Thursday, January 29, 2009

Human Shields

Hamas has resumed firing rockets into Israel. Two have fallen in the South in the last couple of days. A roadside bomb exploded near an Israeli Army Jeep killing one soldier and wounding another. Some Israelis are now saying that Israel didn’t go far enough in operation Cast Lead, and made a mistake leaving the Hamas leadership in place, not entering Gaza City, not securing the release of Gilad Shalit. The Israeli public now seems to think that the troika of Olmert, Livni and Barak wasted valuable lives, time and resources.

Yet, according to media reports, critics of Israel’s actions in Gaza have fallen victim to the same illogical rhetoric espoused by Chavez, the leader of Venezuela, that Israel is guilty of the aggression, not Hamas. This is the same man who stood proudly arm in arm with Iranian leader Achminajad, apparently sharing a hope for the destruction of both the USA and Israel.

A few American professors have reportedly joined the Chavez camp. Pictures in the newspapers show demonstrations, usually lead by people wearing Arab kafyiah’s around their necks, holding signs PLO flags, and calling for Israel’s destruction, while some of the protestors chant ‘death to the Jews.’ Many of the professors are also of Arab origin. Some of the protestors, including the Nobel Prize-winning nuclear scientist al Baradeh, clearly have pro-Arab sympathies.

Recent polls show that 88 per cent of Israelis supported operation Cast Lead. These same Israelis are angry at the double standard shown by a world apparently insensitive to Israel’s plight.

‘Israel,’ write one of the bloggers, ‘responded to eight years of Hamas rocket attacks that followed a long campaign of Hamas suicide bombers destroying lives within Israel’s borders.’

This blogger isn’t unusual. First-rate Israeli columnists take a similar line. Israel is now undergoing international condemnation for attacking Hamas, who with cold calculation used the poor Palestinians as Human Shields. Israel has smart officers, smart soldiers, smart bombs, but none of them are capable of shooting a bullet, a cannon shell, or a rocket, that can dodge around the Human Shields and hit the Hamas fighters behind them, firing rockets into Israel.

And these Human Shields aren’t always unwilling to help Hamas. It must be remembered, wrote one columnist, that Hamas won the general election by a wide majority. That Human Shields are part of the Hamas strategy. Just as were the suicide bombers. The same kind of suicide bombers, true-believers, haters of the Western devil, who flew 747s into New York’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

Hamas leaders yesterday complained that U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell was talking to the wrong people if he was talking to PA leader Abbas and others in Fatah.
Hamas leaders want to be considered as the ones in charge of the Palestinian liberation movement. Not the PA (known as Fatah).

News reports claim that Hamas used the recent Operation Cast Lead as an excuse to settle scores with some Fatah fighters. Israel TV ran a chilling account of one Fatah soldier who lost both legs when Hamas fighters accused him of being an Israeli spy then knee-capped him. Another Fatah fighter was first shot in the legs, then had his eyes gouged out, after being accused of spying for Israel. Hamas fighters returned a few days later and killed the man.

As Golda Meir was quoted as saying about previous Palestinians, like Arafat, ‘These are not nice boys.’ What escapes the attention of those castigating Israel is that Israel is not secure in the Middle East. It is in many ways a fragile house on stilts built along a river that is given to floods. Unless Israel makes certain that the levy is strong and high, the river will overwhelm the house, rise past the stilts and sweep the house away.

‘When Hamas hit Israeli towns and cities with rockets over an eight-year period, where were the world’s liberals?’ Israelis now ask. Israel, they say, pulled out of the Gaza Strip, dismantled Jewish settlements there (leaving bunkers and bomb shelters that Hamas uses to store weapons ammunition and where the leaders hide out).Still the rockets continued to fall.

Israel withdrew from the security zone in S. Lebanon. The UN agreed Israel was out, but still Hezbollah claimed that a sliver of land a few hundred meters long, was occupied. This was their excuse to continue firing on Israel. And kidnap Israeli soldiers.

Iran is behind these attacks, both in the north and in the south. Iran is an implacable enemy. Radical Islam purports to want to drive Israel into the sea. Arab pride is at stake as long as Israel exists.

As Israeli author Amos Oz said in an interview, talking about his family that had fled Nazi Germany for Israel. “They didn’t want us there. They don’t want us here. They just don’t want us.” Oz supported operation Cast Lead, saying it was intolerable for Hamas to fire rockets at Israel without an Israeli response.

Chavez and Achminajad call Israel’s actions in Gaza ‘war crimes.’ One analyst wrote: ‘where does that put those in the West who side with these people? Hamas is a terrorist organization, defined as such by the EU and the USA. Yet Hamas knows how to play the press and world opinion like Yitzchak Pearlman plays the violin. Human Shields are used when Hamas fires rockets at Israel, but it is only the corpses of those Human Shields that the media photographs.’

Another pundit said, ‘Israel can’t afford to wait for the Arabs to get stronger. In this part of the world when you’re attacked you have to strike back, or the enemy thinks you’re weak, and keeps attacking, each time stronger. Soon you’re chased off the street corners, beat up when you walk down the street, your windows broken. Krystalnacht. The camps are next. Then the world asks why? How did this happen?

‘Israel can’t afford to wait for the bully to get strong enough to become another Hitler. One was enough, and he nearly destroyed an entire people, and the world as we know it. As the Hebrew philosopher Hillel wrote: “If I am not for me, who is? And if not now, when?”’

Another commentator referred to President Barak Obama’s attitude. ‘When the civil rights movement was in full swing, Aretha Franklin’s song “Respect” was very popular. The black Americans wanted respect. Obama gave them that. Now he believes, and he may be right, that by respecting Iran and Syria and the Hezbollah and Hamas, these hostile people may begin to act like civilized human beings, rather than angry, vengeful, blood-thirty thugs.’

Last night Professor Ruth Gavison, who was on the Winograd Committee examining the last War in Lebanon, said that referring to Hamas and Hezbollah as “Terrorists” rather than “fighters” demeans them. Makes them angry. Insults them. She suggested, perhaps already under the influence of Obama, that more fitting descriptions are made. U.S.Special Envoy George Mitchell seems to believe this as well. Israeli pundits say, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all it took to make peace was respecting people?”

One analyst said, ‘Look back at another Barak, Ehud Barak, when he was Prime Minister of Israel negotiating a peace treaty with PA leader Yassir Arafat. Remember them at Camp David? Barak gave Arafat ‘respect.’ Even to the point of a friendly tussle at the door to a cabin in Camp David, with each insisting on the other’s first passage through the portal. But Arafat still turned down the agreement, and started another Intifada.’

Wouldn’t it be nice if just giving ‘respect’ was enough? Tony Blair, the EU Envoy to the Middle East, said that in solving the problem between Britain and the IRA respect was necessary, and attention to all the little details that arose.

Roger Cohen, writing in the New York Times, thought that Obama’s approach to talking to the Iranians and other Arabs through the Al Arabiya TV channel was the right thing to do. Obama told Muslims they have nothing to fear from the USA. He give them ‘respect.’

Today Achminajad can kill more Jews than Hitler did over a ten-year period by firing one missile with a nuclear warhead. These are tough guys, our Arab cousins, not willing to back down.

If Arab honor can be restored, that honor lost in ’48, battered in ’67, crushed in the Intifadas, this would go a long way to paving the path for a peaceful solution to the conflict. That’s if the Arab parties are willing to accept Israel as a legitimate entity in the Middle East. If not, all the talking in the world isn’t going to work, and peace will have to wait until the insults of defeat are forgotten. Hopefully these memories can be erased by if prosperity is allowed to flourish through trade, commerce, and friendship.

Meanwhile, as W.H.Auden wrote: “Tomorrow the bicycle races, today the struggle.”