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Monday, December 29, 2008

Revenge of the nerds

This morning I started counting all the on-line headlines that were along the lines of: 

"[fill in country / organization name] ... calls on Israel to immediately halt attacks on Gaza"

I stopped counting after 17.  Disgusting!

You'd think millions of Sudanese refugees were being butchered in the streets of Darfur.  Oh wait, what am I thinking?  That's not newsworthy!

No, it's just little Israel - the nerds of the global schoolyard - being taken to task for daring to step out of character and defend ourselves.  For all our patents, scientific breakthroughs, high-tech start-ups and Nobel prizes, the world still finds it amusing when we're forced to take a break from running the world media and banks, to run for the bomb shelters.

There is a comforting familiarity to the international amnesia over cause & effect here in the middle east.  It's an almost willful desire to transform a straight-forward Casus Belli and measured (not to mention legal) military response, into a murky chicken and egg scenario (i.e. the well-worn 'cycle of violence').

The worst part is that the world's tired excuse for the years of silence and neglect that has led to a good portion of Israel's population living in bomb shelters, is that they insist they can't impose the rule of international law on Gaza.  Gaza is chaos, they say... a failed proto-state.  The world wants order, of course... but they throw up their hands at the futility of asking Gaza to adhere to the rules of civilization. 

I forget... while the Red Cross has been busy screaming for Israel to spare the poor Gazans, has anyone asked if they ever got around to demanding access to kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, even once?  Oh right, no can do... that's Gaza.  That's out of our jurisdiction!

In reality it's a simple case of the nerdy kid getting beaten up on the way to school for his lunch money - or for the sheer hell of it - isn't it?  He's asked his friends for help.  He's asked his teachers for protection.  He's even gone to the principal's office a few times to see if there is something - anything! - that can be done to stop the beatings.  But nobody wants to confront the bullies.   Off school grounds there isn't much anyone can do! 

So finally, on the last day of school, the nerdy kid - who has done nothing to the thugs to arouse their endless violence except continue to come to school and exist -- realizes that if he doesn't take a baseball bat to the thugs who've been torturing him all year long, next year they might actually kill him.

It's really that simple. 

Yet as I've predicted in the past (before the 2nd Lebanon war), this one will almost certainly go according to a predictable trajectory.  For new readers, it goes something exactly like this:

Ever since Nasser accidentally discovered the trick in 1956, every subsequent Arab leader has stuck to this tried and true formula for military success:

  1. Instigate a war with whatever you have at hand; terror attacks, rocket fire or an actual invasion. 
  2. Once the war is well underway and you are in the process of having your ass handed to you... get a few world powers or the UN to force your opponent into a cease fire. 
  3. Whatever you do, don't surrender or submit to any terms dictated by your enemy.  That would ruin everything!  All you have to do is wait it out and eventually the world will become sickened at what is being done to your soldiers and civilian population... and will force a truce.
  4. Once a truce has been called, you can resume your intransigence (which probably caused the conflict in the first place), and even declare victory as your opponent leaves the field of battle.

This tactic has never failed.  Not once! 

In fact it worked so will for the Egyptians in 1973, that to this day they celebrate the Yom Kippur War - a crushing defeat at the hands of Israel's army -  as a military victory!  No kidding... it's a national holiday over there!

So why does anyone think this time will be different?  Within hours of Israel beginning its surgical strikes against purely military targets in Gaza, all of Israel's detractors, and most of it's 'friends', began calling for 'calm', 'a cease fire', 'a return to the negotiating table', 'restraint'...  

Not one of those things is in Israel's interest right now!  The only thing that is in Israel's interest at this point is for the world to STFU (hint: that doesn't stand for Slice The Fudge, Ursula), and finally let an Arab government reap what it has been sowing for years.

You say that it's Israel's fault because we've been embargoing a democratically elected government in Gaza?  You ask what choice did the poor Gazans have but to lash out? 

I have news for you... democracy is about more than just elections.  Democracy is what that an elected government says and does while it is campaigning, as well as what it says and does once it assumes power. 

Without mentioning names (and thereby invoking Godwin's Law), suffice it to say that we don't have to look very far back to identify certified monsters who were swept into power on the crest of overwhelming democratically expressed popular support.

Hamas has stated publicly before, and since, their election (and it is written quite clearly in their charter) that their entire raison d'être is to destroy Israel.  You take them at their word on absolutely everything else... except that.  Why do you suppose that is?

Mark my words... the only way this ends well for Israel (and by 'well' I mean that it buys us more than a few weeks of relative calm), is if Hamas is forced to actually say the words "We surrender" in front of the whole world.  Anyone want to give odds on that happening?

I honestly don't know how badly Israel has to demolish Gaza's infrastructure before someone over there waves a white flag.  My guess is that so long as there is a single Hamas leader left breathing, nobody will dare step up and do the responsible thing for the people of Gaza. 

That's okey-dokey with me.  We know where pretty much all of their bunkers are at this point, and so long as we are able to resist calls to "immediately halt attacks on Gaza", I have no ethical problem with introducing every last democratically elected Hamas official to Allah. 

Do you think for one moment that Hamas would hesitate to do the same to us if the tables were turned?  No?  So why are you demanding a higher standard of conduct from us? 

We may indeed be the nerdy kid.  But if our friends won't stand by us;  if the teachers, and even the principal, refuse to protect us when we tried to play by the rules;  well, as you've pointed out so many times before... your rules don't apply once we're off school grounds.

Posted by David Bogner on December 29, 2008 | Permalink


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If you've checked out the BBC coverage, they make it seem that Israel has attacked these innocent people of Gaza out of the blue and totally unprovoked. On Saturday, the first day of the strike the Daily Mail (also UK) had up picture after picture (more than 10 of them featuring crying or injured children) of the "bloody devastation of the people of Gaza" and only in the last sentence of what would be a two-page printed article did they mention that militants from Gaza had fired rockets at us in the days leading up to the strike. Absolutely unbelievable.

Posted by: Yaeli | Dec 29, 2008 1:31:07 PM

Your analogy reminded me of this Bob Dylan song:


Posted by: Dave (Balashon) | Dec 29, 2008 1:59:43 PM

Gosh David, you actually care about this military action ... again.

Allow me to remind you:

1) This is a ploy by Kadima to win back some votes from the Likud.
2) There will be no surrender from Hamas, and no decisive victory from Israel. In every action we've taken, Israel's resolve eventually peters out and it backs off. Rockets will return. V'zehu.
3) If our leadership and our national resolve hasn't changed, what makes you think this military action will be different? You're saying what ought to happen; but to whom are you talking?


Posted by: Yehuda Berlinger | Dec 29, 2008 2:03:35 PM

Nicely written.


Posted by: What War Zone??? | Dec 29, 2008 2:12:41 PM

Yaeli... "Absolutely unbelievable". No, sadly quite believable. :-(

Dave (Balashon) ... I can always count on you for a smile.

Yehuda Berlinger... You can be forgiven for losing sight of the fact that this is my journal. It is what I think... what I feel in my soul. I allow you to read along (after all, why else would I post my thoughts online?), but that doesn't mean I have to have a single audience in mind... or a viable solution. Some people yell at the TV. I write it out here.

What War Zone??? ... Give my wife credit for going in and fixing a bunch of typos before I'd caught them.

Posted by: David Bogner | Dec 29, 2008 2:21:53 PM

What I find really distressing is the utter incompetence of the Israeli spokespeople now on the foreign networks.I was watching now the CNN world news (14H00 gmt) with Ambassador Gabriela Shalev who can barely speak English or complete a full sentence as compared to Hanan Ashrawi on CNN who fluently went on and on and on.........

Posted by: akiva | Dec 29, 2008 2:57:03 PM

Yes, in fact it was at a celebration of the Egyptian victory in the 73 war that Anwar Sadat was assassinated.

Posted by: soccerdad | Dec 29, 2008 3:41:22 PM

The rules are never the same for the Jews. Never. And they never will be. My biggest problems with this war are that 1. we never should have left Gaza in the first place, so it's hard to sympathize with "corrective government action after the fact", even though I 100% support it. 2. Hashem guides us to victory, we, meaning all of us, secular religious must Daven that things go well. 3. I wish there was a stated end game. Are we taking back Gaza? Taking out Hamas? Other than obliterating everything that moves there, how is this objective obtained? 4. I have read the book "Dear Brothers". I'd like a guarantee beforehand that after so many lives have been lost, settlers and pioneers won't be ignored again after the fact. Lie Jameel always says: טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Posted by: Lakewood Falling Down | Dec 29, 2008 4:36:20 PM

Trepp, re: your comment on Twitter about a proportionate response: Unfortunately, that seems to be one of those heads we win, tails you lose situations. I hope you and yours stay safe, as well as everyone else who's in the line of fire. You're all in my prayers.

Posted by: Amanda | Dec 29, 2008 4:37:28 PM

The last line should read:
LIKE Jameel always says: טובה הארץ מאד מאד Whoops!

Posted by: Lakewood Falling Down | Dec 29, 2008 4:38:06 PM

I asked before but I know you're busy (and furious): Is there anything we outsiders can do? I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks that waving our pom-poms and yelling "Go Israel" from 6000 miles away isn't really helping much. I only know two Israeli charities, for instance, and I don't know which side they're on right now.

Posted by: Tanya | Dec 29, 2008 5:06:37 PM

Akiva... If I have to choose between incompetent military, leaders or spokespeople, I think (hope) we got off easy (tfu, tfu, tfu).

Soccerdad... Ah yes, they do like to shoot at celebrations.

Lakewood Falling Down... I'm OK with no stated end game. after all, if you told a chess opponent what your end game would be he'd have a pretty good idea how to block you. I just hope there is an endgame. Give the track record of two of the three people in charge, I'm not so sure.

Amanda... I know and it means the world. Thanks.

Tanya (and others)... Here are a few places you can do some good:

American Friends of Magen David Adom (Israel Red Star of David)


Standing Together

Posted by: David Bogner | Dec 29, 2008 5:25:17 PM

'Let me first tell you one thing: It doesn't matter what the world says about Israel; it doesn't matter what they say about us anywhere else. The only thing that matters is that we can exist here on the land of our forefathers. And unless we show the Arabs that there is a high price to pay for murdering Jews, we won't survive.'
David Ben Gurion

Posted by: Orde Wingate | Dec 29, 2008 5:31:17 PM

Death is fairly permanent, so peace should be also. The way to make this war lead to a more lasting peace is to implement some lasting improvements in the situation, rather than visiting in force, cleaning things up a bit, and leaving.

I suggest, as permanent improvements:
1. Closing the tunnels; Occupy the overburden and/or flood them. Keep them closed.

2. Move some Gazans out to Egypt. This doesn't have to involve ethnic cleansing or mass death or anything like that, just a mass migration.

3. Move the Gazans back from the borders so they can't launch rockets from so close to Israeli population centers.

Stuff like this can help. But just shooting up stuff and leaving, no matter how brilliantly done, just kicks the can down the road.

Now it may be that if we knock their block off enough times, they'll change their tune. There is some evidence for this approach. But the evidence is not strong.

Israeli loses are so far light; life in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is very normal, so if the Hamas response stays muted we might do well.

Posted by: Fred | Dec 29, 2008 5:55:18 PM

More deeply, the dog that doesn't bark should tell us something; Hezbollah is so far staying out. This might tell us something about Lebanon, Syria or Iran, but I don't know what.

I also don't understand how Iran hopes to benefit from supporting Hamas and Hezbollah. Nor do I understand how Russia and China benefit by supporting the nuclearization and so forth of Iran. Russia is an oil exporter, and China is an oil importer, so it ain't simple.

Even if we could conclude that just as Hamas and Hezbollah are Iranian proxies, that Iran is a proxy of the (cold war?, Stalinist?) alliance of Russia and China, we'd still have more questions than answers.

Posted by: Fred | Dec 29, 2008 6:10:02 PM

Toward the end of fourth grade, I took the first and, so far, last swing of my life, at the bully who'd been after me all year. I broke his nose. He never bothered me again.

Posted by: uberimma | Dec 29, 2008 7:43:01 PM

The only thing that is in Israel's interest at this point is for the world to STFU (hint: that doesn't stand for Slice The Fudge, Ursula), and finally let an Arab government reap what it has been sowing for years.


My husband and I have a long standing pet peeve-- you watch the news, and for weeks if you know where to look there's tons of reports of rockets, bombs and attacks against Israeli folks during a cease fire; then Israelis *fight back*-- I seem to remember one instance where the guy being stoned to death really did just fight back to save his life-- and the news is all full of "Israel breaks peace agreement! Cease fire destroyed by Israel!"

I always loved the "send a pizza to an Israeli soldier or cop" funds-- wish we had a bit more cash, I'd do so again.

I do think your metaphor is a little off-- Israel isn't the nerd, he's that decent, quiet kid who's always bending over backwards to follow the rules, then finally does fight back and refuses to play the victim. Those almost always get punished more than the person who'd been consistently horrid.

Posted by: Foxfier | Dec 29, 2008 8:14:51 PM

I just added this to my round up of posts about Gaza.

Posted by: Jack | Dec 29, 2008 10:56:57 PM

Mr. Berlinger, Chappeau,a man living up to his Blogger code of Ethics knows what he is talking about.

Posted by: Mongrel | Dec 29, 2008 11:00:55 PM

Mr. Berlinger, Chappeau,a man living up to his Blogger code of Ethics knows what he is talking about.

Posted by: Mongrel | Dec 29, 2008 11:02:32 PM

It makes me ashamed to be British when I see the way our media and TV portray all this, and then to read of a demo outside the embassy of Israel in London being supported by Jewish groups. Hamas calls it a "massacre" as though Israel were the aggressor, conveniently forgetting (as usual) that they have been firing rockets and mortars into Israel for years in support of their avowed aim to destroy Israel.

Trep, I don't always agree with what you say (but keep stum, after all it's your blog) but like Tanya, I just wanted you to know that there are those of us who love and support Israel and recognise what she is up against. Israel is surrounded by hostile neighbours and states, her enemies seem legion and yet, she survives, but whilst Hezbollah/Hamas and whoever else have the capacity to lose time and again, Israel needs only to lose once.

After the shoah, the cry was "never again" and Israel is the true hope for the Jewish people. Parallels have been drawn with the Irish conflict, 'the troubles', and whilst there may be some mileage in agreeing that 'negotiations' may be the ultimate solution, it has to be remembered that to achieve this, all the parties have to be prepared to actually negotiate.

That seems not the case here or ever appears to have been, (Iran's President Madman InaDinnerJacket is surely evidence of that!), so perhaps the world's leaders need to keep that in mind when they go wringing their hands or calling for Israel to "cease immediately to avoid an humanitarian crisis".

It seems to me, the crisis for Gaza is largely self-made, even if Hamas were democratically elected, (though they did go on to run Fatah out of town anyway, just for good measure).

The adage about 'keeping your friends close, but your enemies closer still' is worth bearing in mind and part of me wonders if Israel's reaction is what Hamas has been trying to create all along. I'm just suspicious that their lack of promised response, to "unleash Hell on Israel", is part of a greater call to arms for a third intifada?

The quote from David Ben Gurion says it all, really.

My thoughts are with Israel and I've become a regular donor to MDA, ZAKA and Yad Sarah (on Trep's recommendation, I must add),
since the second Lebanon war and will continue especially now.

Posted by: Ken | Dec 30, 2008 12:00:23 AM

Guess who did not call on Israel to halt attacks but supported Israel? - Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"Speaking to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert by phone, she (Merkel) said responsibility for the three-day-old Israeli air offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip lies "clearly and exclusively" with Hamas, according to government spokesman Thomas Steg. A statement on the Chancellery Web site referred to Israel's "legitimate right" to defend its people and territory."


See, some of us Germans (including those that are goyim) are very much pro-Israel.

Nevertheless, well written article, like always :)

Posted by: Lailah Rivka | Dec 30, 2008 1:07:54 AM

All the usual people will be in front of the consulate tomorrow afternoon.

Given that several of our key organizers are out of town till the end of the year, that means we'll probably be even more outnumbered than usual.

Maybe fifteen pro-Israel demonstrators. Versus probably over five hundred anti-Israel screamers.

Man, sometimes I really hate the Bay Area.

Posted by: At The Back of the Hill | Dec 30, 2008 1:31:42 AM

My goodness -- 20,000 news stories, and counting, on Google News. I guess newspapers know the "red-meat" issues when they see it. Sudan and Rwanda just don't rate.

If Google News had been around in 1944, I think that Jewish genocide (not the manufactured and self-inflicted, operatic hysteria of the Philistine pretenders) may have generated maybe a couple articles in any given month. (Along with the requisite calls for Jewish partisan restraint, of course.)

Posted by: Ari | Dec 30, 2008 2:13:43 AM

You know, if Israel slaughtered every single person living in Gaza, the Muslims and Europeans wouldn't hate Israel any more than they already do. I'm not recommending that Israel do that, I'm only pointing out that the world's reaction to Israel's self-defense is not an issue.

There is absolutely nothing you can do to gain the approval of the world, so your only recourse is seek God's approval.

Posted by: Bob | Dec 30, 2008 6:51:37 AM

I continue to pray for the good people of Israel. I don't know how the current turn of events will be concluded, but am reminded of this passage from the Book of Joshua [11:20] about Israel's enemies.

For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that He might utterly destroy them, and that they might receive no mercy, but that He might destroy them, as the LORD had commanded Moses.

Posted by: rammer | Dec 30, 2008 7:45:28 AM

You know, I didn't notice anyone sending in swarms of reporters and indignant gubmint officials as the rockets rained down into Israeli towns.

So if they didn't get all up-in-arms about that, I'm disinclined to follow them to arms now.

Stupid "reporters."

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Dec 31, 2008 5:51:24 AM

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