Left-wing politics from the US to Nepal, via Zimbabwe, South America and Palestine.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Olmert, some Saudi dude and other Animals

So apparently Ehud Olmert met with someone high-up in the Saudi regime a couple of weeks ago. They discussed the rather defunct 2002 Arab peace initiative, which offered Israel full normalization with Arab states, in return for a withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza and a return of the Golan Heights to Syria.

Some might say that the very fact of this meeting shows one of two things:
  • Olmert's desire for peace, based on his government's initial platform of 'setting permanent borders for Israel' and withdrawing from the West Bank;
  • The pressure Olmert has felt since Israel has been widely recognized as having lost a war against a bunch of people with guns and beards (read that link, it's the funniest thing regarding the war I've seen yet).
So, which is it? It's worth noting that Olmert kept this meeting secret, and that news of it leaked to Israeli paper Yediot Ahronot a couple of days ago. It's also worth noting that Olmert then said that the Golan Heights will belong to Israel 'forever' (see rather good Ha'aretz oped here).

It seems that Olmert's rosy agenda of continuing Sharon's legacy by withdrawing from part of the West Bank (and putting them under siege, see Gaza) has been scuffled by said men with guns and beards. Olmert is keeping the Israeli government afloat by doing very little, having already said that his 'Convergence' plan to withdraw from the West Bank has gone out the window following the war. As Uzi Benziman points out, Olmert is no longer steering the ship of government, but is rather treading water to save his own neck.

Coupled with his lack of movement on anything whatsoever, Olmert has also been looking to the right to try and expand his government and put it on a more stable footing. He's been talking with Avigdor Lieberman, who is the far more intelligent ideological brother of Efi Eitam, he of 'let's kill tens of thousands of enemy civilians' fame. Now, this may have been a ploy to get the Labor ministers in the government to vote in favor of a budget that was rather opposed to their own social agenda. That certainly succeeded: as that last link details, there have been no major social shifts in the new budget. However, it seems the threat of Lieberman is still looming.

So what is Olmert up to? Looking at popularity polls since the war, we see that support for Olmert is pretty low (ok, really low, 22%). However, support for defense minister Amir Peretz is still lower (14%. Shouldn't everyone be out of office with those sorts of numbers?). The chief reason for Peretz's abysmal numbers is, of course, Israel losing the war to beards, guns, etc.

Now, Lieberman is seen as a strong military-minded man who offers not only leadership but an agenda that includes getting rid of quite a few bothersome Arabs. So if Olmert decides some time soon that getting rid of Peretz will shore up his own poll numbers, the man with Stalin's mustache will find himself back on the street, while Lieberman will find himself sitting in Peretz's old chair.

Looking at the picture of this potential new Defense minister, you will note that he sports a rather fashionable little beard. He's also been known to carry a gun.

My conclusion: men with beards and guns, be they Israeli, Lebanese, Afghan, Iraqi or anything else just don't go well with the idea of peace. Something about that beard, I suppose...


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Monday, September 25, 2006

Tziper on Ahmedinijad and the 'Zionist Entity'

Between us, I'm also Fed Up with the Zionist Entity!
By Benny Tziper 09/24/06

Hebrew original here.

While standing in line at the post office I saw a French couple, a man and a woman, not young, who were trying to figure out which line they should be standing in. I went over to them and asked them what they wished to do. They said that since they made aliyah [1] to Israel half-a-year ago they aren't receiving any main, despite having a regular mail box in their front yard. All the letters that we sent to their home were returned to their senders. The clerks behind the desk shrugged and eventually said 'go to the branch management'. I accompanied them to the branch manager, Bat Sheva, who gave them a complaint form to fill in. I apologized to them, saying that post here is a little slow and anachronistic. They said that it's no different in France. I asked them where they were from. The woman replied 'Normandy'. At that moment I saw in my imagination the green meadows and shale roofs of that divinely blessed province and wondered in my heart what they are doing in Ra'anana, in this sun-stroked country. Of course, I didn't say anything so as to not put them in an awkward position.

I think that people like them make aliyah out of a certain fantasy they have about Israel. Outwardly, they look like you and me, but inside they live in a completely imaginary province. I have met several of these French Jews who fulfilled their dream of settling in Israel. Most of them are disgustingly right-wing, disgustingly conservative [in the Jewish-religious sense] and talk of Palestinians and their rights in a disgusting way. Israel is for them the place where they can finally loudly and openly express their hatred for Arabs and for Islam, that in Europe is modestly hidden under mounds of various hypocrisies and of "'that's not nice's".

Through a close acquaintance of mine who recently made the voyage from Paris to settling down in Jerusalem, and thus joined his mother and brother who were already in Israel, I got to know this community of French Jews a little better, and every time my repulsion towards them grew. Members of one family, known to said acquaintance, built themselves a large house in Ra'anana. the father is a businessman dealing in diamonds, who often travels all over the world. He wears a black skullcap, is a right-winger, they keep kosher, and discuss Jewish theological issues around the dinner table. I see the settlement of this family here as a sort of Jewish colonialism that has not yet been sufficiently discoursed upon.

I would call it 'fantastical colonialism": after they grasped the idea that in France they have no chance of social advancement despite all their money - and that they will never be as French as they had fantasized themselves to be - they came here to fulfill their polished and disgusting Judaism: that is, to continue to separate themselves from the (Israeli) environment that is not sufficiently religious for them, that isn't cultured at all, that isn't polite, etc. And together with that to feel a mystic - I would call it fantastical - affinity to Israel and to this holy place that was promised to the Jewish people by god, etc.

That is, these people hate me as an Israel because I spoil their image of a mystical promised land, and they most certainly hate the Arabs who ruin their promised land. They want to live in a Jewish fantasy that they brought with them from France. In settlements [in the West Bank] they often find this wish of theirs, and indeed there are many new immigrants from France in the settlements. That same acquaintance of mine often told me, during arguments over what the Israeli army does in the Occupied Territories, that it's all propaganda and that it's just not possible that Jewish soldiers could abuse Palestinians or shoot children. When I inquired how he can be so sure of this, he said: "I know the son of my friends from Ra'anana. He's a wonderful guy and couldn't hurt fly."

He has a grandiose plan to bring to Israel spiritual men from all over the world for conversations with Israeli intellectuals from various streams of thought, during which those spiritual men will realize the true face of Israel and not the one that has supposedly been distorted in the world's media. I again inquired who would be those Israeli intellectuals who wouldn't blacken the face of Israel in conversation even further than he expects. To this he answered that he thought for example of the settler's prophet of rage, Daniella Weiss [2]. OK, if that is so, I said to myself, we disagree in an extreme way about the definition of an intellectual and of a spiritual man.

Sometimes I get so angry at these new Zionists, who see me as part of their fantasy, that I almost identify with the crazy rage of Iranian president Ahmidinijad, who sees the Zionist entity as a disturbed invention. In the sense that I am talking about here, he is somewhat correct, between us, though for the wrong reasons. I'm fed up with living in this country as a symbol of Jewish eternalness, I want to feel that after fifty-something years of life here, that I live here because I do, without the need for mystical explanations. That is the only way we will be able to overcome people like Ahmedinijad: by finally forgetting the 'why' of our existence here and feel that we are we because we are, just because, because it's nice.

But for that we need to make an effort to be the least possible Jewish in the mystical sense of the word, in the sense of god's promises to Abraham and his descendants and all that nonsense. Ahmedinijad laughs at that, and he's right. Who cares that there was once this guy called Abraham who said that god promised him and his descendants the land, when those very descendants of Abraham are actually from descendants of Sodom [3] as far as the way they act towards their Palestinian neighbors. And who decided that countries pass by inheritance after 3,000 years anyway? And who said that we are the legitimate inheritors of Abraham's legacy? In short, the reliance on our historical right to this land is a retarded argument. Even according to Jewish law, the right to the land is not automatic but rather depends on the actions of the people and the degree of their morality.

Enough. Once and for all. Let's decide that we are here just because, and because we are still strong enough so that 'just because' will last. And enough of wrapping this 'just because' with layers of Jewish mysticism and memories of Jewish holocausts. And let's get out of the Occupied Territories so we can stop being descendants of Sodom and go back to being descendants of Abraham. And then, when we feel good about ourselves, Ahmedinijad will be able to shout all he wants that it's necessary to wipe out the Zionist entity. And he will be right, as long as the Zionist entity continues to be a crazy mystical fantasy, no less crazy than that craze that shows in his, Ahmedinijad's, eyes.


[1]: Making aliyah means resettling in Israel. It literally translates as 'ascendancy'.

[2]: Daniella Weiss is one of the most extreme leaders of the settler movement. She is an advocate of 'transfer' of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza to Jordan and Egypt and of a 'greater Israel', a country entirely dominated by Jews, run according to Jewish religious law.

[3]: This refers to the cities of Sodom and Gommorah, which were destroyed by god for being sinful and proud.


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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Hopes for the New Year

One more blog entry from Benny Tziper, on the occasion of the Jewish New Year.

My Wishes for a Year of Continued Myth-Shattering

By Beni Tziper - 09/22/06

In the next year, I hope that organized student trips to Auschwitz get canceled, and I hope for the continuation of the myth-shattering that began during the Lebanon war, during which the Israel army entirely failed to protect us, and the ones who saved our lives were the UN and Kofi Annan and French soldiers.

As opposed to many people who complain about the year that is ending today or tomorrow (I have no idea how the counting of days according to the Halacha [1] and cycles of the moon works), I found that it was an excellent year from my personal points of view, but also from others.

In the past year I began writing this blog, and it changed my life in many ways. People who had never read a single line of mine started to get to know me and to reply to what I write. As a result of the blog my writing in general underwent a drastic change, I acquired the skills of sitting or lying in bed with my laptop on my knees, and to extract from myself in one go a text I am not ashamed of, and that does not require editing. I think that writing blogs is like the stand-up of writing. In stand-up you can't go wrong, but rather, you have run ahead.

The blog gave me courage to open up and become personal, and also political. From the blog comments, even the most violent ones, I understand that people appreciate my openness, even when they strongly object to my opinions. OK, I don't want to expand on that too much, in case I sound too much like a show-off. But I want to note that blog-writing is a genre that has certain rules, and it's not sufficient to write it as if you are writing a newspaper article. It has to play on a number of registers as far as grammar is concerned, and the author has to constantly jump between high and low. It can momentarily sound low and self-indulgent like a Gal Ohovsky gig, but that's only if it also contains a totally serious treatment of some social ill, or of the Occupation, authentically bringing out some inner boiling rage.

In short, this year was good and interesting for me. And if someone will come up to me and say 'how can you say it was a good year when the war in Lebanon just ended?' I'll say to him that this war had at least one good side-effect: it began the process of myth-shattering, mostly importantly the myth of security and of the Israeli army.

The ones who finally rescued us in this war were the UN and Kofi Annan, and in the future those protecting us will be French soldiers! Anyway, the Israeli army didn't succeed in physically protecting us at all, just as it didn't succeed in protecting us during all the years of bombings and the Intifada. Back then, it was always possible to say that we would be worse-off without the army, but this war exposed for the first time the lack of proportion between the size and the enormous power of this army and the its de-facto hopelessness. From my point of view, that is in itself a good thing, because people began to grasp that you cannot idealize anything and that nothing is un-judgeable, as retiring Supreme Court justice Aharon Barak used to say.

Through the blog my view of this nation that sits in Zion got sharper, as did my view of its strangeness. For example, what was the bringing of Herzl's offsprings' bones to Israel [2] all about? What would have been so terrible about leaving them to lie in peace in their resting place in the Jewish cemetery in Bordeaux? This cult that surrounds the bones is opposed, in my opinion, to the spirit of Herzl, who was irreligious and also Viennese. I am sure that he would have been happier if the large amount of money spent on bringing the bones of his children to Israel was instead used on a musical enrichment program for children, taking them for the first time in their lives to the opera. That's something that's done on the continent from which Herzl was from. I once saw in Berlin a school class coming out of a show at the opera house. Every child had a rose in his hand. Herzl dreamed about opera in the land of Israel. Why not turn opera into something that youngsters would want to visit?

This necrophilia, this fond remembrance of old bones, is something this nation needs to work on urgently, starting from this coming year. How long can we live in a coffin full of rotten memories? Next year, I hope that organized student trips to Auschwitz will be canceled. Next year maybe we will begin to look around us and be shocked by current humanitarian catastrophes, perhaps even those that have nothing to do with us. Instead of those nauseating student trips to Auschwitz, during which they learn to believe that they own the world because them and those six million have, by chance, slightly similar genes, they should send those students to read about Darfur! Or instead organize trips to the City of the Dead in Cairo [3], so they get a little sense of proportion about the high standard of living they enjoy. And at the same time, they could get to know something about Arabs beyond the stereotypes they are force-fed. But the idea of sending a class to Egypt surely seems crazy in the eyes of most Israeli parents. To send them a year or two later to die in the army seems to them perfectly normal.

I hope that next year this process of waking up from myths that the Lebanon war shattered will continue. So that maybe people will stop relying constantly on the state to save them, and understand that the shoulders of that state are too narrow and weak to take care of them and that in the end, behind all the haughtiness and the talk, we live in a crappy and poor state that lives by the grace of the US. If everyone understands that, then maybe this passiveness that causes the wave of disappointments in the 'state' will stop and with it the turn to the right and the longing for a 'leader'. Yalla, enough. A prime minister is not meant to be a leader, but rather to steer the state according to its, and his, abilities.

I hope that next year we will become less like slaves of television from an intellectual point of view. I mean that trash like 'A Star is Born', which is perfectly respectable and would have nothing wrong with it if it satisfied itself with exciting those simpletons who get excited by such things. What is worrying are those tuppence philosophers of A Star is Born or those of 'Time Out' [4] who analyze the philosophical meaning of the sayings of their winner, an amateur anonymous singer of the type that used to be called a 'young talent' in my time, about his abstaining in elections and his military service [5]. First let me see the results of this little man's IQ test so I can know whether he deserves me paying any attention to his utterances. Secondly, I see in the enthusiasm of those 'philosophers' for that little man a large dose of homage to young people, coming from a mistaken thought that the world belongs to those youngsters, so we need to flatter them and dress like them and talk like them to enter their hearts. And therein lies the mistake: There is nothing those youngsters hate more than all sorts of 50-year-olds trying to imitate them. It's pathetic.

So, let's wish ourselves that next year, each one will know his place, from the points of view of age, society and nation, and also their place on the international arena. Just as I don't aspire in this blog to be another Jean-Paul Sartre, I also hope that the citizens of this state won't hold on to the illusion that they are American, and that the residents of Tel Aviv won't hold on to the illusion that they are residents of New York, and that those Israeli students wishing to travel to Auschwitz will rid themselves of the illusion that they are still those persecuted Jews who were their forefathers abroad. If everyone finally will know his place, maybe things here will start getting a little bit better.


[1] The Halacha is the book of Jewish traditional laws.

[2] Herzl's offsprings' bones were recently brought to Israel in a huge and expensive operation. See here for more details.

[3] The City of the Dead in Cairo is a huge stretch of cemeteries South of the city in which many poverty-stricken residents have been forced to make their homes.

[4] 'A Star is Born' and 'Time Out' are two musical reality shows on Israeli TV.

[5] There was recently a huge uproar about the winner of one of those reality shows. He said that he will refuse to do military service and that he didn't vote in the last election as he is disillusioned with the political system.


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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The racist fun and games carry on...

Today in Ha'aretz, Uzi Benziman laments the 'fact' that Arabs living in Israel supported Hizbollah during the last war. He leaps from the correct assumption that
"To Israeli Arabs, the Israel Defense Forces operation was unnecessary, disproportionate and caused abominable injustices to their Lebanese brethren."
"During the recent war, a line was crossed: Arab Israelis did not hesitate to openly express their support for the enemy and preferred their bonds with the enemy over their obligations to the state of which they are citizens."

As I posted on this blog a while ago, there is no statistical evidence for Arab citizens of Israel's support for Hizbollah. Benziman attempts to disguise his racist nonsense by calling Efi Eitam's support for 'transfer' racist (which it is, but that doesn't diminish from the racism in the article) and other such attempts to place himself as a 'moderate'. The veil is rather thin...


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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Cluster Bombs again...

Israel scattered at least 350,000 unexploded cluster bombs on south Lebanon in its war with Hezbollah, mostly when the conflict was nearing its end, leaving a deadly legacy for civilians, United Nations officials said on Tuesday.

cluster bombs had killed or wounded an average of three people a day since the war ended, with 15 killed, including a child, and 83 wounded, of whom 23 are children.

it "defied belief" that so many cluster bombs were fired in the last hours of the war.

From Ha'aretz article here


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Monday, September 18, 2006

And Now for Something Completely Different (sort of)

I wasn't planning on doing another translation today, but then I came across one more Benny Tziper blog entry, and I just couldn't resist.

Three Religions with Alzheimer's
By Benny Tziper
Hebrew original here.

The three monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (I have no idea what's happening with other religions) - have reached in our days the last stage of Alzheimer's disease, and they resemble in my eyes three old men hospitalized at a home who no longer recognize anyone and occasionally suffer from bouts of violence or dementia. And these religions are living, like happens oftentimes with old people in homes, in an astonishing manner. No one understands how it is that they are still alive, but it's a fact. And maybe, like also happens with old people, the religions too make an effort to keep standing on their own two feet only to make the other old men in the home angry, and to show them that they won't expire first before the rest.

The hatred of one religion to the others is similar to the that hatred that old men have for each other, who want to see their friends bite it, so that they can write down with satisfaction that they lasted longer.

Judaism, whose believers are certain is an eternal religion that will never end, is in the worst state of the three as regards calcification of its arteries. The greatest contributions of this religion, that in the past gave us the bible and Maimonides, are all sorts of jumping clowns from Chabad and Braslav, and a rabbi in a gold-woven dress (that is about to have a bypass operation and we all wish him well), and a variety of other costume-wearers. What unites them all is a blazing hatred of all goyim, and especially Arabs, because they come to hand first, and supposedly disturb us, by the very fact that they live here, from complete salvation and from the coming of the Messiah.

Judaism could have been different, but today it is nothing but a religion that preaches, in fact, to hate, first of all. They can say what they want, but the great masses of believers are recruited into it through hatred of others and using "look how we are still here despite everything." What is most inhuman is the way Judaism today uses the Holocaust to show that despite Hitler, we're still here. So that means that Judaism is great. As if they are responsible for the fact that Hitler was beaten and not the Allies who spilled their blood to beat him with no god there to help out.

"Pour out your rage" [1] has become the be all and end all of Judaism. Once upon a time Jews hated everyone because they were persecuted by everyone and they had a logical reason to hate anything that wasn't Jewish. Today the hatred of others come from a position of supremacy and power, and that's what is terrible about it: it's become completely illogical, it's blind, it's murderous and it expresses itself in hatred for anyone who doesn't think like you do, and that includes the non-religious Jews, whom one is permitted to throw stones at and spit on and view as impure.

From that point of view we have no reason to think that we are better than Christians or Muslims, it's the same with them. Now we are rubbing our hands with satisfaction that the Pope said such-and-such about Mohammad, and the Muslims are rioting in response. That's how senile men in a home act, when they watch with glee as two of their friends fight each other. But history has a way of repeating itself, some senile old Egyptian or Iranian cleric said about us, the Jews, that we are the problem and that they will make sure that we are wiped off them map. It's reasonable to assume that back then, Christians were rubbing their hands with glee.

And so it carries on: The great monotheistic religions have lost their message and their direction, they have nothing new to offer other than provocations of hatred towards each other. By deprecating other religions, they show how much better they are. Apart from that - nothing. Catholicism, by the way, has significant secondary enemies in the form of Protestants and the Eastern churches, the Sunni Muslims have a fight with the Shi'ites and vice versa, and with us as well, Hassids of one persuasion can gouge the eyes out of Hassids of another persuasion because one group believes that the margarine of one company is kosher and not the margarine of another.

And people have the cheek to call this a "clash of civilizations" or the "war between civilization and barbarism" (the civilization is always Christianity and Judaism according to those who say such things, and Islam and all the rest are always the barbarians). I have news for you: wars of the 21st century who wave the flag of civilization are wars of barbarians with one another, that with the exception of the war against those who supposedly are a threat to them have nothing in their minds. And in this I include fundamentalist Islam, fundamentalist Christianity, as represented by the president of the US, George Bush, and fundamentalist Judaism, that is ready to soak the entire world in blood as long as there are settlements and Israel is as clean as possible from Arabs. See Efi Eitam [2].

And despite all this, which religion is most human in a relative sense and least extremist amongst these? My answer is going to madden you. It's Islam. Relative to the horrors that were perpetrated in the name of Christianity (do they really need to be detailed?) and Judaism (the killing of the seven tribes of Kanaan, and today all the oppression in the Occupied Territories), the Islam has always been tolerant and has given respect to the two religions that preceded it. Recall how Judaism flowered within Islamic territory in the Middle Ages. And even today, even with Al Qaeda and what is called 'terror', what is that in comparison to the massacres and oceans of blood spilled in the name of Christianity in the name of spreading it. Muslims make a lot of noise, but look at what us the Jews do to them, and how weak that makes their response seem. Of course, we always exaggerate their strength in order to show how dangerous they are and how they don't deserve to live.

I already hear some blog commenters saying to me: If Islam is so good, why don't you become Muslim? I'm not removing that from the realm of possibility, since I already wrote in my blog once that I have some Muslim relatives (second-degree cousins, sons my mother's cousin who married Ababo, who was Health Minister in Morocco in the 60's), and they don't seem like monsters to me. Quite the opposite. Secondly, Islam is a religion that doesn't demand too much from its followers apart from a few base commandments. All the rest of the time you can do as you please, and even the five commandments are relaxed sometimes.

What is happening is that the world of Islam is in terrible decay and the poverty is terrible and the corruption awful in Muslim countries, and of course that poverty creates problems, one of which is the hatred towards the rich countries. And Islam treasures this hatred and utilizes it so it may become stronger, but it is in fact half dead, just like Christianity, whose Pope can raise his hands to the sky as much as he feels like, and tens of thousands will applaud him in St. Peter's square, but in fact churches in Europe are empty. And so Judaism is a hollow religion in our day, that has no one to renew it, and what keeps it on simmering a low burner is hatred for Arabs. And see, as I said, Efi Eitam.


[1]: During the Passover meal, Jews are commander to 'pour their rage' on the goyim (non-Jews).

[2]: See my previous translations here and here.


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Back to the Left

After that last translation-saga, I was rather hoping to return to the left for my next piece. So here it is. Moshe Zimmerman is one of many left-wing Israeli academics who opposed the war in Lebanon. This column deals with the effect of the war on Israel's international image. While that may not be of concern to the majority of the world's left, I believe that one does have to consider the effect on Israeli civilians, including those not in Hizbollah's missile range.

Thankfully, this one is pretty short. Enjoy

A Stint of Blindness
Hebrew original here.

Moshe Zimmerman doesn't understand how Israel goes to battle without thinking about what its effects will be on its international status.

The commission of inquiry won't discover, since it won't look for, the answer to a critical question: who blinded Israel to its status in the world, to the point where it has become the leper of the international community?

The previous army's chief of staff confessed in an interview titled "There is a Boundary-Line" that Israel's response to the July 12th incident [1] was according to planning he had been part of, and only "at the end of the first week of the war did something go wrong." That is, he himself, the army and the politicians were partners in the primal sin: the belief in the military option as was used to solve Israel's problems, and in a concrete manner - the Lebanon problem.

The former chief of staff's criticism was expressed in the following words: "instead of coordinating with the Americans so they could stop us when the operation is at its peak and begin a diplomatic move to dismantle Hizbollah, we asked the Americans for more time." In other words: Israel believes that it is tail that wags the American dog, when in fact the American dog not only wags the Israeli tail, it uses it as the bait at the end of the fishing line.

Israel supported the foolish American act of invading Iraq. It bought the false excuses for that war - the weapons of mass destruction that Saddam supposedly had, and the ties to Al Qaeda. Israel became the fire in the forge of the most extreme of the knights in the American crusade, headed by Bush, until even the neo-conservatives began to doubt themselves.

Israel believed that the US supports Israel in its war against Hizbollah, while American diplomacy used the Lebanese incident to prove that there is another insane state in the world apart from itself, that is willing to use force without consideration against what it calls the "axis of evil". Due to this, the US wasn't interested in what the former army chief of staff had planned for it - a moderating intervention during the Lebanon war.

The result was that not only did the US act here as a promoter of war, as a partner in responsibility for the deaths of over a hundred Israelis and hundreds of Lebanese, it also helped expose Israel in its weakness. Since Israel additionally did not supply the goods - a military achievement that would have shown that an US ally is a 'winner', the US will turn its back to it in the future as well. It has no compunction in its treatment of 'losers'.

Israel's Bow

In Europe, Israel's bow to the US, combined with its inability to achieve the aims of the military operation gave it a worse name since it had a bad name anyway. There they're now asking beyond what they were asking at the beginning of the war: "where is the logic in destroying Lebanon to return two kidnapped soldiers?", but with greater anger "if you didn't succeed in returning the kidnapped soldiers, why did you stop the war? If you didn't hit Hizbollah hard - what was the logic of the war in the first place?"

There remains an impression that Israel is an entity that adores the use of force since it is drunk with power, despite that power not being grounded in reality. It feels like Israel is a blood-thirsty state, that desires to "put Lebanon 20 years back", or to "flatten entire villages with bombs."

When they read in Europe that an Israeli member of parliament calls after the war for the expulsion of the Arabs in the Occupied Territories and to treat Arabs who are citizens of Israel as a fifth column, they wonder as to the origin of the doctrine of Israeli-made racists. Perhaps it is European-made literature from the 1920's?

The commission of inquiry won't attempt to answer the questions, why didn't they think about the practical response of the world to Israel's military enthusiasm? It won't think about the price of the war in tourism to Israel, not about the treatment the Israeli tourist will receive from now on abroad and not about the consequences for Israeli sport.

Sports organizations in Europe were swift to distance themselves from games in Israel as if it were a leper. And even if they return to play in Israel, in the eyes of every player and fan in Europe a sporting match with Israel is as bad as competing against Albania in its time, or against Afghanistan today.

Even if the basic moral question following the war is that of the cheapness of human life, the questions regarding Israel's international status and image have far-reaching implications.

Moshe Zimmerman is a professor in the school of history at the Hebrew University and an expert on German history.


[1] Two Israel soldiers were kidnapped by Hizbollah on Israel's Northern border with Lebanon on July 12 2006. This was the reason Israel gave for embarking on the second Lebanese war.


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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Israel's Far-Right in its own Words: Part II

Here's the rest of the interview. Man, this was a long one...

Ben Kaspit, Ma'ariv, 9/15/06
Hebrew original here.

Just Kill Citizens

What are your conclusions from the war?

"The Lebanon arena is not a unique case. It exposed basic flaws in the conceptualization of security."

What do you mean?

"The moment massive missile fire into Israeli territory began, and the civilian population in the rear was attacked, there were two options open to Israel to stop it. One was attempting to hit the launchers, in the wider meaning of the word. To hit Hizbollah's military infrastructure. That was done with partial success, since it seems it was impossible to achieve without a ground operation. The second option was to exact such a large toll from the civilian infrastructure of the state, so that the state itself would do all it could to stop that firepower."

Half of Beirut is destroyed, as is most of Southern Lebanon. Is that not enough?

"No, not at all. We attacked command posts, a little communication infrastructure, in Dahya the 'pit' of the Hizbollah high command. OK. Under no circumstances did we exact a toll from Lebanese infrastructure, from the Lebanese government, from the Lebanese people."

What have the Lebanese people done to you? 3,000 civilians dead is not enough?

"What's 3,000? Those are the same Lebanese, some of whom were Hizbollah, some of whom were in Hizbollah's bases. I'm not talking about those. To make a state capitulate and to exact a sufficient price so that it would do anything to stop the fire or surrender, you need to hit its three components: the government, the physical infrastructure - water, electricity and fuel, and its people, namely civilians."

Just kill civilians?

"Yes. That must be the equation and none other. It's cruel, it's cold, but that's the fact. Until now, in all the wars of Israel we avoided doing that. We hit and won by targeting military infrastructure, the Egyptian, the Syrian. We never hit the state infrastructure. This time we didn't hit the state infrastructure of Lebanon, and also didn't execute the complementary ground operation whose meaning was hard fighting between the houses, in the bushes, in the nature reserves, in a long cleansing operation that could have resulted in many casualties."

So what we do?

"The question is what happens from now on. In future wars, in the arenas we expect to fight in, can we allow ourselves to be trapped in the current mode of thinking? It's totally clear that Syria poses the same dilemma, but on a bigger scale. Much bigger. If tomorrow Syria launches missiles against Israel, what will we do? We will bomb the Syrian high-command, they will continue to fire into Tel Aviv and Haifa, and we will hit some fuel reserves, and what then? We will face the dilemma. Will we exact a toll on the Syrian state?"

"Olmert says that we will do so, that against Syria there will be no hesitations in the use of air power. But what does he mean? The hesitations are not in the physical realm, but in the morals of war, in our mentality. Are we willing to take up an option that says that we, instead of moving our tank divisions in the direction of Damascus through three strips of defenses full of anti-tank missiles and lose 2,000 soldiers? That will exact a toll from those who fire on our civilian population by hitting their civilian population? We must ask ourselves if we are willing to change to such a different security conceptualization. We need to find out if we've been deceiving ourselves until now, leaving a wide-open gap in our conceptualization of security. I think so."

Are we able to be cruel?

What does hitting the civilian population mean? Killing tens of thousands of civilians?

"Possibly yes. I don't know to detail it. Are we able to cause a state, using our firepower, to stop firing on us, without going on an expensive hunt after every launcher? During the war in Lebanon, a significant change occurred in the way the public sees our use of aerial fire power on South Lebanese villages. People said that instead of endangering our soldiers, we should drop bombs. People are starting to understand that the hard ground fighting, under every bush, from house to house and mosque to mosque, with all the casualties, is not necessarily what we want to do while our civilian rear is being held hostage. That's a existential change in our mentality and conceptualization."

In what battle arenas is this relevant?

"It's totally clear that regarding the Iranian area, we have no way of getting there with ground forces. As for the Syrian arena, a ground operation would be difficult, complicated, very bloody, unclear in its goals and aims - and I'm of the opinion that it's impossible to conclude any war whatsoever without a ground operation, only through air power. The question is whether we are able to perform military operations and political ones that would simply collapse the state. Are we able to bring ourselves to such cruelty and get consensus on that sort of fighting, when we are talking about tens of thousands of casualties? That is really a dilemma. Our society is not as on-board with the program as it once was. Our sensitivity to those hurt is enormous, almost extreme, and I understand that. I don't think that will change in a hurry. Hence that nature of the fighting must become a serious topic of debate."

Is this question relevant to the fighting in Gaza too?

"We will face the same thing if we do nothing in Gaza. Will we fight from house to house inside the built-up areas of Gaza, or will we act otherwise? Those are questions we must face. Will Israel add a layer of accumulating deterrent, which means that a state from whose territory there is fire on our civilians will pay in that we will shoot at its civilians?"

The Balance of Blood

So 30,000 rather than 3,000?

"I don't want to get into the required number of dead. That's not the way it's measured. The prime minister and the head of the air-force said that if we had used the entire power of the air-force against the state infrastructure of Lebanon, it would have looked totally different. Is our thinking, our military ethos, able to see such a thing as legitimate? Until today, we didn't do that. But against what we are being presented with, against the alternative prices, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Gaza, this becomes a serious question."

"This combination of extremism and determination on the other side, with our the very high sensitivity to human life and the fact that our army is made up of civilians, reservists, fathers of sons, sharpens the dilemma. The Lebanon war opened a very wide debate on our morals of war and our ethos of war, against the alternatives, when the other side violates the taboo and turns a civilian population into the central target of the war."

And from your point of view, there is no dilemma.

"We must understand that it will all be legitimate. The other side will turn our civilians into targets, and therefore its civilians must become targets. Until now, that didn't happen. Not the Egyptians, not the the Syrians and not the Jordanians bombarded Haifa or Tiberius as a target. It's a type of escalation. The long-range, medium-range and short-range missile abilities has left us in the lowered position of they who need to find a needle in a haystack."

"What will we do? Invest a huge sum in protecting the rear, in Nautilus, in Arrow [7], and turn our entire military doctrine into some sort of technological shield against fire power? A state cannot exist when its military doctrine is a flak jacket. A fence against terrorists, Nautilus against Katyushas, Arrow against missiles. That's an essential layer, it should all exist, but it cannot exist without the other side knowing that firing on our civilians will result in an extreme and expensive action, in terms of human life and their citizens."

How much more Allah will we need?

What about peace? Don't you think sometimes, just a little bit, about peace?

"God willing. Until today we walked around with a huge checkbook called 'the Occupied Territories', and we said to ourselves that if we write a big enough check, the problem will be solved. Who cares that Efi Eitam and Uri Ariel don't want to sign the check? One day they will be convinced of land for everything, love, peace, the end of the conflict, the next world. But suddenly it was made clear that this check isn't valid. There is no question here of land. It's totally clear that what the Iranians want, and what Hizbollah want, and what Syria wants, is the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state."

"I was asked if this is a religious war. Yes, it is. If an organization is called Hizbollah, and the leader Nasrallah, and the fighters shout Allah is great into their radios, how much more Allah will we need until we understand? That's an ideology that is impossible to tame or suppress using material components, as we used to think and according to the narrative we told ourselves."

And still, from that to what you said in the memorial for Lieutenant Amihai Merhavia this week, there is a big gap. Expel all Arabs? To call Israeli Arabs a fifth column? The Rabbi Kahane is turning in his grave.

"I said those things at the memorial for Amihai Merhavia from a general point of view, and I don't think I'm exaggerating or disconnected. I'm on the foreign and security affairs committee and am up to date with the smallest details, and I'm very worried. I'm not worried because of one isolated component of the problem, but from the accumulated weight of the problems, towards which we act as if they are insoluble, or as if we have no will to face them."

"Those problems come to three things in the final reckoning. From afar, it's the Iranian threat. It's alive and getting closer to us every day. Anyone who tells you it's ok, that it's something for the distant future and surrounded by all sorts of question marks, don't believe him. We are talking about a concrete danger that is getting closer and closer."

You're avoiding the question. Iran is a danger to the entire world, we're not alone on that. I asked you about Israeli Arabs.

"You are wrong. The world, as usual, is confused and slow when it come across such a determined evil, when we are talking about duplicity. And Iran is a superpower in the sense that it's the fourth largest oil exporter in the world, its land mass is about the same as Western Europe, and it's steering with all its financial power towards becoming a nuclear power, whose aim is to destroy Israel or to create a cloud of depression and an eternal question mark regarding Israel's existence."

"If the Iranians will have nuclear weapons, Israel may become, instead of a shelter and a symbol of hope for the Jewish people, a trap, a concentrated goal for the destruction of the Jewish people. That cannot be allowed to happen. International activity is failing to deal with the pace of the development of the threat. So saying that the problem is international, that the Americans need to solve it may be the expression of a certain diplomatic wisdom, but it's also makes for a great danger that we will really convince ourselves that someone else will solve our problem. No one will solve it. Just us."

And what do we need to do?


Expel a Million

You said there were three problems.

"The second problem is the overall issue of the terror organizations that surround us. The problem of Hizbollah is not solved. Like the attempt to export the Iranian issue to international responsibility, we deposited our problem in the North in the hands of an international force. Does some think that the Italian carbinierri or the French gendarmes will take care of the problem of Hizbollah in the long-run?"

"Hizbollah needs protection right now, and it needs to be restrained. The moment it feels sufficiently comfortable, two serious attacks on the international force and they will all run home. We must say the truth, the problem has not been solved. All the international forces in the world cannot stand against the determination of Islamic terror. So the problem hasn't been solved, rather the way in which the war ended turns into a model of victory for them, that is already adopted in Northern Samaria and Gaza."

From this I understand that the third problem from your point of view is the Arabs of Judea and Samaria and those inside Israel?

"Correct. The third problem is the territory of Judea and Samaria. It has been seen that land that we pass into the hands of the Palestinians or of Hizbollah doesn't create a trigger for calming, but a springboard for preparation for the next attack. So we are facing a difficult dilemma. On the one hand, it's clear that in Judea and Samaria we can't give the land to the Palestinians. The Palestinians today are Hamas, and Hamas is Hizbollah, and Hizbollah is Iran. It's clear that we cannot give up that land. On the other hand, it's impossible to manage the lives of the residents of those territories for long, like some of the people want."

So your solution is expulsion?

"What I said at the memorial in that context is that the Arabs of Judea and Samaria need to know that if their land undergoes a process of Lebanonization, then our reaction will be similar to what it was in Lebanon. What did we do in Lebanon a month ago? We expelled a million people and destroyed 15,000 houses."

And such an extreme scenario is possible in Judea and Samaria in your opinion?

"If in Judea and Samaria such a process occurs, like what is already happening in Northern Samaria and in Gaza, it is certainly possible that the Arabs of Judea and Samaria will find themselves experiencing something similar to what happened to the population of Southern Lebanon."

Israeli Arabs are Burdensome

And what about Israeli Arabs?

"The circle of Israeli Arabs is burdensome too. Their leaders are a fifth column, I don't retract those words. That chutzpah of enjoying themselves right now in Damascus [8], while our sons are fighting in Al-Manar, and to give advice to the enemy, it's unbelievable. Israeli Arabs have developed for themselves some mental territory, that enables them to stop identifying with the state of Israel, in the sense of the state of the Jewish people that allows a minority within it to live as long as it recognizes that it is the Jewish state. They are undermining that foundation, that is the basis of our existence."

"In this sense they will have to decide among themselves, and quickly, in what way they want to continue this partnership. Is it a respectable partnership, born out of the recognition that this is the Jewish state, in which they live with full equality, or do they want to become a subversive element that dances on the roofs and is happy for the misfortune of the state, and that plays an active part in weakening it in the face of its enemies?"

"A type of civil uprising is developing among Israeli Arabs against the state of Israel in its role as a Jewish state. All this talk of a state of all its citizens is a dangerous element like no other. Confronted with all that, I said what I said not in a storm, not in a moment of excitement, but in a state of great worry. The accumulating weight of these problems, against the background of the other weaknesses in our society, will be too great. And slowly, perhaps not within one day, it will be too heavy for us to deal with. It will create all sorts of difficult feelings."

So what, Rabbi Kahane finally has a worthy heir?

"No. I won't get into the man and his philosophy. I think that civilian status is a conglomerate, it is a combination of rights and duties. And when a member of Knesset identifies with the enemies of the state and acts to changes its Jewish nature, and an entire public votes for him time after time, that public slow positions itself as an element that disturbs the state of Israel. Even if we assume for a moment that this is the nature of the relationship between Jews and Arabs in the state, you are ignoring the world around us. They will tar and feather you and ostracize you for such words. As far as the Israel-Arabs are concerned, this is not about legitimization, but a new definition of our relations with them. The first condition we must present to them is that they recognize that they are living in the state of the Jewish people - its nature, symbols and its determination to remain as such."

"As far as the [Arab] MKs are concerned, I think the Knesset needs to set boundaries. MKs who behave in a treacherous manner and encourage the enemy at a time of war, cannot sit in the Israeli Knesset, that is the sovereign. The sovereign cannot act against itself at a time of war. That is de-facto identification with our enemy. The katyushas that killed eight people in the train shop in Haifa, the ball bearings that killed those civilians, are Syrian ball bearings."

Are you aware that you have slipped to the margins, that it will again be said that you are crazy?

"Yes. They will shout that Efi is crazy, wishing for war, I'm not afraid of that. The future of the state is more important to me than my image. Whoever wants to deal with the facts, with the data, with the problems, with the dilemmas, be my guest. I don't want to be a prophet of doom. I'm trying to present a sober alternative."

Jews, sign up!

The problem is in the Israeli leadership, that doesn't see the problems that you see?

"The problem is the leadership. The fact is that the second generation of leaders, Ehud Olmert, Bibi Netanyahu, is a generation that is currently at some sort of crossroads."

And the solution is to crown Efi Eitam?

"No. Suppose there were elections. My camp, and even myself, would gain significantly. So what? There would be a right-wing government, that will once again be back by 67 MKs, and again there will be countless obstacles. We have no time or energy for that. We are in a rare moment of survival. The dilemmas and threats are very hard, and it's difficult to take the necessary decisions with a combative opposition. It will exhaust the nation further. The only correct way today to stabilize the leadership is to unite."

Are you engaged in contacts?

"Yes. Intensive ones. I am talking with Olmert. I am talking with Bibi. I am calling for us to unite, to return to be a society of people who sign up, not a follower society."

What really happens with these contact?

"I meet Ehud a lot. I meet Bibi. I try to convince both of them to go for a national security government for a defined period of time, two to two-and-a-half years, during which no controversial issues are dealt with. We need to rebuild our military capability, to rebuild the rear, to reduce the tension between us."

Is it making progress?

"I think so."

What will Bibi be in this government?

"Whatever he chooses, except prime minister. I don't deal in placements. Ministers according to talents. That's the principle. There are a number of ministries where it is important for their heads to have proven abilities. A record, a relative advantage over others. Part of the reality test of all this is ministers by capabilities."

Does that mean a new defense minister?

"If you're looking for a headline, that's not the intention. But yes, anyone who led this war in senior key positions, will have a very hard time regaining the system's trust and leading it to a real recovery. Taking responsibility is not a punishment or revenge, it's a natural result of the situation in which the system malfunctioned."

Including the head of the army?

"Danny is a good friend of mine and has been for many years. What I had to say to him I did, and still continue to. I don't want to directly address the issue of the head of the army. He is still in that position, the lives of soldiers are in his hands, I don't want to get into it. This state-ship, it's about time you all understand, is not a pose, it's real. Because there is no alternative. The Jews need to unite right now. They have no choice."



[7]: Arrow and Nautilus are missile-defense systems designed to counter ballistic missiles and katyushas respectively.

[8]: A number of Arab MKs recently visited Syria and Lebanon on a solidarity visit. This has happened before and has resulted in police and security services interrogations, but no charges, despite the ban on visiting enemy states.


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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Israel's Far-Right in its own Words: Part I

As one of the leaders of Israel's far-right National Union-National Religious, MK Efi Eitam has long been one of the most hard-line political leaders in Israel. While pretty far in political terms from the center of Kadima, he has carved himself a niche of strong influence on the government from opposition. When I saw he gave a long interview to the right-wing newspaper Ma'ariv, I jumped at the opportunity to read the words of the parliamentary far-right as spoken by one of its most prominent leaders.

Eitam contends that the army 'has become soft', that it is listening to mothers and fathers too much instead of doing what is necessary to defend the country. He has a history of strong command in the army, in the Lebanon sector. He was known as a hard-line, no-compromise commander, but was forced out in 2001 as part of the large-scale institutional changes that took place around the withdrawal from Lebanon. In the few short years since then, he has established himself as a political force to contend with.

Here is the first part of the long interview. Part II to come tomorrow, hopefully.

"Just Kill"

According to Efi Eitam [1], we need to seriously consider killing tens of thousands of enemy civilians. It seems we'll have to expel the Palestinians, and Arab Israelis, as he already said, are a fifth column.

Ben Kaspit, Ma'ariv9/15/06
Hebrew original here.

After he called this week for the expulsion of most Arabs in Judea and Samaria, and called Arab Israelis "a bunch of traitors", MK Efi Eitam wants to redefine our morals of combat. His philosophy in short: we must seriously consider killing tens of thousands of enemy citizens, deliberately, in order to subdue an attacking state. Crazy? Dangerous? From his point of view he's "just trying to present an sober alternative."

At the beginning of the week MK Efi Eitam was once again caught out making an 'unintentional remark'. This time, during a memorial for first lieutenant Amihai Merhavia from Eli who was killed during the second Lebanon war, the MK from the National Union-National Religious Party said that "we need to expel most Arabs from Judea and Samaria," and added regarding Israeli Arabs "we have built ourselves a fifth column, a bunch of traitors from the first rank...we will need to expel them from the political arena."

His words were broadcast on Channel 7 and later on Israeli Army radio, and the commotion began, as expected. The words were harsh, even for Eitam. MK's accused him of racism and called for his prosecution. And Eitam? He's in the US anyway, raising money for the Israel Fund. In a long conversation from there, he does not take back his words, but carefully justifies them. They come, in the end, to a harsh admonishment of the Israeli army and a difficult speech full of sharp warnings about the possibility of the state of Israel surviving in this region. No less. Throughout the conversation, Eitam emphasizes the sharp and provocative distinction between "us", the Jews, and "them", the Arabs. Two sides that have no common future, but that instead will come to a fateful clash. It's either us or them.

In order to deal with his reputation as a "hallucinatory" and "messianic" man, Eitam points to his bitter past predictions that have come true to the last detail. It was he who said that our flight from Lebanon will come back to hit us like a boomerang; that a wave of terror will sweep the country; that Palestinians will launch missiles from Gaza to Ashkelon. Now his predictions are even worse, almost fatalistic. It's possible to deal, it's possible to survive, but it will take difficult moral decisions. Perhaps to be careful, or perhaps as part of a sophisticated apologia, he presents the required determinations as questions for us, not as fixed assertions. And it's not certain, he adds, that the final answer will be a positive one.

"We fled, and the knife of the Israeli army got rusty"

"When I left Division 91 [2], I was in fact the last commander who saw the Israeli army fighting Hizbollah. After that came the flight. For a long period we succeeded, using intensive operations by regular and special-forces units and by using special tactics in the field, to prevent Hizbollah from achieving its aims. The daily contact, the fact that we had a constant presence in the field, that there were forces that spent as much as 90 hours in the bushes of the Saloki and the undergrowth of Shakif A-Nimel and Shakif Ha'Tzalhani, the fact that we were in constant contact with them, prevented them from doing what they did later, their establishment in the field, the building of the monster of terror. That they did only after we evacuated the field.

"True, it cost us 20 soldiers each year. Yossi Beilin and Four Mothers [3] decided that that is something the people of Israel cannot tolerate. And then this whole lamentation began, this obsession with causing an occurrence that would supposedly solve the problem. When embarking on such a path, does anyone examine the alternatives? And perhaps the existing situation, the one they want to solve, is the most comfortable of those alternatives?

"It wasn't ideal, but to me at least it was clear that the alternative is worse. Hizbollah will take control of the field and build up a huge arsenal of its own. The fighting cost Hizbollah a huge price. In the third year of my service in the division they suffered 80 deaths, against a very small number of casualties on our side. They didn't succeed in finding a solution to our technology and the quality of our units. It frustrated them. I can say with certainty that in my third year there, my last year, we had clearly beaten Hizbollah. Cleanly. And then we ran away. The knife of the Israeli army grew rusty. When you use it, it stay sharp, preserves and strengthens its abilities. When you put it back in storage, it grows rusty."

What Happened to the Israeli Army?

You're not answering me. What happened to today's Israeli army, in 2006?

"After I left division 91, in 2001, I left the army. Despite me being the officer who stood for three years in the center of the most intensive combat front, the Israeli army, under Mofaz's [4] command, didn't find me a job. But I don't hold a grudge against anyone for my personal matters, because it's not just about me. Ask yourself where Shmulik Zakai (commander of the Gaza division, who quit on the eve of the disengagement) is today. What happened is that the criteria for promotion of commanders, and to a large extent the way they talked about the fighting itself, went and changed direction. In this war there were many shows of personal bravery and of quality of command at the lower levels. But what happened after we fled Lebanon is that the army underwent a mental change. A change in the simple clarity, without which the the military act becomes something very amorphous, very immeasurable. The simple clarity of combat, that is supposed to achieve a measurable goal."

For example?

"When you are fighting terrorist, you need to kill them. It's simple. There is no other way. This simple clarity also shows itself in the field, in the destruction of the enemy, in timetables, in achieving the goals set for you. If they were not achieved, you know that. That is the basis on which one can improvise and be original. That is the basic foundation, the understanding that war is an act that requires essential achievements, fulfillment of orders, targets and timetables. That thing went and gave way to a much softer terminology, whereby instead of conquering territory you create special effects."

Are you saying the army has become softer? Become nerdy, hi-tech and sterile instead of combative and cruel?

"Something like that. Suddenly you are undertaking all sorts of operations aimed at lowering the enemy's will to fight, tiring it, exhausting it, all these philosophical points you can't track, or understand what they actually mean, where is the victory here, where is the result, where are the bodies of terrorists?"

Where did this come from?

"From two places. First of all, following the fighting in the territories of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Additionally it was born from a thought process that adapts itself, politically correct. Words like occupation, destruction, determination, words that are black and white, perhaps extreme, perhaps impassioned, simply disappeared. All sorts of words that carried with them loads that were not politically correct, terms that were against the general post-modern trend, were erased. The new trend is that nothing is definite. Everything is in the eye of the beholder, dependent on the subject matter. In fact, there are no fixed rules, and so there isn't a military profession or a military code. Anyone can express his opinion in the matter even if he has no educational background or military experience."

The Engine is not Connected to the Wheels

"Thus began the post-modern period of the military code. All sorts of other criteria come into play in the appointment of commanders. If you can take a division commander from the last of the people who fought in the 1973 Yom Kippur war and in Operation Peace for the Galilee [5], and who stood against Hizbollah in combat and say that you don't have a job for him, that a message to the entire army. You are saying that combat experience, command experience and knowledge of the job are no longer the most important things. It's more important to be politically correct. And into this terminological post-modernism sneaked a alternate type of job. A alternate command, a alternate leadership, an alternative to experience under fire. It all seems to be an alternative that is politico-military, not military."

"The strength of this process swept up a large part of the most senior commanders in the Israeli army today, including those who were my friends and my underlings, and they are great people from a personal point of view. In the end, it led the army to a state that is more politically correct than an army that aims for contact, for destruction, for victory. That was the problem in this war, not the lack of equipment or reserve units."

How does this Look in the Field?

"I went between the various units in the war, I saw what was going on. The problem was that people didn't know what anyone wanted from them. They didn't understand the mission. The Israeli army as an organization has lost the common professional language. Not just a language of saying what needs to be done, but an immediate chain of knowledge, necessary actions and knowledge of the field. The Israeli army lost all this infrastructure. There were many brave people, I don't remember any time the Israeli army went to war with such motivation. The engine worked, but its connection to the wheels, the ability to enact coordination, has been lost."

Who is to Blame?

"They say the army is a reflection of society. I think that an army must be, always, different from the society in which it resides. It deals with an extreme reality. It cannot be a reflection of society. It has be the body that builds the defenses for the weaknesses of society. I think that to a large extent the army opened itself to the changing moods of Israeli society. It went like a prisoner after management, instead of command - and those are two totally different modes. Whoever thinks that the logistics and maintenance wing of the Israeli army is a factory or a company that needs to get ISO-9000 certification and then everything will just tick away happily is mistaken. To bring water supplies, food and arms it is necessary to be willing to kill and be killed. If that is not defined as part of the war effort and the command responsibility, there will be no logistics. They made changes in the logistical setup of the Israeli army, some of them savings-oriented and very correct from the managerial point of view. Except that they ignored the fact that combat is a different, exceptional and unique situation, which is why its leadership is called command, not management."

"Of for example, the process of de-maturization of the soldiers. Israeli parents and Israeli society have removed the need of our youth to mature. Talk like "we sent the kids", "the kids didn't come back", "I gave a child to the army". The domination of mothers in the army, in the considerations of commanders. The infantilization of our soldiers, when on the other side a 12 year old is sent to his fate and that's that."

"In Israel when citizens die it's not seen as normal, but it is tolerated. When soldiers are killed, it's intolerable. But the situation should be exactly the opposite. Soldiers are those who are supposed to protect the citizens, to fight, to determine, to command us to live with their deaths. There is an overturning of creation here. As a father I understand all this, I'm not cold. During this war I underwent the hardest possible experience for a father, when my son was in Bint Jbeil. You sit at home and the only option you have is that the list of casualties and disasters will get longer, you feel awful. But the army cannot be built like that. Parents are like that and always will be. The army has to be different."

"I told the Prime Minister: don't ask to know every name"

You cannot come out against the Israeli embrace of its army. Every soldier has a father and a mother whose child he is.

"The mothers and the fathers will always be mothers and fathers. But when the army thinks in terms of the long reach of daddy and mommy, it cannot be an army. By definition were are endangering ourselves and must be willing to sacrifice. We must, at some stage, take responsibility for our lives. An 18-year old guy who goes to a combat unit it not a boy. He is a young man, mature, talented, at the height of his years, who makes his decision."

Do you think that the number of casualties in this war affected the decision-making?

"I sat with Olmert a lot during this war. We have a special connection between us. I went into his on one of the hardest days, during the battle in Maron A-Ras, in which five Egoz [6] fighters were killed. We sat in the office, he was getting reports all the time, casualties, missing soldier, fire, rescue. You can criticize Ehud for many things, but he has a warm, authentic human side. He was tense, sitting on the edge of his seat. I told him: 'listen, let me give you a bit of advice, the war just started, don't get into the details. Don't ask to know every name, every detail. It will exhaust you. In the end, when you will need to make the really hard decisions, it will obstruct your way.' He said to me: 'no, I'm like that, I want to know all the details.'"

In all this analysis up to now, you haven't mentioned the fighting ability of Hizbollah, the sophistication, the creativity, the fact that sometimes it seems like we've swapped with them, and that they turned to be daring and brave.

"In division 91 we managed to suppress Hizbollah for years, to not let it do what it wanted, until we ran away. Already then they had excellent anti-tank operatives, who hit the firing slits of our positions with missiles. Already then they had combat spirit. During two and half years in the division, I didn't talk with a single living Hizbollah terrorist. We had to kill them. They fought to the death. They didn't get captured, didn't put their hands up, didn't throw away their guns, didn't run away. In terms of their explosives technology they were better than us. Despite all that, the combinations the Israeli army put before them were winning combinations. New technology, excellent intelligence, the system, the field and the aerial force."

"But intelligence is a function of contact in the field. The moment those advantages fade, the enemy becomes tougher. I remember the patrol in Ehud Barak's line, after we became prime minister. I accompanied him, we drove in my car. He said to me 'I have decided, within a few months we will leave here.' I said to him 'Ehud, that's a serious mistake. You won't leave Lebanon, you will bring Lebanon to us.' He said that I don't understand, that there's a wider vision in play here, that I see everything through the sight of gun."



[1] Efi Eitam is one of the leaders of the far-right National Union-National Religious Party and a member of Knesset.

[2] Division 91 is the division in charge of the Lebanon sector in the Israeli army.

[3] Yossi Beilin is the current head of the center-left Meretz party. Four Mothers was a peace movement calling for the withdrawal of all Israel troops from Lebanon. Sidenote: Four Mothers did not oppose the recent war.

[4] Sha'ul Mofaz was commander-in-chief of the Israeli army until he was appointed Defense Minister under Sharon. While he gave up that position to Amir Peretz of the Labor party in Olmert's government for the Ministry of Transport, he played a central role in the conduct of the recent war.

[5] Operation Peace for Galilee was the Israeli code name for the first Lebanese War, that started in 1982.

[6] Egoz is a special operations unit, considered one of the Israeli army's best and most prestigious.


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Friday, September 15, 2006

Iraq learning from Israel?

I came across this on BBC today:
"Iraq's interior ministry has announced plans to increase security in Baghdad by digging trenches around the city, and surrounding it with checkpoints.
Brigadier Abdul Karim of the interior ministry told the BBC that hundreds of minor roads would be sealed off under the plan, so that the city could only be accessed via 28 checkpoints."

According to BBC radio, people whose land is confiscated will not be compensated.

Is it just me or does this sounds familiar?


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Thursday, September 14, 2006

More non-racist Israelis

I always enjoy reading the Israeli far-right. I wouldn't find them disturbing if they didn't have so much damn power. These crazy wingnuts have 20 seats, fully one-sixth of the Knesset. Nine seats for the National Union and eleven seats for Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home), whose platform isn't radically different. Throw in the Likud, whose platform is just a touch less radical, and you get 32 seats - over a quarter of the Knesset - for parties to the right of Kadima. That's excluding the ultra-orthodox parties, who in some sense fall outside the political left-right continuum, but often support right-wing policies on Arabs. Include them and you're up to fifty seats and getting pretty close to half the Knesset.

So anyway, here's an op-ed that appeared today in NRG, the online version of the right-wing newspaper Ma'ariv. Translation and notes are mine, Hebrew original to be found here.

It's Not Racism
Aryeh Eldad explains that voluntary Transfer, as proposed by Rehav'am Ze'evi [1], is the only way to prevent war.

This week the country was stormy after my friend, the member of Knesset [MK] Efi Eitam said at a memorial for the hero Amihai Merhavia [2] in Eli. What did Eitam say? If the Arabs continue in their war of destruction against us we will be forced to expel them. And if the Arab MK's continue to support the enemy - they will find themselves outside the Israeli political system.

The Left is up in arms. "Racism, incitement, sedition." "Here is the proof that Kahane [3] has come back to life." Even in the National Union there were those who were horrified, anonymously, and said that Transfer is not in our platform. I do not mean to be Efi Eitam's interpreter, but I speak for Moledet, a member of the National Union, and the Moledet manifest includes voluntary Tranfer.

Rabbi Kahane called to expel the Arabs from the land of Israel. It was a roaring call from a national Jewish heart, that couldn't stand the fact that there are Arabs who murder Jews in the land of Israel, that Arabs control parts of the the land of Israel as if it is their own and control, due to us, the Temple Mount, our holiest place. The courts disqualified Kahane as a racist, and he was no longer able to contest Knesset elections.

As opposed to him, Rehav'am Ze'evi did not roar from his heart. He presented a policy program. He understood that the state of Israel would not survive in the land of Israel unless we control the area between the Jordan River and the sea. He also understood that in this land the demographic problem [4] will sooner or later become decisive. And he also understood that the Arab refugees are the true infrastructure of terror and a continuing humanitarian problem that Arab use to turn the world against us.

Ze'evi's policy platform, as opposed to Kahane's roar from the heart was designed to solve three basic problems while sticking to the framework of law. The program he proposed: "Jordan is Palestine," included a resettlement in Jordan of Arab refugees and the development of water, energy, housing and workplaces through significant investments in Jordan.

That program is today the only realistic policy program that has not yet been tried and failed. In contrast to Oslo, Geneva, the disengagment and the convergence, and the roadmap, that all provide the basis for the establishment of a terror state in Judea and Samaria, crashed down over and over again.

It's Possible that the Program will not even be Offered to them

The division of the land [of Israel] has been tried since 1922 and Churchill's white paper [5]. Every division brings to more wars. There is one thing we have not yet tried: to resettle the refugees in Jordan or in Northern Sinai with international agreement.

And to those who won't want to leave the West Jordan, we will offer residence in Israel and Palestinian citizenship. They will go to the post office in Ramallah and will vote for the Palestinian parliament in Amman. Just as today we accept that they go to the post office in East Jerusalem and vote for the parliament in Ramallah.

Many support this program. Even more say "great, god willing, but it's not realistic, Jordan won't agree. The Arabs won't leaving willingly." As for Jordan, if we investigate deeply we will learn that the most severe threat to the existence of the Hashemite kingdom, in their view, is the foundation of a Hamas government in Judea and Samaria. They know they will be next, and Israel will have no interest in saving them.

In contrast, Jordanian agreement to this plan would ensure them a certificate of national survival from Israel, in whose interest it is that the Hashemite monarchy rule its people. The Jordanians wouldn't do so if there won't be Arab and Western support for the plan. The US is recruitable, and if this becomes Israel's only plan, no Palestinian state, no roadmap, Geneva or Oslo - there is even a chance to convince Europe to join in on a move that has not yet been tried.

And if the refugees won't agree? Israel's job is to prevent terrorist groups from threatening the residents of refugee camps with arms. To enable those who today live on US$700 a year to freely choose if he wants to continue his miserable existence in Balata refugee camp or to move across the Jordan to Irbid, start a new life, and earn US$7,000 a year.

So what did Efi Eitam say? That if the Arabs continue to fight us and to aim to destroy us, it is possible that even this program won't be offered to them. It's possible that as happened in Southern Lebanon, hundreds of thousands whose homes that were used as shelters for launching katyushas were destroyed, and they will be forced to leave. If Judea and Samaria become a base for terror, we will be forced to bomb there too and to destroy thousands of homes and expel hundered of thousands. He who chooses war and ties his civilians to him cannot shout 'racism' when we describe in his ears what may happen in the future.


[1] Rehav'am Ze'evi (also known as Gandhi) was the founder and chair of the Moledet party, now subsumed into the National Union. He was assassinated by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 2001. From the eternally faithful Wikipedia: "In a radio interview in July, 2001, Zeevi claimed that 180.000 Palestinians worked and lived illegally in Israel, then referred to them as "a cancer" and said that "We should get rid of the ones who are not Israeli citizens the same way you get rid of lice."" Nice man, really.

[2] Amihai Merhavia was a 24 year-old Israeli commander killed in the Hizbollah stronghold of Bint Jbeil during the war. He was one of the the settlers resisting the evacuation of Havat Gil'ad, an illegal settlement/colony outpost. The evacuation was rather brutal. I've been maintaining for a while now that the Israeli far-left would be far more credible if it seriously opposed the police brutality exterted in the evacuations of illegal outposts while supporting the evacuations themselves.

[3] Rabbi Meir Kahane was a founder of the Jewish Defense League, a Jewish terrorist organization operating the US and elsewhere. He advocated not only Transfer, but the creation of a Greater Israel ruled by a Jewish monarch. Sounds a bit like Jewish Iran to me, but you know, that's just me, I suppose. Kahane's Israeli political part, Kach (Hebrew for 'Thus') was banned from Knesset elections for being racist in 1985. The party and it's supporting organization Kahane Chai (Hebrew for 'Kahane Lives') were banned in 1994 after one of their members, Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Palestinians in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron). Kahane himself had been assassinated in 1990.

[4] The so-called 'demographic problem', parroted by almost everyone in mainstream Israeli politics, is the fear that Arabs will outnumber Jews and thus take over the state, making it no longer Zionist/Jewish. The far-right advocates Transfer mostly because of its belief that Israel must control the West Bank and Gaza and must ensure Jewish/Zionist rule. The center and center-left 'solutions' are focused more on preventing West Bank and Gaza Palestinians from becoming Israeli residents. This is the basic for the rather racist 'Family Reunification Law' enacted in 2003 and upheld by the Supreme Court in May 2006.

[5] Churchill's white paper of 1922 was a clarification to the Balfour Declaration of 1917, in which the British government promised the Jewish people a national home in Palestine.


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More on Cluster Bombs

The Ha'aretz editorial today condemns the use of cluster munitions by the army. Good.

I'm further convinced that there needs to be an official commission to investigate the use of these weapons, especially the level at which the decision was taken to do things like '"flood" an area with cluster bombs'. While that would in no way absolve the higher command (if indeed the order came from the mid-level), it would clear things up a great deal.

And if the order came from the top, well, then we will have confirmation (once again) of the willingness of the Israeli state to commit massacres.

In the interest of balance (and in this case, truth), let me note that Amnesty's new report accuses Hizbollah of war crimes (I entirely agree). Here also is Amnesty's call to action on cluster munitions.


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