Monday, June 24, 2024

For Israel, double standards are deadly

For Israel, double standards are deadly


From the beginning of the war Hamas launched with its barbaric Oct. 7 massacre, Israel has been subject to strong pressure and double standards.

According to the United Nations, the expected ratio of non-combatant to combatant casualties in modern warfare is 9 to 1. In Gaza, the ratio has been no more than 1.3 to 1 and has likely been less than 1 to 1 given that Hamas lately admitted it did not have documentation for half the deaths of women and children it had claimed!

According to John Spencer, America's most respected expert on urban warfare and former chair of Urban Warfare Studies at the Modern War Institute at West Point, the IDF has done more than any other army in history, including our American army, to prevent civilian casualties. Despite that, even President Biden has kept insisting too many civilians in Gaza have been killed and Israel must do more.

It's virtually unheard of for a country at war to provide food and other aid to its enemy. Yet almost immediately after Israel was attacked on Oct. 7, President Biden insisted such aid be sent to Gaza, while saying the aid would stop if he found Hamas was stealing any of it. Even though it was quickly determined that Hamas was stealing 60% of the aid, President Biden kept pressing for Israel to help send increasing amounts of aid to Gaza and effectively strengthen Hamas.

By early February, Israel was preparing for the most critical operation of the war, rooting Hamas out of Gaza and cutting off its supply lines from Egypt. It wound up putting that operation off for nearly four months because of heavy pressure from President Biden.

President Biden initially pressured Israel to respect the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and put off any operation there until after the Ramadan holiday, a period during which attacks on Israel traditionally increase dramatically. The most prominent of those attacks was in 1973, on Yom Kippur, Judaism's holiest day.

The pressure continued after Ramadan, with Administration officials arguing Israel had no credible plan for moving civilians out of Rafah and it would take four months to move civilians out of danger if it was even possible. President Biden even cut off the resupply of some arms.

Finally, in early May, Israeli officials could delay no longer. They warned civilians to move from Rafah to safe areas. Rather than four months, it took a week for Israel to help 800,000 civilians get out of harm's way.

The Israeli army then carefully moved into Rafah, neutralizing numerous terrorists with very few civilian casualties. It quickly found and began destroying numerous rockets, tunnels, and other terror infrastructure, much of it in and below UNRWA facilities, including schools and hospitals.

At least 20 tunnels were discovered underneath the border with Egypt, used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. This explained why Egypt was so adamantly opposed to Israel entering Rafah and taking control of the critical Philadelphi corridor.

Delaying the operation in Rafah nearly four months had a number of negative consequences.

It, minimally, lengthened the war in Gaza by nearly four months, causing four extra months of misery for the people in Gaza.

It meant four months with no pressure on Hamas to release hostages, four extra months of torture for those hostages, four months during which Hamas murdered an unknown number of hostages.

It meant four months during which pressure was put on Israel to stop putting pressure on Hamas, enabling Hamas terrorists to resume operating in areas where Israel had established control, leading to more battles and more deaths of Israeli troops, of Hamas terrorists and of civilians in Gaza.

It meant four months during which Hamas was able to organize itself in Rafah, strengthen itself with additional weapons smuggled in from Egypt through those tunnels underneath the Philadelphi corridor and booby trap buildings and tunnels in Rafah.

While I have been composing this, eight soldiers were killed by an explosive likely smuggled in during those four months.

It meant four more months during which the Houthis effectively kept the Red Sea shipping lanes closed, continually attacking merchant ships and the naval forces sent to protect them with no effective response.

It meant four more months during which Iranian terror proxies escalated their attacks on Israel with rockets, along with Iran itself conducting the largest single day missile and drone attack by one country on another in history. After Israel respected Ramadan by putting off its necessary operation in Rafah, Hezbollah celebrated the Jewish holiday of Shavuot by firing more than 250 rockets at Israel.

It meant four more months during which the world has ignored the way Iran has been installing more centrifuges and greatly increasing its stockpile of uranium enriched to near weapons grade levels.

In a gross understatement, the double standard applied to Israel has been devastating for the people in Gaza, deadly for Israelis, a horrendous crime against the hostages being held in Gaza and made the world a far more dangerous place.

The lost lives can never be regained, but our government needs to stop doubling down on its mistakes.

Alan Stein, Ph.D., is a former longtime resident of Waterbury. He and his wife Marsha currently split their time between Netanya in Israel and Natick, Mass. He is president emeritus of PRIMER-Connecticut (Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting) and the founder of PRIMER-Massachusetts and PRIMER-Israel.

Published in the Waterbury Sunday Republican on June 23, 2024.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Iran’s attack: Observations the morning after

The following was published in the Waterbury Republican-American on Wednesday, April 18, 2024. Unfortunately, it already appears the current American government is doubling down on the disastrous strategies that were instrumental in bringing about the various attacks and wars mentioned below, most recently the massive Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel, and has successfully pressured Israel to avoid appropriately responding to that attack. We will all pay a heavy price for that unforced error.

Iran’s attack: Observations the morning after


I am writing this in Netanya right after Iran launched a massive attack of more than 300 drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles overnight, with additional missiles launched by Iran or its terror proxies from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. With assistance from America, Britain, France and Jordan, the attack was almost completely thwarted, with just one serious injury, suffered by a seven-year-old girl asleep in her bed.

Growing up and living most of my life in America, I am proud that the United States has been the greatest force for good in the history of the world. Now living much of the year in Israel, I also understand harsh realities about the Middle East which most Westerners, including American leaders, do not.

That lack of understanding led President Jimmy Carter to abandon the Shah of Iran, transforming Iran from a harsh but friendly and relatively progressive dictatorship into a fanatical theocracy that murders young women who allow stray hairs to escape their hijabs and whose leaders chant “Death to America.”

In 1990, that lack of understanding helped give Saddam Hussein the impression he had a green light to occupy Kuwait. During the ensuing war, when Saddam Hussein started launching missiles at Israeli cities, President Bush pressured Israel to not retaliate. It marked the first time Israel was attacked and did not defend itself, dealing a serious blow to Israeli deterrence, an existential necessity in the Middle East.

Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, American pressure forced Israel into a premature ceasefire every time Hamas started another war, inevitably leading to another bloodier and more destructive war.

When Barack Obama was president, we had Iran over a barrel, with its economy in shambles, its foreign currency reserves almost exhausted and barely able to support its terror proxies. Perversely, President Obama negotiated as if Iran was the superpower holding all the cards and we were powerless.

With an estimated $150 billion signing bonus and the elimination of sanctions worth many billions each year, Iran became an evil rags-toriches success, lavishly funding its many terror proxies while never actually adhering to the terms of the nuclear deal. We again had Iran on the ropes after Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement, until President Biden came into office promising to get Iran to agree to a longer and stronger deal and immediately removed the reimposed sanctions. When he couldn’t even get Iran to agree to a much shorter and weaker deal, President Biden kept giving Iran multi-billion-dollar waivers on sanctions.

We inexplicably removed the Houthis from our list of terror organizations.

We perversely declared Qatar — a close friend of Iran, major funder for Hamas, and owner of Al Jazeera — a “major non-NATO ally.”

We barely responded to well over 100 attacks on us and our friends, even when attacks killed American soldiers.

We left billions of dollars worth of sophisticated weapons for the Taliban and abandoned American citizens and allies in Afghanistan.

President Obama stood by helplessly when Russia took Crimea away from Ukraine.

While President Biden coordinated the supply of weapons to help Ukraine when Putin invaded again, responses to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s desperate pleas have often been very slow and the most needed weapons often withheld.

Immediately after Oct. 7, President Biden recognized Israel was fighting an evil enemy that had to be eliminated, and he pledged “rocksolid” and “unwavering” support.

Unfortunately, while Israel and its army proved they deserved that support, Biden’s rock-solid support has turned to jelly. He has even strongly pressured Israel to not enter the last remaining Hamas stronghold, hand Hamas a victory and let them murder the remaining hostages, including several Americans.

Russia’s takeover of Crimea, its recent invasion of Ukraine, the Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping, the Hamas massacre on Oct. 7 and the recent Iranian attack are all connected to those errors.

Regardless of President Biden’s position, Israel has no alternative but to retaliate against Hamas. Any other response guarantees future attacks.

We need to recognize America is the free world’s indispensable nation and act like it.

We need to reimpose and enforce all the sanctions on Iran. We need to make clear we actually mean it when we say we will never allow Iran to have nuclear weapons.

We need to respond strongly whenever we or any of our friends and allies are attacked, whether or not the attack is successful.

If we don’t, Israel will pay a price, Ukraine will likely lose and China will likely invade Taiwan. America and the entire free world will suffer while Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and their allies of convenience are likely to impose a new Dark Age on this planet.

Alan Stein, Ph.D., was formerly a longtime resident of Waterbury. He and his wife Marsha currently split their time between Netanya in Israel and Natick, Mass. He is president emeritus of PRIMER-Connecticut (Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting) and the founder of PRIMER-Massachusetts and PRIMER-Israel.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

October 7 provided a brief moment of clarity

An abridged version of the following appeared as an op-ed in the Waterbury Republican-American on February 21, 2024 

How soon we forget
October 7 provided a brief moment of clarity

By Alan Stein

The October 7 Massacre led by Hamas provided a fleeting moment of clarity.

Peace-loving Israelis were disabused of the misconception that it was possible to live next to a de facto terror state ruled by Hamas. They realized providing food, fuel, water and power and transferring massive amounts of goods and providing well-paying jobs for thousands of Gazans would never moderate Hamas.

Israelis realized there is no alternative to rendering Hamas incapable of keeping its leaders' pledge to repeat the October 7 massacre again and again.

Israelis recognized the need for good to prevail over evil.

Most leaders of democratic nations also understood their need for Israel to prevail.

President Biden quickly became the first president ever to travel to Israel during a war, asserted Hamas must be eliminated and pledged to stand with Israel forever.

We have since learned the barbarity of the Gaza terrorists was far worse than initially realized. Unfortunately, memories fade, support has waned and Israel is under increasing pressure to stop short of victory and let Hamas survive.

Early on, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby praised Israel for the lengths it was going to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza, doing more than even America would.

This is borne out by the historically low proportion of civilian casualties. The United Nations expects nine non-combatant deaths for every enemy combatant killed in urban warfare. The ratio in Gaza has been less than a quarter of that norm.

Hamas' network of tunnels is more extensive than the New York City subway system and cost Hamas a billion dollars. The underground labyrinth presents a challenge no other military in history has faced. Military academies will study and learn from the innovative methods Israel developed to deal with it.

Thousands of entrance shafts are deliberately located inside homes, schools, mosques and hospitals in order to make it impossible for Israel to defend against Hamas without Gaza's infrastructure being damaged and civilians getting killed. It's called Hamas' "dead baby strategy." 

Here are two examples.

A woman pushing a baby carriage called out to Israeli soldiers for help. As a soldier came to help, she signaled a terrorist, who emerged from a nearby shaft, shot and killed the soldier, and escaped down the shaft.

A boy asked an Israeli soldier for water. As the soldier approached with the water, the boy detonated the suicide belt he was wearing. The soldier was fortunate. Although seriously injured, he survived. The boy who blew himself up is now counted among those children Hamas claims were killed by Israel.

John Spencer, the Chair of Urban Studies Warfare at the Modern War Institute at West Point and one of the world's leading experts on urban warfare, recently wrote "Israel has taken more measures to avoid needless civilian harm than virtually any other nation that's fought an urban war" and "Israel has taken precautionary measures even the United States did not do during its recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." (Israel Implemented More Measures to Prevent Civilian Casualties Than Any Other Nation in History, Newsweek, January 31, 2024)

Despite those facts, Hamas' "dead baby strategy" has been effective in subverting support for Israel. Secretary of State Antony Blinken now keeps repeating the mantra "far too many Palestinians have died and Israel must do a better job."

During his generally positive speech in Israel on October 18, Biden announced he had prevailed on Israel to agree to the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Gaza, even though Hamas has traditionally stolen much of the aid delivered to Gaza. Hamas used stolen aid to build its underground network of tunnels. Recognizing this, President Biden said "Let me be clear: If Hamas diverts or steals the assistance, they will have demonstrated once again that they have no concern for the welfare of the Palestinian people and it will end."

Sixty percent of that aid has been stolen by Hamas. Yet rather than ending the aid, as he said he would if Hamas stole it, President Biden keeps pressuring Israel to allow even more.

The world quickly loses interest in most wars.

Not so when Israel is attacked. The world is losing interest in the 134 innocent Israelis still being held. Many of those not already murdered are being brutalized by Hamas, but many obsesses over the plight of the people in Gaza even though 98% say they're more proud of being Palestinian after the October 7 Massacre!

Kfir Bibas was nine months old when he was kidnapped by Hamas, along with his four year old brother Ariel and their parents, Shiri and Yarden. Shiri's parents were murdered. Kfir is now thirteen months old and nobody has any idea of whether he and his brother and parents are dead or alive.

How many people who obsess about the suffering of Gazans ever think about the Bibas family?

That Israel is fighting against evil hasn't changed, even as memories have faded.

For good to prevail over evil, Israel must render render Hamas and the other terror groups in Gaza incapable of resurrecting themselves and repeating their barbaric slaughter.

This remains a necessity for America as well.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Everyone values some lives more than others

Published in the Waterbury Republican-American on January 24, 2024:

Everyone values some lives more than others


There's a question I've been pondering since Sky News reporter Kay Burley, referring to the impending hostage deal calling for Israel to release 150 terrorists in exchange for 50 of the innocent Israelis kidnapped by Hamas on Oct. 7, asked a visibly stunned Eylon Levy "Does Israel not think that Palestinian lives are valued as highly as Israeli lives."

It was clearly a trap, meant to elicit an answer that would be used to call Levy a bigot for valuing Palestinian lives less than Israeli lives. He avoided her trap, but in truth everyone values some lives more than others.

Like most Americans, I value American lives more than lives of people in other countries. Most of us pay more attention to a murder in London than one in N'Djamena. A shooting in Waterbury is far more likely to be on the front page of the Republican-American than one in London or even Hartford.

The way that question was posed to Eylon Levy is an example of the double standard routinely applied to Israel. Has anyone heard a similar question ever being asked of a representative of any other country?

It would be abnormal for Israelis to not value the lives of their brethren more than those of others, particularly others dedicated to Israel's destruction.

What's abnormal is how their own demands for that lopsided exchange indicate Palestinians themselves value Israeli lives more than their own.

Rabbi Shmuel Reichman reports hearing a Hamas leader saying "Hamas values death, while Israel value life; that is their greatest weakness."

CNN's Sam Kiley reported that Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas, told him "Israelis love life" while "we celebrate the greatest gift of martyrdom for our children. Every mother wants that for her child."

In 2011, Israel released 1,027 terrorists to free a single Israeli, Gilad Shalit.

Israelis rejoiced in the release of Shalit, but many opposed the deal, correctly believing it would lead to more fatal terror attacks. One of the terrorists released in that deal, Yahya Sinwar, was the mastermind of the Oct. 7 massacre.

While he was in custody, Israeli doctors had saved Sinwar's life, curing him of an aggressive strain of brain cancer.

Israel saves the life of a Palestinian terrorist and he masterminds the slaughter of more than a thousand Israelis! Israel's humanity often gets repaid with terror.

The support Israel had on Oct. 7 predictably started ebbing even before Israel began defending its people. The unavoidable casualties in Gaza now get massive attention while the mass murders of Israelis and the plight of the Israelis held hostage are virtually ignored. That the proportion of civilian casualties in Gaza has been far below what the United Nations expects in modern warfare and what our American army considered acceptable in Iraq does nothing to protect Israel from constant criticism.

Mainstream American media rarely reports that Israeli forces find terrorists and weapons in every hospital, along with entrances to terror tunnels below, or that the IDF found weapons hidden behind MRI machines and RPGs in incubators for premature babies.

My wife and I had plane tickets leaving for Israel on Oct. 8. The Oct. 7 massacre changed our plans, but we finally arrived in Israel a few weeks ago.

Superficially, life for us in Netanya is almost normal, but no family in Israel has been unaffected. The hotels are filled with families displaced from their homes thanks to attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria. Almost everyone is worried about close friends and relatives fighting in Gaza. Almost everyone knows someone who was murdered in the Oct. 7 massacre, after being taken hostage or killed while serving in Gaza.

Nobody wants the war to end more than Israelis, but they also understand it must be ended in a way that ensures Hamas will not be able to carry out its pledge to repeat its Oct. 7 atrocities "again and again." They know each previous war ended with a ceasefire during which Hamas took aid meant to help civilians, used it to enrich its leaders, build its elaborate terror tunnel system and strengthen itself, then broke the ceasefire with more terror, war, death and destruction.

Israelis recognize they have no alternative to what they are doing. They will not be able to live in peace unless they win this war.

In contrast, the terrorists in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority controlled portions of Judea and Samaria do have a choice. They can continue the path of terror and mass murder of Israelis and catastrophe for Gazans. Or they can choose the path of peace, raising their children to grow up and live normal lives rather than die as shahids.

While the Israeli Defense Force is doing what it must, in Netanya we see people trying to live their lives as normally as possible. Every time they enjoy a walk, or sit in a cafe, or visit friends, or play tennis - I've done that a few times since getting to Israel - they deprive the terrorists of a victory and make a small contribution to the victory of good over evil.

Hamas thinks the Israeli love of life is Israel's weakness, and in a sense they're right, but it's also Israel's great strength.

Alan Stein, Ph.D., was formerly a long time resident of Waterbury. He and his wife Marsha currently split their time between Netanya in Israel and Natick, Mass. He is President Emeritus of PRIMERConnecticut (Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting) and the founder of PRIMER-Massachusetts and PRIMER-Israel.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

South Africa's genocide allegation against Israel by Yale Zussman

Posted with the permission of the author.

Last evening's program on South Africa's allegation of genocide against Israel left out more issues than it addressed. 

The Palestinians have charged Israel with genocide for decades, whether there was a conflict or not.  I am a retired math professor, and I hope you will agree that if party A is pursuing genocide against party B, the number of people in party B will go down over time.  For example, during the Holocaust, the number of Jews in Europe was reduced by half.  By contrast, there are about eight times as many Palestinians today as when they started claiming Israel was engaged in genocide against them.  Maybe UNRWA-run schools just don't do a good job teaching basic mathematics, but for journalists to be unfamiliar with the difference between "increase" and "decrease" is inexcusable.
Second, the authors of the Genocide Convention never contemplated how the target of an intended genocide could defend itself against a people dedicated to its annihilation.  Since its creation, that has been the sole purpose of the Palestinian movement; in the case of Hamas, genocide against the Jews is written into its Charter.  Unless the option of totally destroying a genocidal movement is permitted, the Convention would enable groups committed to genocide to keep trying until they succeed. That would be self-defeating, and as a matter of policy, makes no sense.  To prevent genocide, the Convention must permit targets of intended genocides to undertake the destruction of any group that pursues genocide.
That begs the question of defining the membership of a genocidal entity, like Hamas, or more broadly the Palestinian movement.  Polls show that Hamas's popularity rose after engaging in the October 7 genocidal atrocity.  There's no evidence that Gazans have ever resisted Hamas's control of them or objected to Hamas turning the entire strip into one vast military base.  Gazan civilians constructed Hamas's tunnels and allowed Hamas to use schools, mosques, hospitals, and homes as entry points and sites from which Hamas routinely fired rockets at Israeli civilians.  Perhaps most telling is that Gazans who were trusted enough to get permits to work in Israel provided much of the intelligence Hamas used to plan the atrocity.  While there are undoubtedly innocent Gazans, Hamas has made a point of obscuring who they are.
That brings us to the question of civilian deaths.  NPR, like much of the media, has been reporting for more than two months that starvation and disease are immanent, but even the Hamas, woops, Palestinian Health Ministry's official numbers don't reflect this.  
Since early in the conflict, the percentage of combatant deaths to total claimed civilian deaths has remained fairly constant.  Using recent numbers, when the Palestinian Health Ministry was reporting total "civilian" deaths as around 22000, the IDF was reporting combatant (Hams plus PIJ) of around 10000.  If the 10000 are included in the 22000, the percentage is about 45%, if not, it is about 31%; these numbers have inched up over the last few weeks.  
Two observations:  1) If there was starvation and or disease killing people in significant numbers, the percentages should go down, possibly precipitously.  They haven't, so there is no basis for the starvation/disease claims.  2) In Afghanistan and Iraq both the United States and Britain considered a 10% combatant death ratio good.  By this standard, the IDF's handling of Gaza should be considered remarkably good.
Considering that South Africa has had more murders in the past year than there have been deaths in the Gaza War, the only way to describe what it is doing is the Israeli word,"Chutzpa."