Monday, September 11, 2006


Sept 11, 2006

A cartoon appeared in the Israeli press. Israel’s recently suspended Justice Minister Chaim Ramon and Israel’s beleaguered President Moshe Katzav are in a room, struggling in front of a TV set. Both are red-faced, waving fists at each other with one hand, tugging fiercely at the TV’s remote control with the other. The balloon over Ramon’s head reads, “I told you the Playboy Channel.” Katzav’s balloon “Hustler! Hustler! Hustler!”

That's what passes for political satire. Both men are in trouble for allegedly forcing their attention on women who worked for them. Ramon’s trial started today. Katzav has yet to be indicted, but the media reports that the indictment is inevitable. They also symbolize the struggle, not just for some trashy TV station, but for control of the channels. What you watch becomes reality.

Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair is visiting the Middle East. Yesterday he was in Israel, today in Lebanon. He issued a stern warning that the Iran’s nuclear threat against Israel was not joke. He also met with the families of the three kidnapped soldiers.

When Blair arrived in Beirut he was snubbed by Nabil Beeri the Lebanese Speaker of the House, and by the two Hezbollah cabinet ministers. Angry anti-British demonstrators disrupted traffic outside the meeting. Blair pledged 50 million British pounds to help repair some of the damage to Beirut.

The Israeli air blockade of Lebanon was lifted last week, but Debka, an Internet website, claims that shipments of arms are now coming into Beirut from the airport and the Lebanese are doing nothing to stop these shipments. The website also claims that the UN forces are restricted from getting closer than 1 km to the airport and are useless in stopping the renewed flow of arms. Reportedly the new shipment went straight to Hezbollah forces in Baalbek.

A Hezbollah leader said today that Hezbollah still has 90 per cent of their rockets and weapons. Last week Hezbollah claimed to have upwards of 80,000 rockets. The implications were obvious. Hezbollah had not given up the fight. To provide further unease in Israel Al-Qaida's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, warned in a new video aired Monday that Israel and Gulf Arab states would be the network's next target.

Since this is the fifth anniversary of the deadly attack against the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, it is fitting that the terrorists in Lebanon and Al Queda make their views known. These guys don’t bluff. They do what they say they’re going to do. If Tony Blair takes them seriously enough to have risked his political life fighting them, the threats must be taken seriously. Blair lost the struggle. Recently he announced he would step down as leader of the Labor Party. His stand on supporting U.S. President Bush’s war in Iraq has grown increasingly unpopular. So has the war in Iraq. According to Al Queda the British and US have already lost that war.

The shock of the 9/11 attack has worn off, however experts interviewed in the media today agree that the Americans are now wary, no longer secure in their belief of a peaceful future. Reportedly, a sense of unease and distrust has crept into American society.

Israelis have long been accustomed to these feelings and their side-effects. For years Israelis have been standing in line at the airport, been questioned by security guards about their suitcases, had tickets checked, passports scrutinized, bags x-rayed, bodies searched. Guards have been at the entrances to movie theaters and supermarkets for decades.

Long before suicide bombing became fashionable among Arab youth, like wearing Crocs to Americans, terrorists were planting explosives in the frames of bicycles, dropping them in garbage cans, sticking them in a crate of eggs. But Terrorism was something that happened in Israel, just as it happened in Ireland. But both were ‘over there.’
Both were lumped together as “the troubles.”

A distinction was drawn in Israel that eventually disappeared as terrorism spread to the USA and Britain, and then Spain. This wasn’t the ‘troubles,’ brought about by a religious group’s ambition for an independent homeland. This was trouble brought about by people who couldn’t tolerate any religion that wasn’t theirs. The Irish Protestants and Catholics could make a semblance of peace, because what was at issue wasn’t religion, but freedom. The Catholics of Northern Ireland wanted to be their own bosses. They didn’t want to impose Catholicism on the rest of Ireland. And once given their independence, they were content to try and live in peace.

Today the fanatics are trying to impose their will on the majority. Nuclear weapons in the hands of the fanatics may simply be the tools they finally need to tilt the balance of power in their favor.

An analyst wrote in the Haaretz newspaper today that Europe wasn’t really concerned that Israel may be destroyed by these nuclear weapons. No one really cared that much about Haifa or Tel Aviv, the analyst wrote. And besides, many European countries were jealous of Israel’s success. Perhaps this is all true.

The fact remains that Blair issued the warning, and so did Al Queda. Iran may become Al Qaida’s partner, just as Stalin and Hitler were partners for a while, and Hitler and the Japanese. How could Hitler, a rabid racist, accept the Japanese as a partner? Simple, he passed a decree making all the Japanese Aryans. This is a fact. When the Shiites and Sunnis have to fight together, not fight each other, they’ll do it. And do it well.

Israelis may be fighting over the TV remote control, over which person and party rules the country, but the rest of the world is watching soccer, tennis, football. When Al Queda makes good on it’s threat, who will care? If the radical Arab terrorists, who claim to be stateless, make good on their threats and overthrow Saudi Arabia, take over Iraq, move in on Kuwait and Qatar, who’s going to sell the West oil? Russia? The same Russia that’s selling Iran nuclear know-how? The same Russia that’s selling Iran weapons used against Israel?

How about France? When push comes to shove the French don’t like the Jews, or Israel, or the Arabs, really. But they realize they need oil. They see advantage to siding with the Arabs. So, count France out. By the way, have you noticed; no terrorist attacks take place in France. How’s that for a coincidence.

And Russia? One wonders if Putin made some sort of a deal with the Chechnians to keep them quiet because there hasn’t been much radical Islamic activity since the attack on the opera house in Moscow. Maybe selling arms to Iran was part of the payoff to the Chechnians?

Wouldn’t it be nice if it turned out that Tony Blair was wrong? That there really isn’t any threat to Israel from Iran. Wouldn’t it be nice if Al Queda weren’t serious? But of course Blair is right.

Politicians may criticize Blair, and Bush, for their aggressiveness in attacking what they saw as a clear and present danger. Voters may well be swayed that Iraq was a mistake, and the battle plans a disaster. That weapons of mass destruction never existed, and that Al Queda was never involved in Iraq. So what? Will that bring back the Twin Towers?

Will that erase the hole in the side of the USS Cole? Will that blot out the bombs in Madrid, London, Mumbai?

These guys may have been wrong about how to fight the war in Iraq, but not that Sadam was dangerous. They may have been wrong about how they fight in Afghanistan, but not that the Taliban isn’t bent on destruction of any non-Moslem.

On the 5th anniversary of the World Trade Center bombings, it’s fitting to remember that even if we lock ourselves in a closet and tell ourselves that thieves are not burglarizing the house, that doesn’t make it so. The thieves are there. The house is being robbed. And these aren’t the kind of guys who leave witnesses.

Five hundred years ago Jews were crucified for not accepting Christianity. It was a black mark in the history of the Christian world. One suspects that five hundred years from now historians will look back on this period as a shameful chapter in the annals of Islam. Should Democracy survive this period, it’s possible history will look favorably upon people who stood up to oppression, no matter how hard it was to do so. If not, it’s possible that history will view Democracy as just another nice idea that sort of started in Greece a few thousand years earlier, had a brief run, and then sort of flickered and died.