Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Hamas war strategy

During WWII, while the Holocaust was occuring, there was very little actual Jewish resistance. Certainly there were Jewish partisans in the forests of Eastern Europe, as exemplified by the Bielsky Brothers, whose story is told in an upcoming movie, and there were others. But, generally the Jews were passive and defenceless, cooperating with the Nazi German Government by paying indemnities that paid for their own rounding up, transportation and murder. It was the Allies, the USA and UK, that defeated Germany and then revealed to the world their disgusting treatment of the Jews, which was not only murderous but also deliberately humiliating.
Perhaps it was because of this history that there is a strategic policy in Israel that a war must never be fought on the land of the State of Israel and the Governments of the State have been determined to maintain a policy of "deterrence." Perhaps this is the origin of the so-called "disproportionate" use of force against a rather primitive terrorist gang that purports to destroy Israel, but has no major weapons systems. On the other hand, they make up for this in assymetrical warfare with rockets and suicide bombers.
According to reports of plans discovered in Gaza and interrogations of Hamas captives, the Hamas war doctrine, that was dictated by Iran, was in three parts. The first was to soften up Israel with rockets, which they did, and then with further suicide bombings, which they were prevented from doing. The Israeli building of the Security Fence and better intelligence together with targeted killings in Gaza and continued arrests and killings in the West Bank prevented this tactic from working.
The third stage of the Hamas strategy was to be an armed invasion of Israel from Gaza using the army of more than 10,000 men that were trained and armed by Iran. The intention was to capture one or two Israeli towns or cities, Sderot or Ashkelon, cause many casualties and take hostages, and then defeat the IDF. Of course, this aspect was "fantasy land", "pie in the sky," but the Arabs are good at this, especially since they believe Allah is on their side. The war in Gaza by the IDF was carried out to stop this plan. In the event of an Israeli counterattack, which the war in Gaza was, Hamas were to try to capture as many more IDF soldiers as possible to hold as hostages, and to capture pictures of burning Israeli ordnance, a destroyed tank or a personnel carrier blown up with IDF soldiers' bodies in it.
They were unable to accomplish any of these aims. They were forced to fall back on the usual tactic of showing photos of blood and babies and staging civilian casualties. No doubt there were civilian casualties, but has no other war caused them, have they never been seen before? No, never as much as in wars with the IDF. And the fact is that the tactic works, well-meaning but naieve liberals are falling all over themselves in the UK to help the poor people of Gaza with demonstrations and signs reading "We are all Hamas" and giving their hard-earned cash. Well meaning idiots, like the fellow travellers of the 1930s who were surprised to find out that Stalin was really as ruthless and murderous as his enemies said he was!
One hidden reason for the war on Hamas was the need for Israel to deliver a strong message that Iran's plans to attack and defeat Israel are futile and unrealizable. Only a deliverable Iranian nuclear weapon would, according to Pres. Obama, be a "game-changer."

Friday, January 30, 2009

When is a ceasefire not a ceasefire?

Last week, after a year-long, unilateral ceasefire had been announced by Hamas following negotiations with Egypt, a Hamas spokesman clarified that it is not an actual ceasefire, a hudna, meaning a complete cessation of hostilities, rather it is a calming or tahadiya, meaning that Hamas can break the ceasefire any time they please.
On Tuesday under cover of fog they hid several bombs along the border and when an IDF patrol passed nearby they were detonated, killing a Beduin tracker and injuring an officer. In response, the IAF carried out a raid that killed a man on a motorbike, supposedly one of the bombers, and another Palestinian, supposedly a farmer. Hamas' excuse for this bombing was that Israel has not adhered to its conditions for a full ceasefire, namely it has not fully opened the border crossings. Wednesday the terrorists also fired two mortars into southern Israel, and Israel in return closed all the crossings. The security cabinet met to decide how to respond. Now that Israel is intent on confirming its deterrence and there is an election campaign underway they are likely to respond strongly. It was announced by FM Tzipi Livni that the former policy of restraint enunciated by Defense Minister and Head of Labor Ehud Barak is over.
Also Tuesday George Mitchell, special envoy of Pres. Obama, visited Pres. Mubarak in Egypt and will arrive in Israel Wednesday to meet all the usual suspects. During an interview with Al Arabiya TV Pres. Barak said yesterday that on this trip he had asked Mitchell only to listen, not to suggest any US initiatives. After his tour, when he returns to Washington, he and Mitchell will meet and discuss options.
It is evident that Obama is earnest in his intentions to take the Middle East situation seriously early in his term. But, maybe he has bitten off more than he can chew. Perhaps Bush was right, that publicly committing a President to a difficult and dangerous situation so early on can damage his credibility, since no early positive outcome is expected. Now that Hamas have breached the truce, while everyone is talking of the need for a "durable" ceasefire, only shows how precarious things are. Also, a conference is arranged for next week in Copenhagen to discuss how to prevent the smuggling of arms into Gaza. Clearly noone would be taking these matters seriously if Israel had not finally tired of the rocketing of its civilians and counter-attacked.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Escape from Auschwitz

"Auschwitz, the great escape" was the title of a program I saw on Israeli television (mostly in English) commemorating International Holocaust Memorial Day, February 27, the date that the Russian Army liberated Auschwitz.
Many people tried to escape from Auschwitz, but actually it was almost impossible, most were caught, tortured and hanged. Among the Jews that it is known actually managed to escape were Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, two friends from Solvakia, who escaped in April, 1944. How could they manage an escape from a huge camp surrounded by barbed wire and heavily guarded, because the Nazis did not want the secret of the death camps and the extermination of the Jews at Auschwitz to be known.
Wetzler arrived at Auschwitz first and managed to get a post as an Administrator and the Germans used him and relied on him. When his friend Rudolf Vrba arrived he helped him to get a similar job as a secretary. Because of their positions they were able to walk around the camp and avoid the terrible conditions in the main barracks. They also were able to see exactly what the Germans were doing, how many people they killed and from where they came. Vrba decided that he must escape and bring this news to the world, especially the Jews. He was particularly depressed when he saw a camp filled with 20,000 Czech Jews, mostly from Treblinka, who were murdered in one go. Then the camp was being enlarged to accommodate the Hungarian Jews, of which there were ca. 650,000.
The plan that they devised to escape was simple, they saw that when people escaped, the guards searched intensively for them for 3 days, and if they could not find them after that they gave up. They realized that they must have a place to hide outside the barbed wire fence for 3 days. They managed this by observing that the Guards had the inmates build stacks of wood for future use outside the barbed wire fence. They arranged for a hole to be left in the middle of one of these wood piles by the inmates building it. Then one day they managed to be out of the camp and then before roll call sneaked into the wood pile. They covered themselves with wood and used a scent to cover their smell from the dogs. After three days and nights they released themselves and escaped into the woods. They were lucky and managed to cover half the distance to the Slovakian border, a total of 140 km, in a few days before they needed to get food and then were helped by some Polish peasants who showed them where to cross the border.
In Slovakia, they made their way to the headquarters of the Jewish Community in Bratislava, but when they told their story, the leadership would not believe them. They asked them to write a report and give names and details including their own people from Slovakia. When the Vrba-Wetzler Report was finished after a few days in April 1944, they finally accepted it. It was a 32-page report that documented in incredible detail the extermination of the Jews being carried out in secrecy in Auschwitz. But, it was too late to save most of the Jews of Slovakia. Luckily the Head of the Jewish Community Organization in Budapest, Hungary, Rudolf Kastner, visited Bratislava a few days later and was handed a copy that was translated into Hungarian. However, Kastner, with a fellow leader Joel Brand, were negotiating with Adolf Eichmann, who was in Budapest organizing the transport and extermination of the Hungarian Jews.
For reasons unknown, Kastner incredibly did not publicize the Report, but send Joel Brand to communicate with the British and Americans that Eichmann was prepared to release 1 million Hungarian Jews in exchange for 10,000 trucks. Brand managed to get to Istanbul and contact the British there, but they arrested him and imprisoned him in Cairo. Meanwhile the Jews of Hungary were being murdered in Auschwitz at the rate of 12,000 a day! Kastner meanwhile continued his negotiations and finally Eichmann allowed a train containing 1,200 Jews, including Kastner, his family and friends, to take them to freedom. It was suggested later that Kastner obtained his freedom in exchange for not releasing the Report and warning the mass of Hungarian Jews of their fate, thus making Eichmann's job a lot easier. Kastner was assassinated in Israel in 1957 as a traitor to the Hungarian Jews.
Meanwhile copies of the Vrba-Wetzler Report were received by the Hungarian underground, the Pope, the British and the Americans. It was received by Pres. Roosevelt and on June 20, 1944, The New York Times published the first article based on it that described the death camps and the extermination of the Jews. Both the BBC and the VOA issued Government warnings that all those associated with the massacres of Jews would be caught and held accountable.
Admiral Horthy, Head of the Hungarian Fascist Government, heard these reports and was worried by them. By chance soon thereafter the USAF bombed Budapest, and Horthy believing that this was a warning related to the deportation of the Hungarian Jews, ordered the deportations stopped. Hitler was personally furious at Horthy for doing this, but he could not have it reversed. Although ca. 475,00 Jews had by this time already been deported, ca. 200,000 had not. Although Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler were unable to save most of the Hungarian Jews, one can say that they were indirectly responsible for saving ca. 150,000 Jewish lives.
Vrba moved to Canada after the war and became a Professor of Pharmacology at the University of British Columbia, where he died in 2006. Wetzler stayed in Slovakia and died there in 1988. Theirs was one of the bravest acts of WWII in that they saw what was happening in Auschwitz, they managed to accomplish an incredible escape and then alerted the world what was happening there in all its terrible detail.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The water crisis

For the first time in a few months the lead story on the news in Israel today was not the war in Gaza, but it was another dire threat to the State of Israel, namely the water shortage. Of course, water is the life blood of this country that exists in an arid zone, and the water shortage has finally been recognized as an emergency by the Government. Today PM Olmert called in the Sunday Cabinet meeting on the responsible authorities to come up with another water emergency plan for Israel. The fact is that the main water reservoir in Israel, the Sea of Galillee (Lake Kinneret), has reached 15 inches above its "black line" after 4 years of drought. The black line is the level below which no pumping is possible because the pump inlets are below the level of the water in the lake. The average rainfall in the last 4 years has been one eighth that of the average rainfall in the previous 20 years. Even though statistics were against it, this year has seen so little rain that this January has had the lowest ever on record.
Already water for agriculture has been cut 20% and many municipalities have switched to using recycled water for their internal use. On Friday, because of the drastically low level, the Water Authority Mekorot, that pumps water from the south exit of the Sea of Galillee, stopped all pumping. Now the rest of the country must depend on other storage and reservoirs, none of which are full. Two desalination plants have been built along the Mediterranean coast, but they produce only 5% of the country's needs. Another one has just been approved for construction, but as usual too little, too late. This program should have started 20 years ago, although Israeli Governments can always blame the wars for this situation.
There was a supposed agreement with Turkey to ship fresh water from one of their rivers to Israel, but this was never finalized, which is probably good, since the Turkish Government is now unfriendly to Israel and would then be able to control our water supply.
All during this time note that Israel has been pumping water into Gaza. Israel also had a ridiculously generous agreement with Jordan, as part of the peace treaty the Israeli Government agreed to supply Jordan with a huge amount of water. Apparently, whoever negotiated this treaty had no idea what they were doing. Very quickly it became apparent that Israel could not supply this amount of water without causing severe water shortages at home, so Israel defaulted on this agreement, but agreed to pay Jordan a huge amount of money instead. Whoever said that Jews were clever? So now we are paying Jordan for water that we don't have.
According to experts there is no danger of our running out of drinking water, at least not until next winter. But, other uses are discouraged, particularly watering gardens and cleaning cars, but not forbidden as yet. Meanwhile most people ignore the crisis and go on using water as if there were no tomorrow, that's Israel.

War crimes

Letter sent to US and UK media:
Dear Sir:
I am willing to accept "War Crimes trials" for Israeli troops fighting in Gaza in 2006, if those who are calling for such trials are also willing to accept the same trials for British and US troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq over a period of 6 years the number of civilians killed was ca. 98,521 (according to Wikipedia statistics). In Afghanistan the comparable number is ca. 6,086 (same source) from 2001-2008. Compare that to the IDF estimate of a total of 1,320 killed in Gaza of which 75% were terrorists, for which the IDF has an actual name list of 950, and the rest, i.e. 25% or 330 were civilians. If you believe Hamas statistics or the ridiculously bloated civilian casualties reported by the biased media then you are foolish.
Granted some of these might be terrorists in civilian garb, granted that mistakes happen in war, but these also apply to everyone, including IDF soldiers. In other conflicts, in Sudan (where it is reported millions have been killed), in Sri Lanka (where ca. 67,000 have been killed) and in the Congo, where many more civilians have been killed, there is no comparable call for "war crimes trials" in those conflicts. In fact, as one media outlet said, "there is no reliable independent confirmation of that figure," which is not the same caution applied to the Gaza war by most of the media. They readily broadcast sensationalized videos showing dead bodies when they know that incidents are staged for the camera (different parents carrying the same dead child, staged operations in hospitals, acted out death scenes), and this is a well known Palestinian tactic for winning the PR war when they can't win the military war. And the media and a gullible public fall for it every time.
For example, the issue of "white phosphorous" bombs is a completely manufactured one. The IDF has said that it does not have or use such bombs, but they do use white phosphorous for illumination, which is a use sanctioned by international law. It is likely that some of these caused casualties. But, how many? On Sky news they showed one woman with a bandaged arm several times, and said several others had been burnt, but there was no attempt to confirm this statement. Also, UNRWA, that was the source for such statements, is a full-time paid up wing of the Palestinian cause.
So let's drop this double standard. If IDF soldiers are to be tried for "war crimes" in Gaza then I call on Israeli and European courts to try British and American soldiers too! This attention on Israeli "war crimes" is disproportionate.
Jack Cohen
Netanya, Israel

Monday, January 26, 2009

Peace at any price?

The popular view is that peace is the best outcome for all concerned, if only it could be reached. But, the complexity of the current situation, particularly the split between Hamas and Fatah, makes a peaceful outcome unlikely in the foreseeable future. Fatah is not only unable to take back Gaza, it can hardly control the West Bank, and it is not in Israel's interests to attempt to "destroy" Hamas and do the dirty work for the Fatah/PA in order to restore Palestinian unity. Also, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been engaged in a fruitless attempt trying to unify Hamas and Fatah for some time without success.
There are three future possibilities:
1. Hamas and Fatah can't overcome their differences, in which case Israel and the US can deal with the Fatah/PA, but cannot make a peace treaty without Gaza, according to both Pres. Abbas and PM Olmert.
2. Hamas and Fatah overcome their differences and form a unity Government on behalf of all Palestinians. That would mean that Hamas had control over Palestinian Govt. operations and functions and neither Israel nor the US could deal with them.
3. Hamas takes over the West Bank, and there is no possibility of a peace process, missiles may rain down on Israel from the West Bank and there is the possibility of another war with Israel.
These options are pessimistic, but, there are two potentially positive outcomes:
1. Israel will in the meantime continue to develop and entrench itself as a State while the Palestinians will continue to be fractured and in need of international welfare, in other words the gap between Israel and the (two) Palestines will continue to increase.
2. Hamas in Gaza will gradually lose power due to its recent defeat, due to lack of Iranian funds to support its military designs against Israel and due to the Obama Administration's influence on the Sunni Arab world.

The future is unknoweable and we cannot tell what unforeseen events might drastically affect it, such as an attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities, or some kind of agreement with Iran made by Obama, however unlikely that may seem.
These are all ctors that will affect Sen. George Mitchell's options as he comes to grips with the intractable nature of the Middle East problem, and it is much more complex now than when he dealt with it previously (when he wrote a report about the 2001 Intifada for Pres. Clinton). Now as well as the Arab world against Israel, there is the Islamist world of Shiite Iran taking the initiative. If Mitchell can help to develop the nascent alliance of the Sunni Arab States (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia) and Israel as an anti-Iranian/Shia bloc that would also be a great accomplishment. But, reaching for actual peace in the next few years seems an unattainable dream, even for someone who helped Ireland achieve the impossible.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Obama in wonderland

Pres. Obama entered the Middle East fray quickly and aggressively when he went to the State Dept. yesterday on the second day of his appointment and joined Secty. of State Hillary Clinton to rouse the troops with a major address. In this he outlined his approach to the Middle East, including the committment of his Administration to a "two State solution, Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace." We have heard this mantra before and it came from George W. Bush, the first President to accept the future existence of a Palestinian State. In order to achieve this goal Obama appointed George Mitchell as his special envoy to the Middle East.
Mitchell is famous for having brought about the peace treaty in Northern Ireland, after 800 years of strife. As he said, men make wars and men can end them. But, be admitted that it would not be easy, because the conflict in the Middle East is so entrenched and complex.
Here's one complexity, Obama called for the opening of the crossings into Gaza for humanitarian aid, something that Israel has already done, and withdrawal of the IDF from Gaza, that Israel has already done, and aid to be given to the PA for reconstruction in Gaza. But, wait, the PA doesn't control Gaza, Hamas does, and giving aid to the PA for reconstruction in Gaza is therefore a non-starter. The US can't give aid to Hamas since it is a terrorist organization, neither can it negotiate with it. Those who think that Obama should start negotiations with Hamas are not dealing with reality. The US will not negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan either, who are decapitating women teachers. Why should they negotiate with Hamas which used children as shields during the recent war, and shoots people for having music at their weddings. They are part of the same Islamic extremist cult as al Qaeda that seeks to take over the world and establish a Caliphate and kill all infidels.
Now there is a race to reconstruct Gaza, by the EU and the US, but they cannot deal directly with Hamas. So how is it going to be done, particularly since the Government of Pres. Abbas is now illegitimate, as his term expired on Jan 9, and he is simply holding on to power in the absence of elections and any other alternative.
A spokesman for the PA in Ramallah (as reported in the J'sam Post) said that it was unfortunate that Israel stopped its war in Gaza short of removing Hamas from power. That's what Abbas and the PA had hoped for and then they would have been able to take over Gaza and establish their own regime there. Some Israelis also hoped for the same. But, the Israel Government wasn't going to do their dirty work for them. Also, according to reports, Hamas went around killing any Fatah members found on the street after the IDF withdrawal in case they attempted a counter-coup.
Israel's war in Gaza had two stated aims, to stop the firing of missiles into Israel and to stop the smuggling of weapons from Egypt into Gaza. Obama said that the ceasefire must be made "durable" and we shall see if this can be accomplished given the fact that Hamas set it for only one week. He also said that the US will engage with other allies in stopping the smuggling of arms into Gaza, which would trigger another round of conflict. But, although the IDF destroyed ca. 150 tunnels, there are still ca. 50 of them left, either in working order or that can be easily renovated. And although Pres. Mubarak says that he will stop the smuggling, but without allowing foreign troops on his soil, there appears to be no change in the Egyptian capability to stop the smuggling. So Obama, Clinton and Mitchell have a difficult and dangerous task before them before the mantle of peacemakers can rest on their shoulders.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Good news

Even in the middle of a war sometimes good news suddenly pops up. There has been a major find of a natural gas field ca. 90 km off the coast of Israel near Haifa. It is so huge that it could supply Israel's energy needs for 15 years. It is called Tamar and contains ca. 88 billion cubic metres of gas! Do you know what this means? No more dependence on Arab oil, no more dependence on gas from Egypt! This will make Israel energy independent (except for gasoline for cars) for a long time. However, it will take some time to develop and exploit this discovery.
During the war in Gaza an article appeared in the Jerusalem Post about the previous oil/gas finds off the Gaza coast. When Arafat was in charge of the PA and the find was made a proposal was prepared for him by British Gas and its allies who had the options for the development of the field. This required Israeli cooperation, since to get out to the field required use of Israeli facilities, ships and permission. The proposed payment from BG was ca. m$400 per year, that would easily have made Gaza independent and would have greatly improved its people's standard of living. But, Arafat rejected the proposal. One speculation as to why is that he wanted to keep the Gaza population poor and desperate, blaming Israel for their predicament. Later when Hamas took over they made an approach to BG to reconsider exploiting the find, but the British Government forbade this since they regard Hamas as a terrorist organization.
Israel accepted that the field discovered off the Gaza coast belonged to the PA, and Israel was prepared to deal with them and pay for its share of the gas. Now, however, the latest Israeli find makes Israel independent of the PA, Egypt and all other suppliers of oil to Israel.
In another category altogether, there is a drive among Israelis to collect food and clothing for the Gazans. Not that they would accept it from Jews any way. But, it is a nice thought that some Israelis are trying to help on a personal level the unfortunates who are without. That's the Jewish way, but it won't be recognized by the media or the enemy.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Judaization of Europe

Before WWII the predominant view in Europe was that it was acceptable to persecute Jews and to kill them when necessary. It was also accepted that other ethnic minorities, e.g. Hungarians in Austria, Slavs in Poland, Poles in Ukraine, were also subject to persecution and random acts of violence. Christianity was invoked during these killings, Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians killed Jews, and they killed each other. There was a kind of Christianity, sometimes called "muscular" Christianity, that idealized the healthy muscular body as opposed to the effete, intellectual Jew. Fatherland and Christ were a powerful combination, leading to anti-Semitism as a racial and political force and to Fascism. Although the Nazis were in principle against Christianity, abhorring the religion of someone who allowed himself to be crucified and spoke of love and turning the other cheek, nevertheless, they used religion as a political force. It was common in those days to compare the "fighting ability" of various races. I still remember when I was a child arguing whether or not the British or the Germans were better fighters, and of course the French were definitely not. Such a conversation is unimaginable nowadays.
The fact that Germany was defeated in WWII changed everything, including the attitude towards Christianity. Gradually it ceased to be a strong political force and has now become essentially moribund in most of Europe. Supra-nationalism, of the Germans, the French, the Slavs etc. has been subsumed by the European ethic, all are now equal within the EU. No longer are passports needed to cross thousands of miles and many countries of Europe. The Jews became widely accepted as a minority and each country that was involved in the Holocaust has out-done others in restitution and rebuilding of Synagogues. Although many Jews who experienced the Holocaust do not take these about-faces at face value, nevertheless the situation is certainly vastly improved. These changes, partly as a result of American cultural influence and partly as a result of improved standards of living, have transformed European culture. The former idealization of power and force and national heroes has given way to acceptance of equality and toleration of national and ethnic differences. Of course, this is not totally true, for example the anti-foreigner violence in Germany, France and Russia, but these are regarded as hangovers from the old system..
Now this change represents no less than the "Judaization of Europe," the acceptance of what were formerly considered Jewish values, powerlessness, internationalism, cosmopolitanism, tolerance towards others, enjoying culture rather than going out to fight and kill. But, this tolerance has its price, including the enormous immigration of other races into tolerant, affluent Europe (as into the USA). Some of these immigrants assimilate well, but others, particularly the Muslims, keep themselves separate and retain a sense of superiority. Although one cannot see why they consider themselves superior, since they come from very poor underdeveloped countries, but, they fit into the current zeitgeist, that of opposing colonialism (that the Europeans practised with concomintant murders of millions) and so on. And this cultural attitude is virulently anti-Israel, because Israel is a power that maintains itself by military force and further is usually victorious against brown native peoples and kills civilains (according to the common belief). It is so easy to paint Israel in the colors of the former Europe, the one that emphasized nationalism, power and armed force. It is a matter of supreme irony that most countries of Europe have now instituted a Holocaust Day while at the same time lambasting Israel for daring to invade neighboring "countries" and using force to establish its will.
Some consider this anti-Israelism as another form of anti-Semitism, but it is not only that, it is a side product of the liberal, tolerant anti-war culture that is predominant in Europe today. Although most Americans are quite at-ease with the idea of a real "war on terrorism," with the war on the Taliban in Afghanistan and with the war on Saddam Hussein in Iraq, for most Europeans this is anthema. There was no more anti-Bush area than Western Europe. Now they are pro-Obama, and now we will see to which side Obama will veer, will he adopt the same culture as Europe, or will he retain the general American attitude that the US can be the world's policeman. How he manages this perilous track will determine to a large extent how Israel will fare in the near future.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

When does a victorious army immediately turn tail and scuttle away after recording a major victory. When does a defeated army (or militia) declare victory, when objectively it has lost. The answer is when the former is Israel and the latter is Arab.
To deal with the former, the political party of Sharon, Kadima, that brought us the failed disengagement from Gaza in 2005, the botched Second War with Lebanon in 2006, and the current War in Gaza, has done another withdrawal. They have peremptorily withdrawn the IDF from Gaza in what looks like a rout, thus allowing the Hamas to immediately take over again and declare victory. And they have done this within the time declared by the unilateral Hamas ceasefire for the IDF to be withdrawn in one week, and before any arrangements have been made for the control of the crossing points, that everyone declares they want open, and without mentioning of Gilad Schalit, the IDF hostage held by Hamas in Gaza. It may be that not all IDF troops will be withdrawn immediately, but giving up a position like that (as any chess player knows) is tantamout to losing the advantage of control of the ground, the only real negotiating advantage that Israel won.
The Arabs have a strange psychology, don't blame me for this analysis, read the excellent book "The dream palace of the Arabs" by Fuad Ajami, a detailed probe into the psychology and culture of the Arabs. In their culture, wishful thinking becomes reality. If an Arab terrorist fires a missile at an Israeli plane and fires, as far as he is concerned the plane is destroyed, whether or not the missile actually hits the plane. In Lebanon, because Hizbollah managed to survive against the IDF, that was declared a victory, and not just a victory but a "glorious victory." Because Hamas managed to survive against the IDF, that is for them a victory, never mind that southern Lebanon and Gaza in turn were almost completely destroyed by the IAF. And never mind the casualties, because it is all God's plan for eventually destroying "the Jews" (note: the Hamas and Hizbollah terrorists never refer to Israeli fighters, only to Jews).
It may be that the Israeli Govt. has sighed in relief that there were so few Israeli casualties, of the 12 killed, 8 were killed by friendly fire. This is an extraordinarily small number, and the Govt. of PM Olmert doesn't want to take the risk of more Israeli casualties, hence the rapid withdrawal. This small number of IDF casualties and only ca. 1,000 Hamas gunmen killed, backs the claim of the IDF that the Hamas gunmen were mostly hiding among the population. Now they will come out of hiding and march up and down in their black masks and with braggadocio claim victory against the Jews.
It has been argued, by Israeli leftists, that not completely defeating the Arabs is a good strategy, because it gives them the ability to save face and still claim victory and then be able to negotiate peace. This is what happened with Sadat of Egypt. In 1974, when the IDF were 101 km from Cairo, the Israeli Govt stopped them there and set up a tent and negotiated a truce with the Egyptians. Sadat recognized this gesture, the IDF could have gone all the way to Cairo, there was nothing to stop them, but that would have been so catastrophic for Sadat that he would have been hounded from office. By allowing Sadat to tell lies, to declare a victory and then to negotiate, everyone won.
Unfortunately, Hamas is not a regular Sunni Arab regime, it is Islamist, and its raison d'etre is to destroy Israel and kill Jews. It doesn't care how much is destroyed in the process or how many Palestinians are killed, anyway they are all Shahid (martyrs), all that matters is to continue the bloody struggle against the infidel until the end, when Allah will give them the final victory. It is to be hoped that all the smart Western leaders who gathered briefly in Egypt and in Jerusalem yesterday know that Hamas cannot be reconciled with. But, rebuilding Gaza and supplying all the food and supplies that the population needs will be done with alacrity. This will leave Hamas in control of Gaza, to be ready at some point in the future to reinitiate their campaign of destruction against Israel. But, next time they will certainly hesitate before acting.
The war in Gaza has definitely strengthened the right in Israel, namely Bibi Netanyahu of Likud, in the upcoming election. While Tzipi Livni did a reasonable job, and Ehud Barak is credited with revitalizing the IDF for an effective campaign against Hamas, the predictions of Netanyahu, that the IDF would have to be unleashed against Hamas and the need to press the advantage of having conquered most of Gaza, have resounded in Israeli ears. We know that the Gaza campaign should have been waged several years ago, instead of taking this constant barrage of rockets, and we know that Olmert and Livni will "withdraw" in the face of international pressure and leave us back almost where we started. While most Israelis supported the war as a means to stop the rockets and deter Hamas, we also mostly know that Likud would have done it sooner and better.
(I take this title from David Bedein, Israel Resource Center, Sderot).

Hamas ceasefire?

After one day to show their defiance, Hamas backed down and announced their own ceasefire a day after Israel announced it's unilateral ceasefire. In a formal statement read in Damascus their spokesman announced a separate unilateral ceasefire, starting today but lasting for one week only. Their condition is that if the IDF are not out of Gaza by then they will re-start hostilities. Since Israel does not recognize Hamas, this announcement will have no effect on Israel Government decisions.
Meanwhile an international conference, minus the USA that is right in the middle of the transfer from Bush to Obama, met in Sharm-al-Sheikh, under the co-sponsorship of Egypt and France. You could consider this Egypt's response to the rump Arab League session held in Doha last week that was dominated by Iran and its allies.
Although I do not know what was accomplished at this session other than a photo op, the main Heads of State (Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Czech) will stop over in Jerusalem tomorrow to meet with Israel Govt. officials. No doubt they will discuss the MoU signed by FM TZipi Livni and Secty of State Rice, her last official act, to jointly act to stop the smuggling of arms and rockets into Gaza from Iran. It should be remembered that Egypt signed a pact with Israel in 2005 to do just that, but failed miserably to carry out its responsibility. However, now that the US and the other nations have joined the fray, maybe there will be a more serious Egyptian effort. There is soemthing in the offing about building a high concrete fence (like the Israeli security fence) to stop infiltration from Gaza and dug deep enough into the sand to prevent tunnels being dug under it. I doubt that they can stop them altogether, but at least there's a more serious intent this time, after Israel has shown what it will do if the rockets continue. Also, George Brown of Britain has suggested setting up an international flotilla to patrol the Gaza coast to prevent the smugglng of weapons by sea. Unfortunately, it takes a war before they notice the situation, then they all reush to get in on the act.
If all of these meetings end in an agreement that satisfies Israel's conditions that there must be an unconditional ceasefire with no rockets being fired into Israel (two were fired today) and a cessation of smuggling of weapons into Gaza, and if a sufficiently long duration of the ceasefire can be indirectly agreed, then Operation Cast Lead will have resulted in peace of a kind for a while. Note, it is Israel that wants peace while Hamas wants eternal and continuous war against Israel.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


After three weeks of a major military campaign throughout Gaza, the Israel Govt. today annnounced a unilateral ceasefire. The Israeli Security Cabinet accepted the Egyptian proposal for a unilateral ceasefire during which further negotiations can occur. Hamas has set certain conditions for a ceasefire that Israel is not prepared to accept, for example a one-year term to the ceasefire and the immediate opening of the crossings without any means of monitoring them. Although PM Olmert declared that all Israel's goals have been met, this is not certain. The cessation of rocket fire into Israel depends on Hamas accepting and adhering to the ceasefire, but a Hamas spokesman in Turkey gave a press conference saying that Hamas will continue fighting until all IDF soldiers leave Gaza. However, it is not clear that he represents Hamas in Gaza and Israeli agencies suggest that Hamas having been hit so hard will need time to ascertain their situation and regroup.
Apart from generally destroying the infrastructure of Hamas the killing of Said Siam announced Friday was a major coup for the IDF. Siam was the No. 2 man of Hamas in Gaza and was the Head of Intelligence and the effective Minister of the Interior. He was a well-known and feared extremist who was responsible for the deaths of ca. 700 Fatah men when Hamas took over from Fatah in a bloody coup in 2007. Those who harbor the illusion that Hamas was elected democratically can ask any Fatah member what he thinks. In Ramallah there was rejoicing at Siam's death and many comments praised Israel for doing Allah's will. In fact it is rumored that Fatah collaborated with Israel in finding him hiding at his brother's house. If that is so it could affect Fatah's standing negatively among Palestinians as a collaborator of Israel.
The leadership of Hamas in Gaza has been significantly degraded and so they have sent representatives to negotiate with the Head of Intelligence in Egypt. This represents a change in policy of Hamas towards a ceasefire agreement. At the same time, at an Arab League meeting held in Doha, Qatar, the Head of Hamas in Damascus, Khaled Mashaal, was denouncing the Egyptians for negotiating with Israel and stating that Hamas will never agree to any terms with Israel. He may want to continue to fight on, but the Hamas leadership in Gaza are more pragmatic, they know that they are beaten. So there is a definite split in Hamas.
It is noteworthy that neither Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arab nor Pres. Abbas of the PA attended the hastily called meeting of the Arab League in Doha, although Pres. Ahmedinejad of Iran was there. This represents a true split in the Arab world, with the Sunni "moderates" versus the Sunni extremists allying with Shia Iran. Egypt preferred not to attend rather than have criticism heaped on it for trying to negotiate an indirect ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. It is irrational that these "rejectionists" prefer to see Hamas destroyed by IDF force than accept a ceasefire, but that is their extremist policy.
Meanwhile the Israeli triumvirate of PM Olmert, FM Livni and DM Barak although they all supported the ceasefire, are also showing signs of division. Each has to think of the upcoming election (that may be postponed) and their standing in their respective party. Livni has been criticized for not attending the recent UN Security Council meeting, where Secty of State Rice spoke. But, instead she rushed off to the US yesterday to sign a MoU with Rice that commits the US to share in the efforts to stop the smuggling of weapons and rockets from Iran via Sudan and Egypt into Gaza. There will be an international meeting at very high level in Sharm-el-Shiekh in Egypt today to discuss the situation.
So while there is a ceasefire, with Hamas showing signs of a split, if they do not accept the ceasefire and continue firing rockets into Israel, then the IDF will have no alternative but to continue to hit back.

Israeli deterrence

Why did the allies bomb Dresden to smithereens at the end of WWII? The official reason given was that it was an important railway junction for German troops going East. But, actually this was an excuse. It was known that Dresden, because it was a railway junction, had become a major center for refugees seeking safety, because they thought that Dresden being a beautiful old city with no important industries would be spared bombing by the Allies. Actually they made a mistake, because the Allies had not declared that Dresden was a "safe" city, and they bombed it to rubble in February, 1944, near the end of the War. The ostensible reason for this was to show the Russians, who were just then approaching Dresden, that the Western Democratic Allies would stoop to ruthless destruction if necessary, and this was a strong message to Josef Stalin, "don't mess with us!"
When the Russian forces arrived at Dresden they were surprised that there was no resistance and then they saw the extent of the damage (this was just before the A-bombs were ready) and they were very impressed. As it happens this was one of the major war crimes of WWII, because ca. 50,000 innocent civilians were killed in the 100 bomber raids that rained bombs on Dresden day and night (the British by night and the US by day), until there was a fire storm that incinerated everything within the city for miles.
Two unfortunate Allied prisoners who happened to witness this travesty were David Irving, who partly as a result of this became pro-German and wrote the book "The Destruction of Dresden" and Kurt Vonnegut, who became a pacifist and wrote "Slaughterhouse five" about his experience. Notably no-one was tried for this crime against humanity, after all we were the winning side. Now the nations that carried out this raid are criticising Israel for, what is it, 250 civilian casualties in a 22 day war? That is truly ridiculous!
The US adopted a similar approach in the war on Iraq, using the "shock and awe" strategy, namely overwhelming force to cause such extensive destruction as to reduce the enemy to a state of inaction.
In Gaza, the destruction to infrastructure, including government buildings, rocket workshops and stores, mosques (where rockets and other military equipment were stored), houses of Hamas leaders, tunnels, and so on, is truly impressive. The same went for the destruction of Hizbollah infrastructure in south Lebanon by the IAF in 2006, for example their center in south Beirut was practically flattened. These levels of destruction by the IAF were deliberate, and are undoubtedly sending a message to the enemy "don't step on me!" (as the Californians put it). In other words, taking a lesson from the Dresden example of the Allies against Stalin, huge destruction of infratructure is a good way of conveying a message, we are serious, we mean business. Now Hizbollah, that I am sure ached to get in on the side of Hamas in this fight, were deterred, and in future we hope that Hamas will be deterred. If they are not yet, and they refuse to accept the ceasefire, then they will reap the consequences.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Staged casualties

There are many complaints aimed at Israel from holier-than-thou liberals in the West: That Israel is aggressive, after all we only waited 8 years before responding to Hamas firing rockets into our territory in order to kill and maim our citizens.
That Israel is killing mainly civilians, or actually targeting women and children. But, of course all casualty figures coming out of Gaza are Hamas controlled and are unverified by any neutral agency, but are nevertheless repeated without verification by the media and by the British Foreign Minister. The IDF figures are more reliable, as they have been before, although some might not think so, time will tell. They agree that just over 1,000 people have been killed in 22 days of fighting, but according to the IDF, 75% of them were Hamas fighters, while 25% of them were civilians. Hamas says that 25% alone were children and another 25% were other civilians. But, this just doesn't make sense given that there is intense fighting going on and most of the casualties in IDF fights are young men, and the IDF definitely do not target children! And Gaza is not that crowded.
We see graphic pictures all day long of people dying and blood, of children being carried into hospitals. Do you know how many of them are true or faked? If you don't believe that Hamas and others fake such pictures you are very naieve. For example...
An example of how Hamas propaganda is fooling the media. Warning: unclear quality & quite gruesome.

A doctor comments: "I'm no military expert, but I am a doctor, and this video is b******t. The chest compressions that were being performed at the beginning of this video were absolutely, positively fake. The large man in the white coat was NOT performing CPR on that child. He was just sort of tapping on the child's sternum a little bit with his fingers. You can't make blood flow like that. Furthermore, there's no point in doing chest compressions if you're not also ventilating the patient somehow. " Note that they say the boy is dead, but still try reviving him...bad acting.

CNN have since pulled this video. More at:

So you see some of the videos you are watching and accepting at face value are faked, they are playing with your sympathy. Why, because they know that they can on the basis of previous evidence, for example, the so-called "Jenin Massacre" that never was, because of the Mohammed Dura incident that has been proven to be a hoax, because of the instances in Lebanon where a man was both a live Ambulance driver and a dead civilian, because of the dead children who then moved, because of the bomb clouds that were duplicated to make the shot appear worse than it was, because of the faked Israeli rockets in Lebanon that were cardboard, etc. etc.. These show a consistent pattern of Palestinian faking and acting for the international press that lap this up, remember "if it bleeds it leads." But, this attitude is definitely biased, since Israel does not allow the cameras into hospitals and operating rooms, so there is less blood to show, and we try to keep our children safe in shelters. And when there is an Israeli casualty there are fewer cameras there to record it. Every civilian casualty is a tragedy, especially children, but don't be fooled by fake Hamas propaganda.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Life goes on

Life goes on during the war in Gaza. Last week we went to three concerts. On Tues evening we went to the performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Yeoman of the Guard" in Ra'anana, that was excellent. Then on Sat night we went to the final (the third "final") performance of Stanley Ross and the "Stompers," a great Dixieland Jazz band. Stanley has been playing in Israel for more than 20 years and is a well known performer. He plays trumpet and started in Glasgow, where he played for the Duke of York, the Earl of Essex and many other pubs. In Israel he plays regularly at the British Embassy parties for the Queen's birthday. Now that he is older, Stanley is not in the best of health and needs to retire, but he keeps coming back for one more time. He has a lineup of excellent musicians, from all over, Scotland, England, America, France and Israel. When they let rip its like facing a musical tsunami. Then on Monday noon we went to our usual Shearim concert where we had a quartet, three strings from the Israel Philharmonic and a flautist, beautiful. Quite an eclectic mix.
On Tuesday we got a call that the husband of one of Naomi's cousins in Jerusalem had died. Moshe was a member of the Ministry of Education in Jerusalem and set curricula and chose text books before he retired. He was very well liked and wrote poetry in his spare time and published two books of poetry. Some of his poems were read at his funeral that was held in a small Kibbutz in the center of the country near Petach Tikva. Our daughter Miriam stayed with Pat and Moshe when she first came to Israel many years ago and was friends with their daughter and so she came to the funeral. At the end Moshe suffered a lot, but he was a fighter and the last time we saw him about a month ago he said that he would never give up without a fight. The funeral was held in a beautiful rustic setting, with many trees and nice weather. There were some eulogies and his poems were read in Hebrew and then a final farewell at the graveside. He was a very nice, charming and intelligent man.
We used the opportunity, since Miriam drove up from Beersheva for the funeral, of transferring our grandchildren and taking them back with us to Netanya. There are several movements in the country, both collecting food parcels for the soldiers and for taking children in from the south of the country in order to give them a break from the rockets and the shelters. So we did our bit, we have our two younger grandkids staying with us, and they are a delight. At the moment they are watching the new movie "Horton" that tells the Dr. Seuss story of "Horton hears a Who." Watching part of it (only for a brief second) I realized that the Who are based on the Jews, a small powerless people beset with great troubles, who have a great and powerful protector, only in this case its a large elephant. Well, you can't always choose.

Hitting the UN

Israel has received strenuous complaints about hitting UN compounds and buildings in Gaza. I and the State are sorry if people were sheltering there, thinking that it was a safe place and then they became casualties of the war. But, as far as the UN buildings are concerned I am not that unhappy that they were hit and/or destroyed. The UN is no friend to Israel, and their calls for an "immediate ceasefire" are certainly aimed at stopping the IDF's progress rather than impacting on Hamas. When Ban Ki-Moon, the Secty. Gen. of the UN was in Tel Aviv and heard that the UN headquarters in Gaza, a huge complex, was hit, he was extremely angry and lambasted the IDF for its actions. Defense Minister Barak apologized in response, but pointed out that our forces said that Hamas gunmen were firing at them from those locations and they are trained to fire back.
It is not true that the IDF declared any buildings, whether UN or otherwise, as "safe houses." Only the UN themselves decided that, and even though they may have contacted the IDF, they were never told that it was safe to house many people there. Also, Hamas knows this and so they deliberately shoot from the UN and other buildings, thus inviting an IDF response and then claim that the IDF causes civilian casualties. Of course, I would rather that the IDF soldiers did not target these building, but I am no soldier and I am not in the heat of battle and I don't know how a soldier can distinguish one target from another.
The Director of UNRWA in Gaza was also white with rage when he reported that the UNRWA compound in central Gaza City was going up in flames. I was quite pleased by this, since I have been against UNRWA for many years. Not only is UNRWA institutionally a Palestinian organization (most of its workers are Palestinians and many are members of Hamas) and is definitely anti-Israel, but they are unfair to all other refugees in the world. According to regulations of the UNHCR (UN High Commission for Refugees) that deals with all refugees in the world except the Palestinians, a refugee is one who left a country, either voluntarily or by force. But his/her offspring born in another country are not refugees. Only the Palestinians, under UNRWA rules, remain refugees forever, unto the third and fourth generations. Not only is this unfair to all other refugees, but the Palestinians receive infinitely more money per person than any other refugees. This is because the Arabs have politicized the fate of the Palestinians, and UNRWA exists to keep the Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and elsewhere as permanent UN dependents. Why 60 years after the Israel War of Independence is the UN still "feeding" and responsible for 750,000 "refugees" in Gaza? But, don't think that the Arab States foot the bill for UNRWA, far from it, no it's the West that does, for example the US pays one third of the UNRWA bill, but separately from other UN obligations. In order to resolve the Israel-Palestine dispute one of the first things that needs to be done is to close down UNRWA and transfer the original refugees (a few thousand left) to the UNHCR. By the way, all "Palestinians" living in Jordan are Jordanian citizens, so they are not "refugees" anyway! Its a real scam!
So I am not unhappy that the UNRWA compound in Gaza is burning down, and I hope they never rebuild it. But, don't worry, this does not affect the delivery of humanitarian goods to the Gaza people, since the warehouses are separate and they are full! Since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead the IDF has allowed 1,136 trucks into Gaza carrying 2,600 tons of supplies. They have also repaired the electricity and water mains that supply those essentials throughout Gaza. Even though the continuation of the fighting prevents the ready distribution of goods the IDF today allowed a 4 hour humanitarian ceasefire for this purpose.
Meanwhile Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel. Yesterday 17 rockets were fired, two Grads hitting Beersheva causing 7 casualties, including a 7 year old boy who was sheltering with his mother by the roadside when her car was hit and they were shredded by shrapnel, including ball bearings, deliberately inserted to cause human casualties. Also, yesterday one of the rockets that fell on Ashkelon was a white phosphorous bomb, which is illegal in international law. Israel uses white phosphorous only for illumination, since it burns with a very bright light, and this use is legal. But, Israel got all the criticism and you know where from, the UN Commission for Human Rights. Where else?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Propaganda canards

In his speeech before Parliament on Monday Jan 12, British Foreign Minister David Milliband declared that the IDF's attack on Gaza is "disproportionate." But, in Helmand province in Afghanistan and formerly in Basra in Iraq, British forces have used exactly the same proportions to fight Islamist rebels. They have used armoured vehicles, tanks, high powered machine guns, canon, and air support against fighters armed only with guns and RPGs. So in relation to the accusation of use of "disproportionate force," I accuse David Milliband, the British Government and the British people of gross hypocrisy. Let your soldiers go out with only guns and RPGs to fight a ruthless enemy, and then we'll consider doing it.
Further, the British have killed many civilians in these actions, partly because it is impossible to prosecute a war against terrorists who are embedded amongst the population without causing civilian casualties. Although I don't know the exact proportions in either case, the IDF in Gaza or the British forces in Helmand, or for that matter the US forces in Iraq, I doubt that the proportions of civilian casualties are very different.
By the way, you cannot accept the exaggerated casualty figures given out in Gaza, because there is no independent verification and further Hamas fighters wear civilian clothes and so are deliberately counted as civilians. Would you accept a casualty figure put out by the Taliban or al Qaeda?
Also, the Palestinians are experts at media distortion, for example the so-called Israeli "massacre" of civilians in Jenin on the West Bank in 2002, where eye-witnesses described Israeli soldiers shooting down civilians, but it never happened! All this of course is just negligible compared to the shedding of innocent blood carried out by the UK and US in bombing raids over Germany during WWII and the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I once spent an anxious time speaking with a group of Japanese over dinner after I gave a lecture at a research company in Japan. One of them asked me what I thought about the dropping of the A-bombs and I said that I supported it, and that if, as the US argued, it shortened the war and saved ca. 1 million US casualties to take the Japanese islands, then it was justified. I was met with a stoney silence. So it's OK for the US to kill 100,000 or more civilians in one go, but Israel mustn't kill ca. 300 in a war in 18 days. What claptrap!
These accusations of "excessive force," "war crimes" and "massacres" by Israel have been taken up enthusiastically by the Muslim world and by the predominantly liberal West. There is little doubt that these accusations, rarely subjected to careful analysis or independent verification, are based largely on anti-Semitic stereotypes that regard Jews as "demonic," as derived from both Christian and Muslim traditions. However, while I of course deplore and oppose these false accusations, I don't care about them as much as I used to. I prefer to point out that no one is coming to the aid of Hamas in Gaza, not even their few friends, and while the accusations and sensationalism fly, the IDF is busily cleaning up the cesspit that is Gaza from its nest of thugs and terrorists.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Egyptian role

Egypt has a crucial role in the current war in Gaza, and it is playing both sides of the fence.
Pres. Mubarak was acting as an intermediary in the talks between Pres. Abbas of the PA and the Hamas leadership of PM Haniyeh in Gaza and Khaled Mashaal in Damascus. He was also trying to persuade Hamas to renew the ceasefire (tardiyah) with Israel before it expired in December. But Hamas did not bother to show up for the intra-Palestinian talks and rejected calls for a continuation of the ceasefire, instead increasing the number and range of the rockets being fired into Israel. Israel could not tolerate this, but it is noteworthy that FM Tzipi Livni went to Cairo and met with Mubarak days before the IAF started its aerial campaign against Gaza.
Mubarak has kept the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza closed ever since, and has allowed only very few injured casualties to enter Egypt. Further he has not allowed any food or medical supplies into Gaza. Yet it is Israel, that is allowing hundreds of trucks thru its crossings with Gaza (800 since the war started), that receives all the criticism. While Mubarak is chastising Israel for causing a humanitarian crisis, he has kept the Rafah crossing closed, what hypocrisy! Neither the UN nor any media have citicized Mubarak for this.
Further, in 2005 it was agreed between Israel, Egypt and the PA that the Rafah and Karni crossings would be kept open but with EU monitors as well as Israeli TV monitoring in Rafah. Also, Egypt agreed to stop all smuggling thru tunnels into Gaza. However, it was futile to allow Israel's security to be in the hands of the Egyptians. What happened was that Hamas took over in 2007, killed the PA guards, and opened the crossing without any hindrance to Palestinian movement. Mubarak could not accept this, and although he used it as propaganda against Israel (he was allowing the Gazans to have free movement), he quickly clamped down, brought in armed guards and closed the crossing. He has vowed that he will not open it until the PA is back in charge of the crossing and he will not accept international monitors on Egyptian soil. That means that whoever is in charge of Gaza must accept such an international presence in Gaza, but clearly Hamas will never agree to that. So there is an impasse on the Arab side, that can only be solved if Hamas is toppled and the PA is reinstated in control of Gaza. And who do they expect to accomplish this, why Israel of course!
So Mubarak, while criticizing Israel for its actions in Gaza, is depending on Israel to remove Hamas and replace it with the PA. How this is supposed to happen is unclear. The advantage of having the PA in charge is that there is already an agreement with them including international monitors for the Rafah crossing. Also, Egypt is strongly against Hamas because it is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is his main opposition within Egypt, and doesn't want them on his border, and further he is strongly against the influence of Iran in the region. Because of the friction between Egypt and Hamas, the Turkish PM Erdoglu has been mediated between them!
Nevertheless, while the crossing was closed the number of tunnels under the Egyptian-Gaza border skyrocketed, there were at least 200 of them, maybe 400, and some of them were large enough to bring livestock and rockets through. Presumably the Egyptians did not close them down because they were earning large sums of money from this illegal trade, and the money no doubt comes from Iran and the EU.
Now that Israel has destroyed most of these tunnels and will not accept a return to the status quo ante, where Egypt turns a blind eye to the illegal and damaging weapons trade, Mubarak himself has stated that this smuggling should stop. Nevertheless there seems to be no practical way that this can be accomplished unless the Rafah crossing is open, and for Mubarak this requires the PA to be in charge and international monitors stationed in Gaza, which Hamas would nto accept. So we are back to square one. Israel cannot accomplish one of its major war aims, i.e. after stopping the rockets being fired, stopping the smuggling of weapons from Egypt. How this can be accomplished to obtain a "durable, lasting and effective ceasefire" seems beyond rational possibility.
However, Egypt is now in the key position to negotiate the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas (which refuse to deal with each other) called for in UN SC Resolution 1860. He has also been dubbed the official intermediary by the Arab League, thus giving their responsibility to him. Therefore Mubarak may be in a key position to give the IDF enough time to destroy the capability of Hamas to control Gaza and then somehow engineer the return of the PA. It seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened.

Proxy war

While Israel and Hamas are the actual combatants in Gaza, the war is a proxy war between the USA and Iran, being fought by their respective allies. This is similar to the previous wars that Israel fought, for example against Egypt when it was a Soviet ally, and the Second Lebanon War in 2006 fought between Israel and the Iranian proxy Hizbollah.
When the USA abstained on UN Security Council Resolution 1860 and the other Western countries support the resolution calling for an "immediate" ceasefire (while Hamas is still intact), they are demonstrating their detachment from Israel and from its war against a terrorist entity supported by the Islamist enemy of all Western States, namely Iran. They can afford to do that because it is Israel's people and army that is bearing the brunt of the fighting. It certainly reminds one of the policies of Britain and other Western countries in relation to German hegemony of Czechoslovakia and Spain prior to WWII, namely appeasement.
Meanwhile Iran is busy developing its nuclear weapons that the US, France and Britain have vowed it must never be allowed to develop. But, the Western States are much too busy compromising with Arab interests and placating their domestic public, made up of a significant and noisy Muslim minority as well as an influential liberal class that is inherently pro-Palestinian, who tolerate whatever terrorism they may carry out against the Jews (since they are the "colonial, imperialist occupiers"!).
In this environment, with the media displaying their usual pro-Palestinian bias, the longer the conflict goes on, the more successful the IDF is, the more the voices become raised to save the poor Palestinian women and children. Don't they realise that they are dupes of one of the most successful PR campaigns in history, that supports an anti-liberal, fascist agenda! Apparently not, since they go along with Palestinian and Hamas flags raised and tender feelings. Certainly some of them were concerned when British and American forces killed thousands of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, but most of them could hardly care less. Now when the Israelis are doing it (to a much lesser degree) they must show how incensed they are. How many of them showed any concern for the hundreds of civilians killed by British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan nor for the disproportional force used there?
It is certainly a pity that Israel gets such bad press, especially given the attempts to avoid civilian casualties (of course some automaticlaly discount this) when they actually telephone Gazans (over 100,000 phone calls have been made) to warn them to leave their houses, and drop flyers to advise them to avoid Hamas sites and to stay off the streets, as well as allow hundreds of trucks carrying supplies into Gaza (under UN supervision). I know it's not enough, it never is, and I know that mistakes occur and innocent people are killed. But, that is not the intent, unlike most other armies. But, the fascists of course will have none of this, Israel is the hated enemy and can do nothing right.
There is a choice that Israel can make, to stop the fighting immediately, and save some lives, and get improved media coverage (although not by much) and grateful liberal support (not likely), or press on with their military campaign in order to inflict as much damage as possibleon the evil enemy Hamas now that they have the opportunity. Around 90% of all Israelis support continuing the war until the rockets stop and Hamas is badly damaged and not to accept any ceasefire unless it includes cessation of rockets and smuggling of weapons. This is the rational, pragmatic and expedient thing to do, and I hope the current Government, for all its faults, will not shrink from that task.

Monday, January 12, 2009

What really happened?

Several incidents have occurred during the fighting in Gaza that have been labeled "war crimes" by UN agencies and that have been used to batter Israel in the media. If you read or watch some of the Western media you might think that one day the Israel Government woke up and decided to attack Gaza in order to kill as many civilians as possible. Of course, the fact that the blame actually lies with Hamas for initiating the war with rocket barrages and using civilians as human shields is almost completely ignored.
Some incidents that have happened have been obscured by the "fog of war" but nevertheless have been turned by clever pro-Palestinian PR, often by UN agencies, into anti-Israel propaganda. Consider one example, there was a story that ca. 120 civilians had been "rounded up" by the IDF and sent into a large building that they were told was "safe", that was shelled 24 hr later killing 30 (or 40) of them. What actually happened according to an investigative report in the Jerusalem Post (Jan 11) is that an IDF soldier knocked on the door of a Samouni family in Zeitoun and advised them to leave their house since it was not safe to remain there. They left and wandered for a while and then joined other members of the clan for a total of ca. 40 in a warehouse owned by one of the Samouni clan. The next morning several of the men of the clan opened the front gate of the warehouse to go and look for food. Apparently they were seen by IDF soldiers, who fired on them killing two and subsequently the building was hit by IDF ordnance. Of those in the building about 15 were killed and others were moved by the Red Cross to several hospitals. Noone really knows the actual numbers, but at no time did the IDF "round up" or tell civilians that a particular building was "safe" (the IDF denies ever doing this type of thing). This information was obtained by interviews of two members of the Samouni clan in hospitals in Gaza who were in the warehouse that was hit. It was the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) that was the source for the original story and accusations. They offered no actual evidence for their version. They also claim that the IDF deliberately prevented Red Cross workers from reaching the building after the incident, which the IDF denies.
Another example of media distortion is the killing of an UNRWA aid worker on a truck last Thursday, that caused the UN to halt all deliveries of food and medical supplies throughout Gaza. According to the UN account the IDF fired a shell into one of the trucks at the Erez crossing. However, two injured aid workers sitting near the dead man were shot with bullets and not injured by a shell. Further, the IDF found no evidence that any of its members fired on the convoy, which would be very unlikely anyway since the convoy was just leaving the Erez crossing with the cooperation of the IDF. At present noone knows for sure who fired at the convoy, but it was not the IDF and was probably Hamas. However, for this incident the UN agency stopped all convoys and all deliveries and of course accused Israel of the attack, which was widely reported. As of today after discussions with the IDF, the UN has decided to restart convoys of trucks to deliver supplies in Gaza.
Another incident is the shelling of a UN school where 30 (or 40) were killed, that the UNRWA denies was being used for firing at IDF troops, while the IDF maintains that a crew were firing mortars at them from the school yard. However, the video the IDF released was of a mortar being fired from a UN school yard in 2006. Although it is well known that Hamas and other terrorists have operated from UN schools in the past and have used them for weapons storage, in this case there is no definite evidence either way so far.
In another kind of media distortion, it has been reported by several reputable media organizations, including the Guardian newspaper, that Pres. Obama when in office will deal with Hamas by opening a dialog with them as the only means to come to terms with them. This has been officially denied by the chief Obama spokeswoman, Brooke Anderson, who pointed out that Pres.elect Obama has stated repeatedly that he will not deal with terrorist organizations like Hamas, and that the original story was "unsourced."
So beware, everything you read or see in the media is not necessarily what it appears to be ("it ain't necessarily so") and might be tainted by the prevalent anti-Israel bias.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


The Jews are a tribe, at least what is left of us. In the ruthless competition for space that is tribal warfare, the Jews lost out early on, and were dispersed and would have disappeared like many other tribes, if it were not for the strong identity of our culture, religion and memory of our own country.
Tribal warfare underlies the National wars of the twentieth century. Was not Hitler appealing to the tribal instincts of the German people when he invoked Gotterdammerung and Aryan mythology. Even Stalin (of Georgian origin) did not shrink from adopting "greater Russian patriotism" to support his control of the USSR. In the Balkans, the hatreds of Catholic Croats, Orthodox Serbians and Muslim Bosnians have stoked the fires of tribal wars for centuries.
In the nineteenth century a more liberal and universalist view developed, namely that all nations are made up of mixed tribal groups and we have to learn to live with each other, and democracy gives us the best way of doing that. This view was both propounded by and supported by a large proportion of Jews living in Central Europe and elsewhere. However, it was not adopted by the tribes they lived amongst, Germans, Poles, Hungarians, Lithuanians, etc. and so when the opportunity arose they turned on the Jews and murdered them.
The alternative view of a Jewish future was not to depend on other tribes for our safety, but rather to fight for our own native country, namely Zionism. Zionism has been a success, Israel now has a population of over 6 million Jews and a flourishing State and economy. We are caught in a tribal war with a segment of the Arab people that call themselves Palestinians. Although this is a relatively new designation, it allows them to consider themselves a tribe. In tribal wars the usual process is that you kill as many of the enemy as possible, in order to wipe out their numbers and prevent them ever being a threat again. That's what was done to the Jews time and time again, and this was the attitude in the Balkans quite recently, for example the massacre of Muslims at Srebrenice. But, in its wars in the 20th and 21st centuries, Israel has made every effort to avoid civilian casualties. Nevertheless, when fighting a terrorist army embedded within the civilain population, civilian casualties are unavoidable.
Now you get a clash between the liberal Jews in the West, who believe in universalist values, are against war and bloodshed, and hold these views partly because they want to fit into the prevalent culture where they reside, a form of camouflage, and the Jews of Israel who see war with our enemies who want to destroy us as a necessity. We are no more blood thirsty than they are, Israel is also a "western" state with the same basic values. But, give me a break, we have to fight these bastards, and if they choose to fight with their women and children by their side, and if they choose to brainwash their children that Jews are their enemies to be fought, then if they are killed in the fighting or in the crossfore, then so be it! That is the price that they have to pay for wanting and trying to kill all of us.
Many may speculate on what Israel will have gained by this war, as if it could have been avoided after 8 years of trying to avoid it, including withdrawing all our people and soldiers from Gaza and accepting continuous rocket bombardment. But, one thing that hopefully will come from it is a recognition by our enemies that we don't intend to go easily. We have survived so far and we intend to continue.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Pious platitudes

The most recent maneuver in the war in Gaza is the passing by the UN Security Council of a Resolution calling on both sides for an immediate ceasefire. It passed 14-0 with the US abstaining. However, it was summarily rejected by the Hamas leader in Damascus, Khaled Mashaal, who said that it was not in the interests of the Palestinian people and they were not represented in its drafting. That is of course true, since Gaza is not a country, even though Hamas controls it, and Hamas is recognized as a terrorist organization by the UN. Israel also rejected the resolution calling it "unworkable" since it includes no means to monitor and or safeguard the implementation of the Resolution. In other words, the Resolution is pious platitudes, that the pro-Arabists and the liberals of the world want to hear, but can accomplish nothing tangible.
Egypt and France are also working on a potential resolution by dealing with Hamas, and both Hamas and Israel have sent representatives to Cairo for talks. However, while Pres. Mubarak of Egypt has criticized Hamas for splitting the Palestinain people and rejecting the continuation of the ceasefire with Israel and increasing its rocket attacks on Israel in December, 2008, he was also critical of Israel. This is because of the pressure of his public opinion. He told Israel that it "must" accept the UN resolution, but did not threaten what will happen if it did not.
This is a familair situation to all Israelis and observers of the Middle East, we have had a lot of experience with this situation after the wars of 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, and 2006. First, the Arab side precipitates a war, usually by a direct attack on Israel. Then Israel responds with greater force, and is about to overwhelm the agressors, when along comes the UN and other interested international organizations and say that "we" must have a ceasesfire and "we" must stop all the carnage, etc. Of course, the media reports biased accounts of civilian casualties (but never the number of armed enemies of Israel who are killed). Then they bring pressure on Israel (but not the Arab side) to stop the war. The consequence is that the situation is "frozen in place" for more years, until the Arab side decide to repeat the process, on the chance that this time they may win. They always start out believing their own propaganda, that they will win, either because Arabs are naturally great, or Allah is on their side. One definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over again and expecting a different outcome.
Both Egypt and Jordan gave it their best shots and upon realizing that they could never win, and with rulers responsible enough to admit this, they finally made peace with Israel. Syria was also defeated, and although they did not make peace with Israel, they have not attacked Israel again since 1973. But, Hamas is not a country, neither is it really interested in Palestinian rights, but rather in destroying in Israel and forming a Caliphate. Consequently, just like Jordan and Egypt, but even more so, they must be defeated in order to render their ideology transparently futile. Although their adherents may never be able to admit this, others can and may then turn away from them.
If the IDFwere allowed to finish the war to its bitter end, to rout Hamas and destroy their military capability completely, then there might be the possibility of a peaceful outcome, but that is as usual unlikely to happen.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Your move

The Gaza situation is like a large chessboard. As well as Israeli soldiers fighting Hamas terrorists, there are political moves that take place in stages. First, the International Red Cross and UNWRA protest that there is a humanitarian crisis and not enough food and medical aid is getting in. Israel sends in about 100 trucks of essential supplies a day, but the UN agencies claim this is not enough and that it is not being distributed effectively inside Gaza because of the fighting. So Israel institutes a 3 hour truce every day in order to distribute the supplies. Then the UN sends in convoys of trucks carrying supplies, but one is shot at and a Palestinian UN worker is killed. So then the UN blames Israel and stops the convoys. But, Israel says that they had coordinated the convoys with their troops, so maybe Hamas shot at the convoy.
Then the UN Security Council ignores the Libyan/Arab League resolution that blames only Israel and agrees on a more balanced British drafted resolution that is supported by the US, France and Egypt (that is not on the SC, but mediating on the side). Now the Israeli Cabinet is today considering this resolution, which does call for a withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, but not until Hamas stops all firing of rockets and smuggling of arms. How is this to be policed? That is not specified, but could be by some international force (including Turkey). Meanwhile the IDF continues its drive in the third phase of the Gaza operation (Phase 1 was the air attacks, phase 2 was the initial ground attack, phase 3 is expanding the ground attack throughout Gaza). It is likely that Israel will accept a ceasefire as long as Hamas does and may not reach all its final goals, but has done enough damage and inflicted enough harm on Hamas to give it a strong message. However, Hamas is by no means "destroyed" (which was not one of the initial stated aims of Operation Cast Lead), its fighting forces are largely intact and its main leaders still in hiding, and if the IDF withdraws, but only with a Hamas ceasefire, the situation will return to the status quo ante, as with Hizbollah in Lebanon. However, both Hizbollah and Hamas in the future will hesitate before they again act to precipitate Israeli reaction. So now the next move in Gaza is up to Israel.
I was asked where the name "cast lead" comes from, was it something to do with a theatrical production? No, it comes from a Chanukah poem by Haim Nahman Bialik about dreidels, that when he was a child he preferred the ones of cast lead that spun the best.
I suggest that if Israel had decided to air drop food and medical supplies into Gaza, that might have avoided the whole business of insufficient supplies/humanitarian crisis and difficult distribution, etc. However, the problem arises in all cases of Hamas taking the supplies for themselves (they are after all terrorist thugs) and depriving the civilian population of the supplies. This is undoubtedly happening, but no UN spokesman comments on that as the reason why civilians are not getting supplies.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

In the center

It struck me while writing my previous blog, that three generations of my family have now hidden in Shelters. I did, from German bombs during WWII in the East End of London. I still remember hiding under a table when the siren went off warning of an attack, and running like mad down the stairs to get to the concrete shelter out in the yard of our apartment block (flats). My daughter and grandchildren in Beersheva are sheltering from Hamas rockets from Gaza. There is a shelter about 45 secs run from their home (about the length of the alarm), but my daughter twisted her foot running into it. I told her that she is a casualty of war. Two Grad missiles hit Beersheva yesterday, out of 31 fired into Israel, but noone was badly injured. Today one hit Ben Gurion University.
Today 3 rockets hit northern Israel form Lebanon. One hit an old people's home in Nahariya, although miraculously noone was injured. Israel responded with mortars into Lebanon. For those of us who live in central Israel, beyond the range of the Grad rockets from Gaza and from Lebanon, life continues more or less as normal. Last night we went out to a performance of Gilbert & Sullivan's "Yeoman of the Guard" in Ra'anana put on by the Jerusalem English Speaking Theatre (JEST). The show was excellent and the singing superb. It does help to take one's mind off the situation for a while. At the outset the performers dedicated the perfomance to our soldiers serving at the front, and at the end we all sang a rousing version of the national anthem Hatikvah (The Hope).
We tend, of course, to focus on Gaza, but there is a wider perspective. There is little doubt that the war in Gaza, that arose from Hamas' deliberate ratcheting up of the rocket war after the ceasefire (hudniyah) expired, was planned by Iran, and is a side-show. Certainly Pres. Mubarak of Egypt was angry about this Hamas action, and attributed it to the influence of Iran in the region. Some have suggested that this war was intended to take the world's mind off the Iranian nuclear program. There is always the possibility that Hizbollah, another proxy of Iran, will be unleashed on Israel too, as it was in 2006. But, having experienced the might of the IAF then, they are less likely to do so, maybe preferring to keep them in reserve in case Israel attacks Iran directly because of its nuclear weapons development. Hizbollah denies having fired the three rocketsw last night. Nevertheless Israel has called up thousands of reserves, who are sitting in readiness in the north in case Hizbollah tries to open a second front, as they did in 2006.
Meahwhile, we in the center continue our lives and hope that there will be a permanent ceasefire soon, and that this time Israel will not accept anything less than what is in it's interests, namely a stoppage of rockets and of their smuggling. The outlines of a ceasefire agreement are being negotiated by Mubarak and Sarkozy. The Israeli Goivernment is considering the options, but Mashaal, the Hamas leader in Syria, has already rejected the terms, although a Hamas spokesman in Gaza was more amenable.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Casualties in Gaza

The London Blitz lasted a year, when the Germans blasted England's capital for one year! People who survived this (including me) were considered brave (although I was only a baby). People in Sderot by comparison were rocketed for eight years!
How could any Government allow its citizens to be treated this way for so long? But, Israel was incredibly patient, taking the punishment, while warning the perpetrators, the terrorist Hamas, that one day if they did not stop, Israel would react. Notably the UN, apart from issuing useless statements, did nothing to stop this bombardment. Even during the so-called ceasefire (calm) ca. 325 rockets hit Israel and after the calm was unilaterally renounced by Hamas a further 600 rockets were fired into Israel until Israel finally reacted with Operation Cast Lead on Dec 27, when the rocket's range was extended to 40 km (25 ml) to hit the cities of Ashkelon, Ashod and Beersheva. Yesterday a rocket hit Gedera for the first time, the longest range yet, wounding a 6-month old baby. Before the "calm" the rocket range was 20 km, after it the range was 40 km. So you can see why the smuggling of (Iranian) rockets and other materials thru the tunnels from Egypt into Gaza is so significant.

No-one in Israel wants to see Palestinian civilian casualties, our war is with Hamas, a terrorist organization. Yet, when there are casualties, Israel is of course blamed. But, consider this:
1. The number of casualties are given by Hamas supporters and the films are taken by Palestinian/Hamas cameramen (since no independent press are allowed into Gaza), who are renowned for staging invidents (such as the Mohammed Dura incident).
2. Hamas and other militiamen fire from civilian positions regularly and therefore it is impossible to avoid civilian casualties.
3. In war there are always unavoidable casualties, for example the IDF patrol that was hit by friendly fire two days ago in Gaza, killing three soldiers and wounding about 30.
4. The UN has always been hostile to Israel and in fact the UNWRA organization is pledged to perpetuate the Palestinian refugee crisis for generations (a refugee in international law is one who leaves a country, not their offspring).
5. UNWRA is hostile to Israel, and allows the teaching of anti-Israel lessons in its schools, the posting of the pictures of martyrs (suicide bombers) and the use of their facilities to store weapons and to fire from (several years ago a photographer caught a Hamas terrorist shooting from a UN school, but UNWRA of course denies all this).
6. The IDF says it will provide evidence that Hamas were firing mortars from the UN school where ca. 30 civilians were reportedly killed yesterday.
7. The civilian population of Gaza voted in Hamas and then stood by while Hamas decimated Fatah, killed its leaders and operatives, and have supported Hamas actions (firing rockets, suicide bombings) by a large majority.

Of course, none of this justifies civilian casualties, but those in Gaza are not significantly greater than in any other urban conflict, in fact less than many (Grozny, Kilinochi, Croatia, Iraq, etc.). The IDF has orders to avoid civilian casualties and Israel has continued to allow trucks carrying humanitarian supplies into Gaza since the operation began. In fact, in one convoy 5 ambulances from Turkey were delivered to Gaza. Even though water and electricity continues to be delivered to Gaza, understandably under conditions of conflict the conditions have deteriorated. As a consequence Israel has agreed to the establishment of a civilian corridor, much like the one it already opened to allow distribution of supplies from trucks/lorries throughout Gaza. Hopefully this will be coordinated with the EU/UN forces so that a more efficient distribution of supplies can be made. However, Gaza is still a field of conflict, yesterday 31 rockets were launched at Israel from Gaza and heavy fighting continues. So don't be surprised if a UN/EU monitor gets killed and the Hamas cameramen are on the spot to shoot it and send the pictures around the world. If you can't win by fighting, then try to win by PR. It's the oldest Palestinian lesson in the book, and the West falls for it every time.
Last night Pres.Mahmud Abbas of the PA spoke at the UN Security Council on behalf of "all Palestinians." I'm sorry, but this is a fraud, since he cannot speak for the Palestinians in Gaza, because he does not represent them (they chose Hamas) and he has no control over them or their territory. By substituting the PA for Hamas in this conflict it is as if Israel were fighting the PA, but that is not the case. Let's be clear about that. If there is to be a ceasefire (immediate or otherwise) it is between Israel and Hamas, and will probably be negotiated by Pres. Mubarak of Egypt, who has said that Hamas brought the Israeli counter-action upon itself by abrogating a continuation of the "calm".
Now that discussions on a ceasefire are underway let's hope that they are successful. But, they must include Israel's minimum demands, a cessation of all firing of rockets and mortars into Israel, closing of all tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border and cessation of all smuggling of military equipment. In exchange, Israel will agree to open borders with Gaza, with neutral country and Israeli monitors on guard. Maybe it can happen soon.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

End plan?

Now that the IDF has gone in on the ground we can expect to hear about casualties. So far 4 IDF soldiers have been killed (3 by an errant Israeli shell) and ca. 100 Hamas gunmen according to the IDF. Actually, when people talk about proportionality, they forget all the Israeli casualties from the war waged by Hamas against Israel since the intifada in 2000. What about the hundreds of Israeli casualties, from the buses blown up in Jerusalem, the restaurants and bars blwown up in Tel Aviv, the Arab-owned restaurant blown up in Haifa where Jews and Arabs mingled, and the Jewish children deliberately killed in Gaza before they were removed by our own Army. When I remember them I am glad that the strutting, shouting, black uniformed Hamas terrorists are being decimated in Gaza.
The question arises, how many Hamas would the IDF need to kill to "destroy" the organization. The answer is quite simple, ca. 5,000! The rule that applies is that ca. 25% of an organization needs to be removed for the organization to cease to be able to operate effectively (I wrote an article about this some time ago). So far the number of people killed in Gaza is reported to be ca. 600, with about 10% being civilians. But, we have been told that Hamas has an army of 10,000, with another 10,000 "reserves" or active supporters (police, making rockets, importing weapons, throwing Molotov cocktails, etc.). So 25% of ca. 20,000 is 5,000. That means that there are ca. 4,500 to go! But, that's not accurate, since ca. 2,500 have been injured, and ca. 100 have now been captured. So that if the total that are dead or incapacitated are ca. 3,000, that means only 2,000 more to go. Now, these don't have to be killed, but effectively put out of action, e.g. many leaders are in hiding, and afraid to use their cell phones or land phones because of the excellent Israeli intelligence and the large number of Palestinian collaborators (many belonging to Fatah). Also, now that the IDF has cut Gaza into two and surrounded Gaza city the effectivness of Hamas "command and control" is drastically reduced. This alone, as well as the absence of military supplies, should greatly reduce the number of rockets that they can fire, thus achieving one aim of the operation.
The feeling is that the international "wolves" are circling Israel, the EU representatives visiting now, Pres. Sarkozy getting very superior, Egypt working with Turkey, the Americans being holier than thou as usual. Probably within a few days, now that Hamas is feeling the pressure, a compromise resolution will be presented to the UN Security Council that is more balanced than the Arab resolution previously presented by Libya and rejected. That will leave the IDF in control of large swathes of Gaza, a good bargaining position. If they are to withdraw then verifiable and guaranteed agreements must be reached for neutral and Israeli oversight to prevent future rocketing and smuggling. But, we all know that these never amount to anything effective (viz Lebanon). At least it might give Hamas pause (as it has Hizbollah) before they put into action again the plans they have to destroy Israel. Meanwhile Israeli Govt. sources say the Operation may end within a few days

Monday, January 05, 2009

Muddled thinking on Gaza

I am not a military expert, but I remember when the US forces invaded Iraq, the idea was to use "shock and awe" as propounded by Secty of Defense Colin Powell and Gen. Schwartzkop This was the doctrine of using "overwhelming force" to overcome and dismay any opponent, so that they are cowed and easily defeated. I don't believe that "proportionality" in warfare has been used since the stone age. Because Hamas fires ca. 80 rockets a day at us are we supposed to fire 80 back at them, now that's proportionality, but it's not a winning strategy. In order to win a war the side that wants to win and has the capability must use disproportionality! Wouldn't it be stupid for the IDF to leave its planes, its tanks and its shells behind when they went over the border into Gaza? Who of those criticizing Israel for the disproportionality of its response to Hamas aggression could look any Israeli in the eye and maintain that nonsense?
The reason the IDF invaded Gaza is because the aerial camapaign, although it caused great damage to Hamas infrastructure, did not stop the barrage of rockets from Gaza. Yesterday 40 rockets were fired into Israel and a bus was destroyed, a store was set on fire and an old lady was injured when her house received a direct hit. Some self-righteous idiots have said that the Palestinian toll in Gaza of ca. 450 dead is too large compared to the loss of Israeli lives, with 13 dead over the past 3 years and 4 since the start of Operation Cast Lead. So what should the IDF do, limit itself to kill only 17 and then go home? The fact is that the number of civilians killed in Gaza, ca. 60, is very small considering the density of the population and the scale of the attacks. This can only be because the IDF is taking every precaution to avoid civilian casualties, for example phoning people who live in specific houses (what Army has ever done this before?) and dropping 100,000 leaflets warning people to leave houses around Hamas targets embedded in civilian areas.
Here is a question for all those demonstrating on behalf of the Palestinians, which Palestinians do you support? The "moderate" Palestinians of the Fatah-controlled Palestine Authority, with which Israel is in negotiations based on a two-state solution, or the extremist Hamas Palestinians that control the Gaza Strip. Hamas has been labelled a terrorist organization by the UN, the EU and the US, and has refused to recognize the existence of Israel. Not only did it take control of Gaza by an illegal coup in which many Fatah operatives were killed and injured, but during the current conflict according to Khaled Abu Toameh, the Jerusalem Post's Arab Affairs correspondent, Hamas has murdered 35 Fatah prisoners in Gaza and "knee-capped" or mutilated 75 more detainees. So let's be clear, there is a vast difference between supporting the Palestine Authority and supporting Hamas in Gaza. The former want a negotiated settlement with Israel while the latter want to destroy Israel and then start a world-wide Caliphate. Take your pick.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Arab criticism of Hamas

600 rockets from Gaza fell onto Israeli territory in the week before Israel began its counter-attack, Operation Cast Lead. Another 425 have fallen since the Operation began last week, killing four people.

There have been demonstrations against the Israeli attacks on Gaza in Britain, France and around the world. The major criticism of these activists against Israel is the disproportionate use of Israeli force and the concomitant disproportionate casualties, currently at ca. 450. However, most of the casualties are not civilians, most estimates put the number of actual civilians killed at ca. 60, but they tend to lump all casualties together, not acknowledging that the vast majority of them are Hamas terrorists. Last night the houses of about 25 Hamas leaders were targeted by the IAF and Zubeida al-Jamal who was responsible for the rocket firings was killed.

Even in the Arab world, and this is a first, there is criticism of Hamas in Gaza, far beyond any criticism by the anti-Israel protesters. For example, Muhammed Bassiouny, Head of the Egyptian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and a former Ambassador to Israel, charged publicly that Hamas precipitated this crisis by deliberately ignoring attempts to restore a ceasefire and continuing to fire rockets into Israel to kill civilians. It is clear that Pres. Mubarak of Egypt was embarrassed by Hamas ignoring his attempts to arrange a ceasefire. In fact, Mubarak has refused to open the Rafah crossing from Gaza into Egypt except for badly injured victims, until it is controlled by the PA. And Pres. Abbas of the PA in the West Bank has stated the same criticism of Hamas. Also, in Jordan, although there have been pro-Hamas demonstrations, they have been broken up by the police and there have been similar statements by Jordanian leaders criticizing Hamas. This is also the case from Saudi Arabia, which has criticized Iran for meddling in Arab affairs.

The general alignment of the Sunni “moderate” Arab world is that Hamas brought this situation on itself by continuing the rocket onslaught against Israel when Israel was prepared to continue the ceasefire. In fact, the Arab League could not agree on a joint statement and left the situation for the UN Security Council to deal with. It is unusual for the Arab leaders to be taking a more moderate position than the western liberals. The Libyan resolution presented to the Security Council was so one-sided that everyone knew it would not be adopted, and the Arab League’s support for it was seen as a fillip to the Arab “street.”

While Hizbollah and Iran have criticized Mubarak for not taking a strong anti-Israel position, Egyptian forces have arrested ca. 50 Palestinians in Sinai as part of a Hamas cell that was sent to carry out terrorism. This is just what the moderate Arab leaders fear, an Iranian inspired terrorist incursion into their world. Under these circumstances, and with Pres. Bush supporting Israel’s right to defend itself, there is little likelihood of an immediate cessation of the fighting. The outlines of a ceasefire will become clearer on Monday when Pres. Sarkozy arrives with an EU delegation in the region to try to mediate a ceasefire. However, although they mean well they have no influence with Hamas.

Saturday the IDF started firing artillery at open areas of the Gaza Strip clearing the way for the first stage of a ground assault.