What does it mean?

August 21, 2006

Israeli-Lebanese dialog

Take a look at this dialog between Lebanese blogger Rania el-Masry and Israeli blogger Lisa Goldman (via Lisa). It is sponsored by the BBC. No doubt they picked Lisa because they know that she hails from the Israeli far left. Unfortunately for them, they didn't know that though she's a leftist, she's honest, and doesn't distort or overlook relevant facts. Notice how Rania's arguments sound convincing as long as you don't know the facts. After trying to avoid confrontation, Lisa gives it to her. Her response is so good that I can't let it lie in such an obscure location. I'm reproducing it here in full:

Dear Rania,

The only thing that you and I agree on is that negotiations are preferrable to war. Other than that, I found your response to be puzzling and disingenuous.

You say that Israel should stop oppressing the Palestinians. Well, in Israel there are 1.2 million Palestinians who are Israeli citizens. The deputy mayor of Haifa is Palestinian; his name is Walid Hamis and he is a member of the Balad party. When my friend was taken to Tel Aviv's Ichilov hospital after a minor accident, the neurologist who treated him was named Dr. Firas and he was a Christian Palestinian from Nazareth. In Israel there are Palestinian members of parliament, Palestinian professors, journalists, lawyers and actors, high tech workers and businessmen.The stars of Paradise Now, Ali Suleiman and Kais Nashef, are Israeli citizens who studied at Beit Zvi, Israel's most prestigious acting school.

There are also Palestinians who are active members of the Israeli Open House, the gay and lesbian group. I have met and interviewed Palestinian gays who ran away from the West Bank, where their relatives threatened to kill them simply for their sexual orientation, and found refuge in Israel, which is an open, liberal and secular society.

All the Palestinians who live in Israel (I am not talking about the West Bank, which is occupied territory) are fully enfranchised citizens. Yes, they do face social discrimination. And yes, I do think that discrimination is very wrong. But a Palestinian who experiences discrimination in Israel can fight through the court system. What recourse does a Palestinian living in Lebanon have if he is faced with discrimination?

Is it not true that Palestinians who came to Lebanon in 1948 are inegible for Lebanese citizenship? Is it not true that Palestinians who are classified as refugees are not allowed to practice law or medicine in Lebanon? According to my Palestinian friends, many Palestinians live in squalid refugee camps and the Lebanese government does not allow them to better their lives by doing something as basic as renovating their homes. And finally, Lebanese Christians massacred Palestinians in Lebanon on several occasions in the 1970s and 1980s. So, what have the Lebanese people ever done for the Palestinians? And what in the world does Hezbollah, a Shi'a organization, have to do with the Palestinians, who are Sunni and Christian? I fail to see the connection.

When the Israeli Air Force bombed Dahiyeh and various Hezbollah villages in southern Lebanon during the first two days of the conflict, many Lebanese Christian and Sunni bloggers were quite happy. Some of them told me so directly. They did not even consider Dahiyeh to be part of Beirut, but rather an ugly, frightening place they were forced to pass on their way to and from the airport. They wanted to get rid of Hezbollah and they hoped that Israel would do the job for them. They changed their minds when the bombardments expanded into other areas of Lebanon. And yet, while I see that southern Lebanon has indeed been severely damaged, I cannot help noticing that Ashrafiyeh and other neighbourhood of West and East Beirut look completely intact when I watch the BBC World Service, Al Arabiyya and LBC broadcasts from Beirut.

On July 12, Hezbollah guerillas entered Israeli sovereign territory and attacked a group of Israeli reserve soldiers who were patrolling the border. They killed eight of them and kidnapped two. At the same time, Hezbollah launched hundred of missiles on Israeli civilian targets.

I would like to emphasise very strongly that the Hezbollah bombardment of northern Israel began before the Israeli military response, on the morning the soldiers were kidnapped. Hezbollah continued to launch up to 200 missiles per day at Israel for the duration of the war. Their targets in Israel were exclusively civilian. I was there, and I experienced that bombardment. Hezbollah never even pretended that they were aiming for military targets. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians were forced to live underground or flee south. Arab, Druze and Jewish civilians were killed; the missiles did not discriminate between them. Some of the Arabs and Druze who were killed have family in Lebanon. Huge tracts of forest have been burned to the ground. Houses, lives and businesses have been destroyed.

Like the Lebanese, Israelis will rebuild. Life will go on. But the long-term damage is another story. Israelis dream of living in peace. We sing about peace and we write poems about peace. Do the supporters of Hezbollah write poems about peace? And look how far away peace seems to be now! Look how much damage has been done to relations between Israel and Lebanon. I keep on asking myself why, why, why. You can sit there and say that Israel did this and Israel did that, but let us be honest: if Hezbollah had not attacked Israel - not once, but on many occasions - then there would have been no Israeli military actions in Lebanon.

I write this not to enter into a contest of "who suffered more." I hate the victimization narrative and I do not think there is a prize for suffering. I also wonder if Lebanese would be satisfied if more Israeli civilians had been killed, because that is the way it sounds. The way I see it, we all suffered and the source of our suffering is Hezbollah. I feel equal sympathy for Israeli and Lebanese civilians, for the damage done to both our countries.

And frankly it is beyond my ability to comprehend why a female academic at a secular university would support a fundamentalist religious organization that believes in full implementation of Shari'a in place of civil law.

Israel and Lebanon have no territorial dispute. The border between the two countries is internationally recognized by the United Nations. The July 12 incident was the catalyst for the Israeli military response, not the reason. The goal of the military response was not to rescue the two kidnapped soldiers, since everyone knew that could not be accomplished by military action, but to stop Hezbollah from continuing its attacks on Israel. The undisputed fact is that Hezbollah has attacked Israelis on many occasions since the withdrawal of 2000.

In October 2000, nearly six months after Israel withdrew completely from Lebanese territory, Hezbollah guerillas kidnapped three Israeli soldiers from inside Israeli territory. Their names were Adi Avyitan, Binyamin Avraham and Omar Sawaid. No information was ever released to their families about their whereabouts or their physicial condition. In fact they were dead, but Hezbollah did not have the decency to inform the families via the Red Cross. The bodies of the three men were returned three years later in a prisoner swap.

In February 2005 Hezbollah bombarded Al Ghajar, an Alawite village that is located inside Israeli sovereign territory. The residents of the village are Israeli citizens. Hezbollah guerillas tried to enter the village dressed in UNIFIL uniforms, driving a UN vehicle, in order to kidnap some of those Alawite Israeli citizens. Then Hezbollah bombarded Al Ghajar so fiercely that the children were screaming in terror on the phone to their parents, who were working in nearby Kiryat Shmona. I heard them; the phone calls were played on the nightly news broadcast.

Over the past six years Kiryat Shmona has been bombarded on many occasions by katyusha rockets launched by Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon.

Israel did not respond militarily to any of these incidents. The incident of July 12 was simply the last straw. The Israeli consensus was in favour of the military response not because anyone wanted to see Lebanese civilians hurt, but rather because they felt that Israel needed to protect its citizens from Hezbollah's constant attacks. Israelis do not have any dispute with the Lebanse government and I have not heard one Israeli express anything but sadness regarding the Lebanese civilians who were killed.

Hassan Nasrallah was educated in Iran. His movement is armed by Iran and has very close ties with that country. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran and supporter of Nasrallah, has said several times over the past year that Israel should be wiped off the map. I have watched many of Hassan Nasrallah's speeches and I have heard him call Israel "Palestine." If he does not even recognize the name of my country, and if he launches missiles at my country's civilian areas with no provocation, then in my eyes that means that Nasrallah does not accept Israel's right to exist and he wishes to destroy it.

You can argue with Israel's military tactics, no problem. I have been very critical of my government's military actions over the last month. But the undeniable fact is that Hezbollah has chosen Israel as its enemy for absolutely no reason. There are no Shi'a living in Israel. Israel does not occupy any Lebanese territory. Hezbollah provoked this attack, and they should take responsibility for the destruction they have brought upon Lebanon. Your anger is misdirected: you should be angry at Hezbollah, not Israel.

Yours,
Lisa

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 07:22 PM  Permalink | Comments (5)
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August 20, 2006

The assumption that we are the victorious and evil side

In a private email, a friend of mine said something to the effect that Israelis are ahead of everyone else in perceiving the Islamist threat. Well, I'm not so sure that they are, and if so not by very much, and only because of our circumstances. The message in this article by Gadi Taub (via On The Face) holds true just about anywhere in the West:

The truth is that there is a deep arrogance behind this type of degenerate "left-ism." It's appeal is relevant only when we win. Its criticism is valid only on the assumption that we are the victorious and evil side. But in this case? It seems we are neither.

Even if we made terrible mistakes, we are not the guilty party. Anyone with eyes in their head sees the Iran inspired Islamic brand of fascism, and no elaborate explanations are needed to understand why it is evil.

But even more unusual for this branch of the left is that this time, it is unclear even that we are the stronger side. There is are huge forces gathering against us, bold, ruthless, and well-armed. This radical leftist arrogance, which grew out of the occupation, assumed that we were always Goliath. But here in the New Middle East, there is a new Goliath.

This reminds me of an old Jewish joke, which I used to think was funny because it was absurd. But now I think it's funny because it describes so much of the social posturing I see among those who presume moral superiority:

It's Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year. During a short break in the service, the Rabbi approaches the ark to say a personal prayer. "Master of the Universe," he says, "I am nothing!" At just this moment, the President of the synagogue passes by. Overcome by the Rabbi's fervor, he too approaches the ark and exclaims, "Master of the Universe, I am nothing!" Just then, the synagogue's janitor passes by. Overcome by the President's fervor he rushes up to the ark and cries, "Master of the Universe, I am nothing!"

The President leans over to the Rabbi and says, "now look who thinks he's nothing!"

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 08:37 PM  Permalink | Comments (0)
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August 18, 2006

Descrating the remains of Israelis

If you read any Arab blogs - and I have been reading the most moderate ones I can find - you will see that a common topic is indignantly protesting Israel's "claim of moral superiority". Well, one thing that happens every time an Israeli corpse falls into Arab hands is that it gets mutilated. This, despite the fact that Islam has stricter notions of respect for the dead than are commonly held by most Americans (they are actually quite similar to Jewish views on the subject). Via Allison Kaplan Sommer:

I saw an incredibly disturbing segment on the Wednesday August 16th “Mosaic” program broadcast on Link TV (Mosaic features Middle East news unedited and translated from state and private networks like Al Jazeera.) In a segment entitled “Hezbollah’s Stronghold in a Southern Lebanese Town” from Future TV, Lebanon, south Lebanese villagers were shown displaying “Israeli booty” from the fighting there, including what was described as remains of Israeli soldiers. These included parts of a scalp, a skull, and the charred remains of a torso, all dumped out of a duffel bag and onto the ground for the benefit of the cameraman. There was no doctoring of images in this case.

Allison declines to post the link, but I presume it is here. I don't have Quicktime, so I can't watch it. Not that I want to.

UPDATE:  Somehow my Qucktime started working (it must have updated itself from the Internet). I had the window open in the background while I did other things, and suddenly I hear it playing. So I watched it. The segment described above is about two-thirds of the way through. It's not an "objective" news broadcast, but a paean to Hizballah's "victory". They're not embarrassed by what they're doing, they're proud, they're boasting. Here's my transcription of a part of it:

This body belongs to an Israeli soldier [a bag is turned upside-down and some charred remains fall out. a charred hand is visible] and this is what is left of another soldier's head [I can't make out what I'm seeing] and this is the skull of a third soldier [a scalp with some hair attached is shown on the ground]

As the voiceover continues to describe how a "resistance fighter" killed and wounded 30 Israeli soldiers, in the background, people are tossing around the body parts previously shown, plus what I presume are some other body parts.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 02:21 PM  Permalink | Comments (2)
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August 13, 2006

Noam Meirson, of blessed memory - נועם מאירסון זכרו לברכה

A week ago I went to a wedding. The groom had just come back from Lebanon. He was given a one month leave of absence in order to get married. Today I went to a shiv`a (שיבעה) - the one-week period of morning for a close relative.  Noam Meirson, the son of a friend of mine, was killed when an anti-tank missile struck his tank's turret. He was to be married in one month.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 08:02 PM  Permalink | Comments (0)
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August 11, 2006

Making News

What gets me is that you'd think that the real scoop would be the news of systematic fraud in the media. I guess the mainstream media are not interested in real news: 

On August 1, Orin Kerr suggested that, if David Bernstein's claims of staged Qana photos were correct, then some evidence might show up on the video that was shot at the scene.

Now German TV (with English subtitles) has a short report being shown on YOUTUBE that shows just the sort of evidence that Orin wanted to see (tip to Malkin and LGF). The character who has been dubbed "Green Helmet" is shown directing a scene for the benefit of cameras at Qana.

First, the body of a child is put in an ambulance. Then "Green Helmet" is shown directing the video photographer to "Keep on filming!" and insisting that "better images must be shot."

Then (after an apparent splice in the tape) the body of what may or may not be the same child is removed from the ambulance, apparently so that "better images" can "be shot" of the body. Instead of covering up the face with a blanket, the "workers" pull the blanket to just under the chin of the dead child and manipulate the angle of the child's head so that the video photographer can get the right closeup shot of the dead child's face.
Posted by David Boxenhorn at 08:55 AM  Permalink | Comments (0)
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