OTHER MIDDLE-EAST (incl. ISRAEL/PALESTINE)
Prominent Israelis speak up against futility of
strategy based solely on force
A number of articles have appeared recently that show prominent
Israelis starting to speak up against the futile military-force-only
policy of Ariel Sharon. Clearly, Israel has a right to defend itself
against Palestinian terrorists, but when Israel does not address the issue
of settlements, any military action it takes only addresses the symptoms
but not the root cause of the problem.
Snippets from some of the articles are featured
Army Engaged in Fight Over Its Soul
Doubts, Criticism of Tactics
Increasingly Coming From Within
By Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, November 18, 2003; Page A01
JERUSALEM... - The hunt for suspected militants
sent Sgt. Lirom Hakkak bashing his way through a wall into a
Palestinian family's threadbare living room, his slender frame
sweating under nearly 35 pounds of body armor and combat gear, his
M-16 rifle ready.
He noticed the grandmother first, her creased face so blanched with
terror that she appeared on the verge of collapse. A middle-aged
couple huddled close by, trembling.
"They could be my parents," Hakkak, the 22-year-old son of
an Israeli poet, recalled thinking. In that split second of
recognition, he said, "you really feel disgusting. You see
these people and you know the majority of them are innocent and
you're taking away their rights. You also know you must do it."
With the Israel Defense Forces in the fourth year of battle with the
Palestinians, the most dominant institution in Israeli society is
also embroiled in a struggle over its own character, according to
dozens of interviews with soldiers, officers, reservists and some of
the nation's preeminent military analysts.
Officers and soldiers have begun publicly criticizing specific
tactics that they consider dehumanizing to both their own troops and
Palestinians. And while they do not question the need to prevent
terrorist acts against Israelis, military officials and soldiers are
speaking out with increasing frequency against a strategy that they
say has forsaken negotiation and relied almost exclusively on
military force to address the conflict.
Nearly 600 members of the armed forces have signed statements
refusing to serve in the Palestinian territories. Active-duty and
reserve personnel are criticizing the military in public. Parents of
soldiers are speaking out as well, complaining that the protection
of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is not worth
the loss of their sons and daughters.
Such issues are being debated at the highest levels of Israel's
political and military leadership. At the end of last month, the
military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, told columnists from
Israel's three leading newspapers that the road closures, curfews
and roadblocks imposed on the Palestinian civilians were creating
explosive levels of "hatred and terrorism" among the
populace. Last week four former heads of the Shin Bet domestic
security service said the government's actions and policies during
the Palestinian uprising had gravely damaged Israel and its people.
While such public comments have infuriated Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon, a former general who favors stringent measures against the
Palestinians, they reflect the anxieties of many active-duty
soldiers and reservists over whether the military is provoking more
terrorist attacks than it is preventing. In addition, members of the
armed forces said they feared that some of the harsher tactics --
especially assassinations of suspected Palestinian militants, which
often also cause civilian deaths -- are corrupting Israeli soldiers,
and by extension, Israeli society.
"What's happening is terrible," said retired Brig. Gen.
Nehemia Dagan, former chief of education for the armed services.
"The ethics and morals of Israeli society are more important
than killing the heads of Hamas or Islamic Jihad...
Here are two more via Eric
Chiefs Turn on Sharon
Government Policies 'Create Hatred,'
Israeli Newspaper Is Told
By Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, November 15, 2003; Page A01
JERUSALEM... -- Four former chiefs of Israel's powerful domestic
security service said in an interview published Friday that the
government's actions and policies during the three-year-old
Palestinian uprising have gravely damaged the country and its
The four, who variously headed the Shin Bet security agency from
1980 to 2000 under governments that spanned the political spectrum,
said that Israel must end its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza
Strip, that the government should recognize that no peace agreement
can be reached without the involvement of the Palestinian leader,
Yasser Arafat, and that it must stop what one called the immoral
treatment of Palestinians.
"We must once and for all admit that there is another side,
that it has feelings and that it is suffering, and that we are
behaving disgracefully," said Avraham Shalom, who headed the
security service from 1980 until 1986. "Yes, there is no other
word for it: disgracefully. . . . We have turned into a people of
petty fighters using the wrong tools."
The statements to Israel's largest-circulation Hebrew-language daily
newspaper, Yedioth Aharonoth, added to recent public criticism of
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by Israeli political, military and civic
leaders for his failure to stop terrorism or negotiate peace as the
uprising enters its fourth year.
The former security chiefs said they agreed to the two-hour
interview -- the first time the four have ever sat down together --
out of "serious concern for the condition of the state of
Israel," according to Carmi Gillon, who ran Shin Bet in 1995
Maj. Gen. Ami Ayalon, who headed the agency from 1996 until 2000 and
is co-author of a peace petition signed by tens of thousands of
Israelis and Palestinians, said: "We are taking sure and
measured steps to a point where the state of Israel will no longer
be a democracy and a home for the Jewish people."
Shin Bet is Israel's dominant domestic security and intelligence
service, with primary responsibility for the country's
anti-terrorism efforts. It often plans and directs armed forces
operations that support its own activities, including raids into
Palestinian towns and villages in search of alleged terrorists,
assassinations of suspected militants and interrogation of suspects.
The current Shin Bet chief, Avi Dichter, is one of Sharon's most
trusted and influential advisers, according to administration
The four former Shin Bet leaders said they recognized the
contradictions between some of their actions as security chiefs and
their opinions today.
"Why is it that everyone -- [Shin Bet] directors, chief of
staff, former security personnel -- after a long service in security
organizations become the advocates of reconciliation with the
Palestinians? Because they were there." said Yaakov Perry,
whose term as security chief between 1988 and 1995 covered the first
Palestinian uprising, or intifada. "We know the material, the
people in the field, and surprisingly, both sides."
The security chiefs denounced virtually every major military and
political tactic of the Sharon administration, adding their voices
to the dissent in Israel against the prime minister's handling of a
conflict that has claimed the lives of more than 2,500 Palestinians
and nearly 900 Israelis and foreigners.
In recent weeks, the country's top general has criticized Sharon's
clampdown on Palestinians in the West Bank; active and reserve Air
Force pilots have publicly declared the military's use of missiles
and bombs to kill militants in civilian neighborhoods to be
"immoral"; activists have initiated independent peace
proposals; and opinion polls have indicated that faith in Sharon is
This next one from the Israeli Policy Forum, shows the
hypocrisy inherent in Ariel Sharon's policy and claims that one will not
negotiate with terrorists.
M.J. Rosenberg, Washington, DC
There is something a bit surreal about the idea
that the Israeli government is negotiating with Hezbollah over the
return of an Israeli hostage and the remains of three soldiers while
continuing to insist that the only Palestinians fit to serve as
“partners” for negotiations are those without blood on their
hands. It suggests that Israel will negotiate with anyone,
even Hezbollah, for the return of the dead, but has a far more
restrictive policy when it comes to achieving peace for the living.
Former Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Arens points out that it
would be difficult to find anyone with bloodier hands than Hezbollah
leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, with whom Israel has been openly
dealing for months. Writing in Ha’aretz, Arens says that “the
total of lost innocent lives makes Nasrallah a close second to Osama
Bin Laden as a mastermind of mass murder.”
Arens, the long-time Likud Member of Knesset, Cabinet official and
diplomat, points out that Hezbollah -- which the Bush administration
has at the top of its list of terror organizations -- is responsible
for the 1983 killing of 242 United States Marines in Beirut, 63
Americans at our Beirut embassy, the deaths of 115 in the bombings
of the Jewish Center and Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, and
numerous other terror attacks and kidnappings.
How then, Arens asks, can Israel deal with Nasrallah?
Arens is not the only Israeli asking that question. Although
most Israelis believe that Israel must do everything in its power to
achieve the return of captured nationals, many are wondering if the
price in this case is too high. Some have commented on the odd
double standard that the Hezbollah negotiations seem to demonstrate.
Writing in Ma’ariv, Ben Caspit asks how Prime Minister Sharon can
refuse to talk to Yasir Arafat “because he engages in
terrorism” while dealing with a far more dangerous character.
“Nasrallah denies our right to exist here, plants bombs on our
northern border, kills Israelis, yet continues to talk to Sharon as
if nothing had happened.” As Caspit points out, Nasrallah
is not even in the same terrorist league as Arafat. Arafat, at
least formally, supports Israel’s right to exist in peace, and
during the Oslo period worked with Israelis to thwart terror and
achieve an agreement. Nasrallah wants Israel eradicated.
Why would any Israeli government want to enhance Nasrallah’s
prestige, which is precisely what his success at achieving the
release of 400 prisoners in Israeli jails will do? Veteran
journalist Ze’ev Schiff writes in Ha’aretz that “handing over
Palestinian prisoners to Hezbollah raises the question of why Israel
couldn't have done the same for the Mahmoud Abbas government.”
And that is putting it mildly. In Israel today, even top IDF
officials have criticized the Sharon government for offering Abbas
so little during his tenure, and therefore hastening his demise. The
contrast with the Hezbollah deal is jarring.
Abbas, who strenuously opposed terrorism, couldn’t achieve a
significant release of prisoners. What does it say if an
arch-terrorist like Nasrallah can?
Caspit has the answer: “Crime pays.” And Nasrallah’ s success
will “shoot him up to the top of the pyramid, from which it will
be difficult to bring him down.” Actually, he may already be
at the top of the pyramid because of the widespread perception in
the Middle East that Nasrallah succeeded in achieving a unilateral
and unconditional Israeli pullout from Lebanon in 2000, an
interpretation as common as it is inaccurate.
This isn’t the first time that the Israeli government has dealt
with the most extreme anti-Israel terrorists while refusing to
negotiate with others whose positions are more nuanced. In the
1980’s, the Shamir-Peres National Unity Government reportedly
funded Islamic elements in the territories, including Hamas’
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, as alternatives to the PLO. That mistake
helped transform Hamas into the force it is today.
This bit of history helps illustrate that the whole idea of applying
purity tests to would-be negotiating partners has become
questionable. No standard can possibly exist that legitimizes
Hezbollah while proscribing anyone else. There is no group that is
more dangerous, no leadership bloodier.
This is not to condemn Israel’s decision to engage with Hezbollah
to get its people back. It is simply to say that once Israel
crosses that particular Rubicon, it cannot jump back onto shore and
refuse to negotiate with Palestinians because they are tainted by
terror. But maybe Israel is getting beyond that. Top
officials in the Sharon government favor immediate negotiations with
the new Prime Minister, Ahmed Queria, despite his close ties to
Arafat. This may suggest an evolving understanding in
Jerusalem that it is not in Israel’s interests to apply arbitrary
standards to Palestinians who are willing and ready to negotiate
with Israel. As the saying goes, you don’t have to negotiate
with your friends; it’s your enemies you must engage with...
leave Iran in bad shape since days of revolution
So much for the revolution promised by Khomeini.
Israeli PM Sharon faces mounting criticism
After being criticized
by many in the Israeli Press over his exaggerating the threat of Iraq,
Sharon is now facing a bribery
/ vote-buying scandal.
reformists stage mass protests
The Los Angeles Times highlights growing student protests against the
egregious death sentence by a fundamentalist court against moderate
historian Hashem Aghajari, (who also happens to be a politician allied
with reformist President Mohammad Khatami). "...In
June, Aghajari delivered a speech in Hamadan, the historic center of Iran,
that asserted that interpretations of the Koran by past clerics did not
have to be seen as sacred--a direct challenge to the Islamic rulers of
Iran who insist on unwavering adherence to medieval Islam. The clerics,
who are constantly looking for ways to diminish the elected Khatami,
pounced, ruling it blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad. In Iran, that's
a hanging offense...." The LA Times editorial goes on to
mention that, "...The often-timid Khatami has
begun to go on the offensive, introducing legislation last month
challenging the broad, secretive powers of the cleric-controlled
judiciary...The ruling theocracy can't win. If it executes the courageous
professor, Khatami can claim him as a martyr. If the clerics back down,
reformists likewise will be strengthened. Either way, the struggle reveals
an Iran immensely more complex and hopeful than the label "axis of
evil" would imply."
has more coverage as well, indicating that a few students are considering
violent reprisals. We hope that for the sake of their movement they eschew
violence as much as possible (except in self-defense).
We applaud the progressives and their nonviolent struggle for democracy in
Iran and wish them God Speed. At the same time, we believe that if the
reformists are unable to succeed in getting Aghajari released on their
own, the Bush administration MUST put tremendous pressure on the so-called
"religious heads" in Iran to have him released.
Suicide bombers rightly deemed war criminals
Human Rights Watch comes out against Palestinian suicide bombers
and the groups supporting them. About time.
USA Today article shows how Israelis are finding ways to cope with the
The concluding paragraph says it all, "...'It
has become something we live with,' cosmetic surgeon Scheflan says. 'If
you had told me two years ago that I could make a good living doing face
lifts and liposuction at times like this, I would have said you were
crazy. Now, I think it is an index of sanity.'"
Tom Friedman has a very appropriate piece on the Israel/Palestinian
situation, titled "Campus Hypocrisy"
His position is that many of the professors and students demanding divestiture from
Israeli investments are extremely hypocritical, and we fully agree. To
state his case, he says, for instance, "...How
is it that Egypt imprisons the leading democracy advocate in the Arab
world, after a phony trial, and not a single student group in America
calls for divestiture from Egypt? (I'm not calling for it, but the silence
is telling.) How is it that Syria occupies Lebanon for 25 years, chokes
the life out of its democracy, and not a single student group calls for
divestiture from Syria? How is it that Saudi Arabia denies its women the
most basic human rights, and bans any other religion from being practiced
publicly on its soil, and not a single student group calls for divestiture
from Saudi Arabia?...Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so
is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction
— out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East — is
anti-Semitic, and not saying so is dishonest....." (We have
echoed related sentiments - not on students or professors, but the people
that they currently support - in
an article earlier this year.)
The point is that the apologists for the suicide bombers have more amnesia
about history than the people they criticize. At the same time Mr.
Friedman also points out to the pro-Israel lobby that, "...Just
because there are anti-Semites who blame Israel for everything that is
wrong does not mean that whatever Israel does is right, or in its
self-interest, or just. The settlement policy Israel has been pursuing is
going to lead to the demise of the Jewish state. No, settlements are not
the reason for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but to think they do not
exacerbate it, and are not locking Israel into a permanent occupation, is
also dishonest...." In the space restriction of an op-ed, we
think Mr. Friedman has effectively captured what needs to be said on this
(UPDATED 12/9/02: Another
Tom Friedman piece highlighting the above, followed by this
news of increased Israeli settlements. Mr. Sharon is clearly not doing
Israelis a favor.)
it's Sharon's turn to eat humble pie
We really don't get Sharon. On the one hand, he and Pres. Bush have
sidelined Arafat for a long time to make him irrelevant. But then, after every suicide bombing, why go after Arafat and
strengthen him? This approach is clearly not working too well. It looks
like a record player stuck in one note (repeating endlessly).
After seeing Sharon's approach in the West Bank and Gaza, we initially
felt early this year that India (our home country) should follow the same
approach and simply declare war on Pakistan and take out the terrorist
camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. We believe the justification for that
is significant; however, other than a high amount of bloodshed, it is
unclear what the final result will be. The war strategy needs to be more
carefully thought out. More importantly perhaps, the peace strategy needs
to be examined.
actually says something sensible once in a while!
Unfortunately, he's not calling for an end to all suicide
bombing, but at
least acknowledging that it has gone too far and condemns it.