Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Please Read Solomonia.com Today
What an amazing article...
Sol interviews Boston University history professor Richard Landes, mostly on the topic of Prof. Landes's upcoming 21st Century Media Group project -- which aims to show how news is distorted, deliberately or otherwise, by comparing raw footage to the edited news derived from that footage.
In particular, Prof. Landes wants to show how news of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict relies heavily on footage of Palestinian activities... which are deliberately staged for the cameras. (Are the Western media unwitting dupes for swallowing this whole? Or are they complicit? Prof. Landes claims that some of both is probably involved, and leaves the issue open.)
This isn't news to the right-of-center crowd (which is where you find most of the pro-Israel folks these days, unfortunately). What's amazing is that Prof. Landes openly describes himself as a leftist... and blows the whistle on his fellow leftists for sabotaging the very people they're trying to help.
There's this great line by Bob Simon [of 60 Minutes], 'In the Middle East, one image can be worth 1000 weapons.' I think that there's a prevalent view in the press that since the Israelis have most of the weapons, the media can "level the playing field" by giving the Palestinians the media victory.Or this:
In fact what they're doing is they're prolonging everyone's misery. They're prolonging the conflict. It's not pro-Palestinian to run this propaganda, it's pro-Palestinian leadership which is systematically exploiting its own people's suffering to pursue a vendetta and the media is essentially backing the nastiest people in the conflict and telling themselves that they're somehow siding with 'the Palestinians.'
"I'm not about truth per se," he's quick to correct me. "I'm for honesty -- that's something different. Look, the post-modern argument is that there is no such thing as objective truth. Right? Everybody's got a story. Ultimately in a sense they're right, because if you're only going to say things that are objectively true, that are not contested, that are not dependent on people's perceptions, then you're only going to say, for instance, 'the man died.' You can't even say, 'that man killed him,' much less, 'he murdered him.' OK? You could say, 'he killed him,' if, say, you got a picture of him slicing the other guy's head off. If you say, 'he killed him,' we're still in the realm of objective truth. Everyone's going to agree. But murder? That's motive, and motive is a judgment call.Where, indeed? I think he's put his finger on an important part of what's wrong with post-modernism: the obsessive quest for objectivity, in fields of ethics and morality, where they don't apply the same way as they do in other fields.
So 'objective truth' means we pass no judgments. Now I personally think that if you can't pass judgments, you're not going to last long. It doesn't say much about you as a moral being."
"I had a student who came to me the other day during office hours. He's doing a paper on the Nazis. He's writing a bibliographical essay and there's a book he's describing, and his summary says something along the lines of, 'This was a very interesting book, but it's pretty biased and I don't know how much I can rely on it, but there are still some facts I can use even though most of it is biased.'
What's its bias, I ask him? 'Well, it's very critical of the Nazis.'" Landes laughs and shakes his head.
"Where did we go wrong?"
As I used to argue endlessly with people: on a moral level, people are different. Perhaps, on some etherial level, the death of one person is as tragic as the death of another. But in practice, it makes a great deal of difference to me if the dead man is my father or a total stranger. And that's the way it should be.
It's the same as saying that an accidental death -- say, an innocent bystander accidentally killed during a police raid -- is objectively just like a hostage deliberately murdered by her kidnappers. Some people go to a lot of trouble to argue that these two events are equivalent -- after all, isn't there a dead body in both cases, someone who didn't deserve to die? Yes, as far as it goes, and it's also true that both deaths are tragic. But they are not morally equivalent, not at all. (Nor are they legally equivalent -- the former is involuntary manslaughter at worst; the latter is first-degree murder.)
On the subject of honesty, Prof. Landes -- who, as near as I can tell, is no admirer of George W. Bush or his policies -- says this:
No, it's a liberal issue! Look it's...the thing people don't understand is that 'our' conservatives - the people like George Bush and Ariel Sharon - are so far to the left when you place them in the framework of, say, Arab politics that it's a joke...OK? There's no Arab leader that would tolerate the kinds of attacks that George Bush has tolerated without making sure that the people who did it were severely punished for their effrontery. The Arab Michael Moore, who exposed the lies told by the Palestinian media -- that Arafat used to dupe the Palestinians into a losing war -- would never have survived long enough to show it.(punctuation added)
Quite right -- but how often have you heard this said? How often have you heard leftist academics say it?
Read the whole thing, please. This is important stuff.
Monday, August 29, 2005
Movin' On Up
Hey, I seem to be moving up in the rankings! The TTLB Ecosystem lists me as ranked #9967 (up quite a bit since last week), which entitles me to call myself a Slithering Reptile. (That's better than a Crawly Amphibian or a Flippery Fish any day.)
So, in N.Z. Bear's logarithmic rating system, I have seven levels above me and eight below... and I'm ranked number 9967 out of over 35,000. Cool.
On the other hand, to graduate to the next level and become a Flappy Bird, I'd need links from 9 to 10 other sources... so there's a way to go yet.
Anyway. Thanks to the people who have linked to me! (If you have and I haven't credited you yet, please do let me know and I'll remedy that.)
And thanks again, as always, to both of my regular readers. I couldn't do it without you.
Keep An Eye Open for Gloria Salt
To begin with, thanks to Instapundit for pointing me to Gloria's new URL. My sidebar has been updated accordingly.
Gloria herself has not been idle. One of her latest posts, apropos of this, predicts some hard action in the near future:
Fasten your seat belts, people. The Sharon we remember is getting down to business.In other words: don't see the Gaza withdrawal as an admission of defeat on Israel's part (which is how the Palestinians choose to see it). Instead, see it as a sign that, in the absence of a reasonable negotiating partner on the other side, Sharon will draw up the borders he chooses, with maximum priority given to Israeli security and the safety of Israeli citizens.
This past Wednesday, as the Gaza withdrawal was drawing to a close, the IDF entered the Tulkarem refugee camp with the intention of arresting Adel Al-Gawi, an Islamic Jihad senior member who had been involved in the planning of two suicide bombings that killed ten Israeli civilians this year in Tel Aviv and Netanya. In the process, Al-Gawi and four other Palestinians who opened fire on the Israeli soldiers were killed. None of the soldiers was injured.
As the Tulkarem raid (along with swift recent moves intended to ensure the contiguity of Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem) suggests, Sharon is less concerned with world opinion than he is with American opinion, and that is still very much in his favor (notwithstanding Condi Rice’s recent grumblings about the insufficiency of the Gaza withdrawal). [...]
I would argue that to Sharon (and to quite a few of the rest of us), the narrative has been irretrievably conceded to the Palestinians, at least in the short- to medium-term. In Sharon’s view (so it appears to me), job one is not to reassure the world of Israel’s good faith but to ensure that in the wake of a concession that increases Israel’s vulnerability, the facts on the ground are as much in Israel’s favor as possible.
Look, therefore, for a low tolerance for Gazan terrorism, as well as a pattern of more and more swift, bold, Sharonesque moves to solidify Israeli control over the future border. The unilateral precedent Sharon set with the Gaza withdrawal will be echoed again and again in moves intended to lock in a preferred border in advance of future negotiations. That’s a pattern I believe will accelerate as we approach a likely early election in November.
The first move happened to be one the Palestinians liked. This does not mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that the next moves will follow suit.
If nothing else, Sharon is a survivor, and a skilled politician... and he knows full well that you don't get reelected in Israel on the basis of concessions to terrorists. He's going to hit Gaza hard, if only for that reason, as soon as the terrorists give him an excuse to do so (i.e. a successful terror attack).
I wasn't ready to believe that before, although I very much wanted to do so. I'm more inclined to believe it now.
By the way, Gloria Salt quotes Charles Krauthammer's proposal: that, in the wake of the Gaza withdrawal (and the Palestinian promise of ever more rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel), every Palestinian rocket attack on Israel should be met by five rockets in the opposite direction. There's a certain elegant simplicity in that, and it's definitely tempting... but, as Ms. Salt points out, the Palestinian habit of launching their rockets from within schools and hospitals will make such a policy expensive. (Expensive in Palestinian noncombatants, that is... which is a coin Israel respects.)
Personally, I'd rather see something different. The Gaza Strip has essentially been given away, gratis, to the Palestinians. I'd like to see a situation where, for every Palestinian rocket attack against Israel, Israel takes ten square kilometers back, evicting anyone living there into an ever-shrinking Gaza Strip. (Remember, there's a fence along the entire border between Gaza and the Israeli Negev. So for every rocket attack, that fence should be moved, taking another bite out of Palestinian Gaza.)
The Gaza Strip is 360 square kilometers in size. After two or three rocket attacks, people would get the idea rather quickly. (Perhaps Israel could make a point of re-taking uninhabited Gaza Strip land the first time, or the first couple of times. The point would be clear: stop the rockets, because you don't know what ten-sq.-km parcel is next on Israel's list!)
But I don't think Sharon will do that either. I'd like to think that, as a general, he can come up with something better than that. I hope so.
UPDATE: Someone else who sees Sharon differently is Orson Scott Card. I find much to disagree with in his article -- for example, he portrays settlers almost exclusively as "lawbreakers", which is a classic case of inflating a few extreme examples to cover everyone. But he does make some interesting points:
It's a demonstration, then. And those pictures of weeping Israeli settlers being forced from their homes are every bit as good a propaganda tool for Israel as those poor suffering Palestinians have long been for the other side.We'll see.
It wouldn't really have been half so effective if all the settlers had left peacefully. The world needed to see Israeli troops forcing the settlers to leave. They needed to show how much pain was involved. How much it cost. How serious the Israeli government was about sacrificing for peace.
That's why Sharon took the enormous political risk of alienating his own core supporters by dismantling settlements. He's playing longball here, hitting for the fence instead of bunting.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
Just In Case There Were Any Doubts...
...there's this: Hamas Terror Chief Calls To Eradicate Israel
As I said earlier, one of the biggest bonanzas of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza -- for those who pay close attention to what people think, rather than what people do -- is that, in the triumphant pronouncements from the Palestinians, we can hear clearly what they truly want.
If you didn't believe it before, believe it now. Abbas is not saying it outright, but he is openly supporting those who do. When they say that they want Israel to evacuate "occupied territories", they don't mean just the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. They want Tel Aviv, and Haifa, and Netanya, which were never "occupied", and were never a subject for negotiation.
They want it all. They want Israel to cease to exist... so that they can triumphantly set up the most blatant terrorist regime the world has ever seen.
Please remember: Israel has never threatened the Palestinians with genocide. An Israeli political party, twenty years ago, advocated "transfer" -- the forcible relocation of Palestinians outside the country -- and Israel's Knesset promptly labelled that party as racist, and made it illegal. Israel has now made it clear that, in order to cure the violence, she prefers to "transfer" her own people, rather than the Palestinians.
The Palestinians, by contrast, have never demonstrated their willingness to give up anything for peace. Not one thing.
Please remember this, next time you hear an American diplomat -- or State Department undersecretary -- call for Israeli "restraint", or the need for Israel to make more "confidence-building gestures".
UPDATE: Right on schedule, the Palestinians send Israel another suicide bomber -- and only through extraordinary vigilance is a major disaster averted.
Just imagine for a moment, if you can, what a day's work must be like for an Israeli "security guard". They must be on the watch, at all times, for the suicide bombers -- and if they see a possible suicide bomber, they must arrest him (or her) before the bomb goes off. In fact, they must get the bomber away from crowds of people by putting themselves between the bomber and the crowds. That's exactly what happened in this case. One security guard was seriously injured, and another was critically injured. As the first paramedic to the scene commented: "I found two security guards who sustained serious injuries... they prevented a disaster with their bodies."
(And you thought you had a hard job...)
As Meryl Yourish points out, the injured guards are Lawi Abu-Jama'a and Pavel Srotzkin, and they are heroes. The former is an Israeli Bedouin Arab. The latter, I suspect, is a recent Russian immigrant, but his family has requested that their privacy be respected, and I shall. Mr. Srotzkin is the one who is critically injured; if you can spare the time, please pray for him.
Here's what the Jerusalem Post had to say on the subject. Please do check it out.
Neo-neocon had more to say, and was quite eloquent about it.
UPDATE II: Cox & Forkum saw the same article I did, and had a similar take on it, expressed in their own inimitable style:
Friday, August 26, 2005
Avi Farhan on al-Jazeera
It isn't often that I have any desire to read al-Jazeera. But they recently conducted -- and published -- an interview with Avi Farhan, an Israeli who lived in Alei Sinai, in the northern Gaza Strip, until it was evacuated.
Interestingly, he volunteered to serve as a test case. He would stay where he was, relinquishing his Israeli citizenship, and see how the Palestinians accepted him. It was this stance that caught al-Jazeera's interest, and resulted in the interview.
(I'm sorry to say that he didn't follow through with this. He has indeed been evacuated. I'm not sure if this was a wise move on the part of the Israeli government or not.)
In any event, you should read the interview. The interviewer posed the toughest questions he could think of -- and Mr. Farhan gave as good as he got. Here's a sample:
Many people reject your presence here and consider it illegal by standards of international law.Pretty cool stuff. Check it out.
Extremist [Palestinians] say: "We want to return to Haifa and Yafa." They don't want Avi to stay here. They want Avi to go into the sea.
Me and another 1 million Jews used to live in Libya. I came here when I was three years old. We were expelled. Some others were expelled from Morocco, Algeria, Tunis and all over. We left money, land and a house on the beach in Tripoli. I don't want my money and my dad's house, I just want to stay here.
I met [Mohammad] Dahlan four to five years ago in Eli Sinai in my fish restaurant. I told him if you could give me assurances of peace, we could make something great from Ashkelon to the al-Arish, and it could be better than the French Riviera, but you have to make peace from the heart, not political peace.
He said: "You can stay here if you become a Palestinian settler." I told him, "You don't scare me with this talk. If you agree to this, I will get elected in the Legislative Council before you do - I have more friends than you in Gaza."
All I want to do is remain, as a Jewish settler, in Eli Sinai in Gaza, just like Palestinians who live in the Um al-Fahem in Israel.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Something For Nothing?
You know, I've wondered for a long time how the Palestinians would cope, when they no longer had Israel to blame for their woes. (I mean, let's face it -- the Palestinian areas, and the Gaza Strip in particular, are an economic disaster area.)
Turns out they have no intention of fending for themselves:
Palestinian medical experts fear a looming health crisis after Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip unless patients are guaranteed access to life-saving treatment beyond the territory.As we used to say when I was a boy, boo freakin' hoo...
While Israel regards its departure from Gaza as signalling the end of its 38-year occupation, the Palestinians argue that Israel will remain an occupying power as long as it retains control of its borders and is thus still obliged to meet the health needs of the local population.
"I fear a worsening of the health situation after the withdrawal from Gaza as a result of the Israeli cordon," said Dr Majdi Ashur, president of the Palestinian relief committees.
"Israel is refusing to recognise its obligations as a continuing occupation power by meeting basic health needs of the population and we do not foresee a resumption of proper freedom of movement in the short term," he told AFP.
Israel has been increasingly reluctant to allow Palestinians to be treated inside its borders since an incident in June when a young woman from Gaza who was receiving treatment for burns was stopped with explosives at the Erez terminal crossing.
It's funny -- I never heard a Palestinian speak of "Israel's obligations as an occupying power" before. It was always "We will redeem you in blood and fire, Filastin!" and "No end to our armed struggle until the end of occupation!"
I suppose the Palestinians now need new slogans and rallying-cries. How about "We will kill your citizens to guarantee our access to your hospitals!" Nah, not catchy enough. How about "Kill the Jews! Except for the doctors!"
I mean, seriously! "Israel will remain an occupying power as long as it retains control of its borders"?? What country, by that definition, is not an "occupying power"?
(For the record, Israel will not retain absolute control over Gaza's borders; that's what the Palestinian boasts about a new seaport and airport are about. Anyway, such things are irrelevant; the point here is that Palestinian hospitals cannot match the level of care provided by Israeli hospitals, and the Palestinians are jealous, the poor dears.)
My wife points out that, actually, in this the Palestinians are showing a rare flash of honesty (unintended, no doubt). If we take that statement literally, then the Palestinians will consider Israel an occupying power (and, therefore, presumably one that can "legitimately" be fought with terrorism etc.) so long as Israel retains control of her own borders -- in other words, so long as Israel remains a sovereign state. If Israel loses control of her own borders, or ceases to exist altogether, then the Palestinians will magnanimously no longer consider Israel an occupying power. Right neighborly of them, don't you think?
Sheesh. To the Palestinian professional whiners, I can only say: get a life. (It beats killing people, it really does.)
UPDATE: Interestingly, the talented Israeli analyst Ehud Ya'ari essentially saw this coming. Here's what he wrote about this, a week or two ago:
Do the Palestinians genuinely want a little state of their own? And if so, can they stand up on their own two feet, muster their strength, and shape up for the necessary effort? The answers will soon be in - straight after the disengagement is completed - and they may well turn out to be different than those expected. The Palestinian leadership, it may transpire, is not so keen on the independence that's being offered it, and either way, it may lack the energy required to reach that goal.(emphasis mine)
The bottom line is that there are more Israelis eager to see a Palestinian state than Palestinians who want to part from the Israelis. There are many Israelis, and I am among them, who believe that a two-state solution is much better than the Oslo system of two governments in one country, but the Palestinians prefer the latter system, which gives them a regime and armed forces, but without an agreed-upon permanent border.
This is why in the Gaza Strip - whatever the circumstances of the withdrawal - the Palestinians will strive to preserve a close link to Israel. Instead of trying to turn their backs on the erstwhile occupiers, they will do their best to tie themselves to them. The de facto independence that they will achieve without paying any price will not be used to construct a model of successful sovereignty, but rather a base for the struggle for the West Bank and Jerusalem. They will refuse to see the withdrawal as an end either to the occupation of the Strip or to the terrorist activity emanating from it. Listen to Abu Mazen himself: Israel, he says, is "getting out" of Gaza, definitely not "withdrawing."
Israel's aim is to make the Gaza Strip a foreign country, to cut itself off from it, and to have little to do with it. The Palestinians will resist this, insisting that it is not a separate entity, but merely a mutation of the system of two governments within the same country.
The original story, by the way, has been picked up by the Lebanese Daily Star (credited to AFP).
Okay, are there any guesses as to who the next Palestinian crybaby will be, and what form their moaning will take?
On The Power of Words
Words don't wound, do they? "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me", right?
In a part of the world where incitement to violence is a regular event, David Bogner reminds us that words can kill.
We've seen our own version of this recently, in the form of an unsubstantiated Newsweek article that enraged Muslims the world over, and saw over a dozen people dead before it was over. People thought that they were rioting over something terrible that had happened -- but because the story they had been told was a lie, they were rioting over words... and people died because of words.
As David reminds us, that sort of overheated rhetoric is sometimes called 'vitriol'. This was an old-fashioned word for sulfuric acid, which was used as a weapon in medieval times -- thrown into a person's face, Vitriol could blind, and would certainly blister and scar, causing permanent disfigurement. And our words today are potentially just as damaging. How many people have had their lives, or their careers, destroyed on the basis of a rumor, or a sentence? Ask Trent Lott; ask Richard Jewell; ask Jeremy Boorda.
Please remember this, when next you hear someone cheerfully using over-the-top rhetoric.* We can call ourselves fortunate that, in the United States, that sort of speech rarely has adverse consequences. But we must never forget that, historically and geographically, we are the exceptions, not the rule.
Words have power, and we have a responsibility to choose our words carefully.
* If my limited choice of examples doesn't appeal to you, try this. Oh, and by the way, I found my examples by doing a two-word Google search. (You can figure out which words; I won't use them here.) Try it yourself... and then substitute "Kerry", or your favorite example of someone Republicans love to hate, and see what Google matches you get.
Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Read the NYT Again...
...along comes a story like this (hat tip: Prof. Glenn).
Bottom line: U.S. troops in Iraq are well-protected by sophisticated body armor, weighing only 16 lbs. and capable of stopping an AK-47 rifle bullet at 10 feet.
(When you think about it, that's pretty remarkable. When a pointy metal bullet, half the diameter of an American penny, is coming at you at better than 1500 MPH, you want it stopped. "Interceptor" body armor, as used by troops in Iraq today, can do it.)
Of course, the good can always be improved... and, according to Colonel Thomas Spoehr, who is in charge of such things for the U.S. Army, efforts were underway in the winter of 2004 to improve this -- "the best body armor in the world" -- by making it impervious to types of weaponry that Iraqi terrorists aren't using yet, but might start using someday.
A conversation to that effect, with New York Times reporter Michael Moss, resulted in a completely negative NYT article on August 14th:
"For the second time since the Iraq war began, the Pentagon is struggling to replace body armor that is failing to protect American troops from the most lethal attacks of insurgents.Read Jack Kelly's original. If anything, I've made Moss look better than he should, not worse.
"The ceramic plates in vests worn by most personnel cannot withstand certain munitions the insurgents use. But more than a year after military officials initiated an effort to replace the armor with thicker, more resistant plates, tens of thousands of soldiers are still without the stronger protection because of a string of delays in the Pentagon's procurement system."
Yes, it's possible -- barely -- that this is an example of honest miscommunication. Perhaps Moss didn't understand what Col. Spoehr was telling him. But even if you stipulate that, isn't it amazing that, any time miscommunication happens, it makes the United States -- or the American military -- look bad, not good? (In other words, if you assume miscommunication, you must also assume a deliberate intent to err on the side of making America look bad.)
Remind me to hold this up as an example, next time someone claims that American media have no left-wing bias...
UPDATE: Michelle Malkin (welcome back!) links to this story (Jack Kelly's, not mine!), and points out that AP reporters are doing as bad, if not worse. (Hat tip: PowerLine.)
UPDATE II: The New York Times is not having a good day; more details here.
UPDATE III: And this is just inexcusable:
Last week, The New York Times published a story on their exclusive interview with Condoleezza Rice.Did the blatant inaccuracies err in the direction of NYT's known biases? Of course they did. In an interview about the painful Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the interviewer asked repeatedly about further Israeli "concessions", to which Dr. Rice responded -- four times -- that it was up to the Palestinians to take significant steps in curbing terror and dismantling terrorist infrastructure.
The transcript of the interview was posted by the State Department this week. It shows that the purported quote -- made the centerpiece of the Times story -- was constructed by the Times from two separate, unrelated comments by Rice -- one taken out of context, the other not even accurately quoted.
But what the NYT interviewer wanted, apparently, was a statement by Dr. Rice that the ball was still in Israel's court... and so a "quote" was manufactured, giving a completely different impression.
No, there's no left-wing media bias here...
LATER: As an addendum to Update III above, please check out Neo-neocon. She makes some good points, and steers us toward Omri of Mere Rhetoric:
This sounds exactly like Secretary Rice and the Times was certainly not taking her out of context when they quoted her to mean that the State Department will seek more unilateral concessions from Israel.Yes, that's as ominous as it sounds, and Omri backs it up well. He concludes:
The Times may have played fast and loose with ellipses, but they did not take her out of context. And even if we assume that they did - at best, it might make the interview a little less unbalanced - it certainly doesn't make up for the unprecedented pressure that Secretary Rice's State Department has been leveling against Israel in recent months.Ouch. So much for the "Condi for President 2008" campaign, as far as I'm concerned.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
On A Lighter Note
Sounds good to me. (The third point, that is. Point one doesn't apply to me, and it's a little late for point two. That's the way it goes sometimes.)
'The Evacuation of Israeli Civilians From Gaza Is Complete'
So reads a press release from the Israeli Foreign Ministry, courtesy of the IDF Spokesman's Office:
Evacuation of Israeli civilians from the Gaza Strip completedThe full press release can be found here. If you're interested in seeing official Israeli Foreign Ministry press releases in the future, go to http://www.mfa.gov.il .
(Communicated by the IDF Spokesman)
Today, Monday, August 22, 2005, the evacuation of all Israeli civilians from the Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip has been completed, in accordance with the Implementation of the Disengagement Plan Law 2005.
The evacuation process that lasted five days, consisted of the evacuation of approximately 8000 civilians, from 21 Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip. During the evacuation, Palestinian gunmen opened fire at IDF positions and Israeli communities on 18 separate occasions, lightly wounding two IDF soldiers. Furthermore, Palestinians launched two Qassam rockets and fired ten mortar shells. Two explosive devices were uncovered and neutralized, in addition to an explosive belt that was uncovered in the Mouassi region, that was intended to be used in a terror attack in Gush Katif.
Even before the completion of the evacuation of the civilians in the Gaza Strip, Defense Ministry teams have begun to operate in the evacuated communities, in order to pack and remove the belongings of those residents who did not pack before the evacuation. The belongings will be transferred by the Defense Ministry to the location of the resident's choosing. In addition, the Defense Ministry has begun the demolition of private buildings in the evacuated communities.
At the same time, the IDF continues to remove the military infrastructure that served the Israeli security forces in the Gaza Strip. After the completion of all aforementioned stages and in accordance with the decision of the Israeli government, IDF forces will evacuate the Gaza Strip and redeploy along its new lines of defense.
Upon the IDF's final evacuation of the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Authority and its security apparatus will be solely and fully responsible for order and security throughout the Gaza Strip and in general for preventing Palestinian terror attacks in Israeli territory.
The IDF will deploy outside the Gaza Strip, along security lines that will best provide security to the Israeli civilians living in the region and throughout Israel.
The completion of the evacuation of the Israeli residents and communities of Gush Katif, Netzarim and the northern Gaza Strip, brings to a close an important chapter of 30 years of settlement. The IDF has accompanied the settlement of the Gaza Strip from its first days, and participated in the founding of communities with the Nahal Brigade. The IDF served as a military authority also involved in the civilian aspects of settlement, and above all as a security force ensuring the safety of the residents, especially in the last few years of conflict. IDF commanders have for decades accompanied the residents of the Gaza Strip and witnessed the development of the communities, the daily needs of the residents, their distress, their moments of joy and sadness. It is especially during these difficult and sad times of the evacuation of the residents, that the strong bond between IDF commanders and soldiers and the residents of the Gaza Strip came to the fore, and that the evacuating forces and those evacuated were able to overcome this challenge united.
IDF commanders and soldiers are all joined in the hope that the residents' relocation will be quick and successful. The IDF salutes the memory of the residents of the Gaza Strip who fell victim during the war against terror.
For a different perspective, see Michael Oren's guest editorial in the Wall Street Journal today: A Soldier's Story. Here are some excerpts:
Together with thousands of Jews, I sat on the flagstones before the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The time was midnight on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, the day on which, according to tradition, invaders twice overwhelmed the city's defenders, destroying their Temple and crushing Jewish independence in Israel. Two thousand years later, a new Jewish state with a powerful army has arisen, yet Jews continue to lament on that day, and rarely as fervidly as now. For the first time in history--ancient or modern--that state would send its army not to protect Jews from foreign attack, but to evict them from what many regarded as their God-given land, in Gaza.(This is not mere rhetoric. Jews have lived in Gaza, and in the surrounding areas, since Biblical times, when the Philistines were fought there. Jewish residency remained, off and on, right up through 1948 -- and settlements that had to be abandoned then were rebuilt in 1967.)
I would take part in that operation. In a few hours, I would leave my historian's job and report for reserve service as a major in the army spokesman's office. My feelings were, at best, ambivalent. I wanted to end Israel's occupation of Gaza's 1.4 million Palestinians and preserve Israel's Jewish majority, but feared abetting the terrorists' claim that Israel had fled under fire. I wanted the state to have borders that all Israelis could defend, but balked at returning to the indefensible pre-1967 borders. I honored my duty as a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, but wondered whether I could drag other Israelis from their homes or, if they shot at me, shoot back.Remarkable.
In a combat formation of twin columns we approached the settlements. With their gates barricaded, their houses swathed in smoke from burning tires and refuse, these looked, indeed, like battlegrounds. But we came unarmed, wearing neither helmets nor flakjackets but only netted vests emblazoned with the Menorah and the Star of David. For nearly a month, teams of IDF psychologists and rabbis had been quietly convincing settlers that disengagement was a reality and urging them to refrain from violence. Still, from behind the gate, youngsters pelted us with eggs and paint balloons, while many parents berated us with words reminiscent of Amnon's--"You disgrace your uniforms!"--and worse, "You're no better than Nazis!" The soldiers bore both the eggs and invective impassively, and when a bulldozer broke through the barricades, they filed into the streets.
More onerous challenges awaited them inside. The mother of a child who had been killed by terrorists had locked herself in his room, together with gasoline tanks that she threatened to ignite. Another family whose son, an Israeli naval commando, had fallen in Lebanon, was also hesitating to leave. In home after home, teams of officers and NCOs listened patiently while settler parents pleaded with them to change their minds and not to evict them, wailing and tearing their shirts in mourning. Women soldiers played with weeping children, telling them stories, hugging them. Eventually, though, each of the families was led onto the evacuation bus, leaving the soldiers emotionally drained but also resolved to proceed to the next household, the next excruciating tragedy.
The severest test of the battalion's fortitude--and humaneness--occurred in Badolah's synagogue, where the settlers were afforded an hour of parting prayer. But after two hours waiting in the blistering sun, the soldiers decided to enter. The scene that greeted them was shocking: settlers clutching the pews, the Ark and the Torah scrolls, or writhing on the floor. The troops tried to comfort them, only to break down themselves, and soon soldiers and settlers were embracing in mutual sorrow and consolation.
Ultimately, the settlers were either escorted or carried, sobbing, onto buses. But their rabbi, stressing the need for closure, requested permission to address the soldiers, and the battalion commander remarkably agreed. So it happened that 500 troops and 100 settlers stood at attention, with Israeli flags fluttering, while the rabbi spoke of the importance of channeling this sorrow into the creation of a more loving and ethical society. "We are all still one people, one state," he said. Together, the evicted and the evictors, then sang "Hatikvah," the national anthem--"The Hope."
The disengagement from Gaza, originally scheduled to take three weeks, was completed in almost as many days. A few injuries were incurred, none of them serious, and no Israelis were killed. Only two of the troops refused to carry out orders, and in one case, a unit of religious soldiers stood and watched as their rabbi was evacuated. While the settlers' overall restraint should be recognized, the bulk of the credit can only go to the IDF. Never before has an army relocated so many fellow-citizens against their will and in the face of continuing terror attacks with so extraordinary a display of courage, discipline and compassion.
I retain many of my forebodings about disengagement--the precedent it sets of returning to the 1967 borders, the inducement to terror. About the army's role, though, I have no ambivalence. The same army that won Israel's independence, that reunited Jerusalem and crossed the Suez Canal, has accomplished what is perhaps its greatest victory--without medals, true, and without conquest, but also without firing a shot.
Monday, August 22, 2005
More on the Gaza Evacuation
A good many people, inside and outside of Israel, have come quite close to losing faith utterly in the Israeli government in general, and in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in particular. Many small factors have played into this -- the never-ending accusations of corruption, the refusal to involve the Israeli people more thoroughly in far-reaching decisions, and so on -- but the evacuation of Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip is what hits the hardest.
For it's hard to escape the short-term consequences of this act. The terrorists -- who, for better or for worse, are the ones calling the shots in Gaza now -- will see this unilateral withdrawal as victory for them and cowardice on the Israeli side, as they always have. Since, by their lights, terror resulted in victory, this will encourage more terror; indeed, it already has.
(Never mind how corrosive and destructive the terror is on Palestinian society. Neo-neocon spoke eloquently to this issue here; I strongly recommend that you read it all. It's a scary snapshot of just how sick Palestinian society has become, thanks to the terror. Factor in that now the terrorists can claim their terror has achieved results, and we can only assume that, should their ever be a formal State of Palestine, it will be a brutal dictatorship of terror to make Saddam's Iraq pale by comparison.)
And yet. Many of us still want to believe in Sharon. In his day, after all, he was one of the most brilliant generals Israel ever had, second only to his mentor Moshe Dayan. As a paratroop officer in the early fifties, he created and commanded the legendary Unit 101, overseeing (and participating in) the midnight lightning cross-border raids for which Israel became famous, finding the terrorists where they live and eliminating them, root and branch. His bravery and daring -- as a reserve major-general -- saved Israel in 1973. And as defense minister, he earned a reputation for toughness with the Palestinians that brought Israel a quiet calm, unknown before or since.
(In the upper-left-hand picture above, by the way, that's Lt.Col. Sharon, standing second from left, between the legendary Lt. Meir Har-Zion and then-Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Dayan. Seated at right, I believe, is a young Rafael Eitan.)
So we ask ourselves: has Arik gone insane? Deafened by his own rhetoric, perhaps? Is he senile, as Yitzhak Rabin was reputed to be in his last days? Is he out of touch with reality, as Shimon Peres has been for decades? Is he so corrupt that he simply doesn't care anymore?
None of the above, opines Gloria Salt. In a lengthy post well worth reading in its entirety, she summarizes Sharon's motives quite simply:
Simple military strategy. Clear your own soft targets out of the way and then do what’s necessary.Do I believe that? Not necessarily, although I very much want to believe it. We'll know when we see what Sharon -- and Israel -- do next.
By all means, read the whole thing.
UPDATE: Mark Steyn has an interesting take on the Gaza withdrawal and the geopolitical reasons for it. (Briefly, that the Palestinians need an opportunity to show the world just how unprepared they are to run their own affairs... and that Sharon was willing to give them that opportunity.)
Meryl Yourish politely (and grimly) disagrees. (She insists that Israel will always be blamed for anything and everything, which is true enough. On the other hand, her alternate reasoning behind the Gaza withdrawal also invokes the "unpopular in world opinion" phantom.)
Personally, I find a lot to agree with in Steyn's article. (I'm pleased that he said, bluntly, that the Palestinians aren't ready for their own state, and haven't earned one. I've been waiting for a long time for a major columnist to say that.) Or, in his words:
The United States doesn’t exist because the colonists “deserved” a state, but because they went out and fought for one. The same with the Irish Republic. By contrast the world deemed Palestinians “deserving” of a state ten, three, six, eight decades ago, and they’ve absolutely no interest in getting it up and running. Any honest visitor to the Palestinian Authority is struck by the complete absence of any enthusiasm for nation-building – compared with comparable pre-independence trips to, say, Slovenia, Slovakia, or East Timor. Invited to choose between nation-building or Jew-killing, the Palestinians prioritise Jew-killing – every time.Indeed. One might almost think that Sharon's policy was to pull back from Gaza, seal the Palestinians in there, and watch the civil war start. As Steyn points out, Mubarak's Egypt has already sent in troops to replace the dreaded Israeli troops. And, as Meryl points out, the various Palestinian terror groups are already fighting it out in words, and defying one another's leadership openly.
Let me place a side bet here. Within six months, a Palestinian will publicly claim that "it was better with the Israelis in charge" -- and it'll get quoted in the mainstream press, anti-Israel bias notwithstanding. But nobody will listen.
UPDATE: It may have taken a bit longer than I expected. But within less than two years, the leader of the Palestinian Authority said exactly that.
Friday, August 19, 2005
A Telling Look at Gush Katif
Thanks to Daniel T., who pointed me to Jewish Current Issues -- a blog of excellent writing and potent ideas, to which I must pay closer attention in the future.
Today's entry is titled "Sitting Shiva for Gush Katif" -- an expression of mourning for a dead community, the Jewish community in Gaza called Gush Katif. It is quite sad, but extremely moving, and very well written. It also includes a poignant photo gallery, from which I'll excerpt one -- an expression of the grief felt both by the people being forcibly evacuated and by the soldiers evacuating them:
By all means, read the whole thing.
An earlier post attempt to find meaning in the evacuation of Gaza by Israel, arguing that in doing so, Israel is fulfilling its end of a bargain, agreed upon in writing with the United States:
The United States will lead efforts, working together with Jordan, Egypt, and others in the international community, to build the capacity and will of Palestinian institutions to fight terrorism, dismantle terrorist organizations, and prevent the areas from which Israel has withdrawn from posing a threat that would have to be addressed by any other means.This is from an official letter, sent by President Bush to Prime Minister Sharon, in response to Sharon's Gaza evacuation plan.
Israel has paid a heavy price. I can only hope that the United States will follow through on its end of the bargain. Sharon apparently believes so, a lot more than I do. (Israel has been burned by forgotten American promises before.) As I've said about other Israeli leaders, I can only hope fervently that he's right and I'm wrong.
Where Are The Democrats These Days?
As near as I can tell, they're clustered around Cindy Sheehan, waiting for her to give them direction. (Has anybody heard from Howard Dean lately?)
In all seriousness, Mark Steyn, speaking on the Hugh Hewitt show, nailed the phenomenon (as he often does) with one short sentence:
And the trouble for the Democratic Party is that... the only energy in the party is from the extreme left.Exactly. The mainstream Democrats are fumbling for a message to carry them forward; the only ones with a coherent message are, well, the incoherent ones.
As I've said before, this troubles me. The Republican Party certainly doesn't have all the answers, or even most of them. (I always chuckle when Kim du Toit calls Republicans "the Stupid Party", although he's always quite serious when he says it.) I want the Democratic Party to offer a viable, serious alternative... and they don't.
Here's hoping they wake up soon. Democrats, your country needs you!
UPDATE: Mark Steyn says it again, at greater length, in an editorial for the Chicago Sun-Times. Among other things, he points out the meaninglessness of the "I support the troops, those poor misled innocents" argument:
Ever since America's all-adult, all-volunteer army went into Iraq, the anti-war crowd have made a sustained effort to characterize them as "children." If a 13-year-old wants to have an abortion, that's her decision and her parents shouldn't get a look-in. If a 21-year-old wants to drop to the broadloom in Bill Clinton's Oval Office, she's a grown woman and free to do what she wants. But, if a 22- or 25- or 37-year-old is serving his country overseas, he's a wee "child" who isn't really old enough to know what he's doing.If that sentiment makes sense to you, please feel free to buy a bumper sticker.
As for Mr. Steyn's article: by all means, check it out!
Thursday, August 18, 2005
I'm sorry, this is just disgusting:
CINDY UNLEASHED: 'THE BIGGEST TERRORIST IN THE WORLD IS GEORGE W. BUSH'Unbelievable.
"We are not waging a war on terror in this country. We’re waging a war of terror. The biggest terrorist in the world is George W. Bush!"
So declared Cindy Sheehan earlier this year during a rally at San Francisco State University.
Sheehan, who is demanding a second meeting with Bush, stated: "We are waging a nuclear war in Iraq right now. That country is contaminated. It will be contaminated for practically eternity now."
Sheehan unleashed a foul-mouth tirade on April 27, 2005:
"They’re a bunch of fucking hypocrites! And we need to, we just need to rise up..." Sheehan said of the Bush administration.
"If George Bush believes his rhetoric and his bullshit, that this is a war for freedom and democracy, that he is spreading freedom and democracy, does he think every person he kills makes Iraq more free?"
"The whole world is damaged. Our humanity is damaged. If he thinks that it’s so important for Iraq to have a U.S.-imposed sense of freedom and democracy, then he needs to sign up his two little party-animal girls. They need to go to this war."
"We want our country back and, if we have to impeach everybody from George Bush down to the person who picks up dog shit in Washington, we will impeach all those people."
As Mike Gallagher commented this morning (I listened to part of his radio show on my way to work): this is supposed to encourage President Bush to want to meet with this woman? "I'm sorry, Mrs. Sheehan, I thought that one meeting with you was enough... but now that you've called me the biggest terrorist in the world, I see the error of my ways. Do have some more cheese puffs."
I have to wonder: has she lost all touch with reality? Clearly she has forgotten that her son re-enlisted, and that he was serving where he wanted to be (by her own admission):
...Casey Sheehan had reenlisted in the U.S. Army voluntarily when he was 24-years-old, after serving his first hitch successfully. Casey Sheehan was in fact a hero who received a Bronze Star. He was attached as a mechanic to the artillery division of the 1st U.S. Cavalry in Iraq. When a convoy of soldiers from Casey’s unit was attacked in Sadr City by insurgents, Casey volunteered to join a rapid rescue force to get them out. His commanding sergeant told him he did not have to go into combat, because he was a mechanic and not an infantryman. Casey was quoted telling his officer, “I go where my chief goes.” He was tragically killed during the rescue attempt. The source for this story? Cindy Sheehan herself.By the way, James Taranto points out something interesting:
And indeed, here's an AP Baghdad dispatch that moved yesterday on the AP wire:Wow.The capital's Sadr City section was once a hotbed of Shiite Muslim unrest, but it has become one of the brightest successes for the U.S. security effort.One additional bit of context: It was in Sadr City that Casey Sheehan was killed in action in April 2004. America's success there is further evidence that he did not die in vain.
So far this year, there has been only one car bombing in the neighborhood, and only one American soldier has been killed.
A year ago, militiamen garbed in black and armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades roamed the streets in open revolt against the American presence. But U.S. troops quelled the uprising, and today calmly patrol the district, aided by loyalists of the radical cleric who spurred the violence.
Mind you, I wouldn't wish Mrs. Sheehan's pain on anybody. Losing a son in wartime is a terrible, terrible thing. But we've also lost soldiers due to training accidents; due to horribly-mistaken friendly-fire incidents; and many other causes. A great many American parents have been able to deal with their grief, silently and privately, when they were told that such tragic causes took their children away. They could (understandably!) have said that their childrens' deaths were meaningless -- but they didn't.
Mrs. Sheehan, on the other hand, knows -- or should know -- that her son died during the effort to pacify Sadr City, and that the effort, thanks in part to her son, was successful! A former hornet's nest of murderous activity is now peaceable and safe, thanks in part to Casey Sheehan.
In short, he died in an extremely noble cause, one that has proven successful, and his sacrifice has prevented -- and continues to prevent -- many, many other deaths, American and Iraqi alike. Instead of being ashamed of your country, Mrs. Sheehan, you should be proud -- very proud -- of your son!
(We've seen enough pictures of Cindy, by the way -- I'd rather focus on her son, the hero, instead. Blackfive has more of his story.)
Rest in peace, Spc. Sheehan.
I'm tempted to address some of Cindy's other foul-mouthed misstatements and fallacies -- apparently not knowing what the definition of "terrorism" is, not knowing what "nuclear warfare" is, and so on. But why bother? She's lost touch completely. Her rhetoric has spurred on more rhetoric -- hers or that of the people clinging to her coattails, I'm not sure -- to the point that little of her rhetoric means anything in the real world anymore.
No doubt some Republicans are saying "keep talking, lady". I wonder why Democrats aren't trying to get her rhetoric toned down... she certainly isn't helping them any. Nor is she contributing anything meaningful to the anti-war effort, such as it is; she's just making the anti-war cause look ridiculous.
And, caught as we are in the Silly Season, when nothing happens and newspapers scramble for something to write about, we are now faced with All Cindy, All The Time.
UPDATE: www.solomonia.com cites more shrill rhetoric, as if we needed more. I agree with Martin's assessment -- if the press aren't tired of her yet, they will be soon. (And if the press continues to throng around her, that speaks badly for both her and them.)
UPDATE II: James Lileks has more to say, including a different citation of the quotes at the top of this entry. (As he points out, Mrs. Sheehan said it at a rally -- a rally in support of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman's attorney. Remember him? He was the 'mastermind', if you can call it that, behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The attorney, Lynne Stewart, represented him, and is now a convicted felon because of it. Mrs. Sheehan, that's very interesting company you're keeping.)
UPDATE III: Mohammed of Iraq the Model responds to Mrs. Sheehan, eloquently and at great length. In the middle of it all, a fervent plea:
I ask you in the name of God or whatever you believe in; do not waste your son's blood.
UPDATE IV: I'm sorry to hear about this. I do hope she's all right.
UPDATE V: Scott Ott, of all people, has crafted "a leaked draft" of President Bush's private response to Cindy Sheehan. As with many great satirists, Mr. Ott starts out trying to be funny but winds up deadly serious:
Being president forces me into the spotlight, but I would rather stand in the shadows of men like Casey Sheehan.There's more. It's lucid, eloquent as hell, and clearly meant from the heart. Please do go read it.
Directing national attention on my response to your protest creates a distraction from what matters. The focus of our attention, and our admiration, should rest on people like Casey Sheehan, who stand in the breach when evil threatens to break out and consume a helpless people.
The running story on the news networks should be the valiant efforts of our troops -- the merchants of mercy who export freedom and import honor. They trade their own lives for the sake of others.
As a result, we live in a nation where a woman can camp outside of the president's house and verbally attack the president for weeks on end without fear of prison, torture or death. And the number of nations where such protest is possible has multiplied thanks to the work of our military.
You ask for what noble cause your son died?
In a sense he died so that people like you, who passionately oppose government policies, can freely express that opposition. As you camp in Crawford, you should take off your shoes, for you stand on holy ground. This land was bought with the blood of men like your son.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Michael Yon divests himself of a particular pet peeve:
Particularly among fanatics, there seems to be an intentional misappropriation of meaning in the liberal misapplication of labelling words. Let's start with the BIG ones: suicide-bombers and martyrs.Indeed! (Although for those who insist on describing the means of delivery, I like the term "human bombs". Changing "suicide bomber" to "homicide bomber", as some do, is meaningless.)
Suicide is a term that should evoke empathy, if not sympathy, for a lonely and despairing act. A distressed soul, harboring a crushing, agonizing lebensmude, weary of the strain of a terrestrial existence, perhaps seeking mere relief, or just an end to psychic pain, may be contemplating suicide. If this person straps a bomb to his or her chest and walks out into the solitude of the desert and detonates, they would then be properly called a "suicide bomber." But when the media reports every day on "suicide bombers," they are talking about different people.
A fanatic who straps a bomb to his chest and walks into a market crowded with women and children, then detonates a bomb that is sometimes laced with rat poison to hamper blood coagulation, is properly called a "mass murderer." There is nothing good to say about mass murderers, nor is there anything good to say about a person who encourages these murders. Calling these human bomb delivery devices "suicide bombers" is simply incorrect. They are murderers. A person or media source defending or explaining away the actions of the murderers supports them. There is no wiggle room.
We may be stuck with the incorrect terms, though. Like "ghetto", which today evokes an economically-depressed neighborhood difficult to escape from (but used to mean a community surrounded by high walls and armed guards, which was illegal -- and possibly suicidal -- to attempt to escape from), the term "suicide bomber" may be with us to stay.
As is usually the case with Mr. Yon's posts, there's a lot of meat there, well worth checking out.
On the subject of the ongoing Gaza withdrawal by Israel -- a subject I find increasingly depressing, as Hamas uses it as a pretext to declare victory and find inspiration for ever more terror -- James Lileks has a mini-screed for us:
The news of the day, I suppose, is the withdrawal of Israel from Gaza – one of those things that’s understandable, unavoidable, and unwise all at once. Perhaps it was a waste of resources to defend 8500 settlers living next to 1.5 million Muslim refugees; unfortunately you can’t give up the land without the sweet lads at Hamas claiming victory and wishing to press their momentum. I have no doubt that Gaza will be a launch pad for more attacks, and I don’t doubt that whatever economic conditions exist there today will exist in 10 years – and they’ll still be blamed on occupation. Should the rockets continue to fly out of Gaza in a year – and they will - it’ll be blamed on occupation of the West Bank. And if they give up the West Bank, they’ll be hammered for having occupied them in the first place.Indeed. Where but in the Middle East could the term "assymetric warfare" take on so many different meanings?
I exaggerate, of course, but not by much; I think many on the progressive left would not be troubled much if Israel just “went away,” somehow. If anything it would save them the trouble of defending a culture that got the West Bank and Gaza and continued to wage war.
Of course, this too is a perversion of standard terminology. For Hamas to claim "victory" -- as though their endless campaigns of indiscriminately murdering children was, somehow, superior to a democratic state defending its own -- is obscene. It serves a useful purpose, though: when Hamas declares victory, we know, once and for all, what they really wanted in the first place. (As though there was any doubt!!)
Cox & Forkum, as usual, say it more concisely:
UPDATE: Jeff Harrell finds the Gaza evacuation incredibly poignant. (My hat's off to him; he's not even Jewish. But he gets it. Boy, does he get it. I wish he wouldn't call Jewish houses-of-worship "churches", but I can ignore that; the rest is good.)
I'm going to take the liberty of quoting him in full. I hope you don't mind, Jeff; it's that good, and I want to remember it:
And this morning I wake to find that, halfway around the world, soldiers stormed a church to force people from their homes. If these people were anybody else, and these homes were on any other piece of land in the whole world, this assault would be condemned in every assembly as a horrible crime. But because they’re Jews and the land from which they’re being removed is land the world has sort of silently agreed they shouldn’t be allowed to have, nobody listens. Nobody cares.Answer: stay tuned.
These people aren’t occupiers. They’re not an oppressing army. They’re just people, like you and me. People with hopes and beliefs and jobs and families. They’re not squatting in trenches firing rifles into the trees. They’re going to church and having babies. And as they’re forced to leave, some of them are setting fire to their own homes.
They’re setting fire to their own homes.
Does this mean I’m opposed to this withdrawal from Gaza? Hell, I don’t know. I know that Arabs are going to keep killing Jews until something’s done, and I sure as hell don’t have any better ideas. But if this is the best we can do, if this is the very best idea that all the smart people in the world could come up with, then how are we supposed to hold on to our faith? How are we supposed to keep believing that justice protects the innocent and that everything will work out in the end?
Monday, August 15, 2005
Just when I thought I'd seen everything... now we have Islamic swimsuits for women:
I don't know, honey, that swimsuit looks awfully immodest to me. (She's got cute feet, doesn't she?)
In all fairness, the same company does have "short" women's swimsuits too (meaning that knees and calves can be seen). But to that, one must contrast the giggle factor of "swimsuit with turban". (In fact, not a single swimsuit on display admits that women's heads have hair.)
The men's suits are modest by American standards too; they look like shorts cut just above the knees. But considerably more skin shows, in addition to the uncovered head.
I dunno. Can you just imagine doing a lengthy breast stroke in this? (Or are Saudi women even permitted to do the breast stroke? Maybe they have another name for it.)
Thanks to Roger Simon for the fashion show!
UPDATE: As my wife points out, these sorts of "fashions" are by no means limited to Muslims; orthodox Jews and Christians have their own styles. Check this out, for example. (My wife says that's rather worse than the hasema.com examples above. I report, you decide!)
Yon Does It Again
My hat's off to the incredible reporter (and storyteller, and warrior) that is Michael Yon. He has a new dispatch out, on IEDs and the finding of them.
It's a must-read, for anyone who wants a better picture of what American troops are doing in Iraq -- and how they feel about what they're doing.
Mr. Yon's descriptions range from the exhilirating to the bone-chilling, sometimes in the same sentence. For example, he describes in detail an IED, which had been intended to kill him and the patrol he was with, and shows a close-up photo of the wired-up walkie-talkie that was supposed to set it off. Then, quoting the terrorist, he says simply:
When you press 7, the bomb explodes.The bomb in question, it turns out, was buried underground, and when it went off, it made a crater eight feet in diameter. Yon & Co. were seconds away from driving over it when troopers saw the terrorist twitch, understood what it meant, and took proper action.
We do not credit our military enough!
Friday, August 12, 2005
The Terror War: Let's Explain It Again
Kudos to Michael Totten for putting it in simple terms: "it's not all about you".
So many Westerners, liberal and conservative alike, are only interested in the Middle East and the wider Islamic world at the points of inter-civilizational contact, when and where its problems intersect with us and become our problems. It's understandable, but it's blinkered. Islamism exists independently of the West, not merely in reaction to it, and it would continue to exist if America and the rest of the West did not. It's not all about us.Indeed. He provides specific examples to bolster his point (and to counter Prof. Pape, who is frequently cited as an authority to "prove" that occupation causes terrorism).
By all means, read the whole thing.
Preparing to Evacuate Gaza
Courtesy of Megan McArdle at Instapundit, this Slate article about the upcoming Israeli evacuation of Gaza settlements -- from the soldiers' point of view:
So, mental preparation has been the single biggest element of IDF training leading up to the government's Aug. 15 disengagement deadline. Part of that effort has been role-playing daylong simulations. Last week, each Ofek soldier assumed a settler alter ego, down to political views and personal habits. They donned the orange ribbons of the anti-disengagement movement and shrieked anti-disengagement chants at other units practicing their eviction protocol. "You are a traitor to your people!" screamed one through a bullhorn, as his comrades laughed nervously.It's an extremely tense situation, at best. Some of the Jewish "settlements" in Gaza have been there for decades; they are small cities, with all the trimmings. Here, for example, is a picture from Neve Dekalim, in the Gush Katif area of the Gaza Strip:
This week, the roles were reversed. On a kibbutz three minutes from Gaza, a team from the unit practiced removing the same family from a home over and over. Sometimes they carried out family members, each soldier assigned an arm and a leg. Sometimes they waited for hours in the blazing sun as the "family" shouted insults at them from inside the home. "Traitors!" yelled a voice from inside the house. "Police state!" screeched another.
Did Ofek's earlier experience as "settlers" give them any tools to help deal with the verbal assault? "You can't listen to what they say anyway," said Amit, a young soldier from central Israel, as the "negotiations" continued. "I'd be mad too. We've come to take them from their home. Of course we're not welcome."
Many of them live there because they -- or their parents, or even grandparents -- were asked to live there, by the Israeli government, in the belief that Israel would have peace with the Arabs only if the Arab nations realized they had something to lose. Naturally, these "settlers" are upset at this reversal of positions, which will force them to uproot their homes and families.
What strikes me most, however, is the humanity of the soldiers required to evacuate civilians. The IDF is very much a people's army, composed of ordinary people like you and me, sent to do a difficult job -- and their concerns reflect that:
Earlier this month, army psychologists and brigade commanders coaxed soldiers into confronting their worst fears for disengagement. "What would make you freeze?" asked an officer at one session. The young soldiers eyed each other nervously before responding. The most common answers weren't the stuff of typical battlefield nightmares: A familiar face. A wheelchair-bound grandmother. One nervous woman stood and spoke softly. "I worry about a crying child," she said hesitantly, playing with the hair at the back of her neck. To carry off obstructing settlers, the unit has been broken into teams of four, by gender and size; female soldiers have been instructed to handle resisting children if their parents won't. "I don't want to separate a mother from her child. I don't know how I would handle that. I don't want to think about that."Please note that the IDF commanders are struggling with a difficult situation too -- and they're helping rank-and-file soldiers to cope with it all.
Please read the whole thing... and please think about this, next time you read about the Israeli evacuation of Gaza and think Israeli soldiers are inhuman monsters.
Please remember, also, that the forcible transfer of a population from one region to another -- as we see here -- is one that Israel has consistently refused to do with respect to Palestinians. Israel, frequently accused of barbaric treatment vis-a-vis the Palestinians, is thus being gentler and kinder to them than to Israel's own citizens. In the process, Israel is also giving the Palestinians a good part of what they claim they want -- land to do with as they will, unhindered by the troublesome presence of Jewish neighbors.
(And in response, of course, Israel is suffering increased terrorist attacks from the Palestinians. One wonders if the Palestinians ever respond to any stimulus in any other way; terror seems to have become the default, knee-jerk reaction for them. What a tragedy for them... and what a tragedy that they themselves don't seem to realize it.)
Thursday, August 11, 2005
A Few Thoughts
I'm back home, with Internet access again. (Did anything important happen in my absence? Not much, by the looks of it. Good.)
Terry Teachout has grabbed my attention with a long theater-review column that contained this gem:
More and more I question the ultimate value of any criticism whose immediate purpose is not to bring its readers into direct contact with beauty (or shorten the amount of time they spend in contact with ugliness). The purpose of my professional life is to make people happier, and I try not to let myself forget that my way of bringing it about can never be anything more than an imperfect means to a blessed end. C.S. Lewis said it better than I can: “If we have to choose, it is always better to read Chaucer again than to read a new criticism of him.”Amen. (Or, as a Roger Law cartoon put it in 1962: "I go to the theater to be entertained . . . I don't want to see rape, sodomy, and drug addiction. I can get all that at home.")