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Monday 31 July 2006

Losing faith in Israel [brit]

A week or so ago I had a meeting with two Israelis, one of whom had flown in from Tel Aviv that morning. During the meeting, I had to ask a few questions about service reliability given the current situation and this swiftly led to these chaps passing what I thought were fairly insensitive (yet not unsurprising) comments about the events underway in Beirut. One chap described that blighted city as 'the greatest firework show on earth'.
What was even more interesting, looking back, was that it was taken for granted that as a white Englishman living in London that I was completely on board with the whole Israeli position, and that such comments would be acceptable.
This morning the Guardian newspaper tells us that over the weekend, and following the deaths of the UN observers last week, the Israeli airforce killed 60 civilians in a bombing raid and many of those were women and children, killed when the shelter they were hiding in was hit by whatever it is the Israelis use to ceate these great 'firework shows' of theirs.
The interesting thing is, nobody at a Western governmental level has come out and told Israel to pack it in; indeed, late last week this wall of apparent silence was taken, publically by some Israeli minister, as approval of their actions. Why is that? Of course, the UN has condemned it - but that's the equivalent of being told to sit on the naughty step.
There seems to be some unwritten rule that you don't criticise Israel - you just sit back and passively support whatever it is they do because they've been through such a lot / represent the only true western style democracy in the region / are surrounded by 'enemies' / etc. Worse still, if you criticise Israel, you incur the wrath of those ever so powerful organisations in America who do nothing but pump cash and rhetoric into the executive to ensure the support, aid and most importantly arms, keep coming.
Where does it end? I have vocally supported Israel's right to exist and defend itself before - and continue to believe that, however such support does not extend to the current actions being undertaken in Lebanon which smack of zealous disproportionate invasion where Israel's true disregard for those it must live next to, shines through.
How Israel expects to gain any respect for their position after this weekend's events is beyond me - however, I suspect that given my meeting with the two Israelis and their attitude to the whole thing, respect if not approval is simply expected from us. Once again, 'Middle East Peace' remains a twisted joke.


  1. I too have defended Israel's right to exist and defend itself in the past, but this recent action has sickened me utterly. Frankly, I don't care about the history of the region, who started it, whether Hezbollah is using human shields or not, all I see is that Israel appears to be disproportionately and indescriminately killing civilians. They seriously need to chill the fuck out and get some perspective.
    I appreciate that Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist organisations, and I am in no way trying to defend them, but you cannot convince me that 35 kids cowering in a basement are in anyway connected to these organisations. Having self-righteous pricks from the Israeli government appearing on news outlets and justifying their action because they told these people to leave their homes does not help. Can't they see that 35 fathers and 35 kids brothers are now that one step closer to wanting to strap themselves with some dynamite and go catch a bus to downtown Tel Aviv? Fucking madness.
    But we can't criticise Israel can we? Wouldn't want to be anti-semetic.

  2. Indeed, I really dont understand why no one wants to say anything bad to Israel? The Americans bank roll them, and dont care about what they do?
    Is it still guilt about the holocost? Is it just because of all the rich powerful jewish people in America putting pressure on the government. I really dont know, and it makes little sense to me regardless?
    Im reading Exodus by Leon Uris at the moment to get an understanding about the history of the area. Its a historical fiction book about the foundation of Israel post WW2. His book Trinity, gets the whole Irish situation and history 100% correct, so Im assuming this book is the same! [its brilliant btw!]

  3. Hmm. Well, I think as ever there's two sides to the story. I think there is a realisation among a number of Western leaders that Israel's response has been 'dispreportionate'. I expect Israel has been asked/told to pack it in a good many times. Israel rather famously doesn't respond particularly well on such issues. I think there's a danger of mistaking the lack of general preaching to Israel by Western leaders as letting them 'get away with it'.
    One of the things you need to understand about Israel is that it sees itself as projecting a cause and effect aura of extreme retaliation. You might liken it to the fact that the West refuses to ever deal with terrorists because it emboldens other terrorists to believe that they will get what they want by engaging in these actions. Similarly Israel behaves like an animal in these regards so that it's quite obvious how Israel will respond.
    Cause and effect: you attack Israel and it does very bad things back to you and you damn well better believe they wont be surgical strikes against the actual fighters. And there lies the rub. Palestine and Lebanon both habour fighters that hide within the general population and if we're perfectly honest here, operate with local support for them a good deal of the time. A good deal of time they do not too, but your options for dialog with a religious nut-job holding an AK47 that lost his sister last year are kind of limited.
    Meanwhile Israel's thinking is this; if jonny raghead on a farm knows that if someone attacks Israel from behind a hay stack on his land, Israel will send the tanks in and demolish his farm then by extension farmer raghead will be less inclined to help. That's kind of true. Where it falls down though, is when you've got religious nut-job fighters/terrorists, which realistically are going to operate out of your farm/hovel/whatever regardless of your personal opinion on the matter for reasons covered above.
    Then, predictably, Israel sends in the tanks, runs over farmer raghead's favorite cow and whammo, any misgivings he had before are nicely erased. "Where's my AK?" asks farmer raghead and then he's one of the guys firing RPGs from behind a haystack on the next dude's farm. The factions like Hizbollah and Hamas rely on this as a primary recruitment drive. They aren't quite so cold and calculating about it, despite the fact it's obviously a pretty calous disregard for obvious cause and effect. The way they see it they are just relieved that someone else sees the enemy as clearly as they do. You're dealing with people brainwashed by religion pushed over the edge by grief and hopelessness. At least in Palestine anyway.
    Since Israel can't ever win over people back towards the cause and effect statement, things will always get gradually worse until flash point is reached again. It's sort of made worse by the issue of the vocal/upset minority. Both Israel and Palestine have elected hard line governments which have worsened the situation. Presumably because the more moderate views stayed at home or failed to argue their case.
    So what options are actually open to Israel here? In Lebanon, you've got a neverending stream of weapons from nice chaps like Syria and Iran, which end up getting fired into Israel from Southern Lebanon on a continual basis by everyone's favorite weekend jihadi's, Hizbollah. Naturally enough there comes a point when Israel does what Israel has always done, and it goes and cleans house around it's borders and bombs the shit out of anyone around just to say "It's not a good idea to mess with us" and to resecure it's own defence.
    International community up in arms. Largely because we're now in the television era. No one much cared last time this stuff went on with the previous wars because the BBC wasn't beaming pictures of children in hospital beds into your living rooms and, to be fair, the Arabs were rather braver back then and fought with tanks rather than RPGs from behind haystacks.
    World continues doing the talking but not doing shit type of stuff that typifies the UN. One doesn't go to war by committee as a rule. Meanwhile Israel carries on it's military campaign. Whammo, some nasty accidents like killed UN peacekeepers and an unfortunate strike upon a large group of civilians (I doubt Israel did it on purpose but that obviously doesn't absolve them of responsibility) all duely televised and so suddenly the world is galvanised into action.
    Ultimately Israel has been remarkably successful at getting exactly what it wants, if today's papers are any litmus test of the West's thinking in general. What Israel wants is a large peace keeping force in Lebanon and that's exactly what Blair and co are talking about. It would rather not have to bomb the place back to the stone age every few years. It just wants those Hizbollah guys to stop firing rockets south of the border. Not an entirely unreasonable position.
    So, yeah, Israel are bad guys and doing naughty stuff. However, where is the appropriate blame for the sponsor states that in essence engineered this entire tradgedy by the continual supply of weapons to Hizbollah? Unlike those radicals on the ground I spoke about earlier, these bastards were entirely cold and calculating about the entire thing. You can be sure they're now all rising up and down, pressing palms to the ground in the general direction of mecca with glee in some huge congratulatory orgy of self satisfaction at having Israel become the bad guys in this story.
    The mere cost of those Lebanese lives. Well, they didn't kill them right?
    Israel is a pile of bastards but, I think summarising the Western view, it's felt you can ultimately deal with them. Conversely how does one deal with the bearded clerics that started this conflict from afar? Now consider this; how will this entire scenario play out in 15 years when Iran has the bomb?

  4. When I watch this it just sickens me to my core. Fucking animals on both sides.
    You apply your brain to this problem and the end state becomes very very simple. How will it ever end - in one month, one year, one hundred? Well either by the extermination of one people (not going to happen in this context) or by the eventual loss of appetite for conflict through the attrition of cumulative casualties and sheer pain. So if you run a nation state you can look at the end state and say "ok so that's where we'll end up now my choice is how many people have to die before I make that choice".
    Here's a wild fucking thought - The Israeli nation makes a unilateral declaration of its need to achieve peace with its neighbours *for all time* that it is sick of the endless prospect of death on both sides. It gives the palestinians some land and recognises the nation. In return, all Arab countries agree that they should enforce the protection of a neighbour state and prosecute those who seek to attack it with maximum force.
    In a hundred or one thousand years people will look back and say "and that is how the israeli conflict ended". It's up to them how long they want to prolong it before it happens

  5. I don't think the peace-keeping force is an option, and even if it went ahead it would be a total disaster with those troops having to shoot Hezbollah fighters to stop them launching rockets, and then coming under attack from all sides themselves.
    The whole thing would be a sick joke on us. The Israelis bomb the shite out of Lebanon with US money and weapons, and UK support - but when it comes to the peace-keeping force of *course* they can't send any of their own troops because for some strange reason the Arabs hate their guts.. so it's left to French/German/Canadian/IRISH etc. lads to go in there and face the suicide bombers.
    When it comes to cold and calculating Lurks, the Iranians and Syrians and still newbies next to the masters.

  6. That's lefty clap-trap to be frank. There is no UK support for this bombing. Israel also has sent their troops as you might have noticed from today's papers but this is obviously a ground offensive and not a peacekeeping force. Like I've stated before, I don't have a great deal of love for Israel but this pro-Arab shite is no more accurate than any other view. The fact is, they have foreign armed fighters firing rockets into Israel and that is not an event which Israel calculated any which way you look at it.
    Neither did they calculate these peace keeping troops to arrive, if they had then they wouldn't be engaging in a ground offensive would they?

  7. I don't follow you there Lurks.. it seems to me the Israelis are going to get everything they want:
    Olmert gets to show what a great leader he is, by having the IDF blow the shite out of most of Lebanon. The Israeli citizens get a nice feeling of revenge for the Katyusha attacks. After another few weeks of civilian massacres in Lebanon the rest of the world will get all interested in the story and insist on a ceasefire and peacekeepers. Israel will continue with its attacks until it 'calculates' that it has done enough 'downgrading' and then will pull out to let the peacekeepers in.
    Then, when the Katyusha rocket attacks continue the Israelis will insist that the peacekeepers stop them by force, which results in soldiers from many different countries including Ireland having to shoot arabs and get blown up by suicide bombers, just to keep Israel safe. The Israelis can get fucked quite frankly, why should the rest of the world be held hostage by our conscience when they have none?

  8. I suppose I don't disagree with the sentiment entirely. However what you're basically doing is taking hindsight and claiming this was their plan all along. If you follow Israeli politics at all, you can tell it clearly wasn't. I still think this sort of lefty stuff always does a fabulous job of ignoring the position Israel finds itself in. I'm not defending how Israel has responded, I'm just saying it's more complicated than you're putting forth.
    And, you know, talking about a hypothetical scenario of peacekeeper troops being put in the line of fire (and I doubt putting combat inexperienced Irish troops on the line is quite on the cards) in order to stop Hizbollah; we can't know how that's going to pan out yet so I think it's a little premature for revisionist hindsight and pessemistic predictions of doom.

  9. Aye I'll admit I'm speculating now, I guess we'll just have to revisit this blog in a few months time and see what things are like then. The Irish soldiers aren't inexperienced though, they've been stationed in Lebanon with UNIFIL for many years now.

  10. Musings. Observations. Ranting:
    So our foreign policy on Israel is a failure. It is acknowledged that what happens in this region is central to extremist ideology in the war on terror. It culd trickle down to affect low-level as well as high-level terrorism, the way the west is seen to be conducting itself. And we allow things to get worse despite this. Perhaps the policy is not a failure, its just shit. There are morons in Government - damn our democratic ways. Is the UK Government listening and acting upon the will of the British people? Well Prezza currently has the red button and is right at this very second in charge of our great Island Nation so, erm, ph34r it.
    I figure the majority of Brits find the idea of shelling towns and cities and killing civilians pretty unnacceptable, but do Brits on the whole tend to think the British Government is doing anything in response to British opinion? I haven't seen any vox pops maybe someone else has.
    The UN really is looking more of a joke than it did even for say the ten years of power games involving little old Iraq. Why say you were created in the interests of humanity when you just can't do anything? It's crunch time UN, and what are you doing about it? Kofi must feel like a right prick. It cannot deploy any force, it cannot bash diplomatic heads. It's too big. It's too corrupt - well, not corrupt, I mean, influenced. The NGO bit does good work, almost always unsung in everyday news, and we mustn't forget that. But the big five on the security council? They're just an extension of their Governments so you cannot count on them when the chips are down for the little people. So wider than the present flashbang problems in Lebanon, I think the UN Security Council is even more eroded and even more useless.
    The Yanks, right. Next on my rant list in this mess. Condi fucking Rice the robot woman doing these faux news conferences. STOP IT! I SEE THROUGH YOU BITCH! You're not a public speaker and it hurts my head when you try to be a diplomat. Everything you say is turd. You're up to your necks in it and you're out for your own interests and certainly not any Lebanese women and children. Get the hell off my television!
    Next - Iran. Bunch of fuckers. Getting away with a lot right now and will stop at nothing to get a nuke. I'm no fan of grey-area Government where we do neither one thing nor the other. I would rather we did one thing, and did it at any cost, than faff about and no-one wins or the worst of the worst in the world is allowed to happen. Strong leadership is better than mediocre leadership. The bottom line - well for me anyway - is that the way Iran is run, and the way it 'fits in' (er, lol) on the world stage, results in direct and indirect support of international terrorism, whether it be right now in Lebanon or in Iraq. Okay, they're not the only ones. But they will use any distraction they can in the next 5 years as long as it guarantees them nuclear weapons. That must therefore include, by extension, whatever their strategy is for Shia terrorists in the region, including for example Hezbollah.
    But talking about Iran makes me sound like a Yank Republican, ick. They're not the ones to blame, the UK and the US are. We allow Israel to act like this, always worsening the cycle of regional violence. We allow the UN to operate the way it does. We are the ones being indecisive about Iran.
    Where to start? A decent foreign policy, I guess. Including doing something about US-Israeli unilateralism.

  11. Well, I did say combat experienced. UNIFIL is quite an interesting one actually, suffice to say Israel has a pretty dim view of the activities, or lack therof, of this peacekeeping force of around 2,000. Take a skim through this which goes all the way up to the present. It's kind of depressing reading really. Their limited and currently expiring mandate (been extended month by month for the last two, current is only up to the end of the month) is a little on the weak side. The best you'll find is 'urging' the Lebanese government "to do more to assert its authority in the south, to exert control and monopoly over the use of force and to maintain law and order on its entire territory."

  12. Yes, I think that's a good point beej. The US-Iraeli unilateralism has reached the point there the entire world is getting really quite irritated by it. The point, I guess for the UK at least is though, do you fall out with your best mate just because he's in love with an ugly bird?
    It's the sort of thing you have to fall out over because they're not going to take kindly to a sly whisper in the ear. "Matey, just between us - I think she's a bit of a munter."

  13. Our great leader was just on t'telly in a press conference and was making a very important sounding speech about peace or something or other. He was of course, quite brilliant. But he very nearly made me guffaw when he said something along the lines of:

    "In these days after 9/11 in New York, after 7/7 in London, and after 11/3 in Madrid..."

    I was just begging him to say something very very Team America, perhaps that "the sum of all our fears is 48", or that we all know what this means, or perhaps he could have slipped 7/11 or 20/20 or roger-10-4 in there for a bit of a laugh.
    But seriously, all he said in his press conference that its too early for a ceasefire, and that "maybe next week" they will start to have an idea of who will participate in some sort of stabilisation force (ISAF mark II!).
    International politics. All very fast-moving and reactive - when they don't want it to be.