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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


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If you haven't read Treppenwitz's Hitting Close to Home; you must. Life in Israel has similar thoughts with a context. If you haven't read New line of export old line of import at SimplyJews; you must. Half funny. Half unfortunately not. If you haven't... [Read More]

Tracked on Feb 27, 2007 1:48:39 PM


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"Change his religion to Christian....and the UN would already be convening the Human Rights Commission and Security Council to protest such an unprovoked atrocity."

Not really. Darfur is a Christian area. And the UN couldn't care less about the persecution of Christians in China. Meanwhile, we pump tax money into the UN so a pack of hyenas from Third-world dictatorships can occupy prime Manhattan real estate and shake us down for even more money.

What I want to know is how the Israeli government tolerates continuous rocket attacks on the Defense Minister's home town. If Ben-Gurion were still in charge, Gaza would be a smoking hole.

Posted by: K Newman | Feb 26, 2007 3:56:04 PM

(...) the world will never hear about him (...)

Well, at least the German news-watching and news-reading population will know about him, because our media did mention the incident.

Posted by: Account Deleted | Feb 26, 2007 4:02:18 PM

that is only because Israel takes prisoners.

Posted by: dave | Feb 26, 2007 5:14:04 PM

K Newman... That statement assumes that the location of the attack remained the same but only the religion changed. Sorry if I wasn't clear (it was early when I wrote this).

a. ... Very nice to hear. I'd be curious to know if it lasts more than one or two news cycles, though.

Dave... Doing time in Israeli prisons has become a matriculation experience for a generation of Palestinians. I would almost say it wasn't worth the time and expense of incarcerating them except for the fact that while they are enjoying 3 hots and a cot, they aren't blowing up cafes.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Feb 26, 2007 5:39:03 PM

People have gotten too comfortable. As you said as long as it happens over there it is easy to pretend that you are not at risk for similar attacks.

Posted by: Jack | Feb 26, 2007 5:39:41 PM

Just driving home now I was surprised that it was the 5th item on the news, and thought about how used to such tragedy we have gotten...

Posted by: PP | Feb 26, 2007 6:35:47 PM

Sad, but true. It still hit me hard, but I don't live here yet...

Posted by: tnspr569 | Feb 26, 2007 6:56:36 PM

David --

This may not be the place, but I don't know where else to go for help.

I am searching for information on and witnesses of the Holocaust in Latvia.

The Nazis raised two divisions in Latvia, the 15th and 19th Divisionen der Waffen SS. Both Great Britain and the United States have officially stated that there is no evidence that these units ever committed any atrocities. These units were raised in 1943 and 1944 -- after the Nazis had applied the 'Final Solution' in Latvia -- so it is extremely doubtful that these units participated in the round-up and extermination of Latvian Jews (70 000 total -- 1/3 of all Latvian casualties of the war).

However, the Nazis earlier raised several SD police battalions from among the Latvians. When the Oberkommando Wehrmacht under the press of the Red Army threw these battalions into combat, they failed badly. This precipitated the formation of the two Waffen SS divisions.

What I seek to find out is:
1. Does anyone know of any documents on the Holocaust in Latvia? Where can I find them?
2. Does anyone know any survivor of the Holocaust in Latvia? Or of any descendant of any survivor of the Holocaust in Latvia?
3. Does anyone have any evidence (NOT hearsay) of atrocity(ies) by any SD police in Latvia? By any Latvian Waffen SS in Latvia?

I thank all for their patience and help. I thank you, David, especially.

Posted by: antares | Feb 26, 2007 7:12:54 PM

They already caught the terrorists who murdered him. Two 18 year old Palestinians, who admitted to planning it out for a long time.

So now they are "heros" in their society, will go to prison for a short time (getting their matriculation along the way?)and will probably be traded in the future or just let out in a "confidence building" gesture.

And meanwhile four kids will have to grow up without a father.

It is a good thing we "settlers" are G-d fearing, and believe that in the long run, Hashem will dole out appropriate justice. Otherwise we would have taken the law into our own hands a long time ago.

Posted by: westbankmama | Feb 26, 2007 7:22:18 PM

Darfur is not a Christian area. The name means Dar(Home) of the Fur, who are black Africans and Muslims.

Posted by: Gandalin | Feb 26, 2007 11:24:56 PM


Posted by: JoeSettler | Feb 26, 2007 11:34:34 PM

I concur with westbankmama that Darfur is not Christian. What's happening is that Arab Muslims are killing Black African Muslims. Muslims murdering muslims … a common occurrence nowadays.

Posted by: Laura | Feb 27, 2007 12:24:52 AM

Try Yad Vashem on this page.

Being God-fearing doesn't mean you can't teach others to fear God's wrath. Taking the law into your own hands may be illegal, but a pacifist approach will, in this case, only encourage more violence.

Posted by: Fred | Feb 27, 2007 12:37:02 AM

Gandalin and Laura,

You're both correct about Darfur. I mixed it up with southern Sudan. My bad.

Posted by: K Newman | Feb 27, 2007 5:49:44 AM

Jack... Exactly.

PP... Yup, that about sums it up.

tnspr569... All in due time.

westbankmama... I honestly don't know how there haven't been more 'free-lance' reprisals for this sort of thing. Quite simply more control than I would be able to show if (G-d forbid) it was someone I knew/loved. Nuff said.

Gandalin... thanks for providing the correction.

JoeSettler... Don't be shy... tell us what you really think! :-) Seriously, although we may differ on the issue of whether the entire Arab culture needs to be destroyed, I agree that it can't be allowed to propagate unchecked.

Laura... An important distinction, but what the world seems willing to ignore is the complete lack of UN interest in enormous loss of life in places like that and its willingness to place each Palestinian injury under a microscope. Strange, no?

Fred... As fun as it may be to fantasize about taking revenge without the 'blessing' of the law... I would ask that you not advocate such things here in writing.

K Newman... Must be all that time submerged that has scrambled your noodle. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Feb 27, 2007 11:11:31 AM

"Must be all that time submerged that has scrambled your noodle."

I had issues before I enlisted. :)

Posted by: K Newman | Feb 27, 2007 2:12:17 PM

Fred- I was there just over a year ago.

Mr. B- I hope and pray...

Posted by: tnspr569 | Feb 27, 2007 7:01:02 PM

To: K. Newman
"how the Israeli government tolerates continuous rocket attacks on the Defense Minister's home town".
Probably because the US has never officially recognized the Western Negev as a part of Israel.
To: David Bogner
Has it ever occurred to you that all those oh so cleverly set up terror strikes are coordinated with the Israeli government/security services.
I don't mean they are micro-managed. There are certain rules and agreements. The ones you noticed.
The government needs to "disengage" 300,000 "settlers" from the West Bank within a year or two and it cannot do it by conventional means but it can try and make their lives very miserable. So there will be more and more attacks on the "settlers".
Note Ariel Toaff's assertion that some "fundamentalist" Jews might have used Christian blood in the Middle Ages (talking about his recent book on the subject). Couldn't have come at a better time.

Posted by: Irene | Feb 28, 2007 8:54:51 PM

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