Tag Archives: Gilad Shalit

Deterrence that does not Deter

31 Oct

During this third round of Palestinian terror, Israel is bent on protecting its citizens with all possible means.  Bulldozing and detonating a terrorist’s home is not new.  Israel has destroyed many terrorists’ homes in the past.  The rationale is twofold: 1. Punish the terrorist’s family by turning his home into rubble.  2. As a tool of deterrence; other would-be terrorists will think twice about venturing out with guns, knives, or rocks against Jews, knowing the consequences.  The scenes of the bulldozing’s aftermath are familiar: the surviving family members who’d been given ample notice to evacuate are seen sitting atop concrete slabs and twisted iron bars, what was once their home.  Small children climb up and down the rubble.  Older family members of the terrorist, typically the parents, are shown throwing fists into the air and shouting that Allah will seek revenge.  By the times this video makes its rounds in every social media and television outlet around the world, no one cares or recalls that the “good son” had maimed or killed Jews.  Israel has lost the public opinion battle.  It is at this stage where Israel Defense Forces issues a memorandum or a counter-explanation to try to win what was lost.  Too little, too late.

demolished Palestinian terrorist's home

demolished Palestinian terrorist’s home

And yet, Israel continues to bring house demolition cases before its Supreme Court to get the green light to tear down more houses.  In Israel, we’ve had two significant Intifadas (Arab uprising), in 1988, in 2000, and another one on the way, in 2015.  Did we learn nothing from the previous two?  We destroyed Palestinian homes for acts of terrorism and it did not help curb the current uprising.  Why should this time be any different?  Hate toward Israel is spread among the Arab youth day and night by Hamas and other crazies.  Here’s my point: An Arab teenager whose brother or cousin sees his relatives become homeless overnight — would this deter him from committing terrorism?  I doubt it.  I argue that it only hardens him to take action against Israel, turning hundreds of young men into religious or political fanatics.  The demolition of the house is no punishment either.  Days after the house is brought down, Palestinians step in and collect enough money to start the rebuilding.  It’s been known that money from the Gulf States, and from Hamas in Gaza soon makes its way to the West Bank.  A terrorist who may have been a despicable human being is now raised to a status greater than a rock-star.  Now he’s a martyr in Allah’s quest.

I wish to turn now to another Israeli tactic of deterrence that does not work: dead bodies.  The Israeli public is rightly infuriated by all the recent knife stabbing and disruption of life.  Israeli security forces take no chances; they shoot to kill.  Within weeks of the violence, Israel amassed about two dozen Arab bodies in the morgue.  What is one to do with the corpses?  Most times, the bodies are returned to the terrorists’ families for burial.  But lately there’s a new wrinkle in the fight against terrorism.  Israel is contempalting keeping the bodies.  The rationale:  Punishment and deterrence.  Does this sound familiar?  Here, again, I think this is bad policy.  Not because I care about the dead bodies “honor,” but because I think that withholding them from the relatives does nothing for Israel’s security.  When a terrorist is killed and soon returned, we’ve witnessed funeral processions in the streets of the West Banks that included hundreds of Arab men.  Now that the bodies are not returned, demonstrations are tenfold larger, into the thousands.  Much like with the tearing down of terrorists’ home, the flames of hate are many times larger.  Dead women terrorists are even more revered, the protests are louder and more violent.

Did we not learn anything from the Gilad Shalit episode.  Shalit was an Israeli soldier who was captured by Hamas and was released after five years, in 2011.  Israel agreed to exchange him for 1000 (!) Palestinian terrorists.  Are we not digging a similar hole this time around?  One dead Israeli soldier in the hands of the terrorists will trigger the release of all the bodies we accumulated. So why go down this treacherous road again and turn the dead terrorists into martyrs, and the living terrorists into heroes?

Deterrence is not found in demolished houses and dead bodies.  If not this, what then?  I suggest Israel send airplanes into the air and scatter thousands of flyers over the West Bank: “Let’s stop the killing for 24 hours.  On Tuesday, at 12pm, we are coming to the border without guns.  You are to come by the thousands without your knives or explosives.  We’ll talk.  If it does not work, we can always go back to killing on Wednesday.  Come hungry.  Catering provided.  We might even break bread over a plate of hummus.  Inshalah.”

Crazy?  Yes.


Maurice Labi is an Israeli-American who lived in Los Angeles for many years. In 2011 He returned to Northern Israel (Galilee) with his wife and twin teenage daughters. He is of two lands, of two cultures and he blogs about his experiences in Israel, particularly from Galilee where Jews and Arabs dwelled for centuries.

He has also written three novels: “Jupiter’s Stone,” “Into the Night,” and “American Moth” — available at Amazon.com


or at BN.com



Beef, Politics, Religion – it’s a dicey stew

27 Oct

Be patient, this paragraph will have an electrifying end.  Twice a week I ride my mountain bike with a couple of veteran bikers in the fields beyond Kfar Tavor, Galilee.  One day we come across a meadow blocked by metal wires.  My two friends get off their bikes and crouch under the wire and continue to pedal on the trail.  I follow their lead but accidentally graze the wire with my shoulder.  ZAP!!!  The live wire meant to keep cattle from wandering off sends an electric jolt down my spine.  It sends me flying with rattling teeth.

Cattle in meadow near Tavor Creek

Welcome to cow country, Galilee-style.  It’s not the endless territory of the West, but Israelis take cattle seriously, at least their meat.  Talk about beef and everyone’s eyes light up.  Tongues begin to drool.  Around here, chicken is cheap, plentiful, but lacks “charisma.”  Pigs are off-limits.  Fish is scarce and overpriced (flown from Cyprus, Greece) and comes with too many bones.

Beef – it’s what’s for dinner.

Unlike the U.S. where beef consumption is down, in Israel it’s up.  The standard of living is higher than ever before, more people have backyards in which to grill, they have an SUV to haul meat to the campsite, and they watch grilling shows on TV — all things that were unheard of just 20 years ago. Talk of beef and health issues fall on deaf ears.  Maybe they’re plugged with plaque.

On a recent outing on my bike I maneuver the tires around gobs of cow manure.  Up ahead, cows are grazing, about a 100 of them; they lift their lazy heads, take scant interest in me.  A young man comes down the trail, greets me with a raised arm.  I wave and brake the bike.  Turns out he’s a 21st century Arab herdsman from a nearby village.  He tells me the cattle eats the pasture in spring and summer, hay in winter.  “Who owns them?” I ask.  The answer surprises me.  A cattle baron from Gaza leases the land from Jews in Galilee, fattens the cattle, delivers them to the slaughterhouse.  “Isn’t there a blockade against Gaza?” I ask.  He tells me business is brisk; he sells the meat in Israel.

It isn’t always this simple.

A 2010 Israeli documentary film, loosely translated as “Luxuries,” by director David Ofek, shows how beef is used as political weapon.  Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists, was still a captive behind enemy lines in Gaza.  A cargo ship from Australia carrying 500 calves destined for Gaza is blocked.  The reason:  So long as Gilad Shalit is a prisoner, Hamas will not eat steak.  This is decided by the “coordinator” for the Territories, following directives from the Ministry of Defense.  That same coordinator allowed bananas and mangoes to enter Gaza, but not kiwi, a luxury.

The Australian calves cannot stay on board the ship.  They’re unloaded, kept in Israel by a rancher.  He bills the Gaza importer for each day he stores and feeds the calves.  A year later the calves have grown from 500 lbs to 2200(!) – double the “normal” slaughter weight, and no solution in sight.  No one wants them; their meat is tough; eventually they’re slaughtered into ground beef, sold to Arabs in Israel.

In this small country, space is limited.  Cattle has to compete with people, cities, agriculture, open spaces.  This explains why 2/3 of the total beef comes frozen from…Argentina.  In the wide pampas of Argentina, the Shohet, the person certified by the Rabbi, performs the slaughter prescribed by Jewish laws. Once the frozen beef gets here, it’s sold to distributors where it’s defrosted, injected with 10% of total weight with water and additives to “bring it back to life.”  The pan sizzles with as much fat as water.

You’d think that after a vast ocean crossing and so many intermediaries that  the cost of frozen meat will be high.  Well, it is by American standards, about $10 a pound.  Yet it pales in comparison to fresh beef slaughtered in Israel: $17 a pound.

I went to find out why.  Culturally, Jews and Arabs prefer fresh meat.  High demand jacks up the price.  So does the cost of keeping out wolves and thieves from the lands of Galilee and the Golan Heights.  Yet the biggest contributor to high cost are Kosher laws.  They dictate the feed type, the slaughter ritual, what part of the cow gets eaten, and what part gets thrown out.  One week before Passover and the week of the Holiday, the ranchers have to remove “wheat” from the cows’ feed because it’s Chametz, not Kosher.  What does a cow know about Moses and the parting of the Red Sea is beyond me.

The change in diet does a number on their stomachs.  During these two weeks the animals suffer from diarrhea and weight loss.  The ranchers take a loss, transfer it to the consumer.  The Kosher-prescribed slaughter, the salting of the meat to absorb the blood, the triple rinsing in water, the classification to Glatt Kosher, Kosher and unfit–they all add to the price.

And then there’s the ultimate reason why fresh beef costs plenty.  According to Kosher laws the hindquarters of the animal is forbidden.  In a sense, 1/3 of the animal cannot be eaten, yet the consumer covers the loss on behalf of the rancher, the meat industry, the rabbinical establishment.

Imagine going into an auto dealership to buy a new Buick.  You pay full sticker price and skid off the lot with the trunk and the rear tires missing.

I got to stop.  My wife Pnina is calling me to come to the dinner table.  I shout back, “Did you say you’re making tofu burgers?”