Tuesday, August 29, 2006

New State Department Travel Warning

The State Department has issued a new Travel Warning today for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, among other things warning of the possibility of terrorist bombings. I have to say that I continue to wonder why there are Travel Warnings issued on Israel (which among other things, can make it very difficult for colleges to permit students to travel there to study), while not at the same time having travel warnings on, for example, Turkey, where there have just been 5 terrorist bombings that have killed several tourists.

The State Department Consular Information Sheet on Turkey goes into considerable detail about various terrorist bombings that have been carried out there in recent years, including the Al-Qaeda bombings in November 2003, when the British Consulate, the HSBC bank, and two synagogues were struck by suicide truck bombs.

Yet the State Department does not warn American citizens against travel to Turkey by issuing a Travel Warning.

New York Times biases

I have always very steadfastly defended the New York Times against charges that it is biased against Israel, but the current New York Times bureau chief in Israel, Steven Erlanger, has just confirmed his own partial point of view in a panel recently organized in Israel about the international media's coverage of this summer's war: Journalists blame Israel for war coverage. I'm really quite astonished at the things that Erlanger admitted in public:
The New York Time's Jerusalem Bureau Chief, Steven Erlanger, expressed surprise that Israel's view of the war was different to that of its critics, and said that Israelis didn't "quite grasp how the war was perceived outside of Israel." He lamented the lack of "proportionality" in the war, adding: "This is a charge that came against Israel from the United Nations… the French, the Italians." The New York Times bureau chief also said that Israelis "were not interested in whether 1,000 Lebanese civilians needed to die," adding that the question of "whether Israel fought a proportional war is not much of interest here (in Israel)."
It sounds to me like Erlanger is complaining that Israelis don't have the same view of the war that he does - rather than trying to report both what happened and what Israelis thought about it. Is it his job to express his own editorial opinion? I don't think so!

Another thing that Erlanger said also astonished me, and in my opinion really confirms his own biases:
"While other panelists said Hizbullah placed dictatorial control over colleagues reporting from Lebanon, Ernlanger maintained that the only threat faced by his own colleague in Lebanon was posed by "Israeli missiles."
Isn't Erlanger aware of the Hizbollah-led guided tours of south Beirut, reported on by Anderson Cooper of CNN as well as others? Why is he deliberately ignoring evidence that other mainstream journalists have uncovered? It's not as if this point has only been made by the right-wing blogs like LGF. If the New York Times wishes to be seen as an impartial news source, the editors should really be questioning Erlanger quite harshly right now!

UPDATE, Tuesday, 10:53 PM: LGF also posted on this article - and I totally agree with Charles Johnson in this case. Whatever else one might say about LGF, he has done yeoman work exposing faked photographs and biased journalism during the war this summer.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Dismal foolishness

A good posting by Michael Totten on Andrew Sullivan's blog about Israeli and Lebanese backlash against the foolish deadliness of Hizbollah and the Israeli government. It about matches my mood today.

Comfort ye, my people

I don't know if Israel or Hizbollah won this particular round of war between them. What would "winning" consist of, in any case? If Israel won, it still won't bring back to life the ca. 150 Israelis killed in the war, or the 1200 Lebanese killed in the war - civilian and fighters. Nor will it make the rubble in Lebanon suddenly turn back into buildings, nor the buildings hit by Katyushas in Israel suddenly be rebuilt, nor cause the forests of the Galilee set on fire by the Katyushas suddenly sprout anew as tall as they were at the beginning of the summer.

As far as the the current "Great Game" now being played between the U.S. and Iran is concerned, this is probably just a skirmish - on the way to Iran gaining nuclear weapons and the U.S. losing all of its rapidly diminishing influence in the Middle East. It is hard to believe that this war has made Israel safer, nor really diminished Hizbollah's strength, no matter how many fighters were killed or bunkers destroyed. I remember in Vietnam, the U.S. government always touted the number of Vietcong killed, as if this were a measure of victory.

For some sensible words, read Doron Rosenblum of Haaretz
But to both those who send us into battle in order to derive joy from our performance, and those among us who are thoroughly depressed by the results of the war, it must be said: Comfort, comfort, my people. With all the acute importance of military might, Israel cannot be solely a derivative of victories or tactical defeats on the battlefield. Its existence is far richer and far more meaningful and varied than that.

If the Israeli mentality is "inferior" to that of Hezbollah, Iran and Hamas in that it does not seek suicidal death, the virgins in Paradise and genocide for its neighbors; if Israel has pity on the lives of its sons, on its comfort, on the nurturing of its landscapes and even on bed and breakfasts, wineries and the pleasures of life, it is nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary: We shall proudly bear our weaknesses as fragile, vulnerable human beings.

Israel is not Sparta, and this is a good thing. It was not established in order to be a spearhead against global Islam, or in order to serve as an alert squad for the Western world. It was established in order to live in it. And after the obvious is stated - with respect to the importance of might and strength - this too shall be said: Unlike some of its enemies, Israel has a far more means of existential solace - in vitality, culture and in creativity - than the planting of a flag of victory among the ruins.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Guns Of August

Richard Holbrooke's cautionary words - The Guns Of August.
Two full-blown crises, in Lebanon and Iraq, are merging into a single emergency. A chain reaction could spread quickly almost anywhere between Cairo and Bombay. Turkey is talking openly of invading northern Iraq to deal with Kurdish terrorists based there. Syria could easily get pulled into the war in southern Lebanon. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are under pressure from jihadists to support Hezbollah, even though the governments in Cairo and Riyadh hate that organization. Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of giving shelter to al-Qaeda and the Taliban; there is constant fighting on both sides of that border. NATO's own war in Afghanistan is not going well. India talks of taking punitive action against Pakistan for allegedly being behind the Bombay bombings. Uzbekistan is a repressive dictatorship with a growing Islamic resistance.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Samir Kuntar

This is what Hizbollah represents, Harold Evans shows in an opinion piece arguing against the boneheaded leftists of the British Stop the War Coalition who carried signs proclaiming "We are all Hizbullah now" in a recent march:
Perhaps the London marchers do not know of Samir Kuntar. He is locked up in an Israeli prison. It was to secure his release by blackmail that Hizbullah guerillas crossed into Israel and kidnapped two Israelis, triggering the conflict. Samir Kuntar is emblematic of Hizbullah's values, their highest priority in any prisoner exchange, so let us hear about him from a woman who opposes his release. She is a social worker in Israel called Smadar Haran he met in 1979.

"It had been a peaceful Sabbath day. My husband Danny and I had picnicked with our little girls, Einat, 4, and Yael, 2, on the beach not far from our home in Naharyia, a city on the northern coast of Israel. Around midnight, we were asleep in our apartment when four terrorists from Lebanon landed in a rubber boat on the beach two blocks away.

"Gunfire and exploding grenades awakened us. Desperately we sought to hide. Danny helped our neighbour climb into a crawl space above our bedroom. I went in behind her with Yael in my arms. Then Danny grabbed Einat and was dashing out of the front door when the terrorists came crashing in. They held Danny and Einat while they searched for me and Yael.

"I will never forget the joy and the hatred in their voices as they swaggered about hunting for us, firing their guns and throwing grenades. I knew that if Yael cried out, the terrorists would toss a grenade into the crawl space, so I kept my hand over her mouth. As I lay there, I remembered my mother telling me how she had hidden from the Nazis during the Holocaust.

"The terrorists took Danny and Einat down to the beach. There, one of them shot Danny in front of Einat so that his death would be the last sight she would ever see. Then he smashed my little girl's skull in against a rocket with his rifle butt. That terrorist was Samir Kuntar. By the time we were rescued from the crawl space hours later, Yael, too, was dead. In trying to save all our lives I had smothered her"
This is a bone-chilling story - and these are the people that Israel is fighting against.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


In case any of my readers don't know about it, Israelity is a wonderful blog that is aggregating reports from other Israeli blogs about the war and also about various aspects of day to day Israeli life. Allison Kaplan Sommer, of An Unsealed Room started it, and now Sarah of Chayyei Sarah is working on the blog as well. The stories are often poignant and/or funny and really give the flavor of Israeli life.

Israel Cabinet approves wider war in Lebanon

The Israel cabinet today approved a ground offensive further into Lebanon, to get rid of the Katyusha launchers south of the Litani River. "It has also been agreed that the IDF will not enter Tyre, and the cabinet rejected a proposal by one of the ministers to target Lebanese government infrastructure, for fear this would undermine international support for Israel's moves." (Although is there any international support for Israel's moves, except from the U.S.? But I am glad that the idea to target the government infrastructure was rejected).

"The mood in Wednesday's cabinet meeting which addressed the situation in Lebanon was defined as difficult, even dismal. The meeting lasted six hours minus the half hour break which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert used to speak at length with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice."

And the only thing which gives me any hope right now: "The foreign minister [Tzipi Livni] further noted that Lebanese President Fouad Siniora's idea to deploy the Lebanese army to the south was 'good in our eyes.' With that, she clarified that the Lebanese force must be reinforced by multinational troops with effective enforcement abilities. 'These forces are meant to replace Hizbullah in south Lebanon and not join them. The international community must help enforce this,' she stressed."

The Haaretz article gave other details:
The security cabinet approved Wednesday a broader ground offensive by the Israel Defense Forces in Lebanon, authorizing troops to push at least up to the Litani River some 30 kilometers from the Israel-Lebanon border. The IDF's goal is to significantly reduce Hezbollah's short-range rocket launching capabilities. Most Katyusha rocket launches take place from within this area.

The cabinet authorized Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz to widen the offensive and to determine its timing. According to the decision, however, the two are not obliged to implement the decision.

The offensive would not begin for two or three days so as not interfere with ongoing efforts to broker a cease-fire at the United Nations, said one minister in the meeting.

Nine of the 12 ministers in the cabinet voted in favor of the move, while the other three abstained. There were no votes against the decision.

The left, in the form of Meretz and the Arab parties, harshly criticized the cabinet decision:
The political left in Israel slammed the Wednesday afternoon cabinet decision to widen the military ground offensive in Lebanon. Meretz MK Ran Cohen called the move "unfortunate and dangerous." He said continued operations will "increase the large number of victims and will not solve the problem." Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On added the decision "will distance the chances of a cease-fire and of quiet in the northern communities." Meretz Chairman MK Yossi Beilin said the cabinet "made a tragic mistake that is liable to unnecessary lengthen the war? Rather than taking advantage of the opportunity to leave Lebanon and let its army deploy in the south, Israel is entering deeper into Hezbollah's trap on the verge of a war of attrition on the ground."

Hadash MK Mohammad Barakeh said the cabinet decision is "insanity testifying to military arrogance." He said Israel was closing the window of opportunity that was opened by the Lebanese government. United Arab List MK Talab al-Sana said, "Now is the time for diplomatic initiatives and not for military adventures."
When I first heard about the cabinet decision, I also felt dismal - how long is this war going to last? How much longer will people in northern Israel have to suffer from the rocket attacks? How much longer will Israeli soldiers be killed by Hizbollah fighters? How much longer will Lebanese civilians be caught between Hizbollah and the IDF?

I'm not a military strategist, so I can't really say whether this is a wise decision or not. It seems to have been made out of the understanding that a cease-fire is not going to happen soon, which would stop the Katyusha fire, and perhaps also out of a fear that even if there is a cease-fire, there would be no guarantee that Hizbollah wouldn't just start up again whenever it felt like. The plans to put some kind of international force in southern Lebanon seem to be going nowhere - the Lebanese government wants to put its own troops in and Hizbollah is opposed to foreign troops, although they say they'll accept the Lebanese Army. But could the Lebanese Army prevent Hizbollah from firing its rockets? Would it replace Hizbollah, or merely stand next to them, open to attacks by Israeli troops and air power?

I don't see anything good happening now.

Is this possible?

In today's Wall Street Journal, Bernard Lewis writes:
In Islam, as in Judaism and Christianity, there are certain beliefs concerning the cosmic struggle at the end of time--Gog and Magog, anti-Christ, Armageddon, and for Shiite Muslims, the long awaited return of the Hidden Imam, ending in the final victory of the forces of good over evil, however these may be defined. Mr. Ahmadinejad and his followers clearly believe that this time is now, and that the terminal struggle has already begun and is indeed well advanced. It may even have a date, indicated by several references by the Iranian president to giving his final answer to the U.S. about nuclear development by Aug. 22. This was at first reported as "by the end of August," but Mr. Ahmadinejad's statement was more precise.

What is the significance of Aug. 22? This year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to "the farthest mosque," usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back (c.f., Koran XVII.1). This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind.
I certainly hope that Lewis is wrong. For one thing, I have not read any reports that claim that the Iranians currently possess nuclear weapons (at least not of their own making). On the other hand, they do possess other devastating weapons - but would they use them against Israel at the cost of Israeli retaliation? Perhaps Mr. Ahmedinejad is a believer in the close approach of the end-times, but do all those in power in Iran have such a time-line in mind?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Israeli women reservists called up

This is something I've never heard of before - I wasn't even aware that women had direct combat duties in the IDF. Ynet reports on hundreds of women reserve soldiers who have been called up to fight Hizbollah on the northern border. "In the past four years, the IDF has started integrating women into the reserves. In the current war, there are women manning positions such as anti-aircraft officers, rescue officers, fighters in gunner units, snipers, and the list continues. Of all the women called up for duty in these days, about half are in combat battalions – 14 percent are fighters, 21 percent are medics, 11 percent are combat officers, and the rest are in intelligence. On the northern border, a writer for Ynet met Anat Bershkovsky and Efrat Kaufman, a non-commissioned officer in a mortar unit that is shooting at Lebanon. The two started their reserve duty as instructors for reserve soldiers on a training base, but very quickly found themselves on the Lebanese border shooting mortars at Lebanon."

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Israel's Lost Moment

Charles Krauthammer publically asserts that the reason Israel is fighting Hizbollah is for the sake of the United States' grand strategic plan in the Middle East. I must say, this is one of the most disgustingly cynical pieces of claptrap that I have seen since this war broke out. Some quotes:

"Israel's leaders do not seem to understand how ruinous a military failure in Lebanon would be to its relationship with America, Israel's most vital lifeline."

I was under the opinion that Israel was fighting to defend its own citizens and to try to reduce the threat Hizbollah offers to it - not fighting to make some kind of point to American neoconservatives.

"Hezbollah's unprovoked attack on July 12 provided Israel the extraordinary opportunity to demonstrate its utility by making a major contribution to America's war on terrorism. America's green light for Israel to defend itself is seen as a favor to Israel. But that is a tendentious, misleadingly partial analysis. The green light - indeed, the encouragement - is also an act of clear self-interest. America wants, America needs, a decisive Hezbollah defeat."

So now Israel is fighting America's war on terrorism - how about Israel's own war against terrorism?

"Unlike many of the other terrorist groups in the Middle East, Hezbollah is a serious enemy of the United States. In 1983 it massacred 241 American servicemen. Except for al-Qaeda, it has killed more Americans than any other terror organization."

If Hizbollah is such a serious enemy of the United States, perhaps we should be sending our own troops into southern Lebanon to fight Hizbollah? No? I didn't think that Krauthammer was advocating that - he wants Israeli soldiers and Israeli civilians (not to mention Lebanese civilians) to die for the sake of the grand strategy that he has wholeheartedly embraced.

And what is the real point of this opinion article - that Ehud Olmert "has provided unsteady and uncertain leadership." "His search for victory on the cheap has jeopardized not just the Lebanon operation but America's confidence in Israel as well."

Ah, so the U.S. should support Israel only when it's strong, or perceived to be strong. I guess all those moral arguments for supporting "the only democracy in the Middle East" are just so much bullshit.

And what would demonstrate Israel's strength? Carpet bombing Lebanon? Sending the Israeli army all the way to Beirut? Making sure that hundreds of Israeli soldiers die, and thousands of Lebanese civilians? Sorry, we've already had that war, let's not redo 1982.

Rami's Wall: Blame it on God

A poem from a Jordanian blogger living in Sweden, Blame it on God.
Hezbollah is the 'party of God',
Jews are God's chosen people,
yet, God is on Bush's side,

God bless America,
God bless the Queen,
God bless suicide bombers,
and promises them a divine eternal bang...

Al Qaeda is fighting the final battle for God,
Iran's God wants nuclear weapons,
The Saudi Sunni's God will not allow women to drive,
The vatican's God is one of the worlds wealthiest businessmen...
and in Gaza, God is recruiting the lads...

King Abdullah's God is all modern and nicely-clad,
Saddam's God was a facist gone bad,
Moqtada al Sadr wants to send in the divine troops,
to tear down the cross of the crusader's God,
which still tears the region apart...

One day God had a lamb,
elsewhere he is a cow,
One day God created man,
Next day he is a mass-marketting plan.

The greek Gods are watching silently, as
God in hollywood is up to the critics to decide...

God is always right
God cannot be denied
God is always good
God is merciful and kind

Everyone believes there is only one God
On TV, God is playing golf,
and in the middle east, he's gone mad...

Friday, August 04, 2006

Hizbollah's intentionality - and Israel's

For first time, Hizbullah targets Hadera area. This is the furthest south missiles have fallen in Israel or Palestine (previous missiles had fallen very close to Jenin in the West Bank, but Hadera is south and west of Jenin).

Haaretz reports: "Hezbollah on Friday struck deeper inside Israel than ever before, firing missiles which struck open fields near the town of Hadera, 75 kilometers (50 miles) south of the Lebanese border, police said. No injuries were reported."

I just read also, in the New York Times, that Israel extends strikes north of Beirut, hitting village: "At least 20 people were killed today in an Israeli rocket attack on a village near the Syrian border, according to Lebanese officials, who said most of the dead appeared to be farmers."
The attack came as Israel made a round of airstrikes whose effect was to tighten the blockade it has imposed on Lebanon since the conflict began more than three weeks ago.

Warplanes bombed four bridges north of Beirut, in the first strikes in the heartland of the country’s Christian populace, cutting off one of the main routes for the trickle of aid entering the country. At least five civilians were reported killed in the bridge attacks, and six others died in attacks elsewhere in and around the capital, news services said.

The Israeli military said that targets in Beirut included a Hezbollah bunker hidden under a soccer stadium, and that 30 targets were hit in southern Lebanon.

This photograph from the New York Times article, by Hussein Malla of the Associated Press, shows "Red Cross rescue workers carr[ying] the body of a man who was killed in an Israeli airstrike targeting a bridge that linked Beirut to northern Lebanon."

According to this story, then, Israeli airstrikes killed at least 31 people in Lebanon today. From reading these stories, it's not clear that all of them are civilians, or that the final number will actually be 31 dead, but let's take it as assumed that Israel is responsible for the violent deaths of quite a few civilians today in Lebanon, in addition to destroying bridges and other buildings. It's also not clear how careful the Israelis were in trying to avoid civilian deaths - did they know that the people they were about to kill were farm laborers, as Lebanese officials report? This is the continuation of the New York Times report:
The farming village where the rocket attack took place, El Qaa, lies at the northern tip of the Bekaa Valley in the country’s east. It is close to one of the country’s last accessible border crossings, and is about 10 miles from the town of Al Hermel, a Hezbollah stronghold.

Lebanese officials told news services that the dead were farm laborers who were loading fruits and vegetables on trucks at the time of the attack. Ali Yaghi, a civil defense official, told The Associated Press that at least 23 people were killed and that more might be buried under the rubble. He said 11 workers were wounded, and a foreman on the farm said they were taken to Syria because Israeli airstrikes had blocked roads to local hospitals.
Perhaps the Israeli attack was intended to hit the border crossing and by mistake hit the village. Were the Israelis careful to make sure of their target? I don't think there's any way of knowing right now, and it's not much consolation to the families of the dead and wounded that Israel may not have intended to kill these particular people.

I'm asking these questions for a couple of reasons: one is to consider the questions of intention and carefulness. Is the IDF in fact being as careful as it claims it is? Does it in fact intend to avoid hitting civilians? (This is to exclude the question of whether it is possible for the IDF to be careful enough to avoid hitting civilians). Do the IDF commanders care about these questions? To answer them, one could look at statements by IDF spokesmen and commanders, and could also analyze (probably after the war is over) whether their actions fit their words.

At this point, I don't have the time to search for IDF statements, but Human Rights Watch has issued a report that says, "Statements from Israeli government officials and military leaders suggest that, at the very least, the IDF has blurred the distinction between civilians and combatants, arguing that only people associated with Hezbollah remain in southern Lebanon, so all are legitimate targets of attack. Under international law, however, only civilians directly participating in hostilities lose their immunity from attack. Many civilians have been unable to flee because they are sick, wounded, do not have the means to leave or are providing essential civil services."

Human Rights Watch presents evidence that Israeli leaders have blurred the distinction between Hizbollah combatants and civilians:
On July 17, for example, after IDF strikes on Beirut, the commander of the Israeli Air Force, Eliezer Shkedi, said, “in the center of Beirut there is an area which only terrorists enter into.” (Source: Amir Buchbut and Itamar Inbari, “IDF: Hezbollah Did Not Intercept an Israeli Aircraft,” available in Hebrew, as of July 28, 2006) The next day, the IDF deputy chief of staff, Moshe Kaplinski, when talking about the IDF’s destruction of Beirut’s Dahia neighborhood, said, “the hits were devastating, and this area, which was a Hezbollah symbol, became deserted rubble" (source: Hanan Greenberg, “Three Reserve Battalions Called Up," available in Hebrew as of July 28, 2006).

On July 27, Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon said that the Israeli air force should flatten villages before ground troops move in to prevent casualties among Israeli soldiers fighting Hezbollah. Israel had given civilians ample time to leave southern Lebanon, he claimed, and therefore anyone remaining should be considered a supporter of Hezbollah. “All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah,” he said (source: BBC News Online, “Israel says world backs offensive” July 27, 2006).
These are incriminating statements - I remember reading Haim
Ramon's statement at the time, and being shocked by it.

I'm not going to enter into the question right now of whether Israel in fact is acting as HRW has charged, or whether it should change its tactics, but rather into the question of intention and how one's feelings can alter one's intentions, perhaps even unconsciously. I know that yesterday, when I heard about the eight Israeli civilians killed by Hizbollah rockets, I felt sad and angry, and really didn't care how many Lebanese, innocent or not, the Israeli army killed. When my feelings cooled down a bit, I began to care again, but to be honest, my feelings are really with Israelis and not with Lebanese.

My mind - my reason - tells me that I should consider carefully the charges made by Human Rights Watch, and not dismiss them out of hand. My sense of fairness and justice tells me that every person is made in the image of God, and that I should care for the lives of every human being, regardless of religion or nationality. But in this situation, it is very hard for me to follow my reason or my sense of justice, because my feelings - of fear and anger - overwhelm reason or justice. Perhaps this is what happened to Haim Ramon, who is after all the Justice Minister in the Israeli government - although since I can't read his mind, I really don't know.

If my feelings were not involved in this war, it is possible that it would be much easier for me to adhere to reason and my sense of justice. But it is very hard, given my emotional involvement, to view events coolly and dispassionately, and to give equal weight to the statements and actions of Israelis and Lebanese. I think I understand now what it means to be caught up in the "fog of war." The fog of war comprises both the moral confusion wrought by war as well as uncertainty about what is actually happening.

And who is it that gives missiles to Hizbollah?

Iran admits what everyone has known - they have supplied long-range Zelzal-2 missiles to Hizbollah (not to speak of other types of missiles as well!).
Mohtashami Pur, a one-time ambassador to Lebanon who currently holds the title of secretary-general of the "Intifada conference," told an Iranian newspaper that Iran transferred the missiles to the Shi'ite militia, adding that the organization has his country's blessing to use the weapons in defense of Lebanon. Pur's statements are thought to be unusual given that Tehran has thus far been reluctant to comment on the extent of its aid which it has extended to Hezbollah.

... [Israeli] Military Intelligence estimates that Nasrallah would like to end the war with a dramatic move, such as the firing of missiles against Tel Aviv.

The range of the Iranian-made Zelzal missiles is estimated to be 210 kilometers, enabling Hezbollah to target the northern suburbs of Tel Aviv and its environs. Last week, the IAF deployed Patriot anti-aircraft missiles near Netanya as part of the overall effort to foil a possible Zelzal attack.
And today, three killed, one critically injured in Katyusha attacks. A woman was killed in the Druze village of Maghar in the Lower Galilee, near Tiberias, and two people were killed in a restaurant in the Druze village of Majdal Krum.
Close to 200 Katyusha rockets struck towns all across the north Friday, the worst blow being the approximately 60 rockets which hit Kiryat Shmona. In the coastal town of Nahariya, 32 rockets were reported to have landed, 14 rockets slammed into Ma'alot, Safed absorbed six rockets, the Tiberias region was hit by close to 10 rockets, and three rockets were reported to have struck the Carmiel region.

A torrent of rockets were fired in the direction of the Golan Heights on Friday, some of which landed in Quneitra, a town on the Syrian side of the border.

IDF Brigadier-General Shuki Shachor of the Northern Command told reporters Friday that the Katyusha strike on Syrian Quneitra is a cynical attempt by Hezbollah to drag Damascus into the conflict.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Handiwork of Hizbollah

Today, 12 Israelis Die. Of the eight Israeli civilians killed today, three were young Israeli Arab men from the town of Tarshiha and five were from Acre.

This Reuters photo (Yonathan Weitzman; published in the August 4, 2006 New York Times) shows "A woman and two children at the scene of an attack in Acre, Israel."

A Katyusha found in Kiryat Shmona after a bombing today.

These two photographs, from the AP, show Israelis in a bomb shelter in Kiryat Shmona during a Hizbollah bombardment.

A Lebanese boy injured in an Israeli airstrike on Tyre - he is being airlifted to Cyprus, from which he'll be taken to France for treatment.

If it had not been for the Hizbollah attack on Israel, then there would have been no Israeli airstrikes on Lebanon. If Hizbollah had, like all the other militias in Lebanon, disarmed, there would have been no reason for Israel to attack in Lebanon. If Hizbollah had not amassed an arsenal of 13,000 missiles, there would be no conflict between it and Israel.

Nonetheless, Israel should be, if possible, taking much more care to avoid civilian deaths. Simply dropping leaflets telling people to leave is not sufficient, especially if those people are then bombed on the roads on their way out of the danger zone. I am also afraid of what Israel may do if Hizbollah does, in fact, bomb Tel Aviv - I do not think it should bomb all of Lebanon's infrastructure, as it has threatened, since that would be punishing many more innocent people for the sins of the guilty.

Rocket Barrage in Israel Kills 6 People

The latest attacks by Hizbollah in Israel - Rocket Barrage in Israel Kills 6 People.
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Hezbollah rocket attacks killed six people in northern Israel Thursday and injured many others, Israeli police said. Meanwhile, Hezbollah's chief spokesman said that his group will not agree to a cease-fire until all Israeli troops leave Lebanon.

The six rocket fatalities were the most in a single day since eight people were killed July 16 when a rocket struck a train maintenance depot in Haifa. At least 100 rockets hit northern Israel within several minutes, killing at least two people in Acre and three in Maalot. In Acre, some people came out of their shelters after an initial rocket barrage to see where the missiles fell. A new round of rockets struck the town, killing two people who were standing on their balcony, Mayor Shimon Lankry told Israel's Channel 2 Television. Five other people were injured, one critically and four seriously, he said. At least three people were killed in Maalot when rockets hit an open area, Mayor Shlomo Buhbut told Channel 10 television. Two were killed immediately and a third died on the way to the hospital, he said. ''It is a black day for our community,'' he said. It was not immediately clear where the sixth fatality occurred.

Hezbollah spokesman Hussein Rahal made his demands about the cease-fire during a live interview with Al-Jazeera television. ''Declaring a cease-fire is not the concern of the people of Lebanon as long as there is one Israeli soldier on Lebanese soil -- even one meter (into Lebanon),'' he said. ''We will not accept any (Israeli) soldier staying on Lebanese territory, and it is the right of every Lebanese to fight until liberation.''
Mr. Rahal should perhaps have thought about that before launching a raid into Israel and kidnapping two Israeli soldiers - if Hizbollah hadn't done that, there wouldn't be any Israeli soldiers on Lebanese soil. Statements like this also really put the lie to those who see Israel as the sole cause of this war, who see Israel as solely intransigent, who somehow see Hizbollah as a purely "resistance" organization. Right. A resistance organization whose main tactic is to try to kill, and then succeed in killing, Israeli civilians.

UPDATE - Jameel reports 8 Israelis dead in Katyusha attacks today - 5 in Akko, 3 in Ma'alot.

More on the war

For those who may doubt the destructive power of the Hizbollah rockets and Hizbollah's intention to kill civilians see this home video - missile attack on haifa - Google Video. It looks like it was posted on July 27, but that the attack took place on July 17 (at least judging from the time stamps on the video itself).

I just read an article in the Los Angeles Times about a recent poll on whether Americans support Israel in this current war. In answer to the question, "Do you think Israel's actions are justified or not justified?," 43% answered "justified, not excessively harsh," 16% said, "justified, but excessively harsh," 28% said "unjustified," and 13% "didn't know."

In answer to a question about what the American posture should be toward Israel and the Arab countries, 50% said the U.S. should continue to align with Israel, 44% said the U.S. should adopt a more neutral position, and 2% said the U.S. should side more with Arab countries.

It is interesting to see that there is a real split between Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. If we go back to the first question, 29% of Democrats think Israel's reaction is justified, but not excessively harsh, with 20% saying it's justified but excessively harsh (49% total justified response), and 36% saying it's unjustified. The Republican positions are 64% - 11% (75% justified) - 17% - so that Republicans are much more supportive, on the whole, than are Democrats. Independents fall inbetween - 37% - 15% - 33% (52% justified).

It seems to me that these poll results may forecast some trouble ahead for the Democratic Party on the subject of Israel, especially since 39% of Democrats call for the U.S. to continue to align with Israel, while 54% advocate a more neutral position.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Rocket hits Israeli kindergarten

Today, a Katyusha rocket hits western Galilee kindergarten. Fortunately the kindergarten was empty, but if it had been full of children? Would Arab countries and the EU be demanding an investigation? I don't wish to diminish the horror of what happened in Kana and other towns in Lebanon - but where is the vocal criticism of Hizbollah's targeting of Israeli civilians?

Jeff Weintraub

I just discovered (via a link in Normblog), a blog written by Jeff Weintraub, a "social & political theorist, political sociologist, and democratic socialist who currently teaches at the University of Pennsylvania." He is covering the current Hizbollah-Israel war pretty closely, with links to a number of good articles and opinion pieces.