Friday, August 02, 2002

Newspapers today are full of pictures from funerals and stories about the victims. It's a bit surreal how we're kind of used to it.

The roadblocks have returned to Emek Refaim (the main street in my nieghborhood) after an absence of a few weeks.

Arab satellite TV station al-Jazeera has filed a legal complaint with the Israeli supreme court claiming that their press freedoms have been restricted.

Thanks to you all for the really useful suggestions about our Venice trip. We'll be taking people's advice about seeing other parts of the Venuto.

That's about it for today.... shabat shalom and have a good weekend....

Thursday, August 01, 2002

According to this article, a recruiter of suicide bombers contacted the wife of Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi to suggest that her son become a shaheed. Mrs. Rantisi opposed the idea.

This seems to have escaped notice: the IDF found 300 KG of explosives in a Palestinian Legislative Council building in Jenin (report).

Masters of the Obvious This article by Bret Stephens mocks NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof for changing his mind about Arafat and Camp David because of Yossi Beilin.

The article also succinctly describes the consensus that exists today among moderate leftists, centrists, and rightists in Israel.
... the conclusions men like Ben-Ami and most other Israelis reached after Camp David ("We mustn't forgo Jewish and Israeli patriotism any longer, and we must understand that the blame does not always lie with us") are so radically at variance with the political hopes, ideological premises, and emotional impulses of today's liberals that it's just as easy to believe that Kristof simply couldn't assimilate the information.
The fact is, while few Israelis have a clear idea of what's to come, a broad consensus has developed in this country on at least a few points: That the premises, both tactical and strategic, of Oslo were mistaken; that Yasser Arafat is not a partner for peace; that Palestinians do not recognize Israel's moral right to exist; that a policy of unilateral concessions does not abate, but rather whets Palestinian ambitions; that the issue of the territories is merely a proxy in the same old battle for Israel's survival; that the Arab-Israeli conflict is, at bottom, a civilizational one, and that the civilization that opposes Israel cannot be so easily mollified by a "rational" process of negotiation and compromise.

Instead of coming to terms with this, the media seizes on the utterances of people like Beilin so they may feel safe in maintaining their old prejudices.
This morning, representatives of Greece, the EU, and another European country visited the site of yesterday's bombing. The Greek official said that this attack shows that citizens of any nations can be victims of terror, not just Israelis. Lots of memorial candles have been placed at the scene; and there were a couple of small, silent, demonstrations (one directed at the university administration's security policies, the other against the government's failure to prevent the bombing) (IDF Radio)

On the radio they also interviewed an Arab-Israeli Hebrew U. law professor(didn't catch his name) who expressed his distress at the bombing while remaining calm and measured. He lost his composure, however, when he was asked for his views about an article in Yediot Aharonot (hebrew) that says many Arab students have expressed degrees of satisfaction about the bombing - the professor said that it insults him personally and removes his humanity when people begin to make broad generalizations.

Another Israeli was shot at close range while apparently on business in the West Bank. This time near Tulkarm.
Update: He is now said to have been kidnapped from inside the Green Line (report)

Above: Thousands of Palestinians in Gaza celebrated the university bombing.

Ynet says that the bomber probably had help from a student or university worker and that the Israeli response will be "hitting" Hamas.

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Report in Haaretz. According to IDF radio, Hamas called al-Jazeera to claim responsibility for the attack and al-Jazeera broadcast it live. I wonder whether al-Jazeera broadcasts these things with enthusiasm or with a professional distance.

Hamas spokesman Abed al-Aziz al-Rantisi said:
This is the heavy price that Israel pays on what it has done. We will not cave in to any Arab or international pressure and we will not halt our struggle until the Jews leave Palestine.
On the BBC, PA spokesman Ziad abu-Ziad offered condolences to the families of the victims. I don't think that they will find that very sincere. He went on to blame Israel for "restoring motivation" to Hamas.

Good straightforward piece on "what the attack means".
Maariv says at least 7 dead and 40 wounded.
Bombing in the Hebrew University law school cafeteria. Just spoke to my wife T., who says that she sees traffic backed up all the way to Har Hotzvim where she works. And the ambulances keep coming and keep coming ....
I really don't understand why the Israeli government is suddenly giving 70 million NIS to the PA.

The economy here is in a rut, and there's a lot of controversy about social services and defense cuts in the new budget. On the channel 2 news I keep hearing sad stories of hungry or homeless families - can any Israeli readers suggest particularly worthwhile charities?

Israeli cable systems are replacing CNN with FoxNews. That's unfortunate only because CNN was a good way for Israelis to get a sense of what the world at large thinks about what's happening here. The BBC will still be carried.

In yesterday's Palestinian knife attack on a husband and wife in Itamar, it was the wife who managed to wrest one of the blades from the attacker and kill him (not a guard as reported initially). Before they were gunned down at close range by Fatah yesterday, the Odesser brothers would regularly enter Jamain to sell diesel fuel. They were drinking coffee with Arab friends when they were shot.

Give the security forces some recognition for keeping a lid on some tense situations in the West Bank yesterday.

Yitzchak Rabin was recently airbrushed out of a famous photo on a PLO site
[Thanks to Clint H for help with the HTML]

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Earlier I noted a report which listed 4 prongs of a Tanzim/Fatah halting of suicide bombers (aka. "shaheed-o-pause") this is the text which would have had the names of Fatah leaders attached to it for appearance on op-ed pages (one of the 4 "prongs").

I think that there's 2 messages here. The message to Americans seems to be: "We Palestinians understand you better than you understand us; and we are more like you than you acknowledge. We've seen how horrible it is that we're training our kids to be Islamikazes so we're stopping".

The message to Israelis seems to be: "You really don't want another Lebanon quagmire, do you? We're trying to stop the attacks on pre-1967 Israel, so why don't you just withdraw unilaterally from West Bank/Gaza".

The text suggests that Fatah still considers attacks on civilian settlers as acceptable, and contains no mention of negotiations (past or future).

The text certainly breaks no new ground in the rhetoric department: Palestinians are still the perpetual victims; there's no recognition of the fact that roadblocks, reoccupation of cities etc. came only in the wake of the wave of Islamikaze attacks of which the Palestinians were then so proud.

But still, if they stop using Islamikazes (as a matter of policy) that's terrific. More likely though is that this is a temporary measure to pressure Israel into concessions and bring Arafat back into the loop, especially now when major gains have been made against the terror infrastructure.
Flit writes:

Put it another way. Hamas says all civilians in Israel are legitimate military targets because the country has universal military service for its citizens, male and female. Once Israel decides that ALL Palestinians are, as Ralph Peters put it today, "legitimate military targets" so long as any hostilities continue, how then to distinguish the two positions?

Israel has never intimated anything about all Palestinians being legitimate targets. So why set up a strawman? Who the heck is Ralph Peters?

The Israelis could have used a 500-lb bomb instead of a 2000-lb bomb. They could have used a Hellfire missile, with impunity. Either would still have certainly killed Shehadeh, the target. Either would certainly have led to fewer collateral casualties. But no, they used the most powerful conventional weapon in their arsenal on this man. Why?

I doubt that the bomb used was "the most powerful conventional weapon" in the Israeli arsenal. You seem to be intimating that the death of civilians was intentional.

If you had been following the extensive discussion of the affair in the Israeli media you would know that the consensus was that a copter-fired missile is insufficient to guarantee killing Shehade. The IDF claimed that the bomb would cause only minimal damage to surrounding buildings. Most people, including the Internal Security Service, find this claim by the IDF to be blatantly unrealistic.

Essentially what happened is that the IDF was overeager to get Shehade and this skewed the way in which they presented things to the political echelon. As Zeev Schiff notes in an article that I link to below, this has unfortunately happened on a small number of specific previous occasions. Perhaps the controversy this time will jolt the IDF (and the political echelon) into avoiding this pitfall. It remains the case that Israel's Standard Operation Procedure is to avoid collateral damage to civilians even at significant cost to its soldiers or the success of its missions.
Sesame Stories is the name of the series which resulted when producers concluded that the Israeli-Palestinian version of Sesame Street would have to separate the Israeli and Palestinian contingents of its cast. Palestinians say they don't even want the shows aired (report)
This just in: Islamikaze bombing at a falafel stand in the Russian compound area of Jerusalem. Current word is that 2 people were lightly wounded.
Yesterday, IDF Radio interviewed officer Yuval Sharon who is stationed in Hebron. Among other things, he said that at the funeral there was a group of young people who were chanting "Revenge"; others (the older ones) then responded by chanting "you shall not kill". The officer said that in the Hebron Jewish community "exactly as with the Palestinians" the new generation is increasingly confrontational and doesn't remember things being other than they are now.

Hebron is a unique situation in that it is the only settlement in which Israelis and Arabs live right next to each other. The Israelis who live there see themselves as reestablishing the old Jewish community there which was forced out in the riots of 1929.
This just in Two Israelis were shot to death by masked men after entering the West Bank village of Jamin - apparently for regularly conducted business (report)

At 3 AM last night a Palestinian entered a home in Itamar and began stabbing a husband and wife. Two armed patrolmen arrived and shot the attacker; stabbing victims are in moderate condition (report).

The Sharon region north of Tel Aviv is still on alert. 1 of the 3 Palestinians who managed to cross in yesterday has not yet been apprehended.

In Nablus, residents have been flouting the IDF curfew and the IDF has not moved to enforce the curfew (report).

An Israeli was seriously injured by a security guard at a mall at Ashkelon (report).

Monday, July 29, 2002

T. and I are thinking of visiting Venice, Italy. Does anyone have any suggestions of what to see or what to avoid?
Laurence Simon reports a "Reuterian slip": the news agency wrote that in the Hebron violence "The settlers provoked the settlers".

I had been waiting for Zeev Schiff's comments on the Shehade killing. Here they are. Schiff says that there have been incidents in the past where the IDF let its enthusiasm for a high-value target overwhelm its operational sensibilities. He mentions in passing that Shehade had 3 wives.

Masters of the obvious Gabriel Danzig explains that the current conflict is senseless, but that it derives from the fact the Palestinian concept of "full justice" ultimately demands the elimination of Israel.

International human rights lawyer Anne Bayefsky wrote an op-ed for the New York Times which criticized the UN and NGOs for a distorted focus on Israel and nonchalance regarding serious human rights violations elsewhere. The Times made her rewrite it so as to avoid criticizing specific organizations and to mention Israel only once. Bayefsky writes about it here (page 12). A summary is here.

Sunday, July 28, 2002

Ynet reports this info on the disturbing events in Hebron: "hundreds" of settlers blocked the movement of security forces in the area, damaged 2 police vehicles, and 15 policemen were lightly injured.

There's no info on Palestinian casualties aside from what the wire services say.

Ynet quotes Hebron resident Moshe ben Zimra as saying that the violence began when Palestinians threw rocks and blocks on the funeral procession
Any suggestions for a term to describe a cessation of attacks on civilians? "Ceasefire" obviously is not appropriate. .. maybe "shaheed-away" ...

More diplomatic activity towards a "ceasefire" (report).

"PA and Jordan Agree to Keep Food Out" (report)

Have you ever seen a Palestinian spokesperson who insistently answered every question by blaming "the occupation"? Israel's spokespeople are much less dull, as you can see from this report about our press secretary in Ireland.

The front page of today's Yediot Aharonot has a picture of the family of 12 who had their father, mother, and 9-yr. old gunned down in their car by Fatah this weekend near Hebron. Yediot has been criticized for their practice of running these portraits and circling the heads of the ones who were killed.

Jerusalem's Yoel Solomon St. is not quite a ghost town ... but it used to be bustling on weekends. I was walking around Thurs. night and saw that most of the sidewalk cafes have shut down, and the few that are left are almost empty.

The other night on the radio I heard Mona Baker fire-ee Dr. Miriam Shlesinger talking to poet Ronny Someck.

With this Shehade killing and its fallout, I've been getting the sort of feeling that I had around Operation Defensive Shield... people who don't pay much attention to what is happening here are suddenly noticing again. And the glib self-righteousness is being hypocritically exploited by people who don't care when Israeli civilians are killed. Ms. CG says she is expecting the worst when she returns to university in the US.

In an article quite critical of the Israeli government, Mark Heller writes:
The effect of such an intervening event is so predictable that the PA has been desperately waiting for it to happen, so much so that when the event didn't happen, it invented one, in the form of the "Jenin massacre." But this time, nobody has to invent anything, because it has happened. Clearly, no serious person will charge that Israel deliberately targeted these civilians .....
More on the supposed ceasefire ... This Hebrew article quotes London-based Arabic newspaper al-Hayat to the effect that a document had been prepared outlining the steps that Fatah would take:

1. Fatah would openly make a call for a cessation of attacks on targets within the Green Line, while insisting on the right to "oppose the occupation" of the 1967 lands.
2. Fatah takes upon itself to try to convince Hamas to refrain from attacking Israel
3. A Fatah official will write op-eds in the WaPo and al-Hayat urging a ceasefire.
4. This is only temporary and depends on Israel "fulfilling its part"

So in essence there was a lot of diplomatic effort (reportedly between Mohamed Dahlan and EU officials) resulting in an Arafat-style "call for a ceasefire" - rather than lockup or even coordination with local terror leaders. The main differences between this announcement and Arafat's previous ones are: 1) this one has someone other than Arafat making it; 2) this one includes some points to try to avoid the "saying one thing in English and something else in Arabic" loophole.

Some ceasefire. And from the text provided there is no indication that attacks that Israeli civilians in the West Bank would be halted.

The plan is said to have European backing, which would seem to mean that Europe accepts the possibility of Fatah sending more Islamikazes into Israel when they decide to renege. The EU would have used the document to pressure Israel to withdraw from PA cities. Fatah now says that the plan is "on hold until it responds to the butchery in Gaza".