Friday, February 06, 2009

6-Feb-09: Clear-talking sense from an Irishman

"There's a bigger picture here, something which Israelis have been trying to broadcast to the world, but which, thanks to their spectacular inability to accurately and sympathetically portray their point of view, has not been properly transmitted. It's this -- Israel is the front line of the war between democracy and Islamic fascism... Israel is actually acting with a ridiculous degree of restraint."

Please read on.

Why the Israeli people have finally had enough
By Ian O'Doherty
Monday January 05 2009

So, it's genocide now, is it? Or is it actually another holocaust, something which one typically restrained Palestinian analyst described as "worse than Hitler's war against the Jews"?

Are we watching the ethnic cleansing of an entire people? Are we witnessing the deliberate eradication of a race?

Well, no actually, we're not.

Yet the conventional dinner party wisdom which we've had to put up with in the media, both here in Ireland and generally across Britain, is that somehow Israel is the aggressor in the rapidly worsening situation in Gaza.

Footage of air strikes with the ensuing photogenic explosions and dramatic plumes of smoke, quickly followed by clips of collapsed buildings and enraged mourners, makes far better copy than actually looking at the reasons why Israel has done what it's done.

Anyone who devotes only a cursory glance at the news, both print and television, would be forgiven for thinking that, out of spite, might and malice, Israel has decided to destroy the Palestinian people.

The problem with that conclusion -- and it's not something you're going to learn from the BBC and most other outlets -- is that, contrary to the currently popular belief, Israel is actually acting with a ridiculous degree of restraint.

Over the last couple of years, thousands of rockets have been landing on Israeli soil and, finally, they have had enough.

But behind that statistic there is a human dimension which tends to be rather ignored.

I know many people in the southern Israeli town of Sderot and what is remarkable about their stories is not the number or make of rockets which have fallen on them on a daily basis for years, but the psychological carnage this wreaked upon them.

One woman freely admitted to me that she hasn't had a proper night's sleep in more than two years as she and her family now basically live in their bomb shelter and it's hard to tell who she hates more -- the Muslim terrorists of Hamas or the Israeli government which she thinks has abandoned them.

It's a common feeling amongst residents of southern Israeli towns who have been the silent victims of a long campaign of violence, intimidation and murder carried out by Hamas. And now, finally, that the Israelis have said that enough is enough, they are somehow meant to be the aggressors?

There are people of good conscience on both sides of this argument, but one of the main problems in this debate lies in the cowardly tendency of the Western media to apply equivalence to both sides.

Thus, Hamas is seen to be as legitimate a government as the Israelis, and its rocket attacks across the border from Gaza are seen as being part of a yet another, intractable, interminable Middle Eastern dispute.

There's just one problem with that approach -- it's completely wrong.

Hamas is a fundamentalist Islamic organisation intent on the eradication of the state of Israel and all its citizens; a violent fascist regime that allows honour killings and the execution of homosexuals to continue in its sphere of influence. Bankrolled by Iran, it manages to make even Hezbollah look like a moderate organisation.

But Hamas is clever.

As a friend of mine from Sderot pointed out, one of its favourite tactics is to launch Qassams from Palestinian schoolyards -- while the schools are still in session.

Hamas does this, you see, knowing that the IDF can't immediately strike back (they can vector a rocket launch site within 90 seconds) because the last thing the Israelis need is footage of a devastated Palestinian school with dead kids.

And, over the last week, we have seen carefully manipulated footage of dead civilians, with the fact that they were effectively used as human shields conveniently ignored. When Israel pulled out of Gaza -- ironically, the last battalion of IDF troops to leave Gaza contained some people from Sderot -- they were acceding to international and internal pressure. The doves on the Left said it was to prove to Palestinians that they wanted to give Palestinians independence, the hawks on the Right -- and there are some truly scary right-wingers in Israel, even as ardent a supporter of the country as I am will freely admit that -- prophesied that it would lead to carnage.

And, lo and behold, virtually as soon as the last jeep left Gaza the rockets started. And then the blockade began, and the whole damn mess started all over again.

But there's a bigger picture here, something which Israelis have been trying to broadcast to the world, but which, thanks to their spectacular inability to accurately and sympathetically portray their point of view, has not been properly transmitted. It's this -- Israel is the front line of the war between democracy and Islamic fascism.

Would you rather live in a society with a free press, equal rights for women -- and anyone who knows an Israeli woman will know that they're not easily suppressed, anyway -- equal rights for gay people and a proud and stubborn belief in the right of the individual to lead their life in the way that they see fit or would you rather exist in a society where women who dare to speak their mind are executed, where gay people are not just shunned but murdered and where having a dissenting thought marks you out for death?

The civilian deaths in Gaza are to be mourned, and anyone who says otherwise is reprehensible. But in a sick and twisted irony, they are mourned more by Israelis than by Hamas, who know that every dead Palestinian kid is worth another piece of propaganda.

Here in the West, where we share the same values as Israel, we need to start standing shoulder with this tiny oasis of democracy in a vast desert of savagery.

To do otherwise is moral cowardice of the most repugnant kind.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

3-Feb-09: Simply a Miracle

If this is a ceasefire, Israelis might not be able to endure it much longer.

This morning, around 7am when kids are generally starting to head off for school, a reminder of the barbarism that infects Palestinian Arab Gaza crashed violently into the residential heart of Israel's largest southern city, Ashkelon. Not a mortar, this time. Not even a Qassam, as deadly as that can be. But a massive Grad rocket - flung into the air by terrorists operating under the Hamas regime, aimed at any possible Jewish target in range.

Several civilians suffered from shock; a number of cars were damaged and windows were shattered throughout the city.

YNet quotes Rafi Zvi, a bus driver: "The siren sounded as I left the station and began driving. I screamed to the passengers to get out immediately. There are sometimes those who are very confident and just stay there, but this time I had a bad feeling and I virtually pushed the passengers out... We ran towards the Israel Electric building, and as we escaped we saw the missile above our heads and heard a loud explosion. The back part of the bus where quite a few passengers had been sitting was shattered. [See picture above] We were really lucky, it was simply a miracle."

Jewish tradition forbids relying on miracles. Even when there's a ceasefire.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

1-Feb-09: Fifteen rockets into Israel today. What's a proportionate response?

Several Israelis were injured by shrapnel during the day today (Sunday) from mortar shells fired by Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip. Their mortars were directed into Israel's Sha'ar Hanegev region in the western Negev.

The Jerusalem Post says some 15 Qassam rockets and mortar shells struck Israel during today. One landed about half way between two kindergartens in the Eshkol region; one struck the beleagured southern city of Sderot; two more hit open areas nearby; a fourth landed in the Sedot Negev region.

All of these are inhabited areas. None of them is a military zone. The weaponry of the Palestinian terrorists, as always, is pointed in the direction of civilians, and preferably at children. No Israeli victims are "caught in the crossfire". They are the target. It has always been this way.

Interesting to note that Fatah - which answers to the 'moderate' Mahmoud Abbas - took credit for at least one of today's attacks.

According to television's Channel 10, the IDF sent messages by phone to Palestinian Gazans living in Khan Yunis and Rafah late this afternoon and evening warning them to evacuate their houses "immediately."