenarios is playing out in the minds of many Israelis (those not in bomb shelters, that is):
1. With long-standing plans to vacation abroad for a couple of weeks, it now seems vaguely unpatriotic to leave the country while a war is going on. What if my reserve unit gets called up? How can I tell friends living abroad that Israel needs them to come visit now more than ever while I'm thumbing through a brochure for Yellowstone National Park?
2. With long-standing plans to vacation in the relative cool of the Golan Heights and/or upper Galilee for a couple of weeks, the time has now arrived to face the reality that reservations will probably have to be canceled. These northern tourist destinations are suffering hundreds of rocket attacks every day, not to mention the constant threat of attempted infiltrations of terrorists from Lebanon. Yet they are about to be economically abandoned by their countrymen during the one month during which they normally see about 80% of the year's tourism revenues.
Trust me, one of these two thoughts is weighing heavily on many Israelis' minds this week... not because the vacations themselves are of such import, but rather because thinking about vacations at all at time like this seems treasonous.
Surely Londoners didn't think about vacation plans during the 'Blitz'... and the French didn't fret about the loss of valuable leisure time as the Germans marched down the Champs-Élysées.
OK, maybe the French were actually that self-absorbed... so let's just stick with the Brits. Stiff upper lip and all that...
Here's the deal: Zahava and I fall into category #2 above.
We've had long-standing plans to take the kids to the Upper Galilee in August for some camping and touring around. For months the kids have been chattering about going to the nature preserve in the Hula valley. They've been fantasizing about swimming in the cool waters of Hurshat Tal and the Kinneret. They have already picked out camping equipment and claimed which side of the tent they will be sleeping on. They have their own flashlights for crying out loud!
So for the past few days the subject of what is to become of our vacation has been looming just below the surface of every conversation. Everyone is thinking about it... but nobody wants to be the one to broach the topic for fear of actually hearing the bad news out loud.
My parents, bless them, called to suggest that we all spend our vacation with them in their house on the beach in Connecticut. Under normal circumstances this would be a wonderful idea... but right now there seems to be little comfort in switching from one of the less-than-satisfactory options above, to the other.
So the war goes on. We put on our brave faces and fixate on the news. Every soldier wounded is a national tragedy. Every soldier killed is the destruction of an entire world.
And yet as July draws to a close, all across the country Israeli children are finishing up with 'ketanot' (day camps) and silently wondering what will become of this year's family vacation. And the self-absorbed parents (including your host) are guiltily wondering right along with them.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Photo Friday (vol. LXX) [2000 words edition]
Those of you in Israel... call the number on the side of the truck to find out the location of the mobile blood donor unit nearest you. Those outside of Israel (or those who can't give blood), go here and find something else worthwhile to do. The comments on that post also contain additional worthwhile ideas.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
I know I shouldn't laugh...
... but in times like these one accepts comic relief wherever he/she can find it.
It seems that President Emile Lahoud of Lebanon made a remarkable statement late last week. He warned that the Israeli assault on his country could "push desperate Lebanese citizens to sacrifice their lives to defend their country - and even commit acts of [~gasp~] terrorism!"
News flash for President Lahoud: Considering the stellar job you've done so far of keeping your country free of terrorists and weapons of terror... I think we'll risk it.
But hey... thanks for the heads up.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
A depressing epiphany
Sometime between when I went to bed last night and when I woke up this morning, a fellow blogger rocked my world. She did this by the simple act of sending me a link to an Egyptian blogger who calls himself by the unlikely name of 'Sandmonkey'.
Several of the Israeli bloggers I regularly read have made a point of closely following Arab bloggers located in neighboring countries countries as well as Judea, Samaria and Gaza. I have never publicly chided them (before now, that is) for what I had long considered an unhealthy fascination with viewpoints that seemed to be unsympathetic to Israeli interests. In my heart I will admit that I was honestly baffled at why they would take such an interest in what Arabs think of Israel. After all, we know what they think, right?
In order to understand how I could mentally chastise people I respect yet never say anything to them, you have to realize that I am a (just) right-of-center Israeli who secretly wishes that the left-of-center Israelis would occasionally be proved right about their optimistic outlook for peace in the middle-east.
To this end, on more than a few occasions I have followed links to various Palestinian, Lebanese and even Iranian bloggers hoping to discover a kinder, gentler Arab/Muslim than what I imagined.
Perhaps I just clicked over on the wrong days, but each time I made the attempt to broaden my horizons I found myself reading fairly intelligent, well-educated people spouting more subtle versions of tropes I had come to know too well from the news such as 'Israeli global aspirations', 'deliberate oppression of the Palestinian people', 'brutal occupation', and so on.
Granted, I never came back to see if I had simply caught them during an uncharacteristic rant (such as the ones I've been posting over the past few days)... but time is short and we all have things to do. Busy, busy, busy.
Anyway, when I woke up this morning and checked my email, there was this link to an Egyptian blog that I have seen discussed... but which I had never bothered to visit.
Sandmonkey is a well-born, well educated Egyptian writer who has the added layer of perspective of having lived and studied in the US for several years. His post that I read this morning talked about how he had just attended an Egyptian left wing 'peace rally' and how he had found the crowds chanting decidedly pro-war, anti-Israel militaristic slogans. He then compared the Egyptian left wing peace rally to Lisa's description of an Israeli left wing peace rally, and made the following startling statement:
"But then I rememebrd that we- the majority of us anyway- don't want peace with Israel, and are not interested in any real dialogue with them. We weren't then and we are not now. The Entire peace process has always been about getting the land back, not establishing better relations. Even when we do get the land back, it's not enough. People in Egypt lament daily the Camp David treaty that prevents us from fighting. In Gaza they never stopped trying to attack Israel. In Lebanon Hezbollah continued attacking even after the Israeli withdrawel. And the people- the majority of the arab population- support it. Very few of us are really interested in having any lasting Peace or co-existance. I mean, if our left is asking for war, what do you think the rest of the population is thinking?
I think that the Israeli want peace with us because they don't want their lives disrupted. They don't want to have the IDF soldiers fighting in Gaza, rockets coming into their towns from Hamas or having to go to wars against Hezbollah to get their soldiers back. I think they want peace because they want their peace of mind. They view us as if we were a headache. We view them as if they are a cancer.
And this is why there will never really be any peace in the middle-east."
Huh? Here I was... so excited to have finally found an Arab blogger who wrote from the heart with intellectual honesty... and he was making the sort of depressing statements that I would have actively called 'unhelpful' had they been written by right wing Israeli bloggers or commenters.
To be fair, despite the fact that he used inclusive language in his statement, I think it is fairly clear that Sandmonkey doesn't include himself in the sentiments and aspirations he assigns to his fellow Egyptians and the Arab world at large.
And to be equally fair, Sandmonkey doesn't seem to realize (at least he doesn't make mention of it) that the demonstration Lisa photographed was not at all representative of the Israeli left at the moment, and that there is actually (for the immediate present, anyway) an unsettling odd, almost eerie, national consensus in favor of the current military campaign.
So, if he is misreading the significance of the Israeli peace rally, it's just possible that his extrapolated theories about thinking and trends amongst Arabs in the region on which he is basing his personal observations just might be also flawed.
But still... I honestly don't know what to do with my new discovery this morning.
I have finally discovered an Arab writer who writes honestly about his feelings and observations...and not just what he has been taught to think (something I thought I would never find). But the things on this writer's mind seem to confirm the most depressing assertions about Islamic conventional wisdom and the 'Arab street' which people like Joseph Farah have been telling us for years.
In short, I've had a depressing epiphany this morning. Like a toddler who discovers that the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus are really mom & dad, I secretly wanted preserve the possibility of my secret optimistic views of this region for just a little while longer.
It will take me a while to sort out all the conflicting feelings I have right now... and I have no idea how it will impact my politics going forward. But I am certainly going to give other Arab bloggers/journalers a fresh chance to tell me what's on their mind. It would be foolish not to.
And it goes without saying that I am going to be keeping my eye on Sandmonkey.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Um, please shut up now!
What the hell is wrong with people?
If private citizens want to demonstrate for or against the present military conflict... let 'em.
If private citizens want to offer their two cents on blogs, or in op-eds... let 'em.
But when public officials/personages who honestly should know better make public pronouncements that provide encouragement to the enemy and limit the government's menu of strategic options... I think official censure, if not criminal charges, are called for.
Examples of recent unhelpful public statements:
"Israel must negotiate a withdrawal"
~Labor MK Brigadier General (Ret) Ephraim Sneh~
Sneh is supposed to be one of the better informed people about the situation on the ground in Lebanon, having once been in charge of that area during his service. He is also said to be actively offering behind the scenes help to Defense Minister Peretz who likely wouldn't know which end of an M16 to point at an enemy if left on his own.
So why in the world would this man make a public statement that can only serve to encourage the enemy to hold on just a little longer in anticipation of getting what they want?
"Operation will be completed in a couple of weeks"
~Deputy IDF Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinski~
OK, again, one of the most potent weapons an army in the field has is keeping the enemy completely unaware of your capabilities and time-table. Revealing either of these crucial elements allows your enemy to analyze his position and supply status and adjust accordingly.
So why is the number two man in uniform giving away the store?
"Israel may have to weigh prisoner swap."
~Public Security Minister (and former head of the Shin Bet) Avi Dichter~
Here is a guy who should really know better than to share his private convictions publicly. He spent a good part of his career in the secret-keeping business.
What would possess him to publicly express such a defeatist sentiment?
The answer (IMHO) to all three of these questions is that these people (and many others like them) feel they are not sufficiently recognized by the public for their expertise and the clout they can wield... and in truth they aren't even thinking about the current conflict when they make such statements.
What is happening right before our eyes is that a bunch of political opportunists are positioning themselves for the next election during a time of national crisis.
At a time when even many lefties are grudgingly supporting the government's need to carry out the current operation in Lebanon... these treasonous men are staking out a self-interested patch of turf for themselves, knowing full well that their statements will resonate strongly with the core voters who put the current government in power.
They are taking advantage of the fact that people like PM Olmert and his top cabinet ministers can't make statements like this (no matter how in keeping with their core beliefs) because the country they are leading is in a shooting war on two fronts.
By staking out positions to the left of the actions being taken by the Israeli government they are betting on the current operation going south or settling into a stalemate so they can write 'I told you so' on their next campaign banner.
I don't care what party you support now or which party you voted for in the last election. The Labor party is not at war. The Likud is not at war. ISRAEL is at war and anyone who puts personal and/or party politics ahead of national concerns right now should be severely punished.
I doubt these traitors will receive legal punishment for their shameless and dangerous pandering... but I am hoping Israeli voters will have long memories and punish any party that allows these opportunists to remain on their lists during the next election.
A real patriot doesn't have to follow the government blindly into battle. But he also doesn't float potential campaign slogans while our children are still on the battlefield.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
A difficult lesson
When I was in the Navy, I once witnessed a bar fight in downtown Olongapo (Philippines) that still haunts my dreams. The fight was between a big oafish Marine and a rather soft-spoken, medium sized Latino sailor from my ship.
All evening the Marine had been trying to pick a fight with one of us and had finally set his sights on this diminutive shipmate of mine... figuring him for a safe target. When my friend refused to be goaded into a fight the Marine sucker punched him from behind on the side of the head so hard that blood instantly started to pour from this poor man's mutilated ear.
Everyone present was horrified and was prepared to absolutely murder this Marine, but my shipmate quickly turned on him and began to single-handedly back him towards a corner with a series of stinging jabs and upper cuts that gave more than a hint to a youth spent boxing in a small gym in the Bronx.
Each punch opened a cut on the Marine's startled face and by the time he had been backed completely into the corner he was blubbering for someone to stop the fight. He invoked his split lips and chipped teeth as reasons to stop the fight. He begged us to stop the fight because he could barely see through the river of blood that was pouring out of his split and swollen brows.
Nobody moved. Not one person.
The only sound in the bar was the sickening staccato sound of this sailor's lightning fast fists making contact with new areas of the Marine's head. The only sound I have heard since that was remotely similar was from the first Rocky film when Sylvester Stallone was punching sides of beef in the meat locker.
Finally the Marine's pleading turned to screams.... a high, almost womanly shriek. And still the punches continued relentlessly.
Several people in the bar took a few tentative steps as though they wanted to try to break it up at that point, but hands reached out from the crowd and held them tight. I'm not ashamed to say that mine were two of the hands that held someone back.
You see, in between each blow the sailor had begun chanting a soft cadence: "Say [punch] you [punch] give [punch] up [punch]... say [punch] you [punch]were [punch] wrong [punch]".
He had been repeating it to the Marine almost from the start but we only became aware of it when the typical barroom cheers had died down and we began to be sickened by the sight and sound of the carnage.
This Marine stood there shrieking in the corner of the bar trying futilely to block the carefully timed punches that were cutting his head to tatters... right down to the skull in places. But he refused to say that he gave up... or that he was wrong.
Even in the delirium of his beating he believed in his heart that someone would stop the fight before he had to admit defeat. I'm sure this strategy had served him well in the past and had allowed him to continue on his career as a barroom bully.
Finally, in a wail of agony the Marine shrieked "I give up", and we gently backed the sailor away from him.
I'm sure you can guess why I have shared this story today.
I'm not particularly proud to have been witness to such a bloody spectacle, and the sound of that Marine's woman-like shrieks will haunt me to my grave. But I learned something that evening that Israel had better learn for itself if it is to finally be rid of at least one of its tormentors:
This is one time an Arab aggressor must be allowed to be beaten so badly that every civilized nation will stand in horror, wanting desperately to step in and stop the carnage... but knowing that the fight will only truly be over when one side gives up and finally admits defeat.
Just as every person who had ever rescued that bully from admitting defeat helped create the cowardly brute I saw that evening in the bar, every well-intentioned power that has ever stepped in and negotiated a ceasefire for an Arab aggressor has helped create the monsters we see around us today.
President Lahoud of Lebanon, a big Hezbollah supporter and a close ally of Syria, has been shrieking non-stop to the UN Security Council for the past two days to get them to force Israel into a cease fire.
Clearly he has been reading his autographed copy of 'Military Success for
Dummies Arab Despots' by the late Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt. Ever since Nasser accidentally discovered the trick in '56, every subsequent Arab leader has stuck to his tried and true formula for military success:
- Instigate a war.
- Once the war is well underway and you are in the process of having your ass handed to you... get a few world powers to force your western opponent into a cease fire.
- Whatever you do, don't surrender or submit to any terms dictated by your enemy. That would ruin everything! All you have to do is wait it out and eventually the world will become sickened at what is being done to your soldiers and civilian population... and will force a truce.
- Once a truce has been called you can resume your intransigence (which probably caused the conflict in the first place), and even declare victory as your opponent leaves the field of battle.
This tactic has never failed. Not once.
In fact it worked so will for the Egyptians in 1973, that to this day they celebrate the Yom Kippur War - a crushing defeat at the hands of Israel - as a military victory! No kidding... it's a national holiday over there!
President Lahoud has already begun to shriek like a school girl to the UN Security Council to "Stop the violence and arrange a cease-fire, and then after that we'll be ready to discuss all matters."
Uh huh. Forgive me if I find that a tad hard to swallow. He allowed Hezbollah to take over his country. He allowed the regular Lebanese army to provide radar targeting data for the Hezbollah missile that struck the Israeli destroyer. He has turned a blind eye while Iranian and Syrian weapons, advisers and money have poured into his country.
And now that his country is in ruins he wants to call it a draw.
As much as it may sicken the world to stand by and watch it happen, strong hands need to hold back the weak-hearted and let the fight continue until one side finally admits unambiguous defeat.
Handy 'To-Do' List
At times like these it is easy to lose sight of the important things and become paralyzed by both the news and the events the news is showing us.
So in the interest of breaking the mental log-jam we all might be experiencing, I have compiled a 'To-Do' list (in no particular order) that can help all of us genuinely make a difference:
If you are in Israel
- Give blood. Under normal circumstances the blood supplies are critically low. Now more than ever you must find time to donate. Not only will it help save a life, but it will give you and your family 'blood insurance' in case (G-d forbid) the need arises.
- Open your home. If you have friends or relatives living in communities that are currently under fire, please don't assume they have plans. Pick up the phone and invite them for Shabbat... for a few days... for a week.
- Support businesses. It may not be this week or even this month... but when things quiet down there are going to be a lot of hotels, restaurants and other small businesses which rely on the tourist industry teetering on the edge of ruin. This tourist season is essentailly gone. It will be almost a whole year before the next tourist influx (maybe) has the nerve to venture back here. Make it your business to spend your next free weekend up north. Eilat isn't going anywhere... take your next vacation in the Golan or Galilee.
- Buy products made in areas that are under attack. If you or your business have the choice of purchasing goods or services from companies in areas where the missiles are falling, please don't put it off... they need your business.
- Support Charitable efforts. Please don't assume that the Israeli government will be able to step in and make everything right for the communities once the missiles (please G-d) stop falling. Find well-established, reputable charitable organizations that are doing important work in these communities and give generously.
- Pray. I don't care whether you recite the entire book of Psalms, pray the rosary or sit in the Lotus position meditating on regional/world peace. This is one of those 'it couldn't hurt and might actually help' kinda things.
If you are outside of Israel
- Come visit. It may seem counter-intuitive to discuss tourism, but many people outside of Israel forget that this country relies on the tourist industry for more than half its GNP. I'm not saying you need to book a bed & breakfast in the upper Galilee or Golan (although once things quiet down that is exactly where you should be going). Just come. During the the Intifada too many people who claim to support Israel voted with their feet and stayed home. Don't let it happen again.
- Support humanitarian and lifesaving organizations such as Magen David Adom, Yad Sarah and Zaka.
- Plant a tree. As far as it may be from your mind at the moment, thousands of acres of Jewish National Fund forests are burning as a result of the hundreds of missiles that have been fired into Israel. Replanting those areas will cost money. You know what to do.
- Do business with Israeli companies. In the coming days and weeks there will be increased calls for divestment from Israel. If you or your business have the ability to use goods or services provided by Israeli companies... please do so. If you want to find out more about this, please contact your nearest Israeli consulate and ask for their assistance in identifying Israeli partners, suppliers and resources.
- Buy Israel Bonds. This may sound cliche... like something that our grandparents do... grudgingly.... and only during the annual Kol Nidre Appeal. But individuals and companies have the ability to help themselves while they help strengthen the State of Israel. Israel Bonds have never once failed to deliver promised returns and are the cornerstone of many portfolios and pension funds (including my pension fund with Local 802 America Federation of Musicians). So if you were casting about for the perfect wedding or Bar/Bat mitzvah gift... buy some of these.
- Keep them honest. Don't get involved in intractable emotional battles with Israel bashers and anti-Semites. But DO keep tabs on your local media and take them to task each and every time you see them misreporting historical data or misrepresenting current events. For best results keep your communications polite, brief and to the point. Encourage others to be equally vigilant.
- Educate and inform. For most of your non-Jewish coworkers and neighbors, the conflict here is as inscrutable as those in Northern Ireland, Sudan and the Basque region of Spain. Make it your business to stay well informed and take the time to personalize this war for people. This is not rocket science... although rockets certainly play a role in the conflict. Keep it simple. Explain the news and the significance of events as they are happening here. If you don't do it, their sole source of information will be whatever CNN or the BBC are serving up.
- Pray. I don't care whether you recite the entire book of Psalms, pray the rosary or sit in the Lotus position medititing on regional/world peace. This is one of those 'it couldn't hurt and might actually help' kinda things.
Friday, July 14, 2006
A guest post by Zahava
Sorry about the lack of Photo Friday today. I am out with the kids tending to the bee hives. However, I hope you enjoy this guest post by my lovely wife Zahava. Shabbat Shalom.
Dear Treppenwitz Readers:
I don’t often offer my 2 cents — at least not publicly — on matters of politics. However, in light of the deteriorating security situation here in Israel, I believe our continuing struggle with 'image' and the fair portrayal of Israel in the media must continue to be a priority. We simply cannot afford to overlook the damage that agenda-driven 'human interest stories' inflict upon the world's perception of the situation here.
The best recent example that jumps to mind of how Israel is demonized in the media is the unfortunate story of the young Gazan girl (Hadeel Ghalia) who lost her family in an as-yet, unexplained explosion. The source of the explosion is irrelevant, although certainly not the result of IDF artillary as had been initally widely reported. Also irrelevant is the 'human interest' aspect of the story when outsiders attempt to link it to Israel's ability to protect both its land and citizens. Before anyone starts shouting that I am a heartless monster, please take a moment to consider the sentiments behind these statements.
On a human, and even more importantly, on a humane, level my heart breaks for this orphaned Palestinian girl. It is truly tragic that she will grow up without a family to love, guide, educate and cherish her. There is no mitigating information that would make me feel otherwise. Contrary to reports (read: thinly-veiled accusations) elsewhere on the Israeli-Anglo blogosphere, I don’t think that there is anyone who doesn’t feel some level of both sympathy and empathy for this girl.
My major philosophical break, however, is with feelings of responsibility. I do not feel responsible for this girl’s situation. Not. One. Bit.
Again, before playing the 'heartless b*tch' card, please allow me to explain .
It is not surprising – given my status as an Olah (immigrant) to Israel – that I am quite proud to be an Israeli citizen. I am proud of our land, our heritage, our government (okay, maybe this last part isn’t always true). And I am especially proud of our armed forces because, despite protestations to the contrary, they conduct themselves with an unprecedented respect for human life – their own as well as our enemy’s. Do they occasionally err? Yes. In time of war, no army can escape isolated errors of judgment.
However, our armed forces, often at great risk to themselves, operate in such a manner so as to cause the least damage to civilian population centers as possible. This is especially difficult when Israel’s enemies deliberately place their entire terror/military infrastructure in the heart of their own civilian population centers.
This does not dismiss the tragic fact that armed conflicts exact civilian casualties. But when an enemy uses their own civilian populations to shield themselves from retaliation it contextually reflects a different attitude about the value of civilian life.
It is no accident that Palestinian militants and other Islamic holy warriors hide behind women and children. They count on the high value placed on human life by the Judeo-Christian tradition to weigh heavily on our retaliatory decisions. They exploit this fact and scream ‘war crime’ and ‘atrocity’ to the western media when, despite the multiple precautionary layers, our need to strike at those who have attacked us result in less-than-desirable results. And sadly enough, they are no longer simply hiding behind their women and children. Israeli security prisons are bursting with young men, women and even teenagers because they are actively recruited as instruments of terror.
The issue of militants taking refuge in centers of civilian populations is an enormous problem that is completely ignored in the international discussion of the local conflict.
First and foremost, our military has a responsibility to Israeli civilian populations to do everything in its’ power to keep them safe. It is unreasonable to suggest that a pursuit of a known terrorist be aborted simply because he/she has taken refuge in a place were civilian lives are jeopardized. As long as the terrorist remains free to operate, lives of all citizens – Arabs and Jews – are endangered. Terrorism isn’t selective. By definition it is deliberately random with the primary goal being the loss of civilian life. Bombed busses aren’t able to eject their Arab riders and detonate only the Jewish ones! The pursuit of terrorists into civilian populations isn’t designed to heighten the risk to Arab populations, but rather to lessen the risk to all populations.
Another issue often swept under the proverbial rug is the fact that these civilian populations have not made any noticeable attempt to force the terrorists to stop using them as human shields! This is not to suggest that they want to be shields. But, to date, these folks have not done much to “take back their neighborhoods.” And while one can argue that is a difficult and dangerous task to oppose armed militants in ones midst… so is being a human shield!
Before you jump down my throat and tell me that “it isn’t easy", and that innocent Palestinian civilians are threatened – often at gun point – to comply with the terrorists’ wishes, I’d like to remind you of the power of collective consensus.
Certainly, there is much work to be done in the drug-infested inner cities in the US. But much has been accomplished in this regard. And it begins with a brave refusal to allow armed drug lords to continue with the intimidation and violence they use to dictate their terms to society. It begins with a group of committed individuals saying “go somewhere else, I won’t be a party to this.” Some of these brave and committed individuals sacrifice their lives by saying no. But in this sacrifice, they hope to put an end to intolerable conditions. For their kids. For their grandkids. For justice.
A couple of days ago Steve Erlanger (aptly dubbed the “official spokesman for Hamas” by our friend Robert Avrech over at Seraphic Secret) wrote a lovely little human interest piece about the goings-on in Gaza. The original title was “Once Again, Gazans Are Displaced by Israeli Occupiers.” The title has since been changed – one would hope, due to complaints, but it was actually the contents of this article that inspired me to express myself today.
I don’t have the energy to run around correcting every inaccurate detail of every anti-Israel article. But I can't overstate the importance of insisting that news outlets clearly diferentiate and identify information which is factual from that which is editorial.
Journalists are entitled to their opinions, and should be encouraged to express them. But, they should be both accurate and honest about when they are reporting facts and when they are sharing their opinions. That line is no longer blurry… it has disappeared altogether in the main stream media… and sadly, editors don’t seem to mind this breach of ethics that occurs when journalists shop their own personal agendas under the guise of hard news.
Here is what I wrote to the editors:
“Once Again, Gazans Are Displaced by Israeli Occupiers.”
To the Editors:
“At least Israel should release the women and children prisoners of ours that they have,” he [Mr. Edbary] said. “It’s shameful.”
This article is shameful. The sensationalized title is deliberate in its’ obfuscation of the facts. Gazans have not been displaced by “Israeli occupiers,” – their “displacement” is due to Hamas’ refusal to cease missile attacks from Palestinian territory into Israeli areas of civilian populations, and renounce terrorism.
Once again, Steve Erlanger is all too eager to cast Israel as the “occupier.” Shameful is the fact that the Palestinian women and youths in Israeli jails have been caught trying to take innocent Israeli lives.
Shameful is the idea that these prisoners’ rights are more valuable than the lives they attempted to take or jeopardize.
Shameful is the fact that militant Palestinian factions use densely populated civilian areas as refuges.
Shameful is the fact that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians elected a government that both endorses, and actively supports, terrorist activities.
Israeli civilians face daily threats from rocket attacks, suicide bombers, snipers, and roadside bombs. These threats have only escalated since the completion of Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon and ‘disengagement’ from Gaza. Good intelligence rather than a decline in terror attempts have been responsible for the perception of calm that existed prior to Israel’s recent retaliatory activity.
The myth of a growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza is just that – a myth. Border crossings have been opened on an ongoing basis to allow humanitarian supplies (food, medicine, etc.) to reach the civilian Gazan population. IN many cases Hamas has thwarted these attempts to aid their own people.
Israel is not responsible for the Palestinians living in Palestinian controlled areas. The Palestinian Authority is. At present, the Palestinian Authority is run by Hamas. Rather than creating municipal infrastructure, legislation, or the development of economic recovery plans, Hamas has placed its’ priority on recruiting the weakest, poorest, and least educated members of their society into its’ military wing to perpetuate the untenable state of “low-intensity warfare” against its’ neighbor Israel.
Fortunately for Israel, the majority of these recruits fail at their missions, hence their confinement in Israeli prisons. But the fact Hamas recruits these young men, women and even children, trains them, and finances their missions without a word from Mr. Erlanger? Now that is “shameful.”
I don’t know if Mr. Erlanger is actually anti-semitic, anti-zionist/pro-Palestinian, or if he simply has a misplaced sense of sportsmanship which has him constantly painting the Palestinians as the victimized underdogs. What’s more, I really don’t care.
In nearly every piece he writes, facts are made subordinate to opinion. And while opinion is valuable, it should not determine nor dominate a discussion of why the average Gazan is being oppressed.
Gazans need a plan. They need jobs, schools, housing, healthcare, and a government willing and able to deliver these things to them. The possibility for these things existed under Israeli “occupation”, but they preferred to self-govern and self-determine… which, of course, is their right. But it seems odd that they refused to accept these things from the Israeli government, yet they won’t demand them from their own leadership either.
The world has shown unprecedented generosity to three generations of Palestinian refugees. Yet while the typical Palestinian family remained in squalor, Arafat’s estimated personal wealth grew to around $33 million dollars.
When you factor in the additional resources being poured into bombs, missiles, and terrorist activity it is not hard to understand why they lack the down payment on some of the municipal infrastructures so sorely lacking in Palestinian society. Donations from around the world probably would not have solved all their problems, but my guess is that it would have gone a long way towards giving a hopeful future to those now so despondent over their situations that their only option is to don a 10-kilo bomb belt and try to take as many Israeli civilians as possible into the next world with them.
So, Mr. Erlanger (if you’re listening), If you’re not part of the solution, you might very well be part of the cause. Allowing the Palestinians to perpetuate the myth that the destruction of Israel will solve their problems dooms both Israelis and Palestinians to a future of warfare and tragedy.
The only motivation I can identify in Mr. Erlanger’s agenda is that it will certainly assure him a secure future of writing about the intractable Israel/Palestinian conflict.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
The Blogs of war
While checking a fact I intended to use in a response to a friend's comment, I stumbled across a bunch of quotes that had been uttered by one man. These quotes sounded so fresh and applicable to our current conflict that I was amazed to find that they were attributed to a man who had never even set foot in this part of the world.
See if you can guess the source... and the war about which he was speaking:
Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster.
This war differs from other wars, in this particular. We are not fighting armies but a hostile people, and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war.
War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.
War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.
War is the remedy our enemies have chosen, and I say give them all they want.
You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will.
If you want to end a war, you must end citizens support
The object of war is a more perfect peace.
Give up? The man who spoke and/or wrote these words was General William Tecumseh Sherman, and he was referring to the U.S. Civil War. Of course, I saved his best W.T. Sherman quote for last in hopes it might temper some of the rhetoric and testosterone (yes, including mine) currently flying around the blogosphere:
It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.
Portrait of denial
It seems that Typepad did its semi-annual nose-dive yesterday and took a day-and-a-half worth of posts and comments down with it. If you don't see your comment, please feel free to re-post it.
<sarcasm> But no big deal, right? It's not as though yesterday was a particularly note-worthy or newsworthy day... so no harm done. </sarcasm>
By this time I'm sure anyone who is interested in the situation on the ground here has made it their business to check the various news sites so I won't try to provide any more updates here. Besides, I am interested to hear what some of you have to say on yesterday's events, so feel free to share.
The only thing I feel like posting today is proof of the incredible ease with which people can willfully ignore irrefutable facts just to preserve the validity of hopelessly out-dated (and dangerous) ideologies.
I have a long-time commenter who feels it is his duty to challenge me when he feels I am moving too far to the right. In principle I have no problem with this. In fact I could say the same of many of my commenters... and I have learned a great deal from almost all of them (even when we have agreed to disagree).
But this particular commenter is so consistently wrong... and continues to cling to such dangerous ideas... that I feel like he needs to be held up as an example of how not to think critically.
Here are some snippets of his comments with the date the comments were posted. Please not that while the situation here in Israel has deteriorated significantly over the past 8 months, his comments have continued to sound as though they were written during the brief Oslo honeymoon to a Luddite(me) who hadn't yet heard that peace had broken out:
Jan 26th 2006 [responding to my statement that the election of Hamas was an endorsement of armed struggle rather than a diplomatic solution] :
"I disagree with your analysis. This is much more rejection of Fatah than it is an embrace of hamas... Khalil Shakiki's polls continue to show that most Palestinians want a solution to the conflict (and thus it is inaccurate to say that they want to destroy Israel), and that most of them support armed attacks of some kind (and therefore inaccurate to claim that this vote is somehow a new endorsement of violence). Furthermore, most Palestinians are not in favor of an Islamic state... Hamas will be forced to change or suffer the consequences. They will now be held accountable for whatever they do. No more military wing acting outside the political wing. And if they do attack, any hardship suffered by Palestinians as a result of Israeli responses will be blamed on them... And I might say, optimist that I am, that it is not a bad thing that the Palestinians are willing to kick out a corrupt, ineffective leadership. If they hold Hamas accountable for moving toward some agreement with Israel, as I bet they will, it will show that they did not put Hamas in power to set up an Islamic state and continue killing people."
Jan 27th [replying to an accusation from another commenter that he was in 'post election denial', and also to my claim that the withdrawal from Gaza had worsened our strategic position rather then improved it]:
"You fail to realize that history and power influence what an organization is. Al-Qaeda has money and weapons and is unaccountable to anyone. Hamas is checked by the international and internal constraints I mentioned, and I don't believe they wish to go around the world carrying out attacks, much as I would agree that at times, they have mimiced Al-Qaeda rhetoric ... [Gaza] is a terrorist state that is turning against itself, not us ... I would bet against [Hamas starting an open war with Israel] because it would be completely irrational and stupid. ... Israel would pound them mercilessly and with no worry of any repercussion. Do you really think the Palestinians want a "real war" against Israel?"
Jan 28th [responding to another commenter who stated that Hamas and Al Qaeda were essentially the same in their thinking and tactics]:
"The difference is that while Al-Qaeda, as a non-governmental entity with lots of resources, has no domestic political reason to reform, Hamas, a political party accountable to an electorate with limited resources, will."
Jan 28th [defending his statement that the Hamas elections had resulted in less attacks on Israel]
"We'll see... if Disengagement really encouraged Hamas, I think the response would be more attacks not less. I'm not wrong. There are internal restraints on Hamas, and they will have an effect. I see [disengagement] and its aftermath as a big victory."
Jan 30th [responding to continued accusations that he was willfully ignoring the nature of Hamas and its threats against Israel]:
"My argument is the fundamental nature of politics will constrain Hamas from doing the things people are scared of. Your argument seems to be more the Jabotinsky one about not trusting the Arabs. I guess you're like the general in Amos Oz's "In the Land of Israel."
Now lets jump forward a few months to the present and see if our commenter has learned anything since making his self-assured statements in January:
July 10th [Responding to my 'double standard' post which was essentially saying 'I told you so' to the people who ignored dire warnings of disengagements eventual results]:
"Let's be a little careful with the 'I told you so's'. ... Right now you have a low-level civil war (Fatah/Hamas) there. Is this really bad for Israel? ... many Palestinians support a diplomatic solution, and though I'd be the first to say Hamas is a terror organization, it is not the same terror organization since it entered politics."
July 10th [responding to the question "Are you saying that Oslo was actually a good idea?"]:
"Let's see, actually negotiating? Yeah, I thought it was a good idea. We got very close to a deal, the world stayed off our backs for a long time, and there were moments of great prosperity when it looked like peace was near."
July 10th [responding to me asking him if he still thought disengagement was a good idea considering that we are now back in Gaza and that 80% of evacuees still hadn't received housing/compensation they were promised]:
"Yes, but it's hard to argue the success of one idea over another when all you have is criticism. "
July 10th [still maintaining that most Palestinians desire a diplomatic solution and that Israel had someone with whom to negotiate]
"...read the polls. Abbas is such a person, whether you care to admit it or not. That we failed to take any advantage of him is our mistake."
July 12th [from an email exchange well after the unprovoked northern attacks by Hizballah, in which he still maintains the validity of his position]:
"No one proved me wrong. And I'm not the one calling for a big war that will only get lots more soldiers killed. I'm not in the losing-my-mind business every time something happens in Israel. I think the state is strong enough to take care of itself ... Soldiers have been kidnapped before, and bombing the crap out of Lebanon has not been known to work as a solution. "
I'm hoping this will be the last I hear from this particular commenter... not because he is either dumb or rude (he's actually quite bright and well-mannered), but because it is pointless for someone to continue participating in a discussion without taking note of the other positions being presented... not to mention facts on the ground.
This gentleman has a blog of his own and I invite him to write unchanging monologues over there... not here.
Israel internal politics and foreign policy are not some academic problem or theoretical exercise for dabblers and dilettantes. They are deadly serious business with real people's lives at stake.
People from all over the world are free to share their conclusions here and either stick to them or amend them as the need arises. I'm not suggesting that we all need to march in lock-step. On the contrary, this would be an excellent time to float some new and original thinking.
But during a time of war to actively deny irrefutable facts on the ground, simply in order to avoid upsetting one's carefully stacked apple-cart of personal ideologies, is not something that I feel compelled to entertain here on my journal.
You want to advocate sentiments such as 'Give peace a chance'? Go tell it to a country that isn't currently under active military attack on two different fronts.
You want to continue defending a policy of unilateral appeasement and withdrawal that sent our enemies an unmistakable message that the only path to achieving their goals was through armed resistance? Then go join ISM or some other 'useful idiot' organization and at least be honest about which side you are rooting for in this conflict.
But so long as innocent civilians in the north and south are living in bomb shelters and cities as far inside Israel as Ashquelon and Nahariya are being successfully targeted by enemy missiles... please sing your tired old song elsewhere. I've heard enough.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
We interrupt this journal...
I rarely post twice in one day, but current events have me feeling a little icky about leaving up a snarky, light-hearted post while my country is in the process of calling up its military reserves.
What follows is a collection of facts I have picked up from many of the Israeli news services. I am not posting links because too many of them are pulling down stories nearly as fast as they are posting them. I'm assuming this has to do with military censors.
In case you hadn't heard (meaning in case you rely on NPR, CNN or Reuters for your news), this morning at a little after 9:00 AM Israel time, the sovereign state of Lebanon committed several overt acts of war against Israel.
Technically, the attacks were carried out by Hizballah, but as they are part of the current Lebanese government, and are allowed to maintain full military control over much of southern Lebanon... the unprovoked attacks were the responsibility of the Lebanese government.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Here is what has happened so far today:
At about 9:15 AM a barrage of Ketyusha missiles and mortar shells were fired at both military and civilian targets in northern Israel, with one rocket scoring a direct hit on a civilian house in the community of Shtula. There are no firm numbers of wounded yet... but 6 - 8 seems to be the numbr I have seen most often.
Under cover of this missile/mortar assault, Hizballah crossed the border and kidnapped two IDF soldiers, possibly killing one in the process. The soldiers have not been publicly identified, but sources in Lebanon are stating that they are Druze. I am pleased to see that the Israeli government is treating the kidnapping of IDF soldiers... ANY IDF soldiers... as an act of war.
Within minutes of the attack/kidnappings, a large Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was detonated under an IDF tank which was operating along the border, destroying the tank. The condition of the tank crew has not been publicly disclosed.
Almost immediately the IDF infantry forces were ordered over the border to search for the missing soldiers while Israeli artillery and warplanes destroyed bridges and roads to keep Hizballah from moving the hostages further into Lebanon.
There are several Israeli news outlets that were initially reporting either 7 or 8 Israeli soldiers killed in this morning's attack, but some of the reports have since been pulled... and the one remaining report of casualties is now saying that 5 IDF soldiers were killed. My guess is that most of the mainstream news services are waiting until the families have been notified... but it would appear that these 5 are probably the tank crew.
UPdate: The Jerusalem Post is now reporting 7 IDF soldiers killed in the initial attack. May their families be comforted.
Prime Minister Ohlmert has officially declared the attack an act of war and is holding Lebanon directly responsible. IAF jets have overflown Beirut several times today to emphasize this point, and IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz has issued a statement that if Lebanon does not act quickly to eliminate the Hisballah threat and return our soldiers, Israel will turn back Lebanon's clock by 20 years... a reference to the almost complete lack of infrastructure that existed in Lebanon after Israel was forced to invade in 1982
Shortly after noon Israel time, IDF reserve units began receiving emergency call-up orders (tzav shmoneh), and at present at least a full division of reservists have been mobilized.
At the same time, communities in the north of Israel that are within shooting range of Hizballah weapons have been instructed to go into their bomb shelters and reinforced rooms.
Lastly, after watching today's events unfold exactly as many of Israel's conservatives said they would... I feel compelled to respond to a question put to me by one of the more smug commenters a few days ago. He was responding to my statement that unilateral withdrawal under fire sends a message to Israel's enemies that terror is working and pushes the Arab electorate into the arms of those who advocate armed struggle over diplomatic solutions.
This smug young attorney said: "The "weakness in retreat" theory was also used to argue against leaving South Lebanon. Would you rather we stayed there? "
As much as I would love to simply answer yes and leave it at that... nothing is ever quite that simple here in the middle east.
Instead I'd like to temper my answer by saying that I don't think we should have stayed in Southern Lebanon forever. But, as much as it pains me to be proven right (again)... I feel that a unilateral withdrawal under fire does seem to have sent our enemies the worst possible message.
I think the time has come to make sure we send them the right one.
If that means turning the famed cedars of Lebanon into matchwood... so be it.
If that means setting Lebanon's electrical grid and physical infrastructure back to 1986... so be it.
If that means effecting regime change in Syria via f-16... so be it.
If that means destroying entire Iranian cities to force them to stop producing nuclear weapons they have promised to use to destroy us... so be it.
If that means targeting terrorists who deliberately choose to operate out of Gaza apartment buildings... so be it.
If that means that the life of every Arab in the region is made so miserable that human rights organizations around the world scream in unison for Israel to stop... so be it. They certainly don't scream when Israelis are killed, mained or kidnapped... so as far as I'm con erned, they can take their thinly veiled Jew hatred and throw a nice party over at the U.N.
It has finally come to the point where Israel has to make the stark choice of who will get to enjoy peace... our citizens or theirs.
I choose ours.
Conspiracy theory day at treppenwitz
Does anyone else find the timing a bit too convenient that less than two weeks after breaking from the traditional impartiality of the presidency and openly criticizing the disengagement (and by association, its architects), several woman have magically stepped forward to accuse President Katzav of sexual harassment. Even more telling is that almost immediately, several MKs began calling for him to step down "for the good of the office and the country".
In a country where 95% of the men aren't even aware that 'harass' is one word, a squeaky-clean president with a record of comporting himself with all the dignity appropriate to his office is suddenly being asked to step down before even the smallest shred of evidence is presented?
No, I don't smell a rat, do you?
In other conspiracy-related news, an alert treppenwitz reader with an inquiring mind left the following cryptic comment on my double standard post which bears closer examination:
"Is Mohammed Deif dead or not?"
For the benefit of readers for whom this name doesn't ring a bell, Wikipedia provides the following helpful background info:
"Mohammed Deif is [ed. was] a commander of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. He gained that position after the assassination of Salah Shahade in July, 2002. Israel suspects him of being a bombmaker and holds him personally responsible for the deaths of dozens of civilians in suicide bombings since 1996. He is considered a designer of the Qassam rocket together with Nidal Fat'hi Rabah Farahat and Adnan al-Ghoul. He had been under Palestinian custody from May 2000 until April 2001 when he was released. Deif was the person considered the top of Israel's most wanted list for several years.
Despite initial reports of his death in an Israeli air strike on September 27, 2002, an Israeli official confirmed that he survived the attack. He has survived five other Israeli assassination attempts, which caused him serious handicaps."
This last sentence actually made me giggle because apparently each time he has had a close brush with Israeli attempts to off him, he ends up losing another body part or function. Picture the Black knight in 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' and you get the idea ("It's only a flesh wound!").
Anyway, word on the street is that as recently as this past February Mr. Deif grew frustrated with the relative restraint shown by the local Palestinian militias and joined up with the Al Qaeda chapter that had sprung up in the fertile soil of Israeli-free Gaza.
I've done some serious checking and have not found conclusive proof that he is dead or alive (although I'm fairly certain it is one or the other). But the following link purports to show him (or some sources say it is fellow expired Al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi) enjoying the first of his 72 virgins in heaven. You be the judge:
OFFENSIVE IMAGE WARNING!
NOT WORK (OR MEALTIME) SAFE!!!
Update: It now seems that Mohammed Deif has been sighted under a house (rather than under a zoftig virgin, as was previously reported), after an Israeli air-strike in Gaza City.
Reports state that he has lost his liver, spleen, right arm, left leg, lower jaw, both kidneys and half his pelvis... but has sworn to continue fighting the 'Zionist Enemy', reportedly saying "Oh! Had enough, eh? Come back and take what's coming to you, you yellow bastards! Come back here and take what's coming to you! I'll bite your legs off!".
You have to admire that kind of scrappy determination.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
The worst son ever!
She never forgot to change my diapers.
She never forgot to feed me.
She never forgot to dress me warmly.
She never forgot to love me unconditionally.
And... she never once forgot my birthday.
Yet yesterday I forgot hers!
[~hangs head in shame~]
I'm sorry mom. Happy belated birthday... and many more.
Your self-absorbed son