May 01, 2006

On the Rim of a Volcano

This is the second of a two-part series about the rising tension and danger on the Lebanese-Israeli border. Don’t miss Part One: Everything Could Explode at Any Moment.

NORTHERN ISRAEL -- Lisa and I followed Israeli Defense Forces Spokesman Zvika Golan as he led us in his jeep to the kibbutz of Malkiya right on the Lebanese-Israeli border, within immediate striking distance of Hezbollah’s rockets and bombs.

Zvika pulled off to the side of the road and pointed out a UN base just over the fence on the Lebanese side. He yelled something at the UN soldiers in Hindi. They waved and hollered back at him in Hindi. By happy coincidence, both Zvika and the peacekeepers are from India. Theirs is, perhaps, the only verbal communication that ever crosses that fence.

UN in Lebanon from Israel.jpg
Photo copyright Michael J. Totten

At Malkiya we met Eitan Oren, an Israeli Kurd from Eastern Turkey. He gave Lisa and me a quick tour of the place which was unremarkable in almost every way. It looked, to my eyes anyway, like just another small town only with fewer roads and more foot paths connecting the buildings.

“It’s dying here,” Eitan said. “Socialism is out. Capitalism is in. The ideology collapsed. I was never a socialist. I don’t belong in the concrete jungle of Tel Aviv. I’m a nature boy. I belong here.”

Here, though, was right on the rim of a volcano. Hezbollah-occupied Lebanon was right there. And, as Zvika kept telling Lisa and me, the border was gearing up to explode.

The four of us got into Eitan’s pickup so he could take us on a brief driving tour.

“Since our withdrawal, the enemy - Hizb Allah - is on the fence,” he said. “See that post on the mountain?”

Hezbollah Post on Hill.jpg
Photo copyright Michael J. Totten

“They are watching us right now,” Eitan said. “You are safe, though.”

“Don’t believe what he says,” Zvika said and laughed darkly. “You are not particularly safe right now.”

Zvika stripped off his officer’s clothes so he would look more like a civilian. He did that, I think, to protect Eitan, Lisa, and me, not himself.

Eitan pulled off the main road and into his peach orchard next to the fence.

Stop Border Ahead.jpg
Photo copyright Michael J. Totten

“Lots of drug fields right across the border right here,” he said. Hezbollah uses the drug money to purchase weapons to use against Israel. “Across the border are mostly Shia. We used to have a great relationship with them.”

It’s sort of true, up to a point. Yasser Arafat and the PLO had their own state-within-a-state in Lebanon during the 1970s. They used it as a base to carry out terrorist operations against Israel. In 1982, during the Lebanese civil war, Israel invaded - in effect becoming yet another militia in the ridiculous conflict - to put a stop to it once and for all. The PLO was driven out of Lebanon and into Tunisia. But the Israelis had a little side project going on at the same time. They tried to prop up the hard-right presidency of Bashir Gemayel, which turned into an utterly misguided disaster for everyone…particularly for the freshly elected Gemayel, who was assassinated by - who else? - Syrian intelligence agents.

The Shia of South Lebanon hailed the Israelis, for a while, as a liberation army that freed them from the PLO. The honeymoon didn’t last long, though. Israel stayed far too long, frequently treated the Shia with contempt, and monkeyed around with Lebanon’s internal politics just as much as the Syrians did.

“Nasrallah is a bright guy,” Eitan said, referring to Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah. “I wish his energy were directed toward something good. But Hezbollah has been infected by Iran.”

“What do you think of ordinary people on the other side?” I said.

“Every day I wave at Lebanese people,” he said.

“Do they ever wave back?” I said.

“Not usually, no,” he said. “They are cold. A few are friendly, though.”

“Do you know why most of them are cold?” I said. It’s unclear how much Israelis know about why things are the way they are inside Lebanon. He already knew I had been living in Beirut, and he could tell by the tone of my voice that I knew the answer.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Why?”

“Because waving hello to an Israeli is treason,” I said.

He looked startled and more than a little disturbed.

“I didn’t know that,” he said. “Some wave hello to me anyway. Do you know why?” I didn’t. “Because they are my friends. They know me. We used to work together when the border was open.”

Of course. The border was open until 2000 when Ehud Barak withdrew the Israeli forces from their anti-Hezbollah “security belt” in South Lebanon. Lebanese crossed the border every day through Fatima’s Gate to work in Israel. Some of them worked with Eitan. Even now they risk being punished for treason so they can wave hi.

“Come with me, my friends,” Eitan said. “ I want to show you something.”

Lisa, Zvika, and I got into his pickup and drove for another few minutes along the fence.

We got out at an elevated clearing. I grabbed my notebook and camera.

Eitan and His Map.jpg
Photo copyright Michael J. Totten

Eitan pulled out a hand-drawn map that showed Northern Israel and the Upper Galilee region of South Lebanon. His map referred to the West Bank as “Judea and Samaria,” linguistic code that gave him away as a right-wing Zionist. (UPDATE: several people in the comments are contesting this. Maybe I'm wrong here? Perhaps "Judea and Samaria" is more common in Israel than in the U.S.)

“Look at this” Eitan said. “It’s the old British customs building.”

Destroyed English Gate.jpg
Photo copyright Michael J. Totten

“Look over there,” he said and pointed into Lebanon. “You see that destroyed building just on the other side of the fence? That’s the old French customs house. It, too, was used when the Lebanese-Israeli border was open. Hezbollah blew it away. Nasrallah wanted to make sure there was no contact at all between our two peoples.”

Lisa and Eitan 1.jpg
Photo copyright Michael J. Totten

Destroyed French Gate.jpg
Photo copyright Michael J. Totten

It’s a lot easier to hate people when you don’t know them personally, when you can’t work together, when you can’t hang out and talk, when you can’t wave hello. The vitriolic and eliminationist propaganda from Iran and Hezbollah is instantly proven abject and stupid upon contact with average Israelis. An open border and a free exchange of thoughts and ideas is Hezbollah’s worst nightmare.

“What do you want to see happen here, Eitan?” I said.

“I wish we could have peace and an open border,” he said. “Like a normal country. Like it is between Oregon and California. Right now we call the Lebanese enemies. But they are not really enemies. I know them. Some are my friends. The only enemy is Hezbollah.”

Eitan and Zvika leaned against the front of the truck. Eitan said it was a mistake for Israel to withdraw from South Lebanon.

“Hezbollah is the only Arab army to ever defeat us,” he said.

Zvika patiently shook his head. “They didn’t defeat us,” he said.

Eitan and Zvika.JPG
Photo copyright Lisa Goldman

They got into a minor, and civil, argument about it. The officer thought it was wise to withdraw the armed forces. The civilian did not. The officer insisted Hezbollah did not defeat Israel. The civilian insisted Hezbollah did. The officer feared Hezbollah. The civilian did not, and even seemed to respect Hassan Nasrallah as well as average civilians on the other side of the border. The officer’s point of view made sense. Eitan’s was a bundle of unworked-out contradictions.

Israelis cannot reach out in friendship and sit on South Lebanese people with tanks at the same time. Not after all that bloody history. There’s something else, too, something Eitan had not seemed to consider. The only reason Hezbollah has lost its popularity in Lebanon is because Israel has withdrawn its armed forces. Lebanese don’t like Israelis occupying their land any more than they like Syrians occupying their land.

Eitan took us back to Malkiya and showed us the community day care and nursery. He explained that they built the nursery in the center of the kibbutz where the children are surrounded by protective adults, just as a baby in the womb is protected by the body of its mother.

Stairs led down a passageway under the childrens’ playground to an entombed concrete bomb shelter. I wondered how on the earth responsible adults could raise infants mere feet from murderous enemies. But I didn’t want to ask. The question is too implicitly critical, and I liked Eitan. I wasn’t about to tell him what he should do with his life, how he should raise his children.

He seemed to sense my unease, though, and explained that it would be a catastrophe for Israel if the northern part of the country were left abandoned and darkened.

Lebanese on the other side of the fence feel the same way. They have no idea that Israel has no intention of re-occupying South Lebanon. They feel like they’re on the rim of a volcano, too, and they feel safer because of Hezbollah.

Eitan and His Daughter.JPG
Photo copyright Lisa Goldman

“Here’s my little girl,” Eitan said and hoisted her proudly in front of Lisa’s camera. “Do you think she looks Kurdish?” I did not think she did. Her mother is European.

Lisa and I stopped at the grocery store on our way out and bought snacks. We had another stop to make along the border before heading back to Tel Aviv. Eitan came with us. When I pulled some cash out of my pocket, Eitan told me to put it away. “We don’t use money here,” he said. “This is a community!” As if that explained everything. This from a right-wing Zionist who boasted that he was no socialist.

We said our goodbyes to Eitan and Zvika, got back in the rental car, and headed up the road toward Metulla and al-Ghajar.

Metulla is the closest Israeli town to Lebanese territory. It literally is built right up to the fence. A Lebanese kid could throw a baseball onto an Israeli’s back porch.

Lisa and I wanted to see Fatima’s Gate, the old border crossing that was closed six years ago. Israelis call that stretch of the border The Good Fence. Furious Arab tourists like to go there and throw rocks toward civilian homes in Metulla.

The Good Fence.jpg
Photo copyright Michael J. Totten

Lisa told me that several times groups of Israelis drove up to Fatima’s Gate and peacefully confronted the rock throwers.

“We don’t hate you,” the Israelis said. It never did any good. Arabs who go out of their way to throw rocks can’t be easily dissuaded by niceness. And besides, being friendly with Israelis is treason.

The road to Fatima’s Gate was closed on that day. IDF soldiers told us we weren’t allowed beyond a gate that shuttered the road.

Stop Border in Front of You.jpg
Photo copyright Michael J. Totten

So we drove on to al-Ghajar, which is a very strange place. All the residents are Alawite Arabs. One side of the village is in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The other side is in Lebanon. The residents on the Lebanese side wish they lived in Israeli-occupied Syria instead of Hezbollah-occupied Lebanon. The Israeli side is perfectly pleasant and prosperous. The Lebanese side is absolutely Third World, neglected as it is by Hezbollah as well as by the Lebanese government.

This is the place where Hezbollah launched its most recent November invasion. Lisa told me she saw Arab women screaming on the television news, demanding the Israelis beef up the security of their town and better protect them from Iran’s proxy killers.

Lisa is a journalist, and we both wanted to interview some of these people. But it didn’t look promising. Anyone driving into al-Ghajar had to navigate a slalom-like obstacle course of concrete blocks just to get to the checkpoint.

Entrance to Ghajar.JPG
Photo copyright Lisa Goldman

The soldiers at the checkpoint turned us back for our own protection. They were waiting for an attack. Everything could explode at any moment.

Post-script: Please help support non-corporate writing. Your donations today make tomorrow’s dispatches possible. Thank you all so much for your help so far.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at May 1, 2006 01:08 AM
Comments

That he uses the term "Judea and Samaria" isn't evidence that he's right wing. The term is used routinely in Israel ("West Bank" is a fairly clunky and geographically illogical term).
Although a Kurdish Israeli who says he is not socialist is more likely than not moderately right wing.

Posted by: maor at May 1, 2006 03:50 AM

>>>“Because waving hello to an Israeli is treason,” I said.

The Arab-Israeli conflict, boiled down to its essence.

Posted by: Carlos at May 1, 2006 07:03 AM

Excellent article, as usual. :-)

I wish more people in the west knew that the conflict is more complicated than just occupying Jews vs. oppressed Arabs.

Posted by: Andrew Brehm at May 1, 2006 07:10 AM

His map referred to the West Bank as “Judea and Samaria,” linguistic code that gave him away as a right-wing Zionist.

Really? It gave him away?

Maybe he is, but sometimes a map is just a map.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at May 1, 2006 07:13 AM

(Whoops - also meant to include:)

Once again, MJT, awesome reporting.

I'm so glad you went to Israel while in the Middle East. It's so beautiful up in Northern Israel - gotta feel for the people in Metulla and Kiryat Shemona for having to live next to Hezbollah and their Katyushas.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at May 1, 2006 07:17 AM

Michael: good reporting. I wish I had seen you when you came, Israel is so small that it was possible. Anyway, I wanted to say also that the map doesn't prove anything. It is more common to find a map that says "Judea and Samaria" than "West Bank", although the same maps may have perfectly drawn the green line.
Best

Posted by: Fabian at May 1, 2006 09:11 AM

Out of curiosity Michael, how did a Turkish Kurd end up in Israel?

Thanks for the good report, one of the things I've found fascinating is how many non Jews live in Israel and not only live but support the state wholeheartedly. Contrast this with the state of minorities in Arab, Turkish or Persian... oh right.

Posted by: Rommel at May 1, 2006 09:52 AM

With all due respect to Michael T -

Your reporting is great and I really wish you had interviewed the Alawite residents in the Golan half of the town. It would be veryinteresting to hear their views.

However, I must point out 2 things.

1) Michael T used the term right wing zionist because he can't seem to be touting too much sympathy for the Isrelis. That is a sure way to lose street cred in the world. Arab propaganda sets up a weight on 1 side of the scale that causes care when going too far against it. That's why stories out of the area are edited and re-edited to be meaningless eventually.

<2) Mike your adjective that "like being in a mother's womb" is a bit too fancy and emotive... (if that's the correct word there)

Keep it straight and avoid trying to become a poet.

Those were my honest feelings while reading this.

I wish you had gotten into the Alawite half of the town. That would be some interesting interviews.

Further note, Israeli don't refer to Israeli occupied Syria either... but the Golan where there is skiiing. protection of the mountains, and kibbutzes. These kibbutzes are in the Golan (beautiful) and in the valley (on the former border with Syria) within easy pop shot distance of a rifle scope.

Also, note that Israel formerly offered most of the Golan under Barak outside of a little part to pretect these boreer kibbutzes. Syria and the PLO rejected this.

Israel would be nuts to give back any part of the Golan anytime soon.

Mike Nargizian (not a right wing zionist)

PS stating that automatically makes me a "right wing" zionist? lol :-)

Posted by: Mike Nargizian at May 1, 2006 09:56 AM

Rommel: how did a Turkish Kurd end up in Israel?

He's Jewish. And Turkish Kurdistan sucks. So he moved.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 1, 2006 09:56 AM

Mike N: Michael T used the term right wing zionist because he can't seem to be touting too much sympathy for the Isrelis.

Not true. I noted above, in the main post, that I may have been wrong in that characterization anyway.

Mike your adjective that "like being in a mother's womb" is a bit too fancy and emotive

It wasn't my phrase, it was Eitan's. But thanks for the literary input. :)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 1, 2006 09:59 AM

The officer’s point of view made sense. Eitan’s was a bundle of unworked-out contradictions.

I'll tell you what made sense about Eitan's point of view (not that I'm taking sides): When the IDF occupied what's now Hizbullaland, he was safer.

Posted by: David Boxenhorn at May 1, 2006 10:37 AM

It has already been sufficiently commented upon, but Judea and Samaria are simply the biblical names of these places (Yehuda and Shomron), and how they are most commonly referred to by Israelis. I don't think there is any term for "West Bank" in Hebrew, although they do frequently refer to the "shtachim", or territories. The fact that they appear on a map this way doesn't mean we want to keep them.

A small correction to your last post. There were isolated clashes between Israeli and Lebanese troops during the Lebanon war. I know of at least one, because I know of a soldier who was killed there, an Israeli Druze. Their patrol was chasing some hezbollah terrorists and ran into a Lebanese army position, which launched a heavy and sustained attack against them. The Israelis retaliated massively the next day, and the leader of the Lebanese position was killed, among many others. For whatever its worth.

Posted by: MarkC at May 1, 2006 10:38 AM

I just want to chime in that Judea and Samaria are in fact the common (and historical) terms for the area we call the West Bank today. The name "West Bank" was created in the 1950s by Jordan as an effort to further solidify claim to the region (which they had full control over until the 67 war) The idea being Jordan was a nation divided by the Jordan river, and the occupied palestinian side was the West Bank.

Posted by: jack at May 1, 2006 10:38 AM

Hey Mike, really good reporting. I've frequented that border both as a soldier and as a civilian, before and after the IDF occupied Southern Lebanon. I remember going up to the "good fence" as a civilian the day after the IDF pulled out of Lebanon, all the Hezbollah supporters came right up to the fence and started to throw rocks at us....

Posted by: IDFDave at May 1, 2006 10:55 AM

Jack -

Thus the misnomer the Wedt Bank in the east.
The timebomb for the area is this.. Jordan's gov't and the King's grandfater and great grandfather are moderate Muslims religiously and have always been reasonable and pro Western. However, they're illegit in Jordan. The Hashemites are from Saudi Arabia kicked out by the Wahabis (I believe?). That's why the not so big secret is the next target after Israel is Jordan. Most Arabs see Palestine as including Jordan.

Ironically, when someone who is "right wing" states this they are castigated. Whatever their point of raising this aside, it is true and the Arab world itself recognizes this.

More irony in the Middle East.

Mike

Posted by: Mike Nargizian at May 1, 2006 10:58 AM

I am new to your blog and love your insight. I am also new to understanding the conflicts in which you write about. I feel like I need a cheat sheet to understand all the groups you speak about and the territory they live in. Is there a good resource on the web to find this info? Maybe you can dedicate one of you writings to educate some like me about the different groups, there cause, and what conflicts they are involved in? Keep up the great work.

Posted by: New Reader at May 1, 2006 12:02 PM

Regarding the dynasty of the Hashemite Bedouins in Jordan:

Husayn ibn Ali was the Sharif of Mecca, and Emir of Mecca from 1908 until 1917. He was the last Ottoman-appointed Hashemite ruler of the Hejaz. He rebelled against Ottoman rule during the Arab Revolt of 1916 with the help of the British, who had promised him that he would rule an independent Arab state afer the Turks were defeated. His alliance with the British infidels against his fellow Muslims caused him to be branded a traitor to Islam in some quarters.

In 1917 he proclaimed himself king of Hejaz (present-day Saudi Arabia). In 1924, he further proclaimed himself Caliph of all Muslims.
The Saud family did not accept this and Huseyn was driven out by Abdul Aziz al Saud, who, in a fit of modesty, renamed the Hejaz after himself.

In order to "diddle the French out of Syria" as Churchill put it, the British staged an "indigenous revolt" in Syria gainst the French mandatory authorities and installed Huseyn's son Feisal as king, but the French immediately put down the rebellion and sent Feisal packing. As a condolence prize, the British set him up as King of Iraq, which was under their mandatory control. However, there was a problem: the British had already promised the throne of Iraq to Abdullah, Huseyn's other son, who was, needless to say, none too happy with the turn of events. In a fit of pique, he "invaded" the Transjordanian territory of the Palestine Mandate, and the British obligingly severed that area from the mandate and created the Emirate of Transjordan, now the Kingdom of Jordan.

In any case, a great many people consider the Hashemite dynasty to be foreign interlopers, and there is no doubt whatsoever that from the inception of the "Palestinian national movement", one of its goals has been the elimination of the Hashemites and the absorption of Jordan into "Palestine". As the events of "Black September" in 1970 make clear, there is little, if any, love lost between the various "Palestinian liberation movements" and the Hashemite dynasty. The burgeoning presence of fanatic Iranian Islamists in the witches brew of Arab politics will only make a bad situation worse and hasten the inevitable conflict between Jordan and those who would destroy it. In such a situation, do not be surprised to see Israel supporting Jordan against its enemies as it did during Black Spetember.

Posted by: Ephraim at May 1, 2006 12:12 PM

Off course you're wrong!
Israelis Don't call WB "West Bank" but Judea and samaria or "the teritorries".
what's right wing about it?
maybe you expect us to call ourselves "Palestine", otherwise we're "right wing"?

Posted by: yonatan at May 1, 2006 12:41 PM

Great stuff ...

Will the border explode before another "Big one" (earthquake) in Cal.? I think so, but it's not clear; it hasn't in Korea, where it is also tense.
Maybe Lebanon can get Beirut working so well that Hezbollah becomes a bad joke?

Prolly the invasion of Iran to stop nukes will happen before Hezbollah provokes the Israelis too much; or maybe Bush will follow the Dem advice and let Iran get nukes? To send to Hezbollah? To "not use"?

It's likely to get not safer before it gets safer; I very very sad to say.

Glad you reported so well; I like your attempts at "poetry", but more so your saying so much so briefly.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Libertay Dad at May 1, 2006 12:43 PM

MJT, perhaps American media uses "West Bank" instead of Judea and Samaria so as not to remind us of the biblical origins of the region, in hopes that we would side with "downtrodden Palestinians" rather than the Jews who were forbears of Jesus. IMHO...

Posted by: DagneyT at May 1, 2006 12:54 PM

I was in Southern Lebanon in 78/9 with the IDF. It was an effort with a "large footprint" and I don't doubt that then and in 82 not many people were left with warm and fuzzy feelings except for Maronite allies.

Posted by: Paul Freedman at May 1, 2006 12:56 PM

And BTW, you write very good and interesting. It IS unusual to see foreign reporters actually go outside Jerusalem.
But- maybe you should try and understand what a "Zionist" means.
It is no curse.
As a matter of fact, any Israeli Jew who's parents or grandparents or whatever came to Israel and belives that Israel has a right to exist is a "Zionist".
That also applies to many Israeli arabs, and, in particularly, Druze and Bedouins.

Try to respect the people that host you.

Posted by: Yonatan at May 1, 2006 12:58 PM

Tom: I like your attempts at "poetry"

Well, thanks, I guess. But it wasn't an attempt at anything, let alone poetry. I was just using Eitan's phrase.

Yonatan: Try to respect the people that host you.

I'm disrespectful because I used the term "Zionist"? Come on. It should be obvious that I respect Eitan (and Zvika, and Lisa). I invited him to come visit me next time he's in Oregon, and he comes out here every year.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 1, 2006 01:13 PM

I absolutely love your photographs...I wish there were more of them. Perhaps in your book? I know there's always a limit in how many to post online. I'm a visual person and actually seeing these places makes it so much more real to me. Keep up the great work!

Posted by: megs at May 1, 2006 01:27 PM

Was that the famous "Zwicka" of the Yom Kippur War?

Posted by: Solomon2 at May 1, 2006 01:34 PM

Michael,

I'll readily concede that I don't check the news for stories from the Israel/Lebanon border with any high degree of frequency, so please correct any mistaken impression I have that the border, while frosty cold, is not violent. I think there was a Lebanese civilian who got picked off by the IDF in February(?), but other than that it is just tense. Maybe a few incidents since 2000 here and there…

My point is, you don't mention a single ACTUAL incidence of violence or fighting on the border between the IDF and Hezbollah at any point in your article, yet you conclude with the overly-dramatic, made-for-day-time-television "The soldiers at the checkpoint turned us back for our own protection. They were waiting for an attack. Everything could explode at any moment."

Riveting, perhaps, but justified? When were you there? Was there an attack?

Posted by: Chris at May 1, 2006 02:07 PM

Chris: you don't mention a single ACTUAL incidence of violence or fighting on the border between the IDF and Hezbollah at any point in your article

Oh, bullshit. Read it again. (Parts one and two.) Don't skip whole paragraphs and accuse me of not writing them. I can't be held responsible for the way you do (or, in this case, don't) read.

There was a recent attack, and I was kicked off both sides of the border, by the Lebanese army as well as the Israeli army.

If you think the Lebanese and Israeli militaries are overstating their case, fine. Take it up with them. All I did was quote them. Anyway, am I supposed to think they're both lying to me about the same thing at the same time?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 1, 2006 02:15 PM

Great stuff... I would like to see a way to donate that doesn't involve giving 3% to anti-gun Paypal... they don't get ANY of my money.

Posted by: CJ at May 1, 2006 02:25 PM

There's no law against capitalists being generous or charitable. If that didn't happen then Texas would have suffered a Communist revolution by now..:)

It's just a matter of being free to be generous is all.

Once again a pleasure to read, Mr. Totten.

Posted by: seguin at May 1, 2006 02:33 PM

Very interesting read. Thanks for posting. Are you coming to Jerusalem while you are in Israel? Or are you back in the US already?

Posted by: Carl in Jerusalem at May 1, 2006 02:34 PM

One small addition to Ephraim's nice history lesson above. Sherif Ali was, of course, the Alec Guiness character in "Lawrence of Arabia." Great post as always.

Posted by: Mike K at May 1, 2006 03:18 PM

Knowing the former US Naval Attache to Israel, he held the peacekeepers on the north in high regard, as well as the IDF.

Heck, he even went up there in uniform.

Posted by: M. Thompson at May 1, 2006 03:45 PM

Ephraim -

I thought the British colluded with Al Saud as well? The reason why Al Saud won was because he teamed up with a radical far outlying group of Islamists... Wahabis. And thus today you get the radical form of Islam dominant.

I thought the Old 'royals' of Iraq were related somehow to the Hashemite 'royals' in Jordan. Is the 'royal' family in Iraq even recognized anymore whatsoever even as a formality like in Japan?

The burgeoning presence of fanatic Iranian Islamists in the witches brew of Arab politics will only make a bad situation worse and hasten the inevitable conflict between Jordan and those who would destroy it.
What do Iranian Shiite Islamists have to with Sunni Muslims in Jordan?

And Israel and Jordan have had the most cooperation behind the scenes probably than with any other country... unless you want to say Turkey?

However, this causes a potential disaster. Because if the refugees are eventually settled if they mainly go to the West Bank this will inevitably sow the seeds of destruction for Jordan as well as Israel. If Jordan was the "Palestinians" and they went there that could be a viable solution, however, then Israel's ally would turn into a deadly enemy.

Ahhh........ the Middle East.

Mike

Posted by: Mike Nargizian at May 1, 2006 04:38 PM

As a side comment, many people absolutely detest PayPal, for several and good reasons. Is it possible to set up for donations the "electronic bill payments" feature that seems universal to checking accounts these days? It would be a good alternative to PayPal.

I'd suggest, out of perhaps unreasonable caution, setting up a separate bank account just for this. Free checking accounts are as common as dirt.

Posted by: Brother Bark at May 1, 2006 04:55 PM

There is a very good reason not to refer to the West Bank as "Judea and Samaria". The "West Bank" is a modern term used to denote the region defined (in part) by the arbitrary border determined by the 1948 war. "The territories" is another artificial, and therefore reasonable, name to give to this region.

This region only loosely corresponds to the ancient realms known as Judea and Samaria. So why use an inaccurate term rather than a completely accurate one (invented precisely for that purpose) to refer to it? The only reason is that "Judea and Samaria" have connotations of a Jewish presence in that region. (Even if the term "West Bank" was invented by Jordan, that connotation is no longer relevant since Jordan doesn't want the place.)

By the way, I am a strong supporter of Israel.

Posted by: LTEC at May 1, 2006 04:55 PM

I have also been told by Israelis that Judea and Samaria is commonly used for what we call the West Bank and that there is not a lot of political baggage with it. It is an area with alot of Jewish history to it under those names regardless of who controls it.

Posted by: steve at May 1, 2006 06:19 PM

I would urge MJT to set up an alternative payment arrangement, for the simple reason that Paypal does not operate in Israel.

Posted by: MarkC at May 2, 2006 12:25 AM

Although I haven't seen a map here that says West Bank, only Judea and Samaria, there is a Hebrew way to say West Bank: "Geda haMaarabit" and it is also commonly used by Israelis.

The issue is simply that there is no objective name for any territory. I don't think that the Indians who lived in what is now New York thought that the name New York or New Amsterdam(?) was or is objective. And so it is and was with every other place on earth. The difference here is that many of the conflicts are still alive (for various reasons), so there is people claiming each of their labels to be the most objective.

Michael, I hope you will write something about central Israel: Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I really enjoy your tales.

Posted by: Fabian at May 2, 2006 01:40 AM
Like a normal country. Like it is between Oregon and California

Michael, you're an Oregonian, you know how we feel about Californians. Is it really that bad there?

Posted by: John Dunshee at May 2, 2006 03:36 AM

hey i don't really have a comment, but i'm at an internet cafe in mar mikhael printing and it seemed like a pity to not take advantage of being on a computer far away from my evil comment-blocking isp back home.

so i'm really just here to say hi :)

you know my thoughts on israel-palestine, but despite our diverging politics on this issue it is always wonderful to hear your impressions from the ground (and see the pictures!).

have fun at the beach, btw!

Posted by: carine at May 2, 2006 03:38 AM

Michael,

Do you really think things are that bad? I'll make you a bet that nothing will happen on the I/L border in the next six months. (Or the six months following that, either, but that's not part of the bet.) When I say "nothing", I don't mean an exchange of gunfire, I mean something that leads to a state of war.

And BTW, the Israelis were defeated by a genuine Arab army and it wasn't Hezbollah, it was the Arab Legion in 1948. But that was a long time ago and the Legion was led by a British officer.

Posted by: diana at May 2, 2006 04:12 AM

MJT,
outstanding article. If we were to be pedantic on maps and place names, Galilee stretched as far as Saidon. That concept might upset some people.
Any chance of meeting up for a pint to discuss the ME?
The Cat

Posted by: The Cat at May 2, 2006 04:48 AM

You're a bit off, Michael. Israel invaded South Lebanon in 1978. They were cheered by the Shia, Christians, and Druze living there.

In 1982, the only people cheering were those living north of Beirut.

Posted by: lebanon.profile at May 2, 2006 06:11 AM

Mmmm...

The alliance with Bachir Gemayel wasn't necessarily misguided. It could have produced something fruitful had he not been assassinated before he even took office.

Also, it wasn't really Syrian agents that assassinated Gemayel. It was Lebanese Christian members of the Syrian National Socialist Party.

Posted by: lebanon.profile at May 2, 2006 06:14 AM

Eitan was right about the withdrawal.

Many Lebanese Christians are in high dudgeon over Ehud Barak's decision to pull out. They hate the man because he did not get Hezbollah and Syria to provide a written agreement. After the pullout, the Syrians invented claims on Shebaa to legitimate "The Resistance's" arms.

However, I'm a bit more reasonable about this issue. Barak did the right thing by pulling out. Israel was not defeated, but it gave Lebanon back its dignity and took Israel off the UN bad guy list regarding Lebanon.

Barak should have known that Hafez al Assad would find some way to keep his anti-Israel strength alive. But at that time Clinton was the one negotiating with the Syrians. That fell through because Syria doesn't want peace. It doesn't want its land back. It wants to remain in a state of emergency so that the Syrian regime can thuggishly rule over the population under the pretext of an Israeli threat.

Posted by: lebanon.profile at May 2, 2006 06:29 AM

Michael, you know what I'd like to know?

A little while ago you wrote this:

Kurdish culture and American culture might as well be from different planets. But somehow, oddly enough, Kurds think much like Americans do. Let me rephrase that: Americans think like the Kurds. We have similar values despite our extraordinarily different cultural backgrounds. I find it easier to develop a rapport with Iraqi Kurds than with people from any other country I have ever been to. It's instant, powerful, and totally unexpected.

Now, I'm pretty sure that Israelis have a good claim on being the Middle Easterners most like Americans - but it might be for totally different reasons. So, what do you say? How are Israelis like/unlike Americans? How does that compare to Kurds?

Posted by: David Boxenhorn at May 2, 2006 07:29 AM

Michael,
I was hardly trying to be smarmy and apologize if I came off that way, so please spare me the lesson on how to read. You certainly can't fault me for making a point about your conclusion to one article by telling me I should have read another one. You also can't refer me to statements made by IDFers when I clearly was referring to your own words. It is the job of journalists to determine what is real from what is not real, right? Your own words are an endorsement of their paranoia, whether you intended them to be or not.

And of course soldiers on a border with a hostile force are going to be alert and defensive. For their sake, I hope they stay that way- better safe than sorry. But the kind of action going on on that border is not "everything could explode at any moment" kind of action. Its more like shooting cans of a fence with a .22 kind of action. Iran/Hezbollah has been flying some UAVs to take some photos, and generally posturing, but the second they get out of line in a "everything could explode at any moment" kind of way, they get steam rolled and they know it.

I agree with commentor Diana that the border is going to see its share of low-level stuff, but nothing that will escalate the situation or bring anyone to the brink of anything.

Posted by: Chris at May 2, 2006 08:15 AM

Diana:

If the Israelis were defeated by the Arab Legion in 1948 how come the Israelis are still there.

My reading of the history of tbe time leads me to believe that the Brits gave up their weapons and facilities to the Arab Legion. regardless of the outcome the fight was a little one sided.

Posted by: davod at May 2, 2006 08:22 AM

Great reporting, Michael!

In my experience, Judea and Samaria (Yehuda ve-Shomron, in Hebrew) came into common use after 1967, because continuing to call the area "the West Bank" left a bad taste in many Israelis' mouths. I'm not sure how prevalent it was, in modern Israel, prior to 1967. (Prior to the Six-Day War, of course, the term West Bank was accurate -- Jordan had annexed it, and by their lights, it referred to territory on the west bank of the Jordan river, as contrasted to the rest of Jordan to the east.)

Many Israelis did not like the way Jordan continued to refer to territory, captured by Israel in 1967, as Jordanian -- particularly when they did so slyly with the term "West Bank". (The capture was perfectly legitimate; unlike in other fronts in the 1967 war, Israel did not fire the first shot against Jordan.)

Granted, in the rest of the world it's a lost cause. The territory in question is universally known by the Palestinian (and Jordanian) name for it -- which, to Israelis, is unfortunate.

I'm reminded of other words which have lost their meaning. It bothers me, for example, when the word "ghetto" is misused. Up to and including World War II, a ghetto was NOT merely an economically depressed area; it was a place when people of a particular religion or ethnicity were required BY LAW to live, with curfews and work permits and harsh penalties for being caught outside the walls. But that, too, is a lost cause; Harlem is a "ghetto" now, even though anybody can drive right through and out the other side any time they like.

"Israeli-occupied Golan" is another cute one. Israel annexed the Golan Heights in the early eighties -- unlike Gaza, Judea & Samaria, and the Sinai, which were never annexed by Israel. As such, Israel has at least as much claim to the Golan as Jordan ever did to the "West Bank". (Jordan's annexation was recognized by only two countries, worldwide: Britain and Pakistan.)

Anyway. Israelis can be sensitive to issues of language, Michael, because Israel has lost the propaganda war on many fronts, many times, and has thus had to watch while brilliant victories became enshrined as defeats. It's galling.

BTW, Solomon2: I believe the Zwicka you're referring to was Lt. Zvi Greengold. Have another look at Michael's photos; there's no way Major Zvika Golan was old enough to fight in 1973. (I might add that the IDF promotes officers very quickly; a lieutenant in 1973 could easily be a retired general today.)

Davod: no doubt Diana meant to say that the Arab Legion won battles against the IDF in 1948, which is true. On the other hand, compare the borders of the 1947 UN Partition Plan to the 1949 armistice lines; at every point, the Israeli border is the same as the partition boundary, or is expanded from it.

It's analogous to claiming that the Germans won many battles against Allied forces in WWII (which, of course, they did). It's nonetheless the case that the Nazis lost the war. Ditto in Israel's case -- Israel has never lost territory in a shooting war, although Israel has voluntarily given up territory several times.

respectfully,
Daniel in Brookline

Posted by: Daniel in Brookline at May 2, 2006 08:58 AM

Christopher Allbritton writes about Michael J. Totten:

On the one hand, I’m glad that more people are working to do their own thing and bringing nuanced, insightful journalism to the reading public without the baggage that mainstream media often attach. On the other hand, Totten usually has a somewhat conservative rah-Amurricah tone that sets my teeth a-grate. That said, he does get out there and do some reporting. While he’s not my cup of tea — I find his Middle East reporting naive and American-centric — give him a read. I’ll let you decide if it’s worth donating. I’m going to pop him $5 on principle.

I have friends who are working journalists and as a group they exhibit the usual range of jerks and good people one finds anywhere else. But also as a group their contempt for others is both plain to see and hard to swallow when one considers the shoddy job they often do. It's hard to take Allbritton calling Totten's essays "conservative rah-Amurricuh" and "naive and American-centric."

We can learn from everyone on the ground in the Middle East, but as many above have pointed out the MSM -- and that includes Allbritton -- have more often than not let their "anti-Amurricuh" biases dictate on what they decide to report. Allbritton could learn a lot from Totten. Totten writes better and has a good ear, while Allbritton writes standard, wooden journalism in which the ideological cues are cleverly sprinkled throughtout.

*

Posted by: Jeffrey -- New York at May 2, 2006 09:30 AM

LP -

I was just wondering if I could get your statement copied below framed?

I would love for you take a trip here and attend some left wing speeches at campuses where they blamed the entire thing on Israel not really wanting peace with Syria - and keep all of the Golan. My Congressman, wrote articles praising all of the talks with Syria under Clinton.

Barak, the idiot pushed it with Clinton in order to try and hit the Home Run at once, as far as offering the entire thing outside of the half of the hills/mountains that face the Kibbutzes in valley within Israel. Syria rejected.

So then Barak even went as far as to agree to have "UN Monitors on that half without Israeli control.... (Can't make this crap up)....

Like the UN monitors riding in $50,000 SUV's with Hezbollah guerillas in Southern Lebanon today.. doin a lot.

That's why the Baraks and Beilins in the end are clueless. As much as the Arab world hates Sharon he GETS it. He grew up there and doesn't need a left wing professor to teach him about Hafez al Assad and the Saudi Princes etc...
<>LP Said -
Eitan was right about the withdrawal. Many Lebanese Christians are in high dudgeon over Ehud Barak's decision to pull out. They hate the man because he did not get Hezbollah and Syria to provide a written agreement. After the pullout, the Syrians invented claims on Shebaa to legitimate "The Resistance's" arms.

However, I'm a bit more reasonable about this issue. Barak did the right thing by pulling out. Israel was not defeated, but it gave Lebanon back its dignity and took Israel off the UN bad guy list regarding Lebanon.

Barak should have known that Hafez al Assad would find some way to keep his anti-Israel strength alive. But at that time Clinton was the one negotiating with the Syrians. That fell through because Syria doesn't want peace. It doesn't want its land back. It wants to remain in a state of emergency so that the Syrian regime can thuggishly rule over the population under the pretext of an Israeli threat.

Mike N

PS Saw United 93 last night. RECOMMEND SEEING IT STRONGLY

Posted by: Mike Nargizian at May 2, 2006 10:42 AM

Mike:

The Persian Shia in Iran and the Arab Sunni in Jordan may not have much to do with one another from the religious standpoint. But Hizb'allah is entirely an Iranian creation, and Iran has shown that it will cooperate with and fund any group that is willing to fight Israel and subvert any local government that is seen to be pro-US, like Jordan. Hamas is Arab and Sunni, but Iran is supporting it to the hilt since it is in the frontline of the jihad against Israel. Shia and Sunnis may disagree on a lot of things, but this is the Muslim Mideast after all, where the phrase "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" was invented.

Yes, the Brits colluded with al Saud and cut Huseyn loose. I guess they decided that Saud was better suited to their purposes.

The Iranians have said that they will unleash Hizb'allah on Israel should the US attack their nuke installations ("Don't move or the Jew gets it!"). Hizb'allah is heavily armed and much more disciplined than the PLO militias. Israel would win any confrontation, of course, but it could be very bad. Israeli intelligence estimates that Hizb'allah has 10,000 missiles in their arsenal, some with a range of up to 30 miles. Lebanon is, essentially, Iran's front line against Israel now, and they are calling the shots. When the time comes, Nasrallah will do whatever "Monkey Boy" Ahmedinejad tells him to do.

Posted by: Ephraim at May 2, 2006 11:34 AM

Ephraim -
That's basically what I thought.
However, I thought Hamas's main funder was still Saudi Arabia and Syria... though Syria is the conduit for Iran.

Let's face facts then.
1) Hezbollah is never disarming
2) They're a time bomb waiting to go off.
3) The Lebanese can't do a thing about them and the Leb army would rather sit back and let Israel fight them and then bitch about Israel in public while behind the scenes working with them.
4) The US nor UN can't do shit to prevent Iran from getting nukes.
5) The Student Movement is going to be far too little far too late....

Mike

Posted by: Mike Nargizian at May 2, 2006 12:32 PM

"...In 1917 he proclaimed himself king of Hejaz (present-day Saudi Arabia). In 1924, he further proclaimed himself Caliph of all Muslims.
The Saud family did not accept this and Huseyn was driven out by Abdul Aziz al Saud, who, in a fit of modesty, renamed the Hejaz after himself..."

Good post Ephraim, but I think it's more correct to say that roughly the western half of the present Kingdom of Saudi Arabia consists of the former "Hejaz".

This area is commonly referred to in English translations of official KSA government language as the "Western Province" now. I surmise this is because for political reasons the royal family wants all memory of its former rulers to be forgotten.

The Saud clan goes way back in its quest for dominion of their own area, which is the plateau/mesa area of the interior in which their capital Riyadh is roughly centered (the Najd or Najad? not sure, don't quote me, don't have my map & references handy).

But until their successful ouster of the Hashemites in 1924-25, the Sauds never had any dominion over the holy cities and the major port city (Jiddah) on the Red Sea that serviced the annual pilgrimage.

Initial name of KSA was something like "the dual Kingdom of the Najd and Hejaz", after a couple of years Abdul Aziz changed it to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Reference: "The Kingdom", outstanding book on Saudi Arabia, published around 1981, unfortunately never updated but it remains a superb reference for historical information. Used copies are common in US bookstores that carry such.

Posted by: Paul H. at May 2, 2006 12:35 PM

Oh, sure, the Saudis are funding Hamas. I just meant to point out that Iran is not turning up their noses at Hamas just because they're Sunni Arabs. They're enemies of Israel, and that's enough. Iran wants to be seen as the leader of the Muslim jihad against the West, and so they're trying to insert themselves wherever they can.

I hope you don't mind my asking, but are you Armenian? I have met some Persians whose names end with the distinctly Armenian "-ian", and I always assume they're Armenians, at which some of them take a certain amount of umbrage.

Posted by: Ephraim at May 2, 2006 12:39 PM

Not Persian. Part Armenian.
Paul H's story rings true. The Sauds were very poor and had control of the eastern part.. but not Mecca or Medina either I believe? When they teamed up with the Wahabi wacko clan, who tried in the 1800's to wrest control too I believe, they were able to kick out the Hashemites from controlling Islam and the country. I don't remember the exact British angle but likely they were playing both sides like they did in Palestine.

Mike Nargizian

Posted by: Mike Nargizian at May 2, 2006 01:59 PM

"Davod: no doubt Diana meant to say that the Arab Legion won battles against the IDF in 1948, which is true."

All their battles, as far as I know. But I am no military expert.

Posted by: diana at May 2, 2006 04:34 PM

Yeah. If it hadn't been for the Brits, Glubb Pasha, and the Arab Legion, Israel would have liberated Jerusalem and Yehuda and Shomron in '48 instead of '67.

The Arab Legion was the only effective fighting force that the Arabs fielded in '48. They were also quite vicious; when they conquered Gush Etzion, located between Jerusalem and Hebron, in May of 1948, they massacred 240 residents after they surrendered, took another 260 prisioner and then razed the settlement to the ground. After they conquered the eastern part of Jerusalem, they drove out all of the Jews, razed all of the synagogues, and used tombstomes from the Jewish cemetery as paving stones and seats in army latrines.

Posted by: Ephraim at May 2, 2006 05:17 PM

Ephraim:

How can you say such terrible things about the Arab Legion.

Posted by: davod at May 3, 2006 04:47 AM

Part of the reason the western press like to use "West Bank" is political, to avoid making the area's Jewish history obvious, but the main reason is that in English "the west bank" is shorter than either "Judaea" or "Samaria", let alone both. In Hebrew, "hagadah hama`aravit" is longer than "Yehudah veShomron", let alone each separately.

So Israelis refer to "Yehudah" or "haShomron", or "Binyamin" (which is the area between Judaea and Samaria, north of Jerusalem). When referring to the combined region, Binyamin tends to get left out, though.

Posted by: Milhouse at May 3, 2006 11:47 AM

Davod:

Ummmm.....because they're true?

Posted by: Ephraim at May 3, 2006 04:09 PM

Also, it wasn't really Syrian agents that assassinated Gemayel. It was Lebanese Christian members of the Syrian National Socialist Party.
-lebanon.profile

Huh?

Is the Syrian National Socialist Party not associated with the Syrian Social Nationalist Party that's part of the National Progressive Front coalition with the Arab Socialist Ba'th Party?

Geez, I thought I'd just about worked it out.

---

Prolly the invasion of Iran to stop nukes will happen before Hezbollah provokes the Israelis too much; or maybe Bush will follow the Dem advice and let Iran get nukes? To send to Hezbollah? To "not use"?

I wouldn't bet on it.

IMO, if the US invades Iran, all of Iran's pet terrorists get orders to go nuts. If the US invades Iran, I expect the border between Lebanon and Israel to get hot within hours.

Posted by: rosignol at May 4, 2006 01:47 AM

Rosignol,

You're off base.

The Syrian National Socialist Party was a Lebanese creation. Yes, the Lebanese members of the party worked closely with the Syrians, but claiming that "Syrian agents" assassinated Gemayel is a bit misleading.

Which agents? Syrian intelligence? Syrian-backed Palestinian terrorists?

They were Lebanese working with the Syrian regime.

BTW, the other quote you mention is not attributed to a commenter, but it definitely wasn't stated by me.

Posted by: lebanon.profile at May 4, 2006 02:25 AM

They were Lebanese working with the Syrian regime.

...' A means by which something is done or caused;' yes.

http://www.answers.com/agent&r=67

Definition #3.

BTW, the other quote you mention is not attributed to a commenter, but it definitely wasn't stated by me.

...which is the reason for the seperator '---' and is why "-lebanon.profile" does not appear after the other quote.

I'm fairly careful about attributions.

Posted by: rosignol at May 4, 2006 05:20 AM

Rosignol,

I think you understand my point, but are being obstinate.

To merely claim the SSNP is a group of Syrian agents minimizes the significance of the group. The Amal militiamen were Syrian agents, but they did quite a lot on their own, and they would never have been able to take out Bachir.

As I noted in my original comment, specification is important in this particular assassination, particularly because we've suffered so many assassinations at the hands of "Syrian agents." Some of the others, however, were actually done by Syrians.

Secondly, you didn't attribute the commenter. I understand your point, but someone else might think that you're responding to another comment I had written, the divider (---) being an argument about a separate topic (which it was), but still relating to something I wrote.

Posted by: lebanon.profile at May 4, 2006 09:02 AM

I really enjoy reading your blog. So much in-depth info about topics that I really care about... and yet, I have yet to find someone touch on these things as deeply as you have. Great job... you are so informative and really have opened my eyes to so many other things and ways of looking at things. Keep up the great work and be careful.

Posted by: tooners at May 4, 2006 10:04 PM

To merely claim the SSNP is a group of Syrian agents minimizes the significance of the group. The Amal militiamen were Syrian agents, but they did quite a lot on their own, and they would never have been able to take out Bachir.

It's not so much obstinacy as being unclear on how significant they really were. Most of what I know comes from MSM reports, Wikipedia, and various bloggers.

It is depressing to say that Wikipedia and various bloggers are far more informative than the MSM is.

As I noted in my original comment, specification is important in this particular assassination, particularly because we've suffered so many assassinations at the hands of "Syrian agents." Some of the others, however, were actually done by Syrians.

Perhaps that is due to me being American- I tend to classify groups by ideology and cause, not ethnicity. If someone carries out an operation on behalf of the Syrian government, I consider them a Syrian agent, regardless of their actual citizenship. I don't see why distinguishing between such people and actual Syrians is necessary. Ultimately, they serve the same master, so what difference does it make?

Secondly, you didn't attribute the commenter. I understand your point, but someone else might think that you're responding to another comment I had written, the divider (---) being an argument about a separate topic (which it was), but still relating to something I wrote.

I will try to be clearer in the future.

Posted by: rosignol at May 5, 2006 12:24 AM

I like the postscript: "Please help support non-corporate writing." The average Joe, if I can consider myself as such, just wants to know what's really happening. We don't want the truth filtered through the lens of a newspaper or tv channel controlled by people who care only about making more money. The thing I appreciate about your writing the most is that it seems genuine. There is no underlying hint of a hidden agenda.

Posted by: Justin Parmenter at May 9, 2006 12:53 PM

It is missing the Spin and so has real value. This is the start of a trend. TG

Posted by: TonyGuitar at May 13, 2006 11:41 AM

1. Provide a solution to the displaced Palestinian refugees in Lebanon (those that were displaced from their hometowns in Palestine) - all of them, either by returning some of them to Israel/Palestine or distributing them to several host countries; use your lobbies and international credentials to do that.

2. Retreat from the Shebaa Farms

3. Release all Lebanese prisoners of war still held in Israel

4. Provide mines' maps of South Lebanon

5. Pay up cash indemnities for all the destructions caused by Israel in Lebanon - you could always deduct whatever you think Lebanon caused as destruction in Israel, however PAY the difference, we could set an international team to set the figure.

6. Lebanon will hand over the Hezb weapons to the Lebanese Army.

7. Lebanon will engage in peace negotiations with Israel.

8. Lebanon signs peace.

Posted by: Lira at June 5, 2006 01:33 AM

Totten has a good eye for the key facts of any story, so what if he was unaware of the general use of "Judea and Samaria" in the Israeli lexicon.

Posted by: KGS at July 12, 2006 11:57 PM

Well , after the last few days of Hezbollah and Israel all out fighting I would say Diana and Chris owe you a pint.
,

Posted by: J. Philip at July 14, 2006 01:15 PM

seriously awful reporting. your political beliefs not only influence but actually dominate your writing which makes you unabashedly biased.

i am no supporter of hizbullah but i find it strange that you, a reporter, have so many opinions about them without ever having spoken to a hizbullahi.

additionally, it is far from clear that syrian intel assasinated bashir gemayel.

i support your desire to write a blog, but please dont mislead and then have patsies post how great your site is.

Posted by: jpizz at July 25, 2006 12:00 PM

Jpizz - if you'd look a little closer, you'd see that MT not only spoke to Hezbollah, he was openly threatened by them a number of times.

Posted by: Jeffersonian at July 25, 2006 05:50 PM
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