Latest news: Haaretz reports that an Israeli grandmother and her five-year old grandson were killed and four others injured by Hezbollah rockets which landed in Moshav Meron on Friday evening. Ha-makom yinachem etchem–May God comfort their families. I have a five year old son and my heart grieves for their loss. Israel’s chief of staff is now warning that Hezbollah has rockets that can penetrate 70km into Israel, far deeper than the 18 mile distance to Haifa, which was rocketed yesterday. Two Israelis died in rocket fire yesterday.
The news gets bleaker and bleaker…
Israel has launched its much anticipated counter-offensive against Hezbollah and the entire Lebanese people in retaliation for the killing of eight IDF soldiers and kidnap of two others. The IDF’s response has been massive and chilling. And it has been “disproportionate” to use the clinical terms of diplomacy. For “disproportionate” read “collective punishment,” which is a violation of the Geneva Conventions. How else may we describe an operation which blockades sea, air and roads and murders 63 Lebanese civilians (as of this date)? What can Israel possibly gain from this madness?
Let’s examine Israel’s statements about the Lebanon offensive. Yesterday, Olmert said that Hezbollah had violated “every rule” and brought the “Middle East to the abyss.” Yes, Hezbollah has violated every rule. But it did not bring the Middle East to the abyss because by itself it does not have the capacity to do so. However, Israel, with its massive firepower has more than the capacity to do so and it has through its actions in Lebanon. And one must not forget that Israel played a key role in initiating the escalation with a month of mostly failed attacks and targeted assassinations which killed 20 Palestinian civilians. This in turn led to the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit which in turn led to the Gaza invasion which in turn led to the Hezbollah attack on IDF positions in northern Israel. Of course, the concatenation of events is a bit more complicated than what I’ve made out–but that summarizes it in a nutshell. So all of Israel’s claims that it is the victim here ring false. Yes, in losing its troops to killing and kidnapping it is the victim, but not the innocent victim it makes itself out to be.
I also found this piece of reasoning absolutely ridiculous:
Israeli officials say they believe that their campaign against Hezbollah is popular with many Lebanese…
I’m sure an Israeli policy which threatens to turn the country into a smoking ruins will find much favor among the inhabitants. Do they stop for even half a second to think how they would feel if an Arab nation bombed Tel Aviv to gain the upper hand on some Israeli political/military faction?
And here is further demented reasoning from the Israelis:
Until now, the Israeli officials said, the Lebanese campaign, largely limited to airstrikes and naval shelling, has been largely limited “to infrastructure, not too dramatic, and the Hezbollah neighborhood” in southern Beirut, which was leafleted first to ask residents to leave. Airstrikes, the most intense over Lebanon since the 1982 war, have been carried out against Hezbollah rocket and ammunition stores, launching sites, barracks and buildings.
Israel expected Mr. Nasrallah in response to order a cooling off period
Surely, they must be joking. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that whoever said that to the NY Times reporter didn’t even believe what he or she was saying. Israel couldn’t have expected a “cooling off.” I’m certain it expected retaliation. Perhaps it even welcomes it because it allows the IDF to further penetrate and obliterate Lebanese/Hezbollah targets. But again, it will not matter how many targets it obliterates. Hezbollah will remain standing probably stronger than ever. It will reinforce its image within Lebanon and the Arab world as one of the few forces which stood up to Israel and fought back.
Chief of Staff Dan Halutz has further revealed the cluelessness of the military/political strategy:
Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, said: “Our intention is to hurt Hezbollah and cause the Lebanese government to take responsibility for what is going on within its borders and somehow create conditions which will enable our prisoners of war to come home.”
“Somehow create conditions which will enable our prisoners to come home.” In other words, “this is what we’d like to happen but we have no idea how to actually make it happen.”
The Times quotes an Israeli analyst whose rhetoric that would be worthy of any neocon think tank (and just as delusional–I’ve noted those portions in italics):
Guy Bechor, an analyst who heads the Mideast Division of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, said that Hezbollah, having made a series of errors, “is coming closer to its defeat,” and that Israel is likely to continue to carry out most of the campaign from the air to avoid being bogged down in Lebanon.
“Facing this aerial machine, Nasrallah can do little,” Mr. Bechor said. “And it will lead to its defeat. Israel is not going for an understanding with Hezbollah, but for a victory.”
Israel needs a few more days, Mr. Bechor said, to get the message across, and it will echo in Gaza, he said. “New parameters in Lebanon will make it easier for Israel with the Palestinians,” he suggested.
Four Israelis are now dead from Katyusha rocket strikes in northern Israel. Are these deaths worth the cost of this futile invasion? Is even a single Israeli life worth the cost of these adventures? I’m calling it an invasion even though ground troops are not yet involved. It is everything an invasion is but that.
Impotent U.S. Policy
U.S. reaction to the crisis continues to be shamefully, and perhaps purposely ineffectual. Lebanon has asked President Bush to push Israel for a ceasefire which he has refused:
White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters that Mr. Bush had spoken with Lebanon’s prime minister, Fouad Siniora, but would not press Israel for a cease-fire.
Mr. Bush “believes the Israelis have the right to protect themselves, and that in doing so they should limit as much as possible so-called collateral damage, not only to facilities but also to human lives,’’ Mr. Snow said.
Asked specifically if Mr. Bush would call for a cease-fire, Mr. Snow said, “No. The president is not going to make military decisions for Israel.’’
Yes, certainly Israel has the right to ‘protect itself.’ But how in heaven’s name is blockading an entire country either defensive or ‘protective’? As to “limiting collateral damage,” they’ve got to be kidding. This is just more doublespeak coming from an Administration which perfected the art with its prevarication regarding the war in Iraq. The U.S. has become a hopeless aider and abettor of Israel’s grandiose vision of “changing the rules” regarding its relations with the Palestinians and Lebanese. Which makes perfect sense because that is precisely what Bush himself tried to do in invading Iraq. Is there any doubt that the latter policy has failed just as the former is doomed to failure?
Israeli officials…said that the Israeli strategy is to diminish or destroy the power of Hezbollah, which has created “a state within a state” in southern Lebanon, and to ensure that the Lebanese army replaces Hezbollah on the border with Israel, as demanded by the United Nations.
In response to a new barrage of rockets today, said Isaac Herzog, a member of the Israeli security cabinet, “We’ve decided to put an end to this saga and to change the rules of the game whereby a terrorist organization that is part of the Lebanese government can push the region to the abyss.”
Brig. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, a member of the general staff, said: “We want to put Hezbollah out of business. We want to force the Lebanese government to take responsibility and deploy along the border and dismantle Hezbollah, which if it is allowed, will prevent any stabilization and peace process in the Middle East.”
>Yes, certainly Israel has the right to ‘protect itself.’ But how in heaven’s name is blockading an entire country either defensive or ‘protective’?
I don’t know, General, why don’t you tell us how to defend and protect a country?
Richard Silverstein says
That’s what this entire blog is about. If you read what I write about the conflict you’d learn what my prescriptions are. If I were a Shin Bet director, defense or prime minister we’d be in negotiation w. Mahmoud Abbas for a final status resolution of the conflict. No kidnappings. No Katyushas or Qassams. That’d be a far cry fr. where we are now.
What’s so disappointing about your commentary is the absurd one-sidedness and naivete of it. What do you *really* think is going on in Lebanon? What NPR tells you is going on? Or is it that hard to see the greater geo-political forces at work here? Do you think a bunch of bearded fascists and their burka wearing side kicks came up with their own missiles capable of hitting Haifa? UAVs loaded with explosives? 12,000 Katyushas? Clearly there must be greater forces at work yet you seem to only be able to blame yourself, the Jews and Israel. Your self loathing peacenik philosophy has already led to the deaths of hundreds and the further empowerment of a philosophy, Islamofascism, that threatens our entire civilization.
Also, you misunderstand the attitude of the Arab world. These people understand only force. They are not like you. They don’t care about their kids. They have been force fed and socialized hatred since birth. Making nice with them doesn’t work and Israel (and Europe) have proven that repeatedly. They need a punch in the mouth when they kick you. Israel has played the conciliatory, make peace card over and over. It has just made things worse. You can sit in your Seattle house safe and quiet and preach your pacifist pap all you want but common sense says that this is not a war that Israel started but it is one, if you care about the existence of a Jewish state in the future, that they need to win decisively.
Your naive comments are startling. I must say — I’m probably not the first — that calling your site Tikkun Olam is incredibly arrogant for it arrogates to yourself a moral superiority and implies that those who support Israeli conduct support wounding the world. Abbas took no steps to stop suicide bombings and only condemned tactics not their immorality. Though deemed a moderate, he has never stated that he supports a two-state solution and a Jewish Israel, always supporting a full right of return. Israel regrets civilian deaths and Israel’s reaction may well be over the top. But you have consistently failed to provide a realistic approach – how to stop the Hamas rockets, for example. No other country would have stood idly by and permitted such attacks to go unanswered. If Israel engaged in a prisoner swap, why wouldn’t that lead to additional kidnappings, etc. and more swaps. I too worry that things may get out of control, but it is quite clear that in times of crisis Israel has few allies other than the U.S. Tikkun Olam is not a Jewish suicide pact.
Richard Silverstein says
PUH-LEEZE! You’re doing the dramatic equivalent of chewing the scenery. My blog’s title speak to my values & the mission of my blog. The title makes no reference to Israel whatsoever. Go read my About Me pg. & look for any connection I make bet. the 2 ( you won’t find one).
You don’t know shit fr. shinola. He’s the leader of Fatah which endorses the Oslo accords which specifically refer to a 2 state solution. Where’d you come up w. this stuff?
Oh dear, oh drear. Read the damn blog if you want my prescriptions. I’ll do you one better than describing how to stop the rockets. I’ll tell you how to resolve the entire conflict. Announce you’re entering into final status talks w. Abbas immediately. That’d bring all the other crap up short right quick. Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that. But if you want my full prescription for peace it’s right there in my previous posts. Do a search and you’ll find it. I didn’t say I expect you to agree w. it. Just that I have provided a ‘realistic approach.’ In fact, my approach is reasonably close to the one that will eventually bring peace to the region when it finally does come.
Israel HAS engaged in prisoner swaps before. This is nothing new. The policy of refusing to negotiate a prisoner swap which Olmert has introduced is a radical shift from traditional Israeli policy. Kidnappings happen because the wider conflict is so deeply unstable. If Israel didn’t throw gasoline on the fire with targeted killings & heinous murders of innocent civilians, Israel wouldn’t provoke the massive escalation which we’ve seen.
I’m pleased to know that. You should worry. They already are out of control & things can only get worse.
Richard Silverstein says
Not on your life, buddy. I don’t blame myself and I don’t blame “Jews.” Of course, I blame Israel as I blame Hamas and Hezbollah. You seem to have left all that out of your slipshod bashing of my position.
Let me guess where you’ve been spending your time online: Little Green Footballs? Frontpagemagazine? I always admire the grandiosity of delusion of such a paranoid world view.
And I do so love it when the LGFers try to ‘educate’ us about the “attitude” of Arabs. They’re just so full of enlightenment it almost hurts to watch the shining light of certainty in their eyes.
Indeed they’re not. Somewhere between the lizards and simians in the evolutionary chain.
Certainly not. Those photographic images I feature here of Palestinians mourning the deaths of their parents, siblings & children are mere crocodile tears. We all know that Arabs eat nails for breakfast and spit bullets at the first Israeli they see.
I can’t believe the cogency of this guy/gal’s argument. What a gift s/he is to this debate. Certainly Arab’s have been fed hatred with their mother’s milk (I think we can agree that they did HAVE mothers, can’t we?), while we Israelis and Jews are fed a diet of nothing but love for our neighbors.
And such a master of diplomacy. Why don’t you run for prime minister? Israel needs someone with your sophistication to manage its policies toward the Palestinians.
Yup. Those bombs raining down on Beirut have happy faces and “Make love, not war” painted all over them.
No, insanity says this is a war that Israel can or will win. “Common sense” says that this is a war that Israel cannot win just as we cannot win in Iraq and the could not win in Vietnam. Common sense says we must negotiate a way out of this mess. Even Israeli generals and Shin Bet directors are saying this (if you’d bother to read their words here). Are the generals and spooks talking “pacifist pap” too?
Peter H says
Just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your blog. I’ve learned an enormous amount from Tikkun the past few weeks.
Don’t let the trolls get you down.
Richard Silverstein says
Thanks Peter for yr. encouragement. As for the trolls, it comes with the territory. They’re all very distressed by the violence in Israel and either looking for like-minded souls w. who to take comfort or else looking for the enemy to attack. In the former case, they’re rudely brought up short by someone who cares about Israel but hates its current policy; & in the latter I guess they come to the right place to dump the trash.
Tony Anton says
Tears came to my eyes at breakfast this morning while reading the L.A.Times. The article referred to the broken dreams of Beiruth citizens who have painsakingly been restoring Beiruth to its former glory as the Paris of the Mideast.
Israeli bombings, as of this date, the 16th, has destroyed 50 bridges in the country. How is this supposed to bring back the prisoners held by Hezbollah? How long will it take, and how much will it cost to rebuild them?
Iarael, with its overpowering military might, is the neighborhood bully that I recall from my childhood.