Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Sick leave

I have been ill for two days now, some kind of stomach flu that my wife and two of our children had a few weeks ago. Most of my time I have spent in bed, sleeping, watching the news, movies, and South Park episodes on DVD. I will continue to do so for a day or two, and after that I will get back to work, and maybe to blogging as well. Here are links to some of the articles that caught my attention ( and that were written in or translated into English; I use Hebrew sources but for practical reasons - one of them being the fact that few DBI visitors understand Hebrew - only refer to links in English or Dutch, or occasionally French and German; I prefer links to Ynet over links to Ha'Aretz, because Ynet articles remain online for years in most cases, whereas Ha'Aretz articles mostly disappear after a short while ) this week, mainly because they deal with subjects that are totally ignored or not exactly stressed enough in foreign media:
  • 1, about Hamas's rule of terror, and about the ways in which humanitarian aid is abused and simply stolen by the terrorists; last night I listened to veteran journalist and analyst of the Arab world Ehud Ya'ari ( who has an amazing knowledge of what goes on among our neighbors, who has sources that nobody else has and whose analyses are followed by many Arabs, including Arab leaders, because his articles and commentaries are often more insightful and reliable than the information that is available to them ). He said that he has received many reports about Hamas terrorizing the citizens of Gaza. One example: terrorists grabbing children and holding them close to them whenever they are forced to get out into the streets. This terror and the brutal and bloody way in which Hamas took over power from Fatah in Gaza partly explains how Israel has been able to receive very good intelligence on Hamas targets, I am sure. As I wrote earlier, many Palestinians - not exactly stupid - understand that Hamas is their most vicious and dangerous enemy, and a bigger threat than Israel.
  • 2, about the possible reason ( which is not an excuse, but an explanation ) behind the IDF hitting the UN school in Jabalya; yesterday evening Israel's minister for Internal Security, Avi Dichter ( who has an insider's knowledge of Gaza and was director of Israel's internal security service ), pointed out that nobody had published any names of the victims of the attack yet, mainly because ( both ) Hamas ( and the UN, my personal addition here ) knew that several known Hamas men were among them. Now I read that at least two of those names have been made public by Israel. Mr Dichter also said that part of the explosion at the school was caused by explosives stocked there. Again, if these accusations are true, not an excuse, but still. In recent wars such 'incidents' - in most if not all cases provoked on purpose by Hamas or Hezbollah - often forced Israel to agree to a ceasefire on terms that gave the terrorists an advantage that they had been unable to achieve without sacrificing their own people. Like in the second Lebanon War, most Israeli soldiers who were killed would probably still have been alive if the IDF did not try so hard to avoid civilian casualties. This is - halila wehas- not a plea for massive, indiscriminate bombings ( even though a three or four days' war with thousand civilian casualties a day would probably be 'digested' and forgotten more easily than two or three weeks of fighting that kills several hundred civilians ) but it is a point that should be taken into account. By the way, did anyone outside Israel cry Oy Gevalt! when a classroom in Be'er Sheva and a kindergarten in Ashdod were directly hit by Grad rockets earlier this week? That nobody was seriously hurt in those attacks was not because of the caution or good intentions of the friends of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez, Harry van Bommel and George Galloway, but only because of the fact that Israel does all it can to spare its citizens. The evening before the hit on the Be'er Sheva school one or two rockets landed in the city which until then was considered not to be within the reach of the Hamas rockets. The city's mayor and the army decided to keep all schools in the city closed, which the next morning turned out to have been a lifesaving decision. I know that this UN building was now used as a shelter rather than a school ( the poor Gazans do not have any safe place to run to ), but that does not make the world's hypocrisy and myopia any less.
  • 3, about the role of Iran in the war, and about its possible, or probable, motives.
  • 4, about the 'professional' way in which some media cover this conflict. This morning I watched France 24 while having breakfast. The anchorman asked a guest in the studio, a 'geostrategist' whose name I do not remember, whether there was a way in which Hamas could claim victory after this war. The guest said no, the organization was too badly damaged militarily and politically for that, but maybe by simply surviving its leaders and members could claim a victory somehow. After which the anchorman cleverly asked his next question: "Could it be that Hamas's mere survival will enable them to claim some sort of victory?". The decision not to allow journalists into the Strip was a wise one, I believe. There is no reason why Israel should give Hamas even more means to fight us. On Sunday Sky News was one of the first stations that broadcast the claim by Hamas that it had kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, a claim that turned out to be false but did cause hours of anxious rumours among Israelis, thus contributing to Hamas's psychological warfare against Israel. Such warfare is an integral part of any war, Israel also uses it of course, but I see no reason why Israel should make fighting even harder for its soldiers. For instance, if a journalist gets hit - the chances of which are more than imaginary - the chances of Hamas being made responsible are almost nonexistent, no matter which side's fire killed the man or woman. Every casualty - Palestinian civilians or terrorists, Israeli soldiers or civilians, journalists, aid workers - is a point scored by the terrorists, which is why Israel does and should do all it can to keep the number of victims among at least five of those categories as low as possible. Have a look at the picture next to this article to see how war journalism, consciously or not, sometimes uses antisemitic subtexts.
  • 5, about the 'friendly fire' accident in which Israeli soldiers were killed. Colonel Avi Peled, commander of the Golani Brigade ( who happened to be the commander of the Gaza southern brigade when Gilad Shalit was kidnapped ), was also hurt in the incident. Yesterday evening Colonel Peled was interviewed on television, he already had returned to command his men inside the Strip. In the history of the Israeli army many officers, some of them very high-ranking, were wounded or killed in the line of duty. Most of the senior Hamas leaders live in Damascus or hide underground, behind women and children in hospitals, schools or mosques, which is one of the reasons why so many of them end up being killed not while commanding their men but in a hiding place or while moving from one hiding place to another.

And yes, of course I also follow the reports about the suffering of the people in Gaza ( for example, every night one of the Israeli news broadcasts receives a live report and update from the director of the Shifa hospital in Gaza ), but I do not think that my sadness, compassion and pity - like the crocodile tears of many of the Palestinians' 'friends' - are of any use to them. For the people of Gaza, and for all Israelis, especially those in the Gaza Strip and in Southern Israel, I hope that this will all be over as soon as possible, with Hamas at most being able to claim the abovementioned type of victory.

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