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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Fixin' ta die w'thar boots on!

[Warning... boring political post. 
Come back tomorrow for pretty pictures.]

There's an old cowboy ethic that states that it is always preferable to die with one's boots on.  This concept stems not from any sensitivity to revealing one's tender toes to view... but rather to an ideal of continuing to work (and wear work clothes) up until one's dying moment.  It's a matter of pride and honor.

Admirable sentiments. 

We know a little bit about pride and honor here in the wild west near east.  Or at least I thought we did.

There is a raging debate currently going on (perhaps debate is too urbane a term) regarding the PA policemen and assorted security prisoners who had been holed up in the Jericho Prison choosing to surrender (and being stripped to their underwear in the process) rather than die fighting with their boots (and clothes) on, as they had threatened.

Much as both sides would like to oversimplify these recent events for their own agenda, what transpired was actually quite complex and requires a close examination of many of the 'facts'.

First of all, like the various intifadas that supposedly 'spontaneously erupted', the events at the Jericho prison were carefully orchestrated and deliberately set in motion by the Palestinian leadership.  Likewise, the Israelis didn't wake up last week and decide "Hey, let's go raid the Jericho prison!"

Likewise,  these events didn't unfold suddenly.  They came about over several days of Hamas playing ever-more dangerous games of 'chicken with the Israeli, British and American officials responsible for enforcing the 'status quo' agreement over the security prisoners held in Jericho.

This game of 'chicken' was not unlike what a child plays when trying to find out how far they can push a parent before a punishment will result.  The major difference is that the Palestinians/Hamas are not children.  They and their leadership are grown-ups with legitimate national aspirations, and therefore they cannot reasonably expect the world (and Israel) to allow them to 'act up' whenever they want to abrogate a standing agreement. 

And it is this important point about the standing agreement that many people want to conveniently ignore while discussing the events of this past week in Jericho.

The standing status quo agreement about the prisoners at Jericho was reached after a long stand-off at the Muqata (the real one... not Jemeel's blog).  Basically, the crisis arose when a bunch of the most wanted murderers and terrorists sought by Israel's security services had been granted refuge by the PA leadership inside Arafat's governmental compound.  Among the wanted men were the people responsible for the murder of a sitting Israeli cabinet member. 

This last point may seem irrelevant to some, but here in the wild west near east, there are rules... and one of those rules clearly and unequivocally states that while it may appear that it is open season (with no bag limit) on civilians... elected officials on both sides are strictly out of bounds! 

You can discuss/argue the legitimacy of terrorism as an effective tool against occupation... and you can argue/debate the legitimacy of extra-judicial targeted assassinations to deal with/punish terror.  But not here!  Not Now!  This is not what I'm talking about right this minute. 

What I'm referring to is that all parties in the current/ongoing conflict have had ample time and opportunity to 'off' the elected leaders of the other side... and have not done so!  That tells me that a very powerful agreement is/was in place and has been respected by absolutely everyone. 

Amazing when everyone agrees to just get along, no?

However, on 17 October 2001, all that changed when a Palestinian terrorists assassinated Israeli Tourism Minister Rechavam Ze'evy outside his hotel room in Jerusalem.  That act broke all the rules. 

The situation could have immediately spiraled out of control with both sides picking off the other side's elected officials, but I'm convinced that cooler heads prevailed on ALL sides.  I believe this because any other scenario would have seen Israeli and Palestinian snipers declaring open season on each other's government leaders.

That this didn't happen was an amazing development that few people noted at the time.  But that doesn't mean that the event was swept under the rug either. 

Almost immediately the Israelis found out exactly who was responsible (another indication that information was being exchanged between the Palestinians and Israelis via back channels), and the culprits conveniently ended up among the men who took refuge in the Muqata.  I say conveniently because now both sides knew what the stakes were and instead of the Israelis hunting down and killing the fugitives... Arafat was holding enough chips to negotiate a better deal for them.

The predictable media circus ensued with Israeli tanks and combat troops surrounding the place and various dopey 'human shields' going in and out to 'risk their flesh and blood' to keep the big bad Israelis from harming a hair on anyone's chinny-chin-chin. 

What everyone sort of ignored with a wink and a nod was that the IDF troops had Ramallah and the Muqata hermetically sealed and could easily have stopped any of these 'human shields' from entering or leaving if they so wished.  Instead the Israelis allowed these well-meaning idiots to participate in this sappy street theater for the eager media cameras.

In the end, an agreement was reached between the two sides. 

Basically the agreement stated that the security prisoners would be removed from the Muquata and transferred to the Jericho prison where, in a face saving gesture, they would be watched over by international (US and British) troops instead of suffering the humiliation of being guarded by Israelis.  This last bit is crucially important to what happened this week because it was an acknowledgment of how central a role pride, ego and honor play in such negotiations.

Most of us who get our news from the mainstream media (MSM) willfully ignore the level of unofficial communication and horse-trading that has to go on for such a negotiated compromise to take place... and more importantly, stay in place.  But when you step back and realize that these men went from being hunted animals to enjoying three hots and a cot... some serious negotiations obviously took place.

Unfortunately, with the election of Hamas, and their brash promises to abrogate all standing agreements and understandings concerning the 'Zionist entity', the apple cart was in serious danger of being up-ended. 

Even so, it was reassuring for anyone watching closely to see that Hamas didn't act rashly and break all the taboos at once. Instead they decided to pick a test case where they could suss out the other side's resolve without putting too much 'face' at risk.  They were also wise to select as their test case a target that Israel had inexplicably assumed would be conveniently ignored indefinitely.

You see, due to the stand-off at the Muqata and the resulting rushed agreement, both sides willingly entered into a devil's bargain that denied the suspected terrorists/murderer's their day in court. 

Yes, you heard me right... even though everyone knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that these men were guilty (they had willingly admitted, even bragged about their crimes), they had never been afforded the niceties of a trial to make it all official - like. 

Instead, in a case of true frontier justice, both the Palestinian and Israeli leadership... under the watchful eyes of the international community... agreed to indefinitely incarcerate these men without officially declaring them guilty.  Yes, that's right... the Palestinians and Israelis agreed to violate all accepted norms of law.  Just like that.

This, in my opinion, is why Hamas chose the Jericho prison as the test case to begin unraveling standing PA/Israeli agreements.   Simply put; it was a soft target with little downside if they lost.  They could simply say (as they are now doing) that the prisoners were officially innocent until proven guilty, so they were setting right an old injustice.

Hamas began the game by announcing that they intended to set the security prisoners free.  This by itself would have been an empty threat except that they also made it clear to the British and American prison guards that their safety could no longer be guaranteed. 

In a prudent move, the foreign prison guards made hasty preparations to 'get out of Dodge' before the shootin' started.  But before doing so, they did the responsible thing and announced their withdrawal timetable, thus preventing a power vacuum that would have been dangerous to all sides.

High noon!

Just like clockwork, Israeli troops and PA policemen took up their respective positions inside and outside the prison for the scheduled showdown.  The the cameras were given time to take up optimal positions... and on cue the obligatory exchanges were made ("Come out with your hands up, the place is surrounded."... "You'll never take us alive", etc. etc. etc.). 

I can just see some network lighting director storming out to the middle of the 'set' with his hands on his hips and demanding that one of the combatants raise or lower his weapon a couple of inches because the sun was reflecting off the barrel directly into the camera lens and spoiling the shot!

I don't mean to make light of the situation because in truth it was deadly serious business with lives on both sides at risk throughout the ordeal.  But at the same time, the leaders on both sides were making very calculated decisions based on their understanding and knowledge of their opponents. 

This was a game of deadly serious brinkmanship... and it was also Hamas's opening move in a much larger and more serious geopolitical game.

In the end, the outcome wasn't particularly surprising to anyone.  Both sides had their day in front of the cameras and some important issues were allowed to see the light of day.

First of all, there is no way the PA Police surrendered without an Ok from above.  That this was given gives me some hope for at least one or two cool heads in the Hamas-led government.  They could have easily served up a prison full of martyrs for the eager cameras... and it would have scored them serious sympathy points in the process.  But instead, someone in a position of authority on the Palestinian side acted like a grown up and made a difficult call. 

Another important point:  The world was reminded that technically (and only technically) the prisoners held in Jericho need a 'church weddin' (so to speak) to solemnize their status as official guilty men... something Israel has since promised to do.  Again, it may seem like a small thing, but so much of international law hinges on such little niceties.

Hamas has now tested the murky waters of agreement dissolution and found them a bit chilly.  I think (hope) they may have gotten a message that they have almost as much to lose as the Israelis if they want to start setting aside 'understandings' and 'gentlemen's agreements' willy-nilly.  After all, this part of the world with its egos and 'honor' operates almost entirely on such back-alley understandings and unspoken agreements. 

This isn't to imply that anyone is going to be riding off happily into the sunset anytime soon.  Mistakes were made in this little showdown... big ones... and there will be a high political price to be paid. 

For instance, although anyone with even a passing familiarity with security precautions understands the need to have the re-captured prisoners and PA police stripped down to their skivvies (guns, knives and explosives are just too easily concealed in clothing)... after all nobody was going to risk having a stabbing, shooting or worse take place after the hard part (the negotiated surrender)  was over and done with.  But that doesn't mean the nearly naked prisoners should have been paraded before the world's media cameras either. 

If the Israelis wanted to send the prisoners and captured PA police out of the prison in an organized 'perp walk', they could have easily set up some privacy partitions (like the ones that magically appeared at the hospital when Sharon was wheeled in after his stroke) behind which the detainees could have been changed at gunpoint into prison garb or IDF-issued overalls. 

That was a huge gaff by the Israeli side, and I think the present outcry from the PA media and leadership is not only predictable but perfectly justified. 

Nobody in this part of the world can pretend to be ignorant of how much honor and modesty are inextricably linked.  If the settlers at Amona (the ones who were witnessed acting violently, anyway) had been stripped to their underwear in a search for weapons and then paraded before the waiting news cameras, the religious right (and yours truly with them) would have started a firestorm to make the PA's current tirade look tame!

No, this was a biiiiiiiig mis-step on the part of the IDF. 

But I'm hopeful that if nothing else comes out of this first test case, at least the new Hamas-led PA and the Israeli government will have had the opportunity to look each other over and set in place some new ground rules.  It's going to be a long, hard process... and we'll need some rules in place to keep things from getting out of hand.

As I said, this little psychodrama was just the opening move in a much larger game - a deadly serious game to be sure - but a game none-the-less.  Hamas made a bad opening gambit and lost big.  Their subsequent bluff of having the prisoners and PA police fight to the death went nowhere, and in the end the guys holed up in the prison were allowed to fold... doing away (for the time being) with the need for anyone to die with their boots on.

But winning this round doesn't give anyone bragging rights. Israel made a strategic error in the closing moments of the game, and there will be a price to pay.  Just as they should have been sweeping the whole pot onto their side of the felt... they are now obligated to quietly give something back during the next round of the conflict, wherever or whenever that may be.  Israel knows it and Hamas knows it.

That's how things are done here.  Middle east politics are seldom about what is said in the press conferences... and almost always about what isn't.

This is life here in the wild west near east ... and things are seldom (if ever) what they seem.

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Posted by David Bogner on March 16, 2006 | Permalink

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You correctly emphasize the importance of honor in this region - but you forget that the definition of honor is not universal, but bound to culture.

In this region - honor/status is attained and reclaimed by brute force.

Similarly, kindness is interpreted not as nobility or friendliness, but as weakness.

The Israelis paraded the Pali perps in panties as a - long overdue! - first step towards undoing the impression of weakness that 2 decades of peacemaking have created.

Pali "humiliation" is only a worry if enough useful idiots start wringing their hands over it. If Israel maintains its composure, and lets the Palis stew in it, she will have begun to reassert her sovereignty and step back from creeping dhimmitude.

Posted by: Ben-David | Mar 16, 2006 2:08:22 PM

Ben-David... I'm pleased that you feel so free to speak you mind here, but I'll tell you what I've told others before: Learn to temper you ferver or refrain from commenting. The point you are making, that it is not enough to prevail but that we also have to dehumanize and humiliate... and in fact strip an entire people of their humanity, in order to truly be victorious, is revolting to me. I acknowledge your point about some aspects of honor being won with brute force... and yes, in this region kindness is often mistaken for weakness. But if you understand that much, how is it you have somehow missed the lesson that if you strip a people of all dignity and honor they will often chose to die trying to kill you rather than live ashamed alongside you. I'm sorry... there must be some middle ground between the hand-wringing 'useful idiots' like me, and the kind you aspire to be.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Mar 16, 2006 3:00:15 PM

Wow. Excellent post.

One complaint, though. Ben David makes an interesting point, and I think you misunderstood it. You said that he claimed "that it is not enough to prevail but that we also have to dehumanize and humiliate" Perhaps he was claiming the opposite. We cannot win unless we first take control of the situation and "show them who's boss".

Your point about this being counter-productive is still valid (and probably true), but that's a valid tactical (in fact, strategic) argument. Sad but true.

Oh, and it's Jameel @ the Muqata, not Jemeel.

Posted by: Mike Miller | Mar 16, 2006 3:36:03 PM

David, I'll stake out the middle ground here. Ben-David's words may have been harsh but, not entirely wrong. Although I agree with you that humiliating people for the sake of showing strength is abhorrent, I don't believe peace will come without victory and the accompanying humiliation the Arabs will experience.


In the absence of some event that miraculously changes the Arabs' hearts, there will be no peace until they are defeated. With defeat comes humiliation. That's NOT to say humiliation will bring defeat... there is a big difference. Me thinks your revulsion is to the suggestion that they must be humiliated to be defeated... I agree, that is not the case.

I do think that their defeat is necessary. Diplomacy, negotiation, truces, hudnas, only serve to maintain the status quo and allows them to maintain their dream of destroying Israel.

Either the palestinian Arabs will have to be defeated by Israel and its allies, or they will have to be defeated by the rest of the Arab world coming to terms with Isreal independent of them... but their defeat is regrettably necessary. With that defeat, whether at Israel's hands or the Arabs, will come humiliation... it's unavoidable.

Posted by: Ocean Guy | Mar 16, 2006 3:54:52 PM

Mike Miller... I didn't misunderstand Ben-David. Perhaps I reacted to him more strongly than I should have (he sounds too much like my worst inner voice when I'm angry), but the fine distinction you are describing is really no distinction at all. He is advocating going beyond conventional victory, and that I can't/won't condone.

OceanGuy... Nice to hear a voice of reason (not that I'm surprised to hear it coming from you). What you and I agree upon is the need to defeat the Palestinians in a military conflict, because there is no compelling reason for them to agree to a settlement so long as they perceive a viable alternative. But Ben-David is suggesting that defeat is not enough... that we must parade them in their underwear... insult their manhood... disgrace them completely before the world... and remove every shred of dignity they have, in order to reclaim alpha-dog status in this part of the world. I can't hold up our 'peace agreements' with Egypt or Jordan as perfect... but if we had paraded Jordanian and Egyptian POWs in their underwear for all the world to see, I can guarantee you we would still be very much at war with these two countries. There must be a middle ground between defeating them and destroying them.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Mar 16, 2006 4:11:09 PM

A political post that I agree with. Do I get you into trouble for saying that?

An additional point - in the regional manouvering (sp?) the Palestinians gain a lot of points by eliciting world sympathy; that provides a lot of their power. By doing anything to increase that sympathy, we actually increase that power and hurt ourselves in the process. I do understand not wanting to appear weak but no-one exists in a vacuum and there is a very fine line.

Posted by: Lisoosh | Mar 16, 2006 4:33:44 PM

One could argue that the way to win a war is to defeat the opposition so thoroughly they cannot conceive of continuing.

The problem with that theory is that it isn't universally true.

Some people will continue to take a beating. Look at Chechnya.

Posted by: Jack | Mar 16, 2006 5:45:35 PM

If the IDF soldiers had stripped the prisoners just to humiliate them I would agree with your analysis, David. But you said yourself that the point was to protect themselves from hidden weapons. Not providing privacy screens was perhaps a mistake - but thinking that this itself will prolong the conflict is, to my mind, ridiculous. We are obligated to try our best in this world, but noone expects us to be perfect. The fact that we didn't go and lynch innocent Arabs after the horrific lynching in Ramallah - and we didn't shoot innocent Arab women with their children after Tali Chatuel was killed in cold blood with her four daughters, shows that we are humane. Worrying about the embarrassment of a few men in boxer shorts seems a bit over the top to me.

Posted by: westbankmama | Mar 16, 2006 6:05:56 PM

Think the title of the post should have been War and Peace Part II. Works on many levels ;)

Posted by: Jeru Guru | Mar 16, 2006 6:15:26 PM

Thanks for this detailed analysis: these are all the points we miss out on, because so much of the overt action is emphasized by the cameras... it's easy to forget that there's much more to what is going on!

Posted by: Irina | Mar 16, 2006 7:33:32 PM

Lisoosh... No, I won't hold it against you. :-) And I agree with you to the extent that if we can avoid giving the PA extra PR points for free we should.

Jack... Interesting example. I hadn't made that mental comparison before.

Westbankmama... I didn't mean to give the impression that the IDF acted in a premeditated way by exposing (literally) the captured men to international ridicule. I Also did not mean to imply that this alone could/would extend the conflict by itself. I was simply trying to point out that the IDF made a blunder by not thinking ahead to how to process the captured prisoners at the end of the day. Either they should have kept the press further away or they should have provided a closed area in which to have the prisoners strip and be checked for weapons. The IDF is far from perfect, but you and I both know we are unfairly held to a higher standard... so this sort of blunder needs to be avoided at all cost.

JeruGuru... A little long-winded for your taste? :-) I warned you at the outset that it was a boring political post.

Irina... I forgot to add the usual tagline for the end of my political posts (saying that I could be totally full of sh*t), so please take anything I say with a grain of salt. I'm not privy to any inside information that isn't available in the press. I'm just processing it as a local.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Mar 16, 2006 7:39:59 PM

David:

Fine post. But allow me to comment and disagree on two important issues.

1. Your insistence that Israel/we/western civilization continue to respect Arab honor, and that Israel made a big mistake by making the terrorists do the perp walk in public.

Arab honor is a one way street so far. It allows, no it encourages the slaughter of Jewish civilians, men women and children. All in the name of Arab honor. Further, Arab honor doubles back into Arab society where it finds ghastly expression in so-called honor killings of young women. We know not how many for so many are covered up. More Arab honor is found in family/tribal/clan fueds where young men slaughter each other for generations over who knows what over some slight that no one can quite remember.

Now, the multi-culturalists in our elite universities may find this quite adorable and worthy of preservation but decent and civilized people do not. It is gruesome and disgusting and rightly deserves to be stamped out.

How?

Well, we did it to the Japense in WWII.

This was a culture that was also fetishistic about honor. In fact, there were also scholarly voices--naturally in our Ivy League universities who warned that we could never wean the Japanese away from their code of honor, away from their Emperor, but of course, these useful idiots were as always wrong, for the force of arms always has the final word.

We bombed the Japanese into submission by showing Japanese civilians that their honorable army was incapable of protecting them. That put honor in its proper perspective--into the ash heap of history.

Interpolation: Oh, and we taught them baseball. An orderly democratic game.

I am certain that the perverted sense of Arab honor must be utterly demolished for it is, and there is no other word for it: evil. And it deserves no respect.

2. You refer to the Palis "legitimate National aspirations."

I'd like to point out that not all national aspiration are legitimate, especially when their national program includes the wholesale destruction of another state, i.e. Israel, and her people, i.e. The Jews.

Some people claim legitimate national aspirations and they are denied. Violently.

To wit: The Malayan Emergency: 1948-1960. The British, Australians/New Zealand/Ghurkas ruthlessly and brilliantly put down a Cummunist insurgency in Malaya that also claimed a "National Aspiration." It took time and blood and patience, but the communists terrorists were defeated and the people of Malay were given their freedom.

Israelis should look carefully at this little war and start learning some hard lessons about how to fight a determined and genocidal enemy.

David, I'm sorry for the length of this comment, but your kindness and generosity to an implacable enemy is, in the end, I fear, a fatal weakness.

I hope you had a lovely and Happy Purim.

Posted by: Robert J. Avrech | Mar 16, 2006 9:26:23 PM

Very good and interesting post.

I don't see the IDF as having deliberately paraded the prisoners and PA guys.

The shots I've seen have all been taken with long range telephoto lenses and do not appear to have been helped by the IDF. Maybe you have some better info than i do on this.

When the London police cornered some suspects from the second attempts at bombing London on 21st July last year, they were automatically made to strip to their underpants. Full frontal pictures of them then appeared in the UK press. I do not doubt that the London police facilitated press access to these shots, since the suspects were arrested in obscure suburban areas.

In the case of the Jericho siege, the press had ample time to assemble and take up positions from a range of vantage points.

As for screens, I can see that it would have been much easier for a comatose Sharon. Could the IDF have taken any risks with obscuring their view of some potentially seriously dangerous prisoners?

I've posted on a typical UK press handling of the story here:

http://adloyada.typepad.com/adloyada/2006/03/still_shameless.html

Posted by: Judy | Mar 16, 2006 9:53:04 PM

Thanks David for a superb job explaining not only the events that led to this but the mentality and politics behind it all.

Posted by: jaime | Mar 16, 2006 10:37:10 PM

Hoo Boy! You are so mixed up David. I just can't believe how ill informed you are. Having ten years on you I guess gives me the edge in this 'boots' matter as not only did I watch all those tacky B (C,D ... F?) cowboy movies in the fifties (made in the '30s and '40s) I even listened to Hop a long Cassidy on the radio.

Here's the scoop: The idea was to die NOT with one's boots on. The boys would kid each other that they would die nothing but a working stiff and not get to die in a comfortable bed like the rich folks. Why Gabby Hayes even asked Audi Murphy (or one of those tin horns) to take OFF his boots as he lay dying in the sand. You see they all had a dream. The dream of having their own spread someday .... their own little empire and sons to take over so they could take it easy in their golden years ... and die in bed.

What ELSE do you have bass ackwards?

Posted by: Scott | Mar 17, 2006 12:22:36 AM

Very interesting!
I'm not surprised at all, Israelis are very good at trade-in agreements but with all the dot com media around it's going to be very easy to spot out the righteous and unrighteous agreements... If you ask me Hamas has a bone to pick with Israel for the loss of its leader, and not even Moscow will stop it from proving some few points.

Posted by: kakarizz | Mar 17, 2006 8:03:08 AM

Two details I would quibble with.

First of all, out of the six prisoners, four had been convicted and sentenced to prison; only Saadat and one other had not been tried (and their confinement was described as a form of protective custody, to keep them out of Israeli hands). In fact, there has been at least one opinion saying that Israel could not retry those convicted, but only imprison them until the end of their PA-determined sentence.

Also, while Hamas has been ratcheting up the pressure which eventually led the agreement to collapse, the holes in it are not new. The monitors have been long complaining that the PA violated core provisions of the agreement, for example regarding visitors and communications; though until the recent events, these were not considered enough for Israel to take action

Posted by: Eyal | Mar 17, 2006 3:06:35 PM

David - you read far too much into my comment.

I think others have given you a bit more perspective: any defeat will be a humiliation, our very presence here an affront. We've gotten to the sorry state we have largely because our elite has tried to accommodate this, and come to care more for the local Arab population's "honor" and its imagined greivances than it has for our own claim to this region.

Yet we know from bitter experience that no reciprocal "understanding" is forthcoming. And the world has so bought into the "poor Pali" narrative that it condemns even our valid acts of self-defense.

Shall we then stop defending ourselves to avoid giving offense?

The notion of respect has already been politicized, it is no longer just a "nice guy" consideration: the Palis (and other Muslim groups) have expertly wielded their sense of victimhood and offense as a political tool. The Jericho story unfolds just weeks after Europe caved and compromised a major democratic freedom - freedom of the press - due to a corrosive mix of misplaced multi-culti respect and outright fear of thuggery.

Perhaps we, too, should stop publishing political cartoons our enemies find offensive?

Part of our problem in Israel has been that the desire to do right by our enemies has made it distasteful to beat them decisively. But in the real world, this only invites more violence.

A bit more unabashed Western indifference to the strange (and cruel!) Eastern sense of offense is just what the doctor ordered - in Europe, and in Israel.

Posted by: Ben-David | Mar 17, 2006 3:06:58 PM

Robert... I don't make any differentiation between Arab honor and any other sort. In fact I went out of my way to say that if the settlers at Amona had been deemed by the police to present a concealed weapon danger and they had been publicly stripped in full view of the press I would have been at the head of the line of people sacking police stations. There are just certain things one can't do and still expect the other side to not go berserk (not to mention the need to maintain the moral high ground). The so called honor killings and other atrocities that Arab culture inflicts upon itself is not my concern... my culture (and integrity) is. What you are describing is essentially cultural cleansing and as much as I can't find a loose board in your thinking, I still can't bring myself to climb up on your well constructed platform. As to the phrase "legitimate National aspirations", it was carefully chosen (and you are not the first one to take exception to it). An aspiration is simply a hope. Any organized group of people are entitled to hope for their own place in the world. I am not making a judgement of where their state should be, what it's borders should look like or when it should be established... but many of the countries that were 'created' by England or France here in the middle east have just arbitrary a claim to sovereignty as the Palestinians. My point is that if they want to play in the bigs (meaning indulge in statecraft), they can no longer pretend to be powerless of their childish outbursts and irresponsible/dangerous actions. One can't make the second half of that statement without tacitly acknowledging the first. Also, it seems to me that one of our big problems is that the Palis act like an insurgency and therefore are impossible to fight with a standing army. Once you let them take a couple of steps towards statehood you can force them to designate their armed forces and security services with uniforms and insignia. Those in uniform are bound by current conventions and those that act as soldiers without the gift wrapping are designated as spies in time of war' and can be summarily executed in the field. Not only will this scare most of the 'militias' into uniform, but it will use existing international law as a club against them for once.

Judy... I never said they did it intentionally. I'm fairly certain that it was just poor planning. But the end result was the same. Obviously the safety of the IDF troops was paramount, but it doesn't look to me that they had any plans in place for processing a large number of surrendering prisoners.

Jaime... Make sure you read other sources. This is just one Israeli's perspective. :-)

Scott... Most of the sources I checked support my take on the expression, but since you seem to have been a close friend of Marconi I'll bow to your as a primary source on the subject. ;-)

kakarizz... I'm not sure I understand your comment. Are you referring to Yassin? He was a dirt bag murderer with blood on his hands. I would have fired the missile myself and slept like a baby afterwards.

Eyal... Yes, I see that I made it sound like all of the prisoners were untried and this was not the case. Thank you for pointing this out. As to the final reason Israel was forced to act, I think the Israeli government was actually relieved to be able to set right a bothersome injustice. No other country on the planet would have agreed to such an arrangement on their own turf.

Ben-David... You're probably right. as I said to another commenter about you, I think you have the ability to get a stronger-than-necessary reaction from me because you say many of the things I only dare think. This isn't to say I agree with you, but I don't very much like the part of my inner monologue that sometimes says 'kill them all and let G-d sort them out'. Your point about the European concessions on free speech is dead on. It is a dangerous step towards allowing Islamic law/honor to dictate worldwide cultural norms.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Mar 17, 2006 4:34:42 PM

I have met, and worked with, many law-abiding Arabs who have the same hopes and concerns for themselves and their families as I do... I most definitely don't believe in "killing them all and letting G-d sort them out".

But thanks for the, uh, compliment...

More importantly: How did your mind wend its way from apprehending Palestinian murderers - and a strip-search precipitated entirely by their own murderous methods - to an assumption of gross animus towards all Palestinians?

David, a few weeks ago you wrote about the infantilization of the Palis.

Well, here it is - and your focus on the honor of these murderers is a classic example of the codependent, coddling attitude that has nurtured the Pali's adolescent sense of entitlement - and sovereignty.

It directly parallels the misplaced obeisance going on in Europe.

The Jericho operation can be seen as the geopolitical equivalent of tossing your teenager's favorite jeans because they wound up on the bathroom floor too many times: it served to put the Palis on notice that they must act responsibly, or bear undesired consequences.

No parent in their right mind would immediately comfort their child after such tough love, or assure them that a new pair of jeans will be provided.

The Israelis planned a mission that involved incursion into Palestinian-controlled areas, and the possibility of a protracted standoff in those areas - and you think they should have shlepped curtains so that the murderers would be spared from showing their rubber tires?

Do you see how la-la-land preposterous this is? How out of all proportion to normal military operation, and how contradictory to the fundamental message of the mission - which you nailed quite clearly in your post? And as Judy pointed out, not in accord with standards of police or press behavior in other parts of the world?

There's a very long distance between "kill the bastards" and the very basic "Put up or shut up" of demanding that agreements be honored.

After almost 2 decades of media bombardment that gives the Palis a bottomless well of grievance, is it now unacceptable for the Israelis to make ANY demand that would force the Palis out of their infantilized, adolescent stance?

Posted by: Ben-David | Mar 18, 2006 9:55:07 PM

I have met, and worked with, many law-abiding Arabs who have the same hopes and concerns for themselves and their families as I do... I most definitely don't believe in "killing them all and letting G-d sort them out".

But thanks for the, uh, compliment...

More importantly: How did your mind wend its way from apprehending Palestinian murderers - and a strip-search precipitated entirely by their own murderous methods - to an assumption of gross animus towards all Palestinians?

David, a few weeks ago you wrote about the infantilization of the Palis.

Well, here it is - and your focus on the honor of these murderers is a classic example of the codependent, coddling attitude that has nurtured the Pali's adolescent sense of entitlement - and sovereignty.

It directly parallels the misplaced obeisance going on in Europe.

The Jericho operation can be seen as the geopolitical equivalent of tossing your teenager's favorite jeans because they wound up on the bathroom floor too many times: it served to put the Palis on notice that they must act responsibly, or bear undesired consequences.

No parent in their right mind would immediately comfort their child after such tough love, or assure them that a new pair of jeans will be provided.

The Israelis planned a mission that involved incursion into Palestinian-controlled areas, and the possibility of a protracted standoff in those areas - and you think they should have shlepped curtains so that the murderers would be spared from showing their rubber tires?

Do you see how la-la-land preposterous this is? How out of all proportion to normal military operation, and how contradictory to the fundamental import of the mission - which you nailed quite clearly in your post? How totally unreal it is in the cultural context of the middle east - and as Judy pointed out, not in accord with standards of police or press behavior in other parts of the world?

There's a very long distance between "kill the bastards" and the very basic "Put up or shut up" of demanding that agreements be honored. Do you see that?

After almost 2 decades of media bombardment that gives the Palis a bottomless well of grievance, is it now unacceptable for the Israelis to make ANY demand that would force the Palis out of their infantilized, adolescent stance?

Posted by: Ben-David | Mar 18, 2006 9:56:47 PM

Sorry for the duplicated posting...

Posted by: Ben-David | Mar 20, 2006 11:28:21 AM

Ben-David... I know that what I said was an obvious exaggeration. It was more directed at myself than you.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Mar 20, 2006 12:14:11 PM

treppenwitz,

For complete victory (cestation of present and future histilities) you must dehumanize the enemy in order to be sufficiently brutal.

The real mensch gives it up when hostilities end.

It is very sad - but in war one must be relentless and without remorse. If not you will be fighting the war again. Best to pay only once and in full.

Posted by: M. Simon | Mar 20, 2006 2:05:48 PM

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