Arafat’s porcine widow Suha claims that she found traces of radioactive polonium 232 on clothes that she had kept since his death in 2004, although the hypothesis that he was poisoned by polonium is physically impossible (see also here).
Even if it wasn’t polonium, many Palestinians are convinced that he was poisoned. Here is an example of their reasoning:
Dr. Bashir Abdullah, a physician on the Palestinian team of investigators, said Tuesday that Arafat’s death “cannot be explained in the framework of disease, and therefore our explanation is that there must have been poisonous material.”
Now that is what I call a scientific diagnosis! I wonder what his ‘investigation’ will reveal? Especially since the samples were taken by Palestinians.
Of course Arafat was in terrible shape at 75, had been badly injured in a plane crash some years before from which he had not fully recovered, and had incompetent doctors (the Dr. Abdullah quoted above is an example). It’s not at all surprising that he died when he did.
Naturally they want to blame Israel. But no one has come up with a good explanation of why Israel, which could have killed Arafat in the years when he was relevant, would wait until he was 75 and ailing to do so. Barry Rubin writes,
…there was a clear Israeli decision not to kill Arafat taken in the 1970s. A much-seen photo of Arafat taken through the scope of an Israeli sniper rifle in southern Lebanon was circulated following Arafat’s 1982 evacuation from Beirut. If Israel had wanted to kill Arafat it had numerous opportunities to do so when it mattered, not at the end of his career when he was largely discredited.
Incidentally, the Israelis-poisoned-him theme has been used repeatedly in the case of others whose death obviously had other causes. The Palestinian leader Faisal Husseini and the publishing mogul Robert Maxwell immediately come to mind. This kind of thing is merely a modern-day version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Rubin goes on to discuss why this kind of no-evidence libel against Israel spreads so readily:
A fair-minded observer might start thinking: something different is going on here, some hidden agenda or psychological factor that impels Israel and the Jews being put into a special category with negative implications in today’s world. As it once was for so many centuries.
It is business as usual for Arab media to find murderous conspiracies that can be blamed on Jews or Israel. What I find surprising is the degree to which the mainstream Western media take this absolute rubbish seriously.
For example, an AP news article by Karin Laub quotes Suha Arafat, numerous Palestinian officials, doctors, etc. all suggesting that the Original Terrorist was poisoned (there is one short quotation from an Israeli saying that Israel had no reason to kill him at that point). But most importantly, there is no indication that many observers — including some who are not at all friendly to Israel — think that the conspiracy theory is simply insane. The takeaway from this article could be described as “hmm, maybe there’s something to this.”
CNN’s Christiane Amanpour interviewed Suha Arafat and wrote a similar article, also with a one-line denial by an Israeli spokesperson. This article is a bit better than Laub’s, because it presents some of the reasons that the polonium theory is unlikely to be true. But again, the impression it leaves is that the jury is still out on whether Arafat was poisoned (and if he was, no possible suspects beyond Israel are discussed).
Since then, several respected commentators (here and especially here) have argued that the results of the war for Israel were actually quite good, given what’s possible in the Middle East. The joyous celebrations in Gaza, they say, were of a piece with the 1967 Egyptian broadcasts reporting that their tanks were entering Tel Aviv.
Well, yes and no.
It’s true that Israel destroyed a huge amount of missiles, ammunition, smuggling tunnels, workshops and other assets of Hamas. Some important Hamas leaders were killed. The Iron Dome system was remarkably effective, keeping Israeli homefront casualties to a minimum. It will take Hamas several years to rebuild and rearm for the next round.
It’s also true that the options for a complete victory — or rather, what would follow such a victory — were limited. If Hamas were wiped out, who would administer Gaza? Israelis do not want to see their sons and daughters doing occupation duty in Gaza.
But from a psychological point of view, the imposed cease-fire — and it was imposed, by Barack Obama and his ally Mohammed Morsi — is not a victory.
Consider: the cease-fire negotiations — indirect as they may be — treat the fundamentally racist and terrorist Hamas as a legitimate regime, rather than a gang of murderous outlaws. There is already talk of some concessions that Israel will make to Hamas in return for quiet! Hamas exemplifies the atavistic attitudes and behavior that have been rejected by enlightened society for hundreds of years (this should be particularly clear to the highly ‘cultured’ Europeans, but of course it isn’t). Hamas, not Israel, should take responsibility for the violence.
And this: the number of civilian casualties that Israel is permitted to inflict in the process of defending itself is close to zero. This is supposedly based on ‘humanitarian’ considerations, but of course these only apply to Israel, not to the US in Iraq or Afghanistan, not to NATO in its various campaigns, and of course not to places like Syria where rivers of Arab blood can flow before anyone will intervene. The message is that they can try to kill us, but we have to try not to kill them.
This is reinforced by the way Iron Dome and other defensive weapons are presented as ‘solutions’ to the threats of terrorist entities like Hamas and Hizballah. The Iron Dome systems are a wonderful technical achievement which doubtless saved hundreds of lives, and Israel should build more of them — a small country surrounded by enemies must be able to protect its population.
But there is an unfortunate side to its success. During the years of rocket bombardment that led up to the war, international institutions and leaders were for the most part silent, because it has become expected and unexceptional that racist terrorists to do their best to murder innocent people. If Israel’s response is primarily defensive, then this becomes normal.
Attempted murder is not normal, it is criminal and criminals ought to be punished. Hamas officials responsible for the ongoing rocket attacks should be arrested and tried for war crimes. If found guilty, they should be hanged like Eichmann.
Apparently this is the way most nations see it, if they are the ones under attack:
Back in mid-June, during the great Paris weapons show, the Rafael pavilion was absolutely the busiest around, and everybody wanted to look at the new, exciting, Iron Dome system, the greatest achievement in rocket defense ever. But by the end of the show, Rafael hadn’t made a single sale. The Arrow sold well, other systems did great – Iron Dome wasn’t moving. So they contacted their big clients, the serious ones, and asked what gives. And those clients told them no one except Israel has any use for these things. Because in any normal, sane country, if some hooligans were to start targeting civilians with rockets – the army would go and kill them. — Yori Yanover, The Morally Reprehensible Iron Dome
Finally, as always the great powers will intervene if it looks like Israel is about to win a victory that makes a real change on the ground (much US and European policy since 1967 has been a somewhat belated intervention to reverse the results of that war).
It is enormously frustrating and corrosive to morale to have to fight over and over again without hope of settling anything. It reminds me of a children’s book in which an athletic character brags about having been “in the finals five years running.” Another replies “well, they couldn’t have been that final if you had to keep on doing them.” None of Israel’s wars can be final, and they have to keep on doing them.
The article that follows was published on a blog called Harry’s Place. But at least for now it is unavailable as a result of a denial-of-service attack probably launched by anti-Israel hackers. I am presenting it here in full. I encourage other bloggers interested in the truth to copy it and do the same. Note: the associated photo and video are linked to the site under attack and so are not available. I’ve replaced them with similar illustrations.
On the 14th of November, the son of BBC video editor Jihad Masharawi died. Here is his account of what happened:
Interviewer: “Our condolences, Jihad. Tell me what happened with you.”
JM: “Shrapnel hit our house.”
JM: “Yes. My sister-in-law was killed along with my son and my brother and my other son were wounded [the brother has since died — ed.].
Interviewer: “In which area?”
JM: “In al Zeitoun.”
Zeitoun is a district of Gaza which hosted Iranian Fajr 5 missile sites, ready for launching into Israel. Here is a photograph of one such site:
It is, as you can see, situated within a civilian area.
As you can see by looking at aerial photographs of the Gaza Strip, the area contains a large amount of open and agricultural land. It would be entirely possible for Hamas and its allies to store their missiles in and fire them from somewhere other than residential and civilian areas: near mosques, hospitals, playgrounds, football fields, and private homes. However, they choose instead to situate them in locations where they know that, if they are hit by even the most precise of surgical airstrikes, the secondary explosions will quite possibly cause destruction and death in their area.
I’ve posted below a short video which shows what happens when Israel hits an ammunition cache. These are precisely the consequences that Hamas intends. It is often said that this tactic amounts to sheltering behind skirts and prams as it seeks to kill Israeli civilians. I think that’s precisely what it is.
Who killed Jihad Masharawi’s son?
There are a number of possibilities.
First of all, Israel deliberately launched a missile at a civilian house, intending to kill him and his family. That, as the Elder of Ziyon observes, is unlikely:
The idea that Israel, which managed to kill less than one civilian for every 30 airstrikes in Gaza, targeted the house of a low-level BBC employee during the initial wave of attacks – while he wasn’t home – is simply not believable. Unless you are convinced, ab initio, of Israel’s monstrous nature, there are other explanations that fit the incident far better.
However, that still allows for the possibility that an Israeli missile went astray, or that the attack on the house was intentional, but resulted from mistaken information. That certainly could have happened.
Nevertheless, there are two other possibilities which should be considered. The first is that Hamas or its allies launched a missile at Israel, but that it fell short and hit Jihad Masharawi’s house. That, quite possibly, is the cause of death of Mahmoud Sadallah, whose body was displayed to the world’s media, to be kissed by the Egyptian Prime Minister. Although it was widely claimed in the press that this child died in an Israeli strike, none appears to have taken place at the time of his death. By contrast, estimates of the percentage of the Hamas rockets which fall short and fall within Gaza range from between 15% and 40%. Damage to homes in Gaza by missiles is particularly perilous, because a large number of homes have propane gas heaters, and domestic generators. A missile or shrapnel hit can cause a secondary explosion. In any event, the Elder of Ziyon notes, the Daily Mirror has now removed the news item which most prominently covered the story, but has not announced its reason for doing so, or considered the matter further.
The final possibility is that the shrapnel which hit Jihad Masharawi’s house resulted from an explosion or a secondary explosion on one of the weapons caches and launching sites near his home.
Which theory is correct? We can’t know for sure: at least not yet. Perhaps there will be an investigation in which facts will become apparent. Israel knows where it launched attacks. It may have intelligence which shows the sites of misfired Hamas etc. rockets. Their proximity to Jihad Masharawi’s house could be ascertained.
Who is morally responsible for the deaths of civilians, where despite not being targeted, they die when Hamas shoots wonky rockets which fall short, or when Israeli missiles ignite weapons caches that are intended to be fired at Israeli cities? I can guarantee you that there are many who take the view that even in these circumstances, Israel and Israel alone should be held accountable.
As BBC Watch has pointed out, as far as the BBC and it’s correspondent Jon Donnison are concerned, there is only one possibility: that for some reason Israel fired a missile into Jihad Masharawi’s house. This is how he puts it:
Despite the evidence pointing towards an Israeli air-strike, some have suggested it might have been a misfired Hamas rocket. But at that time, so soon after the launch of Israel’s operation, Israel’s military says mortars had been launched from Gaza, but very few rockets. Mortar fire would not cause the fireball that appears to have engulfed Jihad’s house. Others say that the damage was not consistent with powerful Israeli attacks, but the BBC visited other bomb sites this week with very similar fire damage, where Israel acknowledged carrying out what it called “surgical strikes”. Like at Jihad’s house, there was very little structural damage, but the victims were brought out with massive and fatal burns.
As BBC Watch points out, there is no basis for Donnison’s conviction that an Israeli airstrike hit Jihad Masharawi’s house. Donnison provides observations based upon what he believes to be similar patterns of fire damage. However, the pictures show merely a hole in a building and a fire, which may have been caused by an Israeli airstrike or by any of the other possibilities canvassed above, including one of the ‘very few’ rocket strikes which Donnison discounts. There’s no discussion, either, of the evidence of Jihad Masharawi that ’shrapnel’ – not a rocket – hit his house. That is at odds with Donnison’s belief that the attack looked like the aftermath of an Israel “surgical strike” with a missile. In any event, I don’t know whether an exploding Israeli missile would have left identifiable fragments, but certainly none have been produced.
With limited data, Donnison can’t be sure: but it is very clear what he thinks.
As well as expressing near-certainty that an Israeli strike killed Omar Masharawi, Our Own Correspondent also contained a graphic description of the state of his body and the natural and terrible agony of his father. I think that, having been told the horrific story of how Israel launched a missile into a BBC employee’s house, killing his son, and having heard about the impact of that missile on a tiny child’s face, most people would be unprepared to discuss the possibility that the death had resulted from some other chain of events.
If Israel deliberately launched a missile into a civilian’s house, it should be condemned. If Israel did so, believing that the house was in fact occupied by a military target, then the BBC ought to investigate how it came to make such a terrible mistake. If Omar Masharawi died as a result of a misfired Palestinian rocket or mortar, then that should also be investigated and condemned. Were he to have died following an Israeli strike of a Fajr5 rocket site in Zeitoun, then that should at least be reported. The BBC should ask Hamas why it put a Fajr5 launching site in the middle of a civilian area. It could ask Israel the same question: and its answer would be that it knew that these rockets were being prepared for launch at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
I expect that some effort will now be put into trying to find out precisely what happened. If Israel’s culpability is ascertained, that too will be reported and Israel is likely to express regret, which will be regarded as insincere by most partisans of the Palestinian cause. If further evidence of Hamas culpability emerges then, from past experience, that is likely not to be reported at all. Hamas will express no sorrow, because it does not in fact regret the deaths of Palestinian civilians, and because it knows that it will never be pressed on its siting of missiles and caches within civilian neighbourhoods. In arguments on the internet, and at public meetings, we will be told that Israel should not have responded to missile attacks at all, which are in fact incapable of doing any harm, and in any case deserve them because of the supposed ‘occupied’ nature of Gaza.
[F]or a wide swathe of left-liberal and ‘anti-imperialist’ opinion there is now no way Israel can conduct itself from which it will earn moral credit. It is irredeemably tainted in its origin. Conversely, and in the same quarter, there is nothing that Hamas or other representatives of the Palestinian people can do, no wrong or outrage they can commit, which will not be morally ‘cleaned up’ by the perception that these representatives are supposedly the pure vehicle of a struggle against injustice.
One of the reasons for this opinion is that much of the media prominently report the deaths of children when they can be attributed to Israel but, as the Daily Mirror’s quiet de-publishing of its story illustrates, have very little to say when the facts shift and the story becomes less certain.
Today, the IDF announced that it had “accomplished its pre-determined objectives for Operation Pillar of Defense, and has inflicted severe damage to Hamas and its military capabilities.”
It is embarrassing to read this statement, which includes the fact that 130 rockets slammed into Israeli towns on the last day until the ceasefire came into effect at 9 PM. It does not even mention that 20 more struck between 9 PM and midnight.
While many Hamas rockets and launchers were destroyed, clearly many were not. Hamas has been building fortifications since 2009, and much of this infrastructure escaped the air bombardment. Hamas was certainly dealt a serious blow, but not a knockout punch. Its Iranian weapons suppliers will soon re-equip it, and it will probably get millions in ‘humanitarian’ aid from its friends in Europe.
Israel’s operation is estimated to have cost 3 billion Israeli Shekels (about $770 million). Each Tamir interceptor fired by Iron Dome cost $40,000. Now there is a ceasefire, and 30,000 reservists (cost: $60 million) will likely be sent home.
Hamas established that it can hit Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with missiles that can only improve in the future. It established that — by launching a large number of rockets at once, as it did in an attack on Beer Sheva today — it can overwhelm the Iron Dome system. It established that it can withstand a concentrated air attack and still fire rockets.
Palestinians understand quite well what happened, both the people in the street
Gaza Arabs celebrate their success after ceasefire is announced
and their leaders.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and other officials smile broadly at the outcome of the conflict
But Israeli leaders look glum.
Defense Minister Barak, Foreign Minister Lieberman and PM Netanyahu announce the ceasefire. They aren’t smiling.
As always, Israel’s overwhelming military might can’t stand up against the ‘persuasive’ powers of the White House, and yet again defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory. There will be another round, and another, and another.
But what do you expect? Israel is addicted to US weapons systems and spare parts — and now, to the Iron Dome system, developed in Israel but funded by the US. Saying no is unthinkable.
One question that Israelis are asking is this: why didn’t Barak and Netanyahu expect this? Did they have assurances from the Obama administration that they could go into Gaza, assurances which were later withdrawn? It doesn’t make sense to call up 30,000 reservists just to scare the other side.
We’ll probably never know exactly what happened. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t interpret this as a positive outcome for Israel.
The US position on the Gaza situation has been surprisingly refreshing. Both the State Department and the president have clearly said that Israel has a right to defend itself and that stopping the rocket bombardment of Israel is a prerequisite to a cease-fire.
Perhaps I’m cynical, but what’s going on here? The last time Israel fought with Hamas, the incoming Obama Administration pressured Israel to get out of Gaza before the inauguration. After the Mavi Marmara affair, the US forced Israel to end its economic warfare against Hamas. Does the US, at long last, really want to see Israel defeat Hamas?
I think that it does, but the reason is perhaps not the one we would wish for. This is a longish story, so bear with me.
Here’s a clue: with typical Arab solipsism, the Syrian opposition SNC claims that Israel has deliberately provoked a war with Hamas in order to distract attention from the Syrian civil war, and to help Bashar al-Assad stay in power.
Of course this is insane. It is doubtful that Israel wants to keep Assad, since it is by no means clear that the replacement regime would be worse for Israel. And even if it did, the ongoing war is all about Hamas rockets, not Syria.
But let’s turn it around: Maybe Hamas chose this time to escalate its rocket attacks and provoke a reaction, in part because of events in Syria. Although Hamas is the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood and therefore aligns politically with the Brotherhood in Egypt, its main patron and weapons-supplier has been Iran. And Iran has a great deal of interest in helping its puppet Assad, whose regime anchors Iranian interests in the western part of the Mideast.
And that’s not all (or even most) of it: Iran wants to keep the IDF busy with Hamas so that it will not go after its nuclear program.
I suggest that the real provocateur of this war is Iran.
Iran is pouring weapons into Gaza, some of which were recently interdicted — by Egypt! This isn’t surprising, considering that Egypt and the other Sunni regimes in the region are very worried about Iran, almost as much as Israel is. They want Assad out and Fordow cratered.
In other words, the Palestinians are yet again a pawn in the greater struggle of the Mideast, the Sunni-Shiite conflict, with Iran and the Assad regime on one side and Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey on the other.
The US, then, in opposing Hamas, is actually supporting its Sunni allies in the region. It is just a happy coincidence that this enables them to support Israel as well.
I’m hearing noises that the US would like to see the Hamas regime replaced by our pet Arabs, the Palestinian Authority. If this happens, the pressure on Israel to leave the territories, even to create a corridor between Judea/Samaria and Gaza across Israel, will come back on with a vengeance.
As I write, there is yet another announcement that a ceasefire agreement has been reached. We’ll see.
Chief of Staff Benny Gantz talks to troops waiting near Gaza border
Until recently, Jewish communities in Christian or Muslim principalities existed on the sufferance of kings and princes. If the ruler was not theologically hostile to Jews and/or if he found their presence useful, then they were able to live relatively unmolested lives; although in most cases there were restrictions placed on them, ranging from the prohibition against a Jew riding a horse in Muslim lands, to the exclusion of Jews from various trades in Europe.
But if the prince had a problem with Judaism, or even owed big debts to local Jewish moneylenders, then things could turn ugly. Rulers could turn a blind eye to pogroms — or even incite them — and total expulsion of Jews from a nation was possible, as happened in England in 1290, France in 1306 and Spain in 1492.
Zionism was in part supposed to be a solution to Jewish powerlessness and dependency. In a sovereign Jewish state, it would no longer be necessary to cater to, bribe and flatter non-Jewish authorities in order to exist.
Well, the joke seems to be on us. Although there is a sovereign Jewish state, Israel, it is “the Jew among nations,” trying to stay in the favor of the powerful nobles of the world (including the most powerful, the President of the US).
Of course there is a difference: the Jews of the diaspora were physically powerless, while Israel has the IDF. But what good is an army if someone else has veto power over its use?
The present situation, in which savage antisemites have launched (as it were) a pogrom against the Jews of Israel, is precisely the right time to use the power of the Jewish state, to do what the Jews of Kishinev could not do in 1903: stop the pogrom and destroy the ability of the antisemites to hurt them in the future.
This can be done with Hamas and the other terrorist factions in Gaza, but it requires an incursion into the densely populated cores of the cities where Hamas’ command facilities are located. A partial military solution, such as was accomplished by operation Cast Lead in 2008-9, only provides time for the terrorists to rearm and prepare for the next round, incorporating lessons learned.
It cannot be accomplished by negotiations. Diplomacy succeeds when it can provide benefits for both sides, but when one side’s very reason for being is to destroy the other, there isn’t a mutually beneficial solution.
But Israel’s arm is restrained by the patron to which it is most beholden, the USA, as well as the lesser potentates of the EU and the UN. Israel’s PM seems to have agreed — or been forced to agree — to wait a few days to see if an acceptable Egypt-brokered agreement can come about. Meanwhile, tanks and reserve soldiers sit idle near the Gaza border.
The international princes are ostensibly horrified by the potential for harm to civilians (this from the folks that burned Dresden and Tokyo!), but it’s hard to credit this when 30,000 mostly-civilians have been killed in Syria’s civil war, not to mention the millions of black Africans who have died in that continent’s unending conflicts, with little or no response beyond talk.
Whatever the reason, they don’t want to see Hamas crushed.
Israel’s leaders know that there isn’t a diplomatic solution. But what can they do? Over the years, Israel has become so dependent on the US — for advanced weapons, spare parts, etc. — that it is almost impossible to say no to US demands. Possibly some of the attitudes that we developed in the Middle Ages remain with us, as well.
I don’t have a quick fix. Maybe a tiny nation like the Jewish people must always be dependent to some extent. But it should be a national goal to reduce this dependence as much as possible, to be able to survive even when the occupants of the royal palaces of the world are unfriendly.
Morning brought news that the IDF hit numerous rocket launching sites overnight, particularly those for the long-range Iranian Fajr missiles. There were fewer reports of rockets landing in Israel, and in particular no further sirens in the Tel Aviv area. Could this be a trend?
IDF sources have indicated that the campaign will likely take weeks, not days. Its intention is to continue until the threat hanging over residents of southern Israel is ended, and indicated that a ground operation is not out of the question. The IDF is making concrete preparations for an invasion, although we have no way to know if a decision has been made to go ahead with it.
There is reason to think that both sides are interested in continuing the conflict at this point. Daniel Pipes lists several reasons why Hamas is prepared to fight, despite its comparative weakness:
Test the waters in the aftermath of Barack Obama’s reelection.
Rouse public opinion against Israel and make it pay a price internationally.
Refute accusations by Palestinian Islamic Jihad that it has abandoned “resistance.”
Remind the Palestinian Authority, as it seeks statehood at the United Nations, who controls Gaza.
Rile up Israeli Arabs.
Pre-empt Egyptian plans to destroy Gaza tunnels, as Cairo cannot be seen helping Israel in a time of crisis.
Israel, on one level, cannot allow its population to continue to be threatened. With the acquisition of longer-range missiles, the number of Israelis in range of Gaza more than quadrupled (not that the increasing pressure on the south could be allowed to continue).
Other advanced weapons in the hands of Hamas — anti-tank and antiaircraft missiles from Libya, for example — pose new threats. It is essential to restore a posture of deterrence against Hamas and the other terrorist factions in Gaza.
But there is another issue. The Iranian nuclear program hasn’t taken a break. The ‘secret’ negotiations with the US can only reduce the pressure on Iran. An Israeli attack on Iran is likely at some point. Even if the US takes action itself — which I doubt — Israel will be a major target of Iranian retaliation. A castrated Hamas will be less able to open an additional front at that time.
This suggests that maybe Hizballah — Iran’s main proxy against Israel — will be next. We have to remember that despite the damage that Iran’s proxies can do, they are ultimately proxies in the real conflict, which is with the genocidally antisemitic Iranian regime. Pulling some of Iran’s teeth in advance is a good strategy.
Israel is definitely not out of the woods yet. I can’t see any way to complete the operation against Hamas without a ground invasion. There will be casualties on both sides, and there will be accusations of massacres, war crimes, murdering children, etc. We’ve already seen some of the propaganda with faked photos, even some showing wounded in Syria that they claim are from Gaza! Hamas may have had most of its long-range rockets destroyed, but it still has numerous smaller ones. It still has the ability to perpetrate terror attacks inside Israel by means of its cells in Judea/Samaria/Jerusalem.
May the soldiers of the IDF, who are fighting not only for the state of Israel, but for all the Jewish people, finish their job in safety and success!
Just now I saw a BBC news report that former British PM and special Middle East envoy Tony Blair announced that “we must do everything possible to de-escalate the situation.”
My question is, “why?”
The ‘situation’ before the recent Hamas attack and Israeli response was not acceptable. What would Mr. Blair consider an acceptable level of rocket fire into London?
I keep hearing that “war never solves anything.” What nonsense! Some problems — like a persistent, genocidal neighbor motivated by a 7th century ideology who is obsessively trying to destroy your society — can only be solved by war.
Any ‘solution’ that leaves Hamas in power in Gaza isn’t a solution — it is kicking the can of violence down the road, to coin a phrase.
The long-term solution involves changing the cultures that today are obsessed with killing Jews and ending their state, so that they can focus on more constructive pursuits. I can’t imagine how this could be brought about from our side, although I do know that there are things we’ve done — like bringing the despicable Yasser Arafat back from exile — that made things worse.
The short-term solution is to render the barbarians as close to harmless as possible, and to teach them that there is nothing to gain by attacking us. This requires taking away their weapons and military infrastructure, and building deterrence by retaliating in a consistent and disproportionately damaging way. That can’t be achieved by peaceful means. Sorry, Mr. Blair.
A cease-fire or other end to the fighting before these objectives are attained doesn’t bring the short-term solution closer. It also doesn’t promote a long-term solution, because it encourages the enemy to believe that its goals are not impossible.
My recommendation to Tony Blair, Barack Obama, the UN, etc. is simple: leave it alone. The only thing that can prevent Israel from winning this mini-war and neutering Hamas is outside intervention. And the best way to bring about the peace that you desire is to let the war run its course.
The rocket weather has improved, along with the meteorological kind. There has been much speculation about the cause of the recent escalation — you can even blame it on Obama’s reelection — but one answer is simple: Israel’s drones are limited when the visibility is poor, so the rocket scientists of Hamas can set up their launchers (in populated areas), set the timers and run.
Last night was quiet, but it will start again, perhaps with the onset of winter weather. A long term solution is needed.
Why are they doing this now, asked one commenter on a previous blog post? What’s their goal?
The answer to this is also simple: because they can, because their goal is to kill Jews and especially to terrorize them so they will leave the land that Hamas believes is an Islamic waqf. There is also a secondary purpose, which is to raise their own credit in the Arab world by humiliating the Jews, punishing them while denying their agency to do anything about it.
This implies that there is no diplomatic solution. As one blogger used to put on his masthead to the consternation of ‘reasonable’ people, “there is only a military solution.”
We are not going to get Hamas to stop wanting the Jews out of the land by talk therapy. There is nothing we can promise them, no economic incentives or development initiatives, because the only thing they want is for the Jews — they refer to all of them as ‘settlers’ — to leave or be dead.
This is not a mystery. They say it all the time. It is in their charter. There is no ‘moderate’ wing, there are only differing strategies.
I talked to a retired IDF officer the other day about his strategy to solve the problem. His idea is to build a temporary ‘safe zone’ for a million or so civilians just inside the border between Israel and Gaza, turn off the water and electricity, and go in to the cities with the full force of Israel’s firepower, destroy the strongholds under hospitals and schools, kill the leaders and fighters and destroy their weapons. He proposes simultaneously building a canal where the Philadelphi corridor is — the border between Gaza and Egypt — in such a way that it would be difficult or impossible to dig a tunnel that wouldn’t immediately be flooded.
Who would rule them afterwards, I asked. It doesn’t matter, he said. They wouldn’t have any weapons or any way to get them. We would continue allowing supplies to go through the crossings, but there would be strict controls on what got through.
I was skeptical of Israel’s ability to build and maintain a refugee camp this massive, to feed and provide medical care for more than a million people, to secure it, etc. even for the few weeks that it would take to excise the cancer of Hamas. I imagined the Security Council resolutions, perhaps sanctions, that would follow. I imagined the accusations of genocide in the media, the ‘need’ to ‘protect’ the ‘innocent Palestinians’.
But what’s the alternative? Doing what we have been doing is not working. The Egyptian border is porous and getting more so. Targeted killings of Hamas leaders will perhaps produce a temporary solution, but as long as they can import grad rockets, anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, explosives, etc., they will continue to use them.
There is no solution except an incursion, sooner or later. In today’s climate, where Jewish civilians are required to hold still while their enemies kill them bit by bit, while the IDF is held to impossible standards for near-zero collateral damage, where any action unleashes a flood of false accusations that are taken seriously everywhere, the difficulty of starting and finishing an effective operation is enormous.
In my opinion, there are two dimensions of the operation that have to be minimized. One, obviously, is collateral damage. But as we saw in Cast Lead, even if the IDF’s performance in this regard is the best in military history — as British Col. Richard Kemp said — it will still be impossible to sustain an offensive of more than a few weeks in the face of international pressure. So the other dimension that has to be minimized is time.
I’m not a general or a Minister of Defense. I am prepared to leave the detailed planning to them. But there’s no question in my mind that this is a job for the fighters, not the talkers.
Here’s a notable difference between American and Israeli Jews:
…it is true that more funds are being raised today than ever before [by J Street] from donors who depict Israel as the obstacle to peace and favor U.S. pressure to force Israeli concessions. The campaign contributions put muscle behind a flood of articles and speeches that portray Israel as a strategic liability rather than an asset — a trigger-happy country that exaggerates the Iranian threat and is plotting the annexation of the West Bank at the expense of the Palestinians.
Spokesmen for this view, like author Peter Beinart and J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami, are taking ideas from the far left of the Israeli political spectrum and transforming them into mainstream beliefs of the Democratic Party. Meanwhile, however, their counterparts in Israel have shrunk to insignificance: Meretz, the party of Peace Now and Yossi Beilin, has contracted from 14 seats in the Knesset to a mere three. Shelly Yachimovich, the new head of the Labor Party and informal leader of the Israeli opposition, has resisted fierce pressure to embrace the Beilinist agenda. The vast majority of the Israeli public has spoken, and it has rejected the ideology these critics are bringing to the United States.
But in America, these voices have found fertile ground. The American Jewish community is on average more liberal and more dovish on the Middle East than the Jewish majority in Israel. Reform temples and college campuses are particularly receptive to Beinart and Ben-Ami’s message. — Steven J. Rosen, Is J Street Winning?
Could it be that the Israelis, who so emphatically rejected their left-wing parties, are on to something?
American Jews, who have not had to deal with the horrors of the terrorist intifada and rocket barrages, find it comfortable to accept the simplistic conception that there is a two-state solution out there — and that if it hasn’t happened yet, it is because Israel hasn’t tried hard enough. It is much harder to face the reality — as most Israelis have — that there is no solution in the near term because there is no partner for peace on the Arab side.
The Israeli Left, having lost local support, nevertheless has retained the ability to project its opinions outward. Supported to a great extent by money from European governments, international anti-Zionists like George Soros, and American liberals, Israel’s post-Zionist media, academics and NGOs articulate their positions in international forums and media in English.
They paint the centrist Netanyahu government — which has been anything but ‘hardline’ where concessions to the Palestinians are concerned — as reactionary, anti-democratic, racist and theocratic. Israelis, used to the hyperbole of their politics, know nonsense when they see it, and pay no attention.
But in America, there are powerful forces — including the State Department, the White House and he CIA — for whom it is a priority to see Israel forced to give up the territories and eastern Jerusalem, and who would love to see a more pliable regime in Israel.
They have found it effective to present the Israeli Left as the authentic voice of Israel. Through their compliant media (e.g., the NY Times and NPR), personalities like Thomas Friedman and Peter Beinart, and tools like J Street (whose leader, Jeremy Ben-Ami, once called his group “President Obama’s blocking back”), these positions are expressed as consonant with the liberal values that many American Jews hold.
Since they are not as well-informed about the realities of the Middle East as the Israelis that live in it, many American Jews are fooled, accepting J Street’s claim to be “pro-Israel” despite the consistently anti-Israel positions — even opposing sanctions on Iran — that it has taken. Even if they don’t follow groups like J Street, they accept what is now becoming the regular ‘line’ of the Democratic party, as Rosen explained.
One of the major obstacles to those elements that desire to meddle with Israel has, in the past, been the strong support for the policies of Israeli governments by American Jews, as expressed by the traditional Zionist organizations like AIPAC, etc.
Little by little, left-indoctrinated Jews are moving into American Jewish institutions like the Federations, Hillel and even AIPAC, and their influence dilutes the formerly strong support provided by these organizations. One has to appreciate the strategic ability of Israel’s enemies.
It’s ironic that an ideology that failed the test of reality in Israel has found a new home here — as a political fantasy among American Jews. But after all, we are the folks that gave the world Hollywood.
When something outrageous goes on for a long time, people stop being outraged. It is boring to hear or read about things like genocidal wars in Africa, Europe’s collapse into poverty, or the complaints of Israelis about being the targets of thousands of rockets, day in and day out. Better to search the internet, perhaps to find nude pictures of David Petraeus’ girlfriend.
I’m in Israel now, so a few words about the rockets. Everyone I talk to says the same thing: how can this be allowed to continue?
Every day, you take your kids to school (if it’s open and you are not in a shelter), hoping that there will not be a rocket barrage on your way — although Hamas makes an effort to shoot at these hours — moving quickly, keeping an eye on the closest shelter. Every day, rockets land all over southern Israel — small Hamas-built Qassams which can kill you if they land within a few yards, or larger military Grads, a Russian design that is built in multiple countries, including Iran. They smash into open fields, roads, parking lots, homes, schools, synagogues, stores, gas stations, living rooms, bathrooms, farms, factories, banks, telephone booths, markets, everywhere.
When they explode, they spray deadly shrapnel. If you are driving down the street and one lands near your car, the fragments penetrate the sheet metal. Then they penetrate parts of your body, and you may die or be permanently maimed. The sides of buildings are peppered with holes from the shrapnel, like they were hit by a shotgun blast. People’s faces can look like this, too.
When the rocket fire is dense, whole families go to shelters, as many as a million people. Then they come out and perhaps find their homes, cars or workplaces destroyed.
Children wet their beds, can’t concentrate in school, can’t sleep. Adults become phobic or crazy from their powerlessness to protect their families. Sometimes it’s quiet for hours and people relax. Then suddenly, perhaps at 3 am, the “color red” alert is heard, followed by the sound of explosions. In Sderot, which is relatively close to Gaza, there are 15 seconds between the alert and the explosion.
The Iron Dome system is deployed in some places, especially against the longer-range Grad rockets. Sometimes the explosion you hear is in the air, when a rocket is intercepted. Sometimes not.
Rocket fire into Israel from Gaza began in 2002. The intensity varied over time. Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9 slowed Hamas down a little, but activity soon went back to ‘normal’. The people who live in southern Israel have been bearing this for ten years.
Deaths have been relatively few compared to the number of rockets because of a combination of factors: the area of effectiveness, especially of the Qassams, is small, they are not aimable except in a general direction, schools and public buildings have been hardened, shelters large and small have been sprinkled throughout the region, and the Iron Dome system works well where it is deployed.
But still there have been numerous injuries, many serious, a large amount of property damage, and incalculable psychological harm done, especially to children. Today even a young teenager who grew up here never knew a time when death didn’t fall randomly from the sky.
Would you live like this? Would you try to raise your kids like this?
The greatest obscenity in this is that it has become acceptable, to the world and even to the Israeli government, to shoot at Jews. If it weren’t OK, why is it allowed to continue? Is the Hamas more powerful than the IDF, than the US, than all the international institutions that supposedly exist to make human life better? If not, why can’t it be stopped?
Defensive measures like shelters and Iron Dome are not a solution, because they affect only the side effects of the Hamas program, not its central goal, which is to humiliate the Jews, to define them as interlopers and legitimate targets, to make them powerless. To make it acceptable to shoot at them. This is how the Arabs get their “honor” back.
If the IDF takes serious steps to get at the root of the problem, as they began to do but didn’t complete in Cast Lead, the Arabs will squeal like stuck pigs, inventing war crimes to pull at the heartstrings of the West, which is always ready to believe them.
Well, there is Jewish honor, too. Or perhaps just the right to live as human beings who are not acceptable to shoot.
On Tuesday, three IDF soldiers were wounded by a bomb planted near the border fence between Israel and the Gaza strip. On Thursday when soldiers were trying to repair the fence, a huge explosion occurred when a tunnel packed with explosives was detonated. Luckily only one soldier was lightly injured, but it could have been catastrophic.
Then today an IDF jeep in the area was struck by an antitank missile. Four soldiers were wounded, at least two seriously (reports vary), and Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. The IDF either returned fire or otherwise retaliated, killing at least four Palestinians. The last time an antitank missile was used by Gazan terrorists was in April of last year when a school bus was attacked and 16-year old Daniel Wiflic was murdered. Hamas took ‘credit’ for that, too.
Hamas is bombarding southern Israel with rockets as I write this (Nov. 10, 11:59 PM Israel time), making at least 25 that have hit Israel this evening. A million Israelis are in shelters, schools are closed tomorrow, etc. In fact, warning sirens have been heard in Gedera, just 8 miles south of my daughter’s home, Rehovot, where I am sitting now!
The pattern of escalation is similar to what occurred in late 2008 — an IDF-Hamas clash over a tunnel under the border fence led to a rocket barrage and ultimately to Israel’s response, Operation Cast Lead — and there are other worrisome parallels to that period.
Cast Lead was supposed to have three phases: the first was to attack Hamas assets from the air, the second was to enter the strip and take overall control of the territory, and the third was to go into the densely populated areas and rescue hostage Gilad Schalit, destroy Hamas control centers, and kill or capture a large number of its fighters and perhaps its leadership as well. For various reasons — including the probable intervention of the incoming Obama Administration in January 2009 — phase III never happened, Hamas kept Schalit for two more years, and with construction materials, electricity, etc. provided by Israel for ‘humanitarian’ reasons, rebuilt its damaged infrastructure.
Is history about to repeat itself exactly four years later? Israel can’t go on accepting rocket barrages like a particularly dangerous form of weather. Hamas is pushing very hard and there will soon come a point at which Israel’s leadership will have to act to defend its population, despite what the Obama Administration or the UN would prefer.
It is going to be a long night at the PM’s office in Jerusalem, and at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv. And for about a million Israeli civilians in rocket range of Gaza.