Thursday, November 16, 2006

What If???

Qassam rockets killed Faina (Fatima) Slutzker, 57, an Israeli woman yesterday, and two others Israelis were seriously injured, including the bodyguard of Minister of Defense Amir Peretz, who lives in Sderot, when Qassam rockets fell yet again in the southern town.

The rockets have been falling every day. The situation is so serious that schools have been closed. The local municipality has complained that the schools aren’t safe enough for the children, mainly because the government hasn’t put up enough money to fortify the ceilings against rocket attack.

Iran has poured over $120 million into Hamas’ budget according to the Haaretz newspaper. Does this mean that this money is being used to fund Hamas humanitarian activities, or is the money going into the military kitty?

To say that Israel is uneasy with the present situation is an understatement. Quietly, Israelis are chewing the skin inside their cheeks, worrying about the dizzying options open to the Palestinian terrorists, or anti-Israeli countries out for Israel’s destruction.

The security situation is lousy. The rockets are falling in the S. of Israel and no one seems to be able to stop them. Some call on another military action in Gaza, others say that peace talks are the only solution, but no one has a clear answer, or a perfect solution.

The polls show that Israelis are more and more disgruntled with the leadership. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert makes brave speeches while attending the GA conference of the UJC in Los Angeles, but most Israelis polled doubt his ability to steer the ship of state on a safe course.

A poll today showed that Israelis increasingly prefer someone with a military background. Ami Ayalon, former head of the Shin Bet Security Service, and former head of the Israeli Navy, is now the choice of those polled for head of the Labor Party. The present head, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, is at the bottom of the list.

The current head of the Shin Bet, Avi Dichter, has stated publicly that Israel needs to go back into Gaza in force and deal with Hamas and the Qassam rockets. However there is little popular support for this move. Israel’s recent forays into Gaza have not resulted in a more secure situation. If anything, the Israeli incursions only motivate the Palestinians to strike harder and more frequently at Israel.

On Wednesday evening Israel TV aired footage from Gaza shortly after the shelling that took the life of Faina (Fatima) Slutzker, a Moslem married to a Jew, both immigrants from the Former Soviet Union. Palestinians were shown carrying bags of groceries home, stocking up, according to the reporter, fearing an Israeli attack that would make it difficult to get food.

One Palestinian man told the reporter that he didn’t understand the Israeli anger at the woman’s death. When asked if he didn’t feel bad about the rockets that shelled Israelis schools he answered, “So what? You think our children are safe from Israeli rockets and artillery shells?”

He reminded the audience that not long ago an errant Israeli shell fell on a residential building killing 29 innocent civilians. Some of those injured in that mistaken shelling were taken to Israeli hospitals. The father of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit showed up to pay a sick call at the Tel Aviv hospital where the injured were being treated.

Noam Shalit is still doing everything he can, including PR visits like this, to try to obtain the release of his son. Reportedly, Hamas chief Mashal, who is based in Damascus, is driving a difficult bargain. In exchange for the release of Gilad Shalit Mashal is reportedly demanding the release of some 900 Palestinian prisoners, including some who have “blood on their hands” and who Israel has sworn never to release.

Meretz Party leader Yosi Beilin is lobbying for the release of jailed Tanzim head Marwan Barghouti, who is serving multi-life sentences for planning attacks on Israeli civilians. Some believe Barghouti is a ‘moderate’ among Palestinians and can bring a peace deal to the table.

Some people believe this is just Beilin trying to find an issue to stay in the public eye, like Jimmy Carter and his book likening Israel to an Apartheid state. The same Jimmy Carter who will soon be appointed to a panel investigating solutions to the Middle East's problems.

The International Herald Tribune ran a front page story by New York Times correspondent Greg Myre on Wednesday that continued on page 9. The story told how Palestinians traveling on Route 60 in the West Bank had to spend considerable time, sometimes hours, at Israeli roadblocks. Myre went into details of discomfort and annoyance among the Palestinians at the roadblocks, and cited how many hundreds of roadblocks there were.

An Israeli spokesman answered that the security situation necessitates these actions, which he claimed have cut down on Palestinian attacks against Israelis. Myre reported that the Israelis had essentially broken up the West Bank into three distinct sections.

The irony of the report is that it was on page one. Back on page five of the Herald Tribune was a short article about the death of Faina (Fatima) Slutzker who was killed by Wednesday's rocket attack in Sderot. Apparently the Herald Tribune believes that the problems of the roadblocks are a more important story than the death of an Israeli woman by Palestinian rocket fire.

This brings into question the entire issue of priorities, politics and objective journalism.

In the George Clooney feature film “Goodnight and Good Luck” about the battle journalistic icon Edward R. Murrow had with the "Red-Hunter" Sen. Joe McCarthy during the 1950's Senate hearings in Washington, it was clear that Murrow was fighting for freedom and the American way. He took sides. He came out swinging against Joe McCarthy because he felt McCarthy was a bully and a blow-hard who had stirred up the most primal fears in the American public using nothing more than innuendo and rumor.

Murrow spoke out for honest reporting, getting at the truth, not trying to slant anything in any one direction; but of course modern journalism doesn’t believe such objectivity is needed; or even possible.

Murrow ran into trouble with his boss William Paley, owner of CBS, and Alcoa Aluminum, which was the sponsor of Murrow’s show. Alcoa said, according to the Paley character in the film, that TV was for entertainment, not for a civics lesson. Murrow countered that it was the news division of CBS that was bringing viewers to the station.

Paley disagreed. In fact a few years later the vaunted news division was reorganized and put under the supervision of the “entertainment” division. News was no longer news; it was just another way to get viewers to tune in, and stay tuned in, between commercials.

The International Herald Tribune seems to feel that its readers prefer to read about the Palestinians waiting in line, humiliated, angry, frustrated, rather than the death of another Israeli at the hands of Palestinians. Advertisers apparently agree.

One wonders what the headlines would be if Israeli bombed Iran to prevent that country from destroying Israel with nuclear weapons? Would Israel be held to task for the death of those people working in the nuclear power plants? For the fallout from a nuclear explosion? From the ancillary damage to Iranian towns and villages?

Or would the newspaper understand that Israel had to act. Israel couldn’t wait while a bully kept making threats, working up to the time when the threats became attacks. That Israel had to strike while the bully was still shooting off his mouth: knock him down, or out.

Had someone killed Hitler in 1923 would the world be a different place today? Fifty or sixty million Germans and Americans would have lived through the war, rather than dying on battle-fields, in bombed out buildings, or in concentrations camps.

Had someone killed Stalin thirty million Soviet citizens would have been spared Stalin’s insane purges. Had someone killed Mao, scores of millions of Chinese would have been able to live normal lives rather than die at the hands of the crazy Red Guard.

Had someone killed Iranian Imam Khoumani, the father of today's Islamic fanaticism, the Twin Towers, the Madrid train bombing, the deaths in Bali, Pakistan, Afghanistan, wouldn't have happened. Creative talented people would have survived to contribute, perhaps with great earth-shaking ideas, to the development of a civilized society.

Does Israel have to wait to be attacked, and wiped out, before acting? And if Israel is wiped out, how long would the news be in the papers before a Tsunami, or a World Cup Soccer Match stole the headlines?

And what even happened to the truth? What ever happened to doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do? What would have happened had Edward R. Murrow decided not to take on Joe McCarthy?

What if. Probably the broadest two words in the English language.