January 19, 2009

In Israel

I'm in Israel now and have been here since Saturday afternoon. I have one more day with a packed schedule and then I should be able to squeeze in some time to write. Stay tuned for several short analysis pieces and a long dispatch from the border with Gaza.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 19, 2009 1:27 PM

Enjoy your trip. You deserve a little enjoyment once in a while.

Please consider asking the IDF if they will provide compensation to any of the Gazan civilians who have died recently. I hope Israel does this.

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at January 19, 2009 4:05 PM

Anand, perhaps I missed it, but have you asked the Pals if they will provide compensation for the Israeli civilians who have died recently?

I hope the Pals do this.

Posted by: rsnyder Author Profile Page at January 19, 2009 7:13 PM

Michael, I really hope you can get to talk to some Palestinian Authority folks about the ghastly torture, arrests, and executions of Fatah supporters in Gaza, which has reportedly escalated since the Hamas Pitriyot (Mushrooms) have come up from the tunnels as IDF pulls out, and is occurring (surprise!!) in schools and hospitals in Gaza.


Does the P.A. plan to demand War Crimes investigations? Is ANY media or NGO even noticing this? Red Cross? UNWRA? Amnesty International?

Or is it just more evidence that global outrage is not about protecting the poor Palestinians at all -- it's only about hounding the Jews?

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at January 19, 2009 8:45 PM

rsnyder, the terrorists are guilty of sin. But only they are guilty. Not the Palestinian people who no doubt oppose terrorist attacks against civilians, including Israeli civilians. Why do you imply that the Palestinian people are guilty of terrorist attacks against Israel?

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at January 19, 2009 11:51 PM

anand - by UNWRA estimates a few years back, 30-40% of Gazans support Hamas. Gazans elected Hamas KNOWING their political platform -- just as Germans elected Hitler. That it turned into a dictatorship was no surprise to anyone.

Gazans allowed or tolerated tunnels into and under their homes in many cases -- in other cases, they had no choice.

Israel didn't build the tunnels, Hamas did, and that made people's homes, shops, and schools legitimate military targets with no solid foundation. Israel didn't booby-trap homes and schools and libraries so they'd explode -- Hamas did. Israel didn't put an entire military city under Gaza City -- Hamas did. Israel didn't force its way into homes and take people hostage and use the home for launching rockets -- Hamas did.

Hamas was making 650 Million a year on smuggling according to Palestinian researchers, and estimates of a couple hundred million a year from Iran and Saudis each for several years.

Let Hamas offer to make compensation to the Gazan's whose infrastructure they stole and subverted, and whose homes they turned into military targets.

Israel doesn't owe a red cent to Gaza.

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at January 20, 2009 5:47 AM

...the Palestinian people who no doubt oppose terrorist attacks against civilians, including Israeli civilians.

The Palestinians do not oppose terrorist attacks against civilians. From the NYT, March 2008: "Poll Shows Most Palestinians Favor Violence Over Talks"

"RAMALLAH, West Bank — A new poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Palestinians support the attack this month on a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem that killed eight young men, most of them teenagers, an indication of the alarming level of Israeli-Palestinian tension in recent weeks.

The survey also shows unprecedented support for the shooting of rockets on Israeli towns from the Gaza Strip and for the end of the peace negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders.

The pollster, Khalil Shikaki, said he was shocked because the survey, taken last week, showed greater support for violence than any other he had conducted over the past 15 years in the Palestinian areas. Never before, he said, had a majority favored an end to negotiations or the shooting of rockets at Israel.

“There is real reason to be concerned,” Mr. Shikaki said in an interview at his West Bank office. His Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, which conducts a survey every three months, is widely viewed as among the few independent and reliable gauges of Palestinian public opinion..."

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at January 20, 2009 6:48 AM

Democracy is a responsibility as well as a privilege and a right. The palestinians democratically elected Hamas as their government and tacitly approved of their agression against Israel. They bear the responsibility for the hell unleashed on them by Hamas. The only real victims here are the children, and they should be assisted in every way possible. Everybody else in Gaza can go to hell though.

Posted by: Carlos Author Profile Page at January 20, 2009 5:21 PM

One concept that seems to get overlooked in the discussion of who is right or wrong in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is the proportionate use of force. Israel reports 13 Israelis dead in their latest attack on the Gaza Strip, 3 of them civilian. The number of Palestinian dead is expected to exceed 1,100, with perhaps as many as 40 percent being civilians, including women and children. Israel has also admitted using "some" white phosphorus weapons, hardly the sort of surgical strike designed to reduce civilian casualties. It will be interesting to read your reports and see how much you're able to delve into this issue.

Posted by: Robert Author Profile Page at January 21, 2009 2:55 PM

It's not about how many Israeli non-combatants died versus how many Gazan non-combatants died. It's about Hamas launching rockets into Israel for years without reprieve or sanction by the citizenry. How long do you think it would take the US to turn part of Northwestern Mexico into a sheet of glass if rockets flew across the Texas border from Mexico without relief, despite repeated requests, demands, and sanctions against Mexico to stop?

I agree the non-combatant deaths are tragic, but they are NOT unexpected. Does the risk of collateral damage mean a nation should not move to defend itself against hostilities? If the majority of citizens in Gaza disagreed with Hamas, there would be a greater effort within the community to remove Hamas FROM ELECTED OFFICE and any other community-sanctioned role.

As for the level of force used: Police officers do not shoot criminals with firearms in the knee, despite the Hollywood hype. They "shoot to stop" which any cop, defense attorney, or DA will tell you means "shoot to kill" for all intents and purposes.

"Stop shooting rockets at us or we are going to bring a world of SH*T down on you" is a pretty clear message in any language or cultural exchange.

Posted by: securitypunditwannabe Author Profile Page at January 21, 2009 3:32 PM

""Stop shooting rockets at us or we are going to bring a world of SH*T down on you" is a pretty clear message in any language or cultural exchange."

Except that's not addressing my post is it? You have morphed your response into something like "Stop shooting rockets at us or we are going to kill innocent civilians in reprisal, including women and children." See how ridiculous that sounds?

And to your attempt to conflate Israeli military with a police force, police officers target the actual criminals, not blaze away indiscriminately with automatic weapons at any provocation.

Residents of Gaza see Israel flouting international law by not removing illegal settlements on Palestinian land, but until both sides are held to account, there will be no lasting peace in the region.

Posted by: Robert Author Profile Page at January 21, 2009 3:53 PM

You don't grasp the concept of proportionality which has been discuused to death here and elsewhere. Proportionality means in simple terms that you judge the value or threat of a military target, weigh that somehow against collateral damage or casualties and you try to use only the force necessary to eliminate the target. If the target is low priority as a military threat and it's got enormous civilian value, you don't hit it.

That's why even though Hamas builds its headquarters under the main hospitals in Gaza, Israel did not -- did not dare -- blow up the hospital. If, however, Israel knew there was a nuclear rocket silo under the hospital, and Haniyeh's finger was on the trigger, then hitting the hospital is not disproportionate.

Hamas deliberately and contemptuously violates international law and the Geneva Convention every which way from Sunday, it SAYS SO openly, and I'm just really pleased to see that your feathers are equally ruffled by their behavior.


Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at January 21, 2009 4:17 PM

Robert, if you would take the time to do research on your "proportionate use of force" you would see that this issue has been discussed in depth and what an asinine concept it is in war, both in theory and the real world.

Posted by: rsnyder Author Profile Page at January 21, 2009 4:19 PM

Is Israel at war with the Palestinian people?

Posted by: Robert Author Profile Page at January 21, 2009 4:45 PM

"...police officers target the actual criminals, not blaze away indiscriminately with automatic weapons at any provocation."

This insinuation, that the IDF "blazes away" without regard for civilian casualties, is ridiculous. I don't think it could be any farther from the truth. MJT and others have put forth many examples to illustrate this. If you choose to ignore them, that is your ignorance. Please don't expect us to make it ours, as well.

Posted by: Joe Author Profile Page at January 21, 2009 7:15 PM

Hamas ended a ceasefire and refused to discuss continuing it, and dramatically increased rocket attacks. IF they are the elected government of Gaza which demands recognition as such, then they declared war on Israel. Israel fought back in self defense and to stop the barrage of missiles, and to eliminate longer-range missiles Hamas had acquired which could approach the southern outskirts of Tel Aviv -- and thus also the Dimona Nuclear Plant. If Hamas didn't have them, they shouldn't have bragged about it.

So yes, iF Hamas represent the Palestinian people, as they claim to do, (although Fatah would beg to differ -- and may be literally begging, with many Fatah supporters blinded and crippled from Hamas torture) then Israel was indeed at war with the Palestinian people and the government that claims to represent them.

If they don't like that representation, I'm sure Hamas will be happy to call for free and fair elections without complaint.

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at January 21, 2009 8:54 PM

AZZenny, while I would probably disagree with them, there are many ways to defend Cast Lead without disseminating obvious falsehoods as you do.

"Hamas ended a ceasefire and refused to discuss continuing it"


and as to the issue of who broke the ceasefire in the first place, it is at least contentious:

"IF they are the elected government of Gaza"

Hamas is not the elected government of anything. To make this ridiculous claim would be like claiming that "Kadima" was the elected government of Israel if a Kadima paramilitary unit arrested the MKs from all other Israeli political parties and usurped the apparatus of government for themselves. In terms of popular vote, a majority of Palestinians voted for Fatah and other parties, which have not been members of a coalition government in Gaza for over a year now.

Don't spew patent nonsense. Be intelligent about your defense of Israel.

Posted by: Matt Author Profile Page at January 21, 2009 9:22 PM

Forgive us our hypotheticals, as we forgive those who stretch credulity against us. (Anyone who cites the Guardian gets zero traction with me.)

Bottom line, THEY consider themselves the government of Gaza, and Gazans consider them the government, whether they like that fact or not. When one government attacks the civilians of its neighbor and blusters about what they're gonna do next -- they're asking for it.

Hamas stated their unwillingness to continue the ceasefire -- not Haniyeh, but the militant and salafist arms of Hamas had been gaining power since August, per Matthew Levitt, who probably knows Hamas better than anyone outside the immediate region. They overrode the 'moderate' political group. The people who make a living looking at these issue for the most part seem convinced Hamas was the side that triggered the war.



Also Victor Comras: http://counterterrorismblog.org/2009/01/muslim_brotherhood_reacts_defe.php

Oliver Guitta: http://counterterrorismblog.org/2008/12/iran_activating_its_proxies.php

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at January 21, 2009 10:38 PM

Wow, AZZenny. You didn't even click on the ynet link I posted, did you? If you did, you would have seen in the very first paragraph that Mahmoud al-Zahar, the individual Matthew Levitt identifies as a prominent "hard-liner" is THE PERSON WHO OFFERED TO RENEW THE TRUCE. Since you don't like to read the news, I will quote for you:

"Senior group leader Mahmoud al-Zahar tells Egyptian paper Hamas will consider resuming ceasefire under old terms if Israel sticks to its end of the bargain, namely refraining from operating in Gaza, reopening border crossings"

Nice job.

Furthermore, you claimed that Hamas was the ELECTED government of Gaza, which is what I disputed. And how about you don't speak for all Gazans, many of whom voted against Hamas in the last election. In fact, the many articles that document how Cast Lead has CONVERTED people into Hamas followers implies that many were not prior to the operation. According to a poll cited in the below WSJ article, Hamas was in fact losing support before the Israeli invasion reversed all that.


And finally, if the Guardian is not up your alley, here's the same report from Reuters:


Posted by: Matt Author Profile Page at January 21, 2009 11:08 PM

You don't really know much, do you, Robert? Palestinian civilians are killed because Hamas undertakes terrorist and military attacks from civilian areas so Israel cannot defend its own citizens without endangering Palestinian civilians. It is a deliberate tactic on the part of Hamas who has less concern for Palestinian civilians than does Israel.

"if the Guardian is not up your alley, here's the same report from Reuters:"

Bwahaha. That's like saying, "If Pravda isn't up your alley, here's the same report from Izvestia."

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at January 22, 2009 12:52 AM

"One concept that seems to get overlooked in the discussion of who is right or wrong in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is the proportionate use of force."

This is overlooked? Puh-lease. This is all that the left can jabber about.

Lookit. Modern warfare seems to have morphed from a question of victory and defeat, into a question of deterrence. If you give a proportional response, you will not deter anybody, because they have already factored your response into their decision. In order to deter somebody from something, the response has to be massively disproportionate. Cruel, but necessary if you have your own civilian population to protect.

Hamas themselves has admitted that they did not anticipate the fury of the Israeli response. Now maybe they'll be quiet. Maybe.

This is simple simon stuff. Why does the left have such trouble getting it?

Posted by: MarkC Author Profile Page at January 22, 2009 1:05 AM

Another obvious point the left seems unable to get. People who engage in body counting are not taking into account the terror and trauma inflicted on the people of Sderot and the south. Look at some of the qassam footage, of the small children sobbing and screaming for their mothers, and then tell me that this is something that people should have to live with. People have more than the right simply to be free of death.

Imagine a man coming into your home and threatening you and your family with death and reducing your children to screaming, bed-wetting wrecks. Don't you think you have the right to do anything it takes to defend yourself against this man, even if up until now he hasn't actually killed you?

Here's an article describing life under the qassams, in case any members of the left are interested. http://www.jewishjournal.com/liveinsderot

By the way, these attacks came long before Operation Cast Lead, so don't talk equivalency about traumatized children in Gaza (who also weren't starving). This was unprovoked, unjustified aggression that deliberately targeted civilians.

Posted by: MarkC Author Profile Page at January 22, 2009 1:32 AM

There is certainly quite a bit of vehemence in many of the posts on the topic of the latest Israeli invasion of Gaza. However, there is also a distinct theme of demonizing and dehumanizing the Palestinians. The points made about the trauma on children deny the legitimacy of comparing Israeli children and Palestinian children, as if the latter are not also human beings. The deaths of Gaza civilians is justified as being a valid form of deterrence, which sounds precisely like the calculation made by those who employ terrorism as a valid political tactic, not very constructive if the end goal is peace in the region.

As I've said before, this conflict between two Semitic peoples is abhorrent, but peace cannot be achieved until both parties in the conflict obey the rule of law. It is encouraging to see that President Obama will be appointing George Mitchell as his Middle East special envoy, as Mr. Mitchell has ties to the area (his mother is from Lebanon) and extensive experience with the Israel-Palestine situation. It is not as encouraging to see Likud and the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party making gains in the Israeli pre-election polls, but we have to hope that cooler heads prevail.

Posted by: Robert Author Profile Page at January 22, 2009 10:01 AM

You aren't automatically in the right because you suffer more civilian casualties. Just ask the Germans.


Pass the begging bowl to the Arab states - the ones awash in billions of oil wealth. Maybe they can donate a gold plated toilet or two.


Yes, the illegal settlements need to be taken down and the settlers removed. Will this being peace to the area? Given the same scenario in Gaza, I highly doubt it.

Posted by: Boojum Author Profile Page at January 22, 2009 10:03 AM

I'm sorry, it must all be getting to me, but this actually made me laugh.

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Nearly 100 civilians have been killed in artillery exchanges between Sri Lanka's military and Tamil Tigers since the weekend, a top government official working in the area controlled by the rebels said on Thursday.

The report of casualties came on a day the United Nations said the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had violated international law by stopping its local staff and their families from leaving the war zone in an aid convoy.

That echoed earlier complaints from human rights watchdogs that said the separatist rebels had forced civilians to stay in the war zone as human shields and forced conscripts. The rebels, on U.S., E.U. and Indian terrorist lists, deny that.

Hey, man, if you're not fighting Israel, you get no slack from the NGOs, and no media support!

btw, it's been reported by an Italian reporter that a Palestinian physician at the main Gaza hospital (who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons) has said the actual casualties are half to two thirds lower than being claimed, and that the vast majority were young men serving as foot soldiers for the Hamas militants in hiding.

This was also reported by Palestinian civilians as to who they saw fighting for Hamas, and a number of Palestinian reporters have also said the civilian casualties are substantially inflated.

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at January 22, 2009 7:47 PM

In the first 11 months of 2008, 3000 Gazan rockets and mortars landed in Israel and there were sniper attacks as well.

232 rockets and 139 mortars were fired from Gaza during 'ceasefire'

Lobbing missiles deliberately and solely at civilian populations outside the context of war is called terrorism; in the context of a war, it is a war crime -- There is never any justification for it under international law. (Of course that only matters if you care about obeying international law, and Hamas does not, and no one seems to mind.)

So if 'proportionality' is the be-all and end-all of the 'rules of war' (which is about the most oxymoronic term concievable) then this should make everyone happy -- maybe even Robert:

Every time a rocket is fired from Gaza, Israel fires one back. Every suicide bombing in Israel gets a targetted air force bomb dropped in a comparable Gazan population center. Gilad Shalit doesn't get Red Cross or UN visits or other contact, neither do any Palestinian prisoners. When Hamas signs a document agreeing to fully abide by all Geneva Conventions, and does so, Israel will, too. When Hamas signs a document saying Israel has a right to exist as a nation, and rescinds their statement that all Israelis are legitimate military targets, Israel will agree that Gaza has a right to survive, and that Gazan civilians are not proper military targets. Etc.

Seems workable to me.

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at January 22, 2009 8:30 PM

"Seems workable to me."

What? Treat Jews and Arabs the same? The world will never stand for it.

Posted by: Leauki Author Profile Page at January 23, 2009 3:09 AM
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Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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