Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Beit Hanoun

In the aljazeera article about the Beit Hanoun tragedy:

'Ghazi Hamad also said that Israel was an inhuman state that "should cease to exist."'

Personally: I am extremely sorry about this tragedy. I truly and sincerely wish it did not happen. No one deserves such deaths. Not Palestinians, and not Israelis. Not innocent Palestinian civilians, and not Hamas militants.

But Israel is not an inhuman state. It is a country fighting for its existence - exactly because of opinions like the one presented by Ghazi Hamad.

Israeli violence gains momentum from opinions like Mr. Hamad's, from Qassam rockets and Palestinian violence in general. Palestinian violence gains momentum from Israeli violence - and the cycle continues.

This tragedy is not the fault of Israel any more than it is the fault of Palestinians. Threatening to destroy Israel only increases the violence, when it is the vicious cycle of violence that must be stopped!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Harun Yahya video - not really the philosophy of Zionism and Israel

Mohamed Maher pointed me to a film which I found intriguing. I feel that contrary to its title, this film demonstrates a total misunderstanding of the philosophy of Zionism and Israel. I wonder how this film is understood by Arabs.

Zionists are portrayed here as murderers with a racist agenda. The film explains that "devout Jews oppose Zionism", and are against Israeli violence. I was very glad the film showed pictures of Israelis opposing Israeli violence (e.g., demonstrating against the Sabra and Shatilla massacres). I'm sorry the filmmaker forgot(?) to mention that these people are also Zionists.

There are many truths in this video, but there are also many many omissions, and even some falsehoods. Mohamed - I wish you could have heard the Israeli Zionist crowd cheering as Zionist writer David Grossman, in his speech tonight, called on our Prime Minister to acknowledge Palestinian suffering. David Grossman lost his son in the recent Lebanon war. He gave his speech during a remembrance to Prime Minister Yizhak Rabin. Rabin was murdered by a Jewish right wing extremist. Indeed - there are Israeli Zionists who are criminals and brutal murderers. But things are not so black and white as the film suggests. Not all Zionists are racist fanatics. In fact, the vast majority of us are not.

I was surprised to hear the opinion in this film that suicide bombings are against the sayings of the Qur'an. As far as I know, these brutal killings of Israelis are carried out mostly by devout Islamic factions. (@Mohamed - I'd really like to hear your opinion about this).

I found the film's call for peace at the end especially surprising, because most of the film seemed to me like propaganda against Israel. The film puts a lot of emphasis on Israeli violence, but chooses to explain this violence as rooted in some social Darwinist philosophies which I have never heard of, rather than the vicious cycle of violence and counter-violence which we all witness.

I see this film as another example of each side viewing itself as "the good guys", without even a minimal sympathy towards the feelings of the other side, and without acknowledging its own responsibility for much of the violence.

@Mohamed, I wonder how you feel about this film?


Thursday, October 19, 2006


Daily Show - Even Stevphens - Religion

Sunday, October 15, 2006

AlJazeera: Does the Palestinian issue fuel extremism?

It's been a while since I last posted - I'm really busy, so my posting frequency is low (and will probably remain so) - but at least it's not zero.

Mohamed Maher said:
> try to see and hear new media other than urs , try to hear the arabic media
And I promised him I will read Arab media.

In keeping with my promise, I read "Does the Palestinian issue fuel extremism?" on AlJazeera.

I think the author was actually calling for a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. But I must say: as an Israeli Jew, I found this article to be insulting. I could only bear to read through it because I understand - through my conversations on this blog - that this article truly reflects the way most Arabs see Israel. The vast majority of Israelis would think this article is "shameless anti-Israeli propaganda". I certainly would have thought so a few months ago.

Before I explain why I was offended by this article, I'd like to highlight a small part of a conversation I had with EngineeringChange in the comments to my previous post.

EngineeringChange said:
> But I still cannot understand what this Israeli infatuation is with its Jewish identity.

And I replied:
> It's a complex issue - but the very short explanation is that
> while Christians and Muslims have many countries of their
> own, Israel is the only Jewish country in the world. If Israel
> were to lose its Jewish identity, there would be no one to
> make sure Jews do not become a persecuted minority wherever they live.

To any Arabs reading this post: please keep this in mind when you read the AlJazeera article. And please remember also:

  • I agree with at least part of your cause. Israeli violence towards Palestinians should be stopped. There should be a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.
  • Most Israeli Jews living in Israel were born here. This is our home. It is very important to us. Maintaining a homeland for the Jewish people is as important to us as justice is to you.
  • Arabs have a very significant resposibility for the violence in this area. We Israelis are not saints, but neither are you Arabs. It is pointless to blame the other side without admitting that you too have a part in the wrongdoing.

So why was I offended by this article? Mostly because of the absolute one-sidedness.

Here are a few quotes to explain my feelings:

"...Leaders are assassinated, remember Sheikh Yasin?..."
Well - leaders from the Israeli side have been assasinated too. Ze'evi, for example. Not that I support his extremist views - but the article fails to mention his assasination. Nor the assasination of Israel's ambassador to Britian in 1982, and a few others.

"...Houses get demolished for no fault of the occupants. ..."
And what about innocent Israeli civilians getting blown up in busses through no fault of their own? And what about hijacked airplanes? Kidnapped and murdered Israeli children? Why are these - and so many other acts of Arab violence - not mentioned in the article?

"... The Jews claim that Israel is their promised land. Palestinians claim, and rightly so, that they were living here for over thousand years and the land belongs to them. ..."
Why is only the Palestinian claim "right"? Do you think Jews are lying when they claim this is their promised land? I'm not religious - but to the religious Jews, Israel is the promised land - period. This is what they believe. But more importantly, for me, and about 5 million other Israeli Jews: we were born here, and we live here now. This is the only home we've ever known. Ignore this: and you can't understand the current issues. Yes - it is possible that our ancestors may have wronged several hundred thousand Palestinians when they came here a hundred years ago, but to us: this is our only home.

"... Add to this Sabra and Shatila Massacres ..."
These Massacres were performed by a Lebanese militia. Israel's fault was that we were there and allowed it to happen. Don't the Maronites have a part in it too?

"... The fact is for over 50 years the Zionist movement has been holding the world peace hostage to its racist agenda ..."
Our agenda is not racist. Our agenda is the result of racism against us. And just as we are persistent in our fight to protect our home: the Arabs are persistent in their fight to destroy us. It is not any one side who is "holding world peace hostage": it is the fight between our two sides. Whoever wrote this is blind to the significant part the Arabs have in the violence.

"... Jerusalem is holy to all three religions. ..."
Well - at least the author got that one right, and didn't deny that Jerusalem is holy to the Jews.

"... Jews who migrate to Israel are those who hold citizenship in their countries of origin. While the dislodged Palestinians end up with no home or country. They are not given citizenship in any other country. ..."
Israel accepts Jews as citizens. Arab countries do not accept Palestinians as citizens. If the true concern of Arab countries was for the wellfare of the Palestinian refugees - the Arab countries would have granted citizenship to the Palestinian Refugees (or at least to their children who were born in those Arab countries). EngineeringChange explained to me in one of his earlier comments on this blog: Arabs maintain the status of Palestinians as refugees so that the world will not forget the wrong that has been done to them. In my view: the Arabs have as much responsibility to the condition of those poor people as do the Israelis.

"... Is it correct to exile Palestinians from their homeland for accommodating Jews who come in search of a better life? Most point to Holocaust as a justifying reason. But the fact is Holocaust, if ever it happened, happened in Europe and not in the Middle East. Why should Palestinians atone for a crime that Europeans committed? ..."
First of all: this is a very sad misunderstanding by Arabs. For us, the Holocaust is in no way a justification for exiling Palestinians from their homeland. It is a justification for the creation of a jewish homeland. Any solution to the Palestinian problem must take into account that we are not willing to become a "countryless" nation again - and that we who were born here, definitely do not want to be driven out of our homes.

But not less importantly: denying the Holocaust - or even doubting it - is extremely insulting to Israelis. Especially to the children of those who were there - or the few still living who have survived it. My father-in-law survived the Holocaust. My great-grandparents were murdered in the Holocaust. When you doubt the Holocaust: I, and millions of other Jews, are personally offended.

"... A solution to this problem can only be based on justice. First we should agree to the fact all men are created equal. The solution can be just only if it’s based on the principal that everybody, regardless of their creed or religion, has equal rights. A sustainable solution has to recognize the rights of the displaced Palestinians, Palestinians in the occupied territories and those living under the territory controlled by Palestinian Authority.

Also the native Jews too have to be accommodated in the final settlement. ..."

Finally: something I agree with.

"... A pluralistic democracy is the only answer, where Palestinians and Jews will have the equal rights. ..."
No, that is not a good answer. Because this ignores the need of the Jewish people to have at least one country in the world which is committed to protecting them from persecution.

In my view: the only answer is for each side to stop denying the pain of the other side. Israelis must understand the Arab desire for justice. Arabs must understand the Jewish need for a homeland.

Friday, September 15, 2006

How Israeli Textbooks Portray the Arab-Israeli Conflict

I stumbled upon How Israeli Textbooks Portray the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Elie Podeh - Indiana University Press, March 2000.

I didn't read the entire article (it's very long), but I found the few bits I did read very interesting - especially because they opened my eyes to the political manipulations that I was subject to when I was in school over 20 years ago.

I was also very glad to learn that this has changed.

Major points in this article:

* History textbooks were often used by states as instruments for glorifying the nation, consolidating its national identity, and justifying social and political systems. The case of Israel is no exception (and neither is that of the Palestinians).

* The Israeli educational system passed through three stages. Podeh calls them "childhood" (until 1967); "adolescence" (1967-1984); and "adulthood" (1984 onwards).

* "Childhood" -- until 1967 - (i.e, books my parents were given in school): total focus on Zionist values. Arab history, culture and language, were almost completely ignored (possibly because references to the Arab or Palestinian people evoked a fear of undermining the legitimacy of the Zionist enterprise). The textbooks of the period included bias and stereotypical descriptions that led to institutionalization of hostile attitudes toward the Arabs. "Savage," "sly," "cheat," "thief," "robber," "provocateurs" and "terrorists" were typical adjectives used by textbooks when describing Arabs. The writing style was emotional and laden with pathos. This is hardly surprising given that the textbooks were written by individuals intimately involved with and affected by the events they described. Any information that might have marred Israel's image or raised doubts about the Jewish fight to the land of Israel was instinctively omitted.

* "Adolescence" -- 1967-1984 (i.e., books I was given in school): This period witnessed the publication of a new, second generation of textbooks. The second-generation textbooks were radically different from their predecessors. Both the Arabs and the Arab-Israeli conflict were described in a more balanced manner, and the historical narrative on the whole was less biased and contained fewer expressions that inspired negative stereotypes. Important changes also took place in the retelling of certain Zionist "truths." For example, the myth that the first immigrants had found an "empty and desolate land" began to crumble. It soon became evident, however, that the student, as well as the teacher, was more comfortable with the traditional way of narrating history. There was a conviction that "our" textbooks were impeccable and that it was only the Arab textbooks that required revision.

* "Adulthood" (1984 -- Present): By the early 1990s, changes in Israeli society brought about further changes in textbooks. Generally, the Arabs are no longer described in stereotypical terms. Indeed, on the whole, these textbooks seem to present a balanced picture of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Even though it is still viewed primarily from a Zionist perspective, an attempt is made to understand the Arab point of view, especially in discussions of some of the sensitive issues in the history of the conflict. In 1998-1999, high school textbooks started elaborating on the issue of Palestinian refugees.

* The most extensive and comprehensive analysis of the refugee problem thus far appears in Eli Barnavi's new high school textbook. In a discussion that spans over two pages, the text accurately mirrors the current state of academic knowledge and shows some empathy for the refugees' plight. The author notes that Morris, in his book, cited 369 abandoned Arab villages "including 33 whose inhabitants were deliberately expelled by Jewish forces." Regarding the sum total of refugees, he puts their number at something between 600,000 and 700,000, an estimate that is accepted by many scholars. At the end of this passage, he assesses the refugee problem in the context of the larger conflict: "As the years passed, hatred, alienation, the desire for revenge and the hope of return, all exacerbated by Arab propaganda, fused the refugees into a single nation and transformed the refugee problem into an international problem. True, Israel emerged victorious from the war of survival forced upon it. But the Palestinian refugee problem was to poison its relations with the Arab world and the international community for over a generation.".

* Interestingly, the article mentions Yehoshafat Harkabi, former head of military intelligence and a noted expert on Arab-Israeli relations, who advocated in 1968 that the Arab-Israeli conflict be taught in high school. Harkabi emphasized the importance of "educating for truth," i.e. illuminating inconvenient facts that conflicted with the official line of thinking. He said: "The wisdom is not to see the opponent as a culprit ... but to realize that there is no absolute justice ... and that each side has its own truth.". (So I'm not the first person to realize this [IB]). Apparently, some teachers found his suggestion difficult to accept. One teacher is quoted as saying: "How can I cultivate in my students a state of perpetual schizophrenia, a divided soul, the sense of being both right and wrong... the daily anguish of being both correct and incorrect!".

Although very interesting, and highlighting the improvements in the Israeli textbooks, the article ends in a rather pessimistic note:

"The fact that [Israeli] school textbooks were in the past prejudiced and thereby contributed to the escalation of the conflict failed to penetrate the consciousness of large sectors of Israeli society. In this respect, the historical narrative presented by the third-generation textbooks [i.e, textbooks published since the mid-1990s] constitutes an important step forward. Its impact, however, will be limited if there is no corresponding change in Arab, and especially Palestinian, textbooks.

In historical and national terms, the Palestinians are currently in the same position that Israel was in fifty years ago. If Palestinian textbooks must go through the long, exhausting process undergone by Israeli textbooks, the prospects of a genuine and lasting Israeli-Palestinian conciliation may lie far off in the future."

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Arab Media for Israelis

Mohamed Maher said in a previous comment to DGListen:

> try to see and hear new media other than urs , try to hear the arabic media

Mohamed - I think this is a great suggestion. I have started doing this, and I hope more Israelis do too. But it has to be done with great care.

Why great care? Because when we Israelis read Arab newspapers: we are immediately put off. We see what is written - and it looks like horrible lies and propaganda to us.

I recently realized, though, that this is not propaganda - and should not be taken by us as lies. I have come to believe that the Arab media (or at least Aljazeera - which is the only Arab media source I found in English) is providing a true representation of the Arab view of the world.

I wish to humbly ask any Arabs reading this post: Am I correct in this observation? Do you think that Aljazeera truly represents the Arab view of things? Or can you recommend other Arab media sources?


Thursday, August 31, 2006

Survivors invite Iranian pres. to Auschwitz, ask for Tehran invite - Haaretz - Israel News

Survivors invite Iranian pres. to Auschwitz, ask for Tehran invite - Haaretz - Israel News: "Holocaust survivors on Wednesday invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to tour the Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and called on the leader in Tehran to invite survivors to a planned conference on the subject of the Holocaust in Iran."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

2 comments I wanted to highlight

2 comments to previous posts that deserve a post of their own:

A comment by Zeinobia:

@I.B I agree that we both see ourselves as the good guys and that is the problem in any conflict no one wants to be the bad guy

A comment by DGListen (addressed to Mohamed Maher and Tarek):
the israelis are not only warriors and killers.
there are many like me and IB that really want
to find a way to live together with respect and
dignity. can u join us?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Can the misunderstanding be corrected?

Zeinobia recently wrote that in her opinion, Hezbollah won the battle.

@Zeinobia: this may surprize you, but I think most Israelis would agree with quite a few of the things you wrote in that post. Israel certainly underestimated Hezbollah's abilities. There is one thing, however, which I feel I must respond to. You wrote that:

"The fighting spirit of Hezbollah fighters is much greater than the one the IDF soldiers .... [because] ... They are defending their land ... "
Zeinobia - please let me assure you with 100% certainty: the IDF soldiers absolutely believe they are fighting to defend their land, the lives of their families and the lives of everyone in Israel.

Why did I feel that it is so important for me to clarify this point? Because this small sentence you wrote on your blog - that Israeli soldiers do not believe they are defending their land - indicated to me a huge and terrible misunderstanding of Israelis by you.

I have learned, through the discussion on this blog, that - at the root of the Arab Israeli conflict - is a terrible misunderstanding of Arabs by Israelis, and a terrible misunderstanding of Israelis by Arabs. By listening to you, I have come to believe that Israelis consistently misinterpret Arab intentions, and that Arabs consistently misinterpret Israeli intentions.

If this conflict is to ever end - it is crucial that each side obtain a better understanding of the other. If that does not happen - the bloodshed will go on, because you will continue to believe most Israelis are murderers that only want to steal land and oppress Arabs, and Israelis will keep believing Arabs are told by their religion to murder our children and us.

Our discussions have convinced me that the Arab people are not the monsters that most Israelis believe you to be. But this has created two new dillemas for me:

1. How can I convince other Israelis of this?
2. How can I convince you Arabs that the Israeli people are not the monsters you believe us to be?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sorry for not posting for a while

The discussion so far hasn't been easy for me. It is emotionally straining, and also takes a lot of time. As a result, I fell back on some of my responsibilities (work related and a few personal issues) - but I will post again soon.

Thanks for waiting - I really appreciate it.


Friday, August 04, 2006

Good Guys and Bad Guys

My 5 year old son heard some news about the war in the radio today.

He then asked me: "Are the good guys winning?"

I replied: "My dear son, there are no good guys in this war"

He then said to me, with absolute and total conviction: "But Daddy! In a war there are ALWAYS good guys and bad guys!!!"

For this conflict to end both sides must stop seeing themselves as the good guys.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Fear revisited

I think my earlier explanation about fear and aggression was not clear enough. Let me try again:

We Israelis HAVE ALMOST ALWAYS BEEN AFRAID of Arabs. Hizballa is not doing anything new.

I remember being afraid as a 4 year old child in the bomb-shelter during the 1973 war.

During the first days of this war, we Israelis were certain that our country and our homes are about to be completely destroyed by the Arab armies.

The strong IDF you see today, is the result of the Israeli public's refusal to accept "a 1973" ever again.

The IDF is pre-emptively striking Hizaballa targets to make sure 1973 never happens again. This is probably based on a misguided view of the world - but you cannot ignore the fact that THIS IS WHAT THE PEOPLE IN THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT REALLY BELIEVE TO BE TRUE. They REALLY BELIEVE that Israel WILL BE in serious danger UNLESS we act.

I believe the Israeli government's tactics are wrong - but that's not the issue. I'm simply trying to explain to you what is the absolute truth in the eyes of the Israeli government - AND MOST OF THE ISRAELI PUBLIC.

Zeinobia asked why we fear when we have such a powerful army. The answer is simple: we have such a powerful army BECAUSE we are afraid of what will happen if we didn't have such an army.

Zeinobia - what we did in Lebanon is not fear: it is the result of our fear that our country will be destroyed if we sit quietly and do nothing. Just as you truly believe Hizballa are true warriors for justice (and I respect that belief now), you must understand that the majority of Israelis REALLY BELIEVE that Israel WILL BE in serious danger UNLESS we act. The terrible destruction you're seeing in Lebanon is because of the way Israelis interpret Arab (and Muslim) intentions. Ahmadenijad's threats to wipe out Israel are only seen by Israelis as PROOF that this interpretation is correct.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A 3-Part Post

Part 1: Responses to previous comments

@ba3kawy: you are right. I take my words back. It just shows how difficult it is to communicate when we don't share the same beliefs. I promise to try harder!

@EngineeringChange: you said "I.B--What do you mean your perception has changed?". I'll try to explain this in Part 2 of this post.

@Mon 0eil: your comment will not be understood correctly by Arabs. Please see Part 2 - I hope I can explain what I've realized.

@Blue: I don't think anymore that the Arab media is biased against Israel. I thought so up until a few days ago, but no longer. I now think it truthfully depicts events IN THE WAY THE ARAB WORLD UNDERSTANDS THEM. Israelis understand this as bias.

@Mohammed, @Egyptian-in-USA: I will try to answer you in Part 3 - but *please* read Part 2 first.

Part 2: Explaining what I have realized

This is really difficult to explain, so please let me know if I didn't do a good job, and I'll try again.

My realization has to do with a concept called Mental Models:
A mental model is an explanation in someone's thought process for how something works in the real world.
(source: Wikipedia)

People are not aware of their own mental models. We accept them as absolute truths without even thinking about them.

For example, if I see a glass cup fall from high above onto a hard surface, and the glass does not break, I will look for some way to explain this using the concepts of my mental model - my understanding of events around me. If I lived in the dark ages - I most likely would have thought the cup has been taken by a demon. Nowadays, I will probably check if the cup was in fact made of plastic and not glass.

People are extremely resistant to changing their mental models. For ages, people explained the rising and setting of the sun as gods moving in the sky. Imagine going back in time, and telling an ancient greek that the earth orbits the sun: if you're lucky, that greek will only think you're crazy. Your explanation will not match his mental model - his understanding of how the universe works. You might try to reason with him, and tell him that your model explains many things, like solar eclipses, or the seasons. But his response to you will be: "nonsense - eclipses are the will of Helios, and seasons are the will of Zeus!".

In LOTR, think of Gollum/Smeagol. Gollum and Smeagol have different mental models - different explanations of reality. They see the same things, yet explain them in a totally different way:
Gollum: Master tricked us
Smeagol: No, Master is kind to us
In this example, Gollum and Smeagol use their mental models in order to guess Frodo's intentions. This is a crucial point. Frodo wants to save Smeagol from the archers, so he betrays Gollum to Faramir. Gollum is certain that Frodo is evil, and this mental model is strengthened by this action. Smeagol's mental model cannot cope with this action - because he doesn't have all the information.

My realization is that Arabs and Israelis have completely different mental models for describing the conflict! We both see a single action taken by the other side, but, like Gollum/Smeagol, when we guess the other side's intentions, we reach different conclusions. This is why you do not believe the Hizballa is firing rockets from civilian villages and I do. Before realizing this, I kept thinking: "hey, these Arabs are crazy. There's no point talking to them. How can they not see the Hizballa terrorists are firing from within villages?". Now I think: "ok, these Arabs are not crazy. If someone told me Luke Skywalker was using evil tactics in his fight against the Evil Empire, of course I wouldn't believe that".

Part 3: How Israelis think

First of all: there are at least 3 different Israeli mental models of the conflict (probably more).

To many in the Religious Jewish Right Wing: Israel belongs to the Jews. This Holy land was given to the Jews by God. It is God's will that we live here, and it is God's will that we defend our land. This is the absolute truth.

To many in the Right Wing (orthodox or not): We are normal people, but Arabs want to kill us. Arabs are liers and are bloodthirsty. We can't trust them. We do not share the same values. They are not ashamed of lying about us in the newspapers and inciting violence. No matter what we do: they will try to kill us. They will keep trying to kill us even if we gave up Tel Aviv. We have to defend ourselves. Giving up land is a mistake, because Arabs will interpret this as a sign of weakness, and this will encourage them to keep trying to kill us. Israeli aggression may not solve the conflict, but at least it will buy us some quiet for a time. Our aggression is justified, because it is in self defence. This is the absolute truth.

To many in the Left Wing ("peace camp"): Indeed, there were Arab villages in Israel before we came back here, but there were also Jews who lived here. Israel has done many things to oppress Palestinians. The occupation is wrong. Settlements are a mistake. The Palestinian resistence is in many ways (but not all) Isreal's fault. Suicide bombers are the result of extreme poverty. But at least some Arabs are reasonable people, and if we show them we mean peace (for example, by withdrawing from Gaza) - they will stop the violence, and we can work together towards a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

We Israelis, who have these different explanations for reality, are in a constant argument with each other.

Most importantly: like Gollum/Smeagol - our interpretation of Arab actions - and our guesses of Arab intentions - depend on our mental models.

The Left Wing's interpretation has been significantly weakened by the events of the past few months. Many of us thought that by withdrawing from Gaza, we are sending a signal of peace. We definitly didn't expect more Qassam missiles, kidnapping of soldiers or Katyusha rockets on Haifa. Our mental model was not supported by reality, and many are now looking for an alternative model - accepting the Right Wing model as the truth.

What I realized through our discussion, is that neither model can explain Arab intentions and actions. I now have my own, different, mental model of the conflict.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Lord of the Rings

Following the exchange of words of the last few days, I have totally changed my perception of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Please correct me if I'm wrong here, but I got the impression that most of you sincerely believe that Israel is a truly evil entity, and that almost all Israelis are lying, blood-thirsty killers. It's almost as if we're living in the world of "The Lord of the Rings", and Israel is Isengard, while the USA is Mordor, isn't it?


Monday, July 31, 2006

A Plea

Zeinobia, Mohamed, Blue,

To hear that you do not believe Hizballa are hiding behind children comes as a great surprize to me. I did not know that this is how you see things, because to me the truth is different. But opening my mind, and accepting that you believe differently from me, has done much for me. I am awed and amazed by how much we do not know about each other.

Neither you nor I were at Qana. None of us had seen first-hand what happened. None of us had seen if Hizballa fighters really were hiding amongst children. All we know is what we hear from those around us.

The things you hear from those around you are not the things I hear from those around me. Your newspapers say different things from mine. I have been hearing about Arab rockets being fired from behind children for more than 10 years. I can only imagine that you have been hearing the opposite.

You believe one thing, and I believe another. That we cannot change for the moment.

But I beg of you, for the sake of our conversation: please, PLEASE, accept that I believe differently from you. Please understand that just as you do not believe Hizaballa fighters were hiding in that building - I believe that they were.

Let us, for now, not try to argue about the truth of what happened - because that will take our discussion to a dead end. Let us, at least for the moment, accept that we have different beliefs, and judge each other's words based on that.


Sunday, July 30, 2006

Kafr Qana

I have just heard the terrible news about the tragedy in Kafr Qana, and rushed to write this post. The civilized and relatively calm discussion we have started here has quickly become more important to me than I had originally imagined it would. I hope we will not let it die along with those innocent children.

I think it is important that you know how I feel about this terrible event. While I remain proud of the Israeli soldiers for protecting my life with theirs - I am ashamed of the Israeli Army for not doing more to avoid such brutal killings of innocent children.

I hope that you, my Arab partners to this discussion, are ashamed of Hizballa for its cruel use of innocent children as human shields - as living shelters for protecting the rockets they fire at my children.


As more people express interest in joining this discussion, there is a danger we will lose the way it has been conducted up to now. I therefore wish to propose a small rule for joining:

If you consider joining, please start by taking a look at Zeinobia's post - the one that got this discussion started - and ask yourself this: If you are Israeli - ask yourself if you identify with Zeinobia's question. If you are Arab - please imagine that this child is Israeli, and then ask yourself if you can still identify with her question. If your answer is yes - this means we share at least one common value, and that is a basis for dialogue. By all means, please join us.


P.S., to Zeinobia, Blue, EngineeringChange, march14yuppi and Mohamed Maher: I haven't forgotten that I owe you more answers. This is just an "emergency post" from my side.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

I'm overwhelmed

Wow. I really appreciate the comments - from all of you: Zeinobia, Blue, EngineeringChange, march14yuppi and Mohamed Maher.

You all wrote so much, it will take me a while to digest everything you said. The time I can allocate to blogging is somewhat limited, as I also have a family and a job... so what I plan to do is to address your comments across several posts - a few points in each post, in no particular order. Please excuse me for not being able to answer everything at once.

Zeinobia, thank you for accepting my invitation. I also wanted to tell you that I really appreciate what you said to "egyptian" on your blog. I hope one day he will be able to join discussions such as ours.

In your letter to me you said:
> I am afraid this mutual respect is lost from your side not from ours

Indeed, some people on my side have lost this respect for your side. A very large number have not. I am glad I have the opportunity to demonstrate this to you, and I am even happier to learn that there is still such respect on your side.

> This mutual respect means that our children are not less than your
> children , our civilians are not less value than yours
> Believe me I would feel the same if this baby was Israeli ,angry
> and sad because I am human

I believe you. And please believe me - there are soooo many Israelis who share your view. We are also human. Seeing dead babies is so terrible, most of us simply choose not to look. There are many dead babies on the Israeli side, too.

> second because I am a muslim , Islam respects human rights
> and doesn't call for fight except if the other starts it and in
> this case your government started ,it starts it every single time

Zeinobia - I have a feeling this may be a key point to our discussion. Please allow me to save my answer to this, and to the rest of your letter, to an upcoming post.

EngineeringChange, you said:
> I.B you said "We need to understand what is driving
> the current hatred, and what can be done to stop it."
> Although the history is crucial, I think this way
> of thinking does need to prevail to reach peace.

I am so glad you agree with me. This will help us engage in a meaningful discussion. You asked me why I think the Arabs are angry at us. I will try to answer your question in the next few days. I have much to think about here - and this dialog, with all of you, is helping me learn.

Blue, thank you for joining. You said:
> I know your open dialoged was addressing
> Zenobia, but I believe that you mean open
> dialogue with anyone in the 1st place. So please
> allow me to take part :)

I addressed Zeinobia because I saw in her blog that she and I share respect for human lives. Your blog is in Arabic, so I couldn't read it :-) But I have a feeling we share that same respect. Of course you are welcome to take part!

Blue, you asked - "Do you think any arab would be convinced with such phrase" (And the more we fear, the harder we bite)".

I wasn't trying to convince anyone. I was simply stating my opinion. It is based on personal introspection, and on observations of human beings. I think it is true of Arabs just as it is true of Israelis. (It is also true of cats, BTW :-)

I believe march14yuppi shares my view here. He pointed this out when he said:

> You beleive tha the power of the israeli army
> comes from fear and not from F16s? That's fine by me.
> then you should be in the best position to understand
> why your actions are making hizbollah and their
> supporters stronger. You are augmenting their hatered
> and fear from you.

@march14yuppi: You and I are in total agreement here. I don't think many Israelis doubt that we've planted the seeds for Hizballa 2.0. The vast majority of Israelis simply feel, at the current time, that we have no other choice. This just shows what fear can do.

As for the F-16s: yes, we have F-16s, and F-15s and tanks and cannons and probably a full arsenal of other things I don't know about. But what drove us to get them is fear. And if they weren't being supplied by the US, our fear would have driven us to find them elsewhere. And most importantly: what drives us to operate them is fear.

There are other drivers, too, but when there is less fear: most of the Israeli population advocates restraint. When there is less fear, Israel becomes less aggressive.

@Blue, you also said:
> fear comes from the lack of justice.
> fear comes from the lack of self confidence.
> fear comes from a lost case.
> fear comes to real murderers at night when
> see the ghosts of the murdered childerns, wifes,
> old men and poor citizens with no justified reason but "Terror and fear".

I don't think we, as Israelis, lack self confidence. I think perhaps many Israelis have too much of it. And I think that this overconfidence is dangerous when it is combined with fear. As for justice and a lost case: that's something I would like to return to in another post.

I ask you to understand that Israelis are not murderers any more than you are. Both sides have killed, and are still killing. The numbers do not matter. There are too many dead children, wives, old men and poor citizens on both sides.

Blue, the fear in Israel right now is coming from thousands of rockets being fired at us, coupled with promises to "wipe us off the map" and "drown us in the sea", along with suicide bombers trying to kill our children. And don't underestimate the power of the "wipe us off the map" promise. Bombs falling with this sort of promise are very frightening. I know there is great fear on the Lebanese side too. I just wanted you to know that we also feel this.

@Mohamed: you said you are happy that Hizballa make us feel fear. Please try to understand: Hizballa is not doing anything new. We have been feeling fear for decades. We also feared the Arab armies in 1973. This is the point I was trying to emphasize: making us fear is not going to solve anything. It is achieving the opposite. Hizballa are simply perpetuating the cycle of violence. Israel is still bombing Lebanon because we are afraid of what will happen if we stop.

@Blue, you also asked why I didn't say that I am happy when Palestinians or Lebanese are killed. The reason is that I am not happy when they are killed. Most Israelis are not. And when Israeli extremists murder innocent Palestinians, I, along with millions of other Israelis, am happy to see these murderers put in jail.

I do not deny that there are a lot of Israelis who do not feel like I do. A very large group of Israelis is trapped in their hate and in their fear and their righteousness. This group spawned Yigal Amir - who murdered our majority-elected Prime Minister, because our Prime Minister returned land to the Palestinians.

If there is ever going to be a way out of this cycle of violence: it is up to people like me and people like you - people who respect the value of human lives - regardless of whether we are Israeli or Arab - to work together and find a way to restrain our extremists, and hopefuly find a way out of this terrible situation.

Again, thank you all - I will post again in a few days.


Maybe it's time someone finally said this

I have a message to the Arabs: we are afraid of you.

There, I said it. Anonymously, but I said it.

I actually first said it while replying to an anonymous comment on Zadigvoltaire's post Beirut Notes: Unite. The commenter said:

> You make it seem like your retaliation made
> you suffer less?

And I replied:
We retaliate because WE ARE AFRAID.

We hear Hizballa's leader threaten us. We see him carrying out his threats. We see Hizballa amassing 10,000 missiles and aiming them at our children. And all that time we hear him promise to wipe us off the map.

But we don't want to be wiped off the map. So we act. We act out of fear that - if we don't do anything - Hizballa will keep gaining strength, and eventually be able to wipe us off the map.

We are willing to suffer now in order to save ourselves the much greater pain that we fear.

Then it hit me: in all the discussions about the conflict, I never saw any Israeli tell this to Arabs. Why? I don't know. Maybe some of us are too proud to admit it. Or maybe this is something that is so clear to us, we think everybody else knows it too. Or maybe we are afraid that if the Arabs knew how much we fear them, they will be even more motivated to kill us.

But let me tell you, my Arab neighbors: you succeeded in making us fear you decades ago. Perhaps you simply didn't realize it. If you are looking for something to be proud of - maybe you can be proud of that.

But you must understand that most of the Israeli aggression comes out of our fear from you. And the more we fear, the harder we bite. When all of Israel is in fear: we unite, and we act. Our fear is what makes the Israeli army so powerful and so dangerous. So perhaps you might want to make us a little less afraid of you.


I felt that I didn't do a good enough job on this post. Here's my second attempt at explaining this issue.


A call for a dialogue

Hello Zeinobia,

You and I are different in many ways. We have completely different beliefs: you are Muslim, while I am an atheist of Jewish origin. You believe that Israel is evil, while I see it as my only home. You are happy when Israeli soldiers are killed, while I mourn their deaths.

But I decided to approach you because we seem to share at least one common value: neither you nor I can suffer the deaths of innocent children.

To many, the situation in our area seems hopeless. An everlasting cycle of violence, that has been going on for decades, with no end in sight. But I have one hope: that the Internet will be able to help us break out of this cycle. The Internet can help us communicate despite the barriers. This is the one thing that is possible now, which was not possible during the previous periods of violence. I firmly believe we should embrace this possibility.

I invite you to an open dialogue through our blogs. I want to understand your hate towards my country. Perhaps you will be able to convince me that it is justified. Perhaps I will be able to convince you that it is not.

In your blog, you show a picture of a killed baby. This picture is terrifying. Do you really believe that there are many Israelis who are happy to see this picture?

I hope you see my link to your post, and I hope you will respond.


A few interesting links

A CNN reporter questions whether Beirut was really detroyed, or if this is simply Hizballa propaganda. Includes maps of Beirut.

Some more video proof that Hizballa is hiding behind civilians.

A Lebanese blogger is fed up with fellow Lebanese who support Hizballa

And last: a place for Israelis, Palestinians and Lebanese caught up in the violence to exchange experiences and opinions.

Wow. There's a serious and very interesting discussion in the comments to this post on Beirut Notes.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Swearing to success

An awesome animated description of the situation. BTW, I found this link on the site of the lebanese bloggers.

The cartoon ignores the top strategic issue for Israel, though. The Arab countries around Israel have never dared fire rockets at Israeli civilians. Israel cannot allow such a precedent, where a country fires rockets at Israeli civilians, and comes out clean. Israel's leaders decided to send a clear message to all our surrounding Arab countries: "if you ever repeat this action - you will pay a heavy price."

Regrettably, the Lebanese population is now paying a heavy price for allowing Hizballa to threaten Israel in this way. Israel too, will pay a price for restoring chaos to Lebanon. But the widespread opinion in Israel is that this price is lower than the alternative: the price Israel would have paid were such a message not sent.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A must see

A Blog with No Title: Interesting

Amazing. I just hope she isn't assasinated.

But how do we stop the violence?

I just stumbled upon Ramzi's post about the Cycle of Violence. Short and to the point.

Ramzi - you end your post with the words:

But how? We seem to be trapped in a vicious cycle, with no way out.

Every time our government finally decides to confront our own warmongers (e.g., the pullout from Lebanon in 2000, the pullout from Gaza last year): the warmongers from your side manage to provoke Israel back into violence!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The right of return

In a comment to my previous post, EngineeringChange said:

If I may ask, what is your view on the situation of the Palestinian refugees that once lived in present day Israel and were not allowed to return? Most of them can now be found in the dilapidated refugee camps in Lebanon or Syria or Jordan. I assume you believe in the Right of Return for Jews to Israel, so what is your view on a Right of Return for Palestinians who actually lived in Israel? And whatever your opinion is, do you think it holds for the majority of your Jewish countrymen? (I have never had the opportunity to ask this of a someone in Israel. It is an important issue with Palestinians)

To put it bluntly: from the point of view of almost all Israeli Jews, the Palestinian Right of Return means the end of Israel.

This is a simple question of demographics: If memory serves me right, the Palestinians demand that almost a million refugees (some of which actually lived in Palestine, but most of whom are their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren) be allowed to "return" to Israel.

Israel is a democracy. Its entire population is about 7 million people - of which about 1.5 million are Arabs. If a million Palestinians were to be granted Israeli citizenship with full voting rights - Arabs would immediately become almost 30% of the population. You would then have a country with 30% of its voters opposing its right to exist. This would be a disaster for the country. If you also consider that an average Arab family has about 5-10 children, things become even worse.

But beyond the demographics, this issue also has a very sensitive background. I'm not a historian, so I can only tell you what I know from the common Israeli folklore about the subject (with a little help from Wikipedia):
  1. Arab terror against Jews in Israel started in the 1930's - more than 10 years before the state of Israel was founded. It was led by Haj Amin al-Husayni, a pro-Nazi leader of the Israeli Arabs at the time.
  2. On October 29, 1947, the UN decided to end the British regime in the area, and partition the land of Israel into two countries: one Jewish, and one Arab. The Jewish residents of Israel were ecstatic, but the Palestinian Arabs rejected this UN decision, and responded with terror attacks against the Jewish population.
  3. On the 14th of May 1948, a day before the British mandate over the area was officially over, David Ben-Gurion declared the founding of the state of Israel. 8 hours later, Israel was invaded by the armies of 5 Arab countries: Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. At the time, Israel did not have a strong army, but it fought back hard and eventually (almost a year later, and suffering many casualties) won the war.
  4. During this war, many Arab villages (some of which were outside the area allocated to the Jewish state by the UN partition plan), were taken by the Israelis. Many Palestinians fled from these areas, and settled in refugee camps in various Arab countries.
  5. Almost all Arab countries which have hosted (and still host) these refugees have not allowed them to become citizens - despite their Arab nationality. Their refugee status has been forcefully maintained for almost 60 years now - only so they can be used as a propaganda weapon against Israel.

A long time ago, during my military service, I visited refugee camps. What I found most striking there was the sewage system: hand-dug ditches in the middle of the street. These sorry people are living in sub-human conditions. The saddest thing is that the Arab leaderships, who declare that these people are their kin, do not care for their lives. It's more important for them display these people as a sign of Israel's aggressiveness.

I personally belong to the ~50% of Israeli Jews who support a peaceful solution to these problems. The media often refers to us as "the Israeli peace camp". I was delighted when the Oslo agreement was signed. I think Israeli settlements should be disbanded, and I think the Palestinians deserve a country of their own. I have no problem with fiscal compensation to Palestinians who fled from Israel in 1948. But when Palestinian leaders insist on the right of return as a condition for founding their country - it makes me doubt they share my views.

Monday, July 24, 2006

How can the IDF avoid hurting the Lebanese infrastructure?

Anton Efendi points to an eye-opening article in Le-Figaro, showing how deeply Iran is involved in the current conflict. (And here's another interesting post hinting at this involvement).

Some of the user comments to Anton's post criticize Israel's attacks on civilian infrastructure.

According to the IDF, the Hezbolla are using the civilian infrastructure in Lebanon for their own purposes. This IDF video shows Hezbolla firing rockets from *within* a Lebanese village. According to claims I heard on Israeli radio - Hezbolla sometimes hides the rocket launchers inside people's garages! Their attacks are aimed not only at Israeli infrastructure: they are purposely targeting Israeli civilians, and are using weapons that are designed to harm as many people as possible.

The instinctive response of most Israelis to Hezbolla's attacks is unequivocal support for the IDF's actions in Lebanon. However, I personally agree that the damaging of Lebanese infrastructure breeds hatred toward Israel, and will have a long term price. The question is: can Israel avoid harming Lebanese infrastructure, and how many Israeli lives will such avoidance cost?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A touching post

I just read Zadigvoltaire's touching post: I left for a smile.

The nearsightedness of aid organizations

I'm against violence. Really. I belong to that 50% of the Israeli population that would be very happy to see a Palestinian state neighboring Israel: a free, democratic state, which respects human rights and the right of Israel to exist. And I think many actions taken by the Israeli governments over the years have needlessly hurt and alienated the Palestinians.

But I'm really angry at all the peace activists who think dialogue is going to solve everything, and who see Israel as the aggressor in the current Israel/Hezbolla/Lebanon/Syria/Iran conflict.

An article on the BBC news website briefly mentions that "Top UK aid agencies united to call for a ceasefire". If true: this is absolutely appalling. What are those aid agencies trying to achieve? In the 6 years since Israel left Lebanon, Hezbolla has built highly fortified guerilla bases inside civilian villages. Hezbolla have fired hundreds of rockets from within the Lebanese villages - and have intentionally aimed their fire at Israeli civilians. Some of those rockets were armed with metal ball bearings - the same killer pellets used by suicide bombers - designed to kill as many people as possible. What do these aid agencies think? That those rockets were placed there to protect human rights???

The only thing that a ceasefire would achieve at this point would be the restoration of Hezbolla's full ability to threaten Israeli civilians.

Aid organizations and human rights activists should not call for a ceasefire: they should call for the disarmament of terrorist organizations. But most importantly: they should harshly criticize the use of civilian villages as hiding places for rocket launchers!

Update - Nov 16, 2006

I'm reviewing old posts now - and it's interesting for me to see how much my point of view has changed. The dialog I have conducted on this blog has allowed me to understand the Arab point of view. Only a few months since I wrote this post - and I now understand the power of dialog. I used to think that the Israeli point of view is the whole and absolute truth, but I now know that this is not the case. Not that I'm saying that the Arab point of view is the whole and absolute truth - there are many many errors in how Arabs see Israelis. But the errors on both sides could be corrected if each side would really listen to the claims of the other side.