Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Say No to a Cease Fire

I've taken to watching CNN and Fox News clips of the war online.  It's odd to see people diving for cover in places you've gone for a casual Shabbat walk, eerie to watch your own country reported "objectively" as if it were some overseas war.  But I can't help but feel a bit disconnected from it.  I drive home from work, do laundry, go on a date, and come home to flip on the news and think, "Wow, Israel must be a really scary place to live."  Then I remember I live in Israel. 

I suppose there's not much to say about tactics, except to say that this war, so far at least, seems to be run far, far better than the last one.  Instead of brash generals giving private interviews to media outlets instead of leading their troops into battle, the army has remained tight-lipped through the whole affair.  The message has been so well-controlled that everyone is just sitting around speculating what those bright flashes and enormous columns of black smoke mean.

So far, there have been a few fatalities, mostly from friendly fire, and while each of these ruined lives is an inestimable tragedy, there no major disasters or blunders to report, at least for the Israeli side.  On the Arab side, there was, of course, that errant shell that hit a weapons stockpile hidden under a UN school which killed a few dozen noncombatants (and a few combatants as well.)  Some incident of this sort was inevitable with the Arabs' tactic of using human shields, but it's unfortunate it came so soon.  The incident will probably be remembered as the moment world opinion swung in favor of Hamas, and now the pressure is building to wrap things up and get out.

The main diplomatic push is for a cease fire, or a lull of some sort, and I have to ask: why?  Oh, sure, a cease-fire would allow Livni and Barak to come out of this with a piece of paper to show as a "diplomatic achievement" for the sacrifices made.  Despite the last eight years of conflict, the rulers of Israel still have not managed to kick their fetish for pieces of paper with Arab signatures on them. 

The argument is that because the Arabs abandoned their cease-fire, forcing them to sign one would be a humiliating defeat for Hamas, and a major accomplishment for Israel.  But history has shown that the Arabs will always claim victory, regardless of the outcome.  If Israel were to sign a cease fire agreement, then tomorrow, Hamas warlords will crawl out of their bunkers and declare to the world, "We fought the Jews to a standstill, and they begged us for a cease-fire!"  And if there is no cease fire, they will claim, "The Jews begged us for a cease fire, and we told them to get lost!" 

This whole game reeks of the 90's, when Israel tried to play mind-games with the Arabs and offer them carrots and sticks to modify their attitudes toward Jews.  It just doesn't work with a society so rigid and fossilized in the dark ages.  Furthermore, cease fire agreements always involve some sort of international force to step in between the parties, like UNFIL on the Lebanese border.  This not being their homeland, these international soldiers have no motivation to fight to enforce their mandate.  International forces generally just stand back and let the Arabs do what they please, and then run away if the situation gets really hot.  Cease fires also constrain Israel's ability to respond, since the Arabs are never held to their agreements but Israel is always held to its.

If Hamas chooses not to attack Israel, it won't be because they feel honor-bound to observe a cease fire they signed with a non-Muslim entity.  No, what would restrain them is the fear of Israeli smart bombs collapsing the roof over their heads.  Therefore, the ideal exit strategy would be to simply exit, with no diplomatic achievements or symbolic bragging rights.  Leave Hamas beaten and bleeding to pick up the pieces of Gaza, always afraid where and when the next blow will land.

When the time is right to leave, Israel should just make an announcement, "Our primary objectives of responding to violations of our sovereignty and weakening Hamas are met.  While we do not relinquish our historic claim to Gaza based on our biblical mandate, or our legal claim based on the League of Nations Mandate, Israel is concluding major combat operations for the time being and withdrawing.  We stand at the ready to act with a disproportionate and violent response, at a time and on a target of our choosing, should Hamas carry out violent actions against Israel or its citizens.   Have a nice day."

Of course, a government that could say something like that is still a generation or two away, but I have confidence we'll get there.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Re-Write Begins

Since the ground assault on Gaza began, the expected horrifying images of wounded children have begun streaming out of Gaza.  With these human shields taking the bullets for Hamas, world opinion is predictably swinging against the Jews and towards the Muslims (or, if you prefer, against the Israelis and towards the Palestinians.)  This is a phenomenon well known to Middle East history buffs, whereby the international community sits back and watches with amused interest as Israel is shot and bombed, and then sweeps in to the rescue as soon as the tide turns and the Arabs start to taste the results of their aggression. 

It happened in '48, when the British handed over all fortified defensive positions in Israel to the Arabs, and Israel spent seven months of fighting and dying to recapture them, only to see the United Nations come rushing in for a cease fire once the battle had broken decisively in favor of Israel.  Ditto 1967, when the UN happily acquiesced to Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdul Nasser's demand that peacekeeping forces abandon the Sinai Peninsula so he could invade Israel, a demand they happily fulfilled long before the deadline he imposed expired.  Suddenly, when Israel ended up turning back the Egyptian menace, there stood the international community with a cease-fire agreement in hand.  The same happened in '73 after General Ariel Sharon encircled the invading Egyptian 3rd army, and in '82, and in '91, when Israel had to pay for America's victory in Iraq by entering into negotiations with the PLO, and in '02 with the road map, and the '06 cease fire with Hezbollah, and on and on.

Today, the historical re-write is beginning, a sort of groundwork to ensure a nominal cease-fire in which explosives and misery continues to rain down on Israel while Israel is constrained not to respond.  It showed up in a line Tony Karon of Time Magazine, in his article, "Despite Pummeling in Gaza, Hamas Thinks It Has the Upper Hand," when he states, " Turkey also has historically close relations with Israel and is a key NATO member, although it has angered Israeli leaders by condemning Israel for maintaining the economic siege of Gaza even while Hamas observed last year's truce." 

If Hamas observed a truce, that's the first anyone here has heard of it.  What about all those missiles that came flying into Sderot during the supposed truce?  Of course, Hamas blamed those rockets were blamed on breakaway cells, which it just happened to be supplying.  It's reminiscent of Arafat blaming terrorist attacks which occurred during ongoing negotiations on, "splinter cells" over which he had, "no control," although the money trail led straight from the UN to Arafat to the terror gangs.  You have to wonder what goes through Karon's head while he's writing.  "Well, it's not entirely true, but it's a little lie, and it's for the good of speeding up a cease-fire to help the people of Gaza, so I'll say it anyway."

In normal times, the sneering hatred of Israel, masquerading as unbiased journalism which just happens to accidentally omit a few critical facts, doesn't really get to me any more.  I listen to NPR and other liberal-leaning news broadcasts over the internet, but when I hear the words, "And now from Jerusalem our reporter…" I just flip the dial, because I know what's coming. 

I figure the best way to defeat hatred is go visit and strengthen a settlement, or paint a building on a hilltop outpost, or even to just live as a Jew in Israel.  After all, a radio broadcast lasts a few minutes, and once the words have passed, nothing remains.  Put a coat of paint on a building, or plant a tree, and you've created a permanent, albeit small, mark on the Land of Israel that will outlive the reporter and me. 

I suppose this is part of the frustration of being Jewish, to experience the unfairness of having to play in an intellectual mind game which was rigged from the start, which can have no other outcome than defeat.  When it happens to an individual Jew being unfairly judged and maligned by his fellows in a foreign land, it's called "Anti-Semitism." When it happens to the Jewish state being unfairly judged and maligned by its fellow nations, it's called "Humanitarian Concern."

The flip side, is, of course, that while we've been losing this game for mellinia, we seem to outlive the supposed victors.  After all, we're still here, but where are the Romans?  Where are the Nazis?  Where will the "Palestinians" be in another century?  Dead and forgotten.

Monday, January 05, 2009

A Voice From the Other SIde

I actually find it quite interesting to get a comment from someone on the "Other Side," be it the Islamic expansionists or those on the peripheral right (James Baker) or left (list too long to fit in blog entry here)  who serve their interests.  If you read the comments section in my blog entry from last week, I actually received a comment, written in halting English, not from Gaza itself, which is now largely incommunicado, but from Egypt.  You can read it yourself here:

I'm not so interested in a point by point rebuttal of various "facts" cited or arguments made, as they're so cliche as to bore the reader to tears, but more at analyzing his comments, as I think they are illustrative of the Arab mindset which makes peace with Arabs (or even between Arab states themselves) impossible.

First comment, "i refues whut hamas did by lunching rockets" (Translation: I reject Hamas' and Israel's actions launching rockets into one another's territory,) later comment, " ppl want live in peace in gaza they are withou weapon a" (The people of Gaza want to live in peace and are unarmed.)

Okay, so which is it?  Are they armed or unarmed?  If they are unarmed, how are they firing rockets?

In a deeper sense, this is a conflict of the ethics of civilization versus the ethics of barbarism.  When Israel's strikes against Hamas combatants and rocket launchers are morally equated to Hamas' strikes against Israeli civilian targets, and western society acquiesces to this sort of unreal "balance," it has the effect of dragging the west back into a primitive, tribal morality which the west outgrew centuries ago but which still seems to burn strongly in the Arab world.  In the Arab universe, the concept of "civilian" is incomprehensible.  If one of "my tribe" is killed, then I have the duty to kill from "your tribe," and it doesn't matter whether that's a man, woman or child.  If anything, children are considered more expendable.  I recall a Jerusalem post interview in Gaza during the Second Intifada, when the sort of "men on the street" of the Palestinian Authority were asked whether they felt worse about seeing a gunman or a child killed, and they uniformly responded "gunman."  After all, a child is incapable of inflicting suffering on "your tribe," and so is of less value to society.

The comment is replete with statements of this sort, reminiscent of the screaming, chanting masses you hear on television, one second shouting bloody murder and promising to inflict pain and suffering, the next minute weeping and crying over the unfairness of being defeated in the latest war they started.  I seem to recall a rally a month or so ago in which Hamas dragged out an actor in a cage pretending to be kidnapped soldier Gilat Shalit, crying for his mother, while the crowd of thousands of civilians took sadistic pleasure in the make-believe of inflicting suffering on infidel.  Now those same voices are weeping that Israel has deprived them of their Israeli-taxpayer-funded free electricity.

The final statement, "if u let them live in peace they will let you live in peace," is the kicker.  The ability to take the last eight years of rocket attacks on Israel, and just willfully blind one's self to the reality of eight years of inconvenient history, is not a propagandistic ploy as it would be for a western terrorism-advocate, but an actual belief, something which he has absorbed into his mind as factually true.  On some level of consciousness, he understands that eight years of rocket attacks would seem to justify an Israeli response.  And therefore, this inconvenient fact is excised from his reality.

The end of the email, "I'm a liberal," says it all.  If this is the Arab Peace Now, what does that say about the rest of that society?  I do admire that this guy had the guts to write on the blog of a Zionist Israeli, especially coming from the society he does, but I think we're still a few centuries away from being able to have a true heart-to-heart conversation.