Thursday, May 27, 2021

Under Siege, from Israel's Riviera (#4 of 4)

(This, the fourth in the series, was written after the ceasefire went into effect and was published Wednesday, May 26, 2021.)

Waterbury Republican-American

Girding for the next Israel-Hamas war


As I write this, it's been 15 hours since the last Hamas rocket fired at Israel. Here in Israel, there are two main emotions. One is relief at the respite from the incessant bombardment of terror rockets, the sleeping in bomb shelters, the rushing into bomb shelters as "Red Alerts" sound. The second is it's déjà vu all over again. We've been through this scenario before, with each cease-fire used by Hamas to rearm, upgrade its rocket arsenal and the rest of its terror infrastructure, leading to a bloodier and more destructive miniwar a few years down the road.

Meanwhile, with all the death and destruction Hamas brought about, Arabs in Gaza, and in Judea and Samaria, are celebrating the ceasefire, while Hamas has declared a "Day of Rage" - that's not really news; it would be news if a few days went by without Hamas or the Palestinian Authority declaring a "Day of Rage" - and Palestinians have lost no time in again rioting on the Temple Mount, elsewhere in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria. It's enough to cause cognitive dissonance.

We now hear the moralizing about the need to help everyone in Gaza. (Of course, not a word about helping the Israelis whose homes were destroyed by Hamas rockets.) Once again, we hear the pompous assurances that assistance in rebuilding Gaza will be conditioned on Hamas not diverting it to build more rockets for the next war it starts.

In Israel, we've learned that assurances from the international community are worthless.

We remember the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism set up in 2014 to ensure the materials sent to rebuild the civilian infrastructure weren't diverted by Hamas, yet by some estimates, upward of 90% of the building materials transferred to Gaza went into the construction by Hamas of the 100 miles of tunnels Israel just destroyed, as well as those which remain - along with the more than 4,000 rockets Hamas fired at Israeli cities and towns, as well those destroyed by Israel, and the estimated 11,000 which remain.

We remember how, under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 ending the 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) supposedly was strengthened and tasked with guaranteeing the only other military force in southern Lebanon would be the Lebanese army. Instead, under the nose of UNIFIL, Hezbollah, with the aid of Iran, increased its rocket arsenal from a few tens of thousands to an estimated 150,000, more than the combined arsenal of NATO save the United States. It's mainly installed in civilian areas, particularly homes, turning virtually all of southern Lebanon into an armed terrorist base.

So, when President Biden asserts the United States will help repair the damage to Gaza "in full partnership with the Palestinian Authority - not Hamas - in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal," we're a bit skeptical. This is not only because the Palestinian Authority itself persists in its "pay-to-slay" program, under which it rewards terrorists for murdering Jews, as it competes with Hamas in a perverse competition where the most extreme gains the most popularity.

Here's one simple proposal: each time a truck unloads supplies for repairing the damage in Gaza, it waits to be filled with rockets, rocket launchers and other elements of Hamas' terror arsenal, to be transported to Israel and destroyed by Israel under the eyes of international observers. Until that truck is filled, the next truck is not unloaded.

Unless this or another effective method is used to eliminate the terror infrastructure in Gaza, any effort to help Gaza will be worse than a waste, and only guarantee a far bloodier conflict a few years down the road.

Unfortunately, unless a way is found to undo the damage in Lebanon abetted by the ineffectiveness of UNIFIL, everything that's happened in Gaza will seem minor compared to the next, inevitable Hezbollah war.

Given the sophistication, heavier payloads and placement of the vast arsenal Hezbollah possesses thanks to Iran, when Hezbollah starts firing them, Israel won't have any alternative to leveling Hezbollah's base, i.e. virtually all of southern Lebanon.

And we expect that instead of blame being placed on the terrorists or on their enablers, once again Israel, the target of those terrorists, will be blamed and demonized.

So, while we are relieved at the temporary respite from Hamas' terror rockets, we understand the cease-fire is a Faustian bargain, and we are likely to pay a heavy price for it in the long run.

Alan Stein was a longtime resident of Waterbury, where he taught in the Mathematics Department of the University of Connecticut for 37 years. During that period, he was active in the Jewish community and the general community. After retiring from UConn, he and his wife Marsha began spending the cold months in Israel and the warm months in Massachusetts, where their daughter resides. 

Under Siege, from Israel's Riviera (#3 of 4)

(This was the third of four columns sent to the Waterbury Republican-American, but the siege ended before this could be published. The fourth in the series was written after the ceasefire went into effect and was published May 26.)

Under Siege in Netanya, Israel

Alan Stein

It's now Wednesday, Day 10 of the current Hamas terror rocket offensive. We're up to 4,000 rockets. 

There's been talk all day of a cease fire beginning tomorrow, but with 200 more rockets in the last 12 hours, plus another 4 rockets just launched at us from Lebanon, that seems unlikely. Also, as much as we want a real, permanent cease fire, Israelis aren't eager to repeat the kind of shortsighted cease fires that merely temporarily tamped down - but never really ended - previous flare ups. Each of those ended with provisions that helped Hamas not just rebuild its rocket arsenal, but upgrade and expand it as well as enhance the rest of its terror infrastructure, such as its extensive system of underground tunnels. Thanks to those failings, each previous cease fire not only guaranteed another round a few years down the road, but guaranteed it would be far more violent and far more bloody.

To call the terms previous cease fires misguided would be an understatement, but other countries always seem determined, rhetoric to the contrary, to protect Hamas. It's difficult to overestimate the damage that has been done by one-sided pressure applied to Israel by the United Nations Security Council. I'm admittedly far more interested in the welfare of Israelis than in the welfare of the Palestinians who have been bombarding us with all those rockets, but it's also pretty obvious that the people who suffer the most from these wars are the Arabs in Gaza and they're going to continue to suffer, with ever more devastating replays of these wars as long as Hamas isn't permanently disarmed.

It's very hard for Westerners, whether in the United Stated or Europe, to understand the mentality of the Palestinian terror groups. For Hamas, it's a glorious propaganda victory when civilians in Gaza get killed. This is one of the reasons the operate in heavily populated areas and use civilians as human shields. Another is that they know how much Israel tries to avoiding harming civilians and thus embedding themselves in populated areas makes it far more difficult for Israel to defend itself. 

Hamas also wants Gazans to suffer. Here's one example. Even while the rockets have been flying, Israel has been trying to help the people in Gaza. Hamas rockets had already damaged power lines bringing electricity from Israel and lines bringing in water from Israel. On Tuesday, it attacked a convoy of trucks bringing in humanitarian aid, injuring some of the very people trying to help the people in Gaza and forcing most of the trucks to turn back.

Although I haven't heard any more "Red Alerts" in Netanya since the rocket debris fell in the pond I often ride around, I have since been directly affected in two more ways, one bad, one good.

My wife and I scheduled Covid tests required by the U.S. before flying back early next week. Yesterday, I received a text informing me that, because of the rocket fire, they weren't doing drive-thru Covid tests, so our appointments had been cancelled and we needed to make new appointments.

On the plus side, I had to drive to Hadera yesterday to pick up slides from a biopsy I'd taken last summer. I need to bring them with me for an appointment at Dana Farber Cancer Center.

We usually get stuck in heavy traffic and wind up taking up to two hours to drive between Netanya and Hadera. Thanks to the rocket attacks, far fewer people were on the road and each way took under a half hour.

I guess there's an upside to everything, even being bombarded by rockets. Still, peace would be welcome.

Under Siege, from Israel's Riviera (#2 of 4)

(Published May 23, 2021) 

Waterbury Republican-American

Media bias pervades Israeli airwaves


I was supposed to play tennis Friday morning, May 14, the day after I had to leave Winter Pond Park in Netanya because the Israeli army was coming to retrieve debris from a Hamas rocket that had landed in the pond. (According to our friends who live near it, the park was open again on May 14, filled with people as if nothing had happened there, but was again closed on Saturday, "because of the security situation.") One of the many things I loved about Waterbury was living just a few blocks from the public tennis courts at Fulton Park. I could walk over to them in about five minutes, and they were free. I have to drive to the courts I use in Netanya, which are about 5 miles away and even closer to Gaza than Winter Pond Park. This made my wife so nervous, she couldn't sleep Thursday night, so to calm her down, I agreed to skip playing and found myself sending a WhatApp to my partner at 4 a.m., telling her I couldn't play. That calmed my wife down, but then I couldn't sleep anymore, and wound up checking email and watching the news.

News is a big thing in Israel. I'm at a disadvantage because I'm not fluent enough to understand the news in Hebrew, whether on television or in newspapers. But we have plenty of news networks in English on cable, including CNN, Fox, BBC, Sky News, France24, MSNBC, DW News (from Germany), Euronews, CGTN (Chinese Global Television Network) and i24 (from Israel). I find all of them heavily biased and often cannot watch any one of them for more than five minutes before switching to another.

One morning the previous week, I stopped switching when I hit CNN and caught an interview of Israeli Knesset (parliament) member Naftali Bennett by Becky Anderson. I've gotten a little jaded, especially regarding the blatant anti-Israel bias pervading so much of the media today, but even I was astounded by Anderson's rudeness and truculence.

I suggest watching the whole interview, which may be found at =YUASDZhUVuU with the transcript at /TRANSCRIPTS/2105/12/ctw.02 .html.

One particularly telling exchange occurs at the 3:20 mark. Here's the official CNN transcript of what Anderson said at that point, although the transcript doesn't refer to her smirk, or the unprofessional nastiness and hostility in her voice: ANDERSON: Sir, the U.N. is (sic) called on Israel to "Respect international humanitarian law," which stipulates airstrikes should only be directed at military objectives. How can any strikes on Gaza which is such a densely populated area be targeted at military sites only? It doesn't suggest that Israel is respecting international law or that perhaps will you admit that these airstrikes have been indiscriminate? Consider that carefully. She's arguing that it's a violation of international law for Israel to do anything to protect its citizens from the thousands of rockets Palestinian terrorists are launching at them! Bennett responded with his own question: "Perhaps you suggest that we just lay back, let them shoot rockets at us not shoot back because they're hiding the rockets behind women and children. Would you do that, Becky?" Anderson quickly changed the subject.

In her defense, she has plenty of company. Justices of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court have blatantly and deliberately misinterpreted international law to misuse it against Israel, as has the United Nations General Assembly and members of the United Nations Security Council. It makes Israelis justifiably feel paranoid.

The good news: Anderson's hostile question can be used to defend Israel when one of those agencies inevitably tries to lynch Israel in another kangaroo court.

More anon.

Alan Stein was a longtime resident of Waterbury, where he taught in the Mathematics Department of the University of Connecticut for 37 years. During that period, he was active in the Jewish community and the general community. After retiring from UConn, he and his wife Marsha began spending the cold months in Israel and the warm months in Massachusetts, where their daughter resides.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Under Siege, from Israel's Riviera (#1 of 4)

(A version of this was published in the Waterbury Republican-American on May 19, 2021. This was the first of a series of four send during and immediately after the Hamas rocket war. Three were published. All four are being posted here.) 

Under Siege, from Israel's Riviera

Alan Stein

After becoming Israel's prime minister in the midst of the Palestinian Arab terror offensive known as the second intifada, Ariel Sharon famously said "What you see from here you don't see from there."

Sitting in my living room in Netanya and observing the American media write about the current Palestinian Arab terror offensive centered around the massive launching of rockets at Israeli cities and towns, I could express exactly the same sentiments. In fact, a few days ago, I experienced something "here" that I would never experience "there."

I was in a park in Netanya, called Winter Pond Park because it has what passes for a pond, albeit only in the winter, in water-challenged Israel. I was with a friend, riding our bikes around the pond, the way one might ride around the twin ponds in Fulton Park. While taking a short break, we were told we had to leave: the Home Front Command had ordered the park closed because of the rockets Hamas was raining down on Israel.

I found out a little more the next day. I had and still feel relatively safe in Netanya. We're generally not the target of rocket attacks and I'm told the bomb shelter just outside the door to our apartment has never been used for anything other than to store junk. But it turns out the park was closed so the army could come in and retrieve rocket debris that had landed in the pond after the Iron Dome had intercepted it. That also answered the question of why friends had asked if I'd heard a siren or a boom the other night. I hadn't, but the siren was the "Red Alert," the warning to quickly get to a bomb shelter - in Netanya, we have 90 seconds, far more time than the 15 seconds afforded people living near Gaza - and the boom was the sound of the Iron Dome intercepting the rocket.

Without realizing it, I'd experienced my first rocket attack, something I had never dreamed of experiencing while living in Waterbury.

It's also something Ariel Sharon believed he would be putting an end to when he took Israel completely out of Gaza in 2005, giving Palestinian Arabs complete control of territory and their own lives for the first time in their brief history. 

Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza had been launching rockets at Israel for a few years, learning how Saddam Hussein had increased his popularity among Palestinian Arabs by launching SCUD missiles at Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities in 1991 during the Gulf War. Sharon believed pulling out of Gaza would take away any conceivable excuse for Hamas to continue its terror attacks. He also expected the rest of the world would be shocked if the rockets kept coming and support Israel when it had to defend itself. Instead, with the Palestinian Arabs in complete control of Gaza, Hamas expanded its importation and production of terror rockets, has launched tens of thousands at Israeli civilians, and the world has harshly criticized Israel every time it has done anything to protect its people.

Consider the following analogy:

Rhode Island has a government dedicated to the destruction of Connecticut. The people there have been attacking Connecticut Yankees for a century and have launched tens of thousands of rockets at Connecticut over the last decade. In the last few days alone, it has launched a thousand rockets at Connecticut (roughly the same number, per capita, that Hamas has launched at Israel in the last few days).

Think about what you would expect your government, led by Prime Minister Ned Lamont, to do.

Now suppose your government tried to stop the barrage of rockets by having its defense forces use precision guided weapons to target the terrorists launching the rockets and their facilities. Being among the most moral forces in the world, it did its best to avoid harming any civilians in Rhode Island - a difficult task because the terrorists in Rhode Island used women and children as human shields, stored its rockets and other weapons in homes, schools and hospitals, and its leaders even set up their main command post in the basement of a hospital. But Connecticut's defense forces actually gave warnings before attacking those facilities, in order to give innocent people plenty of time to avoid being harmed, even though it also gave the terrorists time to escape.

Now imagine that, instead of the world praising Connecticut, your government was almost universally condemned, urged to "de-escalate" - even as rockets continued to rain down on Hartford, New Haven, Stamford and Waterbury - and a special session of the United Nations Security Council was convened to condemn and put pressure on Connecticut.

Think about what your reaction would be. It may give you an idea of how Israelis are feeling right now.

Friday, May 7, 2021

The Claim that Israeli Jews are Colonialists

The Claim that Israeli Jews are Colonialists

By Barry Leonard Werner

Let's talk about the claim that the Israeli Jews are colonialists who invaded and took Palestine away from the Palestinians. 

The Roman Empire turned Judea, which was the country of the Jews, into a Roman province in 6 CE. Judea staged major revolts against the Roman Empire twice. The second revolt, in 132–136 CE, started well. Then the Roman Empire brought in six full legions with auxiliaries and elements from up to six additional legions and exiled the Jews from their land. The Roman Empire also changed the name of the land to Syria Palaestina because Palestina was the name of an ancient biblical enemy of the Jews. Although the Roman Empire eventually allowed Jews to return, the land continued to be called by its new name. To Christians and Jews, the land was also called the Holy Land. 

There was never an Arab country called Palestine. The land now called Palestine was a part of the Ottoman Empire until WWI. The lands in which Arabs lived in the Ottoman Empire had no country-like divisions except Egypt, a country with a long history. 

After WWI, the British had the Mandate to administer the Palestine area, and the Jews there called themselves Palestinians. In 1948, when Israel became a state, the Jews called themselves Israelis, and only the Arabs called themselves Palestinians. 

The Jews were not colonialists who invaded to take Palestine away from the Palestinians. Consider the history. 

Before 1800, the land we call Palestine was so poor it could support very few people. The Ottoman Empire didn't even bother to count the number of people living there. Many of the people were Bedouin nomads, and it would have been too hard to count them even if the Ottomans tried to. 

In the 1800s, the Ottoman Empire realized they had to ask Europeans to help them modernize. Part of the deal was to allow Europeans to live in the Holy Land for the first time since the Crusades. Most Europeans who came to the Holy Land were Christians, and they built grand churches and monasteries. Some of the Europeans who came were Jews.

By the mid to late 1800s, the economy of Palestine grew considerably. Many Arabs from around the Ottoman Empire came to work for the Europeans. The few Arab families who lived there before 1800 and the many Arab families who moved there to work for the Europeans after 1800 now call themselves native Palestinians with a Palestinian history that goes back thousands of years. The people who claim that the Israeli Jews colonized Arab Palestinian land recount history starting at around 1900 when the Arab population of Palestine was greater than that of the Jews. 

Jews were experiencing horrible pogroms in Eastern Europe in the 1800s, during the same time Europeans were rebuilding the Holy Land. (Pogroms are violent, often government-inspired, attacks on Jews intended to kill them and intimidate them into leaving. The history of antisemitism in Europe is a whole other story.) European Jews, with the help of Christians, established the Zionist movement in the late 1800s to rescue the Jews of Europe and give them refuge in their ancient homeland, the Holy Land. 

It is important to emphasize that the Zionists were politically progressive. The Zionist program specifically stated that they did not intend to harm the Arabs living there. The Zionists believed that if European Jews moved to Palestine, it would bring prosperity to everyone. Palestine had a lot of sparsely inhabited land that could support the immigrants and the local Arabs if they restored the land. The Zionists expected the Arabs to welcome Jewish immigration, and indeed, some Arab leaders agreed with that idea. But, the main body of the Arabs turned to leaders who violently opposed further Jewish immigration. 

Two groups opposed Zionism. One group was the Muslim religious extremists, who believe that only Muslims should rule because Muslims had conquered the land in the 7th Century. Muslim religious extremists believe God gave them the right to dominate non-Muslims. They opposed the idea of Jews coming to Palestine and becoming a ruling majority. 

The other group, the Arabists, believed that only Arabs are allowed to rule because Arabs had conquered the land in the 7th Century. Arabists are racists against non-Arabs. (There is a long history to this form of racism.) Since the Arabists were willing to allow Christian Arabs to rule alongside Muslim Arabs, the Christian missionaries in the Middle East supported the Arabists. The Christian missionaries considered the movement to be a legitimate form of Arab Nationalism. (Nationalism was a progressive concept in Europe in those days. The Ottoman Empire had allowed Christian missionaries to convert Christian Arabs to Western forms of Christianity in the 1800s.)

First, the Arabs united behind the Arabists, especially under President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt. But when the Arabists failed to destroy Israel, they united behind the religious extremists, like the Muslim Brotherhood. The religious extremists were also unable to destroy Israel, but they are still trying. The PLO has its roots in Arabism, and Hamas has its roots in the Muslim Brotherhood. But even the PLO uses religious rioting as a political tool. 

Radical Islamists claim the Jews of Isreal are responsible for the violence in Palestine and ask the Muslims of the world to defend them from the Jews. But in reality, they want the Muslims of the world to help them kill the Jews. 

Radical Islamists are trying to take over the Muslim world. Their version of Islam is not the same religion as that of most Muslims of the world. It leads to such perversions as ISIS and Boko Haram. They are spreading their influence in Africa and Asia and recruiting Muslims worldwide into their jihad. The Western world recognizes their authority over the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and even wants to officially recognize a state for them, thinking that this will satisfy them. 

Radical Islamists have a lot of money. Wealthy religious fanatics in the Persian Gulf region and other rich religious fanatics worldwide support them. One way they use their wealth is to make persuasive propaganda videos targeting Muslims worldwide. 

Radical Islamists seek out Muslims whether they go to their mosques or not. They send texts and videos to the Muslims they know and to their children to persuade them to join the global jihad. They give gifts to poor people, and poor Muslims run to them for help. That makes it easy for them to persuade poor Muslims to accept their ideas. 

Unless the moderate Muslim community makes a united effort to stop the extremists, the extremists will recruit jihadis and turn the Muslim world into an enemy of the non-Muslim world. 

The Islamists are also trying to get the non-Muslim Western world to support their jihad against the Jews. They falsely claim that Palestine is an ancient Arab Palestinian country and that the Jews are colonialists who invaded and took their country. And they falsely claim that Israel is an apartheid country, like South Africa used to be. These false claims play to the politics of the Western world, where some people see every global problem as a consequence of Western colonialism. 

Confronting Iran

Confronting Iran

By Barry Leonard Werner

What's worse than fighting a war you don't need to fight is not fighting a war you do need to fight.

I remember when the West, or at least the Western media, sighed a great sigh of relief when they figured out how to rationalize not confronting Iran. Somebody said that they are rational players, and everybody else piled on in agreement. Well, they said that Iran is rational enough to rationally protect its core. And then, the West, or at least the Western media, took that idea to mean that we can make a rational deal with Iran instead of confronting them militarily.

The question is what to do about Iran. People often think in terms of models that they consider to be standards to judge new situations. My model is the appeasement of Hitler before WWII and the late entry into that war by the US. (Maybe the US would not have entered that war at all had it not been that Germany declared war on the US first.) The result of appeasement and non-participation by the US in the subsequent war was that Nazi Germany used the time and resources it thereby gained to construct "Fortress Europe." Every time I hear people lamenting the sacrifices we made on the beaches of Normandy when we were finally forced to invade Fortress Europe, I feel anger at the short-sighted policymakers who allowed Nazi Germany to get so strong. But today, a different model is commonly used. Some people think that the Vietnam war is the model by which to judge new situations. According to modern, "progressive" thinking, we can win no war at all ever, and there are no wars that we should ever fight. A long time ago, that sort of thinking was summarized in the phrase "better Red than dead" to argue that we should not defend ourselves against any possible hostile act by the USSR. 

So what did the US do to keep Iran from getting the bomb anytime soon? We sacrificed millions of human beings in the Middle East who suffered from the evil efforts of Iran to make Shia Islam dominant over Sunni Islam and to destroy Israel, which Iran considers to be an affront to Islam. Americans under president Obama sacrificed many (I don't know how many) of their fellow Americans and people around the world by interfering with the operation of US agents in South America to stop Hezbollah's drug trafficking and other criminal activities. We did that only to appease Iran so that we could get the JCPOA. 

Iran is using nuclear blackmail against us. We think we have to allow them to get away with everything they do so that we can have the JCPOA. Agreeing to that sort of blackmail is wrong. Iran has been given sufficient warning. Iran's intentions are clear. There was a time when we could have bombed the Iranian nuclear weapons and missile program. Perhaps we have given them enough time to harden their nuclear weapons and missile programs against our bombs. If we made that mistake, then the use of sanctions is all that is left unless we physically invade that country. 

Now that Iran has entered into an agreement with China, our situation is even worse. It's only going to get worse, not better. Polite diplomacy is not an option.

Using the JCPOA to keep Iran from getting the bomb anytime soon cost the lives of millions of people in the Middle East, allowed Hezbollah to build its criminal empire, and may have made it impossible for us to eliminate Iran's nuclear weapons facilities with surgical air strikes. And, it only delayed the inevitable confrontation with Iran. So, we should act now to shut down Iran's military ambitions before Iran comes under Chinese protection.