Sunday, July 23, 2006



If anybody's still here, waiting for me to write something meaningful, I apologize. Much as I'd like to write about the goings-on in Israel while I'm here, frankly I've been too busy trying to see people and places, and unwilling to take time aside to comment on the daily news.

I've also been a bit too deeply involved, emotionally, in the issue of whether to stay, and how long. Our vacation in Israel was intended to be three and a half weeks; but some of our relatives back home have been pleading, with increasing urgency, that we leave Israel at once. With great reluctance, we've decided to cut our Israeli vacation short -- we'll be leaving tomorrow -- and spend the rest of our planned vacation in Italy. (We have our reasons for not simply returning home early. For one, we're here on a home exchange; the people who normally live here are currently staying in our house. And why should they have to cut short their vacation?)

Perhaps I can write more objectively about this later. I can understand the concerns and anxieties of some of my relatives, who don't have the ties to Israel that we do and mostly know the overwhelming alarmism they read in the press. And, Lord knows, I most emphatically don't want to put my wife, or my stepdaughters, in physical danger.

And yet. Where does one draw the line? Would I refuse to take them skiing, for example, because of the risk that someone (me, most likely) would break a leg? Should I?

Every parent works on the concept of acceptable risk. Children can't be protected from all risks, nor would we want to try; children must eventually grow up, and they must be prepared to face life's risks on their own. But we are responsible for the children under our care, to protect them as best we can; we judge what risks are acceptable to us, and which are risks requiring protection.

And, of course, different people have different ideas about what an acceptable risk is. I've read about parents that take toddlers sky-diving with them; the thought makes me shudder. On the other hand, visiting Israel right now seems to frighten some people.

Not everyone, I should add. While the Katyusha rockets continue falling in the north, and the Israel Defense Forces continue to pursue the terrorists and punish them wherever they can be found, Israel is seeing -- remarkably -- not just tourists, but immigrants. Planeloads of new immigrants, from the United States, France, and elsewhere, have been arriving over the past week. My hat's off to them; they are an inspiration to us all.

Anyway, perhaps I'll be able to write up some of my thoughts and experiences later. It's been a good trip so far, in spite of wars and rumors of war. I met some old friends, and
some new ones as well; we found time to see some really great sites after all; and I got to steep myself in the atmosphere of Israel once more.

There are problems in Israel, to be sure. But it's a wonderful country, and it's just so good to be here.


Monday, July 17, 2006


Getting a Little Hairy

As friends and relatives keep mentioning, this was an interesting time to visit Israel -- particularly with three girls in tow!

Here's a map of northern Israel, courtesy of the Jerusalem Post, showing the rocket and missile attacks from Lebanon thus far. I've added last night's strikes on Afula and Tiberias, which brings the Hizbullah attacks to a new record of penetration.

The small red dot, halfway between Hadera and Netanya, is where my family and I are staying. I don't mind admitting that it's getting a little scary.

Sure, I faced these sorts of attacks unflinchingly as an Israeli soldier in the late eighties, and as an Israeli civilian in 1991 -- in addition to the threats of terrorist violence that are, for better or worse, part of the daily Israeli experience. (Israelis by and large ignore such threats and live their lives in spite of them, just as Americans ignore the far greater threat of violent crime at home.)

But my situation is different now. My wife and I are here as tourists, not as returning residents -- and my three American stepdaughters are along. Do we dare subject them to the risks I used to take as a matter of routine?

This is a difficult choice for me, very difficult. Yes, I was born and grew up in the United States, and have lived there since 1994; yet in a very real sense, Israel is home to me. I am tied to this place, this beautiful chaotic place, by bonds of blood and history and personal experience. Though I am no longer subject to call-up in the Israeli Army reserves, I have not forgotten the oath I once took, to defend this land and this people, with my life if necessary.

Turning my back on Israel now, to get my family out of the (potential) line of fire, feels wrong on a fundamental level. It feels like breaking a promise. But I may have to do just that. My family never took the oath that I did; standing steadfast by Israel is not embedded deep in their hearts, the way it is in mine. And, with our American passports and return airfare tickets in hand, we do have a choice.

So we've been making contingency plans, based on the need to be pragmatic. We will decide, if we have to, whether or not to put those plans into practice.

It's difficult to explain. Every time Israel has been in serious danger, foreigners watch in disbelief as expatriate Israelis fight tooth and nail to return to Israel. It has happened for every one of Israel's wars; I watched it happen in 1991. I have no doubt that it is happening again now.

And, while I would not have planned to bring my family to Israel during a time of crisis, being here now is important and special. We are expressing our solidarity with the state of Israel and with the Jewish people, in a very concrete sense.

I'm reminded of a passage from a book that has haunted me for years, Arnold Sherman's "When God Judged and Men Died", a contemporary on-the-ground account of Israel's Yom Kippur War in 1973. Among many other moving interviews, there's one with a Scandinavian tourist, who was visiting Israel in October 1973 and was trapped there for the duration of the war. He volunteered to help bring in the harvest on a kibbutz, thereby freeing up valuable Israeli manpower to go to the front and win the war. When asked how he felt, the tourist said that he was angry -- Israel had been brutally attacked, without warning, and other than the United States, nobody seemed to care. He added, "I'm only one person, and I can't contribute much... but this is where I want to stand at this turning point in history".

Sometimes it comes to that -- not whether one's contribution is significant or not, but whether or not one chooses to take a stand, and where. I hope that circumstances permit us to do that -- and to finish our vacation here, as we planned.

On the other hand, we do not want to put the children at risk for our beliefs. That is what the terrorists do.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Back in a Few Weeks

Blogging here will be light to non-existent over the next few weeks. My wife and I are taking the girls on vacation to Israel. I'm greatly looking forward to it; I'll show her around some of my old stomping grounds, and I'll get to see some of hers. And, although I expect to have easy Internet access there, we'll be on vacation... so I'll be blogging only if I can't resist.

We'll be back by mid-August. In the meantime, my heartfelt thanks goes out to my regular readers -- both of you! -- for coming back here. Somehow you seem to expect that I'll have something worthwhile to say; I'll try not to disappoint you.

Be well, and have a glorious summer.

Daniel in Brookline

UPDATE: As my wife says, we picked an interesting time to visit Israel.

An unusually candid interview can be found here:

JERUSALEM -- While Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip have been contending with almost daily missile attacks, Palestinian rockets will now also be launched regularly on the other side of the country aimed at Jewish communities a few miles from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Abu Oudai, a chief rocket coordinator for the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Judea and Samaria told WorldNetDaily in an exclusive interview.

Abu Oudai claimed major Israeli cities and the country's international airport would eventually become Palestinian rocket targets, particularly following Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's planned withdrawal from most of Judea and Samaria, which borders Israel's main population centers.
(emphasis added)

Mr. Olmert, are you listening? If there had ever been any doubt that unilateral concessions enbolden the terrorists, we now have them saying it themselves.

Ya'akov Kirschen nails it more concisely:

That's how many Israelis feel about it -- that Israeli withdrawal brings Palestinian aggression, every time -- and, for better or for worse, people who feel that way have history on their side.

Cox and Forkum don't mince words, either --

As they cite:

If, in the face of repeated threats and provocation by an aggressive dictatorship, you refuse to go to war, the war will eventually come to you.
That's the meaning of Iran's de facto declaration of war against Israel--which is, ultimately, a new war Iran is waging against the US. Iran is so desperate for war with the West that it is bringing the war to us, openly and willfully initiating a regional conflict that may soon involve three of Iran's proxies--Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria--fighting against America's proxy, Israel.

The danger for us is that, in seeking to avoid an unavoidable war with Iran, we have allowed Iran to start the conflict on terms that it believes will be most favorable to it.
Read the whole thing.

And, as David Twersky notes in the New York Sun:

Years from now, the kidnapping of Corporal Gilad Shalit will be regarded like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand.
Please remember that it was the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in 1914 that began World War I -- but that the United States did not enter the war until 1917.

Today, Iran under Ahmadinejad is, it seems to me, analogous to Iraq under Saddam in 1990 -- openly defiant of all authority other than their own, and more than willing to initiate hostilities on a flimsy pretext. (True, Iraq was ruled absolutely by Saddam, whereas Ahmadinejad would not last a month in Iran if the mullahs did not find him useful. But the mullahs seem quite willing to continue the illusion of absolute power that Ahmadinejad enjoys so much.) Other parallels, such as the open threat of non-conventional weapons, are ominous.

UPDATE II: Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, attempts to put it all in context:

Two days ago, Hizbullah terrorists, operating with impunity in southern Lebanon, unleashed a sudden and unprovoked attack into Israeli territory. Scores of Katyusha rockets rained down on Israeli towns and villages, causing many civilian casualties. In the midst of this horrific assault, Hizbullah terrorists infiltrated Israel, killing a number of soldiers and kidnapping two more, who were taken deep into the terrorist stronghold of Lebanon.

Israel had no choice but to react, as would any other responsible democratic government. Having shown unparalleled restraint for six years while bearing the brunt of countless attacks, Israel had to respond to this absolutely unprovoked assault whose scale and depth was unprecedented in recent years.

Let me emphasize this indisputable fact: Israel’s actions were in direct response to an act of war from Lebanon.

Although Israel holds the government of Lebanon responsible, it is concentrating its response carefully, mainly on Hizbullah strongholds, positions and infrastructure.

The hundreds of Katyusha rockets fired from Lebanon in the last few days demonstrate the magnitude of the immense arsenal of rockets and weapons that Hizbullah has amassed over the last few years, a danger we have repeatedly warned against. Many of the long-range missiles that have hit Israeli towns - including Nahariya, Zefat, Rosh Pina and the port city of Haifa - were launched from private homes with families residing inside, where a special room was designated as a launching pad, with the family playing host to the missile. This is yet another example of the cynical and brutal way the Hizbullah organization uses civilians as human shields, with complete disregard for human life.

Ambassador Gillerman also has an unusual way of pointing out that this is not just Israel's fight:
Mr. President, with your permission, I would like to make a personal appeal to my esteemed Lebanese colleague.

Your Excellency,

You know, deep down, that if you could, you would add your voice to those of your brave countrymen. You know, deep down in your heart, that you should really be sitting here, next to me, voicing the same opinion. You know that what we are doing is right, and, if we succeed, your country will be the real beneficiary. I am sure many of our colleagues around this table and in this chamber, including many or our neighbours, share this sentiment.

Mr. President,

This Council and the international community have a duty today to help the Lebanese people achieve the goal of a free, prosperous and democratic Lebanon. The sad and tormented life of this war-torn land has today entered another sad chapter in its history. It is up to every one of us to help write this chapter, to ensure that this opportunity is seized, not only for the benefit of the Lebanese and Israeli people, but for the sake of generations to come.


Monday, July 10, 2006


Short And To The Point

No, not me -- Jeff Harrell:
A few minutes ago I was sitting on my balcony reading a book. I wondered idly what time it was. I instinctively looked into the upper-right corner of the page.

I’ve been spending way too much time in front of computers lately.

Now, I ask you -- isn't that just beautiful?

I showed it to my wife; she laughed and reminded me of the time, a few days ago, when she was playing Scrabble with her eldest, and reached for our new candy-red Scrabble dictionary. A moment later she looked down at her hand, and saw that what she had in fact reached for was a brick-red oven mitt, which happened to be lying there. (This started a trend. I took a heavy pot off the stove the other night, and said "I think I'm gonna need two Scrabble dictionaries for this one".)

I did catch her the time she reached (without looking) for a Scotch-tape dispenser, sitting next to her computer, and moved it as though it was her computer mouse. Needless to say, it didn't work.

And that reminds me of the time I drove east from UMass Amherst, planning to spend the weekend with my folks. It had been a long week, and I was dog-tired. As I drove on Rt. 9 through Hadley, I saw a banner stretched high over the street, printed on transparent plastic. I didn't give it a thought -- Amherst and Hadley were always putting up banners, advertising a Teddy-Bear Rally or some such -- I just read the banner, returned my eyes to the road, and continued.

But then I thought about it a bit. Who would be crazy enough to print a banner on a transparent background? That just makes it harder to read, after all. So I took another glance at the banner, just before driving under it -- and saw that it wasn't a banner at all. It was a telephone wire, stretched across the street, with random groupings of birds sitting on it.

To this day, I wonder what on Earth I thought that banner said.

It's funny, isn't it, the way the mind works when you catch it not paying attention? (And I really should say something nice to Jeff, for the way he keeps writing my blog posts for me.)


Saturday, July 08, 2006


Moderate Islamists?

Michael Totten claims to have found them, and he makes a good case. Please do read the whole thing.

Mind you, I don't believe that the inflexibility of (most) devout Muslims is the only problem of Islam vs. the West, or even the primary one. Arafat was profoundly secular; he wrapped himself in Islam for protective coloration, nothing more. So was Saddam Hussein.

Nonetheless, reading about devout Muslims who genuinely feel they can live peacefully alongside the West -- who want to learn things from the West, and feel they have important lessons to teach in turn -- is profoundly refreshing. Have a look.



Iraq: The New Nigeria

Those Nigerian e-mail scams have gotten plentiful, haven't they? They don't lose time, either -- within a week after the death of Yasser Arafat, I got an e-mail purporting to be from his widow, asking for assistance in moving Arafat's ill-gotten gains. These scams have been making the rounds of the Internet for years.

This is the first time I can recall getting one pertaining to the Iraq war, though --
From: Sgt Ferry
Date: Jul 8, 2006 11:40 AM
Subject: Hello

Good Day,

I hope my email meets you well. I am in need of your assistance. My name is Sgt Ferry Bakker, Jr. I am in the Engineering military unit here in Ba'qubah in Iraq,we have about $25 Million US dollars that we want to move out of the country. My partners and I need a good partner someone we can trust. It is oil money and legal.

But we are moving it through diplomatic means, to send it to your house directly or a bank of your choice using diplomatic courier service.The most important thing is that can we trust you? Once the funds get to you, you take your 40% out and keep our own 60%. Your own part of this deal is to find a safe place where the funds can be sent to. Our own part is sending it to you.If you are interested i will furnish you with more details. But the whole process is simple and we must keep a low profile at all times.
The fund at present is under the custody of a finance company security vault. I want a straight answer from you if you will be interested to make this deal successful for us , you responds and send to me your name , address and phone number.

I look forward to your reply and co-operation, and I thank you in advance as I anticipate your co-operation.

You can reach me on via email :
Waiting for your urgent response. reply me at
Sgt Ferry Bakker
This has all the earmarks of a classic scam. Please note the laughable unit identification, and that the contact info at the bottom has been removed. A quick Google search found other instances of similar e-mails, sometimes with quite different e-mail addresses.

Do yourselves a favor, folks. If you're serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, and have fistfuls of cash to smuggle out of the country, please don't ask for my help; such requests, if I can bring myself to take them seriously, will be forwarded along to the appropriate authorities. (I used to be a military policeman, remember?)

This request isn't worth taking seriously.


Friday, July 07, 2006


Message To Palestinians: Move On

Courtesy of Israpundit, an editorial by Youssef Ibrahim in the New York Sun. (The original requires subscription.)

It is in the form of an open letter, from the Arabs of the world to the Palestinians:
Dear Palestinian Arab brethren:

The war with Israel is over.

You have lost. Surrender and negotiate to secure a future for your children.

We, your Arab brothers, may say until we are blue in the face that we stand by you, but the wise among you and most of us know that we are moving on, away from the tired old idea of the Palestinian Arab cause and the “eternal struggle” with Israel.

Dear friends, you and your leaders have wasted three generations trying to fight for Palestine, but the truth is the Palestine you could have had in 1948 is much bigger than the one you could have had in 1967, which in turn is much bigger than what you may have to settle for now or in another 10 years. Struggle means less land and more misery and utter loneliness.

At the moment, brothers, you would be lucky to secure a semblance of a state in that Gaza Strip into which you have all crowded, and a small part of the West Bank of the Jordan. It isn’t going to get better.
Indeed. In fact, in Israel as in the United States, the only possible way the terrorists can win is if their opponents give up. This is even clearer in Israel -- the struggle against terrorism has been going on for far longer, the terrorists are far more depraved and more desperate, and they have lost far more. (Some Palestinians are living in the same refugee camps set up for their grandparents by the UN, almost sixty years ago. Israel, in the meantime, has grown and flourished, in spite of being under almost constant attack throughout those sixty years.)

As I've said and written before, and no doubt will say many more times, Israel would bend over backwards to help a healthy Palestinian society get up onto its feet, find itself, and succeed in the modern world. Jewish philanthropists from all over the world would fight each other for the right to donate to peaceful Palestinian causes. The Palestinians might even get most of the land they've been claiming they would settle for, in the Gaza Strip (which was theirs already, until a few weeks ago) and the West Bank.

But for all these miracles to happen, the Palestinians would have to pay a price -- for them, a heavy price indeed. The terror must stop; the indiscriminate murder of innocents must stop; the raising of children to grow up to be human bombs must stop. When Israel can negotiate in good faith with the Palestinians, confident that pizzerias won't start blowing up when the negotiations stall, then the world will be amazed at the sacrifices Israel will make willingly.

Read the whole thing.



Remember 07/07

One year ago today.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006


An Arrow, Not A Cycle

An interesting commentary in The Volokh Conspiracy (a legal blog that I really should read more often), pointing to a recent Charles Krauthammer column in Time Magazine.

David Bernstein, of The Conspiracy, expresses his frustration; he'd expected, after the complete Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza strip last August, that the Palestinians would seize this opportunity -- land of their very own, free from foreign interference -- to build the independent state they said they'd always wanted.

They seized the opportunity, all right... to renew the war against Israel with extra vigor, all the while trumpeting Israel's unilateral withdrawal as a victory for terror. So much for the readiness of the Palestinians to be responsible neighbors... and so much for the high hopes of the eternal optimists.

After all, Ehud Barak was elected Prime Minister of Israel in the late nineties, precisely on the premise that Israel's enemies should be given what they said they wanted, and they'd cease the violence as promised. So Israel withdrew all forces from Lebanon; Barak even went the extra mile to get the UN's approval that, indeed, all Lebanese territory have been evacuated. This was what Hizbullah had said, all along, was their sole reason for fighting Israel -- the occupation of southern Lebanon. And did Hizbullah then cease their fighting, once they had gotten what they said they wanted? No, they did not. They grasped a legal fiction (the supposed status of the Sheba Farms, a meaningless sliver of land that even the UN said had never been part of Lebanon) and used it as an excuse to keep attacking Israel, all the while cheering their own "victory" through terror. Hizbullah remains a threat to Israel's northern border to this day.

(Ehud Barak also offered Yasser Arafat just about everything he claimed to want, in the Camp David talks of 2000. In that case, the mere offer was seen as a sign of weakness; more on that in a minute.)

And hopeful optimists, David Bernstein among them, loyally believed their Ha'aretz columnists when they assured us that, indeed, the Israeli occupation was the only reason for Palestinian terror against Israel. Remove the occupation, and the terror would cease.

So Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip, completely -- albeit for rather different reasons than the withdrawal from Lebanon -- and, again, Palestinian terror organizations claimed this as a victory, and an excuse to rain down rocket attacks on Israel. Now the Biblical port city of Ashkelon has come under rocket fire, via rockets the Palestinians enhanced for that specific purpose -- and the border town of Sderot has been under a steady barrage for the past year.

(This will hopefully give pause to those who claim, with similar sincerity, that the if the United States only withdrew from Iraq, the terrorist attacks against American targets would cease. The enemy may be different -- although not too different, many of the foreign "insurgency" fighters in Iraq have been Palestinians -- but the principle is the same: hand the terrorists a victory, or even a perceived victory, and it will be treated as proof that terror works.)

Krauthammer, in a glimpse of Middle East realism very unusual for Time, summarizes the point thus:
Of all the conflicts in the world, the one that seems the most tediously and hopelessly endless is the Arab-Israeli dispute, which has been going on in much the same way, it seems, for 60 years. Just about every story you'll see will characterize Israel's invasion of Gaza as a continuation of the cycle of violence.
. . .
What is so remarkable about the current wave of violence in Gaza is that the event at the origin of the "cycle" is not at all historical, but very contemporary. The event is not buried in the mists of history. It occurred less than one year ago. Before the eyes of the whole world, Israel left Gaza. Every Jew, every soldier, every military installation, every remnant of Israeli occupation was uprooted and taken away.

How do the Palestinians respond? What have they done with Gaza, the first Palestinian territory in history to be independent, something neither the Ottomans nor the British nor the Egyptians nor the Jordanians, all of whom ruled Palestinians before the Israelis, ever permitted? On the very day of Israel's final pullout, the Palestinians began firing rockets out of Gaza into Israeli towns on the other side of the border. And remember: those are attacks not on settlers but on civilians in Israel proper, the pre-1967 Israel that the international community recognizes as legitimately part of sovereign Israel, a member state of the U.N. A thousand rockets have fallen since.

For what possible reason? Before the withdrawal, attacks across the border could have been rationalized with the usual Palestinian mantra of occupation, settlements and so on. But what can one say after the withdrawal?
. . .
That is no cycle. That is an arrow. That is action with a purpose.
. . .
Gaza is free of occupation, yet Gaza wages war. Why? Because this war is not about occupation, but about Israel's very existence. The so-called cycle will continue until the arrow is abandoned and the Palestinians accept a compromise--or until the arrow finds its mark and Israel dies.
Please read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Courtesy of IRIS, similar sentiments from Larry Derfner of The Jerusalem Post:
If the Palestinians had taken last summer's disengagement as a confidence-building measure and responded in kind by suspending attacks, instead of taking it as a sign of weakness that vindicated those attacks, things could have been different. [. . .] But by the time Israel left Gaza, I realized the Palestinians - as a whole, not Mahmoud Abbas and the other powerless moderates - would conclude from this that terror works, and go out to do more.
. . .
I still believe that Israel has no right to rule the Palestinians, that ruling them is bad, not good, for Israeli security. However, the belief I've lost is that the Palestinians are a basically rational, reasonable nation, that they can be talked into putting down their weapons and making peace with Israel. What I believe now is that only Israeli military deterrence, which will no doubt require the periodic use of force, can get the Palestinians to stop fighting.
Read the whole thing. It's a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger piece, by someone who seems genuinely to have believed -- and have wanted to believe -- that Israeli confidence-building measures would work.

Unfortunately, while I can think of a great many Israeli "confidence-building measures" (a polite term for unilateral concessions) -- either on its own initiative, or because the United States pressured Israel to try yet another one -- I cannot think of a single one that has worked. When Israel withdrew of its own accord from Lebanon in 2000, it was seen as a sign of weakness to be exploited. When Israel allowed the Palestinians control over Joseph's Tomb -- again, as a "confidence-building measure", which the Palestinians pleaded for -- that Biblical holy site was overrun and converted into a mosque. When Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians 97% of the West Bank and Gaza for a sovereign Palestinian State, including parts of East Jerusalem that they've coveted for so long, this was seen as a weakness to be exploited -- and a new Intifada was launched over it.

The "confidence-building measures" that have worked, I'm sorry to say, have been a different sort -- the ones that gave the Palestinians confidence in Israeli deterrent ability. When Palestinians were confident that a terrorist's house would be destroyed, leaving his family homeless, that actually worked. When Palestinian terror leaders were confident that Israel was trying to assassinate them, that worked too.

But measures designed around the assumption that the Palestinians want peace as desperately as Israel does -- that they'll abandon terror in a moment if they're only given the opportunity -- have failed, every single time.

The Palestinians can live as mature adults in the world community, acting as responsible neighbors. Or they can be eternally rebellious teenagers, forever screaming "look what you made me do!", never taking responsibility for their own actions and failures, but nevertheless expecting sovereignty to be handed them on a silver platter. So far they have chosen the latter path, which has brought endless pain and misery to themselves and to others.

Unfortunately, they do not seem willing to abandon that path. As Mr. Derfner indicates, the world is full of people ready to embrace them with open arms, the very moment that they decide to grow up. But the choice is theirs.

UPDATE II: Cox and Forkum write quite movingly on the subject... with a cartoon to match.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006


The NYTimes: They Knew!!

Power Line reprints a Fourth-of-July image that needs no elaboration:

After all, The People have a right to know.

UPDATE: My wife, ever the vigilant proofreader, points out that the article is rife with misspellings -- "unnamed", "anonymity" and "militia", in just one short paragraph.

Clearly, the New York Times was sliding downhill even then.


Monday, July 03, 2006


Operation Summer Rain

No more dramatic news from the Gaza Strip, so far as I know; Israeli military operations continue, disrupting the Hamas government that signed on to the kidnapping of Corporal Shalit. As a recent Washington Post editorial points out -- astonishingly, for them! -- Hamas chose to treat Israel as an enemy regime, with whom Hamas is at war. They can hardly complain if Israel responds accordingly.

Except that, if this is war, it is unlike any war we have ever seen. Can you think of another war, in which an invading force explicitly plans for zero enemy casualties -- among enemy combatants and non-combatants both -- and places her own troops at risk to do so? Can you remember another war, in which an invading army continues to provide the enemy with electricity, provides medical supplies as needed, sends large quantities of free food and fuel, and negotiates her own withdrawal while still trying to achieve the original objective?

(Until the threat of Hamas attacks forced a stop to these humanitarian shipments from Israel, that is.)

In the meantime, it is now Hamas that is issuing ultimata, threatening "serious consequences" if Israel did not agree to their terms before Tuesday. Israel's Prime Minister Olmert has responded: "Israel will not give in to extortion by the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government, which are led by murderous terrorist organizations. We will not conduct any negotiations on the release of prisoners. The Palestinian Authority bears full responsibility for the welfare of Gilad Shalit and for returning him safe and sound to Israel."

In the meantime, here's another photo of Gilad Shalit, from his pre-Army days, courtesy of the Jerusalem Post:

UPDATE: Interesting signs that Hamas may be weakening -- along with the resolve of certain Arab dictators.


Sunday, July 02, 2006


Speculations on Harry Potter VII

(What, you thought I was stuck on national defense issues???)

There's certainly been a lot of speculation about what we can expect in the seventh and last book of the Harry Potter series. (One useful resource is here; I particularly enjoyed the comprehensive list of "what we definitely know about Book VII so far". My hat's off to the people who spend weary hours compiling this information!)

A lot of questions remain, big and small. But the Big One is: will Harry die? (J. K. Rowling refuses to say, one way or the other, which is wise of her; if she gave a definitive answer, either way, she'd lose about half her potential audience for the last book. And as much as she clearly loves the stories themselves, it seems a safe bet that she wants the seventh book to make money, too.)

Personally, I find a lot to agree with in Tom Maguire's summary, and I believe Harry will survive. As a commenter to The Anchoress points out, if Harry dies the series loses a lot of its re-readability -- every page of every book will become suffused with sadness, knowing the inevitability of the end. This is not true, it seems to me, in the case of the death of secondary characters, even strong supporting characters -- I have enjoyed re-reading the adventures of the major character who is killed off at the end of the fifth book, and even the one who dies at the end of the sixth book. (No, folks, no spoilers here! If you don't know who I'm talking about, don't Google it -- read the books.)

I could easily see Hagrid dying at the end, in an heroic effort that helps at a crucial moment. And, frankly, I'd be pleased to see an end to Snape, hopefully in a fashion that lets us know, once and for all, which side he's on. (Personally, I think he's on Snape's side, true to his Slytherin education -- loyal only to himself. As my wife points out, this is both consistent with all six books, and completely in character for Snape.) I do expect to see Harry, Ron, and Hermione survive, although any or all of them might be badly hurt by the end of the seventh book.

Time will tell; I think we've seen abundant evidence by now that J. K. Rowling knows what she's doing. (Plenty of superb authors have written a brilliant book and a lousy sequel; sequels are by no means as easy as people seem to think. Rowling has successfully published five sequels to the original Harry Potter story; I think we can trust her to do justice to the story in one more.)

In any event, I will be awaiting 07/07/07 with baited breath, along with millions of other fans. (It may take a bit longer for me; I get my books from Bloomsbury. "Sorcerer's Stone", indeed!)

Now, if you'll excuse me, my second-oldest stepdaughter wants me to resume reading "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" with her.


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