Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sell crazy somewhere else... we're all full over here!

A couple of years ago I got the first of what would turn out to be a long stream of unsolicited emails from someone that suggested that one of my personal heroes, Natan Sharansky, had actually been a KGB operative who informed on his fellow refuseniks

This long, rambling email came uninvited from someone I had never heard of.  The only thing I knew for sure was that the person who had sent me that informative little manifesto obviously didn't know the first thing about me.  If he had he would have realized:

a)  I hate unsolicited email.

b) I particularly hate hate loooong, unfocused, unsubstantiated, unsolicited emails that slander people I admire.

c)  I hate unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.

d)  Probably the only thing that can make angrier than sending me an example of 'a', 'b' or 'c' is to do so and then defend your actions in such a way as to imply that I'm the one with the problem for not wanting your unique brand of crazy inflicted on me first thing in the morning when I check my email.

For those of you who know about whom I speak, please don't mention his name here.  While he may be worthy of public ridicule, I'd prefer to keep this discussion in the realm of theoretical and out of the realm of a courtroom (if you get my meaning).

Anyhoo, this theoretical Oliver Stone-wannabe didn't take the hint.  In fact he didn't even take my direct instruction (I used small words for clarity) to cease and desist from sending me his crap.

I continued to get emails about everything from how Rabin was actually assassinated by the Shabbak (Israel Security Service) to how nearly every road accident involving a religious person is actually a carefully orchestrated plot by the power-brokers on the secular left to knock off the country's religious leadership.  This person's concern for Israel's religious population is especialy puzzling since many of his emails arrive on Shabbat.

Look, I'll be the first to admit that there is a very fine line between hobby and mental illness (not my line, BTW) but I think that 'containment' is critical for preserving that distinction.

Not clear?  Here, let me give you an example:

Raising bees... cluttering up your house with beekeeping equipment and protective clothing... reading everything in print about bee culture and apiaries... taking your kids to spend precious free time to work with several hives... writing about it and posting pictures of it on a blog... and giving honey to one's friends and neighbors:  Hobby

Emailing / writing letters to people you don't know to tell them that there really is no such thing as a natural death or fluke road accident in Israel:  Mental Illness

Clear so far?

There are certain crazies I grudgingly tolerate because they are fairly harmless and honestly feel they are tasked with making me a better person.  But I feel strongly that the decision to tolerate craziness or keep it at arm's length should be mine to make... not the crazies'.

Yet here we are almost two years later and I'm still getting emails from this theoretical person.  Some of them contain long, rambling rants about G-d-knows-what (I sure wouldn't since I never read them), while others land in my in-box bearing nothing more than a cryptic subject such as "Jonathan Pollard" and a blank email (oooooh, maybe the thought police deleted his email before it got to me!).

I discussed this whole 'tin-foil-hat brigade' thing with a couple of my fellow bloggers a while back and one comforted me with the following observation, "Don't get me wrong, I'm very glad we have renegade independent journalists [ed note: I love that !] questioning the official version of events. It's an important thing to have in a democracy. But he is pretty nuts."

That about sums it up.  I'd hate to live in a country where alternative-theory-enthusiasts (Oh who am I kidding, conspiracy nuts) are not allowed to indulge in their, er, hobby.  But could they please sell crazy somewhere else... we're all full over here!

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Posted by David Bogner on April 17, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

How did they not see this coming?

In a news story yesterday, it was revealed that Hamas has banned (meaning confiscated and burned) all copies of a collection of Palestinian Folk tales because one or two of them allegedly contained what are described as 'sexual overtones'.   

Now, book burning isn't exactly surprising behavior for the local branch of the Taliban called Hamas... but the general reaction of the Palestinian public is beyond surprising*:

"The book ban angered and worried many Palestinians, who long feared that Hamas would use its victory in last year's parliamentary election to remake the Palestinian territories according to its hardline interpretation of Islam.:

Huh?

The reporter writes as though the Hamas government was some sort of unwanted shower gift from a distant relative that the Palestinians don't quite know what to do with.  Helloooooo... you guys voted these guys into power in a landslide!  The whole world warned you...  not only of the financial consequences... but of the very real possibility that the PA would soon come under strict Shari'ah law.

Of course, I'm not one to talk about not seeing things coming.  I think I may have mentioned on at least one occasion that I nearly wet myself one hour, 12 minutes and 37 seconds into ‘The Crying Game’.  I'll be the first to admit that I have a little... OK, a lot... of trouble predicting the outcome of even the most obviously telegraphed plot turns.

But seriously, Hamas wasn't exactly keeping its  'All Islam, all the time' platform a secret during the elections.

If it wasn't such a dangerous development for those of us who live next door, this would be a really satisfying case of 'you've made your bed, now lie in it!'

[* Source]

Posted by David Bogner on March 6, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Monday, February 26, 2007

Hitting too close to home

The title of today's post is an expression that presumably* has its origins in some conflicted region where projectiles became worrisome to the residents only as they began to 'hit too close to home'.  The unspoken assumption is that so long as the projectiles continued to fall far away and on someone else's home the situation could be considered somewhat less than emergent. 

Israelis have raised the sentiment behind this expression to such an art-form that we, as a society, will tolerate nearly any attack or atrocity... so long as it doesn't hit physically or ideologically too close to home. 

Our enemies have figured out that in the wake of suicide attacks or rocket strikes, the cries for retaliation (perception = irrational) are always strongest from the municipality that was hit... while the cries for restraint and diplomacy (perception = rational) are strongest from the areas that haven't been struck.  The result is that a majority of the country will always appear reasonable in calling for restraint in the wake of attacks against geographically marginal targets and targets which reside on society's periphery. 

Still not convinced?  Then tell me why most shootings and knifings tend to be limited to members of society that are perhaps not universally loved (i.e religious and/or settlers) and most bombings take place in working class settings?  Imagine the reaction if rocks were thrown at cars along the Ayalon Freeway or on 'Kvish 6'...if Molotov Cocktails were thrown at cars in Herzelia... or if young couples walking on Tel Aviv's beaches were shot at or stabbed with any regularity. 

The overwhelming majority of targets selected by our enemies are in working class communities and/or on public transportation.  It isn't just that these are easier targets to strike, but rather that the people directly affected in those locales are removed by several degrees of separation from the decision-makers in the Knesset and those who have the connections to lobby them for a response.

Think about the attacks that have stirred the government to action.  They have been attacks on 'high value targets' with which a broad range of the population feels a connection (if not true empathy); hotels, tourist destinations and affluent metropolitan areas. 

In fact, the only real 'everyman' target that our enemies continue to exploit with any regularity are members of the IDF.  This is because terrorist actions against soldiers... specifically kidnapping... have such a paralyzing effect on the government... and so demoralize the population... that nearly any retaliation is worth the result. 

A look at the prestige garnered by Hezbollah in the Lebanon war and the eventual number of prisoners Israel will almost certain swap for each kidnapped soldier (or even the bones of a soldier), is all that is necessary to understand the actuarial calculations performed by our enemies.

The military doctrine of our enemies can be neatly summed up in the following three points:

1.  Attacks that 'hit too close to home' for too large a proportion of the population have a unifying effect and will elicit retaliation.

2.  Attacks likely to divide the loyalties and/or sympathies of the population will be tolerated nearly indefinitely.

3.  Attacks of increasing frequency and/or viciousness against targets described in #2 will be tolerated so long as they do not somehow stir the loyalties and/or sympathies described in #1.

This whole line of thought occurred to me as I woke to the news that a man about my age in a community near mine was murdered last night by a terrorist.  On the surface it should have been a textbook no-no according to the accepted terrorist doctrine as the victim was a husband and father of three who was killed while in religion meditation/prayer.  Change his religion to Christian or Muslim and the UN would already be convening the Human Rights Commission and Security Council to protest such an unprovoked atrocity. 

But given that the victim was a religious settler killed in 'Occupied Territory', the world will never hear about him, and our government will take its lead from the 'reasonable majority' who's curiosity about the incident probably wouldn't warrant skimming the second paragraph of the article over their morning coffee and croissant.

Once upon a time Isrealis considered Israel their home, and each and every terror attack against Israelis, whether at home or abroad, was treated as an attack on the entire country.  Retaliation was so swift and disproportionate that our enemies and those who funded / hosted them were forced to weigh the wisdom of every action and the cost/value of allowing their proteges to act.

Today our enemies perceive little or no danger in acting according to their accepted doctrine.  A murderous attack such as was carried out last night may have a unifying affect on some small segment of the country who find themselves in close physical or ideological proximity to the victim.  But because the majority of Israelis won't have perceived this bloody, unprovoked attack on a husband and father as having been 'too close to home', it will be tolerated and ultimately forgotten. 

And our enemies will rejoice.

*  Professional and/or amateur lexicographers and linguists may feel free to provide accurate provenance for the expression found in the title.

Posted by David Bogner on February 26, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Sunday, February 25, 2007

France Capitulates!

Zis title is evoking zeh feelings of, how you say... deja vu, non?

In a move that caught everyone completely by surprise [~snort~], French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy has pledged to recognise the new PA unity government before it is formed or has even stated its official policies towards Israel!   

In his statement which essentially gives the PA complete carte blanche, Mr. Douste-Blazy  said:

"If the government is formed according to the power-sharing deal worked out in Mecca last month, France will be ready to cooperate with it. And our country will plead on its behalf within the European Union and with other partners in the international community."

Aside from the obvious lack of trouble I'm having conjuring the mental image of France 'pleading', it is worth pointing out that this idiotic statement is in direct contradiction to the official 'wait and see' policy adopted by the European Union (of which France is a member) in the wake of the Mecca conference a few weeks ago. 

The EU's rare coolness towards the latest Palestinian accords stems from Abbas' Fatah gang party having apparently moved unilaterally towards Hamas' policy of non-recognition of Israel and token acknowledgment (but not adherence to) standing agreements between Israel and the PA.  But the truth is, nobody... not even the Palestinians... knows for sure what the new PA government will look or act like.

But apparently it's never too soon for the Parisian government to start waving the white flag on their own - or anyone else's - behalf.  As if any more proof was need to confirm France's slide into full-fledged Dhimitude (not to mention its open antipathy towards Israel), this un-prompted announcement is more than a little telling. 

Personally, I can't wait for another summer of watching France's suburbs burn in riots perpetrated by the Fifth Republic's 'most loyal citizens' .

How do you say 'schadenfreude ' in French?

Update:  In an unrelated bit of unintentional irony, Israeli Prime Minister has issued a statement urging the public to "stop beating up on police". 

One can only assume (hope) that Olmert hadn't yet been informed of the results of the Zeiler commission published last week as he made the following public statement to outgoing fired disgraced Police Commissionr Moshe Karadi:

"In my eyes, you are a decent, courageous man who has served the State of Israel for many years, and will continue to do even more for the State of Israel."

Apparently snuggling up to discredited personages and thugs is not exclusively a French trait.  Seriously, you can't make this stuff up!

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Posted by David Bogner on February 25, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I suppose the next step is pictures on milk cartons

While Israel certainly has it's share of 'real world' problems and has unwisely (IMHO) run headlong after some of the worst fashions and trends in western culture, there has always been the sense of innocence... and a blind faith that here in this tiny corner of the middle east that kids could be kids, at least until they reached army age and had to finally grow up.

Israeli children and teens have traditionally enjoyed an autonomy unheard of in the US since the 1950s.  Kids here think nothing of taking buses, riding bikes and walking to distant friends after school and on weekends.  And for a large portion of Israel's youth, hitchhiking is still a perfectly acceptable way to reach destinations, near and far.

A couple of years ago I wrote a piece entitled 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Holy Land' which was, admittedly, a wide-eyed American's take on this practical means of getting around the country.  However one of the things I downplayed in that piece was the inherent danger involved.

In early January, 18-year-old Maayan Ben Chorin, a high school senior from a small town in the north, was reported missing by her parents.  During the couple of days leading up to the discovery of her body, friends and eye-witnesses aided the police in piecing together her last known movements... and the one thing that became fairly clear was that she had been hitchhiking.

Maayan_ben_chorin
Maayan Ben Chorin (Z"L)  Photo (C) Jerusalem Post

Besides the obvious shock of a young woman being brutally murdered, I sensed an undercurrent of dismay as the country was once again reminded that hitchhiking was no longer the wholesome, carefree convenience it had once been in the early days of the state. 

For many years now it has been illegal for Israeli soldiers to hitchhike. But it has remained an open secret that many conscripts from remote parts of the country relying only on 'authorized' means would never be able to reach their destinations before public transportation (buses and trains) shut down for shabbat... and that they would never be able to return to their bases on Sunday morning in time to avoid a 'mishpat' for being late unless they made use of 'less-than-kosher' conveyance. 

Therefore, it is safe to assume that hitchhiking is tolerated... and even expected... by the IDF.

But despite the obvious dangers inherent in getting into strange cars and traveling through remote, uninhabited areas... many rural and suburban teens (and even pre-teens) still apparently rely heavily on the kindness of strangers to get from point 'A' to point 'B'.

Such was apparently the case with the unfortunate Maayan Ben Chorin (Z"L).

She first caught a ride with one of her teachers who dropped her at a gas station near the entrance to an Israeli Arab village.  She then caught a second 'tremp' in the direction of a remote farm where she intended to apply for a job.  She was apparently dropped by the second driver at the head of a long unpaved road down which she would have to walk in order to reach her destination.

According to police forensic sources and the confession of her killer, she met her end after walking only about 700 meters down this lonely dirt track.

Here's where I start to wonder at the wisdom... not of the young hitchhiker... but of those who were nice enough to give her a ride.   

I suppose one can give her teacher a partial pass for at least dropping Maayan at a gas station since it is a public place with cars coming and going all the time.  The fact that it was near an Arab village might, in retrospect, trouble some people reading this... but it is my understanding that this isn't such a sticking point as the relationship between Jews and Arabs in the north of the country are somewhat more cordial than, say, near my home in the Judean hills.

However, in my mind, the driver who took her from the gas station and dropped her in the middle of nowhere at the head of a dirt track has to bear at least some of the responsibility for the events that followed.  Obviously the real blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the man who actually killed her... but there is plenty of peripheral blame to be shared around.

Nearly every day during my commute through the south Hevron hills and northern Negev desert I pick up and drop off hitchhikers.  Some of them call me in advance for rides, but a lot of them are simply people that I find waiting at intersections and bus stops along my route.

You can read my earlier piece if you are curious about Israeli hitchhiking etiquette, as I don't want to revisit it here.  What troubles me is that few of the drivers, nor the hitchhikers themselves, seem to have adjusted their mentality to the unfortunate dangers that now exist on and near the roads.

Countless actual and attempted kidnappings have taken place at such hitchhiking posts, and roadside shootings and stabbings have become so commonplace as to sometimes not warrant media coverage.  Yet I still find young men and women standing alone, quite literally in the middle of nowhere waiting for someone like me to come along and pick them up. 

I have a policy that if someone asks to be let off at a remote intersection or bus stop I will always take them down the road to the nearest town, settlement or army check-point.  This is more than a courtesy... it is common sense.  I wouldn't let my own children off in a setting where they were vulnerable to any passing danger... why would I potentially put someone else's children in harm's way?

I take a small measure of comfort in the expert and timely police forensic work that led to the capture of a suspect whose DNA is apparently a match to tissue found under the victim's nails.  But I hope that my countrymen (and their children) will take a lesson in common sense from the events that led up to this tragedy and adjust their hitchhiking habits accordingly.

Yes, it is sad when a country loses the last vestiges of its innocence to tragedies like this.  But unless we wake up and take the necessary precautions for ourselves and our children... the age of pictures on milk cartons probably won't be too far in Israel's future.

Note: All of my knowledge about the case comes from news sources such as this one.

Posted by David Bogner on February 21, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A breach of trust

When 40% of a country's citizens respond in the negative to the simple polling question:  "Do you trust the national police?", you have a problem on your hands!

One can argue that 'trust' is an extremely broad and subjective term and means different things to different people.  To some, 'trust' is synonymous with 'honesty'.  To others it is more closely related to 'reliability' (think of those team-building exercises where you have to fall backwards with your eyes closed while a coworker standing behind you [hopefully] catches you).  Still others associate the word 'trust' with a sacred obligation or even faith.

However, when you ask a statistically significant sample of Israelis if they trust the police and 40% say 'no!'... you can't entirely argue away the results on the basis of semantics. 

You see, regardless of which definition of 'trust' you subscribe to, in order to do their job effectively, the police MUST be trusted by the public they serve and protect.  Without that trust, the police can only impose their will on the public through brute force in something disturbingly similar to marshal law; a veritable police state. 

Even more importantly, since the police's power flows from the government... if citizens don't trust the police, they are essentially saying they don't trust the government.

In an era when nearly every corner of the Israeli plutocracy we call the Knesset is riddled with scandal and corruption, one would at least hope that the 'everyman' of society - the cops - would remain a force for good and above suspicion.  But the recent report issued by the Zeiler Commission delivered a scathing picture of an organization rotting from the top down.

At first it appeared that the inevitable shake-up (what some media outlets dramatically referred to as 'an earthquake') in the senior echelons of the Israeli Police might actually give that force an opportunity to restore some of the lost public trust.  However within hours of the most senior heads rolling, a startling disappointment was handed to anyone who had hoped for something... anything... other than 'business as usual.  I'm referring, of course, to the naming of Yaakov Ganot to replace the disgraced Chief Karadi.

What the country sorely needed after such a revelation of police corruption and breach of trust was a candidate for the top spot who was completely beyond reproach... someone cleaner than the driven snow... a Mother Theresa with a badge.  The problem (for those who haven't been following the news) is that the person selected as the new head of the national police was, himself charged with several forms of corruption several years ago when he was serving in a command position in the north of the country.  He was ultimately acquitted of the charges by the skin of his teeth, based on reasonable doubt... but was far from vindicated.

Here's the 'Cliff Notes' version of the whole sordid tale from the Jerusalem Post*:

"Ganot was tried in Nazareth District Court on counts of accepting a bribe, fraud and breach of trust. He was originally accused of seven separate offenses. The first four had to do with accepting favors in the form of house renovations provided free of charge or for a low fee from Israeli-Arab contractor Subhi Tanus during the summer of 1992.

According to the fifth charge, Tanus threw a party for Ganot at his home when Ganot was appointed commander of the Northern Police District. According to the sixth charge, Tanus's company painted the exterior of Ganot's house for a low fee. The seventh charge had to do with allegations that Ganot had used a police subordinate to provide personal services for him.

In return for the favors allegedly provided by Tanus, Ganot supposedly provided him with protection when he got into trouble with the law.

The state subsequently dropped the first and fourth charges, and the District Court acquitted him of the rest.

The state then appealed to the Supreme Court. In a two-to-one decision, the court upheld the lower court ruling.

However, Justice Ya'acov Kedmi voted to convict Ganot of breach of faith - the fifth charge - involving the party held for Ganot, while the majority, justices Eliezer Goldberg and Yitzhak Zamir, wrote with regard to the bribery charges that while it was customary not to interfere with the lower court's interpretation of the facts, they had found the state's case to be persuasive, and had they been presiding over the trial, they might have ruled differently."

Not a pretty picture is it... and far from one which might inspire trust among the citizenry.

Considering how demoralized the Israeli public is at seeing blatant and unapologetic dishonesty and corruption at every level of government, it is shameful that Avi Dichter made an appointment guaranteed to further erode any semblance of trust that might remain.

I hold out a glimmer of hope that Ganot's appointment might be quashed or set aside by some legal maneuvering (there are already several legal challenges)... but at this point my trust that the system will work for anything but it's own cynical self-perpetuation is a flickering flame in a windstorm.

And as Forrest Gump would say; 'That's all I have to say about that'.

Source

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Posted by David Bogner on February 20, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Sunday, February 11, 2007

"Not now... I'm on the phone with...

... Prime Minister Netanyahu."

... Former Prime Minister Netanyahu."

... Minister Netanyahu."

... Benjamin Netanyahu."

... Bibi!"

The above serious of whispered mis-steps were all attempted before I could make myself understood to a coworker who had poked her head into my office on Thursday evening.

Clearly I haven't lived in Israel long enough, because I was truly torn over how best to refer to (and address) a former Prime Minister. Whether simply describing the person on the other end of the phone or actually addressing the man, any native born Israeli would have simply started with "I'm on the phone with Bibi".

But having been raised in a culture where former heads of state retain their title up to and including the day they are lying in state on the cold hard catafalque in the Capitol Rotunda, I was stumped.

OK, I'm rambling so perhaps I should back up a bit.

On Thursday evening I was invited by the nice folks at One Jerusalem to participate in a conference call with Former Pri... er, well, you know who it was... never mind that.  I had planned on being home in time to call in to the conference center... but I was at work so late that I simply clocked out and went back to my office to call in.  It was while I was on the call that my coworker poked in her head.

Anyway... while One Jerusalem tends to have extremely compelling/interesting guests on these conference calls, I only accept their invitations when I am deeply interested in the topic... the person... or both. This is because I know there are always many more participants than allocated time for questions... so why not let those with a keen interest have their say?

The last call I joined was with Natan Shcharansky... who, in my humble opinion, is the only person in Israeli politics today with the stature and personal integrity to be elected President.   Unfortunately nobody raised the issue of his potential candidacy on the call [~kicks self~].

Thursday's call was of special interest to me because I have been flip-flopping for years in my feelings about 'Bibi'.

On the one hand I think he is arguably Israel's premier spokesperson to the world. Nobody else seems to be able to state Israel's case to the international media as clearly and unapologetically as he does without sounding either arrogant or belligerent.

It's not just that he speaks English like the American educated career diplomat that he is... but also that he seems to be entirely comfortable with his (and Israel's) position when taking questions and making public remarks.

Other Israeli politicians who have made the rounds of the talk shows seem to be either overly defensive in their posture or aloof to what is being whispered about Israel in the news and diplomatic circles.  Thus, they are easily surprised/tricked into taking too a strong stand where a simple statement would do.

However, it seems a shame to waste such a bright guy in the 'perennial Foreign Minister' slot.

Also, I freely admit to being troubled by Bibi's real and alleged personal foibles. While I don't think he is quite as dirty as most of Israel's current crop of political A-Listers, he certainly has his hands dirty most of the way to the elbows.

Call me naive if you wish... as it may simply be impossible to advance within Israel's political structure without wading into the mud... but my perception is that Bibi hasn't wallowed into the filth quite as deeply as some of the current crop of defendants indicted political leaders.

So, the character issues aside, here are some of the things I liked and disliked about the man before the conference call:

LIKE:

Bibi is tough on Security.  And don't give me any crap about how he 'sold out' on security while he was PM (as one of the people on the conference call did).  He inherited a fatally flawed document in the form of the Oslo Accords.   Those who are now keening over the possibility that the PA unity government may not honor previous diplomatic obligations with Israel need to remember that continuity of legal/diplomatic obligations' is a knife that cuts both ways. 

Bibi is one of the few Israeli politicians who has not waffled on the need for the Palestinians to show some shred of good faith (e.g. unequivocally recognizing Israel, renouncing terror, dismantling the militias, stopping attacks, etc.) before Israel gives away anything else.  This is the important difference between the simple ability to negotiate from a position of strength and the tendency to bend over and clutch one's ankles each and every time a negotiating table comes into view.

I also find Bibi to be reasonably pragmatic.  Few ideologies can survive form outside the rarefied air of party headquarters without some form of compromise.  Where necessary, I like that Bibi has a clear sense of how far he can reasonably 'put out' without becoming the class slut. 

As a religious settler I can honestly say that if someone has to make difficult concessions about the future of the territories, I would rather it be someone who has thought about the ramifications rather than some self-interested hack who is simply courting the liberal electorate.

Another thing I like about Bibi may ring sour to western ears... but I think that until Israel has the luxury of a few decades of peace (or at least relative quiet) under its belt, the head of our government must have some serious military, defense and/or intelligence experience and credibility.  I'm not talking about an African, Asian or South American-style military strong man... just someone who knows a bit more than that it's the pointy end of the M16 that should be aimed at the enemy.  Bibi having served in the Sayeret Matkal (one of the most elite of Israel's commando units) is  - IMHO - a point in his favor.

DONT LIKE:

As I've already mentioned, Bibi isn't exactly squeaky clean on the whole character issue.  I don't know how many qualified candidates for the top slot really are ... but still, it would be nice to have a leader who might have the luxury of spending some of his time actually leading the country instead of doing damage control over the scandal du jour.

Another liability which isn't widely acknowledged is that while his economic policies as Finance Minister were extremely effective (and are largely responsible for our current economic stability), he was aptly seen as not having been sensitive enough to the needs of Israel's under-classes.

I admit it, I'm a fiscal lefty and proud of it.   I'm not entirely comfortable with Israel's socialist roots but I feel strongly that it is a government's duty to maintain a safety net for certain groups such as single parents, large poor families, the disabled and the unemployed. 

The difficult part is creating economic policy that is just enough to protect the most vulnerable elements of society while defending against those who might find life in the safety net more attractive then the prospect of climbing back up onto the trapeze.

So... back to the conference call.

The lion's share of the discussion was, predictably, dominated by the Iran issue... a hot-button topic that Bibi is currently flogging discussing with groups and leaders abroad.

On the one hand, I was pleased to hear Bibi compare the world's current complacency with Iran to the policy of appeasement Germany enjoyed in the years before WWII.  I was also interested to hear him suggest some interesting measures that might be employed against Iran such as economic isolation/sanctions. 

However, I was disappointed that nobody thought to test his WWII analogy and suggestion of economic isolation with the obvious complication that it was partly the policy of economic isolation that contributed to, if not Germany's, then at least Japan's decision to lash out.

But barring that, I liked that Bibi wasn't simply tossing around empty rhetoric about how the world should fear a nuclear Iran.  He was at least exploring theories of how best to prevent that specter from becoming a reality.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge a couple of other bloggers:

Oceanguy, who (thanks to my self-introduction on the call) now knows how to pronounce my name... and  Soccer Dad who emailed me immediately after the call ended to compliment me on the direction my question led Bibi's train of thought.

You can hear the whole (albeit brief) conference call here.

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Posted by David Bogner on February 11, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Fisking a piece by a self-hating Israeli

A long-time reader was nice enough to forward a recent article by Ruth Tenne which appeared in 'The Palestine Chronicle' entitled "Britain's Arms Trade With Israel".  He (my reader) received it from a Muslim friend of his who sent it along with the following laconic introduction:

"it is an article from Israeli born Jew - some truth"

Truer words were never written. 

It is, indeed, a piece penned by an Israeli-born Jew... and in amongst the ax-grinding and obvious self-hatred there is a string of unrelated truths (however detached from the point of the thesis).

You can feel free to go read the whole thing if you like.  I'm not hiding anything by not presenting it here... I just didn't want to go to the trouble of getting permission to republish it on my site.  However, I couldn't resist offering my response in a forum that would invite measured feedback from a wide range of opinions.

So here is what I had to say:

The crux of the article seems to be comprised of unfounded alarm that Israel continues to inexplicably want to defend itself... and that countries in the West seem willing to continue helping it to do so. 

Totally absent from the article is even a hint of why Israel might require such an impressive array of arms.  And equally absent is any compelling LEGAL reason why Israel - as a sovereign country - should not be allowed to maintain whatever level of military readiness it deems necessary.

The author spends a lot of time and effort quoting UN Resolutions.  IMHO this is not a very convincing way to begin an argument since a quick stock-taking of all UN Resolutions seems to suggest that the institution was created with the sole purpose of issuing resolutions critical of a tiny country called Israel.

The author  also quotes 'Janes' regarding Israel's alleged nuclear arsenal as though their contention settles the matter once and for all.  This is quite cute as Janes is no more 'in the know' about Israel's actual capabilities than anyone else outside Israel's government.  The Janes reference is an attempt to sidestep the inconvenient fact that Israel's unconventional arsenal is all supposition that has never been officially corroborated. 

She also brings up the fact that "all Arab states [are] signatories" to the Nuclear non-proliferation treaty, as a demonstration that Israel is in the wrong.  The fact that "all Arab states [are] signatories" to the Nuclear non-proliferation treaty is like you or I promising not to grow wings and fly.  The simple fact is that it is easy for a country to promise not to proliferate nuclear technology or arms when, without extensive external assistance, none of them could hope to manufacture a marketable conventional weapons system, much less nuclear arms. 

Iran, being the sole exception to this rule, has actually proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the moment any Arab (OK nit-pickers, Muslim) country in the middle east gets nuclear know-how they will immediately thumb their nose at any and all international treaties/agreements ever conceived.

Other than that, the whole article is laughable from the standpoint of intellectual honesty and academic accuracy.  It is full of phrases that would not be allowed in any scholarly reference material. 

Some obvious examples:

"...the recent earth-scorching bombardment of Lebanon (summer 2006..." 

Um, I'm sorry, are there bombs available somewhere that I don't know about that somehow don't scorch the earth when they explode?  I know... I'm being facetious, but seriously, not even the harshest critics of Israel in the Lebanon war have accused her of carrying out a scorched earth policy.  If they had followed such a doctrine there would have been no need for a ground offensive at all!

"...the British Foreign Office's refusal to acknowledge and act upon the numerous reports by the UN , official bodies and peace organizations in Israel and the international community which routinely record the human rights abuses and the near collapse of the Palestinian economy..."

This is a good one as it not only tosses the generic hand grenade of 'human rights abuses' (without providing specifics) but also seems to blame the collapse of the Palestinian economy solely on Israel without assigning any culpability to the PA leadership's devastating decisions on how best to wage 'armed resistance' via a succession of Intifadas.

"The heavy bombardment of Lebanon in July- August 2006 and the continued onslaught on Gaza made British MPs aware of Israel's increasing threat to the region."

A classic straw man statement, not to mention that the bombardment of Israel from Lebanon and from Gaza (both of which are responsible for Israel's response) don't seem to be of concern to the author, and are somehow not considered threatening or destabilizing influences on the region.

"Saferworld -an independent think -tank against arms trade - recently proclaimed that "the violence in the Middle East is now alarming and the Government must now stop all arms sale to Israel""

Another fallacious argument since there is no demonstrated cause & effect between "arms sales to Israel" and "violence in the middle east".  On the contrary, most of the violence in the middle east is perpetrated by Arab actors... as often against other Arabs as against Israelis.

"...it seems that the British Government is not prepared to take any steps for ending Israel's escalating arsenal which has been used with impunity against the Palestinians and Lebanon."

'Impunity' is a deliberately prejudicial word which suggests not only a lack of legitimate motive, but also a complete disregard for consequences.  On the contrary, Israel has shown extreme restraint on both of the fronts mentioned, and only resorted to armed conflict when openly attacked from those areas.

"Being an Israeli-born citizen I may not be considered as an apparent supporter for imposing arms trade embargo and sanctions against my own country. Yet , I believe that the lack of any consorted action by Western governments to end the 40 -year long occupation of Palestinian land calls for exercising a tangible pressure on the Israeli state."

The author's nationality is not even remotely relevant to the positions she has taken.  It is simply a blatant attempt to claim some special knowledge or background by virtue of her birthplace which is not demonstrated anywhere in the narrative.  It is telling, though, that she refers to the "40 -year long occupation of Palestinian land" since it was from Jordan (a country that has officially relinquished all legal claims) that the land was captured, not from the Palestinians. 

No matter where one stands on the issue of the Palestinian people's right to self-determination, they technically have no legal claim to land captured from another country.  They were not a party to the conflict in 1967 and had no collective legal status (a status since granted partly by Israel) until years after the war was over.

The article is nothing more than a laundry list of arms sales by the UK to Israel intermixed with petulant fussing over the UK's frustrating (to the author, anyway) reluctance to conduct an economic boycott or arms embargo of the Jewish State. 

While the list of arms sales indicates a willingness on the part of the UK and other western states to continue to do business with (and thereby refrain from weakening) Israel, there is nothing whatsoever presented by the author to support the idea that cessation of such economic relations would in any way directly help the Palestinians... except perhaps in determining the outcome of a future military conflict between Israel and her neighbors.

The entire piece is simply an angry rant designed to resonate with readers who already hold a predisposition towards wanting to see a weakened and vulnerable Israel.  There can be no other reason for a desire to deny a sovereign state the ability to defend itself.

In short, when the author states, "the escalating arming of Israel has become a burning issue", the real truth is that it is only a 'burning issue' to those who want desperately to see Israel burn.

Posted by David Bogner on January 31, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Monday, January 29, 2007

Here we go again

A suicide bomber blew up in a crowded bakery in Eilat this morning killing at least three people. 

Fatah's Al Aksa Martyr Brigade (under the command of the 'moderate' PA President Abbas) has claimed credit.  Please note that a while back I promised that the fighting between Palestinian factions would eventually give way to each trying to prove their mettle by showing how badly they could bloody Israel's nose. 

Welcome to the future.

I wonder how our leadership will manage to justify continued restraint in the face of this assault.

Posted by David Bogner on January 29, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Cluster-F*ck

Excuse my 'French' with that title... but am I the only one confused and conflicted by the sudden outrage over Israel's use of cluster munitions during the war this past summer?

I don't understand why a few basic premises aren't crystal clear to everyone:

From the outset of hostilities, we were facing an enemy whose every weapon was deliberately aimed at civilian population centers, and whose rocket warheads were packed with ball-bearings designed to wreak maximum human casualties in Israel's cities, towns and villages.  Why is there no commission of inquiry looking into that?  Could it be that all Israelis are considered permissible targets?

Also untouched is the issue of Hizbollah rocket barrages leaving countless unexploded ordnance scattered across the north of Israel... a legacy that will surely continue to main and kill civilians for years to come.  Where will the UN be when an Israeli hiker or shepherd is blown up?

The existing agreements between the US and Israel (the terms of which are not fully public) seem to only allow Israel to to use cluster munitions against "an organized military force".  Forgive me for being cynical, but...

a) It isn't Israel's fault Hizbollah refuses to dress up in uniforms and wear recognized insignia and rank designations.  The fact that they have a name, a flag, an organized command and control structure, and an internationally recognized leadership / negotiating capability seems to satisfy the 'organized military' test as far as I'm concerned.

and

b) Israel has quite adequately explained that cluster munitions were used as a weapon of last resort in order to try to stop (or at least slow) the unabated rocket launches into Israeli civilian areas.  If Lebanese civilians were/are endangered by the aftermath of this use... perhaps they should have considered the potential consequences before allowing rocket launchers to be set up in their towns and villages.

If the US wants to stop selling cluster munitions to Israel, I have no problem with this.  Israel produces it's own brand of cluster munitions and I am genuinely interested to know why we didn't use those during the Lebanon war.  Clearly our air offensive had no tangible impact on the short /medium range rocket capabilities of Hizbollah, and the Israeli ground offensive was far too little and too late to stop more than a random launch.  Short of carpet bombing everything from the Litani River south, I don't think Israel had much choice in using ordnance that would quickly make large areas inhospitable to the opposing military force.  Again, that this military force (Hizbollah) decided to set up shop exclusively within civilian population centers should be on their conscience... not ours.

After the war I followed through with my promise to go back and read as many of the Lebanese bloggers as possible in order to see the war through their eyes.  I was quite moved by the wide range of opinions represented in the Lebanese blogosphere, and my hours spent reading their thoughts, dreams and hopes has certainly helped me to appreciate the human side of the equation that I willfully set aside during the conflict. 

However, nobody has been able to help me understand either the widespread popular support still enjoyed by Hizbollah, nor the prevailing apathy amongst opponents of Hizbollah for their military infrastructure being deliberately situated in their back yards.  All that blog reading I did has done nothing to help me square these well-spoken, intelligent human beings with the regrettable circumstances that forced Israel to drop weapons of desperation such as cluster munitions in their midst in order to try to stop the flight of Ketyushas. Conspicuously absent from the Lebanese civilian narrative during and after the war was unambiguous opposition (or even mild consternation) at the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians. 

Perhaps if I had noticed this sentiment amongst even a small percentage of the Lebanese bloggers I read recently, I might be experiencing more than small pangs of conscience at the continued toll that the cluster munitions are taking.

Posted by David Bogner on January 29, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Thursday, January 11, 2007

What sort of country is Israel?

Back in January of 2003, Prime Minister Tony Blair was addressing a gathering of British Ambassadors in London when his remarks turned to the topic of global anti-Americanism and why he felt the UK should remain a close - perhaps the closest - ally of the United states.

In the course of those remarks he said:

"For all their faults, and all nations have them, the US are a force for good; they have liberal and democratic traditions of which any nation can be proud."

I couldn't help but think to myself that the very same things would hold true if one were to substitute 'Israel' for 'the US' in that sentence. 

Now, Israel certainly has its fair share of warts that deserve analysis and criticism (if not from without, then certainly from within), but Israeli society has freedoms and western traditions that can only be considered to be in the best 'liberal and democratic traditions'... not to mention 'a force for good' in the region and among the nations.

However that wasn't the part of Blair's speech that really made me sit up and take notice.  No, the real money line was:

"I sometimes think it is a good rule of thumb to ask of a country: are people trying to get into it or out of it? It's not a bad guide to what sort of country it is."

While I'm certainly no fan of the 'separation/security fence' that has been the focus of such external scorn and internal agitation, PM Blair's remarks made me think of Robert Frost's famous Poem 'Mending Walls' in which he wrote:

"Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out"

While the Israeli government likes to maintain the charade that it is indeed a 'separation' fence, intended to keep two populations from antagonizing one another, the obvious truth is that Israelis aren't struggling to get out and mingle with the Palestinians... the Palestinians are trying - for a wide range of benign and malignant reasons - to get in.

So I ask a simple question: If Israel is indeed the evil spawn of the 'great satan' and so unworthy of even the most basic recognition among the family of nations ... can someone please tell me why so many of our neighbors are quite literally dying to get in?

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Posted by David Bogner on January 11, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Silly Headline Day at JPost

Today seems to have been a landmark day for silly headlines over at the Jerusalem Post.  Take, for example, these gems:

"Mofaz: Lebanon war objectives were not achieved"

You don't say!  And to think, it took a former IDF Chief of staff / Defense Minister to provide this scoop!

"IDF official: 6 mos. after war, army more prepared"

No rush fellas... Hizballah was back up to full operational strength in only 3.  Nice work!

"Simhon: We cannot compensate Gush Katif farmers"

Oh well... it's not like you guys promised or anything!

"PRC operative: Shalit is in 'good health'"

Honest injun.  Scout's honor.  Pinky-swear, even! 

"New York says foul odor may be New Jersey's fault"

Stop the presses!

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Posted by David Bogner on January 9, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Quote of the day

OK, it was actually from a couple of days ago but whatever the day, Beth of Blue Star Chronicles sure has a way with words:

"Apparently, when Palestinians have no one else to not get along with, they don’t get along with themselves."

Ya think?!

For those who haven't been following the blow-by-blow in Gaza, Fatah and Hamas have been murdering and kidnapping each-other's terrorists security personnel for the past couple of weeks and have even been whacking one another's outspoken supporters when the mood strikes them.  Of course, in the process they have been violating every convention ever dreamed of by the civilized world (targeting civilians, blocking ambulances from reaching wounded, attacking people as they emerge from Mosques, etc.) but don't expect to see the useful idiots of the European left complaining any time soon about such niceties.  After all, so long as Jews aren't doing the killing it's nobody's business... go on home... show's over people... nothing to see here!

On the face of it I should probably be delighted about this latest revelation to the world of the Palestinian's inability to get along peaceably with anyone... even their own.  Besides, any bullet they fire at one of their own is a bullet that won't find an Israeli target.  However if we've learned nothing else from recent history it is that the leaders of the various Palestinian militias will eventually figure out that the only way for a faction to reassert its supremacy is to demonstrate its superior ability to bloody Israel's nose.

Well, so long as they are busy introducing each other to allah I should at least hope and pray that someone in the world is taking note of the slaughter. 

Speaking of the world paying attention to slaughter, another timely bit I picked up from Beth is the death toll from the recent 'Hajj' to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.  No, not the inevitable faithful who are trampled to death every year in the festivities but rather the animal sacrifices carried out as part of the annual rite.  Apparently the ritual sacrifice of animals this year topped 710,00 sheep, goats and camels!   

As Beth so aptly points out:

"Where is PETA when you need them? Oddly, they seem strangely quiet in the face of these sacrifices celebrating hajj.

Throwing paint on the fur coats of wealthy women in Manhattan is a little bit safer than protesting animal sacrifice in Saudi Arabia. I have to say, I’d have a lot more respect for PETA or other protesters if they’d take their protests somewhere besides the United States where there are no consequences for protesting and free speech."

Remember how PETA led the charge to ban Shechita (Kosher slaughter practices) in Europe and the US because it was cruel?  Remember how they wrote a letter to Yassar Arafat when the PLO strapped explosives to a donkey in an attempt to blow up Jews... not because they were worried about the Joos, but rather out of concern for the cruelty to the poor donkey

Double standard much?

But now when a bunch of Muslims from around the world whose only previous training as butchers is that they are, well, Muslims, hack away at three-quarters of a million terrified animals, PETA says... nothing.

I know I'll probably regret drawing a parallel between the two topics I've brought up today, but please consider the following:

When Muslims kill... whether it be other Muslims or animals... the world considers it an internal matter and barely differentiates between the severity of the two acts.  But when Jews kill Muslims or animals, both are held up as the savage acts of a cruel, depraved people.

IMHO, this is just another sure sign that we need to simply ignore what the world has to say about anything.  We have to kill to eat... and unfortunately (l'havdil) we sometimes have to kill to survive.  Both are our business and the rest of the world can just go eff themselves if they don't like it.

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Posted by David Bogner on January 7, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (26) | TrackBack

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The 'natives' are getting restless (again)

I'm always amused when pro-Pali (anti-Israel) blogs and news sources go to great lengths to assert that the Jewish residents of this region are all recent interlopers, while the 'native' Arab residents have long-standing, deep cultural and familial ties to the land.

For the record, I patently reject the Zionist myth of modern Jewish settlers miraculously finding 'a land without people for a people without a land'.  But 19th century Turkish/Ottoman-era maps, photographs and census documents provide incontrovertible proof that while both Jews and Arabs can claim a very modest presence in the land going back centuries... the overwhelming majority of current Jewish and Arab residents are descendants of parallel waves of immigration that occurred in modern times.

[Sheesh... if I had realized it would take two whole paragraphs to explain the 'scare quotes' in the title of this post, I would have picked another title!  :-)  ]

Clear so far?  Good... on to the rest of the post.

On December 25th our Prime Minister announced his decision (against the strong advice of senior IDF staff) to remove 27 roadblocks throughout Judea and Samaria as a 'gesture' to the Palestinian population in order to ease the plight of those who find it difficult to travel to work and to visit family. 

To place this decision in a different context which might be a bit more accessible to some of you... it would be roughly akin to President Bush ordering (against the strong advice of his Homeland Security Advisers) the removal of security screening facilities at a few dozen US airports as a gesture to the traveling public in order to ease the onerous burden of both business and recreational travelers.

To be even more base, it would be like a woman deciding to allow her boyfriend to go without 'protection' whenever they have sex on Tuesdays as a gesture of goodwill and so the experience will be more enjoyable for him... at least some of the time.

In short, while the sentiment behind Olmert's decision might be laudable, it is completely divorced from logic.  Either there is a compelling reason for the protection of security check-points or there isn't.  If not, then take them all down and open the roads.  But if you can't mount a reasonable argument for removing all the check points then you can't make a case for removing any of them.

I know... I know.  Some of you are already getting ready to explain to me that the checkpoints are 'only' in the west bank and not at the crossing into 'Israel proper'.  To you I would ask the following questions:

1.  Would it be OK for President Bush to only remove security checkpoints at small regional airports while leaving them in place at national and international 'Hubs'?

2.  Does the Government of Israeli have a lesser burden of responsibility to protect its citizens who are legally living in 'the territories' under it's direct control?

3.  Is there anything... anything at all... in the past performance of the Palestinians that would suggest that they will not immediately use this 'easing of restrictions' for cynical purposes that will ultimately cost Israeli lives - both inside and outside the green line?

To answer my last question (did you really think it was rhetorical?), we need look no further than the news* since the roadblocks began to be removed.  As if on cue there has been a huge increase in the number and severity of stonings and fire-bombings along the roads of Judea and Samaria. 

On the road I travel to and from work there have been nearly hourly reports of cars damaged by stones and Molotov cocktails since the restrictions began to be eased.

This defies logic!  One would think that increased violence would result form increased pressure/restrictions, right? 

But instead, each and every 'gesture' Israel has ever made towards easing the plight of the Palestinian population has resulted in increased attacks and violence.  Every attempt to make 'occupation' less onerous for the Arabs has been met with direct violence... and the one real test case for removing any semblance of 'occupation' (Gaza) has provided proof of the direst warnings that the response to autonomy would be increased attacks against Israel/Israelis.

I'm sure there are those of you who will 'pooh-pooh' and 'pshaw' the actual danger posed by stones and fire-bombs. Heck, many of us (especially those of us who don't live in Sderot) have already started mentally downplaying the danger of 'primitive' kassam rockets.   I would ask you to watch this short video before rushing to judgment about the danger posed by such improvised and home-made weapons.

To place these new developments on an even more personal level...while I have always taken the precaution of commuting to and from work with a loaded pistol tucked next to my driver's seat, I stopped wearing a bullet proof vest when the last Intifada seemed to have 'ended'. 

Now that the 'natives' are getting restless once again, I may have to seriously rethink that decision.

* Recent reports of attacks: here, here, here, and here. I looked for reports in Haaretz but apparently they are not aware of any attacks against Israeli citizens worthy of mention.

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Posted by David Bogner on January 4, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A measured response...

... to yesterday's commenters, not to the Palestinians (just so we're clear).

I would love to be able to tell you that yesterday's post was a calculated provocation on my part in order to get people riled up enough to provide their honest opinions on what Israel should and should not do in the face of the ongoing rocket and terror attacks. 

Unfortunately, I'm just not that good.  It was a rant, plain and simple.

What you read here yesterday was yet another emotional outburst from your host... and the only saving grace was that many commenters stepped up and provided some very interesting insights far beyond the scope of my tirade.  So, having read your comments I decided they deserved a more detailed response than a line or two in the thread. 

Here we go:

To those of you who were outraged by my 'immoral' suggestion that Israel begin targeting entire communities in Gaza for destruction, let me ask you the following questions:

1.  Is Israel at war (meaning are we under direct military attack)?

2.  Has the enemy declared Israeli civilian communities to be legitimate targets... and have they made good on that threat?

3.  Has there ever been a war in the history of the world where only uniformed, insignia-wearing combatants were involved in hostilities?  If not, why should Israel be asked to create such a ground-breaking precedent?

4.  Should the civilian population on one side of a conflict continue to be declared inviolate and off-limits to deliberate and concentrated attack when they:

  • declare overwhelming majority support for deliberate and concentrated attacks against their enemy's civilian communities?
  • give aid and shelter to combatants who carry out such attacks against civilian targets?
  • allow military workshops (bomb/rocket-making factories) within their urban population centers?
  • enable attacks against civilian population centers to be carried out from within their midst (essentially using themselves as human shields for the combatants)?
  • elect and support a government with a declared policy of targeting civilian population centers, not as a means to force their enemy to surrender, but rather to completely eradicate the sovereign state with whom they are at war?

5.  Has there ever been a war - just, or otherwise - in which the resolve of each side's citizens was demonstrated by their willingness to personally take the life of one of the enemy's citizens?  I know my grandmother was 100% in favor of the allied bombing of German cities in WWII, but I doubt whe would have had the stomach to point a gun at a citizen of Berlin and pull the trigger.  Does this indicate that our attacks on German cities were immoral?

Just as a side-issue:  The historical validity/relevance of my reference to Dresden has been called into question by one or two readers who have asserted that that city was in fact a strategic military target because of its location along the rail route of the advancing Soviet troops.  To these commenters I would suggest a look at a period map.  Please note that the rail route was on the outskirts of the city and almost all of the bombing was deliberately concentrated in the city's civilian center.

Now, on to the other side of the discussion:

To those who agreed with me and even took my rant to what you believed was the next logical level, let me ask you the following:

1.  Would your suggestions remain valid/ethical if you were to remove the subjective value judgments you have made about Palestinian society and/or religious beliefs?

2.  How much do you think your feelings about Islam/Muslims in general colored your statements about the justness of attacking Palestinian civilians?  Would you still maintain your support for my 'Dresden option' if the terror and rocket attacks were coming from a Buddhist or Shinto entity?  What about if they were Christians?

3.  Does a civilian population become undeserving of protection from attack during war simply because they:

  • place a different value on human life than their enemy?
  • are not empowered by their society to participate in demonstrations against decisions made by their political leaders and militias without fear of reprisals?
  • do not have a culture of social activism that would make protest appear to be a viable option?
  • would welcome such an attack as it would make them religious and political martyrs to their cause?

4.  If your support for collective punishment (i.e. viewing all citizens as part of the enemy war machine), can you honestly say that the civilian population has the ability to influence their leader's policy once they realize they will be targeted?

What say you all?

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Posted by David Bogner on December 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (30) | TrackBack

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Dresden Option

There sometimes comes a time in a war where one or both sides realize that there is no chance of the enemy leadership surrendering based solely on what is transpiring on the battlefield.  When that happens the next logical move is to begin targeting civilian population centers... essentially declaring the entire enemy territory a battlefield.

The Palestinians took this extreme step almost from the inception of their declared war against the 'Zionist Entity'.  For more than 35 years they have used booby-trapped items of every description to terrorize, maim and kill us.  They have used kidnapping.  They have used stones and bullets and Molotov cocktails.   They have used suicide bombers.  And they now use rockets

All of these tactics... legitimate or not... have been used almost exclusively to target Israel's civilian population... and the world has been pretty much OK with this. 

To a certain extent Israel has also targeted Palestinian civilians... but in a much less direct/deliberate way.  We have put up roadblocks and have limited Palestinian freedom of movement.  We have made frequent (almost daily) military incursions into Palestinian towns and cities when intelligence sources have tipped off the location of a fugitives or a high probability of an imminent attack.   But by any objective measure of brutality, the IDF has taken super-human pains... often at the risk of IDF lives... to limit Palestinian civilian casualties during these actions.

I make this distinction because one can't reasonably suggest that the suffering of the Palestinian population under Israeli rule has been our primary objective.  Rather, it has been a byproduct of our blundering attempts to simply protect ourselves. 

I have to believe that even the most strident Tel Aviv leftist who spends his/her free time protesting IDF raids and roadblocks sleeps a little better knowing that the local mall and cafe are less likely to be blown up as a result of this Israeli brutality.

Our actions stand in stark comparison to the Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians and population centers which are openly intended to cause maximum physical and emotional injury.

Even when Israel agrees to a cease-fire, rockets and mortars continue to fall on our cities and daily attempts to smuggle suicide belts and bombs into Israel continue unabated.   

Therefore, I can't understand why we don't simply abandon this blundering and adopt the Dresden option for stopping the carnage.   

In the later years of WWII, the Allies and Germany had set about systematically attacking each other's cities in attempt to bring about a surrender that wasn't forth-coming on the battlefield.  In many cases there were legitimate military/strategic targets in amongst the civilians who where being incinerated.  But Dresden... with its relative paucity of strategic targets... represented the antithesis of the industrial German war machine.   It was what modern military planners would call a 'soft target'.

Several of Japan's 'soft targets' were also burned to the ground.  Forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the moment... as the deliberate firebombing of Tokyo was equally gruesome, albeit not quite so technologically sophisticated to carry out.

The results of these attacks against civilian population centers is indisputable.  Even if one wanted to argue that the leaders were fanatical enough to fight to the last civilian standing... the home-front support for the war literally evaporated in the face of such devastation. The London blitz severely damaged some of that city's infrastructure.  The bombing of Dresden erased that beautiful city from the map.  Guess who surrendered?

Look at the way Israel's resolve has weakened in the face of much less concentrated attacks against its civilians!   At any given point easily half of the Israeli population is ready to throw up its collective hands and say "enough...  give them whatever they ask for... just make the bombs and rockets stop!"  So please don't try to tell me that attacking civilians doesn't work.

So... if we can agree that this is a declared war...

If we can agree that showing restraint will not stop the attacks against our civilians...

If we can agree that support for continued armed struggle against Israel will continue to be strong amongst the Palestinian population so long as there are relatively few consequences...

... then the only answer is to create consequences.  Massive consequences.

In the past I have suggested that for each rocket that falls inside Israel a member of the Palestinian legislature be killed.  I'm still in favor of that policy, but I am also now strongly in favor of exercising the Dresden option in order to end, once and for all, the relentless attacks against our civilians.

Starting today.  Right this very minute... for every rocket that falls, a Palestinian city in Gaza should be firebombed.  Burned to the ground.  No warning... no mercy.

I know... I know.  I can hear you out there saying that it isn't fair... the Kassams are a primitive, home-made rocket and the IDF has sophisticated smart bombs and missiles with pinpoint accuracy in its arsenal. 

To this I say tough sh*t.  Tell that to the parents of the two boys who were wounded in the most recent kassam attack.    Tell it to the large families where parents have to make the unthinkable nightly choice of which children to put to bed in the family's small reinforced rocket-proof room.

Better yet, don't tell anyone anything.  Get up from your latte in Ramat Gan and go live for a few weeks in Sderot.  Not willing to risk it?  Then shut your mouth and shut your windows... because the smell of burning flesh may carry quite a ways if the wind turns northerly. 

When rockets were falling on cosmopolitan Haifa you guys were all for the the war effort.  But when a development town like Sderot comes under daily attack all you can suggest is 'restraint'?  Puleeze!  Maybe Sderot needs a few more art galleries and sidewalk bistros before it will qualify for your outrage.

As always, I am open to anyone's suggestions... but please don't tell me that doing nothing is still a viable option.  As foreign policy, 'restraint' only works when both sides in a conflict are willing to practice it.

Many of you pooh-poohed warnings that giving Gaza over to Palestinian autonomy (and yes, even Abbas admits that Gaza is now fully autonomous, unoccupied territory) would allow them to use it as a launching pad for rockets and terror into Israel. 

So now what? 

Don't like my suggestion?  Let's hear one or two of your own!

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Posted by David Bogner on December 27, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (41) | TrackBack

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Details, details...

Look at me... two posts in one day! 

Amir Peretz proved today that overseeing the military and security concerns of our country is not the only things for which he is ill -prepared.  It seems that logic (or reality, for that matter) is also not his strong suit.

At a Hanukkah party at the Labor party headquarters in Tell Aviv (where he was desperately trolling for votes in order to retain leadership of the party) he told his fellow Laborites that were it not for the war in Lebanon, Labor under his leadership "would have changed the face of Israel in every aspect."

Uh-huh.  And were it not for the lack of [email protected], my auntie would be my uncle. 

Seriously... just exactly what does it take for an Israeli politician to actually admit making a complete hash of the job he/she was given, and step down with some semblance of grace and dignity?! 

For the answer to this question all you have to do is look at who is waiting in the wings to try to take back the party leadership; Ehud Barak... one of the most ineffectual Prime Ministers in Israel's history and architect of the ill-advised unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon whose direct result was last summer's war!

[bangs head against wall to keep from thinking any more about these morons]

Note: Sorry, I really meant to lay off politics for a while but I just couldn't leave this one alone.

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Posted by David Bogner on December 21, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Inevitable Concession Post

Well, we all knew this post was coming.  :-)

On Friday evening the polls closed on the final round of voting for the Weblog Awards... and not surprisingly, the best man won. 

Since 'discovering' him back in July during the Lebanon war, I have been an avid reader of the Sandmonkey's blog.  It is, admittedly, a bit humbling to see someone from outside the country routinely demonstrate a better grasp of local events than we Israelis... but that is exactly what I said was happening back then... and continue to say today.

Does this mean I always agree with the Sandmonkey?  Of course not!

But there is something refreshing about reading someone who isn't personally invested in either the Palestinian or Israeli myths/legends that always seem to crop up whenever the ongoing conflict is discussed.  It is also instructive to have an Arab writer (albeit one who was educated in the west) taking Israeli and Palestinian extremist to task with equal fervor... and humor.

No, this is one race in which I was delighted to have been the runner-up.  We Israeli bloggers can certainly learn a lot from Mr. Sandmonkey... and I, for one, intend to study the lessons well.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the 2006 Weblog Awards: The bloggers who wrote (and continue to write)... the voters who voted... and of course, the loyal readers who continue to show up every day to make sure we navel-gazers don't end up sounding like a bunch of lunatics talking to ourselves.

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Posted by David Bogner on December 17, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Threats, real and imagined

One of the things that makes childhood such an exciting time of life is that the Big People - adults - wield real physical power over us.

When you’re a kid, you take that kind of thing seriously.

In our house, nothing brought about Instant Obedience quite as effectively as the classic Daddy Threat: “I’m gonna get out the belt!” Never mind that, in all the years I lived under the same roof with my father, not once did he ever actually get out the belt. It was the mere suggestion that such a powerful piece of weaponry would - could - be brought into play. My brother - the other Elisson - and I would not have snapped to attention any faster had Dad threatened to get out his .44 Magnum. (Which would have been a neat trick, since he has never owned a gun in his life.)

When a less serious threat was called for, other weapons - more versatile weapons - in the Parental Arsenal would be trotted out.

“Keep it up, and I’m gonna give you a frask im pisk!

Ah, the old Frask im Pisk. That’s a smack in the mouth, for the 0.0002% of y’all that may be Yiddish-impaired: a serious sanction reserved only for the most egregious infractions. Fortunately for me and my brother, our folks were not big users of the frask im pisk. Strong medicine, that.

“I’m gonna give you a potch in tuches!

That’s a smack on the ass - a very versatile threat, for it could be issued in perfect seriousness...or it could be meant completely in jest. Compare and contrast the potch in tuches with “I’m gonna kick yer ass!” The former is almost deceptively playful, while the latter is an unalloyed warning. When we were threatened with a potch in tuches, we could never really be sure whether it was a real threat, a threat made in jest, or mere posturing. One thing’s for sure: nobody was in a hurry to find out.

The best threat, though, came from my Uncle Gerry, of blessed memory.

Back on our Snot-Nose Days, when we would horse around to the point of becoming annoying, Uncle Gerry would warn us: “I’m gonna give you a funge in the knibber!

To this day, nobody has ever, to my knowledge, figured out what a funge was, nor what part of the anatomy the knibber represented. But when we were little, nobody wanted to find out, all too late, that a funge was “an ashcan-sized exit wound, similar to that left by a hollow-point projectile,” and that the knibber was another word for “skull.”

We all have Parental Threats that we remember fondly...or maybe not so fondly. But Parental Threats are threats whose overarching purpose is to enforce discipline, a necessary component of growing up to be a civilized human being. Parents who avoid disciplining their children end up with children who behave as though they were raised by wolves…and so a Parental Threat is, in its own way, an expression of love.

There’s a big difference between a Parental Threat and a Real-Life Threat, as anyone living in Israel is well aware. Those Real-Life Threats are not intended to make us better human beings. They are intended to make us dead human beings.

Real-Life Threats, like Parental Threats, are issued with varying levels of seriousness of both intent and risk of harm. They might range from “I’m gonna punch you inna nose” (the Schoolyard Bully) or “We’re gonna wipe you off the map” (Mahmoud Ahminadinnerjacket). But in the case of a Parental Threat, failure to carry out the threat is not necessarily a sign of ill-resolve or of weakness. The parent is always physically capable of harming the child, even if he or she would never think to do so.

Real-Life Threats are different. If a threat is not outright bluster - which in many cases it is - a Real-Life Threat is a true threat, either to life, liberty, or economic well-being. Real-Life Threats cannot be ignored.

What can you do about Real-Life Threats?

You can ignore them, and hope the threatener goes away. This works only if the threat is empty bluster, with nothing to back it up.  But if they’re threats made with serious intent, you ignore them only at grave risk.

You can wait until the threatener makes good on his promise. By then, it is generally too late to avoid some damage or (G-d forbid) loss of life.  But once the provocative gauntlet has been tossed, immediate, forceful action is called for.  Anything less, and more threats will follow.  It’s one of the things they teach you in Negotiating 101.

You can act preemptively against a credible threat of serious harm. This approach has its risks, however, and leaves the threatener the option of crying, “I was only kidding!”  The whole issue of whether preemptive action is ever justified is its own tightly packed can of worms, however, and it is best opened in a different post.

But regardless, the one thing that will remove a threat - once action is decided upon - is to remove the threatener, or pound him into submission such that no new threat can even be contemplated.  Sadly, this is what Olmert’s foray into Lebanon failed to achieve...and why, despite my best hopes, our people’s resolve is likely to be tested again by those enemies who pose a Real-Life Threat.

Posted by Elisson on August 22, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sus scrofa airbornicus

Let's see... What to write. What to write. I'm well out of the habit of blogging, you know. Politics is out. The Israeli situation has been done far better than I could do it, and no one cares what's happening in the US. (But feel free to expound on what you'd like to do to pedophile schoolteachers, if the urge strikes you.) Religion? No. My beliefs would confuse you even more than they confuse me, which is a lot. That leaves us with... Snakes on a Plane!! Er. No.

I can't write tearjerkers like David (but now I can surreptitiously add the kleenex alert logo to his entries! Kidding, kidding.) So what's made me smile this week? I saw a real, honest-to-goodness Citroen 2CV, with the sardine can top open, on the way to work one day. Nearly the last really unique old foreign car that Detroit hasn't tried to foolishly modernize. The grocery store finally started carrying Ben and Jerry's Vermonty Python ice cream. That cute cashier was totally flirting with me. The funky growth on my dog's elbow turned out to be a fibroid adenoma, which is benign, my new favorite word.

Oh, right. And this.

One tiny and rare counterpoint to David's last Photo Friday - the many people in San Francisco and DC, and elsewhere around the world, who think the poor widdle terrorists got a bad deal, when they finally got smacked back, after years of provocation. In the cesspool of appeasement that is Hollywood, these few dozen brave people stood up for Israel. (And I highly doubt that anyone would be silly enough to tell Nicole Kidman that she'll never work in that town again.) Let's read that again, shall we? "...terrorist actions initiated by terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas."

That makes me happy. Now get out your umbrellas. I believe we have pigs on the wing.

Posted by Tanya on August 20, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack