A Sigh of Relief, for Some

As we finally see the almost unexpected release of Gilad, Israel finds itself with mixed emotions.

I think this editorial from the Director of the Harvard Center for Negotiations highlights the absurdities of such an unprecedentd deal in human life. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203914304576628644114718586.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEFTTopOpinion

This swap serves as an example, if not also a reminder of the small-town nature of the tiny Jewish state. The Israeli Defense Force may be more proffessional than ever in its history, but it is still made up of the people, and every soldier is someone’s brother, son, husband, father.

This is a dilemma for many Israelis, such as those who have lost family in terror attacks, or the soldiers of the last decade who risked their lives and lost friends arresting these 1000 terrorists. This is truly an unprecedented day for Israel, and naturally comes with mixed emotions and some uncertainty.

In any event, welcome home Gilad Schalit!

A Voice Amidst the Storm

In yet another unabashedly supportive editorial in the Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens defends Israel’s position and explains it’s current predicament.  As once allies abandon Israel left and right, the small “island” nation reels to find some balance and hold strong in this storm that has erupted from the Arab Spring.   

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904265504576566431045060822.html

The Injustice of Gilad Schalit’s Captivity

Gilad has been imprisoned for over 5 years now. 

As a combat soldier in the IDF on the front lines of Gaza in 2006, he could be considered a fair target for Hamas’ abduction.  Israel has actively employed the policy of arresting, trying, and imprisoning Hamas members who are proven to have perpetrated attacks on Israelis or are masterminding them.  All of the Hamas members in Israeli prisons were tried in a court of law, and are imprisoned based on a court mandated sentencing.  It is an organized affair, completely monitored all along the way (in the court rooms and inside the prisons) by the International Red Cross.  The stark difference here is that for over 5 years (since the moment of his capture) no one outside of Hamas has had any known contact with Gilad.  International Red Cross representatives have been denied access time and time again.  Any Israeli attempts to receive official word on his status (even through third parties) has been completely denied by Hamas. 

A wall mural in Jabalya, Gaza, depicting Gilad Schalit growing old in Hamas captivity.

 Hamas’ treatment of Gilad Schalit is inhumane.  Sadly, this does not surprise any Israeli.  Israelis learned the very hard way, long ago, that Hamas views Jews in Israel as subhuman and deserving of no human dignity.  Murals on Gaza streets boast that Gilad will grow old and rot in their captivity.  An immoral public display such as this, referring to Palestinian prisoners, would be unthinkable to see on Israeli walls.  This makes negotiations for Gilad’s release almost impossible.

This week protesters on Gilad’s behalf blocked a bus on an Israeli highway full of Palestinian families on their way to a prison in southern Israel.  This bus was taking Palestinian families from the West Bank to visit their loved ones who are Hamas members convicted and imprisoned in Israel.  The families on this bus committed no crime and were simply on their way to attend the regularly scheduled visiting days for their imprisoned family members.  The protesters carried signs that read “Who is visiting Gilad?” (For more on this story see: http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=233830)

This is the question that not enough people are asking.  Internationally, Israel is largely viewed as the “aggressor” and “inhumane occupier” in this protracted conflict with Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad.  It has been said that the best way for a country or people to be morally and ethically assessed is to examine their prisons.  Perhaps this is why Hamas will allow no such thing. 

 

An Inspirational Show of Determination

Seven months after she was shot in the head by a gunman in Tucson, Ariz., Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) made a surprise and emotional return to the House floor on Monday, casting a vote in favor of a bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.

Gabrielle Giffords, AZ Representative, receives warm welcome from colleagues

Giffords entered the chamber to sustained, standing applause, shaking hands with colleagues whom she had not seen since that January day. Her vote, a sideshow to the far more important and compelling personal drama, was in favor of the bill, which passed through the chamber by a margin of 269 to 161.

“I have closely followed the debate over our debt ceiling and have been deeply disappointed at what’s going on in Washington,” Giffords said, in a statement from her office. “After weeks of failed debate in Washington, I was pleased to see a solution to this crisis emerge. I strongly believe that crossing the aisle for the good of the American people is more important than party politics. I had to be here for this vote. I could not take the chance that my absence could crash our economy.”

For the rest of the article:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/01/gabrielle-giffords-debt-ceiling-vote_n_915569.html?icid=maing-grid7%7Caim%7Cdl1%7Csec1_lnk1%7C82716

A Voice of Sanity Amidst a Storm

“In my 30 years of war reporting, I had never met a young militant who threw away the gun, decided to follow the path of peace, and was willing to risk his life to speak about it. “I want to go public,” he told me, “because someone has to speak out against this self-destructive madness.”

Please read the rest of this great story by Paul Martin in the WSJ.  His film: “Rocket Man Under Fire,” tells the story of this young man, now held in Hamas captivity for 3 years, accused a “collaborator” with Israel simply because he refused to continue firing rockets indiscriminately into Israel. 

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304657804576401582791754282.html?mod=WSJ_World_MIDDLENews

And Somehow Israelis are the War Criminals?!?

I do feel like a broken record here sometimes, but the so-called international community will not let me rest. 

Last week an anti-tank missile’s laser targeting system was locked onto an Israeli school bus driving near the Gaza border and launched out of the Gaza Strip.  The Hamas terror cell that targeted and fired the missile could have little doubt that it would hit its target, as a school bus is the largest, softest target in the world of moving vehicles.  This blatant disregard for any form of human life on the Israeli side of the border is beyond outrageous, and is a heinous crime in all forms.  Furthermore, these hi-tech missiles are definitely not being manufactured in the Gaza Strip, and are one of the main items being smuggled through underground tunnels or in shipments of materials and humanitarian aid currently being allowed into Gaza by Israel. 

The Israeli schoolbus directly hit by an antitank missile fired from Gaza

Daniel Aryeh ben Tamar, a 16 year old student on his way to his Grandmother’s house after school, was critically injured in the head and remains hospitalized fighting for his life.  The only other person injured was the driver, who took heavy shrapnel to the leg.  The reason that only two people were injured is that 10 minutes prior, the bus had just unloaded the rest of its 35 highschool-age passengers.   That is the miraculous part.  This tragedy truly could have been considered the worst in Israel’s horrid history of terror attacks had the bus simply been hit 10 minutes earlier. 

Undoubtedly, Hamas considers this a miss.  Throughout our rough dealings over the decades with Hamas, they have always made civilian targets their top priority for attacks in Israel.  Despite this fact, and the fact that Hamas’ charter calls for the complete destruction of Israel and yearns for a future world that contains no Jews, Israel is repeatedly deemed the war criminal in this conflict by the international community. 

I ask again… what country would tolerate such a neighbor?  This is an issue that would have been easliy and brutally dealt with a long time ago in any other country.  The disproportionate amount of media and international attention on Israel, coupled with the extremely high moral standard that pervades in Israeli society, has made this a very protracted and difficult conflict.  Israelis are no fools to the reality of what Hamas is trying to bait them into.  Another war on the ground in Gaza plays directly into the strategy of Hamas, who actually thrive on the potentially high death count in their own densely populated strip of land.  Hamas knows that it can basically do whatever it wants to the Israelis, as last week is a clear example of, and still have almost complete world favor if Israel decides to attempt another offensive aimed at stopping the terror. 

This is the situation.  How many more school buses must be blown apart for Israel to have world support in its struggle against radical Islamic extremists? 

For the full story:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/08/world/middleeast/08gaza.html?scp=1&sq=israel%20school%20bus&st=cse

My Ride to Work

The front of bus 74, right after the bombing

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/24/world/middleeast/24israel.html?ref=world

This is the bus I take to work 3 days a week in Jerusalem… the 74. I had never heard of the 74 until I started working at my current job. It is just one of many busy bus routes that run all day through the city.  It is so weird to see the front of it with shrapnel in this NYTimes article. The part that actually shakes me up… that was my bus stop. I frequently walk (past the bus stop) the 20 mins to work… I think I’ll keep walking. Honestly, I think of this type of thing everyday as I walk by buses and bus stops and crowds in Jerusalem. I didn’t realize it had been since 2004. To me, it seems like yesterday. Now it was yesterday. Yesterday I happened to be working in Tel Aviv.  I have a strange feeling like I can’t tell this personal story to many people… like I don’t want my friends and family here or abroad to make such a close connection to the event, and at the same time I feel it is important for them to personalize it, to understand the reality.

Our Jihadi enemy’s campaign against us in Israel has always been to target and terrorize our civilian population.  A car of people, one a pregnant woman, is gunned down on the road to their home, forensic evidence showing that her belly had been shot point-blank.  A family slaughtered in their beds with knives, from the parents down to their infant.  A bomb placed at a civilian bus stop in the heart of a city, horribly maiming and killing those waiting for a bus. 

The IDF never targets civilians.  Utmost care is given to striking at militant headquarters, havens, and attack points strategically located in densely populated areas to deter our retaliation.  When civilians are killed by the IDF it is always an accident or a calculated risk involved with striking a crucial military target. 

Why is the violence between the Israelis and Palestinians always equated, as if there is no difference between what we do? 

If your parents and children could not go to school or work because of rockets and terrorist mass-murders were plaguing your town, and the enemy headquarters was less than 30 miles away (sometimes much closer), what would you advocate?  What would you think was an appropriate reaction?