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.