Wednesday, September 10, 2014
The Best Cell Phone I've Ever Owned
Okay, everyone calm down.
Yes, Apple has just released a new iphone. But instead of leading the herd in a unique and innovative direction, the folks in Cupertino seem to be following blindly along behind Samsung in a race to make ever-larger mobile phones; a race that can only end with all of us walking around with a tablet the size of a 1970s-era Boom Box resting between our shoulder and ear.
Those who know me know that I am sort of an Apple fanboy. In fact, with the exception of our middle child who Prefers a Samsung Galaxy (he's always marched to the beat of a different drummer), all of the computers, tablets and phones in our household are made by Apple.
But I have a confession to make:
No cell phone I have ever owned has been nearly as reliable, durable, audible or pocket-able as the Motorola StarTAC I had in the late 90s.
Seriously, tell me you don't miss the look and feel of the StarTAC... the way it rested perfectly between your shoulder and chin... and how at the end of a call you could snap it shut with a satisfying 'slap'.
So yeah, you were saying something about a new iPhone being released... ?
Monday, September 08, 2014
Palestinians Refuse Offer of State Larger than Gaza & West Bank!
Yet it is getting almost no press coverage!!! How is that possible??!!!
Arutz Sheva is a right wing media outlet in Israel that has a small but loyal following of mostly right wing readers. As a result, it is largely marginalized by the rest of the Israeli media community and considered by many to be a mouthpiece for a lunatic fringe.
But occasionally, Arutz Sheva reports on stories that are not only of no interest to the rest of the media community, but which those media outlets want to actively bury or ignore. That's one of the main reasons I stop by there to peruse the headlines during my daily slog through the interwebs.
This morning a story on Arutz Sheva caught my eye. It caught my eye for the simple reason that it is a story that should be plastered across the headlines of every major news outlet in the world, yet inexplicably isn't. This story is IMHO, quite simply, the most ground breaking story to hit the Middle East in the last 40 years!
For years I've been saying that 'the occupation' that the world has been laying at Israel's feet, is a result of a war that was forced on Israel by several of her neighbors. How is it that none of these same neighbors - especially the neighbors with whom we have peace treaties - are being asked to help create a solution?
Well, Egypt just stepped up and offered to solve the Palestinian problem in one grand move... and nobody but little right wing lunatic fringe Arutz Sheva is reporting it!
According to the story, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi offered up a huge chunk of the Sinai peninsula adjacent to Gaza in which the Palestinians could establish a state that would be five times larger than Gaza and provide them with more land than if they created a state in the entire West Bank!
Palestinian communities in the West Bank would remain (no transfer of population!!!) and would retain their current autonomy and would be administered by the Palestinian Government of their their new state.
In return for receiving this Gaza-Sinai Palestinian state, the Palestinians would have to give up the so-called 'Right of Return' of refugees to Israel, as well as the demand that Israel return to the 1947 ceasefire lines, and agree to be demilitarized.
If such a plan were to be brought to fruition, the Palestinians would end up with the ample land, ports and location to be able to create a Levant Riviera boasting world class beach resorts, prime cruise destinations and some of the best fishing and scuba diving in the world, not to mention enough space to become a key agricultural supplier to southern Europe!
Not only that, but given the existence of natural gas and other fossil / mineral reserves in Sinai, there is a good chance that some of this could be exploited by the new Palestinian state.
Both the US and Israeli governments were made aware of the Egyptian offer, and both gave the plan their go-ahead. Yet Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas rejected the offer out of hand.
But aside from a little blurb in Arutz Sheva, nobody is talking about it!
How is it that such a historic offer and such a historic refusal have not gotten any meaningful media coverage?
Could it be that the perpetuation of the problem and the resulting vilification of Israel is preferable to creating a regional solution to a problem that has been festering for 70 years?!
Sunday, September 07, 2014
Fear of Flooding
The Israeli news outlets reported today that US warplanes carried out four bombing sorties against ISIS (Islamic State in Syria and Iraq) forces in Iraq's Anbar Province.
Naturally, since the US is an ally and the forces being targeted belong to a terror organization, the news is being reported here in a logical, matter-of-fact manner; with the assumption being that most people understand who the players are and why the attack was carried out.
But after the way the western media - The New York Times in particular - savaged Israel for carrying out military operations against a universally recognized terror organization that was engaged in targeting Israeli civilians, I was curious to see how the current US bombing campaign was being reported there.
Here's what I found:
The New York Time's home page, above the fold (meaning what is visible without having to scroll) looked like this (click the image to enlarge):
For your convenience I've circled the date so it is clear we're talking about the same time-frame.
I draw your attention to what is visible without scrolling (which, one would assume, are the most pressing, news-worthy stories of the day):
Center: A photo of Palestinian children playing in squalor with the caption: "Children played in a plaza in Al Fawwar, West Bank. Public spaces like the plaza are almost unheard-of in West Bank camps".
Below center: The article related to the photo, entitled: "Reshaping a West Bank Refugee Camp"
Top left: An article about influence peddling at some Washington think tanks, entitled: "Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Washington Think Tanks".
Top right: A fluff piece entitled: "News Analysis: Why Don’t More Men Go Into Teaching?"
In fact, you'd have to scroll well down the home page in order to find the article about the US having carried out a military air-strike on foreign soil!
That article, entitled "U.S. Launches Fresh Air-strikes on ISIS to Protect Dam in Iraq", was refreshing for its complete lack of journalistic curiosity about the types of munitions used, the amount of damage done to infrastructure and the number of civilians who might have been displaced, wounded or (G-d forbid), killed in the strike.
In fact, if one reads the entire article (feel free) not only are these details absent, but entire paragraphs are taken up with earnest explanation of who the people being bombed were, why the strike was necessary and what hung in the balance if the strikes would not have been carried out.
In short, what was provided in today's piece about a US air-strike in Iraq was pretty much all of the context that was denied to anyone reading about Israeli air-strikes on terror targets in Gaza.
For those who can't be bothered to read the 11 paragraphs that make up the article, I'll do the heavy lifting for you:
Who: US Warplanes (no type mentioned, but it is probably safe to assume that those being bombed don't possess any), and ISIS terrorists
What: An air-strike on an ISIS stronghold.
When: Saturday night
Where: Near the strategically important Haditha Dam
Why: "to stop militants from seizing an important dam on the Euphrates River and prevent the possibility of flood-waters being unleashed toward the capital, Baghdad".
Nice and neat, no? See how everything makes sense when context is offered?
And to ensure that the reader understands both the legitimacy and legality of the extremely measured use of US military force, here are helpful explanatory phrases full of language that positively exude 'truth, justice and the American way':
"...the limited goals that President Obama set...he had authorized air-strikes in Iraq..."
"Administration officials nonetheless stressed that the strikes around Haditha Dam... were within the constraints of what Mr. Obama initially characterized as a limited campaign to break the ISIS siege of the minority Yazidi population stranded on Mount Sinjar..."
"... as well as to protect American citizens, official personnel and facilities in Erbil, the Kurdish capital, and Baghdad".
“The strikes were conducted under authority to protect U.S. personnel and facilities, support humanitarian efforts...".
"...the mission of protecting American citizens and facilities gives the White House wide latitude to support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish militias ..."
The messeage being delivered is that clearly, someone is in charge, and there are excellent reasons for the actions he is taking.
The Times slavishly adheres to its policy of even-handedness by referring to the ISIS forces as 'militants'. But at the first opportunity, they availed themselves of the following quote from Pentagon press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby, which uses the terminology the times really wants to ensure their readers see: “We conducted these strikes to prevent terrorists from further threatening the security of the dam". [emphasis mine]
Oh, you were bombing terrorists?! Why didn't you just say so??!!!!
Now, what's so special about this dam that US warplanes had to be dispatched to a foreign country half a world away to protect it from falling into ISIS' hands?
Glad you asked, because the article provides a helpful explanations:
"A significant rupture of the Haditha Dam, officials have said, could send flood-waters through a large number of Iraqi communities and toward the capital, perhaps putting at risk the Baghdad airport, which could threaten Americans in the country."
Notice how far down that list the direct threat to American interests is? I'll number it for you:
- The dam
- Iraqi communities
- The Baghdad airport (perhaps!)
- Americans located in the country
Seems to me that at a distant fourth on the list, it would be far easier to airlift any remaining American citizens out of Iraq than risk getting the US mired in yet another open-ended foreign military adventure. But who am I to question the leader of the free world?
If nothing else, the reader (at least any reader who read past the midpoint of the article) was provided with an amazing amount of local and regional context to explain why the US had taken this extraordinary step: The US was bombing a bunch of terrorists to keep them from blowing up a dam and flooding a bunch of strategically important Iraqi communities and installations.
Which begs the question, why weren't similar efforts spared by the New York Times to provide regional context to those reading about Israeli attacks on Gaza?
The Times mentions Israeli fears of being flooded with terrorists (who would flow effortlessly into Israeli through tunnels prepared for just such a flood), and deluged with missiles (which rained down from launchers and storage facilities deliberately placed within civilian schools, hospitals and religious institutions), only in passing, if at all throughout weeks of relentless attempts by Hamas terrorists to target Israeli civilians.
Yet in Iraq, The Times reports breathlessly of US warplanes that are somehow able to make perfectly surgical strikes with no civilian losses and without a scratch to civilian infrastructure (or so one must deduce from the lack of reporting to the contrary). And these attacks, The Times patiently explains to us, are carried out because of a fear of flooding!
Monday, September 01, 2014
When someone else says it better, I just shut up and listen
Quite honestly, this is absolutely the best written, most clearly reasoned and supported explanation for the media's (and as a result, the worlds') obsessive focus on Israel to the exclusion of nearly everything else going on in the world.
Best of all, it comes from a media insider who knows where the bodies are buried and isn't afraid to name names.
If you read nothing else today, this week or this month... read this! It is in three sections (the navigation isn't immediately obvious). Read the whole thing!
Don't thank me... I'm a giver.
Hat tip to reader 'Rich' who left the link for me in a comment.
Saturday, August 30, 2014
When journalists come to the Middle East to cover anything going on the region, they might visit Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Gaza, etc., but they generally set up their base camp here in Israel because, you know, it's dangerous in all those other places. So while filing reports wearing flack jackets and helmets is good for ratings... you gotta be able to take off the protective gear and relax once in awhile.
And when a journalist or a couple of dozen UN peacekeepers are taken hostage by terrorists in Syria and are subsequently released, they aren't considered to be safe until they cross over into Israeli territory... again, because we actually control the territory over which we claim control, and our government takes seriously its primary responsibility of ensuring the safety and security of its residents.
In short, once you're in Israel, you're home free.
So I'm confused as to why all these media and UN types still insist on telling the world that we're the root of all the problems in the region, and that all those other places where they're getting kidnapped, shot at and beheaded, are okey dokey!
Can someone explain that to me using small words so I'll be sure to understand?
Monday, August 25, 2014
Why do I bother reading this crap?
With all of the verifiable, newsworthy things going on the world today (including the hundreds of rockets that have been fired at Israeli civilian population centers by Hamas in just the past 24 hours), the front page of today's online New York Times featured the following article, top, front and center:
Pay special attention to the passage from the article that I've highlighted below:
This is a 17 year old (i.e. old enough to actually be a Hamas or Islamic Jihad combatant), who is the son of a Hamas government official, making completely uncorroborated claims of Israeli misdeeds.
And the reason the Times felt that this story was not only newsworthy, but important enough to place in the top-center spot of their home page is that if his asserions could be corroborated, this would constitute an Israeli Military violation of both International and Israeli law.
Forget the fact that EVERY SINGLE ROCKET FIRED FROM WITHIN CIVILIAN AREAS OF GAZA AT ISRAELI CIVILIANS IS A DOUBLE WAR CRIME! And the source and destination of those rocket launches can actually be verified!!!
The Times could just as easily have reported that if the IDF had stolen one of the kid's kidneys and sold it on the black market (or used it to bake matzoh for Passover!), it would have also been a violation of International and Israeli law. Because without corroboration, or some compelling reason to believe it could be true, this is nothing more than a blood libel dressed up as a news lead... an irrelevant fairy tale, not news!
Unless, of course, you are the New York Times: the self-proclaimed arbiter of what news is fit to print.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
American media seems to sing a different tune...
... when the sh*t hits the fan at home.
A buddy of mine pointed me towards a brilliant bit of satire today. It is a piece illustrating how the US media machine would be covering the current crisis in Ferguson, Missouri if the events were taking place on foreign soil.
Here' s taste:
"FERGUSON — Chinese and Russian officials are warning of a potential humanitarian crisis in the restive American province of Missouri, where ancient communal tensions have boiled over into full-blown violence.
"We must use all means at our disposal to end the violence and restore calm to the region," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in comments to an emergency United Nations Security Council session on the America crisis.
The crisis began a week ago in Ferguson, a remote Missouri village that has been a hotbed of sectarian tension. State security forces shot and killed an unarmed man, which regional analysts say has angered the local population by surfacing deep-seated sectarian grievances. Regime security forces cracked down brutally on largely peaceful protests, worsening the crisis."
Seriously, go read the whole thing.
Makes me care just a little bit less about all those self-righteous media douchebags prancing around Gaza in their flack jackets and helmets reading from crib sheets about a place they couldn't find on a map two months ago, much less have a prayer of following the money to the perps in Hamastan who are trying to cash in on their renewed relevance after their latest unprovoked attacks against the US's only ally in the region.
Monday, August 11, 2014
Charity Begins at Home
An Honest Examination of Responsibility and Allocation of Resources by an Israeli Parent
[A guest post by Zahava]
I’ll be honest. It’s been a rough few months. So rough, I’ve had to force myself to limit my forays onto news sites and social media.
It isn’t that I am less passionate about the various issues which relate to what we Israelis refer to as ‘hamatzav', (literally 'the situation'), than 11 years ago when we made Aliyah at the tail end of the second intifada, or 9 years ago during the painful disengagement from Gaza. It’s simply that I have different responsibilities and priorities today than I had during those periods.
I now run a business in which I have to balance responsibility to both clients and colleagues. I also now have an exceptionally sensitive and bright ten-year-old whose individual needs require me to better manage my resources — to make sure that no matter what HIS needs are, that I am in the best possible position to meet them. This means that I can’t afford to be distracted by anything which might sap my energy or focus, and which might render me less able to be at my best for him.
In fact, it is my role as this particular child’s mother that has prompted me to reluctantly stick my 2 cents back into the blogosphere today.
In recent weeks, one of the most depressing and disheartening aspects of those limited ‘strolls’ through cyberspace, has been exposure to the harsh and often self-righteous condemnation that we Israelis are receiving for allegedly not speaking out and doing enough to protect the children of Gaza.
To which, I must emphatically ask, “Excuse, me?!”
Don’t get me wrong. My heart breaks for the children on the Gazan side of this conflict — along with innocent Gazan civilians of all ages — these people are truly victims. When I consider their conditions, I am filled with nothing but sorrow and concern for their welfare and for their futures. Anyone with the slightest shred of humanity would be upset and worried. And I like to think that my capacity for compassion and empathy place me squarely on the deep end of the humanity pool….
The thing is, not unlike the innocent civilians of Gaza, Israeli parents are consumed with our own urgent pressures and responsibilities in dealing with this conflict. The difference is that thanks to a government and a society which value life — whose core ethic is to compare each individual life to an entire and complete universe — the typical Israeli's proximity to physical danger may be less than our Gazan counterparts, but we are not exactly living a carefree existence over here.
My friend Romi Sussman wrote a stark and honest piece which accurately depicts our struggles to get our families through this conflict intact; physically and spiritually.
The lack of ordinary Israeli citizens stampeding to bemoan the tragic situation which has befallen the children of those devoted to our annihilation doesn’t reflect a lack of compassion or concern on our part. Rather, it indicates that we have our hands full with our own suffering, and with the suffering of those closest to us. Israeli parents are not without concern and worry for the children of our enemies. We are simply fulfilling our more immediate responsibilities to our own children.
In the same way that when traveling by air it is accepted protocol that in the event that oxygen masks are deployed, parents are expected to don their own masks before assisting their children — Israelis’ first obligation is to caring for our own children before caring for someone else's.
Once our safety is secured, we can move onto securing the safety of others.
To take the example one step further, no one would expect a traveling parent of an infant to defer placing their own child’s mask in order to assist another family in getting their children’s masks in place! Obviously, once one's own kids’ safety is secure, a reasonable person would look around to see who else needs help. But until I know my kid is safe — no way, no how am I doing anything else but to focus on my child.
Think about the various natural and man-made disasters that have occurred over the past few decades. There have been quite a few — floods, earthquakes, storms, nuclear reactor failures and medical epidemics to name a few — from Haiti to Africa, from the South Seas and the Indian Ocean to Japan. Which tiny country, boasting only 8 million citizens, routinely steps to the forefront with generous contributions of manpower, financial aid, food and medical supplies? The answer is Israel.
So spare us your righteous indignation. We are in agreement that the ‘rights of the child‘ are undergoing horrific violation in Gaza (as they are in many other places around the world). However we part company on two integral points:
1) The responsibility for Gazan children being placed in harm’s way lies squarely on the shoulders of the folks launching rockets from residential areas, schools and hospitals.
2) While my children and family are under fire, my primary responsibility is to them.
If a parent is able to assist another person’s child without denying their own child adequate protection, this is a wonderful and admirable thing to do. But to expect — or even to insist — that a parent place their own child’s needs after the needs of another’s children… that is as unreasonable as it is intellectually dishonest.
Wanna know the secret to making Israelis more vocal about their concern for Gazan kids and civilians? It’s simple. Remove the threat of terror. Stop the rockets, stop the kidnappings and stop the terror attacks. Then we'll have the headspace to be concerned with the welfare of others.
Trust me, if we can routinely scold each other on the street over 'questionable' choices of dress and food for each other's children, we can certainly spare a few thoughts as to what is best for the children of Gaza.
But so long as we are forced to raise our own children under the threat of multi-layered assault with the stated purpose of destroying Israel and everyone in it? Then don't hold your breath waiting for Israelis to share their indignation over the condition of our enemies’ kids.
We’ve got our hands full with our own children — at the moment, our own children are our most urgent priority. After all... charity begins at home.
Sunday, August 10, 2014
The best idea I've heard so far...
I have to admit that there don't seem to be many palatable options open to Israel in this classic asymmetric conflict in which we've been engaged (against our will).
We're like a big kid on the playground who has been attacked by a much smaller kid. We only have two options open to us:
Option 1: Beat the sh*t out of the little kid who has taken a swing at us (and be condemned for beating up a little kid).
Option 2: Turn the other cheek and let the kid bloody our nose, blacken our eyes and pretty much do whatever he wants (and be ridiculed for getting beaten up by a little kid).
So far we've been trying to walk a path somewhere between those two options; by trying to block as many punches and kicks as possible, while hitting back with enough force to try to injure the little kid just enough to get him to lose interest in continuing to hit and kick us for awhile.
But this approach has sort of blown up in our faces, and has gotten us a double dose of condemnation: On the one hand we are ridiculed for being a full fledged country at the mercy of a rogue terror organization AND on the other hand, we're berated for picking on a defenseless proto-state.
Enter Professor Yisroel Aumann, who received the Nobel prize for economics in 2005 for his work on conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis. Professor Aumann has come up with a novel approach to dealing with what seems like an un-winnable conflict: Instead of hitting the opponent... step back and allow the opponent to hit himself.
His suggestion is as simple as it is brilliant:
In a recent lecture he suggested Israel design and build a fully automatic system that would fire a rocket back at Gaza immediately, whenever Gaza terrorists fired a missile at Israel. Presumably, these missiles would be randomly or automatically aimed in a way that would inflict civilian casualties on the Arab side, just as Hamas seeks to cause civilian casualties on the Israeli side.
He stated that "The goal is truly that the system will be without any human involvement, no human control. This is very important, because if there is control, they will tell us that we are criminals and murderers and cruel... However, if there is no control of the system on the Israeli side, the responsibility for civilian deaths caused on the Arab side falls on the people who fired the missiles that set off the Israeli system". [source]
Technically, this should not be a difficult system to design and implement. In fact, all of the radar, command & control, computer and missile components already exist. Someone just needs to give the order to combine them into a self-contained closed system that can be set up to operate autonomously like a house alarm that is armed when the home owner goes out.
Obviously, it would have to be an order of magnitude more reliable than a house alarm so that it can't be accidentally triggered by anything except an incoming rocket or mortar from Gaza.
In my humble opinion, this is the best and only solution for dealing with asymmetrical threats such as Israel is currently facing from Gaza. At least, until such time as the world decides to remove the financial incentive for these terror organizations to continue their belligerency.
Wednesday, August 06, 2014
And so it begins (again)...
... not that it ever really stopped, mind you.
I'm talking about anti-semitism masquerading as anti-Israel activism. There are long periods where such sentiments and activism are driven underground because of political considerations (or at least considerations of political correctness).
But whenever Israel's security situation becomes so intolerable that we are forced to retaliate and/or launch any sort of military operation to protect our citizens, the gloves (and masks) come off the anti-semites around the world.
And, of course, leading the charge of those giving full-throated condemnation of Israel is former US President Jimmy Carter, who has accused Israel of "deliberate attacks on civilians" in Gaza, and who recommends that the US and EU "formally recognize Hamas as a legitimate political actor":
"There is no humane or legal justification for the way the Israeli Defense Forces are conducting this war. Israeli bombs, missiles, and artillery have pulverized large parts of Gaza, including thousands of homes, schools, and hospitals. More than 250,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Gaza. Hundreds of Palestinian noncombatants have been killed. Much of Gaza has lost access to water and electricity completely. This is a humanitarian catastrophe.... " . [source]
It just goes to show, once again, that Jimmy Carter never met a despot or terrorist organization that he didn't like. And if the despot or terror organization stands against Israel... [~ swoon ~].
It isn't bad enough that we are now engaged in delicate cease-fire negotiations with an unreasonable, intransigent opponent. Jimmy obviously feels that this is the ideal time to fire the opening shot in this year's Joo Season.
So sit back and watch the boycotts, divestment and sanctions start to pile up at our doorstep.
To paraphrase the excellent essay by Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch:
'If you couldn't be bothered to raise your voice in condemnation when thousands of civilian protesters were killed and injured by the governments of Turkey, Egypt and Libya, when a record number of people were hanged by the government of Iran, when civilians were bombed in Afghanistan, when whole communities were massacred in South Sudan, when 150,000 Syrians were starved and murdered by Assad's forces (among them more Palestinians than perished in the recent Gaza operation), when hundreds in Pakistani civilians were killed by jihadist attacks, when 10,000 Iraqi civilians were killed by terrorists, when scores of villagers were slaughtered in Nigeria... yet you somehow found the time to raise your voice to cry out for Gaza, then you aren't pro-human rights, you are anti-Israel.' [source]
Update: Britain's Student Union has just voted to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israeli. [source]
Tuesday, August 05, 2014
Making the Case for Demilitarizing Gaza
Ironically, it was Hamas, not Israel, that presented the most compelling case for completely demilitarizing Gaza.
Over the past few days, the international media and community have been wringing their hands over the devastation in Gaza, and have been chastising Israel for going further than needed in our attempt to stop the incessant rocket fire on Israeli civilian population centers.
The clear message behind these scoldings was that Hamas' military capabilities had already been devastated and that the continued pounding of Gaza was spiteful and punitive; serving no military purpose... while Israeli leaders insisted that we had not nearly gone far enough.
As Israel struggled to provide an adequate response to these accusations, just minutes before the 72 hour cease fire was to take effect at 8:00 AM this morning, Gaza terror groups under the command of Hamas fired dozens of missiles at communities throughout Israel in a precisely coordinated and premeditated barrage.
This cowardly attack displayed far more than just bad faith. It demonstrated beyond all doubt that Hamas' Command & Control system remains fully functional, and that despite the destruction of the terror tunnels leading into Israel, their ability to continue striking Israel with impunity remains largely intact.
Therefore, the cornerstone of any long-term ceasefire agreement MUST be the complete demilitarization/disarmament of Hamas and its many subordinate terror groups in Gaza.
And since the US, EU and UN all feel that Israel has been too brutal in its dealings with Gaza, and that we have been unreasonable in our monitoring of what is allowed to enter Gaza, it must be an international force that will take responsibility for carrying out the disarmament process and subsequent monitoring of all Gaza crossings to ensure no weapons or military equipment are smuggled in.
And most importantly, UNRWA, having been proven to be at best a hapless dupe, and at worst a willing partner, to Palestinian terror, must be disbanded and replaced by UNHCR which is the UN body responsible for all other refugees in the world, and can act as a reliable trustee for the millions of dollars that will soon be pouring into Gaza from around the world. This is the only way to ensure that the aid money gets spent on improving the lives of innocent Gazans instead of being reinvested in weapons and terror infrastructure for the next, inevitable war.
The resolve of the international community will be tested over the next 72 hours. If it is found wanting, Israel will have to go it alone and take whatever steps are necessary to provide safety and security to its citizens.
Sunday, August 03, 2014
The frustration of arguing with history deniers
I've recently had several on and off-line discussions about the history of our region with people I'd always considered to be intelligent and well-educated.
Those discussions have led me to the inescapable conclusion that, not only do many people lack even the most rudimentary curiosity about history, but they actually actively avoid any aspect of its study which might contradict / threaten their currently held political views and opinions.
If I only had to contend with the frustration of not having a common pool of knowledge upon which to draw while discussing current events with these people, I would gladly prepare, carry and distribute copies of a short 'Cliff Notes'-style cheat sheet of verifiable (or at least widely accepted) historical events that shaped the near east over the past three millennium (with emphasis placed on the legal ramifications of the events of the last 200 years); No editorializing or interpretation, mind you... 'just the facts' (as Sgt. Joe Friday used to say).
Unfortunately, most people would slam the door on such a historical 'cheat sheet' as automatically as they would a tract or pamphlet being offered door-to-door by religious missionaries.
I'm not sure if it is a lack of confidence in the accuracy of the historical record, or if they simply believe that sheer force of will and modern mores should trump legal precedent and historical fact.
But whatever the reason, anyone who attempts to place current events in any sort of historical context should prepare themselves for blank stares and rather one-sided conversations.
Friday, August 01, 2014
When all isn't fair in... war
Throughout the current conflict in Gaza, the world has been scolding Israel over the lack of proportionality in the way we have been responding to the unprovoked attacks against us.
European leaders and UN shills have been stressing two main talking point in all their public statements:
1. The 'primitive' nature of the weapons that are being used against us as compared to the sophisticated offensive and defensive tools in our arsenal;
2. The disproportionate number of casualties on each side.
Heck, the New York Times even offers a handy box score in every article related to the conflict... y'kmow, so fans tuning in can quickly get a sense of how the game stands.
[Screenshot from today's Times]
The clear message being conveyed is that since their weapons are so crude and inaccurate, and our technological advantage so great... that we should somehow be able to handicap the conflict in such a way as to level the playing field.
In other words, with such a lopsided death toll, something just doesn't seem cricket in the way Israel is playing the game.
What they fail to appreciate (or more likely, willfully ignore), is that, despite having rules... war is not a game. The rules are meant to preserve humanity and protect non-combatants... not ensure a close and exciting match for the spectators.
There is nothing in the Geneva Comventions that requires a better equipped military force to give a head start or handicap to a belligerent adversary with lesser means.
There are, however clear rules regarding the deliberate use of civilians as human shields, and intentionally exploiting schools, hospitals, ambulances, residential dwellings and houses of worship as weapons depots and launch pads.
There are rules that require combatants to wear clearly identifiable uniforms and insignia to distinguish them from non-combatants.
There are rules that prohibit the use of false flags (e.g. enemy uniforms) during attacks, and there are rules that prohibit carrying out attacks under a flag of truce (i.e. during a cease fire that has been offered and accepted by all sides.).
And most cogent to the events of today, there are rules governing the status and treatment of combatants captured, taken prisoner and / or who surrender during hostilities. Such persons are considered Prisoners of War, not kidnap victims.
Yet, throughout this (and all previous conflicts), Israel has been expected to not only offer a handicap, but to play by a different set of rules altogether!
The terrorists in Gaza fire thousands of missiles at our civilian population and the world borrows from the Palestinian lexicon to label it 'resistance' and 'militancy' instead of unprovoked belligerency and terrorism.
They use their own people and civilian infrastructure as shields for military installations, but the world only takes notice when those installations are targeted in our retaliatory strikes.
They dress their combatants in civilian clothing, and the world only notices the blurring of that distinction when tallying up the daily body count (with anyone dressed in street clothes counted as a civilian death).
They ask for, and receive, humanitarian ceasefires... and the world sees nothing wrong with the fact that they use those ceasefires to launch unopposed sneak attacks.
Their captured combatants are treated as Prisoners of War with the Red Cross given full access to assess their conditions and treatment. When one of our soldiers falls into their hands (captured during a cease fire!), the world shrugs and calls him a kidnapping victim, with no rights or expectations of humane treatment, instead of calling him a POW.
I'm not suggesting that Israel abandon it's humanity or disregard our moral / ethical responsibility to try to safeguard non-combatants who are, through no fault of their own, caught in the crossfire.
But there comes a point in warfare where one side declares through word and deed that no quarter will be offered to combatants... and both sides have to assume that none will be given.
That time has, IMHO, arrived.
Israel must continue to hold itself to the highest standards of conduct. But if our enemies are not expected to adhere to modern norms of warfare, I say we have to wage war on their terms... at least in terms of how we treat their combatants.
Without going into specifics, I think we should be guided by a few bits of wisdom passed down to us by a man who knew a thing or two about warfare... and how trying to make it neat, honorable or fair would do nothing but prolong the agony for all involved:
“Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster”
“War is cruelty. There's no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.”
"War is the remedy that our enemies have chosen, and I say let us give them all they want."
~William Tecumseh Sherman~
General Sherman understood then, as we must make the world understand now, that war isn't fair. War is hell.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Turnabout is fair play
When Fatah and Hamas signed their unity deal back in early June, the European Union, the United Nations, the United States, China, India, Russia and Turkey all agreed to work with it, and ignored Israel's objections.
Although Israel was completely against any unity deal that included an unreformed terror organization such as Hamas, everyone tried to sell it to us by pointing out that there were no actual Hamas members in the unity government's cabinet, and that once the unity deal was signed, Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority would became responsible for both the West Bank and Gaza.
'Trust us', they said. They assured us that the mechanics of the agreement would do away with the status quo whereby the Palestinians had two separate governments; one ruled by Fatah in the West Bank and the other by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and would create a situation where the Palestinians spoke and acted with one voice.
So here's my question:
Now that the Palestinians (notice I'm no longer differentiating between Fatah and Hamas... as the unity deal is still very much in place), have committed a host of actionable war crimes, including (but not limited to) repeatedly:
- targeting Israeli civilians with missiles
- attempted kidnappings / terror attacks against Israeli civilians
- using Palestinian civilians as human shields
- storing and firing weapons from within schools, hospitals and mosques
- engaging in combat operations while wearing enemy (IDF) uniforms and insignia
- carrying out all of the above under a flag of truce / during a cease fire
... how is it that we aren't demanding that Mahmoud Abbas and the entire PA unity cabinet be brought before the International Court of Justice to answer for these war crimes?
It seems to me that if all the entities and countries I mentioned above gave us their assurances that Abbas and the PA Unity Government would now be solely responsible for the actions of the Palestinians... we should be able to hold them to that, no?
Forget the current and past Hamas leadership. We can pick them off at our leisure in targeted strikes wherever and whenever we wish.
But after all the years that Israeli government officials and senior IDF officers couldn't travel abroad for fear of being arrested and thrown into the dock at the Hague based on Palestinian accusations, isn't turnabout fair play?
After all, if they can't be held to the agreements they sign with one another... how can they be expected to honor any agreements they may sign with us?!
Please show your work.
Monday, July 28, 2014
A Deliberate Oversimplification
When the US or any other 'real' country makes the decision to embark on a military operation, the world may agree or disagree with their goals and/or objectives... but they generally stand back and watch to see how things will turn out.
However, no matter how legitimate the casus belli (the act or event that provoked or is used to justify war) Israel provides, the moment we make the difficult decision to launch a military operation, the US and other world powers ignore the seriousness of the provocation or legitimacy of the objectives, and immediately start focusing on how to stop the fighting as quickly as possible.
It doesn't matter that months (or even years) of violence were inflicted on Israel before we made a decision to respond with force. As soon as Israel responds, the world suddenly and miraculously awakes from its slumber and becomes fully engaged and focused on one thing: making Israel stop.
I live in a real country with a responsible government that takes the job of protecting its citizens quite seriously. We are not some kid wandering around the playground picking fights or 'not playing nicely with others'. We don't want or need adult supervision to weigh and make considered decisions. And we certainly don't want or need some parent or authority figure to symbolically grab our wrist and drag us to a 'time out' the moment some 'squabble' erupts.
By necessity of the region in which we live, we have an extremely capable military. But our achilles heel is that we have a very low tolerance for casualties. Each of member of our armed forces is someone's son, husband, father, daughter, wife or mother. We do not send our soldiers lightly into harms way. The concept of 'cannon fodder' is alien to is. Every single casualty is a national tragedy. We know it... and so do our adversaries.
I mention this because when our government makes the difficult decision to launch a military operation, we do so only after all other options have been exhausted. And we do not appreciate being treated like impetuous playground ruffians or squabbling children who have to be reined in.
It is the height of paternalistic arrogance for the US and other countries to reflexively assume that we need adult supervision, and the height of ignorant hypocrisy for you to routinely use military force as an instrument of foreign policy while denying my country the most basic right of self defense.
In the current conflict, the time to attempt to be a playground monitor is long past (if it ever existed). You sat on your park bench sipping coffee with the other oblivious 'grown-ups' while we had our lunch money stolen, sand thrown in our eyes and our nose repeatedly bloodied. You don't get to suddenly pop up and intervene when our antagonist's crying begins to disturb your pleasant afternoon in the park.
Although we hold ourselves to a higher standard than our antagonists, we will not tolerate such skewed prejudices from you. If you don't demand adherence to the norms and conventions of warfare from our enemies, don't lecture us about international law.
We will act with maturity and restraint... and within the boundaries of international law and civilized behavior; Not because you try to restrain us, but because we know what is right and can make measured, informed decisions without the need of adult supervision.
Now go back to whatever you were doing before you noticed the sound of fighting. This doesn't concern you.
And if you really want to act as if you are the only grown ups within earshot... well, you should have been paying closer attention for the past few years as we were being victimized by the neighborhood bullies.
This is our fight. We'll let you know when we're done.
Reports from unnamed U.S. Official have emerged stating that the document John Kerry circulated was not meant as a ceasefire proposal, but rather just a draft meant for comments. The fact that it omitted Israel's security needs and provided a windfall for Hamas... not to mention that Kerry engaged with Qatar and Turkey to try and hammer out the deal, is neither here nor there.
The unnamed source went on to complain in the most strident tones that Israeli reactions to the document, and to Kerry's efforts were "inaccurate and insulting".
Since the US seems to be sticking true to form and playing the outraged and insulted cards to cover for yet another feckless foreign policy blunder, let me offer something to be truly insulted about (though sadly, quite accurate):
The only accurate statements issuing from the US State Department and White House are related to the tragic nature of the civilian casualties and suffering in Gaza. But what they both fail to grasp is that the casualties and suffering are entirely Hamas' responsibility. If the US wants it to stop, they are pressuring the wrong side.
Don't have any leverage with Hamas? Not our problem. That doesn't mean we have to always be the only grown ups in the region. The US government needs to STFU and let the IDF provide the only kind of diplomacy to which Hamas is likely to respond.
Israel's responsibility, aside from its primary responsibility to protect its own citizens, is to do everything possible to minimize the civilian toll in Gaza. And anyone who understands even the tiniest bit about military technology knows that after three weeks of nearly non-stop bombardment of legitimate military targets that had been deliberately embedded deep inside Gaza's civilian infrastructure, 1,031 deaths (many of whom were combatants or willing human shields) is a tragic, but minimum number of casualties that serves as a testament to Israel's morality and caution... and to Hamas' brutality and inhumanity.
The only thing Kerry's floundering efforts this weekend accomplished, was to inadvertently align Israeli, Palestinian Authority and Egyptian assessments that he is, at best, a blithering idiot, and at worst a duplicitous supporter of a Turkish and Qatari-backed Hamas victory.
There. Now they can be offended.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
A Letter From My Daughter
To my dear brothers,
I'm writing from a feeling of deep pain. A pain that I hoped you'd never feel but know you already have.
I was told of a death. Someone close. Yuval. A run in with terrorists. Not even in Gaza but in Israel. In our territory. And suddenly I understand that we are fighting for our home. Not territory but our right to exist.
So many times we say "please let it be someone I don't know... Just not someone I know". But somebody does know him. And love him. And feels how I feel now. Until it all reaches me... Well, it was just a matter of time.
But my dear brothers, that's not what I wanted to say. Not to say that it finally hit home. But to remind us (and mostly myself) what and for who we are fighting for. I'm grasping for the right words and suddenly I remember a song. That we all know. A simple one. It rings in my ear and beats in my heart.
To be a free nation in our country
להיות עם חופשי בארצנו
We have not yet lost hope and faith
עוד לא אבדה תקוותנו
(from hatikva- our national anthem)
You are our hopes, dear brothers. Brothers by blood. Brothers in pain, in our souls and in our hopes. We are the whole. Every soldier and soldier. Every brother and sister. One family. One nation. One heart.
In two days I will be in Israel for eleven years. The tenth year I celebrated by enlisting. This year I celebrate with the pride of being your sister. Wearing my uniform. Living in this country. I think back and look at my friends in the states.
How twisted my reality looks compared to theirs. Maybe they have it better... but even with all the pain, I wouldn't give up my life and reality for even a second. My life. My house. My land. My brothers.
So dear brothers, fight. For yourselves. For our fallen. For our homes. For our existence.
I love you all.
Sunday, July 20, 2014
No clear link...Actor James Garner died today at age 86. The New York Times is reporting that, for the moment, there is no clear evidence linking his death to the ongoing Israeli offensive in Gaza, which has claimed more than 400 lives so far.
A Letter to My Former Home
[A guest post by Zahava]
I have the best friends and former colleagues a girl could ask for. Over the past several weeks, as the situation here in Israel has intensified, I have been overwhelmed by the support shown to me by friends and former colleagues from the pre-Aliyah chapter of my life. This support is so meaningful and so appreciated – thank you to those of you who have reached out – your love and concern fortifies us.
Often these notes of support come with questions about what is really happening over here. Nearly everyone has expressed frustration with what is accessible to them via mainstream media – the perception is that that the facts have been distorted to support various political agendas. As such, a number of friends have asked me to elaborate on ‘the reality on the ground’ from my perspective.
This is a difficult endeavor – especially given that when our nation’s security situation is tense, my own mood can be easily swayed by momentary events. In developing responses, I try to incorporate my understanding of what is happening based on composite information from reliable local media outlets as well as weaving in aspects of my own personal experience.
I have written several such responses over the past few weeks. The following, at the moment, best represents my thoughts.
Thank you so very much for reaching out to me — it is very nice to receive support from friends in the States.
You are correct — things are unpleasant — but not nearly as bad as currently portrayed in the press.
It has been a crazy month or so — and it is certainly no fun scrambling for the bomb shelters when the air raid sirens go off.
Western media seems to have missed the more nuanced aspects of life here — and even some of the not-so-nuanced things.
I think the most difficult aspect of understanding the current situation is the foreign media’s attempt to create a link between the current operation in Gaza and the kidnappings of the 3 Jewish Israeli boys.
There is no connection.
Yes, the kidnappers are part of the Hamas terror structure. But bringing those perpetrators to justice is a separate matter from the operation in Gaza. Also separate, is the investigation against the Arab Israeli teen who was murdered -- an investigation which to date has yielded more substantial results than the former. The suspects in the murder of the Arab teen have been apprehended, and the entire country has vehemently denounced this horrific act. When convicted, these offenders will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. We will name no streets after these despicable people. We will not glorify them. They are, simply put, no heroes of ours.
The current operation in Gaza is nothing more than the most recent attempt to stop rockets from being launched at our civilian population. Since the end of the last operation in 2012 there has been a slow but steady escalation against our southern cities which goes largely unnoticed by anyone outside of Israel — until we have the temerity to try and stop them. THEN, the global community has lots to say.
Since the current operation against the rockets was initiated, of course, Hamas and other terror organizations have ramped up their efforts and have been indiscriminately firing in all directions, as far as their arsenal will allow them.
On the Israeli side, we are fortunate that our government values our lives. Due to a major change in building codes during the 90s all homes built after 1995 have their own reinforced safe-room. In addition there are public bomb shelters everywhere. In the southern cities, public shelters have been augmented with a scattering of large-bore concrete pipes to open areas in which people can take cover. And, thank G-d for good technological ingenuity, someone developed an app which sounds an alarm each time there is a launch. Many municipalities have also instituted an SMS service for their residents advising appropriate action when an air raid siren is sounded in the area. These are the key reasons why our casualties are far more limited than on the other side.
The situation is hardest on school-aged kids. Yonah is no exception -- it has been incredibly traumatic for him. Dealing with his anxiety has become very difficult. During the search and rescue efforts, he was terrified of being taken — didn't want to sleep in his room. When the rockets started falling in our region, his anxiety only intensified (can't really blame him). Thankfully, the schools have their guidance counselor staff on-hand this summer in anticipation of exactly this type of difficulty — we are doing our best to help him diffuse his anxiety, but it is devastating to watch him suffer.
Something positive, which I suspect is going largely unreported in the western media, are the voices which have emerged from some segments of the Arab Israeli community. A few brave and outspoken people have been interviewed in Israeli media. They have spoken out in support of the 3 boys' families; in support of the State; against the rioting in response to the Arab teen's murder; and against the rockets from Gaza. Some have proudly stated that their children serve in the army and that they see themselves as Israeli Arabs – they do not support, nor do they want to be governed by a Palestinian government.
Sadly, there have been instances of anti-Arab riots and activity. However, there has been broad and unified condemnation for such behavior across every segment of Israeli society — politically, religiously, and demographically – especially from within Judea and Sameria. We will not accept these acts and attitudes.
As a result of all of this, there have been several gatherings by Arab and Jewish groups — both to protest the kidnappings and murders and to attempt to bolster the fragile relationships that exists between them.
During the search and rescue efforts, there was a multicultural prayer gathering at the bus stop where the boys were taken – it was comprised of a small group of local rabbis, imams and lay leaders.
Earlier this week, there was a joint break fast for Ramadan and our fast of the 17th of Tammuz (date which begins our three-week period of mourning for the destruction of the first and second temples in Jerusalem) meters away from the abduction spot. These are just 2 such events — there have others.
In conclusion, thanks again for reaching out to me — and for having the wisdom to understand that things are not always as they appear. We are going about our daily lives as best we can. As a friend recently pointed out — we are laughing a little harder at jokes that aren't really that funny; we are eating a little more ice-cream than is good for our waistlines; we are drinking a glass of wine with week-day dinners, not just on the weekends; and we are indulging our kids more than usual — but we make the best of an awful situation because this is our home and we can't conceive of living anywhere else.
All the best,
Saturday, July 19, 2014
Those who ignore history...
... are doomed to repeat it.
There is no pleasure in saying 'I told you so'... only profound sadness.
The horrifying situation in which my country finds itself is a direct result of previous leaders failing to heed the the stated intention of our enemies, simply because it would mean admitting their political opponents might be right.
Click here to listen: Rabin on the impossibility of missiles from Gaza
[Translation: "The horror stories of the Likud are familiar; indeed they promised us also Katyushas from Gaza. Already a year, the Gaza strip is mostly under the control of the Palestinian Authority, there has not yet been any Katyusha and there will be no Katyusha, et cetera et cetera et cetera. All the chattering; the Likud is deathly afraid of peace. The “peace cowards”, this is the Likud of today. This is not the Likud of Menachem Begin of blessed memory, who dared, and took initiatives, and was willing to pay a painful price to advance peace. The Likud of today is deathly afraid of peace, and therefore, it reacts in a way that is truly childish."]
And yet, even today there are naive people, here and abroad, who can look into the camera and innocently bleat, "Nobody could have known this would happen. We had to act as we did. We had to give peace a chance".
Peace doesn't happen by chance, and it doesn't arrive simply because you want it badly enough. It can only be achieved when all sides in a conflict have more to gain from the cessation of hostilities than its continuation.
But sadly, the international community has created a self-perpetuating model where terror organizations have nothing to gain from peace, and everything to gain from war.
Each time Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah or any of the other terror organizations instigate a war against my country, the international community lines up to pour millions of dollars in aid into their coffers to help the poor victims of 'Israeli aggression' rebuild.
But mysteriously, the money doesn't reach the people who need it. Infrastructure isn't rebuilt. schools and hospitals that were cynically used to store weapons and to house combatants remain in ruins... and the aid money is skimmed, funneled and syphoned into the Swiss bank accounts of terror warlords who sit out the wars in luxurious splendor; the privileged guests of foreign despots.
More than ten times the amount of money donated to rebuild all of Europe under the Marshal Plan has been thrown blindly at the Palestinian 'leadership' without requiring a scrap of accountability or transparency.
Needless to say, despite the staggering infusion of funds, the Palestinian people remain trapped in poverty and squalor, with no infrastructure, not prospects and no hope... victims of 'elected' kleptocracies that they can't (or won't) overthrow.
Israel can't create its own peace partner, and no amount of wishing on the part of the international community can place one across the table from us.
The only thing that can bring the Palestinians peace is for the people to finally rise up and demand a better life for themselves, not just from Israel... but from their own leaders.
Everybody deserves to live in peace!
But peace doesn't come simply because it is deserved. It comes when all sides have too much to lose from its absence.