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Friday, July 28, 2006

Who Says War Has To Be Proportional?

I didn't say it! Well, I did--but imagine my surprise when that bastion of liberalism, the LA Times, agrees that Israel isn't required to commit suicide by waging a 'proportional' war as the Jihadi Corps and its supporters and appeasers demand?

Jonathan Chait's Op-Ed of July 23 is worth quoting:

ISRAEL'S counteroffensive against Hezbollah may not be a good idea. But the main criticism that is being made against it, at home and abroad — namely, that Israel is using "disproportionate force" — is just silly.

As The Times reported Thursday: "Critics have said Israel's response to the killing of eight soldiers and capture of two others by the Shiite Muslim guerrillas last week is disproportionate."

First of all, Israel is responding not just to those recent killings but to a long string of attacks since it withdrew from Lebanon in 2000. The kidnapping was just the straw that broke the camel's back.

Second, as the Israeli government rightly points out, no country operates on the principle of responding to aggression with no more force than was originally used against it. During World War II, Germany sunk a lot of American ships and declared war on us, and in return we flattened its cities, killed or captured hundreds of thousands of its solders and occupied its land. That was hardly a proportionate response.

Now, it is true that Israel's counteroffensive has taken the lives of several hundred Lebanese civilians (many entirely innocent, others who sheltered Hezbollah rockets) and displaced perhaps half a million more. Every innocent death is a tragedy.

But the brutal fact is that civilian deaths are Hezbollah's strongest weapon. As Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, once said: "We have discovered how to hit the Jews where they are the most vulnerable. The Jews love life, so that is what we shall take away from them. We are going to win because they love life and we love death."

Thus Hezbollah places its rockets and other potential targets in homes, knowing that Israel cannot hit back without creating collateral damage. This does not relieve Israel of the burden of minimizing civilian casualties as best it can. The point is that if Israel has to operate under a code of ethics that renders civilian deaths unacceptable, then it automatically loses. The ramifications would be dire and ultimately aid the cause of Islamic radicals in such a way as to bring about many more innocent deaths over the long run.

The real question, then, is not whether Israel's counteroffensive is disproportionate but whether it's working.

Israel says every one of its airstrikes has a specific strategic and military rationale. The attacks on Lebanon's civilian infrastructure are not "collective punishment," they're an attempt to prevent Hezbollah from transporting the captured soldiers to Iran and to prevent Iran and Syria from resupplying Hezbollah. Where Israel has bombed civilian areas, it has been in an attempt to strike Hezbollah's rockets.

If those strikes are carrying out their intended effect, then it's a justifiable response. If they're not, then it's not justifiable.

But proportionality has nothing to do with it. If Israel was attacking Lebanon's infrastructure at random, then it would be wrong even if it killed fewer Lebanese than Hezbollah killed Israelis.

So, is the Israeli counteroffensive working? We don't know. Israel says it has massively degraded Hezbollah's store of rockets. We shouldn't take Israel's word on that, for obvious reasons. (Any country overstates the effectiveness of its military operations from time to time.)

On the other hand, we shouldn't necessarily take the critics at face value, either. In 2002, Israel faced a savage wave of suicide bombings. It responded to the attacks by locking down the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and building a wall to keep out terrorists. Europeans, United Nations types and other doves insisted Israel was only making the problem worse. But Israel did manage to choke off the flow of suicide bombers, which paved the way for its subsequent withdrawals.

Sure, there are hawks who are predisposed to believe in the efficacy of military force. The doves, though, have an equally strong disposition to believe that military force inevitably fails. We won't know for some time whether Israel has really taken a chunk out of Hezbollah. Either way, balancing the number of dead Israelis against dead Lebanese tells us nothing.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Mystery Solved--How the UN Got Bombed

Thanks to Andrew Bolt of today's Herald Sun: http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/why_the_un_post_was_bombed/

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hope For Change

I've long been a fan of some of the Arab bloggers--but this one blew me away. Check out Iraq The Model at <"http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/"> and scroll down to "Enemies That Need Each Other."

The blogger posts a number of telling Iraqi comments about the perspective in Iraq on the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit and Israel's response....and they're on OUR side!

It's definitely worth reading.

Life, Uninterrupted

I wondered if those of us outside of missile range should feel guilty, but then I read the posts of other bloggers, of news commentators, and even those under Hezbollah's guns, and I decided, no. Guilt isn't the answer. Life is the answer.

I can't undo the deaths, but I can go on living and remember the dead: the father who died seeking milk for his daughter; the men who reported for work at the railyard; the two young brothers playing in their street in Nazareth; the soldiers who tried to recover their comrades, and all the others.

My son went with his tutor to see Pirates of the Caribbean; my daughter went to the souk and ran into a family friend from our former shul; we went out to dinner with a friend from California who came here with his young son; my classmates are eating in cafes, going to the beach, shopping at Ikea.

We can't stop the conflict -- but we can go on living our lives in spite of it. Am Yisroel Chai.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Deja Vu All Over Again

I grew up during the Cold War, a component of which was the Cuban Missile Crisis. It occured to me yesterday, as I was teaching my son what to do when/if he hears air raid sirens, that he has never heard that sound while growing up.

I grew up with air-raid sirens; with drills on how to take cover in the classroom; find places to take cover while walking home; where to go in case of an atomic bomb dropped in our vicinity. One of my clearest memories is that of helping my mother move supplies to our daylight basement and watching her seal the windows against attack--the 7th Fleet was based in the San Francisco Bay Area at that time, and while the Fleet was steaming towards Cuba, armed for battle, we all knew that the bases around the Bay Area were prime targets. I would awake at night to the periodic testing of the sirens when we lived back East; I heard them every Friday during the day in California when the system was tested. Air raid sirens were the background music of my childhood, along with San Francisco's foghorns. I'm not sure when I actually stopped hearing them or when they were discontinued. Both foghorns and air raid sirens now belong to an earlier time, before I married, before we had ever heard of Al Qaeda, before I became a mother.

My son asked me what an air-raid siren sounded like. My husband, another survivor of the Cold War, tried to imitate one. Then, there was breaking news of a barrage of missiles heading for Haifa--and on the news, we could hear that familiar-to-us-adults but nonetheless eerie ululation of the air raid sirens in Haifa.

"Is that what it sounds like?" the Boy inquired.

"Yes, and when you hear that, find cover immediately," I told him. "You won't have much time, and it's better to be indoors, even if only in a stairwell, than to be outside. Outside is where the shrapnel flies around and kills people. Lie down on the floor if you can," I added sternly, trying not to sound overly concerned.

There are Israeli children in bomb shelters all over the north tonight. One child reportedly died with his grandparent while walking the streets of Safed when the first missile hit there. A father died yesterday. Fathers and fiances died en masse in Haifa last week in one strike. Husbands and sons are dead and in captivity on the borders of Israel.

Disengagement from Gaza, Withdrawal from Lebanon, trusting the promises of the United Nations.....yeah, we're so much safer now, right?

There's a Scots proverb we in Israel should adopt: "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."

If we don't want to hear air-raid sirens again over Israel, accompanied by the whump of landing missiles, the screams of wounded citizens, the cries of the mourners at funerals, then the government had better not be fooled twice.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Map of Missile Strikes

Map of northern Israel with missile strikes - courtesy of YNet via Jameel at the Muqata http://muqata.blogspot.com/

Thursday, July 13, 2006


"Milkamah" is the Hebrew word for 'war'. I didn't learn it in ulpan. I learned it from the daily news, which has gone from being on now and then to being on constantly. Bus drivers go by with their radios blaring; the coffee shops and security stations of buildings all have their televisions turned to the latest news. The country is mobilizing in the face of rocket attacks all over the north.

Yona is up north now. She called to tell us she never made it Nahariyah, as planned, and instead stopped in Acco. She moved south from there to Kiryat Tivon, a town outside of Haifa. Haifa is currently taking Katyusha attacks from Iran's proxy army, Hezbollah.

Katyusha rockets landed in the northern Israeli towns of Karmiel, Hatzor, and Majd el-Kurum, as well as several other communities, throughout the north on Thursday. On Thursday morning alone, there were confirmed Katyusha attacks on Nahariya, Rosh Pina, Kibbutz Hagoshrim, Kibbutz Mishmar Hayarden, Gadot, Kfar Nasi, Beit Hillel, Kibbutz Mahanayim, Kibbutz Kabri, Mount Hermon, Netiv Haasarah, Mount Meron, Shlomi, Zar'it. Hospitals are moving patients to lower floors and expectant mothers are being housed in bomb shelters.

By this afternoon, rockets hit Karmiel, Safed, Hatzor, and Majd el-Kurum as well.

At least 28 people were wounded in Majd el-Kurum - two moderately and seven from shrapnel. Majd el-Krum is a major Arab city. Katyushas, once launched, don't distinguish between Moslem, Christian and Jewish Israelis.

Two are dead: a woman sitting on her apartment balcony in seaside Nahariyah and another elderly woman in the Mt. Canaan town of Safed. The latest news reports indicate over 200 hospitalized.There is a report, unconfirmed, of a man killed in Safed and a boy trapped in a bombed building.

If you aren't familiar with the geography, then allow me to explain that this is a full-scale rocket attack all along the north of Israel, from the Mediterranean sea to the Syrian border, and as far south as major cities like Karmiel and Haifa.

And the EU is portentiously announcing that Israeli reaction to the Katyushas raining down on us is "disproportionate."

I wonder what a 'proportionate' response is?

During World War II, Germany launched the V-1, a missile, like the Katyusha, that had no guidance system and was designed to hit and terrorize civilian areas. There was virtually no protection against these Nazi missiles, but the RAF didn't hesitate to bomb Germany into rubble even more than it had before, along with American and other Allied Forces assistance. Was THAT disproportionate?

Hello, world? This is a war. It is not a police action, not a terrorist strike. It is missile attacks on civilian population centers at a time when Israel is in compliance with UN directives concerning the northern border with Lebanon. There's no such thing as a 'proportionate response' in a war. There is only winning and losing.

We can't afford to lose. We won't lose. One Shoah was enough.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Without A Car

Being without a car gives one a different perspective. No more whizzing from one place to another. Walking slows you down, of necessity, and also gives you a view of Jerusalem from the sidewalk.

I've discovered shops and alleyways and small side streets I'd have never known existed were I driving...

I've been able to stroll up and down Ben Yehuda and explore the shops there, and listen to the Balalaika Man every morning...

I've hoofed it from class in Mercaz HaIr near Hillel Street back to our place on Chanoch Albek and found that while it's good for the overall conditioning, it's very hard on the out-of-shape body....yesterday, I walked back and then also walked all the way down Yehoshua bin Nun to the groomer's place for our afternoon appointment. Even the dog was worn out by the walk there and back. Then we went out to dinner with friends on Emek Refaim, which was close by--only about 6 blocks. A cinch after the rest of the day's walking---but I came back so worn out that I fell into bed and could hardly move this morning.

Walking also introduces you to people on the ground level. I have to ask for directions in broken Hebrew; I have to repel solicitors on Ben Yehudah; I chat with the security guys in front of every business I enter and with some of the customers in stores and the people standing in line at the Post Office. This morning I met Racheli and her mother, an Israeli of Ethiopian origin who spoke perfect English. Racheli wasn't speaking yet, since she was only 6 months old but she was very personable and flirted with everyone around her.

Today's walking isn't over yet. We need to pick up our nameplate for the door; pick up some salad fixings for tonight; pick up a parcel at the post office. We can do all of this in one 8 block circumnavigation of our neighborhood. It'll be good for me....and maybe I'll meet someone new to talk to....

Monday, July 03, 2006

Olah Chadasha At Last

This is my first day of ulpan, although I'm getting ahead of myself.

Retrospectively, the month between the Husband's departure and our arrival at Ben Gurion were was one of life's worst experiences. It wasn't the physical separation so much as the ordeal of doing all the last minute stuff alone in California while he did all the setting up stuff alone in Jerusalem.

It wasn't worth it. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but frankly, if we had to do it over again, we'd do it together. It takes two to pack up a house and two to set up a house, and single parenthood wasn't fun at my end and he, on the other hand, didn't much enjoy being alone.

Arriving at Ben Gurion was pretty straightforward: I got off the plane in the company of another olim family and we were greeted by an AACI rep who walked us through the entire teudat oleh procedure--so I ended up walking out of the airport with my 'immigration passport', and specific directions on how to bank my sal klita, how to get the bank account number to Misrad HaKlita, how to sign up for Bituach Leumi (the National Health Insurance) and pick a medical plan.

Husband and Daughter were at the airport and schlepped us and the baggage home. We spent the next week unpacking, sorting, purchasing a few things for the apartment, and exploring the Talpiot Industrial Zone (which should really be renamed the Talpiot Shopping Zone because it abounds with stores, dealerships, and a couple of small malls at which you can find almost anything).

We also explored downtown Jerusalem. Not on purpose. It's simply that my teudat oleh number didn't come up in the Health Insurance Computer so we spent a lot of time trekking downtown to Bituach Leumi's office to straighten this out. It is now, after a lot of trips, copious coffees at Sambooki's, straightened out--it seems that I needed to fill out a form.

Of course, the form was in Hebrew. The Husband speaks Hebrew; the Daughter is in ulpan learning Hebrew. Neither are really expert at bureaucratese Hebrew....so I visited my wonderful neighbors. He is our super and she is fluent in five languages, including English. She sat down with me and explained the words over the boxes. Some I knew. Shem Mishpacha, or family name, is easy. Some were more esoteric, but I learned.

This was a useful experience because the following week I was on my own with Misrad Hapnim, the Ministry which issues one's permanent identification card (teudat zahut) and registers the new immigrant and starts the citizenship proceedings.I went inside and the place was an absolute zoo. The young woman behind the counter handed me a pink form and told me to fill it out. I looked at it. It was in Hebrew.

"Can I fill it out in English?" I asked hopefully.

No, it has to be filled out in Hebrew. Okay, I took a number (85) and sat down. There was a row of desks behind partitions numbered 1 through 7 with the ubiquitous-in-Israel lit numbers above, telling everyone what number was up. The number being called was 45 so I figured I had time. I looked at the form and suddenly realized that it was remarkably similar to the Bituach Leumi form my neighbor helped me fill out the night before. I pulled the white Bituach Leumi form out, and sure enough, the same boxes asking the same bureacratic information (Name, Family Name, Father's Name, Teudat Number, Address, Telephone Number) that is required everywhere in the world was on this pink form.

So I copied the information from the white form onto the pink form's corresponding boxes.

I finished and looked around. The number that was up was 54, so I still had time. The purpose of long lines in Israel is really to give you time to finish Tehillim, so that's what I did. Then we got into the 80s...I watched the numbers flash: 80, then 81, then 82, then 83 -- then 87?! Hey, where did my number go?

I walked up the empty seat in cubicle #5 and said in English, "This number wasn't called," holding up my "85." Yes, it was, you just didn't hear it, she told me in Hebrew. "No, it wasn't--I'm next." She told me to go to another window, and called out something to the next window, who also told me to go to another window. I did, and she also tried to send me to another window. At that point I stood my ground and said "No. Everyone sends me to another window. My number wasn't called and I need a turn." So she invited me to sit and looked at my papers.

"Ahh, no, I don't do this. You need to go to Chani at window #8," she said, pointing to an enclosed area at the far side of the room.

Okay, I went over to Chani where she and her assistant were beleagured by a large crowd of olim who didn't understand plain Hebrew and English when her assistant told them it was at least a 45 minute wait.

"But I've already waited two hours!" one tall, emaciated and unattractive redhead snarled. (She couldn't have waited two hours--the office hadn't been open that long.) Chani was busy processing the immigration paperwork of the couple seated at her desk, and clearly there were others of us sitting and waiting our turns. The Ugly Redhead and her scruffy companion sat down with ill grace, muttering.

I asked Chani's assistant if I had time to get coffee? "Of course," she said, gesturing at the crowd.

So I tripped downstairs, up the street, across Yafo to Sambooki's, and got three cafe hafuchs and three small cinnamon rolls, and brought them back -- one for me, and two for Chani and her assistant. They looked like they could use some sugar and caffeine with the morning they were having -- and I DID work for the government in my old life and I know how awful "Monday mornings" (here, Sunday mornings) are, especially with the unhappy public breathing down your neck.

My turn with Chani rolled around, and it was a breeze. I walked out of there with my teudat zahut and told everyone "Yeshli teudat zahut hayom--ani Yisraeli!" which caused the security guards to give me a bemused grin and a 'mazel tov.'

Next I took the white form to Bituach Leumi where a pleasant woman took it, then told me I was enrolled and the Boy and I could go to the medical plan of our choice by Friday and sign up. Simple! Finally!

I DID get a laugh out of the staff at Bituach Leumi the day I got the white form to fill out. The clerk painstakingly explained which boxes had to be filled out, and pointed to one large box stating, "And here you write what you have been doing since you arrived in Israel."

"Trying to get health insurance," I retorted, which elicited a laugh from her and her colleagues.

So this has encouraged me to jump right into ulpan -- I dislike not being literate, I've discovered. Hence my first class today.

I found the ulpan all by myself as well. I only got lost once, but since the Israeli world operates on cellphones and everyone has one, I simply called the ulpan office and they walked me to the building over the phone. My class has one Norweigian fiance of an Israeli, one Polish girl, one Japanese girl, one Venezuelan oleh, three Asians whose exact countries I didn't catch, two Americans besides me, a young Arab guy from East Jerusalem, and a French girl.

Obviously, playing tourist all summer has to take a backseat to school but school is only 4 mornings a week from 9am to noon, so I'm sure we can squeeze in trips to the museums, the tunnel tours, walks through the Old City, explorations of various neighborhoods.

The summer is shaping up nicely.....

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