August 2006 Archives

See no evil

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You know this picture:
see no evil.jpg
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. And thus it was at a journalists convention in Jerusalem Monday. Steven Erlanger, Jerusalem Bureau Chief for the NY Times (can you believe it?) once again distinguished himself for his viciously anti-Israel bias.

Erlanger told the panel he turned down an offer by the IDF Spokesperson Unit to gain access to IDF efforts aimed at enabling humanitarian aid to reach Lebanon, saying he was not interested in the story.

*While other panelists said Hizbullah placed dictatorial control over colleagues reporting from Lebanon, Erlanger maintained that the only threat faced by his own colleague in Lebanon was posed by "Israeli missiles."

[*Update: this paragraph has now been removed from the Ynet story but, for the time being, is still in Google's cache -- Later update: the explanation for the deletion can be found here.]

Other attendees contented themselves with dismissing the importance of the various fauxtography scandals still emerging from the war and blaming Israeli restrictions (can you believe it?) on their inability to report it more accurately.

WhatEver.

On the record

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So Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig were on Greta Van Susteren's show for the full hour last night (transcript). They talked about their abduction and the attempts of their families and colleagues to get them released. A lot of it was interesting. Wiig even talked a bit about Stockholm Syndrome.

You sort of immediately feel that these guys — it's amazing — you know, I did psychology at university, and "Stockholm Syndrome," where you feel empathetic or sympathetic to the cause of the people who are looking after you. And it's incredible how strong that is because if they just remove one hardship at a time, if they give you a drink of water or — and I feel — I think it's, you know, a deliberate sort of process of just incrementally making your life better for you. And every time your life is improved a little bit better, you feel more grateful to your captors.

And some of it, for me at least, was new. This bit, for instance, again from Wiig:

And so I got a very — you know, a long debrief on Islam. And in amongst that conversation, there was a discussion about how the problems of the Muslim world and the West could be solved if the West converted to Islam and that it would be — you know, it would be good if we converted, too, and that we — at that point, the very, very most sort of sinister side of it came out. They'd said, "You're free to go." And then just at the last minute, they stopped me and they said, "Tell us about Steve." And they — at that point, they told me that they believed he was CIA, FBI, an informer for the IDF, the Israeli Defense Force, that he was there as a spy and...

S. CENTANNI: An American soldier.

WIIG: Yes, an American soldier in Iraq — that it was him that had informed the American military on Uday and Qusay, and that's why he was the first on the scene.

And I said, "Look, you know, he's just a journalist, he's only here to do the job. He's a friend of the Palestinian people," and tried to explain what it was we were doing there. But the interpretation between us and the boss man was so bad that I kept on hearing words that I knew were not correct. And they kept putting in Gilad Shalit and talking about, you know, the Israeli soldier that's being held captive down there. And I knew that what I was saying wasn't getting through, and it was very frustrating.

And then the conversation basically ended with them saying, You're a New Zealander. We know New Zealand doesn't kill Muslims. Unfortunately for you, you're with an American and a very, very dangerous American, and we're going to kill him.

We never do find out what made them change their minds. Maybe that part was edited out of the interview. I guess that's what happened to the part about their forced conversion to Islam too because, remarkably, there isn't a single mention of it, not one, for the entire hour.

Not. one. word.

Imagine that.

Postscript: In spite of some things I've said in the past, I have to give a lot of credit to Jennifer Griffin. If half this story (from the same show, same link) is true, she's one gutsy lady.

So, we're sitting in this darkened — we walk out and we see suddenly out of the shadows Said Siyam who is the minister of interior for Hamas, head of the popular resistance committee, which is another shadowy group that's done a lot of bad stuff in the past, and this representative of the Al Aqsa Brigade and Fatah.

It was like sitting with the Mafia dons of all of the factions in Gaza, the Islamists, all of the guys had come together and were sitting there and we basically listened to them for a few minutes and realized that we were being just absolutely played and that there was some internal Palestinian thing going on.

And we stopped the meeting. We were sitting there. Now I remember it was dark and we only had the spotlights from the headlights of the vehicles around us. And behind the interior minister all these gunmen with long beards and looking very ferocious and then competing gunmen from Fatah on the other side and we're in this circle.

And we eventually got extremely angry with them and we took a real risk. We heard the Israeli drone up over our head, which is a very menacing sound. And I thought, oh, if we get taken out in an air strike right now this is not good.

So, we confronted them and we said: "We through our own sleuthing and our own journalists on the ground and friends who are helping us had pieced together — we had found that there was one family that we thought was involved in this." And we said, "Why haven't you arrested and why haven't you questioned them?"

But we basically read them the riot act and got very emotional with them and demanded that we be let out of this game because it was clearly a game between Palestinian groups. We didn't know if it was Hamas or Fatah or what it was. And it was quite a stunning moment and it was a real turning point in this. As a result of it, we started getting threats against our team.

Fisking is good

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But, in the end, it doesn't compare to an all-out no-holds-barred disembowelment. (Sorry, I already used "eviscerate" this week to describe the original post for which this moron Lentheliberaldemocrat (no link intended) attempted to take Mere Rhetoric to task. And I hate to be repetitive.)

Liberal Who Doesn't Really Understand Anything About Religion Is Condescending In His Ignorance

It doesn't get much better.

An intrepid bunch

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British tourists, that is. It seems that nothing scares them away.

The latest bomb blasts in Turkey won't stop waves of Brits from seeking out the country's sun-soaked beaches, a travel expert said today.

Ten Brits, one only seven-years-old, were injured when a bomb went off on a bus in the Turkish resort of Marmaris.

Almost 1.8 million Britons jet to Turkish resorts - including Marmaris, Bodrum and Antalya - each year despite a series of high profile attacks on holiday resorts.

In 2005, one Brit was amongst the five dead after a bomb went off in the resort of Kusadasi. And in 2003 the British Consulate-General was attacked, along with a branch of the HSBC bank in Istanbul, massacring 33 and injuring hundreds.

Already this year, there have been 16 terrorist explosions in Turkey.

However, the editor of travel website thetravelmagazine.co.uk said the attractions of Turkey together with the stiff upper lip spirit of British tourists would not see any noticeable drop in the country's popularity as a holiday destination.

Sharron Livingstone said: "Bomb attacks in Turkey have not really affected tourism levels there so far.

And lest you think (as I was tempted to) that this fearlessness doesn't apply to, well, other areas where terrorism is a threat,

Israel is once again proving a popular destination for British tourists with record numbers travelling there. In 2005, 157,600 Brits went to Israel for a holiday, up by seven per cent on the previous year.

Overall British tourists accounted for nearly 10 per cent of the number of people visiting Israel and taking advantage of cut price hotel offers and other travel deals.

In all 1.9 million tourists choose Israel as a holiday destination in 2005 which in itself was a rise of 27 per cent on 2004 and Israeli tourist bosses are looking for the increasing trend to continue.

"I expect the positive trend to continue through 2006," says Israeli Tourism Minister Avraham Hirchson. "We hope to welcome three million tourists this year," he says.

Yes, that one's from back in February, but still.

Stockholm syndrome

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On August 23rd, 1973 two machine-gun carrying criminals entered a bank in Stockholm, Sweden. Blasting their guns, one prison escapee named Jan-Erik Olsson announced to the terrified bank employees "The party has just begun!" The two bank robbers held four hostages, three women and one man, for the next 131 hours. The hostages were strapped with dynamite and held in a bank vault until finally rescued on August 28th.

After their rescue, the hostages exhibited a shocking attitude considering they were threatened, abused, and feared for their lives for over five days. In their media interviews, it was clear that they supported their captors and actually feared law enforcement personnel who came to their rescue. The hostages had begun to feel the captors were actually protecting them from the police. One woman later became engaged to one of the criminals and another developed a legal defense fund to aid in their criminal defense fees. Clearly, the hostages had "bonded" emotionally with their captors.

This account of the original Stockholm syndrome is part of an article on the disorder, entitled "Love and Stockholm Syndrome: The Mystery of Loving an Abuser." The author calls it a "survival strategy," and identifies some of the key elements that call it into play. Among them: a perceived threat to physical or psychological survival; a perception of "small kindnesses" bestowed by the abuser; isolation from perspectives other than those of the captor; and perceived inability to escape.

Sound familiar?

After being released yesterday from 13 days of captivity by Arab palestinian terrorists, during which he was held face down on a garage floor, tied up in "uncomfortable positions" and forced to make a videotaped statement denouncing the United States and converting to Islam, Fox News reporter Steve Centanni said:

"I want to thank everybody. I am happy to be here. I hope that this never scares a single journalist away from coming to Gaza to cover the story because the Palestinian people are very beautiful and kind hearted," Centanni told reporters. "The world needs to know more about them. Don't be discouraged."

Let's bear in mind that Centanni made this statement while still in Gaza, in the midst of a group of Arab palestinian journalists and leaders of Hamas. It remains to be seen whether he's still singing this tune after the reality of his rescue has had time to seep in. What I want to know is: what's the media's excuse? Fox News continues to report this story as if it were all good, no harm done, continuing the "previously unknown terror group" charade. And Mere Rhetoric deftly eviscerates this nonsense from the NY Times:

Two journalists kidnapped in Gaza were released unharmed today after being forced at gunpoint to say on a videotape that they had converted to Islam. ...

You idiot! You total blistering idiot! Being forced to convert is a harm. It might be the oldest harm short of death - being forced to renounce your faith and your god. Millions of people - literally millions - have died rather than deign to utter words that would force them to give up their faith. No wonder liberal journalists are utterly baffled by fully half of the United States - they don't think having to give up your religion is harmful.

Perhaps the NY Times (and many of its readers) are suffering from a Stockholm Syndrome of their own.

. . . isolation from perspectives other than those of the captor; and perceived inability to escape . . .

Hmmmmm.

More musings on this situation here.

Time for outrage

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When I woke up this morning and heard the news that Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig had been released, I was elated. Elated and amazed, because like many other people I was pretty well convinced they were dead. What a relief! What a happy ending.

Except that it isn't over. More details of this story are going to be coming out over the next hours and days, and now that these men are safe (which is to say, out of Gaza), it's time for some pay back. Will it happen? I doubt it. But for those of us who care about such things, some reckoning is in order.

My elation at Steve and Olaf's release was quickly replaced by outrage when I heard about their forced conversion. The video turned my stomach. It should turn the stomach of every American and every person of whatever nationality who believes that the concepts of liberty and freedom have any value and any meaning. What sort of religion, in this day and age, would demand converts at the point of a gun or the blade of a sword? What sort of religion would even want such "converts?"

In any event, as has been pointed out elsewhere (and it was my first thought after hearing about this "forced" conversion), Centanni and Wiig are now marked men if they retract their coerced statement of faith. That would make them apostates under Islamic doctrine, subject to the death penalty at the hand of any devout Muslim who wishes to glorify Allah by carrying out the sentence. So it isn't over. Not by a long shot.

Here are a few claims that we should bear in mind:

PA security officials said they knew the identity of the kidnappers from day one, but refused to elaborate. They said the kidnappers belonged to one of the local militias in the Gaza Strip that used the name Holy Jihad Brigades as a cover- up.

Hamas officials last week told The Jerusalem Post that the kidnappers belonged to one of PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah militias and that they were seeking money and jobs.

They pointed out that dissident PA security officers and Fatah gunmen were behind the kidnapping of more than 20 foreigners in the Gaza Strip over the past two years. All the foreigners were released unharmed after the PA leadership me the demands of the kidnappers, they said. None of those responsible have ever been arrested.

Why not? Whose responsibility is it and what's the hold-up? I've heard speculation that these are the same good folks who murdered three American diplomats back in October, 2003. They haven't been arrested, either. Time for some tough questions.

Now this is Hamas talking, and what they're saying here is that it's really Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah who are the terrorists here, not Hamas, who is claiming hero status in this drama. An interesting tactic, and one that is no doubt designed to confound the Bush administration, which has openly embraced the terrorists of Fatah while shunning those of Hamas.

Meanwhile, we have Islamic Jihad, quietly pursuing the same agenda in the background, as vividly articulated in this report on an IJ summer camp by Avi Issacharoff:

All the Palestinian factions have been talking about social welfare in the past several weeks, including Islamic Jihad. Hisham, one of the camp directors, volunteers to discuss the children's schedule. He prefaces his remarks with the opening chapter of the Koran, Al-Fatiha.

"Gaza suffers from shellings, terrible economic straits and threats to the life of each one of these children day and night," Hisham explains. "So we try to detach them from the bad feelings and the horrors they are exposed to. They come in the morning and have lessons in sports such as soccer or volleyball. Afterward they go to the beach, where they swim and run around, followed by lunch. We don't forget our martyrs, and we teach them about making sacrifices on behalf of the Palestinian people and tell them the truth about Islam."

When asked about this "truth," Hisham launches into a monologue on history from his perspective: "We teach the children the truth. How the Jews persecuted the prophets and tortured them. We stress that the Jews killed and slaughtered Arabs and Palestinians every chance they got. Most important, the children understand that the conflict with the Jews is not over land, but rather over religion. As long as Jews remain here, between the [Jordan] river and the sea, they will be our enemy and we will continue to pursue and kill them. When they leave we won't hurt them."

This is the message. It's the message of Islamic Jihad, but it's also the message of Hamas, and Fatah, and every other organization that operates in the so-called "palestinian territories." It's the only message and it's not going to change. Not if Israel ends even more of the "occupation," not if Israel stops the "incursions," not so long as Israel exists. It's time to get this, and it's time to react, respond, get our heads out of the sand, get mad enough to do something to put an end to it once and for all. By whatever means necessary.

Still a planet

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For the record, I don't care what the International Astronomical Union says. I demand a recount.

My dad taught me that Pluto is the ninth planet. And my dad never lied to me in his life.

Shabbat Shalom.

Steve and Olaf

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Michelle Malkin thinks we should be talking about these two guys as much as possible. I'm not sure I agree. Since the so-called Holy Jihad Martyrs released the undated videotape of their "guests," there's been lots of talk. Funny, how it's almost all redounded to the benefit of Abu Mazen and Hamas. Suddenly, you'd think we're dealing with the Boy Scouts, here.

Jennifer Griffin at Fox News has been all over herself assuring us that the captives are being well treated and that their taped message wasn't coerced. She also took pains last night to explain how important it is to the "palestinians" to treat their "guests" well. And the headlines are full of Hamas's condemnation of the abduction, including ludicrous claims that this isn't how they or the rest of the "palestinian people" behave.

It's not?

Steve Centanni's brother says that "Steve has strong respect for the Palestinian people and their culture." "Steve was in Gaza with Olaf Wiig to report the truth. He is far more valuable to the Palestinian people free as a journalist than as a captive."

Really?

Look, I understand that no one wants to do anything to endanger the lives of these men. I'm hoping and praying along with everyone else who has a heart for their safe and rapid release. But here's the thing. We aren't dealing with the Boy Scouts here. We're dealing with fanatical mass murderers who believe they're doing God's work. And the good cop bad cop act should have worn out a long time ago. If both Abbas and Hamas wanted these men found, they would be. The tape is undated. It could be a week old, or more.

Yes, let's do everything within reason to bring them home -- if that's still possible. But in the meantime, rabid terrorists bent on the annihilation of Israel are enjoying a boat load of free propaganda in the Western media as a result of the kidnapping. Ponder that.

Late update: Omri puts a well taken finer point on it.

And while you're there, please read this, too (which will probably make you angry even if you don't think about it too long) and this (which will at least make you laugh).

So let's see

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Lebanon won't accept UNIFIL troops from countries with military ties to Israel, says President Lahoud.

And Israel won't accept UNIFIL troops from countries that don't recognize its existence.

Hmmm. Let's delve deeper. President Lahoud went on to explain:

"We want Unifil to be for all Lebanese, as is the Lebanese army and national resistance [Hezbollah]," he said.

I think what he meant to say was something more like "We want Unifil to be all for the Lebanese (as defined by Hezbollah and its constituents)" -- 'cause we all know that Hezbollah is not for all the Lebanese, or even a majority of the Lebanese. But never mind.

Mark Regev explained the Israeli Foreign Ministry position:

"Israel believes that it's best that we have the ability to be able to communicate with the international forces," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev. "As a practical matter, we would have a problem if the international forces don't have the ability to talk to us."

Recap: Lahoud demands a UN force that is predisposed to side with Hezbollah in any conflict. Israel wants a UN force it can talk to. I think we're clear.

The French, who of course painted themselves as the go-to guys in the whole cease-fire debacle, are suddenly shy about providing the manpower to back up zeir zilly zuggestions. Quelle surprise! So finding candidates to fill the rather sizable gap isn't going to be so easy. But, hey, the UN is on the job:

The United Nations has been seeking a balance of Jewish, Christian and Muslim troops so that Israel and Lebanon will view the force as legitimate.

Ok, so I didn't have you fooled for even a second there, did I? It is the UN, after all. The real quote:

The United Nations has been seeking a balance of European and Muslim troops so that Israel and Lebanon will view the force as legitimate.

The "balance" here is somehow escaping me. How about you?

Get up

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Mulder: "Scully! I knew you'd come. They told me you were dead."
Scully: "And you believed them? Traitor."
Mulder: "What?"
Scully: "Deserter. Coward."
Mulder: "Scully, don't... I'm dying."
Scully: "You're not supposed to die, Mulder — not here."
Mulder: "What do you mean?"
Scully: "Not in a comfortable bed with the devil outside."
Mulder: "No, you don't understand. He's taking care of me."
Scully: "No, Mulder, he's lulled you to sleep. He's made you trade your true mission for creature comforts."
Mulder: "There was no mission. There were no aliens."
Scully: "No aliens. Have you looked outside, Mulder?"
Mulder: "I can't. I'm... too tired."
Scully: "No, Mulder, you must get up. You must get up and fight... especially you. This isn't your place. Get up, Mulder. Get up and fight the fight."

You know, more and more I'm finding that, for almost any issue I'm pondering, there turns out to be an analogy of some sort in an X-Files episode. Not that it was intended, of course. Just that, trying to sort out what seems to be going on, I suddenly find myself silently rehashing a script. Now I don't blog about it too often, because it's sort of several-years-ago to be a die-hard X-Files fan. What can I tell you? I have the DVDs. And I still watch 'em.

For those of you who don't, the above dialogue is from a sort of dream sequence (with very real ramifications) in an episode called "The Sixth Extinction - Amor Fati" (and I found it transcribed here). For some reason, I woke up today thinking about it (and no, I didn't watch it last night). Actually, I was thinking about my country, America, the US of A, the threats it's facing, and also about Israel, ditto, and about the voices constantly whispering in our ear and hissing at us from our television and computer screens, telling us there is no enemy, telling us we're tired, telling us to forget our true mission and to be nice, be comfortable, go to sleep. That's when I started to hear Gillian Anderson's voice in my head:

No, you must get up. You must get up and fight... especially you. This isn't your place. Get up. Get up and fight the fight.

I know. Hokey. What can I say? That's how it happened. And it's been playing in my head all day. So I decided to share. Make of it what you will.

A grand old man

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Yesterday, One Jerusalem sponsored a blogger telephone conference with Ambassador Uri Lubrani. His name may not be in the headlines these days, but you can bet that it's somewhere behind them.

Ambassador Lubrani has served as adviser to the Israeli minister of defense, government coordinator for Lebanese affairs and chief Israeli negotiator for the release of Israeli hostages and prisoners of war and Israeli ambassador to Iran, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. He was an advisor to Israeli Prime Ministers Levi Eshkol and David Ben-Gurion. And he was the man in charge of Operation Solomon -- the incredible rescue of 14,500 Eithiopian Jews back in 1991, airlifting all of them to Israel in just over a single day.


Lubrani's knowledge of and familiarity with Iran are extensive. According to Ralph Peters,

Uri Lubrani is the grand old man among Israel's Iran experts. As his country's last ambassador to Tehran before the shah's fall, he was the single senior figure anywhere who called Khomeini's revolution right.

So it was a timely opportunity, and many thanks to Allen and David for arranging the call and to the ambassador for sharing his thoughts with us.

I'm not going to try to summarize too much of the discussion here. In some respects, I'm still digesting it. Lubrani has very definite ideas about how the crisis with Iran must be handled and it boils down to: the current regime must not be permitted to obtain the bomb, the US must do whatever it takes to facilitate regime change, the Iranian people will welcome it with open arms given the chance, and resort to force must be avoided if at all possible. Finally, Iran's real target is the US first and Western civilization as a whole next. The destruction of Israel is only the first step toward that goal.

Lubrani has a great deal of faith in the Iranians and in US ingenuity. I hope it's justified.

One Jerusalem has posted an audio file of the conference, so you can hear the whole thing here.

And that's the week.

Shabbat Shalom.

What is Islamofascism?

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I admit to a lack of modesty or neutrality about this discussion, since I was, as I will explain, the first Westerner to use the neologism in this context.

So claimed Stephen Schwartz yesterday at Tech Central Station. And he very well may be (channeling Al Gore). Anyway, it's a very interesting essay.

But caveat emptor. Schwartz's expositions and historic interpretations, whether under his given name or his adopted Sufi name (Suleyman Ahmad) are often controversial.

Case in point.

And another.

And then there was this not-famous-enough quote from a comment he dropped at Little Green Footballs back in 2002:

"Dhimmitude" is not an Islamic institution. It is a hoax cooked up by Islamophobes.

"Islamophobes." I have no idea, but it's possible that Schwartz was the first Westerner to use that neologism in its current context, as well.

Update: Wow, this is suddenly a hot topic. Who knew? Daniel Pipes has weighed in here (written before Schwartz's piece and in some respects contradicting it) and then again on his blog with a survey of several other recent essays.

Uri Dan -- still Arik's man

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Well, I give the guy points for loyalty. Sharon appointed Dan Halutz Chief of Staff when Moshe Yaalon started to stray off the disengagement script. And so Uri Dan will continue to defend him to the end. And probably beyond.

Hands off Dan Halutz. The public lynching of the Chief of General Staff now being carried out because he sold his stock portfolio on the day Hizbullah abducted two IDF soldiers is one of the ugliest ever seen.

Knesset members from the Right and the Left, along with the media, are calling upon Halutz to resign.

To me this is just another miserable excuse, a pretext on the part of politicos and their partners in the media, to shift all the blame for the failures and mistakes in this war - and there's lots of them - from themselves to Halutz.

Yeah, sure, the stock portfolio thing was just a minor misjudgment in the larger scale of things. Let it go. And, hey, blame the politicians for messing up the war. Not the COS. (Problem is, Uri, Olmert was Sharon's pick, too.)

Very sad.

It's interesting to note that Sharon's appointment of Halutz triggered this assessment from Prof. Gerald Steinberg (who's usually a pretty sharp guy) back in February, 2005:

Halutz is the first chief of staff to come from the Air Force, and his appointment reflects the centrality of air power in Israeli strategy in the recent past and in the immediate future. From this position, he is often credited with much of the success in defeating the Palestinian terror campaign and restoring Israeli deterrence.

[ . . . ]

In the past, the IDF needed experienced commanders from the ground forces to plan and lead the response to the tank and infantry attacks from the surrounding Arab states. This era is over, and the main threats today and for the foreseeable future come from mass terror, on one end of the scale, and weapons of mass destruction, at the other end. From this perspective, Halutz's appointment is also a clear signal to Iran. If necessary, Israel will be prepared to defend its vital interests in response to the expanding existential threat from Teheran.

Well, this was the thinking just a year and a half ago. Kind of provides some insight into how we got to where we are today.

Treppenwitz. Again.

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Ok, look. He just keeps churning them out. What can I say? I wouldn't keep pointing you there if I didn't honestly believe he keeps nailing it.

So stop rolling your eyes and go read this one.

I take absolutely no pleasure in saying 'I told you so' about how this war ultimately played out. I am sickened at the pointless loss of life. Every precious lost or shattered life could have been justified (IMHO) if we had at least realized our stated goals of securing our northern border, defeating Hezbollah and getting our soldiers back. But we accomplished none of those things and accepted a shameful U.N. resolution that could have been ours on July 14th if we'd asked for it!

No, the only pleasure I'll take at this point (and I demand this pleasure) is watching Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz, Tzippi Livni, Dan Halutz, Shaul Mofaz and anyone else directly responsible for this debacle, to be dismissed from their positions and led away in handcuffs to answer for their crimes against the Israeli people. I want to see these people paraded before the grieving families of Israel's dead in a well orchestrated perp walk. I want them to stare into the faces of the people they willfully deceived.

I think part of what David is trying to say is that he's mad as hell and he's not going to take it any more. Who can blame him?

I do have to agree with Ocean Guy's comment about the nuke thing, though. I'm not ready to go there yet.

Bibi rising

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So this morning I had the honor of joining a blogger conference call that Rick Richman of Current Jewish Issues set up with former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Also on the call were Ed Lasky of The American Thinker, Pamela of Atlas Shrugs, Anne Lieberman of Boker Tov, Boulder, Omri Ceren of Mere Rhetoric, Paul Mirengoff and Scott Johnson of Power Line and David Gerstman of Soccer Dad. We were all busy writing, typing and/or recording away, so each of those blogs will no doubt have a different perspective on the call. Check them all out.

The predominant theme of Bibi's remarks was what he called "the free world's battle against Sunni and Shiite fundamentalism" -- the attempt to either ressurect an Islamic empire in which Western countries like Israel would have no place or to generate a "millenial suicidal apocalypse" in which the armies of Islam would reach heaven. Israel is in the front line position in this battle, he said, but the rest of nations of the free world will be just behind.

In this war, there must be a division of labor. Israel must dismantle Hezbollah, the forward unit of the Iranian army, but the the U.S. must launch its own international effort to disarm Iran's nuclear weapons. Imagine, he said, if Hitler had waited to go to war until he had developed nuclear capabilities.

Europe doesn't get it, said Netanyahu. But Iran now has missiles that can reach London and Paris. While Israel may be the "Little Satan" and the U.S. the "Big Satan," Europe is viewed as the "Middle Satan," and the middle in such a conflict is not a good place to be. The aim of this war is to destroy their society and their civilization and, as in other times and places, hatred of Jews is only the beginning of a pattern of aggression that will ultimately consume the world. President Bush's commitment to prevent Iran from arming itself with nuclear weapons is the most important decision of our time and one that is fully supported by Israel.

The Lebanese conflict (the Olmert administration never did call it a war, and Bibi has commented on the implications of this elsewhere) was only the first round. But it proved three things conclusively: 1) the core of the conflict is not about territory, but about Israel's very existence; 2) unilateral withdrawal is perceived by Israel's enemies as weakness to be exploited; and 3) unilateral withdrawal further creates opportunities for the launching missiles into Israel's cities. Unilateral withdrawal is a failed strategy that must be abandoned.

The cease-fire is only an interlude. The international actors won't be willing to carry out UNSC 1701 because they're not willing to fight and die, which Hezbullah is. Hezbullah will not only keep its weapons but will rearm. The two tentacles, Hamas representing the Sunnis in the south and Hezbollah representing the Shiites in the north, are tasked with making sure this war continues to its desired conclusion. The first step is the destruction of Israel, but the second and equally crucial step is the diminishment and defeat of the West.

Bibi declined to get into what he called "political scenarios." It's not the time, he said, while our soldiers are still in Lebanon. In response to Omri's question why the Olmert government was so hesitant to release its full force against Hezbullah, he gave a verbal shrug. "I don't know," was all he'd say.

To come full circle, David asked what is most important thing we bloggers can emphasize to bring the true picture to our readers. Without hesitation, Bibi responded that it's the alliance between Israel and the U.S. This isn't a war between two neighboring tribes. It's the opening salvo in Islam's renewed quest for world domination, an attack on "our house," the house of freedom and democratic society.

The call got suddenly cut off right there in mid-sentence. But the point was clear. Putting some elements of past performance aside, Bibi is now emerging as the one who "gets it." He says that Hamas and Hezbollah shouldn't underestimate Israel's ability to learn from her past mistakes and employ those lessons to her advantage. I'd suggest that the same could be said about Binyamin Netanyahu.

Many thanks to Rick and Pamela for organizing and implementing this call and to Mr. Netanyahu and his office for their time and assistance.

Beginning of the end

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Just when I thought I'd seen the best that David Bogner could possibly offer, he comes out with this.

Why doesn't this guy have a syndicated column in every English- (and Hebrew)- language newspaper in the Western world? Ok, so I know why. But he should.

It's impossible to excerpt. You really must read the whole thing. But here's a hint:

This cease fire denies Israel (and every other civilized country) the right to defend internationally recognized borders, and in fact calls into question the very concept of internationally recognized borders!!! Quite simply, this cease fire resolution codifies in black and white that aggression is the new diplomacy and everything is ultimately negotiable.

New U.N. Resolutions (such as the one under which the cease fire is to be implemented) are a waste of time since they only underscore the fact that previous resolutions can easily be set aside and/or ignored with impunity. Kofi Annan and his merry bunch of enablers have granted the Muslims yet another 'Do Over' in their race towards global domination without the troublesome formality of forcing them back to the starting line.

The moment this cease fire goes into effect the west will have signed its own death warrant. We will have declared to the entire Muslim world that there is always a reward for unprovoked aggression. From here on in, at every turn the world will be faced with emboldened Muslim organizations and regimes who will take up arms in anticipation of the next western capitulation. Any of these so-called moderate Muslim voices we hear so much about will (if they're smart) run for cover. We've sold them out and made their future existence every bit as tenuous as our own.

Yes folks, we are witnessing the beginning of the end in the global war of cultures... and true to form, we still refuse to even name the enemy.

It's Islam, stupid!

Why were we there again?

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Remember July 12th? Remember what Olmert promised?

"No one in the international community is asking us to halt the operation before an implementation of the G8 decision," Olmert said. "In order to implement this, we may have to hold diplomatic negotiations – not with Hizbullah. In any case, starting negotiations will not stop the operation – only the return of the kidnapped soldiers will."

He made it clear that until there is no certainty that Israel is not under threat, the Israel Defense Forces will not stop its operation.


Remember why over 100 Israeli soldiers and dozens of Israeli civilians have been killed and countless others wounded over the past month, not to mention the refugees?

Well, never mind.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz met with the families of kidnapped IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev on Sunday and broke the news to them that the cease-fire in Lebanon would be implemented without their sons returning home.

Diplomatic officials had promised the families in the past that Israel would insist on Goldwasser and Regev returning home from Lebanon along with the rest of the IDF in any agreement to end the fighting. But Olmert said he had to make a difficult decision to allow the war to end.

"I decided that we shouldn't condition the entire cease-fire on getting the kidnapped soldiers back," Olmert said in the cabinet meeting. "We were not willing to remain in the mud of Lebanon and not allow the people in the North to return to their homes, nor were we willing to give Hizbullah the power to veto the cease-fire by refusing to release the soldiers. As difficult as it was, this is what I told the soldiers' families."

Reprehensible. It's little comfort that Olmert is most likely about to be given the boot. Very little comfort, indeed.

Standing up

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I'm beginning to feel like a yo-yo. And I see I'm hardly the only one.

Our sage Hillel famously said:

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? And if not now, when?
Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), 1:14

The importance of this concept to us, today, simply can't be overemphasized. And it's beginning to sound as if Prime Minister Olmert is, in fact, getting it.


Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered the IDF on Friday to send additional ground forces into Lebanon up to the Litani river, some 30 kilometers from Israel.

Hours later, France and the United States announced that they had reached a deal on a final draft resolution aimed at ending the month-long conflict. A vote on the cease-fire draft will take place at 1 a.m. IST. Israel has yet to respond to the draft, and the government is scheduled to vote on the cease-fire resolution at its weekly cabinet meeting Sunday morning.

Before news broke out that an agreement has been reached, Olmert's spokesman, Asaf Shariv, told The Associated Press that the expanded incursion had already begun. According to Shariv, the emerging cease-fire fails to meet Israel's basic requirements, such as stationing robust international combat troops in southern Lebanon once Israel withdraws.

"Yesterday we were very optimistic, but they (the Security Council) took the wrong turn," Shariv said.

May their mission be a success, and may they return home safely and soon. I have a suggestion for the UN Security Council, too, but not tonight.

Shabbat Shalom.

Standing down

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I'm really not an optimist at heart. But sometimes I play one on this blog. It's one of those alter ego things I get to do here that helps to keep me sane. Relatively speaking.

Last night I let pure wishful thinking get the better of me. In the light of today, it's increasingly apparent that not only does Ehud Olmert not have a rabbit ready to pull out of his hat, but that help I mentioned? It's melting away like the Wicked Witch of the West. Who knows what bucket of water was thrown over the Bush administration's resolve in the face of this crisis? Perhaps it was the threat of planes getting blown out of the sky. Perhaps it was Fear of France. Or Post-Lamont victory Syndrome. I just don't know. Whatever it was, it's getting dangerously close to declaring a surrender in the "war on terror," a war in which the real enemy rarely gets named (although it did yesterday).

David Horovitz in a blazingly clear JPost editorial today:

Olmert must decide: is this an existential conflict or isn't it? If it is, then why hold out hope for a feckless international solution that he must know will leave Hizbullah to bombard Israel another day - the next time, potentially, with unconventional weapons?

Indeed, the only hope for an international solution that will hold water will come after the approved ground operation is completed.

In this context, the White House's sudden decision to return to the language of moral equivalence is very puzzling and disturbing. Presidential spokesman Tony Snow said just after the cabinet decision that "we want an end to violence and we do not want escalations."

What does this mean? That suddenly the White House sees Israel on the same plane as Hizbullah? Does it mean that President George W. Bush believes that a UN resolution imposed now, perhaps after a watering-down by France at the behest of the Arab League, will produce the long-term stability that Washington has said it is seeking?

Again, if Israel has been dragged into an existential conflict, the White House should not be pressuring the Israeli government, and Israel's prime minister should not be pretending - or worse, not pretending - that he might accede to that pressure.

"A test for the US, too." Read it all.

Whoa!!!

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This is too much. Pigs are flying, pinch me.

Olmert must go

By Ari Shavit

Ehud Olmert may decide to accept the French proposal for a cease-fire and unconditional surrender to Hezbollah. That is his privilege. Olmert is a prime minister whom journalists invented, journalists protected, and whose rule journalists preserved. Now the journalists are saying run away. That's legitimate. Unwise, but legitimate.

However, one thing should be clear: If Olmert runs away now from the war he initiated, he will not be able to remain prime minister for even one more day. Chutzpah has its limits. You cannot lead an entire nation to war promising victory, produce humiliating defeat and remain in power. You cannot bury 120 Israelis in cemeteries, keep a million Israelis in shelters for a month, wear down deterrent power, bring the next war very close, and then say - oops, I made a mistake. That was not the intention. Pass me a cigar, please.

Once again, I agree with Shavit's conclusion, though not at all with how he gets there. This has been happening to me a lot lately. Shavit would seem to believe Olmert should never have attacked Hezbollah in the first place. He should, instead, have perhaps sat back and relied on the UN to protect Israel's northern cities and get her kidnapped soldiers back.

Whatever.

But misdirection is the essence of magic. Not that Ehud Olmert is even a competent conjurer. But he has some help right now.

In the immortal words of Leo McGarry: watch this.

And pray.

More shameless bias

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At the NY Times. Surprise.

Lots of blogs have exposed the Times' apparent "pieta" hoax, and the Times has now "clarified" that the man in the photo isn't dead, just injured. Yeah, we knew that. That picture, in the context of the slide show in which it appears, would sure seem to be trying to suggest otherwise but, hey, the Times has apologized and clarified (and revised the caption), so it's all ok now.

Here's the other thing about that slide show. It's part of a pair. A balanced pair, perhaps? One series ("Attack in Tyre") features slides of horror and destruction in Tyre along with a story of pain and despair ("jumble of pieces of people's lives"). The other ("Silence in Haifa") features mostly empty streets and a few people resting comfortably in shelters in Haifa, a little wreckage, a lot of blood smeared on the floor of a very intact store. And Steve Erlanger's incredibly insipid narrative (Israelis are "proud," "combative" and "anxious").

Balanced? You decide.

Public service announcement

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Over on the right sidebar of this blog is a link to the Philadelphia ZOA Middle East Report. You can click on that link at any time and listen to the archive of the most recent broadcast, which is aired every Wednesday from 12:30 to 1:30 pm. Recent guests have included Dore Gold, Caroline Glick, Khaled Abu Toameh, Bat Yeor, Daniel Pipes, Brigitte Gabriel and Moshe Arens.

Tomorrow (Wednesday), Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs will be a guest on the show. You can listen to the show live (from 12:30 to 1:30 pm) during the broadcast by clicking the link below, or to the archive by clicking the link on the sidebar any time over the week following the broadcast. The show is podcast, as well.

WNWR ZOA ME REPT LIVE LINK.jpg

And thank you for listening.

Wrong, wrong, wrong

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This is just plain no good.

IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Yisrael Weiss was evicted from the funeral of slain reserve soldier Yehuda Greenfeld on Monday by the soldier's family, Army Radio reported Tuesday.

Greenfeld's sister, in an emotional outburst, blamed Rabbi Weiss for the eviction of Jews from Gush Katif and screamed at him to leave.

Not very nice, I'll agree. But, I don't know. Maybe Rabbi Weiss should have considered this potential problem before he decided to show up at the funeral? There's something about respect for the feelings of the mourners. Clearly, though, he wasn't expecting such an attack, and that's not too surprising because his support for the 'disengagement' seems to have been tepid, to say the least.

But.

Rabbi Weiss expressed shock at the way in which Greenfeld's sister treated him.

"The way in which it was done was not appropriate," Weiss explained in an interview. "They humiliated me. You can say to a person in the most humane and cultured way in the world, 'Please get out of here,' but to do this in front of a crowd of people - this is [tantamount to] murder."

Murder? Is he kidding? "Not appropriate," perhaps. People suffering unbearable grief can be that way sometimes. But, "murder?" Give me a break.

But.

Shoshi Greenfeld, a freelance journalist for the Mekor Rishon newspaper and the Arutz Sheva Internet radio station, said the war with Hizbullah was just one in the series of "pogroms" against Israel and the Jewish people that included the second intifada, disengagement, and the proposed withdrawal in Judea and Samaria.

In her last conversation with her brother, she said she "beseeched him to come home," because serving in Lebanon right now was inconsistent with both of their political views. She said that soldiers from Judea and Samaria were being sent to fight, and in return they were being evacuated from their homes.

Shoshi shouted that Yehuda had died for a state that would soon drive his widow and children from their home in Ma'aleh Michmash in Samaria.

"What does Olmert care?" she asked.

I do echo that last sentiment. I said something similar a few days ago. But this call for soldiers to refuse to fight for their country because Olmert slipped up and (ridiculously) tied success in the war to the "convergence?" No. This can't be happening. You simply can't start refusing to serve or calling for others to refuse because you disagree, however justifiably, with something the government is threatening to do afterwards.

In the last few days, I've heard similar calls from American Jews opposed to Olmert's unilateral withdrawal mania to refrain from supporting Israel until he pledges to stop or is removed from office. Staunch supporters of Israel are actually suggesting that the American Jewish community should withhold donations for the rebuilding of Israel's northern cities and the replanting of her forests until the "convergence" is buried forever.

No, no and again no.

Because, first of all, it's not our place to be making what amount to ideological ransom demands. And, secondly, Israel's survival and health come first, and our policy differences must be addressed second. Even when those policies are as abhorent as the disengagement/convergence/realignment is to many of us. It's just got to be that way.

Because, otherwise, it's all too possible that those differences could (God forbid) become moot.

Update: Soccer Dad pointed out to me this halachic correlation of humiliating another to murder. And I see now that the JPost story linked above has been updated to make it clear that this was the source of Rabbi Weiss' reference.

"Ceasefire" perspective

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Below is some rather valuable information from Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

Keep in mind that when Ehud Barak pulled every last Israeli soldier out of Lebanon on May 24, 2000, he gave the following very clear warning:

From now on, the government of Lebanon is accountable for what takes place within its territory, and the Lebanese and Syrian governments are responsible for preventing acts of terror or aggression against Israel, which is from today deployed within its borders.

Keep in mind as well that throughout this period, an U.N. "peacekeeping" force of approximately 2000 members (UNIFIL) was stationed in southern Lebanon to confirm compliance with UNSC 425. So how'd they do?

The following is a chronological list of events along Israel's northern border in which Israeli civilians or soldiers were killed or wounded from May 2000 until July 12, 2006.

27 May 2006 - An IDF soldier was wounded when Katyushas were fired at an army base at Mt. Meron in the upper Galilee.

27 Dec 2005 - A branch of a Palestinian organization connected to Al-Qaida fired 6 Katyushas, damaging a house in Kiryat Shmona and a house in Metulla. In response, the IAF attacked a training base of the Popular Front, south of Beirut.

21 Nov 2005 - An attempt to kidnap an IDF soldier was foiled when paratroopers patrolling near Rajar village discerned a Hizbullah unit approaching. Private David Markovitz opened fire, killing all four. In a heavy attack of mortars and Katyusha rockets that ensued, nine soldiers and and two civilians were injured.

29 June 2005 - More than 20 mortars were fired from across the border. Cpl. Uzi Peretz of the Golani Brigade was killed and four soldiers wounded, including the unit's doctor. Fire was exchanged and helicopters and planes attacked five Hizbullah outposts in the Reches Ramim area.

7 Apr 2005 - Two Israeli Arabs from the village of Rajar on the Israel-Lebanon border were kidnapped by Hizbullah operatives and held in captivity for four days in an attempt to obtain information on Israel.

9 Jan 2005 - An explosive device was detonated against an IDF patrol at Nahal Sion. One Israeli soldier was killed, and a UN officer was killed.

20 July 2004 - Hizbullah sniper fired at an IDF post in the western sector of the Israeli-Lebanese border. Two IDF soldiers were killed.

7 May 2004 - Fire in the Mt. Dov sector. IDF soldier Dennis Leminov was killed, and two other soldiers were severely wounded. The IDF returned fire.

19 Jan 2004 - An anti-tank missile was fired at IDF D9 while neutralizing explosive charges near Zari’t. An IDF soldier, Yan Rotzenski, was killed and another soldier was severely wounded.

6 Oct 2003 - Staff Sgt. David Solomonov was killed when Hizbullah fired at an IDF force south of the Fatma Gate in the eastern sector. In addition, the Hizbullah fired missiles and rockets at an IDF post in the Reches Ramim area.

10 Aug 2003 - Haviv Dadon, 16, of Shlomi, was struck in the chest and killed by shrapnel from an anti-aircraft shell fired by Hizbullah terrorists in Lebanon. Four others were wounded.

20 Jul 2003 - Hizbullah snipers fired on an Israeli outpost near Shtula, killing two Israeli soldiers.

7 May 2003 - Hizbullah attacked IDF positions in the Sheba farms with heavy rocket, mortar, and small arms fire. One Israeli soldier was killed and five others were wounded in the attack.

29 Aug 2002 - Fire at an IDF post in the Mt. Dov sector. IDF soldier Ofer Misali was killed, and two other soldiers were lightly wounded.

12 Mar 2002 - Infiltration: In a shooting attack on the Shlomi- Metzuba route. Six Israelis civilians were killed, among them IDF officer Lt. German Rojkov.

14 Apr 2001 - Fire at an IDF post in the Mt. Dov sector. IDF soldier Elad Litvak was killed.

16 Feb 2001- Fire at an IDF convoy on Mt. Dov. IDF soldier Elad Shneor was killed, and three other soldiers were wounded.

26 Nov 2000 - A charge was detonated near an IDF convoy. IDF soldier Khalil Taher was killed and two other soldiers were wounded.

7 Oct 2000 - Kidnapping: Three IDF soldiers: Adi Avitan, Omer Soued and Binyamin Avraham were kidnapped by the Hizballah from the Mt. Dov sector.

* * *

In addition, Hizbullah was involved in terrorist acts carried out by affiliated Palestinian terrorist cells in Israel:

28 Apr 2001 - A 60 year-old Israeli man was found stabbed to death in Kfar Ba'aneh, near Carmiel in Galilee. The terrorists responsible for the attack were apprehended in July. Six members of a Hizbullah-linked Palestinian terrorist cell responsible for the murder were arrested in July. The murder was the initiation rite of the organization.

1 Apr 2001 - A 42 year-old Israeli woman was stabbed to death in Haifa. Her murder was the initiation rite of a terrorist cell, whose members were apprehended in July. Six members of a Hizbullah-linked Palestinian terrorist cell responsible for the murder, originally thought to be criminally motivated, were arrested in July. The murder was the initiation rite of one of the terrorists into the organization.

Finally, note that the official UNIFIL "fact sheet," updated as of July 24, 2006, observes that "the Security Council has deemed that UNIFIL’s presence has been helpful in promoting stability," and describes these unprovoked incursions and the measured Israeli responses to them as "frequent ceasefire violations and occasional serious incidents from both sides of the Blue Line."

Clearing the air

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Big kudos to Charles at Little Green Footballs and his hat-tipper Mike for blowing this story wide open.

Where There's Smoke ...
Score one for Little Green Footballs.

The conservative blog cried foul after Reuters moved a photograph Saturday showing the aftermath of an Israeli bombing run in suburban Beirut. The two symmetrical plumes of black smoke smelled fake to LGF's Charles Johnson.

He looked again and saw buildings that appeared to have been cut and pasted. Johnson posts a series of close-ups and animations to make his point.

"It's so incredibly obvious...," he wrote. "Smoke simply does not contain repeating symmetrical patterns like this, and you can see the repetition in both plumes of smoke. There really is no question about it."

Reuters has since withdrawn the photograph and apologized, saying that "photo editing software was improperly used on this image....We are sorry for any inconvenience."

And this may be only the beginning.

Adnan Hajj, the photographer who sent the altered image, was also the Reuters photographer behind many of the images from Qana – which have also been the subject of suspicions for being staged.

Comfort, comfort

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Comfort, comfort my people says your God

Thus begins the message of hope and reconciliation that is this week's Haftara.

Ascend a lofty mountain, O herald of joy to Zion;
Raise your voice with power, O herald of joy to Jerusalem —
Raise it, have no fear;
Announce to the cities of Judah: Behold your God!
Behold, the Lord God comes in might, and His arm wins triumph for Him;
See, His reward is with Him, His recompense before Him.
Like a shepherd He pastures His flock:
He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them in His bosom;
Gently He drives the mother sheep.

ISAIAH 40:1, 9-11

May it be speedily and in our days.

Shabbat Shalom.

Two versions

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This Ha’aretz article has replaced the one mentioned by Charles Krauthammer in his excellent WaPo op-ed today. So the excerpt that Krauthammer quoted (“Olmert's own complaint that ‘I'm tired. I didn't sleep at all last night’”) is no longer there.

This kind of thing isn’t unusual at Ha’aretz, but in this instance Krauthammer's essay is likely to generate some interest in the original, especially since Ehud Olmert was foolish enough to get caught saying again for the record that he’s “tired.” So the original version can still be found (with a little effort) in Google’s cache, here. In case you’re interested.

More woe

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I've been mulling over the Hillel Halkin piece I linked in this post yesterday. Brooding over it, might be more accurate. There must be something here I'm missing, because none of it makes the least bit of sense to me.

Israeli public opinion has, in recent months, turned more and more against "convergence." Whereas a narrow majority of the country's population might have supported it at the time of Mr. Olmert's election victory, a clear majority today opposes it. And yet as practically the sole campaign plank on which he and his Kadima Party ran, and as the linchpin to his strategic vision of Israel's future, it is not a plan that he can give up without losing the raison-d'etre of his prime ministership.

So far, so good. No disagreement there.

The Hezbollah border raid that triggered the fighting in Lebanon needs to be seen against this background. On the one hand, it added yet another argument to the anti-"convergence" camp's arsenal: Here was yet one more reminder of what Israel can expect when it withdraws unilaterally from territory in which hostile forces are allowed to remain, as Hezbollah was allowed to remain in southern Lebanon in 2000.

Ditto. I couldn't agree more. Except that, obviously, we have that other hand coming.

On the other hand, it also presented the Olmert government with an opportunity to show both Israelis and the world what Israel's enemies can expect if they attack it from an evacuated West Bank. What we are doing to Hezbollah, the message went, we will also do to West Bank Palestinians who attack us across the border we establish.

But, no. See, here, where the argument was headed all along, it starts to fall apart. As Halkin has already pointed out earlier, the continuing barrage of qassams from Gaza have "done the job" of digging an early grave for Olmert's "convergence" plan, not only because they followed Israel's unilateral withdrawal that was supposed to result in "disengagement," but because Israel has not shown the will to do to the Gaza arabs what needs to be done to stop the attacks. And why is this? International pressure, humanitarian concerns, all of the same problems plaguing the war in Lebanon, all of the same problems that would plague any attempt to do anything effective to "West Bank Palestinians who attack us across the border we establish." But there's more.

In a very real sense, therefore, the future of "convergence" depends on the outcome of the fighting in Lebanon. If Israel manages to crush Hezbollah, or to pave the way for a political settlement as a part of which Hezbollah will be disarmed and forced to abandon its military positions along Israel's northern border, unilateral West Bank withdrawal may still seem a viable option. If the results are less than that — if, say, Hezbollah emerges from the weeks of combat and its negotiated aftermath with its fighting units still intact — "convergence" can be kissed goodbye, at least for the foreseeable future.

Halkin published this essay on July 25th. By that time, several Israeli citizens had already lost their lives to Hezbullah katyushas. Kiryat Shemona was already a ghost town. Nahariya and Sefat and Hatzor were already taking hits. Everyday life in Haifa had already been crippled. Since then, the cost of this war, in human, economic and diplomatic terms has continued to escalate exponentially. Given the chance, Israel will surely crush Hezbullah, or at the very least achieve the political settlement Halkin describes, God willing. But the price is already too high, was already too high on July 25th. And it's utterly unacceptable that Israel would maneuver itself into a position in which it will have to pay such a price in the future to crush or reach a political settlement with "West Bank Palestinians who attack us across the border we establish."

In other words, even the best, quickest and most comprehensive victory possible at this time in both Gaza and Lebanon could not possibly justify any further unilateral withdrawals. I have to believe that, once this war is over, the Israeli people will send that message loud and clear to Ehud Olmert.

Pushing the agenda

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By now we all know that the death toll at Qana has been drastically reduced. Instead of the 57 or 54 deaths (initially I saw reports that claimed upwards of 60 and one or two that insisted it was in the hundreds -- but they've all disappeared now), the number of dead has been confirmed at 28. Confirmed by the Lebanese Red Cross. Confirmed by Human Rights Watch. Confirmed by Lebanese hospital officials in Tyre.

The news media is nonplussed. Some are reporting the "error" more or less prominently, together with all of the HRW caveats attached. The L.A. Times AP story is titled

Re-Examination Lowers Qana Death Toll

and includes explanations as to how the numbers became so inflated. But others just can't quite bear to rain so blatantly on the Israel bashing parade.

Toll in Lebanon bombing in dispute

reads today's headline at the Chicago Tribune. There's no dispute. See above.

Counting the Lebanon dead not so easy

is the banner at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Nevertheless, this one is a fairly balanced story with even more details about the earlier erroneous reports.

Are the deaths of 28 civilians, including 16 children, acceptable collateral damage then? Of course not. But the numbers were employed to fuel and incite outrage, and the numbers were wrong. They've been so employed before, and they were wrong then, too.

Israel was not out to kill innocents. She has apologized, expressed appropriate remorse for the tragic mistake and, foolishly I think, stated uncategorically that "the army would not have bombed a building if had known civilians were inside." This statement is no doubt true, but it strikes me as an open invitation to the use of even more human shields by Israel's enemies. Nevertheless, perhaps it was necessary.

Alan Dershowitz has summed it up well.

As Israelis wept in grief over the deaths of the Lebanese children, Hezbollah leaders celebrated its propaganda victory.

And as many others have pointed out, the eight Israeli civilians killed today by Hezbullah rockets were not a mistake. They were the result of the deliberate targeting of innocents. They were by no means the first and, sadly, more will undoubtedly follow. And no apology will be forthcoming.

Moral equivalence? I think not.

Woe unto Israel

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Woe, indeed. Jameel at The Muqata has put it into most eloquent prose.

Woe Unto Israel - A Lament for Leadership

It's the evening of Tisha B'Av now in Israel. The day Jews mourn the destruction of the Jewish Temples and other calamities that have befallen the Jewish people.

I already sat on the floor of our shul, and heard "Eicha" -- The Book of Lamentations, and thought long and hard about this posting.

The stated cause of the destruction of the Second Temple 2000 years ago, was that of "sin'at chinam" -- baseless hated among the Jewish people. For the past 3 weeks since the start of the war, I have tried to to put politics aside, and let the Israeli Prime Minister run the war as best as he sees fit.

I have encouraged a united front, and encouraged Jews around the world to unite against our common enemy -- so that we bring our kidnapped IDF soldiers safely home, remove the missile threat of Hizbolla from South Lebanon, and instill the fear of the IDF into the Palestinians in Gaza, so that they realize it's not worthwhile to shoot rockets at Israel.

However, tonight, I can no longer remain silent.

As awful as it is to write this on Tisha B'Av, I have checked and rechecked myself to make sure that the source of this posting is not based on sin'at chinam -- needless hatred.

Today, the Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, has showed the world his true colors -- that the unity of Israel is unimportant to him. Olmert said:

"Israel's victory in Lebanon will give a new momentum to complete the disengagement from the Palestinians by evacuating most settlements in Judea and Samaria."
YNETNEWS

At a time when Israel needs its unity the most, when rightwing/leftwing, secular and religious soldiers are fighting shoulder to shoulder in South Lebanon and Gaza, when rockets are falling on civilians of all walks of life and shades of Israel -- more than anything we need unity, NOW.

And yet, Olmert decided that now, the day before Tisha B'Av, on the one year anniversary of the destruction of Gush Katif, is the perfect time for him to announce that his "convergence" plan of the evacuation and destruction of many more settlements in the West Bank, will be served by a victory in Lebanon.

Olmert must, indeed, be insane. There's no other possible explanation. Not because this is a new idea. It's been raised by other "convergence" supporters over the past few weeks, notably in this twisted jumble of illogic by Hillel Halkin last week in the NY Sun. But the lunacy of Olmert's coming out with it now, when his foes on the right had managed put aside their issues with him to promote national unity in the face of war! The idiocy of Israel's prime minister sending a message to many soldiers at the front that their success in battle will facilitate the destruction of their homes and their communities! It truly boggles the mind.

Olmert has, however, "apologized." Or so says the JPost. It doesn't sound like an apology to me.

The Prime Minister's Office issued a statement after a conversation Olmert held with MK Effi Eitam (NU-NRP), in which the prime minister apologized to the right wing MK.

Olmert said the war in Lebanon was a result of an attack Hizbullah initiated against Israel, and had no connection to future diplomatic processes on other fronts.

Sounds more like a backpedal. I suppose we'll see.

In the meantime, read the rest of Jameel's lament.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

July 2006 is the previous archive.

September 2006 is the next archive.

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