Thursday, January 08, 2009

The war against Hamas, phase III

I was writing this posting when I received a phone call from my wife, who had just brought our two youngest children to school and arrived at the school in Haifa where she teaches. She asked if it was true that rockets landed in the North. I turned on the television and discovered that it was true. I know the Channel 10 correspondent in the North, Ruby Hammerschlag, he studied with me at Haifa University when I got my MA in Middle-Eastern history. All our three children are at (pre)school, and all their schools - like my wife's - have good bomb shelters. They all have been practicing recently. Let's hope - for the people of Northern Israel and for the people of Lebanon ( and Syria ) that the official interpretation is true and that this was an improvised attack, and a one-time or sporadic incident, but we are following developments closely, obviously. The main war is still being fought in the South. I am looking forward to the demonstrations - by the New Leftists and the New Europeans who have been so busy these last two weeks - in protest against this morning's attacks aimed at innocent civilians ( one of the rockets hit an old folks' home with many of its residents Holocaust survivors, but old Jews are neither innocent nor civilians in the hateful eyes of demonstrators who shout "Hamas, Jihad Hizbollah" or "Intifadah, Intifadah, Palestine free!" ), but to be honest, I am not holding my breath, even though I have the impression that most of those demonstrators would be very happy if I and all Israelis with me here would be holding our breath indefinitely. Tough luck for them.
  • This is an example of a heading that shows that many, probably most foreign journalist and news editors do not have a clue about what is going on here, or what the Middle East is all about. The fighting is not raging despite the cease-fire proposal, but because of it. Both sides - and particularly Israel, because it knows that as a state it will have to bear more diplomatic pressure than 'the Palestinian entity' - try to achieve as many goals and hit as many targets as possible before they will be forced to stop shooting. Besides the destruction of enemy targets ( and enemies ), the fighting can serve another goal: put you in a stronger position during the negotiations that lead to a more permanent cease-fire. In all recent wars the fighting was the most intensive towards the end of the wars.
  • In the same article it becomes clear that journalists often do not even bother to ask the chicken-egg question. "Hamas responded with a rocket barrage". Whatever.
  • A very nice friend of a friend of mine ( mori, rabbi wehaveri ) - we met last week at a new year's party organized by that friend and his wife - sent me his impressions of the war in Gaza. Like many guests at the party he and his wife also immigrated from Holland, long before I arrived here, they live in kibbutz Matzuva, close to the Lebanese border.
  • I just heard that the rockets were fired from the same village where Lebanese and UNIFIL troops neutralized several rockets aimed at Israel a few days before the war against Hamas started. This strengthens the assumption that Palestinians, not Hezbollah or other Lebanese forces, are responsible. Until now, Hezbollah's leader Nasrallah's statements have been threatening but rhetorical and conditional ( "If the Zionists invade Lebanon..." ), but again, you never know. An Israeli journalist just called this a "Greetings from your Palestinian brothers in Lebanon, nothing more". Hallevay. Israel's response was limited to firing some shells in the direction of the location from where the rockets were launched. The message - to Lebanon, UNIFIL and Hezbollah - is clear: Israel is not interested in a second front, but keep the border quiet or...
  • I appreciate and have great respect for the balanced position of the Dutch government regarding the war in Gaza and Southern Israel. More than once in the past did I write that Holland - on its own and as a EU member - could play a central role in bringing about a more peaceful and livable reality for Palestinians and Israelis. I still believe that. That the government's wisdom is not shared by all Dutchmen and -women can be seen in the feedbacks of Dutch media, for example the comments on this morning's attack. The feedbackers can't be blamed, they depend on journalists who provide an article about that incident with a heading like "Israel opens fire against Libanon". There is no limit to some journalists' lack of competence, understanding and empathy.
  • The war teaches both Israel and Europe a lesson about their relationship with Turkey. While that relationship remains important and should be strengthened, neither the EU nor the Jewish state should fool themselves by believing even for one moment that when it comes to real trust and partnership, economic interests prevail over religious identification and loyalties. Israelis, though, will continue to flock to the cheap holiday resorts in Turkey, ignoring threats and worrying 'incidents'. I would - in particular given the good results ( I am cynical, again ) in Southern Lebanon with UNIFIL - be surprised if Israel really will exclusively trust Turkey and France ( a country which fascinates me, with a rich military history, but with an army that has not really won a war - without massive outside help, that is - for more than 200 years ) with the security of its citizens.
  • It was reported earlier that at least one of the rockets that landed in northern Israel this morning - like many of the rockets fired from Gaza - was, hardly a surprise, Made in Iran. Weaponry and ( incentives for ) suicide terror are the main gifts of the ayatollahs for the Palestinian people. The poor Palestinians are truly blessed with friends and supporters. What is interesting to notice is that where common enemies - mainly peace-seeking Muslims/Arabs, Jews, Israel, the US, the West, in that order - are concerned, traditional rivalries and hatred between Sunnis and Shi'ites become irrelevant. Representatives of the two main currents in Islam still find time and reasons to murder each other ( see Iraq and Lebanon) but they know very well how to cooperate when they share a common goal. And no, believe me, that goal is not the wellbeing of Israel's neighbors.
  • Based on what I hear outside the IAF seems to be on high alert in the North. All through the last two weeks planes have been heard more than usual, this morning they are even more active.
  • Back to bed now, with the radio on, and my eyes and ears open.

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