Friday, April 19, 2002

Another beautiful spring day today... I was walking around downtown, not far from the Kikar Tzion area where there have been 5 or more deadly terrorist attacks in the last few months. I haven't been there for a while, and it was very quiet. A lot of restaurants, a hotel, and other businesses have closed down. Most restaurants have a guard in front and add a "security surcharge" to the bill.

Later on I stopped at an indoor mall in Talpiot where things are much more hopping - for the obvious reasons.

Today's papers have a lot about Europe: photos of anti-Israel demonstrations in Spain and Holland, articles about the UK press treatment of events in Jenin, pundits trying to explain why Europe tries to understand teenage Jihad bombers but doesn't try to understand us. Noone here, not even Haaretz, takes seriously the Palestinian "massacre" accusations that the Europeans are tossing around as fact.
With each week it takes a little more energy to me to peruse the International Herald Tribune.

No matter what's happening, the headlines have the same "ring" to them. Someone is decrying the economic toll on the Palestinians, or calling the Jenin situation horrifying. There's much much more about how various not-so-objective parties are reacting than there is on what's actually happening.
I saw UN Envoy Terje Roed-Larsen (a Norwegian) on Israeli TV tonight. Larsen is a quintissential present-day European - he verbally condemns Palestinian violence but doesn't seem to understand why Israelis won't just soak it up or cave in to the Palestinians.

Larsen was respectfully interviewed for 10 minutes or so, and spoke the whole time in a calm and unflinching manner. He began by describing the destruction in Jenin, and saying that he didn't know exactly what happened, but that the stench of death was evident. He supplied some other horrifying anecdotes.

When the discussion turned to diplomacy, Larsen said there now exists unprecedented international consensus regarding the Middle East: united initiatives on the part of the US/EU/UN, the Saudi plan endorsed by the Arab League, and a couple of new UN resolutions including one that puts Israel and the Palestinian state on equal footing. Larsen says that the diplomatic situation is at its best, but the situation on the ground is at its worst. To rectify the situation, all issues - security, diplomacy, political, economic - at the same time. We have learned, he says, that the approach of focusing on security first is not effective.

A few things were quite remarkable:

- Larsen never says outright "you Israelis are the problem", though that's the clear implication.
- He tries to create an image of a sensibly-minded world unified against Israel.
- There's a kind of undercurrent message which is "we must move quickly, since if Palestinians don't become satisfied quickly, Palestinian violence will return"

I can actually imagine some dreamy-eyed leftists listening to Larsen and convincing themselves that he's right. It's much easier to live in an intelligible world where you can blame yourself rather than a cruel one where you need to be tough to survive.

Larsen's last remark about "the approach of putting security first has not been effective" riles me the most. Really what he means is that any approach which makes any requirements at all of the Palestinians will not be effective. So the only approach that will work for a while is one where Israelis make concrete concessions and get nothing in return.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

This is disturbing. Andrew Sullivan reports on a reader who alleges that CNN correspondent Andrea Koppel told him she believes the stories of "slaughter" in Jenin and that we are seeing the beginning of the end of Israel.
A fellow from Iceland emailed me and claimed that Israel had committed "war crimes" - specifically:

They shot 50 pal. after they had laid down theyr arms.What do you call that?

I replied that I didn't believe it and asked him for his source. He responded to me twice without providing a source.

I guess it was something that he just heard on TV.

Many of the Israeli soldiers fighting in Jenin are reservists. Combat reservists come from all walks of life and include leftists, as well as people who I know personally. These people are now talking to the media and soon there will be a balanced account of what happened in Jenin.

Today's Jerusalem Post speaks to a reservist who is actually an employee of the newspaper's website(here):

"We covered 600 meters in three days due to the intense gun battles," he said.


"One of the women told us there was no one else in the house, but when we told them to remain in the room she called out to her husband that soldiers were inside and told him to run away. They began shooting at us - soldiers in a house opposite opened fire and killed them," ....

"In another incident we reached a house toward nightfall and called on the occupants to step outside. They did and then a group of three men came out later. We asked them to lift their shirts, two did but the third one didn't and turned to the side and tugged a chord in order to activate explosives. We shot him. He was one and a half meters from us," he said.

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Israeli newspapers aren't really publishing today, so why should I? Usually on Independence Day the Air Force stages a quite impressive "flyby" of fighter planes - but this year they've got more serious things on their minds I guess. Gorgeous day out. I'm heading off to a barbecue shortly.
Yom Haatzmaut Yesterday was Remembrance Day for Israel's war dead. Today is Independence Day. We went to a friend's place for a medium-mellow get-together of about 20 people. At one point we were momentarily overwhelmed by techno music from a party in an adjacent apartment. At midnite, we stepped out onto the balcony for a look at the fireworks.

Monday, April 15, 2002

More on Marwan Barghouti. Barghouti is the leader of the Tanzim terror group which is part of the Yasser Arafat's Fatah organization. He was captured yesterday by the IDF and is currently being held in a building called the Russian Compound in hazy downtown Jerusalem.

The Tanzim group seemed to be the one with the highest profile a few months back. Several times a week, they were gunning down Israeli motorists in the West Bank and less frequently inside the Green Line.

As I mentioned previously, the Tanzim periodically enter the Christian village of Beit Jala to shoot (and on a couple of occasions fire mortars) on the Israeli neighborhood of Gilo. I read an article (in Kol Ha-ir maybe) about a Christian family in Beit Jala that would flee to Bethlehem whenever the Tanzim began to arrive.
The fighting in Gilo/Beit Jala was often audible here in southern Jerusalem.

Recently the Al-Aksa Brigades (also part of Fatah) has upstaged the Tanzim with its suicide bombings. There have been remarks that Barghouti is a "senior figure" in the Al-Aksa brigades also.

Barghouti endorsed the mainstream Palestinian position that no agreement with Israel was possible unless millions of descendents of refugees were settled into Israel's pre-1967 borders. Like Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed-Rabbo and others Barghouti indicated (in a New Yorker interview) that Palestinians would demand "bigger things" after a West Bank/Gaza withdrawal. But he also knew how to use the Orwellian language that Western media relish eg. calling the current violence the "intifada of peace", evoking sympathy by describing his heartbreak at seeing Israeli settlements, representing Palestinian maximalism as Israeli intrasigence.

PM Sharon has said that Barghouti will be put on trial. Apparently there was a warrant issued for Barghouti accusing him of various things such as being an accomplice to attempted murder and unlicensed weapon possession. Hmmm.. these charges seem to miss the point, don't they?. Emphasizing legalisms instead of common sense is a hallmark of the European approach and most definitely NOT in Israel's interest.
Sober report on Jenin from the National Post (Canada) (from Damian Penny)
My internet connection was down last night. And I spent today in business meetings. I love blogging, but its nice sometimes to get my head into stuff that's not so depressing.

This just in: Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti has been arrested by the IDF. Good job!

The Tanzim specialize in shooting civilians rather than bombing them, so they've been getting less attention lately.

The Tanzim also periodically invade the Christian village of Beit Jala in order to shoot on the Israeli neighborhood of Gilo - to the chagrin of the residents of Beit Jala and also the UN workers who used to live there.

Sunday, April 14, 2002

This just in The IDF is now saying that there were only 45 Palestinians killed in Jenin not up to 200 as estimated earlier. Details.

Does anyone think that Arab spokesmen on CNN etc. will hypothesize a "coverup" involving a secret mass grave?
Some flippant but disturbing thoughts about the human Jihad bombers:

1. It's going to be harder to carry out a suicide bombing now that summer is on the way. Wearing a jacket in late April looks pretty suspicious here.

2. A woman whom I met says that when she is at the university, she walks around imagining a "boom" every so often - so that she won't panic if it actually happens.

3. Someone else who I spoke to says that he thinks of suicide bombings like traffic accidents. They can happen to anyone at anytime, but you can improve your odds by being careful.

4. It's said that there is an unlimited supply of potential Jihad bombers among the Muslims in the West Bank. But what will happen when those kids who are singing "I want to be a shaheed" in kindergarten turn 16 or 17?
For good descriptions of the actual situation on the ground in the West Bank, the best sources that I've found are Arieh O'Sullivan's dispatches in the Jerusalem Post, and Zeev Schiff's analysis column in Haaretz. I will try to provide links to these as they appear. Here's one and another. The Haaretz dispatches are useful also, just watch out for Amira Hass who has the habit of reporting unsubstantiated (and often false) allegations from "Palestinian sources" .

The most accurate reports currently are that there are about 200 Palestinian dead resulting from IDF operations in the West Bank - most of these are gunmen associated with the Hamas/Fatah/Tanzim etc. groups. That means that (unintentional) civilian casualties from the IDF operations are fewer in number than the (106 or so) Israeli civilians shot and blown up by the proud "martyrs" of the aforementioned groups in the previous month.

Arab spokesmen who criticize the way the IDF conducted its campaign in Jenin are breathtakingly hypocritical. How can they preach to Israel that it must put its soldiers at risk to protect Palestinian civilians while at the same time praising and egging on their heroic Jihad bombers?
Israeli Independence Day is this week, and I've got my flag out.

Arafat's "denunciation" of Friday's Jihad bombing means absolutely nothing (though that should go without saying).