Thursday, August 17, 2006

Investigating What Went Wrong

Now that the war is over, all the Israeli media is talking about is the need for an investigation into what went wrong. The two main options are a commission led by a supreme court justice or a parliamentary commission. Both have their flaws. The former focuses on legal matters and the latter would just become a stage for politicians to make themselves heard.

Journalist and historian Tom Segev of Haaretz says there should be a committee of historians who will investigate the matter. He says it is first and foremost a social and cultural issue more than a military issue. I agree with him, but I don't think historians are enough. This commission needs to have political scientists, sociologists, psychologists and experts from other relevant social sciences, as well as military experts.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Conflict Resolution

Israel needs its leaders to have conflict resolution advisors, not just military advisors. They need someone who can relate to the other side and who will understand the consequences of actions not militarily, but on the human level. This way, not only will leaders enter less battles, but also when there is a war, our leaders will speak and act in ways that will open up opportunities for negotiations. We should not insult Arab leaders, not even the ones we are trying to kill, and must minimize the amount of hatred our actions instill in Arab populations.

Here's an article from today's Haaretz on this subject. I agree with the central premise but not with all parts of the op-ed.

Thinking in terms of the other side
By Yitzhak Laor

The Israel Defense Forces is not only the biggest local player in the economy and the economy of images, but it also has learned over the years how to become the Israeli "ego ideal." Thus, the army is not only "just like us," like the neighbor across the way, whose intentions are good and who takes his dog out once a day; it is also our best, what we would like to be if we were really good. Not only is it ready to sacrifice its life; it thinks rationally, intellectually, logically, efficiently, and most of all, it has the rare ability to predict the future.

In fact, if not for the army, we wouldn't be what we are. It cannot be that it is waging war for no reason and bombing villages in which people and babies are hiding in basements, and destroying the economy of the north and perhaps the whole economy, just because its honor has been tarnished. After all, it is our very self, flesh of our flesh. And we would not endanger our lives for the sake of extraneous interests.

When this image goes awry, we move on, as if there is no difference, to the "ordinary soldier." He too is part of the "ego ideal." Injured, sweating, rescuing his comrade from the battlefield, the eternal David fighting the Shiite Goliath. Thus the army takes upon itself - with the assistance of the media (the behavior of most of whom raises the suspicion that they could also serve a totalitarian regime) - the roles of both hero and victim. Anyone listening closely to the broadcasts can discern the grammar immediately: only "we, "us" and "ours." The enemy has no faces or names, except of course for Nasrallah.

Thus, we are the victims and we are the heroes. That is the meaning of unilateralism, Israel's battlefield password for many years. Never mind what's happening around us, we have the power: we will fence; we will close; we will block; we will bomb. Otherwise we have no chance. During wartime this national egotism, beyond its moral implications, becomes part of the process of the spectacular suicide of the State of Israel.

That is the great trap of military thinking, the Israelis' only way of thought regarding the conflict: not only belief in the need to be superior, right or wrong, able or not able, but especially the inability to think in terms of the other side, not as an object translated and interpreted by the Intelligence Corps, but as human beings. In the army the other side is understood in terms of "war games" (in the day-to-day racist jargon, it sounds like this: "This is the Middle East, here they understand only force").

But what, in the end, does the military logic say? We are an army, they are the enemy. They want to kill us; meaning, we must kill them. An army cannot think otherwise. It exists to think of the enemy as to be killed. Therefore, given the chance, it will fulfill its own prophecy. Casualties on the home front or the battlefield only "affirm the expectations," the intelligence predictions. The rain of Katyushas on the north following the bombing of Lebanon, after the kidnapping? We told you so, the military thinking says. They are dangerous. Good thing we went to this war; better late than never.

From this perspective, military thinking is Israel's real trap. Everything moves within it in a circle. There is no way out, except in a fantasy of total destruction and killing all around. "After all, they want to annihilate us."

The tragedy of Israeli society is that it has no other organized way of thinking. The impotence comes to the fore in the lack of ability to answer the question posed to opponents of the war: "So what do you propose?" That question implies another: "What do you propose now that the war has started?" There is of course only one answer: Stop immediately. Any other answer allows the army to continue using its blank check. Any other answer means "right now there is an enemy and a response must be dictated to him from a position of superiority. Later on, we'll see." Later on never comes, because when everything is all right, everything is, after all, all right.

While our lives - and not only the lives of the Lebanese - are being destroyed, we must not speak because there are funerals, or bombings, and worst of all, heaven forbid, Nasrallah will have a propaganda achievement. And that would really be suicide. And as for power of deterrence: What kind of deterrent power will Israel have left after this war, even if it wipes Lebanon out?

As long as the army is not suspected of being an interested party, one of many in the region and the country, as long as it is not suspected of preferring the military option because that is its purpose, as long as the peace movement is ad hoc and not an opposition to the Israeli way of life and thinking, we have no chance of extricating ourselves from the vicious cycle of bloodshed into which we bring forth our children.
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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Kidnapper Nabbed


The Israeli army has arrested one of the Hizbullah operatives who was involved in the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers on July 12. If it doesn't help in finding the soldiers, it at least will help Israeli morale.

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Autism Speaks Petition

I signed this a while back: Autism Speaks: Don't Speak For Me


Unpatriotic Thoughts

This war has made me reconsider my future here in Israel. I always thought I would spend most of my life in Israel. I'd perhaps live a few years in the States, and later return to my place of birth. But now I'm pissed at my government. It does not seem to be able to protect its citizens. Soon enough the Hizbullah missiles will reach my area too, and I am not willing to live in fear.

I am still an avid Zionist, but I am also avid in my belief that a country exists for its citizens and not the citizens for their country. If Israel will not be able to protect my family and myself, I will not stay here. Do I want to live in a shelter for unending days? Do I want to live in a country where at some point, I will have to send my children off to the army?

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not packing my bags yet. I still believe we can win this war (or at least not lose it) and achieve some kind of peace with our neighbors. But in a way, the State of Israel is on probation.

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Don't Give Shabaa to Hizbullah

The Shabaa Farms are of no value to Israel. No strategic value. No sentimental value. Nothing. Despite this, we must not hand this territory over to Lebanon. Not yet, anyway. Doing so would allow Hizbullah to claim victory - their fifth defeat of Israel (the other four being kicking Israel out of Southern Lebanon, the kidnapping of 3 soldiers in October 2000, the deal to return their dead bodies and an Israeli criminal to Israel, and the kidnapping on July 12).

After a period of calm, we should start direct negotiations with Lebanon to hand over the Farms. I don't care that Syria claims they are their own. We should get rid of Hizbullah's last excuse for existing, and let Syria and Lebanon argue about the area amongst themselves.

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The Draft Resolution

The new American-French draft ceasefire resolution is full of holes, but it's still worth taking into consideration. I doubt Hizbullah will accept it. UNIFIL, which will stick around till a new international force arrives in the probably very distant future, isn't going to be any more effective or useful than it has been. Eventually hostilities will re-ignite.

The biggest question is whether an international force will be able to disarm Hizbullah, or at least prevent it from receiving new arms from Syria and Iran. If the ceasefire will only allow the re-arming of this terrorist organization then it will be a grave mistake for both Israel and Lebanon.

UNITED NATIONS - Following is the text of a draft UN resolution on the Middle East conflict negotiated by the United States and France and presented to the full 15-nation Security Council Saturday.

The Security Council

PP1. Recalling all its previous resolutions on Lebanon, in particular resolutions 425 (1978), 426 (1978), 520 (1982), 1559 (2004), 1655 (2006) and 1680 (2006), as well as the statements of its President on the situation in Lebanon, in particular the statements of 18 June 2000(S/PRST/2000/21), of 19 October 2004 (S/PRST/2004/36), of 4 May 2005 (S/PRST/2005/17) of 23 January 2006 (S/PRST/2006/3) and of 30 July 2006(S/PRST/2006/35), Advertisement

PP2. Expressing its utmost concern at the continuing escalation of hostilities in Lebanon and in Israel since Hezbollah's attack on Israel on 12 July 2006, which has already caused hundreds of deaths and injuries on both sides, extensive damage to civilian infrastructure and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons,

PP3. Emphasizing the need for an end of violence, but at the same time emphasizing the need to address urgently the causes that have given rise to the current crisis, including by the unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldiers,

PP4: Mindful of the sensitivity of the issue of prisoners and encouraging the efforts aimed at settling the issue of the Lebanese prisoners detained in Israel,

OP1. Calls for a full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations;

OP2. Reiterates its strong support for full respect for the Blue Line

OP3. Also reiterates its strong support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized borders, as contemplated by the Israeli-Lebanese General Armistice Agreement of 23 March 1949;

OP4. Calls on the international community to take immediate steps to extend its financial and humanitarian assistance to the Lebanese people, including through facilitating the safe return of displaced persons and, under the authority of the Government of Lebanon, reopening airports and harbours for verifiably and purely civilian purposes, and calls on it also to consider further assistance in the future to contribute to the reconstruction and development of Lebanon;

OP5. Emphasizes the importance of the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory in accordance with the provisions of resolution 1559 (2004) and resolution 1680 (2006), and of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, for it to exercise its full sovereignty and authority;

OP6. Calls for Israel and Lebanon to support a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution based on the following principles and elements:- strict respect by all parties for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Israel and Lebanon;- full respect for the Blue Line by both parties;- delineation of the international borders of Lebanon, especially in those areas where the border is disputed or uncertain, including in the Shebaa farms area;- security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Lebanese armed and security forces and of UN mandated international forces deployed in this area;- full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006) that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of July 27, 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state;- deployment of an international force in Lebanon, consistent with paragraph 10 below;- establishment of an international embargo on the sale or supply of arms and related material to Lebanon except as authorized by its government;- elimination of foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its government;- provision to the United Nations of remaining maps of land mines in Lebanon in Israel's possession;

OP7: Invites the Secretary General to support efforts to secure agreements in principle from the Government of Lebanon and the Government of Israel to the principles and elements for a long-term solution as set forth in paragraph 6 above;

OP8: Requests the Secretary General to develop, in liaison with key international actors and the concerned parties, proposals to implement the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), including disarmament, and for delineation of the international borders of Lebanon, especially in those areas where the border is disputed or uncertain, including by dealing with the Shebaa farms, and to present those proposals to the Security Council within thirty days;

OP9. Calls on all parties to cooperate during this period with the Security Council and to refrain from any action contrary to paragraph 1 above that might adversely affect the search for a long-term solution, humanitarian access to civilian populations, or the safe return of displaced persons, and requests the Secretary General to keep the Council informed in this regard;

OP10. Expresses its intention, upon confirmation to the Security Council that the Government of Lebanon and the Government of Israel have agreed in principle to the principles and elements for a long-term solution as set forth in paragraph 6 above, and subject to their approval, to authorize in a further resolution under Chapter VII of the Charter the deployment of a UN mandated international force to support the Lebanese armed forces and government in providing a secure environment and contribute to the implementation of a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution;

OP11. Requests UNIFIL, upon cessation of hostilities, to monitor its implementation and to extend its assistance to help ensure humanitarian access to civilian populations and the safe return of displaced persons;

OP12. Calls upon the Government of Lebanon to ensure arms or related materiel are not imported into Lebanon without its consent and requests UNIFIL, conditions permitting, to assist the Government of Lebanon at its request;

OP13. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council within one week on the implementation of this resolution and to provide any relevant information in light of the Council's intention to adopt, consistent with paragraph 10 above, a further resolution;

OP14. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Where is Lebanon's Government?

The Israeli government has repeatedly said that our war is not with Lebanon, only with Hizbullah. At first, I thought this was correct and that it was important to emphasize that. But maybe I was wrong.

This is a weird war we are fighting. We are inside Lebanon, but its government is just a bystander. It makes all kinds of statements, but takes no real action. In that respect, it is exactly the same as the UN, France, Italy or any other outside party. As retired Major General Giora Island, former head of Israel's National Security Council, said today: the world should make Lebanon take responsibility for what's going on. It must decide: who is the sovereign - the Lebanese government or Hizbullah? If the government decides that it is the sovereign, it must take immediate action against Hizbullah - and if it can't, it must ask for assistance. If it recognizes its own lack of power and the sovereignty of Hizbullah, than the war is an all-out war between the two countries.

The question of sovereignty must be made clear so it will be known who is accountable on each side.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Civilian Death Toll

Six Israeli civilians have died today as a result of Hizbullah rocket attacks aimed to kill innocent civilians.. This follows the death yesterday of a man who was just riding his bicycle with his dog in a Kibbutz. So far, 25 Israeli civilians have died. Hizbullah is very sorry about that - 25 isn't enough for them.

The Lebanese government has said that so far 900 civilians have died in Lebanon. That is a startling, tragic number. While I'm sure we aren't targeting civilians, there is something horribly wrong with the way we are conducting the war. Some of the Lebanese civilians have been killed because Hizbullah operates from residential areas, but that cannot be the only explanation for the high toll. Our military must be much more careful than it is.

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Renew the Saudi Initiative

After the Hizbullah is pushed away from the border and an international force with actual power comes to Southern Lebanon, it will be time for a new strategy. Ehud Olmert seems to have locked on to unilateralism, since he doesn't see any Palestinian partner for peace. That would be a horrible mistake. In that respect, he'll indeed be following Ariel Sharon's legacy.

Sharon turned down peace talks with Syria and declined to talk about the Saudi Initiative, which called for peace between Israel and all Arab countries in return for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with Jerusalem at its capital, returning the Golan heights to Syria and recognizing the Palestinian right of return. Though we cannot accept the right of return and have qualms regarding other elements of the proposal, it is a good starting point. After all, negotiations don't begin at a place of agreement, but if they succeed, that's where they lead.

Negotiating peace with the Arab world will be long and hard, but it's necessary. Yes, there will always be those who claim that not all grievances have been settled, as Hizbullah is doing now over the Shaba Farms, but that's no excuse for perpetual stalemate (or worse, perpetual war).

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Mel Gibson's Penance

An old Jew walks by another old Jew and is shocked to see he is reading the anti-Semitic newspaper Der Sturmer. "Moishe, why are your reading this filth?!", he asks with disgust. "Oh, in the Jewish papers there's poverty, illness, war and suffering. But in Der Sturmer we control the world!"

I was reminded of this joke by the recent arrest of Mel Gibson, during which he accused the Jews of causing all the wars in the world. Now he has given Jews the role of Roman Catholic priest. He has come into our confession booth (the media, you know, we control it, just like we control wars worldwide and the weather) and asked for us to give him penance and absolve him of his sin. Maureen Dowd asked Leon Wieseltier for his favored punishment and here is his amusing answer:

"He has been a very bad goy," Leon said.

"It is really rich to behold Gibson asking Jews to behave like Christians. Has he forgotten how bellicose and wrathful and unforgiving we are? Why would a people who start all the wars make a peace? Perhaps he's feeling a little like Jesus, hoping that the Jews don't do their worst and preparing himself for more evidence of their disappointing behavior.

"I have always wondered why people who believe that we control the world do not have more respect for us. Take that cop who arrested Gibson. Do you think it was a coincidence that he was a Jew? We have been following Gibson's every move since he released that movie. The other night, when our uniformed brother spotted him bobbing and weaving in his star car, we saw an opportunity and we took it. Don't blame us. It's what Yahweh would do.

"When Officer Mee busted him, we all busted him.

"Moreover, it is the elders' considered view that whereas alcoholism may require a process of recovery, anti-Semitism is a more intractable and less chic failing. This was not a moment of insanity, even if Gibson is insane. His hatred of Jews was plain in his movie and in his twisted defense of it, which was made when he was sober under the influence of his primitive world view. Perhaps he thinks that all he needs to do is spend a few months in AA - Anti-Semites Anonymous - and find some celebrity sponsor and run for absolution to Larry Zeiger, I mean Larry King, where he can say with perfect sincerity that the Holocaust was a terrible thing and gut yontif.

"But the elders have instructed Larry to be strict with the uncircumcised offender. He is to appear only opposite "American Idol" and in the company of David Gest.

"We understand that Gibson cannot do it alone. But why do we have to do it with him? We would find it hard to be in a room with him unless, of course, he wants to count some money with us. Why doesn't he turn to the vast number of his Christian brothers and sisters who show no trace of anything resembling his disgusting prejudice?

"Mad Max is making Max mad, and Murray, and Irving, and Mort, and Marty, and Abe. But weÂ’re not completely heartless. If he wants to do Shylock at dinner theater, fine. If he agrees to fill his swimming pool with Kabbalah water, fine."

Then Leon was just too aggravated to speak. He mumbled something in Aramaic and hung up.
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