Archive for January, 2008


Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

The Winograd Commission report on the Second Lebanon War has been released, and it’s ugly (although many feel that the part that was made public was not at all ugly enough, since it did not explicitly demand the resignation of the Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert).

The consensus is that the goals of the war were fuzzy, the strategy nonexistent, the preparation poor, the tactics wrong, and that as a result soldiers and civilians died and were wounded for nothing — or less than nothing, since the strategic situation now is worse than before the war.

Here are a pair of snippets from commentary on the report. The articles linked are worth reading in their entirety.

Michael Oren:

I had fought in war before but had never seen such intensive fire — tracer bullets, rockets, artillery shells — nor been assigned a more horrific detail. My unit was escorting the bodies of Israeli soldiers killed on the last night of the Second Lebanon War, a few hours before the U.N. cease-fire agreement took effect. None of us understood the purpose of this last-minute offensive or, indeed, many of the government’s disastrous decisions during the war. We agreed that the burden of these failures would be borne by our leaders, military and civilians alike.

Now, a year and a half later, veterans of the war are demanding that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accept responsibility for its conduct — or risk unraveling the consensus on which Israel’s survival depends.

Ami Isseroff:

Israel has a tradition, that when a major failure occurs – or even a minor but symbolic one – the Prime Minister responsible for that failure resigns. David Ben Gurion resigned when he was not exonerated for his suspected role in the Lavon affair. Golda Meir resigned after the failure of the Yom Kippur war, and Yitzhak Rabin resigned because of a trivial technical violation – his wife had a forbidden $3,000 bank account in the United States. This last seems laughable in view of the major failures of the recent war. The fact that the resignation of Olmert after the war was not automatic is an indication of the real problems in public morality, priorities and values that caused the failure.

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A grain of truth in a pile of rubbish

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Who could believe that anything worthwhile might be found in an article that begins like this:

It looked like the fall of the Berlin wall. And not only did it look like it. For a moment, the Rafah crossing was the Brandenburg Gate.

It is impossible not to feel exhilaration when masses of oppressed and hungry people break down the wall that is shutting them in, their eyes radiant, embracing everybody they meet …

The Gaza Strip is the largest prison on earth. The breaking of the Rafah wall was an act of liberation. It proves that an inhuman policy is always a stupid policy: no power can stand up against a mass of people that has crossed the border of despair.

No, this was not found on a pro-Hamas website, but was written by an Israeli, Uri Avnery. He continues:

The reason given for the starving and freezing of one and a half million human beings, crowded into a territory of 365 square kilometers, is the continued shooting at the town of Sderot and the adjoining villages.

That is a well-chosen reason. It unites the primitive and poor parts of the Israeli public. It blunts the criticism of the UN and the governments throughout the world, who might otherwise have spoken out against a collective punishment that is, undoubtedly, a war crime under international law.

I have to admit that it makes me angry to read about the ‘primitive and poor’ parts of the Israeli public who think, after all, that a sovereign nation should not be forced to absorb thousands of rocket hits, some deaths, many injuries, and lots of trauma without doing whatever is possible to stop it. Especially since the ‘starving and freezing’ is partly faked, and partly the result of Hamas’ actions like confiscating hospital fuel for military purposes. Avnery has a simple solution:

Several months ago Hamas proposed a cease-fire. It repeated the offer this week.

A cease-fire means, in the view of Hamas: the Palestinians will stop shooting Qassams and mortar shells, the Israelis will stop the incursions into Gaza, the “targeted” assassinations and the blockade.

Why doesn’t our government jump at this proposal?

The obvious answer is that like previous cease-fires, Israel expects that Hamas will stop some of their activities, off-load others to groups that they ‘don’t control’ like Islamic Jihad, and use the respite to continue with less visible ones like making rockets, stockpiling ammunition and explosives, tunneling under the Gaza/Israel border, and — now that the Egyptian border is breached — preparing terrorist attacks inside Israel which they will either deny or find a reason to justify when the time comes.

And there’s another answer, which is that maybe the time for a truce is not when we are finally starting to hurt Hamas with targeted killings and incursions. And also, possibly suggested by the primitive and poor part of my brain, there is the idea that Hamas should be made to pay for what it’s done.

But Avnery thinks he understands the true, hidden motives of Olmert and Barak for refusing this generous offer:

Simple: in order to make such a deal, we must speak with Hamas, directly or indirectly. And this is precisely what the government refuses to do.

Why? Simple again: Sderot is only a pretext – much like the two captured soldiers were a pretext for something else altogether. The real purpose of the whole exercise is to overthrow the Hamas regime in Gaza and to prevent a Hamas takeover in the West Bank.

Possibly I could agree that the government needs to do more to stop the attacks on Sderot, but…a pretext! Avnery is displaying his ability, found so often on the extreme left, to think the absolute worst about the motives of his own people and the best about their enemies.

But we are almost getting to the point where he says something true, so we had to plow through this. Here is part of it:

And then something happened that none of them foresaw, in spite of the fact that it was the most foreseeable event on earth.

The breakthrough into Egypt, which Avnery claims was due to the ‘pressure cooker’ of the blockade, was carefully prepared for by Hamas over a period of months. The propaganda buildup, the daily cutting and weakening of the fence, and finally the ‘explosion’, presented by the media and hailed by Avnery as an eruption of oppressed humanity, were all parts of another Paliwood production.

But it was forseeable. Not, as Avnery suggests, because the Gazans were too miserable to be contained, but because Hamas was working on the fence for months.

And it raises the question, “what were Olmert and Barak thinking?”, because the consequences of this event are not good:

  1. Israel’s long, relatively porous border with Egypt is now exposed to Hamas terrorists from Gaza.
  2. An operation to finish off Hamas in Gaza, already difficult, is now 10 times harder.
  3. Mubarak’s regime, long threatened by radical Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood — of which Hamas is an offshoot — now has something else to worry about.
  4. The need to protect both the border with Israel and Egypt’s own interior threatens the demilitarization of the Sinai.
  5. The possibility exists that Hamas will actually occupy part of the Sinai, meaning that Israeli action against it would constitute a violation of Egyptian sovereignty.

Regarding Mubarak’s position, here is what Avnery writes, almost correctly:

Even before [the breakthrough], Mubarak was in an impossible situation. Hundreds of millions of Arabs, a billion Muslims, saw how the Israeli army had closed the Gaza strip off on three sides: the North, the East and the sea. The fourth side of the blockade was provided by the Egyptian army.

The Egyptian president, who claims the leadership of the entire Arab world, was seen as a collaborator with an inhuman operation conducted by a cruel enemy in order to gain the favor (and the money) of the Americans. His internal enemies, the Muslim Brothers, exploited the situation to debase him in the eyes of his own people.

It is doubtful if Mubarak could have persisted in this position. But the Palestinian masses [no, Hamas — ed.] relieved him of the need to make a decision. They decided for him. They broke out like a tsunami wave. Now he has to decide whether to succumb to the Israeli demand to re-impose the blockade on his Arab brothers.

In the final analysis, this may be more important for what happens to Egypt than for the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.

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Three myths about Israel and the Palestinians

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

Every once in a while it’s necessary to argue against some of the myths that have become current. Here are three such myths:

Myth no. 1: The Israel-Palestinian conflict is between Israel and the Palestinians.

Actually, the conflict pits Israel against the Arab world, and against the forces of Sunni and Shiite Islamism. All of the above have never accepted the idea of a Jewish state in the Mideast and wish to eliminate it. The US supports Israel where it sees a congruence of national interests; there is by no means unqualified support, and at this moment these interests are perceived by many in the US administration to be growing farther apart.

Among those who wish to destroy Israel are Iran and Saudi Arabia. These nations have invested a lot of oil money in terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah which are doing their best to destabilize the region (e.g., in Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority) and to kill Israelis. They also fund massive media and propaganda campaigns around the world, carry on diplomatic offensives against Israel, and support jihadist groups in various places, which — while they may not directly target Israel — use terrorism to try to influence Western nations’ policy toward her.

It’s also appropriate to mention Syria and Egypt, which are presently stockpiling large quantities of weapons, including sophisticated weapons whose only use would be against Israel, and — especially in the case of Syria — have large stocks of chemical and biological weapons.

The role of the Palestinians — and we must also include a large proportion of the so-called “Israeli Arabs” who today see themselves as Palestinians first — is as a growth medium for the terrorist militias. For this reason, their general condition is kept as miserable as possible and their sense of victimization nurtured, both in terms of their historical grievances and their present treatment by Israel. As I’ve said before, the Palestinians’ function is to be the point of the spear to be driven into Israel.

Myth no. 2: Israel is much more powerful than the Palestinians

An understanding of Myth no. 1 above shows that this is more irrelevant than false. The IDF is more than a match for the terrorist militias — although Hamas and Hezbollah are presently developing professional, well-trained and well-equipped armies that are a far cry from Arafat’s guerrillas. But much of the danger comes from the connections of the terrorist militias to their patrons — as demonstrated by the second Lebanon war — and from the potential of these patrons’ direct involvement. Iran’s soon-to-be nuclear capability and Syria’s chemical rockets stand behind this threat.

Continuing terrorism against Israel, while it may not be as dramatic as the invasions of 1973, can have the effect of harming Israel’s economy and morale, weakening her and reducing ability to fight a major war when it comes.

The small physical size of Israel has made her civilian population vulnerable to short-range rocket attacks from outside her borders which are very difficult to prevent, and which — because the terrorists are non-state proxies — can continue without international pressure to stop them even though they are war crimes under international law. Israel, on the other hand, is highly limited in how it can respond, especially by the US. This tips the balance of power against Israel.

Myth no. 3: Israel uses its power to oppress the Palestinians

One of the strategies used by Israel’s enemies is to create and capitalize upon as much ‘oppression’ as possible. So Israel is forced to establish roadblocks in the West Bank to prevent suicide bombers from crossing into Israel proper, and then the Palestinians relate stories of pregnant women giving birth there, etc.

Another example is the regular protests against the security fence by Palestinians and their ‘international’ supporters, designed to both draw attention to Israel’s security measures, to present them as oppression, and to provoke Israel into responding as violently as possible to create more incidents. If there are not enough real incidents, they exaggerate and sometimes entirely fake them.

On a much larger scale, Hamas provoked Israel into the partial blockade of the Gaza strip by firing thousands of rockets into Sderot and environs. Hamas then exaggerated the privations of the Gaza residents and quite successfully presented this to the international media. The recent ‘blackout’, in which Hamas pretended that a cutoff of diesel fuel caused a major power outage, while the strip still was receiving 75% of normal electricity supply from Israel and Egypt, was a major propaganda triumph.

The Left in Israel and progressives around the world call for an ‘end to the occupation’ because they think that a solution to the conflict will be more likely if the Palestinians are freed from ‘oppression’. But they do not understand that the ‘oppression’ is actually desired and indeed often created by the anti-Israel forces as a tool to get the West to force Israel to make concessions. Once the concessions are made — this is what the progressives don’t understand — the ‘oppression’ always appears somewhere else or in another form, requiring more concessions.

So, for example, when Israel withdrew from South Lebanon and went to great lengths to get the UN to certify the border, Hezbollah discovered the Shebaa Farms as a pretext to claim that Israel still occupies Lebanon.

And when Israel withdrew from 100% of Gaza but found it necessary to control the borders to prevent terrorism, the Palestinians complained that they were in a “huge open-air prison”. Hamas also fired mortars at the crossing points in order to force their closure, so they could blame Israel for more ‘oppression’. Finally they fired rockets at Sderot until Israel, prevented by the human-shield tactic from massive retaliation, responded with the blockade (which of course was not complete for humanitarian reasons anyway).

If Israel were to completely withdraw to the 1967 lines, there is no doubt that the internal ‘oppression’ of the “Palestinian citizens of Israel” would then come to the fore (not that this is being ignored today).

This also explains why no matter how much aid is given to the Palestinians, their condition never seems to improve.

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Reuters inverts reality

Friday, January 25th, 2008

Reuters has gone completely over the top. They are no more reliable or less biased than Al-Jazeera — indeed, they are worse because everyone understands Al-Jazeera’s point of view, while some still take Reuters seriously.

Yesterday I mentioned several incidents in the ongoing war between Israel and Palestinian terrorists. In one case two border police officers were ambushed and shot, one fatally. In the other, two Hamas terrorists infiltrated a school in Kfar Etzion and started stabbing people; they were overpowered and killed by two of the teachers.

Get ready for this. Here is how Reuters reports these incidents:

Two Palestinians, Israeli killed in W.Bank incidents

JERUSALEM, Jan 24 (Reuters) – Jewish settlers shot dead two Palestinians and gunmen killed an Israeli border policeman in two separate incidents in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, medical and security services said.

Note that the headline and the story mentions the Palestinians first, and does not suggest that they were doing anything other than minding their own business when (in highly emotive language) the “settlers shot [them] dead”.

Police said Palestinian gunmen shot an Israeli paramilitary border policeman near the Shuafat refugee camp near Jerusalem and that he died of his wounds at the scene.

A woman, also from the Israeli security services, received moderate to serious gunshot wounds in the same incident, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Israel Radio reported that a large number of police and soldiers were combing the area, searching for the gunmen.

OK, although I’m not sure what the faintly disreputable word ‘paramilitary’ is supposed to add. Now let’s get to how the Palestinians died, five paragraphs into the story:

In the second incident, settlers overpowered and shot dead two Palestinians who infiltrated a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, an army spokeswoman said.

Israel radio said the Palestinians had stabbed two settlers at the Kfar Etzion settlement, not far from Bethlehem, before being shot, and a hospital spokeswoman in Jerusalem said the settlers’ injuries were light to moderate. [my emphasis]

Just in case you might have mistakenly thought that they were humans living in a kibbutz, the article uses the words ‘settlers’ and ‘settlement’ no less than six times.

The “Palestinians” — who should be called ‘terrorists’ if anyone should — disabled an alarm system and cut the perimeter fence at the kibbutz, which houses a yeshiva operated by the famed Talmudic scholar, Adin Steinsaltz. Dressed in stolen IDF uniforms, they sneaked into a meeting of teachers and attempted to stab them; they were shot by one of the teachers. Similar infiltrations have resulted in numerous Israeli deaths.

Just a word about the ‘settlement’ of Kfar Etzion. It was originally founded on legally purchased land by Yemenite Jews in 1927, abandoned several times due to Arab attacks and rebuilt. Finally, in 1948 Kibbutz Kfar Etzion was overrun by the British-commanded Jordanian Arab legion. Here is an account of what happened:

On the 13th of May the defenders of Kfar Etzion surrendered to the Legion. The Legion honored the surrender, though Arab irregulars continued to fire for some time. The defenders gathered in front of the school and put down their weapons. They were photographed by someone in a kaffiyeh (Arab headdress and European suit). Then an armored car, apparently belonging to the Legion, approached and opened fire, and other Arab attackers opened fire with submachine guns and grenades. Some survivors claimed Legion soldiers were not involved, others insisted that they were. Survivors all recall that that the Arabs were screaming “Deir Yassin.” All accounts agree that Legion officers rescued several survivors.

About 50 defenders escaped to the cellar of the old German monastery that was within the grounds, and tried to defend themselves there. The Arab attackers finished them off with hand grenades and then blew up the building, which collapsed over them. All but about five defenders were eventually killed. In all, about 128 defenders were massacred by the Palestinian Arab irregulars or the Jordan Legion, counting those who had escaped to the basement of the monastery. Some accounts do not count these people as “massacred” and estimate that fifty were massacred. However, those who fled to the basement were given no chance to surrender. One of the survivors, a woman, was taken to a field to be raped by two Legion soldiers, but saved by an officer. About 157 Jewish defenders died in the final battle for Gush Etzion, including those killed in the massacre.

After the illegal 19-year Jordanian occupation ended in 1967, Kfar Etzion was rebuilt yet again.

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Some news items

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

In all the excitement about the Israeli ‘blockade’ of Gaza, replete with candle-lit Hamas meetings, and the total evaporation of the border between Egypt and Gaza, here are a few news items that you may have missed:


A border police officer was killed and another female officer was wounded Thursday night in a shooting attack near the entrance to the Shuafat refugee camp in northern Jerusalem…

The Battalions of Struggle and Return, a previously anonymous offshoot of Fatah’s Aksa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack, Israel Radio reported.


In another simultaneous incident, two terrorists were killed after they infiltrated the Mekor Hayim High School Yeshiva in Kfar Etzion, south of Jerusalem.

The terrorists, armed with knives and a pistol, infiltrated the kibbutz – in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc – and snuck into a building used by the high school, run by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz.

They entered a classroom where tutors were holding a meeting, and stabbed two of them. The wounded suffered non-threatening injuries, one to the head and the other to the shoulder, and were evacuated to Hadassah Hosptial in Jerusalem. — Jerusalem Post


Palestinians opened fire Tuesday morning at farmers working in a field near Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha in southern Israel. There were no reports of injuries. An IDF force fired back at the shooters, and the farmers stopped their work and were removed from the field.

[Carlos Chavez,] an Ecuadorian volunteer was murdered by a Palestinian sniper in the same area last week.


[On Tuesday,] seven Qassam rockets and one mortar shells landed in Israel since the morning hours.

Two barrages were fired shortly before 8 am, as Sderot’s children were making their way to school.

Nine Qassam rockets and 13 mortar shells were fired at the western Negev communities on Monday afternoon. — YNet

Recently, there have been as many as 50 rockets fired in one day, and since the Gaza disengagement the total is close to 4200.

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