Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"We Are Hamas," Aren't We? Pro-Palestinian Author says NO

How Liberals Arrive at "We Are Hamas"

The author articulates the dilemma of thoughtful, enlightened activists on the left who understand that "we are not Hamas; nor are we all Hezbollah." That those parties represent repression, right wing theocracies, brutality, death & destruction; that they are anti-nationalist, anti-human rights; including women, gay, children, and every other civil right that principled people the world over respect and defend. Is it really that hard to separate the wheat from the chaff?
Thanks to Josh Strawn for his moral clarity!
david brumer

The sad part, though, is that it's a good thing to want to show solidarity with the oppressed, to want to work towards a world where the crimes of our more ignorant past are corrected. People like me, who are quite convinced that Galloway represents another, far more sinister breed than the well-meaning accidental fascist weekender-type outlined here, are in a difficult position. Criticize Galloway and the protest, and be accused of siding with colonialists, child-murderers and labeled a treacherous bastard. Fail to do so, and fail to defend the right of a liberal democratic state to self-defense and let thrive the growing sector of the left that openly declares support with the radical theocratic right. But would it really be too much to ask for some celebrities of conscience, musicians, movie stars, and leftists to take neither the side of heavy-handed Israeli retaliations, nor the side of terrorists who fire rockets indiscriminately into civilian areas of Southern Israel and use their own people as human shields? What if instead, in a gesture of solidarity, they took the words of a bereaved Palestinian mother whose child had been killed in an Israeli strike as their slogan? She is a female, non-Western victim of both the Israeli occupation as well as the cynical machinations of Islamic imperialists that provoked this conflict. Her cry? "May God exterminate Hamas!" Whether or not one endorses her means, this formulation captures perfectly a real vision for a political project worth undertaking. You needn't endorse Israel's means of accomplishing that task either, but at the very least it is the ultimate statement of solidarity with Palestinian victims of this war. A fairly potent means of examining and critiquing the postcolonial West might involve asking the following simple, jargonless question: How can a woman who lives this war and has lost her own flesh and blood to an Israeli strike be able to distinguish the guilty party even through a haze of grief that few of us can imagine, while those in the West march in support of the party that she knows brought about the death of her child?

Published on Jewcy.com (http://www.jewcy.com/)

How Liberals Arrive at "We Are Hamas" By Josh Strawn

"WE ARE HAMAS," said protestors in London on January 3rd. Welcome to 2009, and to the thoroughly postmodern, ahistorical, depoliticized, world in which we live. And if the reader will kindly forgive the initial barrage of academic terms, and come with me on a short journey, I'll explain why, for this avidly pro-Palestinian author and activist, spectacles like the one in the UK are both disheartening with regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict but also in terms of the wider culture we live in...
First, some definitions:

POSTMODERN. A term often deployed unspecifically, and just as often misunderstood by its adherents as by the layman. Postmodernism was a fad in philosophy that took root roughly in the 1970s. I know what some of you are thinking--philosophy is an ivory tower sort of thing that doesn't connect to the real world, so blaming some European intellectuals from a few decades ago for anything that's wrong in the world is nonsense. Except that philosophy pervades every corner of your thought. Just about all of us have willingly or unwillingly adopted certain philosophical ideas put forth by men from Socrates to Hegel, whether we know it or not. Ideas matter because they effect how we think. So when a group of thinkers came along and injected a dogma of anti-Western, anti-rational, relativism into the philosophy scene and it caught hold, what was in the ivory tower was sure to trickle down. These days the average person experiences trickle-down postmodernism in several ways, but firstly as a vague but palpable lack of conviction. They are hesitant to make claims about the truth on their own and if they choose to do so, experience either a deep sense of guilt, criticism from their peers, or both. This is because we are taught that our rationality, our fundamental means of knowing and solving problems--especially if it is Western--is at best flawed and at worst nothing more than a manifestation of our imperialist male-dominated past. The average person now associates judgment about the truth of the world with arrogance. I've got my truth, you've got yours, let's not fight. Stop being judgmental. That would be the mantra, and it's one of the most widely accepted perversions of liberalism that exists. But then again, liberalism is one of those racist, sexist things that postmoderns taught us to think derisively of. The irony is that postmodernism, while it is officially a war against dogmas, actually produces several of its own. The anti-dogmatists are, as a rule, dogmatically anti-Western. They are skeptical of any truth claim if it originates from classical rationality rather than from a person of non-Western cultural persuasion. And since just about all of the postmoderns were also self-styled leftists, the "left" now takes it's truth a la carte, from the array of non-Western opinion.

AHISTORICAL. Just what it sounds like. Postmodernism helped speed this along, as it rejected "master narratives" of history. But nobody needed Lyotard to see that as public education degenerated, and as our technological economy began rewarding those who knew how to deal with the rootless present as opposed to the rooted past, the discipline of learning any narrative of history would give way to the ability to make a Facebook profile, program your iPhone, or build a website. The Internet is immaterial, whereas history is quite material.

DEPOLITICIZED. It used to be that politics was a set of values and convictions for which one fought both in the realm of ideas and in the harsher realities of the political universe. In the West, however, where we have made our politics a mere matter of purchase power ("I shop at Bath & Body Works because they donate money to the Third World") and identity adornments, politics has virtually ceased to exist. Even Barack Obama's victory must be attributed in part to his prodigious ability to understand this new world (which was in no small part what recommended him for the job). Politics is today a brand, not a practice. It's something you wear, something you use to designate yourself socially and culturally. For most, it's not the art of the possible, even if they are marching in the streets. After all, that'd take vision and conviction, which they've forfeited, to be respectful of everyone else's truth. Which leads us, finally, back to the protests in London over the attacks in Gaza. How come, despite the fact that Hamas openly states its violent, intolerant, anti-Semitic, theocratic values, and despite having seen its brutal ways of doing business, can a mob of (mostly) well-meaning British liberals take to the streets and declare their solidarity? It isn't (with the exception of George Galloway) because they are actual sympathizers with Islamist killers. How is it that those concerned with social justice could possibly contort their values so that a slogan like this can cross their lips? Because that's what happens when you perpetually doubt your own sense of truth and instead subscribe almost unconditionally to what the non-Westerner says about "their truth." It's what happens when you've accepted the notion that your rationality both comes from an evil place and is capable only of yielding evil conclusions. It's what happens when you've spent more hours making pop hits, riding your white horse into Studio 54, programming your iPod, designing and navigating websites in cyberspace than you've spent reading up on the history of the conflict. A few snippets of grotesque propaganda and a dash of worldview confirmation will do. At that point, you've got your marching orders. You are, after all, a person who cares about the world and about the oppressed. In order to express this, you will, like a consumer, seek out the brand that seems, in your feeble estimation, to demarcate that identity. Non-Western? Check. Claims to operate on a different regime of truth? Appears anti-imperialist? Check. Draw up the banner: WE ARE HAMAS. After all, who would you be, beneficiary of the Western empire, to quarrel with those who suffer at the hands of the oppression your flag helped create and perpetuate? Dare you call into question how many Palestinians have suffered at the hands of Arab oppressors like, say, the Jordanian kings who let starve and actively annihiliated thousands of Palestinian refugees? Is it really your place, considering how brutal IDF tactics have been in the past, to entertain the notion that Hamas might be sending Palestinians to slaughter in order to obtain electoral and P.R. victories? Or would you rather simply assert, out of guilt for past sins or out of rightful revulsion at seeing images of dead Palestinian children, that whoever is against England, the U.S. and Israel is your friend? You're unlikely to lose any sleep over declaring solidarity with Hamas, since you don't believe it's your place to question the legitimacy of their political goals. You've got your truth, they've got their truth, and never the twain shall meet, much less conflict. But this was never a principle that liberals or leftists believed in until recently. Before postmodernism, the idea of the freedom of ideas and humanistic progress not merely allowed for, it required the intermingling of cultures and ideas, and the measuring of truths in a rigorous debate. The goal was to eliminate the bad ideas and keep the good. Before the banishing of truth into culturally specific enclaves, and before the death of history, the left was working toward creating a better material world. Today, under the guise of being more accepting, it has let bad ideas not only survive, but has allowed them to thrive and proliferate. With the material world an afterthought in the age of the Internet, George Galloway seems as good a fellow to stand beside as any, just as long as his is a brand that makes you feel good about who you are.
The sad part, though, is that it's a good thing to want to show solidarity with the oppressed, to want to work towards a world where the crimes of our more ignorant past are corrected. People like me, who are quite convinced that Galloway represents another, far more sinister breed than the well-meaning accidental fascist weekender-type outlined here, are in a difficult position. Criticize Galloway and the protest, and be accused of siding with colonialists, child-murderers and labeled a treacherous bastard. Fail to do so, and fail to defend the right of a liberal democratic state to self-defense and let thrive the growing sector of the left that openly declares support with the radical theocratic right. But would it really be too much to ask for some celebrities of conscience, musicians, movie stars, and leftists to take neither the side of heavy-handed Israeli retaliations, nor the side of terrorists who fire rockets indiscriminately into civilian areas of Southern Israel and use their own people as human shields? What if instead, in a gesture of solidarity, they took the words of a bereaved Palestinian mother whose child had been killed in an Israeli strike as their slogan? She is a female, non-Western victim of both the Israeli occupation as well as the cynical machinations of Islamic imperialists that provoked this conflict. Her cry? "May God exterminate Hamas!" Whether or not one endorses her means, this formulation captures perfectly a real vision for a political project worth undertaking. You needn't endorse Israel's means of accomplishing that task either, but at the very least it is the ultimate statement of solidarity with Palestinian victims of this war. A fairly potent means of examining and critiquing the postcolonial West might involve asking the following simple, jargonless question: How can a woman who lives this war and has lost her own flesh and blood to an Israeli strike be able to distinguish the guilty party even through a haze of grief that few of us can imagine, while those in the West march in support of the party that she knows brought about the death of her child?

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bernard-Henri Levy & Amir Taheri on Why Hamas is an anti-Nationalist, Nihilistic Entity & Why Israel is a Moral Society Waging a Just & Necessary War

Hamas, as its charter and political literature make clear, does not want an end to Israeli occupation. It wants the end of Israel. That is because Hamas is part of a pan-Islamist movement with global messianic ambitions. Creating a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank is not its aim. A branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas dreams of world dominion for its version of Islam rather than a mini-state in 5,000 square kilometres of barren land in a geopolitical backyard. Amir Taheri

No government in the world, no country other than the vilified Israel--dragged through the mud, demonized--would tolerate having thousands of shells falling on its cities year after year. The most remarkable thing in the affair, the true surprise, is not Israel's "brutality"; it is, to the letter, its restraint. BHL

No Way Forward While the Hamas Hydra Lives - Amir Taheri
Hamas has forged an alliance with Iran based on President Ahmadinejad's strategy of "wiping Israel off the map." Israelis see Hamas as one of the two arms of a pincer, along with Iranian-funded Hizbullah in Lebanon, that Tehran is building against them. Israel's war aims are clear: end the rocket attacks, reopen Gaza to other Palestinian parties and eliminate the Iranian presence. This means creating a new status quo in which Hamas is not the dominant party in Gaza. Hamas is part of a pan-Islamist movement with global messianic ambitions. Creating a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank is not its aim. Hamas is the Arab acronym for "Islamic Resistance Movement," making it clear that the movement regards Palestine not as a nation in its own right but as a small part of the ummah, the community of believers. Cutting Hamas down to size would be good not only for Israel but also for the Palestinian people, more specifically the people of Gaza. (Times-UK)

Liberate the Palestinians from Hamas - Bernard-Henri Levy (New Republic)
No government in the world would tolerate having thousands of shells falling on its cities year after year. The most remarkable thing in the affair, the true surprise, is not Israel's "brutality"; it is its restraint.
The fact that Hamas' Kassam and, now, its Grad missiles have caused so few deaths does not prove that they are inoffensive, but that the Israelis protect themselves, that they live burrowed under shelter: a nightmarish existence, with the sound of sirens and explosions.
The fact that the Israeli shells create so many victims does not mean that Israel is engaging in a deliberate "massacre," but that the leaders of Gaza have chosen to expose their populations, relying on the old tactic of the "human shield."
The Palestinians' worst enemies are the extremist leaders who have never wanted peace, have never wanted a state and never conceived of one for their people other than as an instrument and as a hostage.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

"Disproportionate Force" of Criticism Leveled at Israel

Efraim Karsh points to the dearth of coverage by the western media and the muted outcry of human rights protesters when it comes to real genocides and massacres (Darfur, Congo, Chechnya), not to mention their curious silence when it comes to internecine Arab-on-Palestinian carnage (Jordan's "BlackSeptember," post 1991 Kuwait, Syrian atrocities, and most recently Hamas' torture and execution of hundreds of Fatah Palestinians).
His unavoidable conclusion: millenarian demonization of the Jew, a "prejudice and obsession that had hitherto been reserved for Jewish individuals and communities," has now morphed into anti-Semitism against the Jewish State.
david brumer

What's Behind Western Condemnation of Israel's War Against Hamas?
Efraim Karsh

With a unanimity that has become all too familiar, politicians, the media, NGOs, and church leaders across the globe took their cue to denounce Israel's legitimate act of self-defense against one of the world's most extreme terror organizations. This chorus of disapproval is in stark contrast to the utter indifference to far bloodier conflicts that have been going on around the world.
Why do citizens in democracies enthusiastically embrace a radical Islamist group that not only seeks the destruction of a fellow democracy but is overtly committed to the substitution of a world-wide Islamic caliphate for the existing international order?
Decades of mistreatment of the Palestinians by the Arab states have gone virtually unnoticed. Only when they interact with Israel do the Palestinians win the world's attention.
The fact that international coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict has invariably reflected a degree of intensity and emotional involvement well beyond the normal level to be expected of impartial observers would seem to suggest that it is a manifestation of longstanding prejudice that has been brought out into the open by the conflict.
The Palestinians are but the latest lightning rod unleashed against the Jews, their supposed victimization reaffirming the millenarian demonization of the Jews in general, and the medieval blood libel - that Jews delight in the blood of others.

A Tidal Wave of International Indignation
No sooner had Israel opted to stop Hamas' attacks on its civilian population, after years of self-imposed restraint, than it was confronted with a tidal wave of international indignation. With a unanimity that has become all too familiar when it comes to the world's pronouncements on Israel, politicians, the media, NGOs, and church leaders across the globe took their cue to denounce this legitimate act of self-defense by a sovereign democracy against one of the world's most extreme terror organizations, overtly committed to its destruction, which for years had been raining down thousands of rockets and mortar shells on civilian communities (not to mention the long string of suicide bombings).
Echoed by the international media's blanket coverage of Israel's response in Gaza, but not Hamas' murderous ideology and actions, this chorus of disapproval over the Jewish state's "disproportionate" use of force is in stark contrast to the utter indifference to far bloodier conflicts that have been going on around the world, from the long-running genocide in Darfur, with its estimated 400,000 dead and at least 2.5 million refugees, to war in the Congo, with over 4 million dead or driven from their homes, to Chechnya, where an estimated 150,000-200,000 have died and up to a third of the population has been displaced at the hands of the Russian military. None of these tragedies saw protesters flock into the streets of London, Paris, Berlin, Milan, Oslo, Dublin, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Washington, and Fort Lauderdale (to give a brief list), as has been the case during the Gaza crisis.

Arab Mistreatment of the Palestinians Went Unnoticed
How can this be? Why do citizens in democracies enthusiastically embrace a radical Islamist group that not only seeks the destruction of a fellow democracy but is overtly committed to the substitution of a world-wide Islamic caliphate (or umma) for the existing international order based on territorial nation states? Not because of compassion for the Palestinians, whose plight has never attracted genuine international interest, especially by the Arab states (and for that matter, the Palestinian leadership), whose decades of mistreatment of the Palestinians have gone virtually unnoticed.
Between 1949 and 1967, Egypt and Jordan ruled the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank respectively. Not only did they fail to put these populations on the road to statehood, but they showed little interest in protecting their human rights or even in improving the quality of their life - which is one of the reasons that 120,000 West Bankers moved across to the East Bank of the Jordan and about 300,000 others emigrated abroad between 1949 and 1967.
Nobody in the international community paid any more attention to this than they have more recently to the ongoing abuse of Palestinians across the Arab world from Saudi Arabia to Lebanon, a country which was condemned in a June 2006 Amnesty International report for its "long-standing discrimination and abuses of fundamental economic and social rights of Palestinian refugees."
Nor has there been any international outcry when Arab countries have massacred Palestinians on a grand scale. In 1970 King Hussein of Jordan ordered the indiscriminate bombing of Palestinian refugee camps in the course of putting down the Palestinian uprising during "Black September." This left between 3,000 and 5,000 Palestinian refugees dead. But the fact that Hussein killed more Palestinians in the course of a single month than Israel managed to do in decades was never held against him or dented the widely held perception of him as a man of peace. As the supposedly pro-Palestinian journalist Robert Fisk put it in his recent memoirs, King Hussein was "often difficult to fault."
Again, more than two decades ago Abu Iyad, the number two man in the PLO, publicly stated that the crimes of the Syrian government against the Palestinian people "surpassed those of the Israeli enemy." While in the wake of the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, Kuwaitis not only set about punishing the PLO for support of Saddam Hussein's brutal occupation by cutting off their financial support for Yasir Arafat's overblown and corrupt organization, but there was also a widespread slaughter of Palestinians living in Kuwait.
This revenge against innocent Palestinian workers in the emirate was so severe that Arafat himself acknowledged: "What Kuwait did to the Palestinian people is worse than what has been done by Israel to Palestinians in the occupied territories." Yet there was no media coverage or specially convened UN meetings because it is only when they interact with Israel that the Palestinians win the world's attention.

Only Palestinian Interaction with Israel Wins World Attention
In other words, the extraordinary international preoccupation with the Palestinians is a corollary of their interaction with Israel, the only Jewish state to exist since biblical times, a reflected glow of the millenarian obsession with the Jews in the Christian and the Muslim worlds. Had their dispute been with an Arab, Muslim, or any other adversary, it would have attracted a fraction of the interest that it presently does.
On occasion, notably among devout and/or born again Evangelical Christians, this obsession has manifested itself in admiration and support for the national Jewish resurrection in the Holy Land. In most instances, however, anti-Jewish prejudice and animosity, or anti-Semitism as it is commonly known, has served rather to exacerbate distrust and hatred of Israel. Indeed, the fact that the international coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the libels against Zionism and Israel, such as the despicable comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, have invariably reflected a degree of intensity and emotional involvement well beyond the normal level to be expected of impartial observers would seem to suggest that, rather than being a response to concrete Israeli activities, it is a manifestation of longstanding prejudice that has been brought out into the open by the vicissitudes of the conflict.
There is another side to the ledger. For millennia Jewish blood has been cheap, if not costless, throughout the Christian and Muslim worlds, where the Jew became the epitome of powerlessness, a perpetual punching bag and a scapegoat for whatever ills befell society. There is no reason, therefore, why Israel shouldn't follow in the footsteps of these past generations, avoid antagonizing its Arab neighbors and exercise restraint whenever attacked. But no, instead of knowing its place, the insolent Jewish state has forfeited this historic role by exacting a price for Jewish blood and beating the bullies who had hitherto been able to torment the Jews with impunity. This dramatic reversal of history cannot but be immoral and unacceptable. Hence the global community outrage and hence the world's media provision of unlimited resources to cover every minute of Israel's "disproportionate" response, but none of the devastation and dislocation caused to Israeli cities and their residents.
Put differently, the Palestinians are but the latest lightning rod unleashed against the Jews, their supposed victimization reaffirming the millenarian demonization of the Jews in general, and the medieval blood libel - that Jews delight in the blood of others - in particular. In the words of David Mamet, "The world was told Jews used this blood in the performance of religious ceremonies. Now, it seems, Jews do not require the blood for baking purposes, they merely delight to spill it on the ground."

Zionism Failed to Solve the "Jewish Problem"
To make such an argument will no doubt be dismissed as "Zionist propaganda" by many opponents of Israel. But in fact this not only runs counter to the prevailing wisdom among Israeli academics and intellectuals, for whom such arguments are anathema, but it also challenges one of the most fundamental tenets of Zionism - that the creation of a Jewish state, where the Jewish diasporas would congregate and become normalized, would solve the "Jewish problem" and ameliorate, if not eliminate altogether, the phenomenon of anti-Semitism.
What this line of thinking by the founding fathers of Zionism failed to consider, however, is that the prejudice and obsession that had hitherto been reserved for Jewish individuals and communities would be transferred to the Jewish state. As the poet Heinrich Heine, himself a convert from Judaism, once wrote, Judaism is "the family curse that lasts a thousand years" and no matter how much it has tried, Israel has never been able to escape this disturbing reality.
A saddening thought indeed. But is there any other explanation as to why, sixty years after its establishment by an internationally recognized act of self-determination, Israel remains the only state in the world that is subjected to a constant outpouring of the most outlandish conspiracy theories and blood libels; whose policies and actions are obsessively condemned by the international community; and whose right to exist is constantly debated and challenged not only by its Arab enemies but by segments of advanced opinion in the West?
* * *
Professor Efraim Karsh is Head of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Studies at King's College, University of London, and a member of the Board of International Experts of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. His recent books include Islamic Imperialism: A History (Yale University Press, 2007).

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Spot-On Analysis of Current Situation in Gaza: Haim Harari

Annenberg Professor of High Energy Physics Haim Harari paints an all too vivid picture of what Israel is actually up against in its asymmetric war against Iranian proxy, Hamas. Never in history, has any country made such an enormous effort to avoid civilian casualties, in fighting against murderers who deliberately target only civilians, hide weapons caches in hospitals, mosques, and schools, and use their own women and children as human shields. Harari wonders why the great majority of western investigative reporters don't expose the charade and report on the gross violations of human rights taking place by Hamas against their own people and Israelis.
david brumer

A View from the Target Zone
Haim Harari
January 2009

These words are written a short distance away from the most northern hit, so far, of the Hamas missiles, which are methodically aimed only at civilian population in Israel. You may refer to this message as "A View from the Target Zone".

For eight years, approximately 5000 rockets have been sent deliberately into Israeli population centers, by the Hamas terrorists. The rockets are extremely inaccurate. The good news is that they often hit an empty field. The bad news is that, when they do hit buildings and people, they kill, maim and destroy. It is a very ugly game of Iranian Roulette.

But the most significant fact is that the undisputed purpose of the rockets is to kill civilians in a random manner. Since they miss entire towns, they could not possibly be aimed at military or strategic targets. No claim is made by the Hamas of anything other than a deliberate attempt to kill civilians within Israel. The world knows about the rockets but rarely mentions that they are aimed only at the civilian population and at nothing else.

The Hamas consistently refers to Israel itself as "the occupied territory". It refers to any town in Israel as an "illegal settlement". Its declared aim is to destroy Israel. It has proudly endorsed, initiated and sent numerous suicide murderers into Israeli buses, supermarkets, shopping malls, weddings and other crowded places. It explicitly states that it will continue to do so. Since Israel succeeded in preventing the suicide murders by a combination of the protective wall, other defensive measures and good intelligence penetration, the missiles became the preferred way of killing Israeli civilians.

Hamas is declared to be a terrorist organization, not only by Israel, not only by the US, but also by the European Union, who is not suspected of being pro-Israeli. This is the same European Union that refuses to label the Hizbullah as a terror organization, but repeatedly and officially declares the Hamas as such. Hamas is fully funded and largely controlled by Iran, a country openly and totally committed to the destruction of Israel, while continuing to enjoy trade with much of the western world.

The Hamas media, and especially its independent TV station, carry daily children programs (including programs for kindergarten age) depicting the Jews (and not only the Israelis) as pigs, dogs, scum of the earth and creatures that must be killed. One of these program features a rabbit which eats Jews. There is plenty of documentation of these programs, including animations and programs with child presenters. Major western news media never report on this phenomenon, while some of them publish op-ed pieces by declared Hamas leaders.

The favorite hour of launching the daily Hamas rockets during the last eight years was 7:45 in the morning, but only on weekdays. Why? Because this is the time in which the streets are full of Israeli children, on their way to school. No one wants to waste rockets when no children are in the streets, during the weekend.

Eight year old children in the Israeli town of Sderot, a few miles from the Gaza border, live, since they were born, with these rockets. They know no other life. When the alarm sounds, they have exactly 15 seconds to reach an improvised cover. Eighth grade children, age 13, have never gone to school, since kindergarten, without the real threat of having a rocket hit them on the way. Their parents have never felt safe about sending their child to school. It is very difficult for anyone living in a normal safe place, to imagine what it means to send your child to school, every single day, for eight years, with the fear that he or she may never reach school because of a missile attack, aimed at killing the children. The world seems to accept this.

Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip in 2005. Not one Israeli soldier or civilian remained there. Everything was ready for the people of Gaza to start a new life and economic development. There was no blockade, border crossings were open. Instead came increased shooting of rockets into Israel, a Hamas coup, throwing Fatah Palestinians from roofs of buildings to their death and torturing their own people in their prisons. It is regrettable that Israel did not react with full force to the very first rockets after its withdrawal from Gaza, but there was always the naïve illusion that perhaps talks, discussions, verbal threats and temporary closings of the border crossings, might do the job. What Israel did not take into account was that Iran, directly or through Hizbullah, was paying the Hamas operatives, per rocket launch.

Through the elaborate system of tunnels dug by the Hamas under the Gaza-Egypt border, thousands of tons of explosives and larger and better Iranian missiles have been continuously smuggled into Gaza. The Israeli Government stupidly agreed in mid 2008, to a six-month cease fire. During the "mock cease fire", many rockets were launched into Israel by a variety of real and fictitious Palestinian organizations, with a clear Hamas sub-license, pretending that the Hamas itself is observing the cease fire.

In the meantime, the Hamas could successfully prepare for the next round. It acquired Iranian rockets that were equally inaccurate, but carried larger warheads, had a longer range and contained numerous tiny still balls, in order to increase the civilian casualties over a larger radius. Again, the inaccuracy of the rockets guaranteed that they could only be sent into random civilian targets. But now the rocket range covered a population of close to one million Israelis and the damage is much more significant.

Larger and better rockets were now stored in mosques, schools, hospitals and normal apartment buildings. Mortars were added to the menu of shooting at Israeli civilians. Schools financed by the UN were used in order to launch mortar shells and missiles. The greenhouses left intact by the withdrawing Israelis were destroyed, their metal parts were converted to primitive rockets and their locations became favorite launching areas. Launching rockets at the Israeli population brings a much better income than growing strawberries and flowers in greenhouses.

Whenever Israel opened the border crossings to supply Gaza with basic food and fuel, the Hamas was attempting to blow up the crossing points. Providing too much food and fuel would disturb the flourishing black market totally controlled by the Hamas chiefs and their allies. It would also spoil their propaganda machine. Most supplies were transported through the tunnels from Egypt, under Hamas auspices, creating a lucrative business for the Hamas "families".

The absurd notion that Israel must supply fuel, electricity, food and medication to an outlaw region controlled by a terror organization, became a permanent mantra in the western media. Israel was supposed to provide the Hamas with raw materials for the rockets launched at its citizens, with electricity for the machinery used to produce these rockets, with food for its designers and manufacturers, and with building materials in order to construct safe bunkers for the Hamas leadership under schools and hospitals. On one hand the Hamas was claimed to have been the legitimate democratically elected government of the majority of the population and on the other hand the population, that allegedly elected these thugs, was declared innocent and suffering. The inconsistency was never pointed out.

Once the border crossing was closed, as a result of the repeated Hamas attacks, the international game of a "humanitarian crisis" was successfully played, with full cooperation of the western media. Famous incidents included photographs of poor Gaza residents with candles and (allegedly) no electricity, staged behind black curtains in full outside daylight (visible through cracks between the curtains). Most western media happily used these fake pictures and, when the lie was exposed, never mentioned it. Hamas leaders were never lacking food, fuel, electricity, luxurious private vehicles and all amenities of well to do black market profiteers.

Very few western journalists remained in Gaza, after several were kidnapped by the Hamas. Almost all reports to western media come from Palestinians, who are either sympathetic to Hamas, or afraid of it, or openly active in its ranks, or all of the above. The reader of the New York Times, or the viewer of a European TV network, never notices who provides him or her with the news. All photographs, both stills and videos, are provided by Palestinian operatives, who would stop at nothing in order to support the propaganda machine. On western TV, Hamas rockets are launched only from empty fields, never from a school or a crowded neighborhood, as it is in real life.

United Nation sources in Gaza are often quoted, condemning Israel for the "Humanitarian Crisis". But these sources are normally employees of UNRWA, the UN agency that, since 1948, makes every effort to perpetuate the "refugee" status of the great-grandchildren of the 1948 refugees. The grandparents of these "refugees" were displaced 60 years ago by a distance of a 20 minute drive and were never resettled because they were receiving free food from the UN. The UN objected vehemently to any attempt at settling the refugees, their children and grandchildren. The few real refugees, who remain alive today, and are 80 year old, were 18 year old when they were displaced. All the terrorists are third or fourth generation "refugees" held as such, courtesy of UNRWA.

These UN organizations employ, by their own admission, numerous active Hamas members. When the latter make statements on behalf of "UN sources in Gaza", the Palestinian journalists never mention to us who these "UN sources" are. The public gets the impression that these are truthful objective sources, while being fed with standard Hamas lies. Western media never disclose to us that the jobs of these people depend on perpetuating the misery of the so-called "refugees".

A Headmaster and science teacher of one of the UNRWA schools in Gaza was a leader in the rocket industry of the Islamic Jihad, a satellite terror organization in Gaza, collaborating with Hamas. The UN strongly denied the Israeli accusations that they are employing such a person, until the man was killed by Israel and was eulogized by his friends as a leader of the Islamic Jihad and a designer of rockets.

When Israeli truck drivers were bringing the humanitarian supplies to Gaza, during the period of Hamas rocket fire, they were frequently attacked by Hamas. At least one Israeli truck driver, supplying the Palestinians, was deliberately murdered. No protest was launched by the UN. But, when during the current fighting, an Arab truck driver, employed by the UN, was accidentally killed, the UN became indignant and stopped all its "humanitarian" activity in protest, to the tune of loud denunciations from all "UN sources".

The Israeli defense forces monitor every detail of this fantasyland by using airborne drones and by a very successful intelligence penetration of the Hamas ranks. They know which apartment building serves as a missile storage place, the addresses and phone numbers of Hamas leaders, which school serves as an ammunition depot, etc.

When the six-month "ceasefire" ended, in mid December, Hamas refused to continue it, launching 90 rockets into Israeli towns and villages in one day. In retrospect, this has prevented a much more dangerous future situation. Had there been an additional "ceasefire", Hamas would have acquired rockets covering all of Israel and possibly much more accurate Iranian missiles. The Iranian supply line of explosives and weapons, together with the flourishing business of smuggled goods, went through the tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border with efficiency and regularity. Had such efficiency been attempted in improving the lives of the Palestinians in Gaza, the entire Middle East would have been an entirely different place. But, coupled with the weapon smuggling, it was essential to create the charade of the "Humanitarian Crisis".

During the current operation, when the Israeli Air Force wants to blow up a house which serves as a missile storage, Israel phones every family in the house and gives them 15 minutes to evacuate. The Hamas is then sending the women and children to the roof of the building in order to prevent the Israeli aircraft from making the kill. Israel has now developed a tiny arrow-like missile which can be sent to the corner of the roof, making a loud noise and harming no one, in order to scare away the women and children on the roof, before the real bomb destroys the missile collection or the explosive storage place. Often, the women and children used by the Hamas as a human shield, escape and the house is then blown up, with a spectacular secondary explosion of the stored missiles or other war materials. On other occasions, a Hamas person gets to the roof and prevents the women and children from leaving. In those cases, the operation is not completed by the Israeli Air Force, in order to spare civilian lives, at the risk of having the rockets launched into Israel on the following day.

Never in history, has any country made such an enormous effort to avoid civilian casualties, in fighting against murderers who target only civilians and never anything else. No one in Kosovo, Serbia, Georgia or Iraq, was offered such a courtesy by the bombing and attacking powers. This fact is never mentioned by the western media.

Many of the heroic commanders of the Hamas are hiding in the central hospital of Gaza, in an elaborate network of bunkers, trusting that Israel will not attack the hospital. Hamas spokesmen issue proclamations from the maternity ward of the same hospital, knowing that Israel will not hit them there. Ironically, of all non-Israelis, the Hamas leaders are the only ones who know for sure that Israel never deliberately hurts civilians. They exploit this fact. The rest of the world buys the Hamas lies and blames Israel for hurting civilians.

Repeated claims of "humanitarian crisis" are made from the same hospital. The doctors in charge never tell us that the hiding leaders of the Hamas are using them and the patients as human shields. Whether the doctors are only scared or are deliberate accomplices, we do not know. Probably some are active Hamas members and others are justifiably scared to speak up. We never hear a word from the International Red Cross regarding the use of the hospitals as the headquarters of terror leaders.

One of the most horrible "impartial" testimonies on the humanitarian situation, in the hospital, is delivered repeatedly to the western media by a "Norwegian Doctor" serving there. The man is well known from his 2001 interviews with Norwegian TV, in which he explicitly supported and justified the 9/11 attacks. Needless to say, none of the networks who bring us the righteous doctor, mention this. He is just "A Norwegian Doctor" attending to the wounded.

Palestinian ambulances are routinely used to move terrorists around. This has also been the Palestinian practice in the West Bank during the terror wave in 2001-2002. An ambulance is an ideal method of transporting a suicide murderer across check points. In the unlucky case that the criminal is caught, there is at least a good press photograph of the ugly Israelis attacking or stopping an ambulance. It is a win-win situation. If an ambulance full of healthy Hamas terrorists and explosives is hit from the air, the pictures are even better for the western media and for Al Jazeera.

Several Hamas leaders are moving around Gaza surrounded by children, and often holding a child on their arms. There are well documented cases in which Hamas terrorists were pulling reluctant children by their ears to accompany them when they move from one building to another. None of this is mentioned by the western media.

Several Mosques, which were used as ammunition dumps, were destroyed by Israel. In every one of these cases, the air photographs showed a primary explosion, from the air missile or bomb, and a much bigger secondary explosion, from the stored missiles or other explosives in the mosque. The secondary explosion is an absolute clear proof of what was hidden at the mosque. The normal beautiful carpets in a mosque would not create a secondary explosion. Western media have these videos, but rarely show them or mention their existence.

But the same western media repeatedly show the pictures of injured or dead children, some of whom were indeed accidentally injured or killed by the Israeli attacks on military and terror targets, and some are obviously fake pictures with red paint smeared on children faces. At least in one case, the same child, obviously painted and not injured, has been paraded in front of various TV cameras by several different men, each declared to be his father by a different network.

Children and innocent civilians are, indeed, killed and injured, in spite of all the enormous precautions and efforts of the Israeli forces. This is truly tragic. But the only alternative for Israel is to sit still, absorb the thousands of missiles on its civilian population and wait for bigger, deadlier and longer range missiles to start destroying everything in Israel. Israel is offered a choice between a complete national suicide, on one hand, and an attack on the terrorists, with extraordinary measures to avoid civilian casualties, but with the knowledge that such casualties must occur when the other side is using children as human shields, storing explosives in mosques, shooting mortars from schools and hiding the perpetrators in hospitals.

Most Hamas terrorists hide in safe bunkers, leaving their families in the war zone. They are happy to fight to the last Palestinian civilian, not to the last Hamas terrorist. Women and children are moving within the battlegrounds, with Hamas snipers shooting, using them as cover. The women and children are not allowed into the limited space of the Hamas bunkers. More than once, a woman is observed carrying a suicide belt. Israeli soldiers, who are trying to help these women to move safely away from the fighting area, are at a very serious risk of a suicide murder.

When the Hamas terrorists are killed, they are counted by the "UN Sources" as civilians. That is how the "UN sources" reach the huge numbers of dead civilians they are reporting. Interestingly, Al Jazeera almost never shows dead bodies of young males, and the western media, being fed by Palestinian stringers, follow suit.

The Hamas TV ("Al Aksa TV") and Al Jazeera show, 24 hours a day, repeated video clips with loud music, showing injured bloody children, including some body parts. Some injuries are real, some are not, but the videos are shown nonstop between every two news items. The news items themselves are often lies, but that really does not matter. What do matter are the video clips, edited like commercials, brainwashing a worldwide audience and a new generation of future terror sympathizers.

A video taken several years ago in Gaza, surfaced. The video documents an accidental explosion of a Hamas truck, carrying a large number of missiles, among celebrating Palestinians somewhere in Gaza. Many were killed and injured in this accident, and the pictures were devastating. There is no Israeli involvement whatsoever, and the event happened a few years ago. European networks, including France 2, are showing it now as evidence for the current "criminal" behavior of Israel. The French channel apologized later, but the number of people who heard the apology is significantly fewer than those who saw the horrible pictures and believed the lies. In this case, at least, the hoax was delivered by the Hamas and France 2 was apparently the victim, not the perpetrator, as it definitely was in well known previous cases.

Israel opens the border crossings daily, during the fighting, in order to provide basic food ingredients and medication to the civilian population. No one can remember such a gesture in any other war in history, certainly not toward the side that attacks only civilians and repeatedly announces that its only aim is to totally annihilate its opponent. Most of the supplies are captured by the Hamas terrorists and used for their own troops and their flourishing black market, never providing them in an organized way to the population. "UN sources" claim that not enough food is transmitted.

That the Hamas murderers use these tactics, lies and methods, is not at all surprising. That the international community, with all its investigative reporters, swallows these lies so eagerly, without exposing them, is something which demands an explanation.

Who is he?

Institute Professor
(Annenberg Professor of High Energy Physics)

Chairman of the Board, Davidson Institute
(Davidson Institute of Science Education at the Weizmann Institute of Science)

Chairman of the Management Committee, W-GEM, New York
(Weizmann Global Endowment Management Trust)

Former President, Weizmann Institute of Science

More from him:

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Two Pieces that Really Say it All; and Why We Will Ultimately Prevail: YK Halevi and Daniel Gordis

As My Son Goes to War, I am fully Israeli at Last

By Yossi Klein Halevi
Sunday, January 4, 2009;
"I just heard on the news that Gavriel's base has been shelled," my wife, Sarah, said to me last Tuesday, referring to our 19-year-old son, a member of an Israeli army tank unit waiting on the Gaza border for the order to enter. And, she added in a deliberately calm tone, "A soldier was killed." We texted Gavriel, and within five minutes he called, safe. How, Sarah asked, did families survive war before cellphones?
For days we waited for a cabinet decision: Will there be a land invasion or a new cease-fire? The politicians began to bicker while our soldiers waited on the border, in the rain and the mud. Anything but this, I said to Sarah. Not another Lebanon War, which, like Gaza, began with an impressive show of Israeli air power but ended with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah predicting the imminent end of "the Zionist entity." If we don't win this time -- deliver an unambiguous blow if not topple Hamas entirely -- our deterrence will further erode, inviting more rocket attacks and encouraging the jihadist momentum throughout the Middle East.
And then I caught myself: How can I be hoping for an outcome that will send my son into battle? This is my first experience as the father of a soldier, and now, after 26 years of living in Israel, I finally understand the terrible responsibility of being an Israeli. I had assumed that I'd become initiated into Israeliness when I myself was drafted into the army as a 34-year-old immigrant in 1989. But perhaps only now have I become fully Israeli. Zionism promised to empower the Jews by making them responsible for their fate; the price for that achievement is to be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for one's commitments.
I know Gaza from a previous conflict. During the first intifada of the late 1980s, when Palestinians revolted against the occupation, I was part of a reservist unit that patrolled Gaza's refugee camps. There I learned that there is no such thing as a benign occupation, as Israelis had once deceived themselves into believing. Our unit not only arrested terrorist suspects but also dragged people out of their beds in the middle of the night to paint over anti-Israel graffiti and rounded up innocents after a grenade attack just to "make a presence," in army terminology. At night, in our tent, we argued about the wisdom of turning soldiers into policemen of a hostile civilian population that didn't want us there and which we didn't want as part of our society.
A majority of Israelis emerged from the first intifada convinced that we need to do everything possible to end the occupation and ensure that our children don't serve as enforcers of Gaza's despair. That was why I initially supported the 1993 Oslo peace process that took a terrible gamble on Yasser Arafat's supposed transformation from terrorist to peacemaker. And even after it became clear that Arafat and other Palestinian leaders never intended to accept Israel's legitimacy, I supported the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, simply to extricate us from that region, knowing that we would not receive peace in return.
And now my son is fighting in Gaza. The conflict he and his friends confront is far worse than my generation's experience in Gaza. In our time, we were confronted with mere rocks and Molotov cocktails; my son faces Iranian-supplied anti-tank weapons -- one more price we will pay, along with the missile attacks on our towns, for the Gaza withdrawal, just as the Israeli right had warned.
Still, I don't regret that withdrawal. If Israelis are united today about our right to defend ourselves against Gaza's genocidally minded regime, it is at least partly because we are fighting from our international border. My son and his friends have one crucial advantage over my generation's experience in Gaza: They know, as we did not, that Israel was ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for peace, uprooting thousands of its citizens from their homes and endorsing a Palestinian state. My son confronts Gaza knowing that its misery is now imposed by its leaders. He knows that his country was even prepared to share its most cherished national asset, Jerusalem, with its worst enemy, Arafat, for the sake of preventing this war. That empowers him with the moral self-confidence he will need to get through the coming days. The face of my Gaza enemy was a teenager throwing rocks; the face of Gavriel's Gaza enemy is a suicide bomber.
But we are hardly free of moral anxiety. Even as I pray for Gavriel's physical safety, I pray too for his spiritual well-being: that his tank doesn't accidentally shell civilians, that he isn't caught in some terrible mistake, which can so easily happen in a war zone where terrorists hide behind innocent people.
For the past eight years, Israel has fought a single war with shifting fronts, moving from suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to Katyusha attacks on Israeli towns near the Lebanon border to Qassam missiles on Israeli towns near the Gaza border. That war has targeted civilians, turning the home front into the actual front. And it has transformed the nature of the conflict from a nationalist struggle over Palestinian statehood to a holy war against Jewish statehood. Except for a left-wing fringe, most Israelis recognize the conflict in Gaza as part of a larger war that has been declared against our being and that we must fight.
But how? Even some right-wingers are saying that we should have declared a unilateral cease-fire after the initial airstrike and then dared Hamas to continue shelling our towns, rather than risk another quagmire. And even some left-wingers are saying that we should now destroy the Hamas regime and then offer to turn Gaza over to international control or, if possible, an inter-Arab force led by Egypt. Every option is potentially disastrous. Most Israelis agree on two points: that we cannot live with a jihadist statelet on our border, and that we cannot become occupiers of Gaza again.
The despair of Gaza is contagious. One friend, a Likud supporter, said to me, "I don't know what to hope for anymore."
Meanwhile, I try to reassure myself about Gavriel's safety. Growing up in Jerusalem during the suicide bombings in the early 2000s, he has already known danger, intimacy with death. A 13-year-old acquaintance was stoned to death, and was so mutilated that he could be identified only by his DNA. A friend lost the use of an eye in a bus bombing on his way to school. At least now, Gavriel and his friends can defend themselves. Perhaps one reason most of them volunteered for combat units was because now the generation of the suicide bombings can finally fight back.
Just before the conflict in Gaza began, I happened to visit Gavriel at his base. His unit's barracks had been turned into what young Israelis call a "zula" -- a hangout. There were muddy couches, chairs without backs, a darbuka drum, a TV (Jay Leno was on). It could have been a teenage scene anywhere in the West, except that hanging on the walls were Hamas banners captured by the unit's veteran members in a previous round of fighting in Gaza. In a corner of the room hung a photograph of a fallen soldier. Across the bottom someone had written, "What was the rush, Shachar? Why did you have to leave us so soon?"
Even now, perhaps especially now, I feel that our family is privileged to belong to the Israeli story. Gavriel, grandson of a Holocaust survivor, is part of an army defending the Jewish people in its land. This is one of those moments when our old ideals are tested anew and found to be still vital. That provides some comfort as Sarah and I wait for the next text message.
Yossi Klein Halevi is a senior fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and the author of "At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for God with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land."

A Caterpillar and An AnthemJanuary 4, 2009~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Saving Israel: How the Jewish People Can Win a War That May Never End, will be published in March 2009. Some of the ideas explored below, such as the question of how Israelis might have to choose between peace and survival, are explored in much greater detail there.

We didn't mean to, but we lied to our kids. Almost ten years ago, shortly after we made aliyah, we were sitting with our three young children having dinner. One of the boys, still getting used to the idea that his life was going to be very different in Israel, looked up from his food, and asked out of nowhere, "Is Israel still going to have an army when I'm eighteen?" He was scared. But we knew that he had no reason to be. "Yes, there'll be an army," we told him. "But there's going to be peace by then. By the time you're eighteen, everything's going to be different. You'll see." I still remember how certain we were, and how relieved he looked. A couple of weeks ago, on the Wednesday of Hanukkah, Hamas fired more than 60 mortars and rockets at Sederot and the western part of the Negev. The number was high, but the situation wasn't new. The kids of Sederot have been getting shelled for eight years, with a dramatic increase since Israel got out of Gaza in 2005.

The next day, Thursday, I was supposed to go to Sederot to visit my friend, Laura, to see some of the work she was doing on a new movie (about the music scene in Sederot, in which her husband is a leading figure). Despite the horrible weather, it was still a (Hanukkah) vacation day of sorts, and I asked the kids if any of them wanted to come with me. Talia, now in law school, had class and a massive amount of work. Micha, the only one still in high school, also had too much studying to do. But Avi, home from the army for a few days, said he'd happily come - he and I don't get lots of hang-out time together anymore. My tour-guide wife was out of town, guiding a family in the north. I figured that I should check with her before taking one of her kids and her only car to Sederot on a week like that. But she didn't hesitate for a second. "Of course you should go," she said. "Remember how we resented those people who wouldn't come to Jerusalem when we were the ones under attack. Just drive safely, and be careful out there. I'll be home for dinner." I wasn't quite sure how one was supposed to "be careful" in the car if rockets started falling out of the sky again, but I didn't press the point. A couple of hours later, Avi and I were in Sederot, at Laura's house. The city seemed deserted, but it was hard to tell whether that was because of the previous day's barrage of rockets, or the drenching rain that fell all day. The skies were quiet. But even on a day when rockets didn't fall, it didn't take long to see how utterly surreal life there has become. Laura had a great, gigantic publicity poster for a classic movie on her living room wall. "Great poster," I said to her. She told me a bit about the store in Jaffa where she'd bought it. "Is it an original?" I asked her. "They had originals," she said, "and I was actually tempted to get one. But then I realized that it's kind of absurd to buy anything of value to put in your house when you live in Sederot." I tried to imagine what it would be like to live not wanting to have anything of value, knowing that your house could be obliterated almost without warning, because you happen to live within rocket range of a terrorist state that has no territorial dispute with you, but simply doesn't recognize your right to exist, and never will. After chatting for a while and seeing some of the movie-in-progress, we decided to go out to grab a bite for lunch. On the way to the café, Laura pointed out the neighbor's house that's now deserted because the owner moved away after a rocket hit it. She pointed to the traffic circle where a young boy had his leg blown off a few months ago in a different attack. And so on. But what struck me more than anything on the way to lunch was the playground. Even in the pouring rain, it looked just like a regular playground, with jungle-gyms, swing sets and the like. There was even a colorful cement caterpillar - for the kids to climb on, I assumed. "See the caterpillar?" Laura asked me. "It's hollow," she said. "And see over there? Those are the openings. It's really a bomb shelter. When the Color Red siren goes off [indicating an incoming kassam], the kids can run from the other parts of the playground into the caterpillar and wait there until the rocket hits." (I asked Avi, sitting in the back, to take a quick picture, despite the rain.) On the drive back, Avi and I got a chance to chat. It was absurd, we both knew. What Israel was (not) doing was beyond immoral. States have an obligation to protect their citizens, and we weren't doing it. That, undoubtedly, was the sentiment behind the graffiti that we saw, claiming that Sederot should "secede" [the actual word, tellingly, was "disengage"] from the "pathetic state." Why should children living in uncontested Israeli territory grow up being taught that in the playground, when the siren goes off, you run into the caterpillar, and hope that the rocket doesn't kill any of your friends who don't make it in time? For how many years does a State have a right to ignore the citizens whose children, at the ages of eight and nine, are wetting their beds all over again, the sheer terror of the siren reducing their entire childhood to a years-long nightmare? For how many years dare Israel do nothing, as hundreds of families, terrified that the rockets will hit in the middle of the night, all sleep in the same room? What does it do to a family, and to marriages, when elementary and high school age children have been sleeping in their parents' room on the floor for years? How do you educate kids, my friend Ahrele (the principle of the high school in that region) once asked me, when the siren goes off (sometimes several times a day), and hundreds upon hundreds of kids cram the high school hallways desperate to get to a protected room but can't move because all the passageways are jammed with students? And then, minutes later, when it's over, how are they supposed to sit quietly and start thinking about their history class, or focus on geometry? "We didn't finish the job," Ahrele once said to me and Elisheva during a dinner at his home a couple of years ago, the sounds of exploding shells in the distance punctuating our conversation. "We didn't show them that we intend to live here, no matter what. Really, when you think about it, this is just the latest battle in the War of Independence. It's the battle for our right to have a place to live." He was right, of course. It was absurd for us to tell our kids that they wouldn't go to war. Because if the War of Independence was about making it clear that we intend to stay and getting our enemies to acknowledge that we, too, have a right to a country and a normal life, then we've yet to win it. So now, we have to try again. Some progress has been made. For thirty five years, Syria, Jordan and Egypt have all refrained from launching military attacks on Israel. Because they love us? Hardly. It's just because they know that we will obliterate them if they do. Even when Israel bombed a nuclear-reactor deep inside Syria, Syria whined but did nothing. They've learned their lesson. Maybe Hezbollah did, too, the disasters of the 2006 Second Lebanon War notwithstanding. At this writing, at least, in the first hours of the ground war, they're staying out of the present conflict. One hopes that they're smart enough to keep that up. But Hamas hasn't yet learned, and because of that, our citizens have been suffering for years. So there is no choice but to fight this war, and to win it decisively. On the Shabbat afternoon after our visit to Sederot, Avi's girlfriend, who was at our house for lunch, suddenly got called back to her base. That was our first inkling that the war was starting. The next morning, Avi went back to the army, but to a different base. And by Sunday evening (the last night of Hanukkah), Talia, in the first semester of law school, struggling with a massive amount of school work and finally just getting the hang of it all, had been called back to her unit. Quite frankly, I expected some tears when she told me that she'd been called up. How would she keep up with school? The vast majority of her classmates hadn't been called up, so it wasn't as if school would be cancelled. How would she ever catch up? What, I figured she'd want to know, was going to happen to her grades? But when we called her downstairs to light Hanukkah candles for the final night, there weren't any tears. What I saw on her face was steely-eyed stoicism. There was work to be done, she knew how to do it, and they needed her. So she was heading back to the army. Suddenly, I remembered the night, long ago, when we'd told her and her brothers that the wars were all over, that peace was on its way. For a moment, I thought that I should apologize to her, tell her how much we didn't know back then, that I was really, really sorry that this is how it is. That Elisheva and I didn't have to go to college like this, and that I hoped that she wasn't angry with us for having made the decisions that now mean she does. But by the time I thought of saying something to her, the candles were already lit, and we were up to Maoz Tzur. We got to the last stanza, and I had my arms around her and together, we were all singing: Chasof zero'a kodshekhah Bare Your Holy arm and hasten the arrival of some salvation Avenge the vengeance of your servant's blood from the wicked nation Ki archah lanu ha-yeshu'a For real victory is taking far too long And there is no end to the days of evil There's nothing new in this whole story, I was reminded. It's what Jews have had to do for generations to stay alive, and it's what the younger generation now is being asked to do, again. So I didn't apologize. When we were done, she went up to her room to look for the uniforms that she'd packed away someplace last year, assuming that after three years in the army, she wouldn't be needing them anymore. As she climbed the stairs, I thought again of the caterpillar. And of the poster that had to be a replica because the house might come down. And of the kids still wetting their beds. And of towns that have known only terror for years after years. Our kids don't want an apology. They'd be appalled if one were forthcoming. Because they understand, better than we did at their age, that this simply has to be done. What's at stake is not Sederot. What's at stake is the question of whether Jewish sovereignty means anything. One can - and should - be saddened by the loss of life in Gaza these weeks, on both sides. But we dare not let caring about innocent human life among Palestinians, or even more understandably, our dread of what the casualties among the IDF may be, blur the urgency of what we need to do. These weeks, with the question of whether or not Jewish sovereignty means anything at all, there is really only one question. As Joshua said to the angel (Joshua 5:13), "are you for us, or for our adversaries?" Do you believe that Jews in Sederot have a right to live without bomb-shelter caterpillars in their playgrounds? Do you think that parents in that whole part of the country have a right to sleep in their own room by themselves, and that nine year olds should no longer wet their beds, night after night, caught in nightmares that will probably hound them for life? Do you understand that the only point of having a Jewish state is that Jews should no longer live - and die - at the whim of those who hate us just because we exist? Do you get that Ahrele was right? That we're still fighting for the simple right to have the world acknowledge that we have a right to be? There's only one question, and it is Joshua's. Are you for us, or for our adversaries? There is no place for mealy-mouthed equivocation calling for an end to the "violence," for that is nothing more than a euphemism for more years of Jewish kids living in dread and Jewish sovereignty meaning nothing. Israel could well become a horribly tear-soaked country this week. But thankfully, we finally have leadership that seems to understand that what is at stake is the question of whether having a state changes anything at all about the existential condition of the Jews. At long last, they get it - if Jews still have to live in dread, for the mere sin of existing, then there's really no point to any of this. So pray for them. Whatever you believe, or don't, pray for the thousands of kids out there doing what the Maccabees did - risking everything so the Jews can survive. And remember, no matter how devastating the pictures that will inevitably emerge from the theater of war, that it's all about something really simple. We say it, all the time, in our national anthem: Od lo avedah tikvateinu ... liyot am chofshi be-artzeinu We haven't yet abandoned our hope ... to be a free people in our land. That's really all we want. More than that, we don't need. But for less than that, we'll never, ever settle.
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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Useful Articles/Essays to Combat DisInformation Campaigns Re: Israel's Moral War Against Hamas/Iran

In Gaza, the Real Enemy is Iran - Yossi Klein Halevi and Michael B. Oren
Hamas, like Hizbullah in Lebanon, is a proxy for the real enemy Israel is confronting: Iran. Israel's current operation against Hamas represents a unique chance to deal a strategic blow to Iranian expansionism. Iran has co-opted Hamas, a Sunni organization closely linked to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, transforming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a jihad against the Jewish state. The Middle East conflict is no longer just about creating a Palestinian state but about preventing the region's takeover by radical Islam. Indeed, Palestinian statehood is impossible without neutralizing the extremists who oppose any negotiated solution. If Hamas is successful in manipulating world opinion into the imposition of a premature cease-fire, it will proclaim victory and continue to stockpile long-range missiles for the next round of fighting. That would mean another triumph for Iran.
The writers are fellows at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. (Los Angeles Times)

On the Ground in Gaza
Barry Rubin
Israel didn't want to attack the Gaza Strip from the ground or from the air. Hamas, which had long broken the ceasefire, canceled it altogether. Then it began large-scale attacks on Israel. This is a war of defense. And it is being conducted just 30 miles from here, Israel's main city.
According to the just-released Israeli government statement on the offensive:
"The objective of this stage is to destroy the terrorist infrastructure of the Hamas in the area of operation, while taking control of some of rocket launching area used by the Hamas, in order to greatly reduce the quantity of rockets fired at Israel and Israeli civilians.
"The operation will...strike a direct and hard blow against the Hamas while increasing the deterrent strength of the Israel Defense Forces, in order to bring about an improved and more stable security situation for residents of southern Israel over the long term. "
Even as the 2006 war was continuing, the Israel Defense Force was evaluating the mistakes made in Lebanon--helicopters needed better short-range munitions, improved air-ground coordination, care in using tanks unsupported by infantry, and so on.
But contrary to the insistence of armchair strategists now, it would not be easy to seize control of all the Gaza Strip and govern it for an extended period of time. Hamas is not going to go away. International support for Israel is limited. Fatah and the Palestinian Authority will not react strongly to try to take Gaza back for itself. There are about one million people in the Gaza Strip and Hamas will make every attempt to ensure there are civilian casualties--and pretend there are even more.
So "total victory" is not easy, if it is even possible. The irony is that Israeli policy is based on the idea that there is no military solution to these issues. But since there is no diplomatic solution either, force must be used to protect Israel and its citizens.
It should be remembered that Israel withdrew completely from the Gaza Strip, dismantled all settlements, and wished the Palestinians good luck. The Palestinian Authority (PA) was not up to the challenge. It could and would not change its corrupt and incompetent ways. U.S. policy insisted that Hamas be allowed to run in the elections, even though it did not meet the standard of accepting the 1993 Israel-PLO agreement. Hamas won.
But Hamas invoked the radical Islamist policy of "one man, one vote, one time. " It staged a coup and kicked out its PA and Fatah rivals. Rather than focusing on economic development or even maintaining peace to build up its own power, Hamas pursued its strategy of permanent war against Israel. Children's programs taught the kiddies that they should grow up to be suicide bombers and kill Jews. Hamas soldiers, or their junior allies, fired rockets and mortars at Israel. And of course Hamas staged a cross-border raid and kidnapped an Israeli soldier.

Double Standard Watch: Israel's actions are lawful and commendable
Alan M. Dershowitz
Israel's military actions in Gaza are entirely justified under international law, and Israel should be commended for its act of self-defense against international terrorism. Article 51 of the United Nations Charter reserves to every nation the right to engage in self-defense against armed attacks. The only limitation international law places on a democracy is that its actions must satisfy the principle of proportionality. Israel's actions certainly satisfy that principles.
When Barack Obama visited the city of Sderot this summer, he saw the same things that I had seen during my visit on March 20 of this year. Over the last four years, Palestinian terrorists - in particular, Hamas and Islamic Jihad - have fired more than two thousand rockets at this civilian area, which is home to mostly poor and working-class people. The rockets are designed exclusively to maximize civilian deaths, and some have barely missed schoolyards, kindergartens, hospitals, and school buses. But others hit their targets, killing more than a dozen civilians since 2001, including in February 2008 a father of four who had been studying at the local university. These anticivilian rockets have also injured and traumatized countless children.

The Warped Mirror: 'We are Hamas' - the newest development
Abe Foxman: Preventing the weapons flow to Hamas
David Harris: Why Israel had no choice
Living with Rockets: Hamas's winning strategy

The residents of Sderot have fifteen seconds from the launch of the rocket to run into a shelter. The rule is that everyone must always bee within fifteen seconds of a shelter, regardless of what they are doing. Shelters are everywhere, but the aged and the physically challenged often have difficulty making it to safety. On the night I was in Sderot, a rocket landed nearby, but there had been no "red alert." The warning system is far from foolproof.
In most parts of the world, the first words learned by toddlers are "mommy" and "daddy." In Sderot, they are "red alert." The police chief of Sderot showed me hundreds of rocket fragments that had been recovered. Many bore the name of the terrorist group that had fired the deadly missiles. Although firing deliberately to kill civilians is a war crime, the terrorists who fired at the civilians of Sderot were proud enough of their crimes to "sign" their murderous weapons. They know that in the real world in which we live, they will never be prosecuted for their murders and attempted murders.
Barack Obama reacted to what he had seen in Sderot by saying that if his two daughters were exposed to rocket attacks in their own homes, he would do everything in his power to stop such attacks. I hope and believe that President Obama will take the same position he did as candidate Obama.

The residents of Sderot were demanding that their nation take action to protect them. Most seem to agree with the Israeli decision to end its occupation of the Gaza Strip, to withdraw its soldiers and settlers despite the reality that during the occupation, rocket attacks increased against the residents of Sderot. But Israel's post-occupation military options were limited, since Hamas deliberately fires its deadly rockets from densely populated urban areas, and the Israeli Army has a strict policy of trying to avoid civilian casualties.
The firing of rockets at civilians from densely populated civilian areas is the newest tactic in the war between terrorists who love death and democracies that love life. The terrorists have learned how to exploit the morality of democracies against those who do not want to kill civilians, even enemy civilians. In one recent incident, Israeli intelligence learned that a particular house was being used to manufacture and store rockets. It was a clear military target since their rockets were being fired at Israeli civilians. But the house was also being lived in by a family. So the Israeli military phoned the house, informed the owner that it was a military target, and gave him thirty minutes to leave with his family before the house was attacked. The owner called Hamas, which immediately sent dozens of mothers carrying babies to stand on the roof of the house. Hamas knew that Israel would never fire at a home with civilians in it. They also knew that if, by some fluke, the Israeli authorities did not learn that there were civilians in the house, and fired on it, Hamas would win a public relations victory by displaying the dead civilians to the media. In this case, Israel did learn of the civilians and withheld its fire. The rockets that were spared destruction by the human shields were then used against Israeli civilians.
This, in a nutshell, is the dilemma faced by democracies with a high level of morality. The Hamas tactic would not have worked against the Russians in Chechnya. When the Russians were fired upon, they fired against civilians without hesitation. Nor would it work in Darfur, where janjaweed militias have killed thousands of civilians and displaced 2.5 million in order to get the rebels who were hiding among them. Certain tactics work only against moral enemies who care deeply about minimizing civilian casualties.
Over the past months, a shaky cease-fire, organized by Egypt was in effect. Hamas agreed to stop the rockets and Israel agreed to stop taking military action against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. The cease-fire itself was morally dubious and legally asymmetrical.
Israel, in effect, was saying to Hamas: if you stop engaging in the war crime of targeting our innocent civilians, we will stop engaging in the entirely lawful military acts of targeting your terrorists. Under the cease-fire, Israel reserved the right to engage in self-defense actions such as attacking terrorists who were in the course of firing rockets at its civilians.
Just before the hostilities began, Israel offered Hamas both a carrot and a stick. Israel reopened checkpoints to allow humanitarian aid to reenter Gaza. It had closed these point of entry after they had been targeted by Gaza rockets. Israel's prime minister also issued a stern, final warning to Hamas that unless it stopped the rockets, there would be a full scale military response. This is the way Reuters reported it:
Israel reopened border crossings with the Gaza Strip on Friday, a day after Prime Minister warned militants there to stop firing rockets or they would pay a heavy price. Despite the movement of relief supplies, militants fired about a dozen rockets and mortar shafts from Gaza at Israel on Friday. One accidentally struck a house in Gaza, killing two Palestinian sisters, ages 5 and 13...the deliveries could ease the tensions that might have led to a military action to end the rocket attacks. Palestinian workers at the crossings said fuel had arrived for Gaza's main power plant and about a hundred trucks loaded with grain, humanitarian aid and other goods were expected during the day."
The Hamas rockets continued and Israel kept its word, implementing a carefully prepared targeted air attack against Hamas targets.
On Sunday, I spoke to the Air Force General, now retired, who worked on the planning of the attack. He told me of the intelligence and planning that had gone into preparing for the contingency that the military option might become necessary. The Israeli Air Force had pinpointed with precision the exact locations of Hamas structures, in an effort to minimize civilian casualties. Even Hamas sources acknowledged that the vast majority of those killed have been Hamas terrorists though some civilian casualties are inevitable when--as BBC's Rushdi Abou Alouf, who is certainly not pro Israel--reported that "the Hamas security compounds are in the middle of the city." Indeed his home balcony from which he observed the bombing of a compound was 20 meters from that military target.
There have been three types of international response to the Israeli military actions against the Hamas rockets. Not surprisingly, Iran, Hamas, and other knee-jerk Israeli-bashers have argued that the Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli civilians are entirely legitimate, and that the Israeli counterattacks are war crimes. Equally unsurprising is the response of the United Nations, the European Union, Russia, and others who, at least when it comes to Israel, see a moral and legal equivalence between terrorists who target civilians and a democracy that responds by targeting the terrorists.
The most dangerous of the three responses is not the Iranian-Hamas absurdity, which is largely ignored by thinking and moral people, but the United Nations and European Union response, which equate the willful murder of civilians with legitimate self-defense pursuant to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This false moral equivalence only encourages terrorists to persist in their unlawful actions against civilians. The United States has it exactly right by placing the blame on Hamas, while urging Israel to do everything possible to minimize civilian casualties.
There are some who claim that Israel has violated the principle of proportionality by killing so many more Hamas terrorists than the number of Israeli civilians killed by Hamas rockets. That is an absurd misapplication of the concept of proportionality for at least two reasons.
First, there is no legal equivalence between the deliberate killing of innocent civilians and the deliberate killings of Hamas combatants. Under the laws of war, any number of combatants can be killed to prevent the killing of even one innocent civilian.
Second, proportionality is not measured by the number of civilians actually killed, but rather by the risk of civilian death and the intentions of those targeting civilians. Hamas seeks to kill as many civilians as it can. It aims its rockets in the general direction of schools, hospitals, playgrounds and other entirely civilian targets. The fact that it has not killed as many civilians as it would have liked to is a tribute to Israel's enormous devotion of resources to the building of shelters and to the construction of early warning systems.
Hamas, on the other hand, refuses to build shelters, precisely because it wants to maximize the number of Palestinian civilians inadvertently killed by Israel's military actions. It knows, from experience, that when it forces Israel to take military actions that result in the deaths of even a small number of innocent Palestinian civilians, many in the international community will condemn Israel. Israel understands this sad reality as well, and goes to enormous lengths to reduce the number of civilian casualties, even to the point of foregoing legitimate targets that are too close to civilian areas. Accordingly, Israel's actions satisfy the principle of proportionality as well as the principle of self-defense against armed attack.
Until and unless the United Nations and the rest of the international community recognize that Hamas is committing three war crimes--targetting Israeli civilians, using their own civilians as human shields and seeking the destruction of a member state of the United Nations--and that Israel is acting in self-defense and out of military necessity, the conflict will continue and perhaps escalate. If Israel succeeds in destroying the terrorist organization Hamas, it may well lay the foundation for a real peace between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. But if Hamas persists in its capacity to target increasing numbers of Israeli citizens, Israel will have no choice but to persist in its self-defense efforts.
No democracy would do otherwise.

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The Utter Irrationality of Anti-Zionism

George Jochnowitz: Essays/Reviews/Compositions

In 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced that Israel would withdraw from almost all of the West Bank. He was offering a gift to the Palestinians: a state of their own.
The Palestinians reacted by directing rocket fire against Israel. Then they voted Hamas into office. They chose a political party committed to the destruction of Israel. Perhaps they understood that Palestinian independence, now as before, could be achieved only with the Israelis, not against them. Accepting independence would be a tacit recognition of Israel’s right to exist alongside a Palestinian state. They could not be bribed with independence. They wanted to do what they felt was virtuous, to die in a jihad while killing Israelis.
Once Israel no longer controlled Gaza, rockets aimed at Israel were launched regularly. The goal, one has to assume, was to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state limited to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. When the rockets produced only minor retaliations, tunnels to Israel were dug, soldiers were killed, and an Israeli hostage, Gilad Shalit, was captured. He is still in captivity.
Israel negotiated a cease-fire agreement with Hamas. Hamas never fully abided by the agreement, but the rocket fire went down. The agreement expired a short time ago. Hamas did not renew it. The rockets began falling in ever greater numbers. They were provoking Israel to respond with force.
Israel responded with more force than Hamas had expected. The level of violence is greater than anything Hamas had anticipated. They were caught off guard despite the fact that it was they who had provoked the violence in the first place.
Time and again, anti-Zionism has prevented the creation of a Palestinian state. The first time was on November 29, 1947. The United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 181, dividing Palestine into six areas, arranged in a checkerboard pattern, three of them having a Jewish majority, the other three with an Arab majority. The partition resolution, had it been accepted by both sides, would have created a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine.
Representatives of the 600,000 Jews then living in Palestine accepted partition. The six Arab states in the UN at that time--Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Yemen--rejected the resolution. Palestinian Arabs weren't asked. Would they have wanted a state in half of Palestine at that time? Their actions must speak in the absence of words. On November 30, the day after the UN vote, a bus in Palestine was fired on and five Jews were killed.
On May 14, 1948, Israel became independent. That night, Tel Aviv was bombed by Egyptian planes. Iraq (which doesn't even share a boundary with Israel), Syria, Lebanon and Transjordan joined the war. Israel, which a day earlier had had no government, no taxes, and no military conscription, won the war. Transjordan and Egypt won too. Transjordan acquired the West Bank, which is why it later changed its name to Jordan; Egypt gained the Gaza Strip. The question of Palestinian sovereignty did not arise. The Palestinian refugees who found themselves in Egypt (Gaza), Syria and Lebanon were neither granted citizenship in the states they had fled to nor recognized as Palestinian nationals.
Why did five Arab states invade Israel on May 15? They did not do it to gain territory, although Egypt and Transjordan did not offer to give up the land that came into their possession during the war. They did not do it for the Palestinians; indeed, the Arab states, including oil-rich Saudi Arabia, did nothing to alleviate the plight of the refugees. Refugee camps have existed for 60 years now, since 1948. The Arab world, with the assistance of the United Nations, acting with unprecedented cynicism, has kept these refugees homeless in order to delegitimize Israel.
The 1948 invasion of Israel ended forever the possibility of an independent Arab state occupying an area as large as half the land of Palestine. Indeed, had there not been a Zionist movement, the question of Palestinian independence would never have arisen. What was true in 1947 is true now. To the extent that the Palestinians can achieve sovereignty, it can only be done with the Israelis, not against them.
A hatred as intense and violent as anti-Zionism is too strong to have a tangible, comprehensible reason. This passion has to take priority over the goal of creating and building a state. Hamas is not only violent, it is gratuitously violent. Its only conceivable victory is the death of Israeli citizens.
Hamas is not alone. A de facto Marxist-Islamic alliance has existed for 40 years, opposed to freedom—which is incompatible with both Marxism and Islam—and to Zionism. Crazies from around the world have chosen Israel as a target. Members of the Japanese Red Army Faction, on May 30, 1972, went to Israel so that they could achieve martyrdom while killing Jews. Seventeen of those killed were Puerto Rican Christian pilgrims, but that is beside the point. The Japanese Red Army was willing to risk killing innocent Christian bystanders so that they could kill innocent Jews.
Israel's Arab citizens, a vulnerable minority if ever there was one, continued to live in peace—in a country at war—and enjoy as far as possible the benefits of democracy. Their position is not an enviable one; nevertheless, there is no other place where a minority ethnically related to an external enemy has experienced comparable security. Anti-Zionism hurts the Arab world as much as it hurts Israel. Jihadists, however, are totally selfless. They are willing to suffer, to pay pay any price, in order to act out their hatred for Israel.
George Jochnowitz

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