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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.


Posted by David Bogner on July 18, 2006 | Permalink


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Posted by: jennifer | Jul 18, 2006 12:03:28 PM

I too felt some disquiet when I heard these comments. Now I'm certainly no expert but I would hope that they are engaging in mind games to disorient our enemies rather than seek to build their public profiles or "think out loud". Here's hoping...

Posted by: Eli | Jul 18, 2006 12:09:50 PM

Also, in my not-so-humble opinion private citizens posting their 2 cents on their blogs should also rethink posting what could be potentially sensitive information.

That's my 2 cents worth. (And I'm *not* going to use that wwii ship-referenced adage! Tfu! Tfu! Tfu!)

Posted by: jennifer | Jul 18, 2006 12:10:20 PM

i think it's time to dust off those old 1940's posters: "loose lips sink ships."

Posted by: nikki | Jul 18, 2006 12:15:59 PM

just saw jennifer's comment -- sometimes my fingers work faster than the brain...

Posted by: nikki | Jul 18, 2006 12:18:44 PM

Jennifer... I agree that in an attempt to be the go-to guy for live-blogging the war have been imprudent about reporting location of missile strikes and such. But most of them seem to have backed off from that dangerous practice. If you see anyone doing it you should do as I do and send them a private email telling them that they are essentially providing range and azimuth info the enemy. DO they want that on their consciences? Is blog traffic worth the life of your fellow countrymen/women? Guilt is a powerful force in the private sector... but the public officials seem immune.

Eli... I'm no expert, but this doesn't smell like deliberate misinformation. This sounds suspiciously like campaigning.

Nikki... Uh, I think we were kind trying to avoid that particular nostalgic statement. Some of us (no names) have sons out on those ships right now. Thanks for understanding

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jul 18, 2006 12:23:40 PM

yeah... i know. i retracted.

Posted by: nikki | Jul 18, 2006 12:49:48 PM

I inderstand your disgust with the politicians. Some of ours in America are the same way.

Of course we have major newspapers that leak intelligence programs.

So far, haven't seen anything like that in Israel. Be thankful for huge favors.

Stay safe.

Posted by: seawitch | Jul 18, 2006 12:55:05 PM

Pssst. The enemy doesn't really care right now what is being said... all the disseminating ‘energy’ is directed to re-arming, the world of course, would be a better place without politicians.

Posted by: pk | Jul 18, 2006 1:02:55 PM

Well, David, it is Israel, after all, and two Jews, three opinions. It's never ceased to strike me how ready Israeli ministers and generals are at all times to issue statements that directly contradict national policy. But of course, that would never happen in Syria, except as part of a plan of disinformation.

My other thought is this is the inevitable "S" factor that comes in when all levels of Jewish organization are in the frame. That's S for Shlemiehl... And people don't suddenly stop being shlemiehls just because there's a war on.
Stay safe, and be well.

Posted by: Judy | Jul 18, 2006 1:42:13 PM

Not with you on this one, David. Can you be disgusted with politicking in a time of war? Sure. Is it morally distasteful, even reprehensible? Perhaps. But as long as nobody's revealing classified information, it's not illegal, nor should it be. Whatever your feelings about the current war, I would have hoped that you'd have more respect for the principle of government transparency and the right of those in government to speak out against current policy. Private citizens can do what they want, but it won't make one whit of difference unless members of the government are free to act with them. In this case you're not with those private citizens or the politicians who have joined them, but what about when you are? Should it be illegal for government officials to speak out against withdrawal from the west bank, since it "encourages the settlers" - perhaps to resist violently, since they know they have sympathy from some in the government? (Obviously settlers are not enemies of the state, but the possibility of violence is there, and it seems to me what has you so mad right now is the violent repurcussions of encouraging Hezbollah.) Encouraging the enemy may be a poor strategy during a time of war, but it's not an act of treason.

Posted by: Delurked | Jul 18, 2006 4:22:57 PM

I agree with you David - but some blame has to be put on the media also. They constantly ask questions about how long this will take - the army spokesmen give the correct answer - we don't know/when the job is done, etc., but the media actively seeks out the politicians to interview and bombard them.

Posted by: westbankmama | Jul 18, 2006 4:52:01 PM

Dichter has been flip-flopping over the idea of a potential prisoner swap, something Olmert should immediately abandon. To entertain the possibility of negotiations would allow Hizbollah, Syria and Iran to call for temporary ceasefires that eventually will weather Israel and the IDF down (through rearmament and recovery).

What exactly is Dichter thinking? Such a defeatist attitude being showcased would demoralise and distract the brave soldiers of the IDF, leaving them wondering what their purpose of invading Lebanon is; it would obviously strengthen our enemies since weakness to them is open to exploitation.

However, I'm secretly impressed that at least there is some sense of debate over this issue, and that freedom of speech is being protected. State- and self-censorship would be detrimental to the open discussion of Israeli interests in the long run.

Posted by: Harrison | Jul 18, 2006 5:52:20 PM

Yeah, it's pretty clear those guys aren't really thinking about the consequences of their statements. Freedom of speech should be protected - but during a war (and this, no question, is a war), security of the citizens takes precedence. I'm surprised no one has clued these individuals in on the potential effect of their words.

Posted by: Irina | Jul 18, 2006 7:09:47 PM

You're being infected by American politics.

Posted by: psychotoddler | Jul 18, 2006 8:17:15 PM

Treason is not just a slur one levels at one's political opponents; the word actually has a meaning. If you give aid and comfort to the enemy during a time of war, you are committing treason.

Cloaking one's treason under the mantle of "free speech" is not all that different than hiding one's suicide vest under a jacket. No, we aren't going to strip search everyone who wears a jacket, but do understand that no one is denying you the right to wear a jacket by pointing at you and saying, "Stay away from that man."

Posted by: Bob | Jul 18, 2006 9:11:12 PM

Perhaps treason has no meaning in the world today. What a strange concept that people have no clue what "winning" is any longer, especially in light of the severe repercussions of losing as well as the societal trends, at least in Western societies, to be so attached to external groups and/or clubs.

Take the American male's infatuation with sports. Wouldn't one think that such a close affiliation to a University or professional organization translate at least nominally into an appreciation and even outright acceptance of winning against mortal enemies?

Then again, the average male in America acts more like a woman anyway, what with men caring more about designer jeans, makeup (sick!), colognes and hair gels and the increasingly ubiquitous trend of plastic surgery.

Basically what it comes down to is that in the modern world your fellow citizens are not your neighbors any more than your enemy is. Get used to it people....the islamo-fascists already know it.

Posted by: Pedrito | Jul 18, 2006 11:18:30 PM

A democracy lives by free speech. It may be stupid for israeli politicians to make statements regarding the war, but I do not think it rises to the level of treason, and I think it is rash of you to say it does.
I also think it is possible that you are bringing an american political sensibility to the discussion, where the government is one thing made up of individuals from different political backgrounds, whereas the politcal culture in israel or other countries governed by a parliamentary system makes for a much less monolithic form of political communication.
I also note with interest your skimming over the more bellicose statements of men like Effi Eitam regarding the Lebanon campaign, or is it always ok to lean to the right when talking out of school?
In addition, excepting Sneh's statement, (which I do agree is stupid), is it possible that the others are offering not so much misinformation as trial balloons, to see at what point Israel can get the deal it wants and at the same time do it in a way that allows some face saving by Hezbollah, I mean Syria and Iran?

Posted by: Jordan Hirsch | Jul 19, 2006 12:54:33 AM

boker tov david...your blog 'a difficult lesson' has gone around the world...after receiving it three times, i decided to look you up...bravo!!! pls keep writing and getting the word out...i am happy to have discovered your blog and will come in and read if often...stay safe...marallyn

Posted by: marallyn | Jul 19, 2006 7:23:55 AM

I love Israel. But so many of her politicians are just extortionists.

And, Olmert went from being a man who got to be Prime Minister through an unfortunate stroke.

And, ya know what? I didn't think he'd last 6 months, after I saw him put Amir Peretz in the Defense Minister's chair.

Now I see Olmert as a genius. I understand WHY Arik Sharon put him in "Chair #2" ... to stop Shimon Peres from grabbing it.

And, given how Israeli politicians are in "business for themselves," I couldn't imagine why Olmert would pick such a weak hand.

Now? HE'S BRILLIANT! Almost any other politician, other than Amir Peretz, from the Defense Ministry would be looking to make Olmert look like a piker in the limelight. Peretz doesn't cause this problem. And, a lot of ther politicians (full of themselves), are now going to have to take a back seat.

Arik Sharon was so angry at Likud members who were trying to turn him into a sock puppet.


I thought Kadima would be a flash in the pan.

While Peretz has figured out how NOT to put his foot in his mouth. (Though Sneh has suggested that he's using Peretz as his own sock puppet), I think Peretz can deal with this.

And, he's the only man that has to.

Olmert's home free.

Bibi might as well kiss any chances of "being in government" good bye. And, double ditto to Silvan Shalom. Hopeless cases.

And, ya know what? Envy will only make it worse.

Israel couldn't ask for a better leader than Olmert. Or better cooperation from President George W. Bush. (Just like Americans, Israel lucked out. Even though if you go back to 2000 ... it didn't look like Bush got "chosen") By the time re-election rolled around he had made it.

Do the democrats have a chance? Up there with Bibi's chances. While the news, now, looks so good!

Will Iraq look better, ahead? Sure. Iran's got the "rattle me timbers" routine; but the world's not buying pirates right now.

And, Assad? Ah. Ya got me. I thought he'd be okay. But today Bush said that Assad better not have plans to stick himself back into Lebanon. So there ya go? Is there now a target around the eye-doctor's face? Is he up on a Wanted Poster? Give this a few weeks more; and we will see. I wouldn't want to be the person who has to wash his underwear! He's got the ba'kakta valley running loose in his drawers.

Posted by: Carol_Herman | Jul 19, 2006 10:10:47 AM

David - I largely agree, but some of it - like the whole pantomimed charade of cease-fire negotiations now going on - seems designed to keep the wolves of European and media opinion at bay for just a few more crucial weeks.

Olmert is speaking forcefully, and we have gotten the point across that we were attacked for no reason - not even the "occupation" trope has managed to gain traction.

I think going through the motions of negotiation is a great feint that keeps the knee-jerk condemners of Israel off base for a while.

Posted by: Ben-David | Jul 19, 2006 5:17:14 PM


Absolutely ingenious. Israel should do this more often.

Posted by: Harrison | Jul 19, 2006 5:21:10 PM

Nikki... Thanks, and sorry I didn't see that. We must have cross-posted.

Seawitch... They do that here too... unfortunately.

PK... Amen to your last statement.

Judy... You know better than I that the parliamentary system seems to encourage more than the average number of schlemiels to enter politics.

Delurked... In time of war there is no requirement for absolute transparency in government. In fact I WANT them to keep their cards close to their vests. This is blatant politicking.

Westbankmama... I don't blame the media. Their job is to ask the questions and dig for a story. Nobody put a gun to anyone's head and forced them to say these things.

Harrison... I'm all for free speech, but as I said earlier... in time of war the top people need to just shut up and wage the war.

Irina... Believe me, they knew exactly what they were doing.

Psychotoddler... One of the downfalls of being an immigrant.

Bob... Which is exactly what I've done. Come election day I intend to point at a lot of these clowns and remind people what they said and did when their country was at war.

Pedrito... You lost me with the slur at the end. You make some excellent points but I have to ask that you choose your words more carefully. Thanks.

Jordan... I can't help but bring my ethics - American or otherwise - into my discussions. As to the use of the word treason. If you were one of the parents burying a child this evening (as several families are) I think you would see the statements I quoted in an entirely different light. As to glossing over other equally reprehensible statements... I honestly didn't see them at 5:15AM when I wrote this post.

Marallyn... Thank you! I am shocked at how much mileage that post got and have even had people unwittingly forward it to me. :-) I hope you'll drop by from time to time.

Carol Herman... I hope you'll comment more often. I hadn't considered any of your points before but most of them make perfect sense. Ever consider a career as a pundit? :-) Thanks again for sharing the insights.

Ben-David... I hope you're right, but I still doubt it.

Harisson... I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jul 19, 2006 9:49:52 PM

Do you think you would be where you are at all without the effort of men like the three you just called traitors?

They all contributed to Israel's security at times when you didn't even live in Israel.

And how, exactly, is any of their information substantially helping the enemy? First of all, the enemy doesn't know wether they're honest, or trying to trick him (and neither do we, by the way). Second, even if they are honest, Israel can perfectly well do the exact opposite of what they suggest. And third, least I forget it, the enemy is being turned to rubble right now, and there's basically nothing he can do about it. Hearing some speculations from Israeli politicians and generals won't change that.

And do you think that it will *de*moralize IDF soldiers to hear that they'll probably be at home again in three weeks? IMO, Kaplinski is simply stating the obvious.

Posted by: Raphael | Jul 20, 2006 12:16:37 AM

Wasn't that statement dripping with sarcasm?

Israel plays it smart by playing the rhetoric game.

Posted by: Harrison | Jul 20, 2006 2:46:53 AM

"In time of war there is no requirement for absolute transparency in government."

That's why we have classified information - to balance the sometimes opposing values of government transparency and free speech on the one hand, and national security on the other. Nobody is calling for complete transparency (sensitive information is classified, and it's illegal to reveal it), but neither should we be calling for complete disregard of free speech and the possibility of change through debate. And yes, that applies to the "top people" too, or rather, applies to them first and foremost, because they're davka the ones who have the most power to effect change. Note also, that somebody who knows a lot more than you do about the war strategy determined that statements such as the ones you quoted above do not constitute a great security risk (perhaps for the reasons Harrison stated above) - or they would have classified the information contained in them.

"I'm all for free speech, but as I said earlier... in time of war the top people need to just shut up and wage the war."

What if you were convinced a war was being waged for corrupt reasons? Or for good reasons, but in an immoral manner? Would you want it to be illegal for moral politicians to speak out against it? Even when necessary, war is a Bad Thing. Are you really advocating that as soon as any war is reality, everyone simply accept it as a given and fight until enough people have been killed that one side gives up? That those in government who may have a way to end it earlier are forbidden from speaking up, because it's the status quo? Yes, I know the statements in question don't provide an alternative solution to the current war. But by saying "in time of war the top people need to just shut up and wage the war" you're precluding any dissent.

"As to the use of the word treason. If you were one of the parents burying a child this evening (as several families are) I think you would see the statements I quoted in an entirely different light."

That was a cheap shot, David. You were the one who posted only a few days ago that the parents of Gilad Shalit should not be the ones to judge strategy because as parents, they can only support whatever measures it takes to bring their son home. The point is, parents cannot be objective, and since their first concern will always be their children, we don't turn to them to determine what's good or bad for the general population. Still disagree in this case? Then let's use your tactic of looking to parents to determine the definition of treason, but use different parents. Let's look at those parents not who have already lost children, but those whose children are in the reserves and are at risk for getting called up any day. I bet some of those parents would support statements that go against government policy and push for a quick resolution to the war and might consider it treason to do anything to escalate the war or rule out possibilities for a more peaceful resolution (such as a prisoner exchange).

I actually agree with you that this war must be fought, and that Israel cannot just give in. But I have to allow other people to disagree with me. Because if you don't protect the free speech of those you disagree with (even when they're in the government), you don't protect free speech at all.

Posted by: Delurked | Jul 20, 2006 4:38:14 PM

Responding to Raphael's comment re the honorable track record of Sneh, Kaplinski & Dichter:
Benedict Arnold fought well & bravely for the American army - until he didn't.
Vidkun Quisling was an honorable Norwegian patriot - until he wasn't.
Jefferson Davis fought bravely for the U.S. in the Mexican War. It didn't make his subsequent position as President of the Confederacy any less treasonous.
What I'm trying to say: Previous honorable service to the State of Israel doesn't, in & of itself, proscribe less than honorable intentions in the future. Unfortunately, Israeli history is littered with brave young soldiers who grew into corrupt old politicians, and worse. There may be other reasons not to consider Sneh's statements (and Dichter's & Kaplinsky's) treasonous - unfortunately, their track record isn't one of them.

Posted by: Psachya | Jul 21, 2006 12:38:58 AM

I don't think I would have said anything if David had only mentioned Dichter and Sneh, but the comments about Kaplinski made me a bit angry.

What I'm seeing there is a general giving a routine estimate of a military situation, and then a lot of people instantly calling him a traitor for it, and instantly assuming the worst about his motives. In the article David linked to, he seems to have said that the things Israel plans to do will probably get done in a matter of weeks, not that Israel plans to stop doing things in a few weeks. It's like the difference between saying "I'm driving home now. I think I'll be there in about two hours (allthough it could take longer)" and saying "I'm driving now. If I'm not home in two hours, I'll simply stop and leave my car". I think Kaplinski was saying the former, not the latter.

It bugs me a bit that David apparently never thought that there might be another reason for this statement than "he wants to prepare his political carreer"- like for instance, "he was making a routine statement about the situation"- and that almost everyone else instantly joined in with calling him a traitor for that.

Posted by: Raphael | Jul 21, 2006 6:56:53 PM

Fair enough. The comments by Kaplinski certainly are open to a more positive interpretation than those of the other two.

Posted by: Psachya | Jul 22, 2006 1:22:41 AM

One of the more interesting tatics at time of war is the rope-a-dope. Keeps the enemy off balance and unaware of your true intentions.

Most armies are quite aware of the media and how to use them to their advantage. Generals know not to give politicians their real plans :-)

Posted by: bill | Jul 22, 2006 3:09:21 PM

Your children are beautiful.

Posted by: Simone | Jul 23, 2006 2:40:56 AM

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