Monday, July 31, 2006

posted by Ofer

The Jewish Role Model: Hillel the Elder

One of the most influential and important Jewish leaders in history is Hillel the Elder, who lived in the time of King Herod, before the births of Jesus or Mohamed. Hillel considered brotherly love as the fundamental principle of the Jewish moral law. When asked to summarize the Jewish faith, Hillel replied: "What is hateful to you, do not do onto your fellow man: this is the entire law. The rest is mere commentary". Hillel spent his life promoting peace, understanding and compromise. The love of peace is embedded deep within our Jewish DNA.

Is there a single Arab leader who went down in history for his love of peace ?

posted by Elad

Numbers

Israelis like to think of their country as morally superior to the Hezbollah. The most obvious reason is that formally, the Israeli army does not aim to strike civilians. The Israeli prime minister instructs the army not to hurt civilians, the chief of staff repeats that order, and any soldier/commander will repeat this in any interview. The civilian casualties are all "collateral damage".
The Hezbollah however has no such pretence. Its goal is to kill as many babies, women and old people as possible (with the exception that these need to be jewish or possibly druze).
Why then is the international public opinion concerned mostly about Israel's actions? I've heard many reasons, by far the most common is mathematical:
There are far more civilian casualties on the Lebanese side. The argument proceeds by saying that intentions have no meaning if the outcome is the same, or even worse with the "noble" Israeli intentions.

I'd like to point out a fallacy of that argument given by former israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu (by far not my favorite politician). In world war II, Nazi Germany had lost approximately seven million people. That's more than any other nation except for Russia (but including the Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals murdered in the death camps).

posted by ran

The Red Fields

From within the the factories, from within the offices
From between our women's legs, from amongst our children
The siren will take us,
To the red fields

Every war has a womb, we are born
Every fear has life, we hadn't known before
Diverted (pervert) men we were, fathers and husbands
We have become hunters in the red fields

How years have gone by,
The tribe is returning
To the red fields

---------------------------------------------------
Words: Hilel Mitelpunkt
This is a song from an Israeli rock opera called "Mami" staged in Tel Aviv in 1986, after the first Israeli war in Lebanon. It tells the story of a wife (Mami her name) to an Israeli soldier from a poor town who is injured in war and goes into a coma. After being abused and raped herself she becomes a fascist who leads Israel to another deadly war. It was a popular show amongst young people and in a way it predicted the breaking of the first Intifadah a year later.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

posted by Ofer

Thoughts on Qana

What happened in Qana is a terrible terrible tragedy. I am devastated by the images.

Many Arabs accuse us of being heartless. My life would be much easier if I were.

No one meant for this to happen.

posted by Ofer

The Bear

A man was walking in a forest and came across a sleeping bear. The bear was laying on its back with its feet in the air and its head tilted backwards. The bear looked cute and clumsy and harmless, so the man took a feather and started tickling the bear's nose. The bear awoke and tore the man's arms out of their sockets. So the man, bleeding heavily and in agonizing pain, asked the bear "Why did you rip my arms out?". The bear replied "Well, because I'm a bear".



I have a question for my neighbors to the north: You knew that Israel is a bear. You saw how we handled the Palestinians when they abducted our soldier. You saw how quickly we violated Syrian airspace and flew over Assad's palace. You knew that in '67 and in '73 we didn't fight-off 4 different armies, attacking us simultaniously, by being gentle. You knew that we bombed the Iraqi reactor. You've heard what our generals have to say about civilian casualties in Palestine. You knew perfectly well that Israel is a bear. For one minute put aside the question of why we are this way and answer me this: Why, in gods name, did you let Nasrallah tickle our nose ?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

posted by Ofer

Winning and Losing

In 2000 we lost to Hizbullah for the first time, and we payed a dear price for this loss. I don't think it was a mistake to withdraw in 2000, I think it was a mistake to be there in the first place. It was a mistake to have put ourselves in a situation where we had not option but to lose. The loss in 2000 motivated and inspired the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, and lead to countless terrorist attacks inside our boarders.

For this reason, Israel cannot afford to lose the current war in Lebanon. If Hizbullah gains another victory, we're in for some real trouble on the Palestinian front. It was probably a mistake to start a land-war on Lebanese soil, but now that we're there, we cannot retreat with our tail between our legs. We have no option but to win this thing. Its really not a question of pride, its about looking ahead and understanding the severe consequences of losing.

For the same reasons, Israel cannot agree to give Nasrallah everything he is demanding. This would also be conceived as a victory for Nasrallah, and a loss for Israel.

posted by Elad

A question of motivation

Most military experts agree that the Hezbollah is an extremely professional guerrilla/terror organization. One cannot but admire the effectiveness of their operations versus what is considered by many the best military in the middle east. Sure, the Hezbollah uses guerrilla tactics and has no moral inhibitions (by which i mean using Lebanese civilians as human shields, hiding command centers inside hospitals and schools etc.). But still, the Hezbollah seems to be functioning well and almost unharmed after more than two weeks of bombardment. Is seems Nassralla has complete control from his hiding place, promising a new "surprise" to the Israelis and delivering almost instantly.

It is clear that the Hezbollah fighters are extremely motivated and well trained. And I wonder: where is this motivation coming from ? What gives them the strength and will to carry through after more than six years that Israel is no longer a player in the Lebanese arena ? Why didn't we see such devotion versus the Syrians or during the internal Lebanese wars?

After the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon I predicted a sharp decline in motivation from the Hezbollah to fight Israel. My mistake is very apparent. Most Israelis agree that the Hezbollah is the most organized, well trained and motivated enemy we ever faced. While you'd expect such motivation from a people fighting for independence, say the Palestinians, the Hezbollah is a mystery.

Friday, July 28, 2006

posted by Elon

Robot generals

Being official contributers to this blog, we might as well take the prerogative to respond to each other in posts rather than the comments page.

So - to Ofer's "Cold-Hearted Halutz":

Ofer prefers a compassionate leader and an indifferent general. I prefer compassionate, moral leaders, generals and soldiers. True - except for extreme circumstances, soldiers, including generals, should obey orders. But an army of robots is a very dangerous thing (I am horrified by prospects suggested by the DARPA Grand Challenge, even though I find the technology used there beautiful). Armies encompass huge amounts of power. And with great power come great opportunities for abuse. For everyone. It is imperative that at every level in the chain of command, every person will have the moral strength to refuse to perform war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

The Israeli legal system is very progressive about this. There is a standing court ruling, given in the context of the Kfar Qasim massacre, that obliges every security personnel to NOT obey orders that are manifestly illegal. The ruling does not state what is a 'manifestly illegal' order. It states that "The distinguishing mark of a manifestly illegal order is that above such an order should fly, like a black flag, a warning saying: 'Prohibited!'." It will take a lot of improvement in AI for robots to be able to recognize and disobey such orders.

This progressive court ruling is far from being implemented. The battle fog, the social pressure from comrades-in-arms and the discipline embedded during training make it very difficult to identify the black flag in real time, and even harder to do the right thing and disobey the order.

As for Halutz - if a person does not feel a thing when dropping a 1 ton bomb on a civilian building, they stand no chance of seeing any black flag. I might be demanding too much, but I want soldiers that ache when they hurt civilians, even if this is a necessity, because soldiers that do not ache will not have trouble hurting civilians when it is not necessary and thus manifestly illegal.

I'll quote a song by Bertolt Brecht (even though every person that has ever thought about such things probably knows it):

GENERAL, YOUR TANK IS A POWERFUL VEHICLE
It smashes down forests and crushes a hundred men.
But it has one defect:
It needs a driver.

General, your bomber is powerful.
It flies faster than a storm and carries more than an elephant.
But it has one defect:
It needs a mechanic.

General, man is very useful.
He can fly and he can kill.
But he has one defect:
He can think.


I wish it was enough that men can think. Most of them seem to prefer not to, especially as soldiers in war.

May peace arrive soon.

posted by Ofer

Cold-Hearted Halutz

In response to Elon's post on avoiding the draft, Ran wrote the following comment, which I think deserves its own post:


"Halutz, Israel's Chief of Staff, said once: If you nevertheless want to know what I feel when I release a bomb, I will tell you: I feel a light bump to the plane as a result of the bomb's release. A second later it's gone, and that's all. That is what I feel."


I personally don't find this comment as distressing as Ran does. Halutz and the rest of the IDF generals are "war technicians", carrying out the orders of our leaders. Olmert and the government ultimately make all of the decisions. Halutz may advise, but he doesn't get to make any of the strategic decisions. Therefore, its actually good to have a robot like him doing his job. I would be much more worried if he answered "When I release a bomb, I feel very happy that I am killing Arabs" or "When I release a bomb, I feel so guilty that I want to kill myself". I would also be very troubled if Olmert said that all he feels is a bump. I expect our leaders to be compassionate, and our generals to be indifferent.

Consider the hypothetic scenario where the government instructs Halutz to attack a Hizbullah base, and he refuses because its against his beliefs. Who is he to make such a choice for the entire country ? On the other hand, consider the scenario where the government instructs the army to stop attacking, but the army keeps on going despite (this actually happened to us 25 years ago with PM Menachem Begin and General Ariel Sharon, and look at the trouble it got us into).

posted by Ofer

No Words

I was really taken by this photograph. Two Lebanese men watching Nasrallah on TV, on their porch. In the background Beirut burning. I wonder what they're thinking.

posted by Elon

To draft or to refuse?

If get drafted, will I refuse to go?

As most Israelies I have served in the Israeli army, and am still on reserve duty. Five years ago I have told my commanders that I refuse to serve in the West Bank and Gaza. Luckily for me, my refusal did not end in jail time. My reasons were moral - amongst them was my belief that the Israeli occupation of those lands is long past a legitimate military occupation for the purpose of defense, and that long term ruling over a population of 3-4 million Palestinians without political rights places Israel somewhere on the border between a democracy and an apparatheid state.

Now I am facing a dilema of what to do should I be called to serve in Lebanon. The war in Lebanon is a humanitarian disaster. In all likelyhood it will also turn out to be a political disaster for Israel. Nevertheless, Hizbullah, which is part of the Lebanease government, has attacked Israel without provocation, and Israel has a right to respond. Despite some 500 civilian Lebanease casualties, I have not yet seen compelling evidence that Israel is targeting civilians, or performing any other crime of war (as opposed to accidentally killing civilians while trying to target military targets).

So, despite my total mistrust of the Israeli civilian and military leadership, and my great concerns that they are making grave mistakes in running the war and setting its goals, despite my grief over the dead on both sides, for the moment, I believe that if I get called I will go. Why? Because I value the rule of law enough to only disobey an order (in my position as a soldier) when I am certain it is immoral and illegal.

But then, this is what I think now. As I learn more about the situation, I might change my mind. There's a good chance that if I do get drafted, I will learn enough about what is going on to do just that.

May peace come on all of us ASAP.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

posted by Ofer

A Linguistic Question

Is there a one-word English synonym for "members of Hizbullah" ? Maybe Hizbullans ? Hizbullites ? Writing the explicit 3-word version over and over again is getting tiring. Any ideas will be appreciated.

posted by Elon

The limits of power

We are deep in shit.

When this whole sorry business started, I was giving the Israeli government the benefit of the doubt. I did not know what I would have done in their place. The only thing I knew is that we must be very careful not to find ourselves in a land war in Lebanon. And I thought they understand that too.

Then, with every day, it turned out that they simply have not learned the basic historic lesson regarding the limits of power. Israel cannot destroy the Hizbullah. I wish it could, but it can't. Not by military means. Not alone. It cannot destroy all the rockets from the air - there too many of them, we don't know where they are and most are probably hidden underground safe from bombings. So, since they cannot destroy it from the air, they are now opting for ground forces. But we've been there before. Hizbullah has no chance stopping Israel from conquering any part of Lebanon it chooses. But it can effectively wage a guerilla war that will make us bleed until we decide to withdraw. The only question is whether this will take us two decades as it did last time.

This is all a result of the stupid, arrogant definition of the goals of the war. There were three realistic goals achievable via military operation right after the first Hizbullah attacks: physically reducing Hizbullah's military power, disproving Nasserallah's "spider web" theory about the strengths of Israel, and signaling the rest of the Lebanese population and political forces that they are expected to restrain Hizbullah to the best of their power. The first two goals would have been achieved by a massive, short, bombardment of whatever Hizbullah military targets the Israeli air force has had intel about. The third goal would have been achieved by a symbolic bombardment of, say, the Beirut airport.

But the generals of the Israeli military seem to not understand this. And the politicians are just accepting whatever the generals suggest. So they have set an unrealistic goal to the war - to destroy Hizbullah. And the asymmetry of the situation is not only in the massive difference in powers, it is also in what would be considered a victory - Hizbullah only has to survive with some military capability in order to claim victory. Which means that Israel is going to loose this war.

Now, I don't care about winning or losing. I just think that if Hizbullah is perceived as a winner, it will gain power, which is far from the interests of both the Israeli public and the Lebanese public.

Perhaps, somehow diplomacy can minimize damages to both Israel and Lebanon. Perhaps an effective international force could be deployed in southern Lebanon, and perhaps this could restrain Hizbullah and provide Israel with some years of quite and Lebanon with a chance to resurrect itself, again.

May peace come quickly.

posted by Ofer

Responsibility of the Innocent

The Jewish settlers in Hebron constantly harass and torment their Palestinian neighbors. They teach their children to hate and provoke both the Palestinians and Israel's security forces. Their rude and disrespectful conduct is more than just annoying, given the right circumstances their provocations could easily lead to the outbreak of a new Intifada, or worse. It shames me that such people share my nationality.



Aside from voting for a political party which opposes them, I have done nothing to stop these people. I don't organize petitions, I don't go to rallies, I don't go to Hebron to confront them personally. I have better things to do with my time (and honestly, I'm also a bit scared of them). Although I disapprove of their actions, I am still personally responsible for the crimes they commit. Every Israeli shares in the responsibility for these radicals. Democracy gives me the tools to deal with them and I choose to do nothing. If the actions of these radicals leads us into a new war, I will have only myself to blame.

The moderates in Lebanon, those who are currently paying the price, were in a similar position. They knew exactly what Hizbullah was up to, but they were too busy going about their day-to-day lives to do anything about it. They had other, more urgent, issues on their minds, such as ridding their country of the Syrian presence and getting their economy back on track. This does not excuse them of doing nothing. Being moderates does not clean their hands of the responsibility for the actions of their radical brothers. The Lebanese moderates are just as accountable for Hizbullah's actions as I am for the actions of the Hebron settlers. The Lebanese moderates are innocent civilians in a very limited sense of the word. I'm not saying that the Lebanese deserve what they're currently getting. I'm saying: stop acting like victims, stop blaming everyone else, take responsibility and take back your country.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

posted by ran

Existence

There is something dishonest about the discourse on this current war in Israel-Lebanon. Especially on the side of those protesting against Israel's actions (which I too believe are disproportionate). And especially in the Arab world. It is dishonest because I feel (or know in some cases) many of the protestors don't even fully accept Israel's right to exist even inside the green line (giving up the occupied lands).
Listen to Iran's president
Listen to Nasrallah
Listen to the Hamas leaders
They do not accept Israel's right to exist at all. Even if deep inside they know Israel is here to stay and only use the incitement for internal political reasons.
This is what causes the deep Israeli mistrust of its arab neighbours. This is what cuases Israelis to think that we must hit back hard every time we are attacked in order to deterr our enemies. This is what causes Israelis to be very cautious about giving back the entire Palesitinian land (which could be used as a base for attacks, as Gaza is these days). This is what causes Israelis to be happy we have nuclear weapons.
But there are today other voices in the Arab world: Egypt, Jordan, Mahmoud Abas, Siniora, the Saudis. If these voices will have some more weight to them than public opinion in Israel, and thus the government policy, will change. It is already changing. But don't expect us to sit quietly when those who openly call for our destruction attack us.

posted by Ofer

Justifying Israel's Policy in Lebanon

Over the past few days, I've been reading several Lebanese blogs. Some of the posts are very insightful and well written. I added some links from this site to the blogs I found most eye-opening. I recommend them to every Israeli, especially the ones convinced we are doing everything right.

Most of these blogs deal with the humanitarian crisis in Lebanon, which is, without a doubt, terrible. Moreover, I think it could have been avoided. Some of the posts in these Lebanese blogs go so far as to question the humanity and morals of Israelis. "What kind of people could do such a thing ? Don't they have children of their own ?" Even though I am not a great supporter of our current government or of this war, I am an Israeli patriot and I feel compelled to answer in the name of my country. So here goes:

We like to think of ourselves as compassionate people, and we hold ourselves to a high moral standard. We also like to think of ourselves as a peace loving people, with the dream of living in harmony with our neighbors. You will not find Israelis dancing in the streets, handing out sweets, celebrating the deaths of Lebanese civilians. The tragedy in Lebanon is a terrible one, and we are fully aware of our responsibility for it. But, our government is faced with an almost impossible choice: either
stop our attacks and allow Hizbullah to continue terrorizing us, or continue fighting Hizbullah at the expense of more innocent Lebanese casualties. Its a very difficult choice to make, both alternatives are bad, and the only thing to do is to choose the lesser of the two evils. The government of Israel is forced to choose the alternative which favors Israelis over Lebanese. Any government in the world would favor its own people if faced with this choice. There is no racism at play here, Lebanese lives are as sacred as our own. But at the end of the day, every government has to do what's best for its own people, even if it is at the expense of someone else who has done us no harm. Believe me, most Israelis do not take any joy in the suffering of the Lebanese. I think that the Israeli government made some bad choices over the past two weeks, but overall, Israel really doesn't have much of a choice.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

posted by Ofer

Nasrallah had a Farm

So what is Hizbullah all about ? Hizbullah claims to be a patriotic Lebanese resistance movement with the goal of freeing Lebanon from foreign occupation and freeing Lebanese prisoners held by Israel. As such, it is widely excepted and respected in Lebanon and in the entire Arab world.

Syria occupied Lebanon for 29 years, with a military force of 14,000 soldiers. Syria openly claims, to this day, that Lebanon is part of the historic Greater Syria, and rejects Lebanese sovereignty. Moreover, the two countries do not have formal diplomatic relations, and have only recently begun talks on marking a clear boarder between them. However, the "freedom fighters" of Hizbullah have never opposed Syria's presence in Lebanon. On the contrary: In March 2005, during the peak of the Lebanese Cedar Revolution, Hizbullah organized a massive pro-Syrian rally in Riad Al Solh square in Beirut. Quite obviously, Hizbullah couldn't care less about Lebanese sovereignty.

Last week, a Hizbullah rocket killed two Israeli children in the city of Nazareth. The two children were Arab. Nasrallah publicly apologized for this "mistake" and proclaimed the two children Shahids (martyrs). The father of these children has as much say in the policies of this country as I do: we each get one vote in the election and the freedom to express our discontent with the government. Its likely that this man from Nazareth voted for one of the Arab parties, which currently oppose the government, but I too voted for a party which opposes the current government. Both he and I pay the taxes which fund the planes, tanks and war ships that are currently attacking Lebanon. Nevertheless, Hizbullah isn't targeting the Arab residents of Nazareth, its targeting me. Nasrallah's war is a religious war against the Jews, and has nothing to do with the countries of Lebanon or Israel.



The main reason Hizbullah does not willingly disarm is their claim that Israel still occupies Lebanese land in the disputed Sheba Farms. The Sheba Farms are a 2-3km wide strip of land at the northern tip of the Golan Heights, which the UN has certified as being Syrian land. The UN reached this conclusion in 2000, after examining numerous different maps of the region, all of which clearly marked the Sheba farms as part of Syria. Some of these maps were actually issued by the Lebanese Ministry of Defense and army. The only map the UN could find which marks the Sheba Farms as being part of Lebanon was later discovered to be a forgery fabricated by Lebanon. The whole issue of the Sheba Farms first came up in 2000, after Israel had completed its withdrawal from South Lebanon (how convenient...). A wonderful summary on the topic can be found in Wikipedia. The bottom line is that Lebanon's claim to the Sheba Farms is a lie and an excuse to continue aggression towards Israel. In due time, Israel will probably return the Sheba Farms, along with the rest of the Golan, to Syria.

The only remaining justification given by Hizbullah for its aggression is the issue of the Lebanese prisoners in Israel. Guess how many prisoners we're talking about .... three. One of them is the child-killer Samir Kuntar. The other two: terrorists with blood on their hands, caught in the act.

Hizbullah currently holds an arsenal of 10,000 short and medium range missiles. Its annual budget, funded by Iran, is estimated at 100 million dollars.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

posted by Ofer

No Peace with Lebanon

At first glance, peace between Lebanon and Israel seems to be well within our reach. Like us, the Lebanese are cultured, literate and democratic. Their society is a fragile mix of different sects and religions, so they have first-hand experience with tolerance and co-existence. Prime minister Siniora seems to be a reasonable, intelligent man. Most importantly, Lebanon is far too weak to share Iran and Syria's point-of-view regarding Israel. If you think about it, Lebanon is a very natural partner for peace, even more than Egypt or Jordan.

Nevertheless, Israel does not have a peace treaty with Lebanon, and probably won't for many years to come. As I see it, there are two main obstacles which stand in the way of peace with Lebanon: a small obstacle and a big obstacle. The small obstacle is Syria's control over Lebanon. Despite the recent withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon, Syria's influence on internal Lebanese politics remains strong. If anything, our present offensive in Lebanon is strengthening Syria's influence. Lebanon won't engage in peace talks with Israel as long as it doesn't suit the Syrians. The reason I call this a small obstacle is that we know how to overcome it: peace talks with Lebanon should be conducted in parallel with peace talks with Syria.

A much bigger obstacle involves the 400,000 Palestinians currently living in refugee camps in Lebanon. Most Arab countries want Israel to settle its business with the Palestinians purely out of solidarity with the Palestinians. Lebanon, on the other hand, has its own personal agenda regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Lebanese desperately want every last Palestinian refugee out of their country. The Lebanese government and the majority of the Lebanese people reject any permanent integration of the Palestinian refugees, using the pretext that granting citizenship to the Palestinians, who are mostly Sunni Muslims, would upset the delicate sectarian balance in Lebanon. Moreover, the Lebanon still holds a grudge against the Palestinians for their role in starting the civil war. The refugees in Lebanon have no political, social or civil rights, and are discriminated against in almost every sense of the word.



The Lebanese are putting their faith in the infamous "Palestinian Right of Return", the demand made by refugee Palestinians to return to their pre-1948 homes, inside the Israeli green line. However, the consensus is Israel is that the right of return is an unrealistic demand can never be granted. The right of return only sounds reasonable when spoken in Arabic. Israelis see it as a very real existential threat. The only hope is that the Palestinians will agree to "return" to new homes within the Palestinian territories. Whether this is likely to happen or not, I do not know.

Anyway, almost every other Arab-Israeli issue must be addressed before peace with Lebanon can be discussed. So there you have it: no peace with Lebanon.

posted by ran

The Arabs want to throw us to the sea


Every Israeli kid is brought up learning that the Arabs want to "throw us to the sea". He/She is given a lot of examples from history and from ongoing events. As much as you can argue as to the root causes, these events are mostly indisputable:


  • The Arabs didn't accept the 1947 UN suggestion to split Palestine into 2 states (Jewish and Arab) and hence the 1948 war broke out.
  • The Palestinians use terrorism against civilians.
  • The Palestinians are willing to work in steps: first getting sovereignty over some part of Palestine only to later on keep fighting until all the Israeli land is made Arab (1974 PLO decision).
  • The Palestinians insist on the refugees literal right of return to Israel. This demand means, in the current political structure of Israel, the ceasing of the existence of state of Israel, because an Arab majority would be formed.
  • All the wars between Israel and it's Arabs neighbors broke out because Israel was under threat to its very existence (especially the 1974 war).
  • The Arab people really hate our guts. For example when 2 poor Israeli reservists took a wrong turn inside the occupied territories on their way to vacation from service they were lynched brutally by a Palestinian mob (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/969778.stm).
  • When Saddam Hussein shot Scad missiles on Tel Aviv and Haifa during the first gulf war (without any Israeli threat on Iraq) the Palestinians danced on the roofs.
  • Days after Israel withdrew fully from the Gaza strip last year the Palestinian organizations resumed rocket launching (from Gaza) with even greater intensity and range.

On the other hand the Israeli kids are taught that Israel is peace loving. Again, very hard to dispute the arguments that are given. For example:

  • We gave up all the land occupied from Egypt in 1967 (including the evacuation of the settlements in Sinai) in order to sign a peace agreement. This is a proof we like peace more than we like land.
  • We withdrew from the so-called "security strip" around the Israeli-Lebanese border 6 years ago.
  • We gave up Gaza and the settlements there. This time not in exchange to peace, because there was no eager partner. We did that although there was large protest by the Israeli political right wing.
  • We gave up 2 settlements deep in the West Bank last year (evacuated the settlers) and Olmert declared we are going to evacuate many more.
  • Actually most of the West Bank is now controlled by the Palestinians which shows that the remaining occupation is for security reasons and in order to protect the existing settlements (most of which are not deep inside the territories)

I am not saying that all this justifies the ongoing remains of occupation, or the attacks on Lebanon's infrastructure these last days. But I believe this sheds some light on the thinking of the people and leadership of Israel, and colors it with at least some rational thinking of people that feel threatened on the one hand but looking for peace on the other.

posted by ran

An Israeli Dream

I have a dream Today
I have a dream that young Israelis would drive to Beirut not mounted on fighter planes but rather in their dad's old car, just for a vacation
I have dream that young Palestinian girls would post on their room walls not posters of Shahids, but posters of popular singers
I have a dream that heads of state would be brave enough to lead and do what is right and just and not follow the mobs calling for holy wars
I have a dream that people of all religion in the middle east would understand each other's right to exist
I have a dream that hope will be given to every man and woman so they may not act out of deep despair
I have a dream that people will be brave enough to look into their (and their governments) own doings with a free mind and a genuine desire to bring peace to our lands (instead of futile anger)
I have a dream that the Palestinian People will achieve real and full independence in the occupied territories but will also learn to accept Israel's right to exist peacefully side by side
I have a dream that Israelis will feel safe enough and accepted by their Arab neighbors to call their government to abandon nuclear weapons.
I'll conclude paraphrasing Martin Luther King's words (I have just changed the place names)
"Go back to Beirut, go back to Gaza, go back to Tel Aviv, go back to Jerusalem, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream."

posted by Ofer

Nasrallah the Hypnotist

Today I came across a three year old article in the Washington post by Smadar Haran, wife of Danny and mother of 4-year-old Einat, who died at the hands of Samir Kuntar in 1979. Samir Kuntar is a Lebanese citizen and a terrorist who is currently sitting behind bars in an Israeli prison. 10 days ago, Nasrallah specifically mentioned Kuntar as one of the Lebanese prisoners he would like in exchange for the two abducted Israeli soldiers.

The current consensus in the Arab world is that Nasrallah's methods may be extreme, but his intentions are good. Most moderate Arabs, especially Lebanese citizens, believe that the Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails are patriotic and heroic freedom fighters which should be released as soon as possible. Samir Kuntar shot Danny Haran in front of his daughter and then smashed her little scull with the butt of his rifle. He did this in retaliation to the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. He was not fighting for anyone's freedom. He is anything but a hero.

If an Israeli citizen were to commit these murders, he would spend the rest of his life in prison. If an American citizen, a French citizen or a Chinese citizen were to commit these acts on Israeli soil, he would spend the rest of his life in an Israeli prison. Kuntar did not deny the allegations against him, and was sentenced by an Israeli court to life in prison. There is no rational argument in favor if releasing this cold-blooded killer. Nevertheless, the consensus in the moderate Arab world is that Kuntar must be released if there is ever to be peace in the region.



Of course, this is not all Nasrallah's doing, but he has certainly played his part. Using his phenomenal charisma, Nasrallah has sugar-coated his fanatical ideology. Legitimizing Kuntar is just one example. Nasrallah has somehow convinced the Arab world that his radical agenda is reasonable. He is truly a hypnotist.

posted by Ofer

Bridges and Milk Factories

I honestly don't understand our current military strategy in Lebanon. The declared agenda is to disarm Hizbollah's militia and to retrieve our two captured solders. I think both are very worthy causes. However, I don't see how destroying Lebanon's infrastructure helps us achieve these goals, or serves any of our other long-term interests.

Hizbollah has a dangerous split-personality disorder. On one hand, they are a radical militant organization with the dream of erasing Israel from the map. On the other hand, they build and fund hospitals, schools, and mosques in the forsaken south Lebanon. By destroying Lebanon's infrastructure, we are setting the scene for Hizbollah's come-back. Even if we temporarily disarm them, especially of we temporarily disarm them, they will single-handedly rebuild Lebanon and win the hearts of the Lebanese public. Our current actions in Lebanon will be the fuel of Hizbollah's rise to power. What are we doing ?

Hamas too has this split-personality disorder. Today, in the Palestinian territories, Hamas is synonymous with welfare, dignity and honesty. We brought the democratic rise of Hamas on ourselves, and we are making the same mistake in Lebanon.