Tag Archives: terrorists

Why Israel Won the War on Gaza. and Lost.

2 Aug
Map of Israel and Gaza

Map of Israel and Gaza

The war between Israel and Hamas, now into its fourth week, is unlike any war before.  In the past, the mention of the word “Hamas” conjured up images of suicide bombers boarding Israeli buses and yelling “Allah Akbar.”  Since 2006 Hamas has come a long way militarily.  Its leadership must have ordered “War for Dummies” from Amazon.  How else to explain that today Hamas has a solid chain of command, strategy, logistics – a semi-professional army that doesn’t run from the sound of Israel’s cannons.

There’s no denying Israel’s superior fire power.  Let’s face it, Hamas has launched thousands of rockets into Israel, most of which were knocked out of the sky by “Iron Dome,” Israel’s defensive missile shield, or they fell in open spaces.  In contrast, Israel killed hundreds of Hamas militants.  Hundreds of buildings in Gaza were flattened by Israel’s air strikes and artillery. Thousands of civilians fled their homes.  Hamas’s other weapon  — tunnels that reach Israel’s border — are being destroyed one by one by Israel’s Combat Engineering Corps.

So, if everything’s going so well on the battlefield, why does it seem that Israel has lost?

The simple answer is that often war is not won on the battlefield, but off.  Ariel Ilan Roth in the latest issue of “Foreign Affairs” cites an example.  Egypt has lost during the October 1973 Yom Kippur War.  Yet Egyptian President Sadat claimed correctly that his army was able to cross the Suez Canal and into the Sinai, inflict many casualties on the Israelis.  This gave him bargaining power to negotiate peace with Israel in 1979.  He ended up getting back his Sinai Peninsula.  Mr. Roth talks about Hamas next.  Hamas would love to kill as many Jews as possible.  But their main target is to disrupt the “sense of normalcy” in Israel.  Up until recently, most Israelis ignored Hamas and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Call it “conflict fatigue.”  Israelis wanted to go about their lives, work, travel, and believe they’re no different from the residents of London and Paris. Hamas changed all that. A decade ago, crude Hamas missiles landed hundreds of yards or a few miles beyond the border.  Today they reach Tel-Aviv and beyond.  All of a sudden “there” has become “here.”

Israeli soldier discovers Hamas tunnel in Gaza

Israeli soldier discovers Hamas tunnel in Gaza

Dozens of underground Hamas tunnels add to the terror.  Tunnels are not new to Gaza.  Turns out, the Gazans had dug them more than 2400 years ago when they fought Alexander the Great.  Alexander lay siege to Gaza for 100 days (!) before the city surrendered. Infuriated by the Gazans’ resolve, he ordered mass executions and a vengeful rampage (Gaza: A History, by Jean-Pierre Filiu).

That’s a win for Hamas.  A win because Israel’s bubble of normalcy has been burst.

Rockets falling in Israel are not so much a military victory for Hamas as it is a psychological defeat for Israel.  By engaging in war so many times, Israel has shown its cards: airstrikes to soften resistance followed by a ground assault.  Much like a boxer in the ring, if a fighter (Israel) uses the left jab time and time again, the opponent (Hamas) will duck before taking the punch to the chin.  In other words, what’s troubling me as an Israeli-American is that Israel’s deterrence is slowly eroding in the eyes of the Arabs.  Like a pack of wild dogs, Arabs are willing to lose a few of their own, so long as they keep biting at Israel’s rear legs.

Hamas is willing to die so long as Israel will not live.

Hamas rockets

Hamas rockets

Tactically, Hamas is losing.  Some of its Gaza neighborhoods lay in ruin.  Strategically, they’re winning.  Once the war planes return to base, once the dust and smoke settles, Israeli society will have paid a price.  Already, cracks are beginning to show.  An overwhelming support for the war still exists among most Israelis. Patriotism is at all-time high.  Flags are unfurled, songs are sang, civilians volunteer to deliver food and supplies to the front line. But there are Israelis who question the war. They’re not as loud.  A handful of celebrities who dared criticize the war’s goals were quickly silenced.  War protesters in Tel Aviv assembled under the watchful eye of police guards.  The vitriol, the hatred between right-wing and left-wing Jews has spilled into social media.  Facebook is full of hate messages, one camp accusing the other of betrayal, of sliding down a slippery slope.  A wedge between bothers is now evident.

Mark that one as another win Hamas.

This summer tourism to Israel is down 70%.  Other than Evangelical tours to the Holy Land, other than  Orthodox Jews from America and patriotic Jews from France — hotels rooms go begging for guests.  Airlines around the world, fearing Hamas rocket attacks, cancelled flights into Israel for 48 hours.  For two days, Israel felt under siege.  Thousands of vacationing Israelis on the Turkish Riviera were unable to return home.  Eventually, Israel airlifted them back home.

War puts everything on hold.  Israel’s manufacturing is down.  Agriculture is down.  Scores of unfinished high-rise buildings in the south of Israel, and within range of Hamas rockets, remain idle and silent in the summer sun.  Laborers, mostly Arabs, are unwilling or unable to come to work.

Another win for Hamas.

Israel’s is also taking it on the chin internationally.  The images of dead children in Gaza cannot be erased.  Norwegians, Swiss, British, Americans sitting in their living rooms don’t know or don’t care that Hamas started firing rockets at innocent Israeli civilians.  A few ditches, holes in the ground, a burning gas station, a smashed balcony — all caused by Hamas rockets — are not as “sexy” and brutal as showing a dying Gaza child with a bloody teddy bear in his arms.  Israel lost, again.

“The Lancet,” the worlds leading medical journal published a damning letter on Israel.  Read by thousands of doctors worldwide, the journal accused Israel of indiscriminate killing in Gaza.  The journal was and is regarded as antisemitic, but there’s no denying its influence.  Israeli doctors attending future conventions in Europe and the U.S. will be heckled and booed.  Some research institutions want to severe ties with Israel, pull back funding, ban attendance, boycott Israeli products.

One more win for Hamas.

Another casualty of the Gaza war are the relations between Israeli-Arabs and Jews in Israel.  They’ve reached bottom in the last week.  There’s so much animosity and hatred between Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem, it can’t be even measured in truckloads.  Almost 40% of Jerusalem’s population is Palestinian.  Daily, thousands come to West Jerusalem (Jewish) to work in hospitals, municipal services, hotels, construction.  Mistrust is everywhere.  Jews want Arabs to disappear off the face of the earth.  Arabs want the same.

Gaza under Israeli fire-power

Gaza under Israeli fire-power

Two weeks ago, I took in my Toyota for servicing at a garage in Nazareth owned by Arabs.  Months before, the mood was cheerful.  Not this time.  I was all business.  The Arab receptionist behind the counter recognized me, tried to put on a smile, unsuccessfully.  My “hello” was awkward too.  The mechanics went about their work.  There’s untold tension.  I paid the invoice and left. I wasn’t in the mood for chitchat.  They weren’t either.  The scar is deep.  It will take a long time to heal, if ever.

Another win for Hamas.

But don’t get me wrong.  Hamas is a loser.  Big time.  A recent poll showed that more than half of the Gaza population don’t support Hamas; they want a cease-fire.  But not their leader – Khaled Mashal.  Last week Mashal was interviewed by Charlie Rose on America’s news program Face the Nation.  Mashal’s stupidity knows no limits.  Hamas will never defeat Israel. Here was his chance, on American TV, to say he’ll recognize Israel’s right to exist.  If he agreed to lay down his rockets, if he abandoned his quest to destroy Israel, then he might have really won the war.  In time, he could have gotten what he wanted: the end to Israel’s siege, the go ahead to build his own seaport and airport, to man the border crossings, to see his own people live better.  He blew the chance.  He’d rather continue to see his people die and his towns flattened.

I don’t pity him.  Nor his people for having elected Hamas into power.  People get the leader they deserve.

Arabs contribute little to science and the pursuit of knowledge.  This wasn’t always so.  In past centuries, the Arabs developed astronomy and algebra.  The Arabs invented “zero.”  Without the zero, we would have continued with the Roman gibberish of XLVXVIII.  But Hamas and similar radical fundamentalists in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya have chosen to inscribe “zero” on their flags:  Zero-Tolerance, Zero-Achievements.

Israel is being grilled in the media, and at the U.N.   Jew-bashing and Jew-hating is nothing new.  Antisemitism has a long history and its reasons are beyond the scope of this post.  Arabs slaughter each other by the hundreds of thousands, by chemical gas, torture.  Theses tragic stories rarely grab the headlines.  Add a Jew to the mix, and all hell breaks loose.  Why this double-standard?

So, once this round of fighting and bloodletting is over, Israel and Hamas will still be in the boxing ring.  Israel will claim a knockout.  Hamas will claim it was a knockdown, nothing more.  Both will be bloodied.  They’ll go to their respective corners and rest.  Until the next round.

Mr. Mashal, remove your gloves, extend your bare hand and negotiate a settlement with Israel.  You win more by not doing war.

Israel would do well to speak to Hamas, directly or indirectly — even if they’re terrorists.

Remember, you make peace with your enemies, not your friends.

What do you think?

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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

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=maurice+labi&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Amaurice+labi

or at BN.com

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/maurice-labi?store=allproducts&keyword=maurice+labi

 

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Stop the Train – I want to get off!

6 Jul

The summer’s hot in Israel and I’m not talking about the weather.  Last month, three young Jewish boys in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) were kidnapped by Arab terrorists.  The terrorists murdered the boys and dumped them in a field.  Last week, an Arab teenage boy was kidnapped, his body burned.  Was it murder committed by Arabs?  Was an act of revenge committed by Jews for the three boys’ killing? The police is investigating.  Update: The Israeli police and secret service have made arrests; they believe it was a group of Jewish boys who’d killed the Arab boy.

Jerusalem Light Rail Map

Jerusalem Light Rail Map

Jews and Arabs relate to loss of life differently.  There’s no sugar-coating this difference.  The entire State of Israel was in mourning following the death of the three boys.  Whether you are on the left or on the right, every single Israeli felt as he had lost a son, a collective tragedy.  I don’t doubt the Arab boy’s mother is grieving.  But not the surrounding Arab community.

Jerusalem train during better days

Jerusalem train during better days

Instead, they took to the streets, hurled stones at Jews and security forces, burned tires, blocked streets, destroyed portions of the Jerusalem Light Rail that runs through their neighborhoods. To repair the trains will take months and cost millions.

Arab and Jewish passengers on train

Arab and Jewish passengers on train

To think that Arabs and Jews could live together; it’s naiveté that borders on stupidity.  Take the city of Jerusalem, for example.  Its eastern flank has been “united” with western Jerusalem since the Six Day War in 1967.  For decades, steps were taken to unite the city.  Israel’s tourist office, the city mayor, the media – they all speak of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. Yet few advertise the fact that almost 40% of its population is Arab.

How would London, Paris, Washington, Tokyo be able to operate if 4 out of 10 of its residents were hostile or uncooperative?

Yet Jerusalem hides this fact.  It hopes against hope that “we can all get along.”  Arabs migrate from surrounding villages and towns to East Jerusalem.  There they intermarry, prosper and multiply.  Jews, in return, add more Jewish neighborhoods on hillsides in a game of one-upmanship.

Arabs vandalize Jerusalem train station

Arabs vandalize Jerusalem train station

The Jerusalem Light Rail, open for business since 2011, is the flagship of public transportation. It was to be the experiment to unite both sides of Jerusalem.  At 9 miles long, the slick, electric train makes its way through Arab and Jewish neighborhoods.  Each day, 130,000 passengers cross town.

Be careful of what you wish for.

Suddenly, for the past three years, Arabs who were confined to their homes could step out their front doors, hop on a modern train, and minutes later find themselves in fashionable shopping promenades, markets, city hall, university, and much more.  Now sitting inches apart on board the train, Muslim women wearing Hijabs to cover their faces stare at Orthodox Jewish men wearing shtreimel and tzitzit.

Arabs burn rubber and steel train tracks

Arabs burn rubber and steel train tracks

But if the Light Rail can be likened to an artery that meanders through the body, the blood cells (Jews and Arabs) are sick of each other.  They want to flow in separate bodies, in separate veins.

Poor Englishmen and poor Englishwomen board trains in East London to London’s West End and there’s no war at the end of the day.  The Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and there was no war.  There were Germans on both sides of the wall. During the Los Angeles Riots of  1992 Blacks burned down their own liquor stores, markets, gas stations to protest against years of neglect by the Whites on the Westside.  But at the end of the day, when the dust and smoke settled, there was a truce, rebuilding, hope.

Arabs demonstrating

Arabs demonstrating

Arabs and Jews share no common future.  The events of the last few weeks prove that.  The road to heaven is paved with good intentions, and although Jerusalem is in God’s backyard, heaven is a long way off.  The Arabs’ carnage of the Light Rail and other violent demonstrations are evidence that we’re different peoples.  We should disengage from each other.

My station is coming up.  I’m getting off.

What about you?

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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

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=maurice+labi&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Amaurice+labi

or at BN.com

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/maurice-labi?store=allproducts&keyword=maurice+labi

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Price Tag” may prove costly for Israel

24 May

It’s long been said that extremists hijack the headlines.  Their message is raw, sexy, controversial.  Whatever they do and say is splashed in bold print in newspapers, on television, and online.  It’s true of fashion designers who shock us with vulgar clothes, with writers who punch us below the belt, with artists whose sole aim is to jolt rather than entertain.

Hate Slogans against Arabs

Hate Slogans against Arabs

Extremists in politics and religion are the most dangerous.  They might be few, they may not represent the majority, but their actions are deadly.  I’m talking about the right-winged men and women that live in the settlements of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).  These men and women, typically orthodox Jews, get up in the dead of night, then cross into Arab villages.  Once there, they desecrate Moslem mosques, Arab homes and public buildings.   They spray-paint graffiti with the words: “PRICE TAG,” “DEATH TO ARABS,”  “ARABS ARE PIGS.”  The ‘price tag’ refers to taking revenge on Arabs’ terrorist acts against Jews.

It’s back to an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.

Burning an Arab's car

Burning an Arab’s car

Israel’s security forces is slow to react to these acts of violence.  This emboldens the Jewish settlers to venture even farther from their home and to widen their strikes.  Three month ago, Jewish men entered Gush Halab, a peaceful Arab village in Galilee, about an hour’s drive from my home.  At dawn, the settlers vandalized more than 50 cars, broke windows, punctured tires, sprayed messages of hate and escaped undetected.  Only this time the village security camera caught them in the act.  But since the men and women wore hoodies, they could not be identified.  And nothing became of it.

desecrated Christian tombstone

These extremists don’t tolerate anyone who’s not Jewish.  They hate Moslems and they hate Christians.  And they hate Jews who don’t think like them or support them.  They’ve gone as far as saying they’ll harm Israeli soldiers if they try to stop them.

Israel’s military is busy protecting its borders and people.  The police has its hands full with crime.  So, it seems, catching these Jewish terrorists is not a priority.  There’s fierce talk about it in the news.  Elite intelligence officers come on the show and condemn these acts.  They say they must catch these hoodlums before someone gets killed.  But little gets done.  I’m not saying that Israel’s security forces are looking the other way.  But it’s clear not enough manpower, resources, and urgency is spent on catching the attackers.

pope francis

Pope Francis

The attacks have crossed into the Green Line.  In other words, more and more assaults are committed in Israel proper: in Faradis, a Druze village near Haifa, an attack on a church in Beer-Sheba, cars smashed in Jaffa outside Tel-Aviv.

So far the Arabs are holding their fire.  They assembled protest marches through their villages.  They met with the Israeli media to show off the damage.  And their restraint.  They’re good at public relations.  It’s doubtful the Moslem elders and sheiks will be able to hold back the young for long.

I’m worried that if these men aren’t caught and brought to justice, and punished — the situation will escalate.

Pope Francis is due to arrive in Jerusalem tomorrow.  A lot will be on the agenda.  It is only 20 years ago that the Vatican recognized the State of Israel.  The Vatican has still to atone for the Christian atrocities upon Jews through the ages.  The Pope will want to continue to strengthen the bridge between Christianity and Judaism.  But I’m sure he will raise his concerns over attacks on churches in the Holy Land.

Jerusalem is welcoming the Pope.  Flags of peace are everywhere.  White doves will be released into the sky.

Extremists of any persuasion: Arabs, Jews, Christians, atheists  — they all belong in the extreme corner of jail.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————-

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

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=maurice+labi&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Amaurice+labi

or at BN.com

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/maurice-labi?store=allproducts&keyword=maurice+labi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of Mice and Men

21 Nov

Homeland Security Conference Tel Aviv 2012

I’m attending the 2nd International Homeland Security Conference at Tel Aviv fairgrounds.  If the sound of the conference alone doesn’t throw fear in your heart, try walking past security at the main gate.  Once inside the park-like grounds, I make it to the main exhibit hall.  This is where I leave behind the world I know and plunge into a world of security and defense.  Black is the dominant color inside the giant hall.   Black drapes hang from ceiling to floor, illuminated by glaring track lights.  Pretty hostesses in dark skirts and slim-fitting jackets hand out colorful programs and direct attendees to coffee and juice bars.

Mice work as explosives detectives

Hundreds of men strut the corridors.  I later learn they came from 65 countries for the 3 day event, from Finland to Kenya, from Brazil to China — all hoping to learn, purchase, upgrade, sell the next defense system.  The floor space is taken up by SWAT trucks on display, first response vehicles, smart fence barriers, surveillance cameras, 3D terrain mapping, cyberspace gadgets.

I meander between the exhibits, can almost hear the late James Brown sing: “This is a man’s world, but it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a….”  Well, here women are optional.  The lyrics might read more like “nothing without a… missile defense, combat vehicles, satellite hardware.”  A large group of Nigerians and Germans huddle around a large metal booth.  I follow.

“This is latest in airport and explosives security,” the presenter for Tamar Industries says and directs us to a walk-through booth.  His co-presenter, a woman pretending to be a passenger, stores a “suspicious” package on her body and walks into the booth.  First, air is pushed into the chamber through invisible vents.  Eight seconds later the scan is complete.  An alarm and a red light go off.  She’s apprehended, questioned.  And  who deserves the credit for such quick detection?  The answer is mice.

The developer of this ingenious invention relies on mice to do the work.  We’re told they’re stored out-of-sight in the booth compartment.  Over time the mice are trained to smell over 50 odors, from coffee, hand cream, to explosives.  The moment the mice detect a suspicious odor they scurry to one side of the booth panel and trigger the alarm switch.  Their work shift includes 4 hours on, 8 hours off.  A fresh army of mice arrive to replaced the tired ones every 14 days.

I plan to unionize the mice at the first opportunity, demand a 401k and a dental plan.  And cheese in the lunchroom.

The invited lecturers in the main auditorium approach the lectern and give their take on the latest security challenges.  The words “critical” “security” “synergy” “intelligence” “infrastructure” “9/11” “cyber attack” “Pearl Harbor” are thrown around like confetti.  The director for the London Olympics talks about his success of keeping the games terror-free.  The Brazilians are taking notes; they’re hosts for the world’s biggest sporting event in 2014: The World (Soccer) Cup followed by the Olympic Games in 2016.

Israeli security companies come on stage and present their wares on giant screens to the music of Double-O Seven and Mission Impossible.  Sorry, no girls in bikinis and boots allowed on stage.

On board an armored truck at Ashdod Seaport

The last day of the conference includes a trip to the seaport of Ashdod.  The event is for the foreign delegates only.  A well-connected friend arranges a pass for me.  Hundreds get off buses and are ushered to the port terminal.  After a short PR film, after rounds of coffee and pastry, we’re escorted to the port entrance.  Heavy trucks idle at the gate with containers on board.  The spokesman for the port says no one’s allowed unless they’re cleared by license plate recognition, container number cross-reference, and biometrics on the driver.

Israeli commando drill at Ashdod Seaport

The best is left for last.  We sit on bleachers near the water’s edge.  It feels like a show at Universal Studios.  A cruise ship is tethered to the dock.  Explosions sound.  “Terrorists” are on board the ship.  One launches a shoulder-mounted missile in the direction of the pier.  We cover out ears.  Gun fire erupts.  The port commandos, 8 in number, dressed in black fatigues and black ski masks, scale the ship.  They disarm the terrorists, dispatch a robot-controlled vehicle to detonate a bomb.  Speedy port boats patrol the waters.  It’s over.

The score?  Men: 1 Mice: 0.

Applause.  Israel is safe.  My name’s Bond.  Itzhak Bond.

The delegates are taken back to their hotel after a tour of Jerusalem.

That same afternoon, just hours after the staged attack, Israel’s Defense Forces scramble an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft into the blue sky.  The aircraft, some 15 miles away from us, identifies a car making its way through the streets of Gaza.  The order is given.  A missile is fired.  Ahmad Jabari, the Hamas military commander, is killed.

And so begins another round of violence.