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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Gaza and Israel

That's my nephew. He could be a movie star, seriously.

Except that this is not a poster for a movie. Here he represents the Israel Defense Force. He's a poster boy for the IDF.

You know this isn't a political blog. It's not even a religious blog. I like to think of it as a way to communicate with people, a method for you and for me, a way to help us think things through. Just a blog.

It isn't really a Jewish blog because the Israel Forum, an organization that hosts Jewish and Israeli blogs, rejected me years ago when I started blogging.

I thought, Hey, I'm Jewish! I should be streaming from the Israel Forum. That's where all the cool Jewish bloggers stream from!

But they wouldn't take me.

So all I could do was add a little subtext to my Technorati profile:
MFT's, or marital/family therapists don't talk so much as direct traffic in therapy. We make sure nobody gets hurt. Many of us do a lot of scribbling, which is hard to read, and some of us blog, if discretely. Did I mention the Jewish part?
So here's the Jewish part.

The last time I wrote anything remotely political (not counting my non-partisan posts about the inaugural) I was in Israel and had witnessed, first hand what it's like to be in a place under enemy fire, enemy fire originating a few scant miles away.

It's so close, this war, neighbor against neighbor. It's as if Chicago (Israel) is getting pounded regularly by rockets from gangs in Morton Grove (a bordering suburb, as close as Gaza is to Israel). And this has been going on for a couple of years, and all the mayor of Chicago can do is politely ask
"Would you mind terribly much not lobbing missiles into Millennium Park, please? Somebody could get hurt!?"
In February and March, 2008, I wrote a couple of posts about Israel and Gaza, terrorism and aggression.

The posts focus on the differences between passivity, assertiveness, and aggression. Therapists like me recommend assertiveness over aggression, but sometimes you have to speak the language of the person with whom you are communicating, kick it up a bit, show a little muscle, and you have to protect yourself, you people.

The post I wrote in March followed killings in schools in America. I suggested Americans use metal detectors and security guards at the entryways to public buildings, like they do in Israel.

Those posts aren't bad introductions to this latest war you've been hearing about in Gaza, the one the world believes the Israelis started and finished efficiently, but without cause. "It was insanity," I heard one Arab talking head proclaim on National Public Radio.

So was it? If you know me, I don't take words like "insanity" lightly.

Two of my nephews fought in this initiative (see, I'm using the softer word) and both came back in one piece.* The war was the first thing that most Israelis have agreed upon in a long, long time (get two Jews in a room, you have three opinions). This war had to happen. Despite what you might have heard on NPR, it was a well-planned, well-conceived, tactically executed war waiting to happen.

I'll admit that when it started, when my sister-in-law told me that her boys were called up for active duty, I worried. I didn't worry about them so much as I worried about every one of those young soldiers called into Gaza for duty. In Israel children are called to the army as teenagers. In Gaza they're playing with guns at four years old. Killing Jews is mother's milk.

So neurotic worrier that I am, I worried about all of the innocents, and all of the guilty, too, who would be killed. War is hell. There is no good war. Who has the right to kill?

And of course, I worried that the Israeli's live under the nuclear threat of Iran, a nation that funnels arms to Hamas terrorists in Gaza. Israel is a country bordered by, within walking distance of, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt. Being a worrier, I worried that the Arab world would use Israeli aggression, for face it, that is what it is, in Gaza as an excuse to decimate Israel, multiply that rocket fire to the south by Hamas, destroy the land and the people who made it the Land of Milk and Honey what it is today, fertile, civilized, beautiful. Jewish. It was not this way when Jews were in exile.

What was called Palestine was not fertile, civilized, beautiful. It was rocks and sand.

I worried they, our Arab neighbors, would return the Land of Israel to its pre-Jewish state, back to rocks and sand we go. This is the catastrophic thinker in me.

But do you know what happened? Nobody stepped in. None of the Arab nations joined Hamas against Israel. None of them joined in the fray. And do you want to know why?

This is my humble opinion, but I'm sure others have expressed it, as well.

The presidents and the prime ministers of all of the civilized countries in this hotbed, the Middle East, have been watching, observing as Hamas lobbed missiles into the south of Israel without consequence these last few years. This has been going on since Israeli's abandoned their homes and handed over this stretch of beach front property, this "land for peace" to the Palestinians.

Arab neighbors have watched these past few years and probably laughed, perhaps even scratched their heads, wondering, "What's wrong with the Jews? What kind of wimps are they!? Why are they taking it?"

Everyone knows that a nation has a right to self-defense, that as the only Jewish country in the world, Israel is alone when it comes to defending herself from enemy missile attacks. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that if a terrorist organization is lobbing missiles at your homeland, your army will probably have to take that group out at some point or another.

And that's what the Israeli's finally chose to do. They went after the terrorists within the infrastructure. And innocent people were killed in the process.

If Canadians harbored terrorists in churches, orphanages, and schools, thugs who lobbed missiles into Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Michigan, and talking, pleading, and negotiating didn't stop them, what would President Bush have done? What would President Obama do?

So blogging as a therapist I have to say that this war is a case of one country speaking the language of the other country. One aggressor to another. Sometimes rooting out terrorism is the only way to respond to terrorism.

As a woman who still wants to claim Israel as my country (although the flag flying in my window clearly shows stars and stripes), who believes that I should be living there, eventually will live there, who feels that all of the sons of Israel are my sons, it is incumbent upon me to thank them, all of the young men and women who served, who put themselves into danger, who manned tanks and fired guns to put an end to a conflict. We pray it is the end. At least for now.

You know, you can't sit around and wait for your Higher Power to do the work for you sometimes. It would be nice, it really would, if He or She would simply step up to the plate and make peace between nations. Ain't gonna' study war no more. But there is that expression, and perhaps it holds true as therapeutic dogma as much as it does in the political theater,
G-d helps those who help themselves.
If not now, when? Should a country wait until an enemy becomes even more powerful? Has even better, longer reaching weapons? Perhaps nuclear weapons?

Hopefully that's all for another eleven months, on this topic.

therapydoc

By the way, for much more about the war, a Jewish/Israeli point of view, read Ima on the Bimah, a Heveil Hevalim production
and for more on Post Traumatic Stress and the war that doesn't exist, read Shiloh Musings


Here's some of the text from a mother in Israel welcoming her son home. Ilene is a copywriter of newsletters, websites, brochures, project kits.

My Son Came Home

My son came home from Gaza just a few minutes ago. He came home as we had sent him
off, only more tired, worn and dirty. Thank you Hashem for bringing him home. To his
wife, his brothers and sisters and his loving brood of nieces and nephews. All of us have been waiting patiently these past three weeks to hold him in our arms.

. . .
I helped him toss his heavy bags into the trunk of the car. The heaviest among them being the one weighted down with foodstuffs that Israel's citizens sent to our soldiers. Tens of thousands of kilograms of food poured into the bases in the south. Cartons upon cartons of instant soups, nuts, pretzels, cookies and nosh of every kind. All sent by individuals, families, schools and businesses from throughout the country.

I pulled in front of his apartment, a few kilometers from my home, and as we descended the steps I heard him speak gently and lovingly with his wife at work, telling her how anxious he was to see her. He turned on the boiler and laughingly told me "I'm not getting out of this shower for the next hour."

The bags fell to the floor and he leaned against the kitchen counter to untie his boots swiftly flinging them aside and letting his bare feet rest on the tile floor. He was exhausted and I hesitated to start with the barrage of questions that had been streaming through my head every day, every hour for these past few weeks.

. . ."Ima" he said, "I'm tired now, but I have to tell you how extraordinary this nation is. The children who wrote to us, the people who sent their good wishes with their packages of food, the businesses that sent truckloads of goods. The soldiers I served with, each one caring deeply about the other one. Zahal who made sure that we were well trained and well equipped for our mission. But mostly. Mostly.

This was a war that was guided by the Hand of G'd. Everyday we felt His presence --
whether deciding to enter a building by smashing down the back wall rather than entering through the front door, only to discover that the front door had been booby trapped, or searching rooms in a house and uncovering a tunnel under a bed we had lifted where tens of Hamas terrorists were hiding in the hopes of kidnapping one of us, or dozens more stories."

I looked at this child's face and saw the extraordinary young man he had become. Filled with faith. Feeling a passion for those values that have held this nation together for thousands of years. And, his very presence. His very modesty. His deep felt pride at being part of this nation. All of this wrapped around my heart and left me humbled.

Humbled and grateful.

"And I will lift up my eyes unto the mountains, from where my strength will come."

52 comments:

Leora said...

Your post got much longer from what I read last night.

I can relate to not having a political blog and then wanting to post about Israel. I gave up. Now I only post politics as it relates to Israel and to anti-semitism.

Regarding peace in the Middle East, I believe some of the long, long off answer may lie in the the cold peace now enjoyed between Israel and Jordan, Israel and Egypt. I think the reason Egypt is quiet about Hamas is 1) they don't want Iran ruling the Middle East, and Iran is behind Hamas and 2) they don't want the radical Muslims running the show either. At the same time, they haven't done anything to stop the arms smuggling into Gaza, so they don't want peace THAT much. But the fact that they can show restraint and that a new front did not open in the North (someone stopped Hizbullah, whether it was the Lebanese, I don't know) gives a tiny bit of hope.

A real key is educating the youth of the Middle East in some way other than radical Islam. How one can do this, I don't know!

Thanks for the post. Look forward to what others write.

Jack said...

You do know that in Israel they require that all toilet seats are left up. It is a security issue. ;)

Samurai Scientist said...

This war killed at least 500 innocent Palestinians. A lot of these were children. They aren't coming home to their mothers. Despite Israel and Fatah's best effort, Hamas remains at the absolute, all-time peak of their popularity and political power.

Don't bang your foot dancing on the rooftops.

Blind Faith said...

The passage from Isaiah is one of my favorite scriptures. This sharing made my eyes swell with tears. Your nephew is a very handsome young man.

I'll probably get slammed but I believe in the premise that every nation has an inherent right to protect it's sovereignty. Terrorist's are cowards. If they had strength of heart and spirit, they would face their enemies head on like real warriors. Instead, they hide and use fanatical, bastardized religion in ways that it was never intended. The Ancient of Days protects His children and directs their paths.

All I have to say in regard to the Palestinian's is READ YOUR HISTORY!! The Israeli's never forced you to leave...that was your CHOICE. You don't like being bombed? Then keep the cowards in check and take care of business!

Thanks for the share and the thoughts that will come as a result of it. I hope you are girded up....*grin* I sense incoming.

Lisa Marie said...

War is such a heavy subject, and I believe an even heavier burden on young people. They are fighting the battles of an older generation, but yet don't really get the opportunity to form their own opinions and beliefs because they are too busy fighting for their leaders. I have 2 friends who have done multiple tours in Iraq and they are way too young to be so angry. Unfortunately I offer no alternative, so this is just frustration speaking. I hope you are proud of your nephew :)

therapydoc said...

Sure I'm proud. Thanks, Lisa.

And Jack, we have to retire that subject.

I'm waiting, too, Leora. I may not have guts enough to even leave this up. I'm pretty sure the email won't go out until tomorrow, so I have to think about it.

I'm emailing my nephew and s-i-l to see what they say.

Wendy McIntosh said...

Therapy doc:
I want to comment, but don't want to insult, so please take my words as coming from the heart, as humble as they may be. I lived in Tel Aviv for 5 years, 5 very difficult years. There were no wars at the time, but Israel was always at "war" never knowing where the blows would be coming from next. My friend's grandmother had the most beautiful needlepoint tapestries on her walls, I asked how she had the patience to accomplish them - she said when her sons were at war...
But then I think, is there a Palestinian mother also needlepointing beautiful tapestries, an Iranian mother somewhere in prayer over her son? (Oh, I lived in Iran for 3 years also)...
I'm afraid that if I look too deeply, I will find a similiar story of your nephews, in the blogs by a Palistian mother or an Irai mother, or a woman from Sudan or Darfur or Afghanistan... All equally heartbreaking, all hurting because this is happening.
Surely, under the great wisdom that G-d has given us, surely there has to be a better way.
I regret that you needed to make this post, I'm so sorry and distressed for the thousands of people who live under violence, war, unhuman conditions - but I can find no words that can justify any of it. No good reason to say we had to do this or that, they wouldn't listen to us, they wouldn't stop - and they never will until real, humanitarian efforts are made by every soul on earth - and we will as soon as we all realize that every soul has equal value.
Peace be with you.
Wendy

blognut said...

Heavy post - You have to protect, and innocent lives (from all sides) are lost in the process. Wendy makes an excellent point about the things that need to be considered all around. People have to stop hating, stop teaching their children hate, stop preaching it in the streets. Our world is in such a condition because of the way we have lived, and the failure to appreciate our differences. Yet, all that said, if someone threatens my safety or the safety of my children, I will pick up the flag and run into war right behind everyone else. War cannot stop until we all stop fighting and as long as there is even one holdout, we will continue to have war.

barfly said...

Therapy Doc you know that nobody liked that war. The Israelis bullied the Palestinians and many civilians died.

But I understand that the terrorists were the targets and the Israeli ceasefire means they accomplished what they set out to do.

I hope so.

therapydoc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
therapydoc said...

SAMURAI, it's not as if hundreds of thousands of Jewish children haven't died in religious wars. I have a sense that we're still in the loss column. Not that the loss of a single life isn't lamentable.

As my medical friends in Israel tell me, Jewish doctors treat everyone, rich or poor, Arab or Jew, indiscriminately. Going off to kill Arabs was not the intention, not the way they train their children to murder Jews.

It is never the Jewish intention to murder innocent people.

A Jew would never say, "An Arab. Guilty by association, must die."

Whereas the children in Gaza are taught that all Jews, all of them, must die. And they are handed guns and bullets to do the job. At age 4.

I wish I was making this up but it's true. See Obsession if you can.

therapydoc said...

Wendy, and EVERYONE, don't worry about criticizing what I said in this post. You're not going to hurt my feelings! I felt that the media coverage of this war was heavily biased against Israel, and that I, as a Jewish person, had an opportunity here to at least present the counter-point.

So there you have it. Shoot away.

Isle Dance said...

WELL said. Thank you so much for sharing what needs to be heard, seen and known...and for encouraging others to watch Obsession. Until now, I thought I was alone with these thoughts, blogging. I hope you keep this post up. It is so very, very important.

Isle Dance said...

WELL said. Thank you so much for sharing what needs to be heard, seen and known...and for encouraging others to watch Obsession. Until now, I thought I was alone with these thoughts, blogging. I hope you keep this post up. It is so very, very important.

Anonymous said...

he looks like a jewish luke skywalker ready to take one the Empire.....

shaya g said...

People keep focusing on the innocent Palestinians that were, UNFORTUNATLEY, killed. It is unintended and terrible, but in war it happens.

What people forget is that many of those civilians were fatah members killed by the hamas and counted among the regular deathes. There is video and many news reports substantiating this fact. Also, as terrible as it is, when you vote the terrorists in charge, and allow them to attack using you as a sheild, who do you think will get hurt? Have people not seen the video of the hamas guy running across a street, dragging a child as a shield? Also, look at the protests. the Israelis and pro-Israeli people chant to protect Israel and it's people. the pro-hamas people chant "death to all Israelis". see a difference?

Forget Canada. What if the Mexicans wanted California back and the Native Americans wanted their land back and started shelling Chicago? Would the U.S. tolerate that? Why not? The Indians have a more legit claim than the Palestinians.

Was this campaign successful? who knows? My cousins were called up and friends and am glad they came back safe. We said Psalms every day and explained to my kids, young and teen, what was going on and they should pray for the soldiers and the civilians - ALL civilians.

Peace Lover said...

Samurai Scientist made a crucial point here... that children in Gaza won't be coming home to their mothers. The difference is that many of those mothers in Gaza are not waiting for their children to come home -- and instead encourage and celebrate the martyrdom of their children.

One of Hamas' most popular candidates elected in the Palestinian legislative election, 2006, Maryham Farahat, said in an interview following the death of her son during a homicide bombing:

"I worried and feared greatly that the operation would not succeed, and that he would be arrested. I prayed for him when he left the house and asked Allah to make his operation a success and give him martyrdom."

In a broadcast from Gaza, an Arab woman reporter was describing with horror the attack on the UN school. She casually mentioned that there were Hamas gunmen "close by" firing at Israeli troops and then criticized Israel for not being more precise in hitting those targets. No mention of the fact that Hamas put those children in danger. (Contrast this to the areas bordering Gaza in Israel, where schools were closed and children were kept home where they could be taken to bomb shelters on a moment's notice.)

More than 50 years ago, Golda Meir said "Peace will come when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us."

therapydoc said...

OMG, Anon, you're right! Luke, you should know, plays very big in our lives.

Spankie said...

may the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob protect your son from harm and restore peace to the people of Israel..
remember the name of God
Jehovah Nissi- The Lord is our Banner

Shalom Mishpochah

Frankie G

(side note.. one of my sons is 16 and raised christian. one night after talking about current events and sharing with some Jewish friends, he stated he would go to Israel to fight for two years if possible. Bless his heart. I must have done one or two things right in my life)

phd in yogurtry said...

Godspeed to your nephew. He is quite handsome, yes. Has that Matthew Mcconaughey look. Hollywood next?

On a serious note, I have the greatest sympathy for the state of Israel and all her inhabitants. How to negotiate with a group of terrorists and a "nation" whose chief aim is to deny Israel's right of existence. Israel must protect her people. There is a time when the only option is to fight fire with fire.

Rachelz said...

Two points jumped to mind for me:

1.they wouldn't let you in to the Jewish bloggers? Thats horrible!

2.How incredible perception is and how powerful. That is why I think that to trust "ethics" and people's innate morality is not always the best way to go. I think perception can be so decieving. When ever anyone at works asks me about the Israeli/ Palestenian wars I always answer "these are my thoughts, but please understand that I am undeniably and unashamedly biased......"

Great post.

Midwife with a Knife said...

It seems so hard, this war. Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world (or so says NPR), so while I truly believe that the Israelis are doing everything they can do to prevent civilian casualties, they really are inevitable in this conflict.

It is also hard to take sides. Israel definately has the right to defend itself.... yet I can see how the Gazans feel like an occupied country (because they are), and that makes it easy for a terrorist group like Hamas to play on that.

I heard an Israeli writer say (again on NPR) that "the Palestinians are in Gaza for the same reason Norwegians are in Norway, It's their home, it's always been their home, and they're not going anywhere. The Israelis are in Israel for the exact same reason." I think this is true, but how do we find a fair and peaceful solution from here? Because that's what both the Israeli and Gazan people want (because that's what people everywhere want) is to be able to raise their children in peace, safety, and dignity.

Well, everybody other than the leaders of Hamas, I guess.

Anonymous said...

If the Hamas terrorists presumed that the Israelis, being mostly Jewish, would respond to random rocket attacks with civilized restraint, they made a grave tactical error. Any people, Jews included, when pushed to war will act with savagery. But a disproportionate military put-down still has the moral high-ground over shooting first and then hiding at home among the children.

Your nephew, BTW, may not be such a Jedi warrior as he seems. He appears to be carrying medic's gear.

Jack said...

This war killed at least 500 innocent Palestinians.

How do you know?

Spankie said...

"He appears to be carrying medic's gear."

one person in each squad carries medics gear.. just as one carries a grease gun in a mech unit.. regardless, he is a hero in my book.

Thanks for allowing this outsider to visit and comment..

Frankie

Stacie said...

I am glad that you wrote this. the media lately has done a 180 in their views. it's easy for those of us who aren't Jewish to just follow the rhetoric. You have enlightened me.

Samurai Scientist said...

As my medical friends in Israel tell me, Jewish doctors treat everyone, rich or poor, Arab or Jew, indiscriminately. Going off to kill Arabs was not the intention, not the way they train their children to murder Jews.

Abraham once argued that the city of Sodom should be saved for the ten righteous within it. But the Israeli government has taken a different tack here.

Israel knew full well that it was going to kill innocents in this war. Tzipi Livni has said as much. It was part of their cold-blooded calculation to make Hamas incur political cost.

How many people actually died from all these rocket attacks over the years? The answer is almost nobody. Maybe 5 or ten were killed. Israel responded by killing 500 innocents, maybe more, many of them children. Why?

The answer is not that Israel was trying to defend itself. Israel was trying to hurt Hamas, because it doesn't want to deal with Hamas, it wants to deal with Fatah. This despite the fact that Hamas was elected democratically by the Palestinians, and despite the fact that Hamas has held fairly well to its hudna (believe me, if they wanted to pull off suicide bombings in the heart of Israel, they could. I still remember those days). What Israel is doing is contrary to democracy, and yes, it's slaughtering innocents willingly. There's no two ways around this.

Israel has now ceded the moral high ground in this war. I as a Jew - who lived in Israel for three years of peace - am not impressed. This war has done nothing for peace.

therapydoc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

wait samurai- how does firing 20+ rockets into civilian cities daily= holding true to its hudna?

therapydoc said...

Right, it was my understanding that while the Israelis respected the "cease fire," the Palestinians had time to find rockets and did. And used them. And looked for bigger rockets with a longer reach.

The longer reach, the bigger bang for the buck. Add a "dirty bomb" warhead to that and you have a very, very ugly problem. No Beersheva, perhaps. Who's next?

Rather than wait for the "better" missiles to get into Hamas hands, the Israelis started this war to cut off that imminent possibility.

It's called a no choice offensive.

Samurai Scientist said...

The rockets were a minor violation of the hudna on Hamas' part, but they would argue that Israel also violated the hudna in minor ways. For instance, Israel made occasional military raids into Gaza. They also blockaded Gaza and have made governing very difficult for Hamas.

Overall, I think both sides would argue that they kept the hudna fairly well, given their histories of violence. As I said, I remember very clearly the days when Hamas would blow up bus lines in Jerusalem on a regular basis. They haven't been doing that lately, and the hudna is part of the reason for that.

As for the "no choice offensive," I can think of about ten better choices off the top of my head. #1: negotiate with Hamas. #2: hold a salha. #3: start a sports league to work out your differences peacefully. If the Israeli government is truly committed to peace, then they should retain the military option as a last resort, not a first resort.

therapydoc said...

Samurai, I can't answer for the first two except to say that Hamas is still considered a terrorist organization.

And the history of that terrorism precedes these bombs lobbed at back yards, (darn, missed Gran). The only reason these missiles have missed civilians (for the most part) is that their range is too short to reach Tel Aviv. Now. They're trying to get longer missiles. That's the point of the war. Stop them from doing that.

You might feel, well, How do you know? We know because now they're reaching BeerSheva, for one thing.

And that history of terrorism is linked, in the mind of your average Israeli citizen, with buses blown to smithereens with the people on them, for the PEOPLE are the targets of Hamas, preferably JEWISH people. The targets are not the buses, but the people, young and old.

This makes Hamas less than a trustworthy business partner, and we do have highly anti-Jewish video streaming daily from their press. Not anti-Israel but anti-Jewish. A good Jew is a dead Jew, that sort of thing.

Why would the Israelis want to pack a sports stadium with people who want them dead?

Barack Obama's inaugural cost the US 150 million for security.

And this is a group that puts children first, as shields.

You think, She's exaggerating. Am I? I didn't say it, another commenter did, when the Palestinians love their children more than they hate us (Golda Meir).

Then there's this problem, and I have to bring this up because I am a therapist and I find this a particularly painful and difficult disorder to treat, of Post- traumatic Stress Disorder.

Once you've picked up the skin and body parts of the victims of terrorism, people who caught on one of those buses innocently enough, riding to work or to school, maybe visiting a relative, you don't forget.

Jewish people bury every part of the human body. Be a part of that cleaning crew, and you're not so quick to negotiate with terrorists.

therapydoc said...

Then there's this nagging question, perhaps someone knows the answer to it.

The State of Israel left Gaza to the Palestinians. And the Palestinians have elections, elected, in fact, Hamas, an Arab organization.

Why is it that other Arab organizations, legitimate nations, haven't lent more of a hand, built the baseball and soccer fields, funded business loans, hospitals, schools, and residences.

We hear about the poverty of Gaza and it is, I'm sure, quite real, and this poverty seeds hatred.

So why aren't Arab neighbors helping Gazans to eradicate poverty in this little country?

Why is this Israel's responsibility?

I don't think that when Israel became a state in 1948 that neighboring Arab countries infused it with seed money for business or helped Jews establish kibbutzim, helped Jewish farmers cultivate their land, irrigate, sow, etc.

Money came from somewhere, Jews in other countries. And the work, the Israelis did themselves.

The cynical among us or even, dare I say, the system thinkers, might think that the Arab world, many, surely not all, like it that the Palestinians in Gaza keep it up, this terrible relationship between cousins.

Can't more be done than arming them, funneling arms through tunnels, putting their children at risk, by the way, the ones who cut these tunnels with cheap tools in bare hands? Heroes, too. This is thought to be heroic, another way of martyrdom.

Whose responsibility are these poor, I would say, misguided children?

Where is the charity?

VolcanicNephew said...

Well, therapydoc, you asked for my input, so here it is.

First off, nitpicks on "poster boy": technically he's your nephew-in-law, I think. And to Spankie and anonymous, he's not a medic, though Spankie is correct in that each combat platoon has a combat medic with them. What he's wearing in the pic is a standard IDF ammo vest. He *does* look like a movie star, though, doesn't he?

Now to address Samurai Scientist:

First, a word about numbers: as a scientist, Samurai, I would expect you to a) be skeptical about claimed numbers such as "500 innocent deaths" and b) think a little independently about them. Even according to the Hamas claims (around 1300 deaths, less than half of them "civilians") the IDF made a fair effort to avoid collateral deaths. Remember, Gaza is a very crowded city (tho that's also misleading in general – the Strip is not one big urban sprawl, not by a long shot), with a much higher civilian to fighter ratio than 5/13. The children/fighter ratio is probably even higher. So claiming deliberate targeting of civilians doesn't make sense even according to the claimed numbers. Besides, there are already reports of how Hamas forced health officials to inflate numbers. NOTE: the words "civilian" and "innocent" are not synonymous in any way, even less so in the context of Gaza, where the term "civilian" is used rather loosely as well.

"Israel knew full well that it was going to kill innocents in this war". So did every country that ever went to war, for any reason. "Innocents" always get caught in the line of fire (even in the famous IDF Entebbe raid!). Despite your implications, all Livni meant was that Israel knew that collateral casualties were unavoidable given the conditions.

You are right in that Hamas was democratically elected by the Arab residents of Gaza, but that means they willingly chose a government committed to war with Israel. By that reasoning, there are no "innocents" at all in the entire Strip, only "civilians" (maybe). If war is what was democratically chosen, then getting war, including on the civilian populace, is actually upholding democracy – one could say.

I'm frankly shocked at the propagandist platitudes Samurai is willing to spout here. As you were asked, how does 20+ shells a day, *deliberately aimed at a civilian population*, constitute "holding fairly well" to a hudna (which, by the way, means a temporary cease-fire, with a subtext of subterfuge and betrayal, in Islamic lore)? No suicide bombings?! There have been dozens, attempted and successful, at Gaza border crossings over the past few years – it's the main reason the crossings were closed all the time, the so-called casus belli of Hamas. The border scrutiny prevented their infiltration to Israel if that was their target, and the attacks usually hurt more Gazans than Israelis, which might be why nobody mentions them. Suicide bombers in Israel, which you seem to remember in some form or other, almost always came from Judea and Samaria, not Gaza anyway, and they have been curtailed mainly by the renewed Israeli military presence there since operation Defensive Shield in 2002. Their failure is a credit to the IDF, not Hamas.

How could a rational, scientific-minded person turn a miraculous lack of casualties into lack of malice and effort on the part of the enemy? More than 10,000 rockets fired! The lack of deaths is through no lack of enemy trying.

I also find the death tally scoring (they killed x, you killed y) to be offensive to me on a human level. We're talking about lives, and each one is a "whole world" to quote our Sages. Taking even one better be justified.

Personally, I think that the Israeli government did a disservice, to say the least, in trying to downplay the rocket attacks as long as it did. All that did was create the impression for the rest of the world, that it's "not so bad". By only responding when public outcry was too high, and too close to an election, they undercut the true, honest reasons why the action was necessary, just and right. Why did that happen? Read on.

The people, as in the troops themselves, their families and so on, knew exactly what they were out to do – protect the people of Israel from those who would do us harm, and bring that harm to our enemy. The goal was to put an end to the constant bombardment of Israeli towns, farms and cities.

However, our government giving the order to go in wasn't necessarily aiming for the same thing.

Here we come to a strange and sad dichotomy in Israel, between the motives, beliefs and actions of the Israeli people and those of its government (and perhaps its media as well). Even if the average Israeli has a good, healthy feel for what the right thing to do is, and what needs to be done, the politicos at the top have their own agenda.

Here, some of what Samurai writes holds water – though it's still very skewed and misunderstood. The government indeed wishes to reinstate Fatah in Gaza – as a possible political and diplomatic partner, and in contradiction to Gazan democracy, such as it is. The government also needed to reduce political pressure to "do something" about the shelling in the South, especially with elections coming up (Feb. 10th).

The people's goal was self-defense and victory, which at least to me justifies the use of force even at the cost of collateral casualties. But were those the goals of the war according to the government giving the orders? Do those goals justify the human cost? Is the war unjustified because of the goals set for it by the government, even if it's the right thing to do on many other levels?

The source of the problem, Samurai, is in your last line: "This war has done nothing for peace".

Wars are the opposite of peace, and shouldn't be fought for peace – they should be fought to *win*, to defeat an enemy that needs to be brought down. When you face an implacable enemy, your only *human* option is to blow it away. Judaism itself teaches "if someone's out to kill you – kill him first!" The same Abraham who argued with G-d about Sdom (and *lost*, btw), personally led a military strike against armies which had taken his nephew prisoner, without attempting negotiation or appeasement.

Hamas (and, to be frank, the Arabs in general, and the Pals in particular) aren't interested in negotiation, or a reconciliation. They don't even want an independent state. What they want is the Jews in Israel gone, preferably dead. What they want is *our* state, the one we built already. What therapydoc brought up - the black hole all the gazillions in aid have disappeared into - is just one indication of that.

It is precisely this warped concept of "fighting for peace" which in my opinion prolongs and worsens the conflict, since the war is never prosecuted to its logical, strategic conclusion, out of "humane" interests. Instead of defeating the enemy, we try to create situations where they do us the favor of making an agreement with us. All we succeed in doing is bolstering their morale and prolonging the conflict, to the detriment of (almost) all.

Unfortunately, it seems to me that the main drive for this approach to the conflict is prevalent chiefly among Americans, especially Jews. There is no coincidence that the Gaza operation ended on the day of the Incredible Inauguration you all waxed so poetic about (even you, therapydoc!). Political sources in Israel made it clear that the intent was to have fully withdrawn from Gaza before the Blessed Event (though they missed by a couple of hours because of the usual eventualities). The prevailing feeling among Israelis was that we stopped too soon – the rocket attacks hadn't stopped yet, Hamas was still very much existent – but the overarching importance of Starting Out On Obama And Hillary's Good Side trumped Israeli interests and needs, as could be expected.

I won't automatically assume the new Administration Of Hope And Change will continue the same, sorry philosophy that continues to endanger us all. (Well, all right, I will.) But the philosophy needs to be dumped, if the safety of Israel – and the US – as well as the wellbeing of everyone who lives here, Jew or Arab, is to be assured.

I may post more, since there's a lot more to be said on related issues.

And, therapydoc, about considering yourself a "future resident" – don't talk the talk, walk the walk. Hint hint.

YZF said...

Samurai, a few points about your assertion that Israel didn't care about civilian casualties:

From http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1230733139253&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull:

"Palestinians and Israeli defense officials said that prior to the air strikes, the IDF either warned nearby residents by phone or fired a warning missile to reduce civilian casualties."

(What other country in the world warns combatants of an incoming attack?)

Also, regarding Hamas' culpability in civilian deaths (from a source much less friendly to Israel):
http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE4BR0QP20081228

"Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Sunday the Islamist group Hamas was not allowing Palestinians wounded in Israel's attacks on Gaza to cross into Egypt for treatment."

Finally, there is the widespread assertion that Hamas has been holding civilians captive:
http://www.ynet.co.il/english/articles/0,7340,L-3655758,00.html

My point: it's pretty clear that Israel is committed to survival first, and peace second -- whereas Hamas believes in its cause to destroy Israel (it's right there in their charter, and they've never claimed that they'd ever remove it), at the expense of its people's lives.

So when dealing with an entity sworn to your obliteration... you suggest negotiating with them? Over what?

therapydoc said...

Thanks VolcanicNephew my nephew, I am so proud to say. I'm always learning from you.

I love you and miss the family, and yes, have to put my money where my mouth is about living nearby. If there were any, that is. One day.

I was surprised (so naive) about the cease fire and the timing. Sure, the inaugural made for good television, but it's on youtube, right?

nashbabe said...

Agreed. SO agreed.

Let's remember what a hudna is to Hamas and its ilk: merely an opportunity to re-arm.

(and oh-so-incidentally, that young man is majorly handsome)

Samurai Scientist said...

I am not interested in getting into a protracted argument about this. I am a person who believes that all war is wrong, that the murder of a single guilty person is a price too high to pay, much less the murder of an innocent.

I agree with VolcanicNephew that wars are not made to make peace, that they are the opposite of peace. But how can the opposite of peace be good? I would never risk my life to attempt to humiliate an opponent. I am a "War, what is it good for?" type of person.

I agree with YZF that by and large, Israel has been smart and generous in its wars. It has been careful to minimize civilian casualties. But I believe this last war was a mistake. Too many people were killed, and yes absolutely yes Israel could have done more to minimize casualties. I do not doubt the figure of 500 civilians, it has been widely reported here. For all we know it was 1000 civilians. And for what? To enrage Hamas, which isn't going anywhere.

I will tell you only what I always say. Israel is a small country and surrounded by enemies. Nuclear technology is now 70 years old and not that hard to come by. Terrorists don't need a powerful army to destroy Israel. All they need is one nuke. There is no way to guarantee Israel safety from such a tragedy. All Israel can do is try to win the cooperation and sympathy of its neighboring countries and try to distract those countries from violence, by promoting their own economic development. So everything you do, think about whether it is moving Israel closer to those goals - or further away.

therapydoc said...

Surely something they think about, Samurai. Thanks.

Jack said...

I do not doubt the figure of 500 civilians

Then you are being foolishly optimistic here. Hamas is a terrorist organization that does not follow the Geneva convention.

They do not wear uniforms. They intentionally operate in densely packed civilian areas.

They intentionally use human shields. It has been documented. There is plenty of footage of them doing so.

It is great to say that war is wrong. Peace is a noble pursuit but you can't make peace with an organization that doesn't recognize you or hold your values.

Notice that I am not calling them animals or vermin. I am not dehumanizing Hamas, although some of them barely deserve the title.

Sometimes the way to peace is to start with force. It may sound backwards, but there are hundreds of examples.

The Japanese during WWII were just as barbaric as the nazis. But two atomic bombs made a huge difference and now we have a very strong relationship with them. We have an alliance with Germany also.

Sometimes you cannot turn the other cheek unless it is to throw another right hook.

There is a death cult out there that revels in blood and attempts at martyrdom. We have to oppose it.

And I have to agree that it is offensive to try and count number of killed as if that would balance things out.

It is only because of luck that more Israelis have not been killed.

Samurai Scientist said...

Jack, I agree that we must vigorously oppose terrorism. But I disagree that the ends justify the means when it comes to using violence.

Plenty has been written about this. I suggest Ghandi's and MLK's autobiographies for starters. You argue that violence can end in peace, but that clearly has not been the story in Israel. It is time to stop supporting violence and start supporting non-violent means of opposing terrorism.

Therapydoc, as someone who preaches that words hit hard as a fist, I cannot understand how you so easily justify military violence. Isn't your whole profession based on the idea that people can work out their differences peacefully?

therapydoc said...

Yeah, but words don't hit quite the same way as missiles do. Again, I feel this war was a defensive war, one that prevented aggression on the part of Hamas.

Please, Hamas, would you please stop tossing missiles into my back yard? I'll put you on points!

I thought you didn't want to continue this dialogue. When it comes to genocide, Jews have to do what they have to do to prevent being victims. If that means a big stick, I'm in agreement. Meah achuz.

Jack said...

It is time to stop supporting violence and start supporting non-violent means of opposing terrorism.

How do you suggest we do this. Hamas has declared publicly that terrorism was the reason for the hitnakut. They think that slaughtering us is noble.

MLK is not applicable here. Sure there were many bigots who thought that lynching and other forms of terror were appropriate methods of trying to get their way.

But they weren't sanctioned by the general populace. They weren't promoted by the leading members of the clergy.

It may be uncomfortable, but the reality is that Israel hasn't really been allowed to unleash its might upon Hamas and company.

Every time they try the UN steps in and stops things.

You know I love the fact that we are arguing about this. I love knowing that some of my fellow MOTs will say that it is wrong.

I always hear about the moderate Arabs and how they oppose violence too. But I never hear from them.

I suspect that it is because they are murdered for their opposition. But I can't say for certain.

So I have to take the position that they do not exist or are too small to wield influence.

Many people want to say that all people and perspectives are equal. I do not believe that to be so and I will not accept it.

The death cult is wrong. It is evil. It is shameful and I cannot approve of equating it with being moral.

VolcanicNephew said...

Samurai, since you're against all war, and all violence, then there isn't much else to discuss. However I recently heard an adage, I'm not sure whose it orignally is:

"The easiest way to end a war - is to lose it."

IOW, if the enemy is intent on fighting, you either fight - or lose.

Ghandi and MLK are great to read. Both dealt with civil liberties of their people, not existential threats. Neither of them dealt with anti-Semitism, Islamic fanaticism or genocide. (Both, btw, were assassinated.) I hope you'll forgive me if I don't use their philosophies in planning my strategy. There are no purely non-violent means of opposing terrorism, especially if the official strategic goal of that terrorism is your death, or at least your expulsion.

Unless you actually believe that all Jews should leave the Arab holy wakf and homeland, and go back to Europe. Or will you start serious activism to get us a piece of land somewhere? US citizenship for all? Maybe Uganda?

And don't forget, Islamic expansionism will follow you afterwards, anyway. Their second strategic goal is Islamic dominion. Worldwide. Check out their own stuff!

Words are (usually) great between two people. They don't work as well between philosophies, ethinicities, religions, and even political entities such as nation/states. Especially when the shooting's ongoing.

Don't get me wrong - the constant "cycle of violence" really is obscene: they hit us, we hit them, they hit us, etc. ad nauseum. When violence is justified, or at least unavoidable, then there are no "rules", no limits. You do what is necessary to end the threat - completely and finally.

You're wrong about Israel's goal. It was not to "enrage Hamas". It wasn't even to humiliate them. It was purely to alleviate popular outrage at the gov't's inaction in the face of the rocket attacks. Remember, we have an election in less than 2 weeks, and our Defense Minister is gunning for the PM slot. He needed a poll boost.

That actually makes it worse, in a way, but that doesn't change the fact that Hamas needs to be defeated, and our troops themselves were ready and prepared to do that, no matter the political backstory to the orders they got. That's what the war was about to any Israeli on the street.

Stopping the war halfway proves that the motives of the go'vt at least were not pure, and therefore morally questionable. If we would just go ahead and do the logical, strategically sound thing - retake the Strip and reintegrate it into Israel - the move would actually be more morally justifiable - not to mention more beneficial for everyone - including Gazans.

Samurai Scientist said...

@Volcanic,
[Israel's goal] was purely to alleviate popular outrage at the gov't's inaction in the face of the rocket attacks. Remember, we have an election in less than 2 weeks, and our Defense Minister is gunning for the PM slot. He needed a poll boost.

I basically agree here.

There are no purely non-violent means of opposing terrorism, especially if the official strategic goal of that terrorism is your death, or at least your expulsion.

I'm happy to see you are at least comprehending my approach (non-violent opposition to terrorism). I agree that the circumstances are different from MLK's battle, or Ghandi's, but I believe the principle that worked for them could work here as well.

therapydoc said...

I feel a peace coming on.

therapydoc said...

If only the blog were a microcosm of the world.

YZF said...

Two more links worth checking out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cR4zRbPy2kY

(At around 40 minutes in, Shimon Peres gives a good summation of why even Israel's left-wing supported the Gaza operation... and make sure to watch Turkey's foaming-at-the-mouth response.)

Also, make sure to click over to this latest point/counterpoint article from America's Finest News Source:
http://www.theonion.com/content/point/the_israeli_conflict_is_far_too

VolcanicNephew said...

In case the US media hasn't been covering it, there was another (some might say small) rocket attack on Israel - one rocket landed near a bunch of nursery schools. There was another shooting attack on an Israeli patrol aloong the Gaza fence.

That's in addition to the shooting attacks, and the fatal bombing of troops along the fence last week.

So much for peace coming on.

In a way, it's the Gazans who bail Israel out of their own strategic blindness. Instead of hunkering down for just another 2 weeks, and letting a left-wing gov't that would be better for them ride the "achievements" of the mini-war to an electoral victory, they continue to prove that the threat remains and to push Israel into electing a tougher gov't.

Unless the Gazans know something Israelis don't know about their own candidates...

Chas Newkey-Burden said...

What an interesting post and discussion. Keep it up.

Israrad said...

To the moderator and moderatees: Thanks for a non-PC, heartfelt, but still civil discussion.
A few notes and comments from an middle aged (I still cling to that designation) American Israeli.
1. To Samurai (1/26): The dancing on roof comment you made was a perfect example of projecting: that's exactly what the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza did when Iraqi missiles hit Israeli cities (including mine) in the First Gulf War, not to mention 9/11. NO ISRAELI DANCED IN THE STREETS OR ROOFS TO CELEBRATE WHEN ISRAEL FINALLY RESPONDED TO EIGHT YEARS OF ROCKET ATTACKS.
2. To BLUGNUT: (from 1/26) Ditto about projecting on "teaching kids to hate". Check out www.memri.org for Arab schoolbooks' contents. It will make you shudder.
3. To Midwife...: Not all those Gazans have been living there for generations. Read Joan Peters's book, "From Time Immemorial".

therapydoc said...

I was reading Muqata who reports this bit of upsetting news:

After the Disengagement from Gaza, Palestinian mobs burned, ransacked and destroyed all the Jewish holy sites which Israel left behind. The picture at left shows the Netzarim Synagogue burning after the IDF left Gaza.

http://tigerhawk.blogspot.com/2005/09/meaning-of-destruction-of-synagogues.html

http://muqata.blogspot.com/2009/01/ignoring-ceasefire-jan-29-2009.html