Monday, July 31, 2006

More on Local Arab Reactions to the Israel-Lebanon War

Three weeks ago I was added to the mailing list of a person who goes by the moniker "Palestine_Muslim" and sees it as his duty to circulate to Islamic-themed flash greeting cards, Arabic chain e-mails and jokes to the whole wide world. From the names of the other e-mail recipients on the list, I gather that "Palestine_Muslim" got my address from another forward sent to me and dozens of other people by one of my colleagues at the Bedouin school at which I used to teach. This particular colleague, who is a good friend, also happens to be from Hebron, although he has permanent resident status in Israel due to family ties here. While I generally do not devote much attention to e-mail forwards, I have to admit that the jokes, cartoons and photo-montages that I receive through my Hebron connection have afforded me some insight into popular sentiments among Arabs in Israel and in the West Bank. That’s why I was especially curious to read a short piece titled “Success Story” that I received on June 18, a day after the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by Hizbullah. The story seemed quite apolitical at first, but turned out to be a clever allegory. Written in large purple Arabic type, the story starts with the lines:

كانت مجموعة من الضفادع تقفز مسافرةً بين الغابات

“A group of frogs was jumping [along] on a trip between the forests…” Well, this really got my attention, because – call me strange –ever since Kermit and those funny beer commercials with the frogs, I’ve had a soft spot for those slimy amphibians. So, I continued reading… In the story, our green protagonists stumble upon a deep well and two of them fall in. The rest of the frogs, on seeing the depth of the well, begin to scream that their comrades are in dire straits and that they are close to death. The two frogs, however, ignore their “friends” and muster all their strength to try to climb out of the wall. Instead of encouraging them, the group of frogs continues screaming, telling them to stop since they’re both as good as dead:

واستمر جمهور الضفادع بالصياح بهما أن تتوقفا عن المحاولة لأنهما ميتتان

Finally, one of the frogs gives up in exhaustion and plunges to his death:

أخيرا انصاعت إحدى الضفدعتين لما كان يقوله الجمهور, واعتراها اليأس؛ فسقطت إلى أسفل البئر ميتة

The other frog, however, continues jumping with all its strength while the onlookers tell it to surrender to death until it suddenly succeeds in leaping to freedom. When they come face to face with the frog, they ask it why it did not listen to them and give up. The frog explains that it was injured and turned partly deaf as a result. As a result, the frog assumed that its “nation” was encouraging it to carry out its dangerous mission all this time:

شرحت لهم الضفدعة أنها مصابة بصمم جزئي, لذلك كانت تظن وهي في الأعماق أن قومها يشجعونها على إنجاز المهمة الخطيرة طوال الوقت

The story ends with a line written in bold orange in which the author declares “[I’m] sure you got the message.”

I’ll leave it up to you to figure out the allegory. All I’d like to say at this stage is that a more accurate allegory would have had three frogs who, rather than falling into the well, lead their fellow frogs into the abyss.

Amir Peretz Apologizes to the Families of those Killed in Qana

At a special meeting of the Knesset convened today, Amir Peretz (Labor) began his speech with an apology from the IDF to the Lebanese people. His address, one of the most impressive speeches he has delivered as the Minister of Defense, emphasized the importance of continuing the war against Hizbullah. He emphasized that the 48 hour cessation of aerial bombing was not a permanent cease fire, and that it was being granted only to allow for humanitarian relief efforts. Peretz's speech was interrupted dozens of times by Arab MKs who, among other things, called him a "child-murderer" and "angel of death." Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik (Kadima) at first told them that she would not do them the favor of ejecting them, but in the end the interruptions were simply too much. Peretz did not react in any way to their shouting. Three Arab MKs were ejected, including Taleb al-Sana and Ibrahim Sarsur from Ra'am-Tal and Jamal Zuhalka from Balad.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Arab Israelis and the War

In the Old City

A recent article in Ha'aretz, which features Ghaleb Kiwan, the news reporter for Arabic-language broadcast on HOT (Israeli cable network), suggests that some Arab Israelis actually want to see Israel lose the war against Hizbullah. I can understand opposition to the war because of the deaths of Lebanese civilians, but I am baffled by statements such as these, made by Kiwan while touring Haifa:
"It's natural and legitimate for an Arab to identify with Nasrallah because this is not a war that threatens Israel's existence," he explains. "Why shouldn't I identify with him when I don't get all my rights from this country, when I'm surrounded by a militaristic society and when Israel is attacking him so fiercely?"
I don't know whether most Arab Israelis really share Kiwan's views. I have heard from some Arab Israelis who, despite their opposition to the war, would never identify with Nasrallah. I also have a friend who supports the war and actually does view it as a threat to Israel's existence. (How can missile attacks that shut down the entire north of the country NOT be an existential threat?). On the other hand, while walking through the Muslim quarter of the old city in Jerusalem last week, I overheard a 14-year-old boy (the child of one of the shopkeepers there) stopping an American tourist, asking her whether she understood Hebrew. When she responded in the affirmative, he told her with a broad grin that חיזבאללה בדרך - "Hizbullah is on the way." Then again, the views held by Palestinians from East Jerusalem are not necessarily identical to Arabs in Israel proper.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Third Alarm in Haifa

It's only 8:30 AM and we're sitting in the hallway, listening to the third alarm of the day. This time I'm actually hearing explosions, so it's not a false alarm. Inch, the cat, is listening and sitting with us in the hallway.

No End to Sirens in Haifa

I came back to Haifa late last night after almost a week in Tel Aviv and Ashdod. It was nice to have a break from the sirens, the missiles, and the explosions. I think it was a badly needed break. This morning, promptly at 6:5o, we were woken by the air raid warning siren. As usual, I met my roommate in the hallway. We tried to go back to sleep but at 7:05, there was another alarm. Both seem to be false (at least in Haifa). I decided to get up anyways even though I had set my alarm clock for 8:00. There doesn't seem to be a point in trying to go back to sleep. The company I work for has organized a "Fun Day" for its employees in the North.

Strange Reaction to the Seattle Shooting

Medics Evacuate the Wounded (Seattle, not Israel)

It finally happened. On Friday, a gunman penetrated the Jewish Federation building in downtown Seattle and opened fire on people inside, killing one woman and seriously injuring five others, some of whom are in critical condition. Naveed Afzal Haq, an American citizen of Pakistani descent, apparently identified himself as an American Muslim “angered by Israel.” The FBI believes that he acted alone and does not belong to any terrorist organizations. It is possible that the attacker was a mentally unstable individual; his police record indicates a prior charge for lewd conduct. Most American Muslim organizations immediately condemned the terror attack. Nevertheless, there have been a few isolated reactions that deserve some scrutiny. I was a bit baffled, for example, to read the following statement by Ziyad Zaitoun, a 52-year-old civil engineer taking part in a protest against Israel’s operation in Lebanon, who was quoted in the Seattle Times:

"[A]ny time something like this happens — especially against the state of Israel or people connected to the state of Israel — we fear for our lives" as Muslims, Zaitoun said.

There are some who claim that American and European Jews are alarmists who exaggerate threats to Jewish communities in the Diaspora in order to further pro-Israeli political agendas. Those who belittle threats against Jews and Jewish organizations, sometimes simultaneously insist that Muslims, in America, Europe, and the Middle East, are more deserving of “victim status.” Inevitably, the clamoring for victim status becomes a zero-sum game. After all, the perfect victim cannot also be a perpetrator. Furthermore, the argument for Muslim victim status sometimes turns into a corollary argument that Jews are the real perpetrators. Zaitoun’s statement plays on fears about a backlash against Muslims in America to insinuate that the state of Israel, Jewish organizations and their allies represent a mortal danger to American Muslims! This is a malicious and dangerous distortion. Zaitoun might be justified in dissociating Muslim Americans as a whole from the attack (though the reality is that there are some in the North American Muslim communities who do incite attacks against Jews). But his insinuation could also justify further attacks, as it implies that Jews are threatening Muslim lives.

It was also bizarre to read that

Seattle police were protecting temples and mosques Saturday after a suspected hate killing prompted fears of the Middle East crisis spreading to the United States (CNN).

Muslim extremists in Canada, the US, and Europe have attacked Jews and Jewish institutions in the past. In doing so, they have indeed spread the means used by terrorists in the Middle East to North America and Western Europe. But it is simply misleading to suggest that the “Middle East crisis [is] spreading to the United States.” This statement implies that there has been some kind of parallel Jewish response, and that American Jewish groups and individuals are gearing up to launch attacks on mosques or Muslim community centers. In fact, American Jewish organizations, perhaps because of their long experience in battling hate crimes, have been very vocal in speaking out against attacks on Muslims institutions and the marginalization of Muslim Americans.

Hizbullah Responsible for Death of UN Observers

A news article published in the Ottawa Citizen has some concrete proof that Hizbullah fighters used the area close to the UN Observer post that was eventually bombed by Israel. Four unarmed UN Observers, including one Canadian, who should never have been in such a dangerous combat zone were killed by the air strike. The article published in the Citizen quotes an e-mail sent by Major Paeta Hess-von Kruedener in which he basically says that Israeli fire was coming ever closer to the UN observation post because Hizbullah was firing from its vicinity:
The words of a Canadian United Nations observer written just days before he was killed in an Israeli bombing of a UN post in Lebanon are evidence Hezbollah was using the post as a "shield" to fire rockets into Israel, says a former UN commander in Bosnia.

Those words, written in an e-mail dated just nine days ago, offer a possible explanation as to why the post -- which according to UN officials was clearly marked and known to Israeli forces -- was hit by Israel on Tuesday night, said retired Maj.-Gen. Lewis MacKenzie yesterday.

The strike hit the UN observation post in the southern Lebanese village of El Khiam, killing Canadian Maj. Paeta Hess-von Kruedener and three others serving as unarmed UN military observers in the area.

Just last week, Maj. Hess-von Kruedener wrote an e-mail about his experiences after nine months in the area, words Maj.-Gen. MacKenzie said are an obvious allusion to Hezbollah tactics.

"What I can tell you is this," he wrote in an e-mail to CTV dated July 18. "We have on a daily basis had numerous occasions where our position has come under direct or indirect fire from both (Israeli) artillery and aerial bombing.

"The closest artillery has landed within 2 meters (sic) of our position and the closest 1000 lb aerial bomb has landed 100 meters (sic) from our patrol base. This has not been deliberate targeting, but rather due to tactical necessity."

Those words, particularly the last sentence, are not-so-veiled language indicating Israeli strikes were aimed at Hezbollah targets near the post, said Maj.-Gen. MacKenzie.

"What that means is, in plain English, 'We've got Hezbollah fighters running around in our positions, taking our positions here and then using us for shields and then engaging the (Israeli Defence Forces)," he said.

That would mean Hezbollah was purposely setting up near the UN post, he added. It's a tactic Maj.-Gen. MacKenzie, who was the first UN commander in Sarajevo during the Bosnia civil war, said he's seen in past international missions: Aside from UN posts, fighters would set up near hospitals, mosques and orphanages.
I recall MacKenzie being one of the few people during the Bosnian civil war to give detailed accounts of how BOTH Serb and Bosnian militias were using dirty tactics. He made his comments at a time when Sarajevo was under siege so that they were quite unpopular. People misunderstood him as trying to somehow justify the actions of Serb militias against Sarajevo's civilian population and it seems that he was silenced pretty quickly.

More About Hizbullah Bullying in Southern Lebanon

Anton Efendi, the brilliant author of Across the Bay, an academic blog on Middle Eastern affairs with a focus on the Levant, has posted additional evidence of Hizbullah's intimidation tactics. The Efendi cites sources that suggest that Hizbullah executed 18 people suspected of spying for Israel and that the group is trying to get to Druze villages in order to stage attacks from them. Apparently, large numbers of Hizbullah troops have so far been unable to get to one key village, because the villagers are trying to prevent them from entering it. IDF bombing of the roads to the village have also made it more difficult for Hizbullah to move forces there. Hizbullah has so far punished one village by cutting off its electricity and water.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Help for Israelis Displaced from the North

עזרה ודיור זמני לתשובי הצפון

Our reader yaakova asked me to publish the following message for the benefit of families from the north:

12 more temporary residences for refugees from the north were just posted on my blog, at

Stating the Obvious

There should not be any doubt about the fact that Hizbullah is using civilian areas as a staging ground for its rocket attacks. Nevertheless, I've heard a number of people ridiculing IDF claims that the houses of many Shi'a villagers serve as rocket depots. Hizbullah is successfully duping television audiences around the world with its guided "tours" of destroyed "civilian" buildings and of carefully controlled hospital wards. None of the reporters filing stories from southern Lebanon or Beirut actually have the freedom or ability to investigate what is under the piles of rubble of buildings levelled by the Israeli Air Force. To their credit, a number of reporters have made it clear that they are not being given the access necessary to do their work and to ensure that they can give a balanced picture of the situation. A recent New York Times article by Sabrina Tavernise reveals that Hizbullah is not only using Shi'a villages as weapons depots, but that it is also firing its rockets from Christian villages:

But for some of the Christians who had made it out in this convoy [to Tyre], it was not just privations they wanted to talk about, but their ordeal at the hands of Hezbollah — a contrast to the Shiites, who make up a vast majority of the population in southern Lebanon and broadly support the militia.

“Hezbollah came to Ain Ebel to shoot its rockets,” said Fayad Hanna Amar, a young Christian man, referring to his village. “They are shooting from between our houses.”

“Please,’’ he added, “write that in your newspaper.”


Many Christians from Ramesh and Ain Ebel considered Hezbollah’s fighting methods as much of an outrage as the Israeli strikes. Mr. Amar said Hezbollah fighters in groups of two and three had come into Ain Ebel, less than a mile from Bint Jbail, where most of the fighting has occurred. They were using it as a base to shoot rockets, he said, and the Israelis fired back.

One woman, who would not give her name because she had a government job and feared retribution, said Hezbollah fighters had killed a man who was trying to leave Bint Jbail.

“This is what’s happening, but no one wants to say it” for fear of Hezbollah, she said.

All of these reports seem very credible to me. Obviously, Hizbullah won't think twice about drawing Israeli fire to civilians, especially if they are not Shi'a and are opposed to the group. The bitter truth is that, in the end, they win twice. Not only are their opponents killed, but they can also use the civilian casualties in their propaganda battle against Israel.

Another obvious observation that I'd like to share here is that Israel will almost certainly embark on a more massive operation in southern Lebanon or even beyond in the coming weeks. Three reserve divisions have been called up. There is no way that the Israeli economy can sustain that many young people out of work for a long period of time. Unless there is some kind of active international intervention or unless Hizbullah miraculously folds, those divisions are going to be used. The reason is that it will be quite difficult to send all these people home again without combat, only to call them up once more when the next crisis errupts.

My own view of Israeli strategic security has really changed as a result of this war. I was once convinced that Israel's alliance with the United States and its firepower would be enough to deter any threat posed by Hizbullah's deployment in the south after the withdrawal in 2000. Clearly, Hizbullah, Syria and Iran have done their homework and prepared well for fighting an asymmetrical war of this sort. Obviously, the Iraqi experience has taught them a great deal as well. We have thus come to a point at which Israeli military superiority does not have enough of a deterrence value. It might deter Iran and Syria from launching a conventional attack on Israel, but it will not prevent them from acting through their non-state proxies.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Suddenly, Nasrallah doesn't seem so bad after all

Lead article in the New York Times for tomorrow: voices from the Arab nations, after a period of condemning or at least scorning Hizbollah's instigation of a war that spills innocent Arab blood, are starting to change their tune. Note in particular the warning issued by the Saudi royal court. It seems that Israel's diplomatic capital - which is dependent on anti-Hizbollah sentiment - is quickly drying up.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Debunking "Disproportionality"

I’ve spent the past week absorbing countless news articles, blog entries, analyses and opinion pieces on the ongoing war between Israel and Hizbullah. One of the prevailing themes in a lot of the commentary is the claim that the Israeli air campaign against Hizbullah is disproportionate and therefore immoral. There is no denying that Israel’s counter-attack on Hizbullah has inflicted more damage on Lebanon and has resulted in the deaths of more Lebanese civilians than the hundreds of missiles that have been launched against Israel. But does this necessarily mean that the Israeli response is disproportionate and morally reprehensible? One need only scrutinize the premises on which the self-righteous calls for a ceasefire are based to understand their folly.

One of the basic assumptions of many “well-meaning” outside observers is that a “body count” comparing Israeli and Lebanese fatalities somehow proves that Israel is the guilty party in this conflict. By this logic, Israel can redeem itself only if the hundreds of missiles being launched by Hizbullah eventually succeed in inflicting massive casualties on Israeli civilians. There is something almost endearing about the charity of the naïve proponents of this knee-jerk “moralistic” doctrine. After all, it offers Israel the prospect of moral salvation. All that is needed is for the Israeli government to order the hundreds of thousands of Israelis hunkering in bomb shelters, apartment building staircases, basements, corridors or living rooms to go outside, report to work and to gather in large public spaces– in short, to resume their normal lives. Some of the hundreds of missiles being launched at Israel every day will surely hit enough Israeli civilians. Hizbullah lacks neither the motivation nor the capability to inflict heavy casualties on the Israeli home front in a bid to demoralize the Israeli public. The only reason that hundreds of civilians in the Galilee in northern Israel are still alive is that they have, unfortunately, become accustomed to taking cover from incoming katyusha rockets. I do not want to reveal too much here about the sites that have been hit in Haifa and other places. Suffice it so say that, under normal circumstances, absent the measures taken by the Israeli authorities, the Home Front Command and employers who told their workers not to come, we would be hearing about many more Israeli victims.

Israel has invested in bomb shelters for its citizens and in radar installations that (sometimes) sound warnings about incoming fire, because it’s been in these kinds of situations before. Did Hizbullah or the Lebanese government take any measures to protect its civilians? Did they evacuate civilians living close to their bases and weapons depots? A number of reports have stated that Hizbullah fighters even set up checkpoint to prevent refugees from fleeing the south. I do not know if these reports are true, but I’m sure that Nasrallah and his friends are well protected in their Iranian-built bunkers and elaborate tunnels and caves. They certainly prepared themselves for the Israeli air strikes that they triggered and for the entry of IDF ground forces into their strongholds.

If this war were only about two kidnapped soldiers, one could perhaps understand claims that the Israeli air campaign is unjustified. In fact, there is much more at stake here. This war is an attempt to deal with a group that has shown that it is able to paralyze Israel’s north and to potentially kill hundreds of Israeli civilians. Unlike the Arab states in the region, most which have a greater military capacity than Hizbullah, Nasrallah does not make the sobering calculations that his sponsors in Iran and Syria would make before plunging their country in ruin. Who knows what Hizbullah would have done next? Who is to say that they will not seize on a pretext other than the Palestinian issue or the release of prisoners with blood on his hands to attack Israel in the future?

Opponents of the withdrawal from Lebanon have argued for the past six years that Barak’s pull-out would come back to haunt Israel. They would cite the fact that Hizbullah was being armed by Iran and Syria and had deployed thousands of missiles in the south to make their case. Supporters of the withdrawal, myself included, usually ended up arguing that Israel had gained international legitimacy in return. I would then find myself trying to convince my skeptical interlocutor of the merits of having international opinion on one’s side. Frankly, if Hizbullah is allowed to hide behind the inevitable death of Lebanese civilians that it sowed and is not called to account for its actions, one can only draw the conclusion that fickle international opinion or the moral support of a club of self-righteous European states is hardly worth counting on.

Trying to preserve the status quo ante by calling for a cease-fire and throwing out vague plans for an international force in Lebanon will do nothing to restore stability to the Middle East. I respect the calls to allow humanitarian aid to flow to Lebanon, as long as that aid is not expropriated and exploited by Hizbullah to gain more supporters. I would not be critical of the British Foreign Office if it had simply called on all sides in this conflict to make every effort to limit civilian casualties. But the international community must accept that, just as in the Kosovo War waged against Milosevic’s Yugoslavia in 1999 using overwhelming air power, there are going to be civilian casualties in this conflict. As a Canadian, I am proud to say that, outside of the United States, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was one of the few world leaders at the G-8 who opposed the embrace of an immediate cease-fire that would only serve to strengthen Hizbullah. The onus to stop these hostilities should be placed squarely on Nasrallah.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Many Katyushot, Many Injuries

Haifa was just hit by 16 rockets and many people were injured. I recognize different places shown on TV, but of course exact locations aren't announced. I made a few phone calls to friends in Haifa.
Despite the continuing rocket attacks, I want to go home...

Sirens Continue to go off in Haifa

Though I'm still in Tel Aviv, I'm informed by friends that sirens continue to go off in Haifa. Avinoam reports that yesterday there were four sirens. I just spoke to my boss and she told me that today, although it's still morning, there have already been a bunch of sirens. The katyushot, however, have been causing minimal if any damage over these couple of days. Some seem to have landed in the sea.
If anyone in the north is looking for a free, safer place to stay further south, someone named Yaakova left a comment on Kishkushim that lodgings can be found on her blog,

Monday, July 24, 2006

Noon, Haifa Quiet

I just got off the phone with a friend of mine who is still in Haifa. Up until now, he said that Haifa has been quiet. There haven't been any alarms or katyushot since yesterday. Let's hope the quiet will last. If it doesn't, he and his wife will also come to stay in Tel Aviv for a while.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

More Haifans Head South,

including myself. Some friends of mine drove back up from Tel Aviv to Haifa to check on their apartment and pack more things and offered to take me back to Tel Aviv with them. After a lot of internal and external debate, I accepted the offer. It was a very difficult decision to make but I received a lot of encouragement from my boyfriend and my roommate. There were many reasons why, despite the daily and constant rocket attacks, it was difficult for me to leave. I packed with a heavy heart. My boyfriend remains in the north and I'm not sure when we will see each other again. I don't know when I will be back at home. Paranoid thoughts also run across my mind, like worrying about my roommate and wondering if my apartment will still be standing when I come back. I just got into Tel Aviv and it's quite late.

Eighth and Ninth

Haifa's eighth and ninth alarm sirens of the day just sounded, maybe a minute apart.
Galei Tzahal, an Israeli radio station, just announced that since this morning, 70 katyushot have fallen in the north.
Yesterday, it was 150 katyushot.

Seventh Alarm

We're back in the hallway, listening to the seventh alarm sirens of the day. Avinoam and his friend Eyal, who came over earlier, say they can hear far-off booms. I couldn't heard them, but we'll know shortly after watching the news.
The previous rocket attack hit very close to my friend's parents' home. They've decided to leave Haifa.

Boom without Siren

We heard a boom a few minutes ago, but there was no warning siren. On the news, nothing has been updated. A friend who heard it as well already called though and it appears to have been another katyusha landing...

Update: The sirens have just come on. Thanks! I wish they put them on BEFORE the katyushot start falling. Okay, we're back to counting booms - 1, 2, the sirens are still wailing. Okay, they've stopped. We'll wait a bit though, before we head back to the living room.

The IDF's public relations tactics: how to alienate friends and shoot yourself in the foot

How not to wage this war - right: Israeli children write graffiti on IDF shells

Here's an excellent critique of Israel's missteps in the public relations battle with Hizbullah, written by my friend Uri and edited by his significant other, Tamar, as well as myself.

It is plain to see that the IDF has tactical and military superiority over Hizbullah. Nasrallah is even more aware of it than the Israelis are. In fact, warfare does not take place in the battlefield, using tanks and aircraft, but in the public sphere, where the masses are affected by the media, be it via sound, photographs or videos. In this struggle, achievements are not necessarily measured by actual damage inflicted on each side, but by transforming this damage to catchy simplistic slogans, which can be disseminated quickly to its designated audience.

Since terror leaders are aware of their military inferiority, they ascribe pivotal importance to public affairs and propaganda. This phenomenon can be recognized in almost any Jihad arena. Thus, any “respected” organization runs a professional information desk, which produces audio and video tapes, operates internet sites and forums and of course provides radio and television broadcasting to anyone ready to receive it. Hizbullah for example operates a few internet sites, and runs radio and T.V stations (“Nur” and “Al-Manar” respectively).

When examining records of speeches made by terror leaders it becomes clear that it is frequently directed at the western audience (and the Israelis in Hizbullah’s case). Appeals to this audience aimed at demoralizing civilians and their leadership as well as sowing dissension between them. Much like Ayman Al-Zawahiri who frequently addresses British and American citizens in his speeches, Nasrallah, unfortunately manages to effectively unnerve the Israeli audience. Nasrallah, to some extent, is even admired, rather irrationally, by his Israeli viewers.

Leaders of global Jihad aspire to accomplish their achievements by broadcasting propaganda campaigns to the civilian populations of “crusader states”. Likewise, Nasrallah, by addressing the “Zionist” community, attempts to affect Israeli governmental policy using the public sphere.

Therefore, it is essential to understand that tanks and aircraft, as modern and effective as they might be, will not win this war because the struggle will not end by total destruction of the other side. On the contrary, the “real” points are those obtained in the public affairs’ battlefield (which can be naturally divided to three groups: the Israeli public sphere; the Arab one; and the western-international).

Even if we assume that Israel can effortlessly attain the support (and understanding) of its citizens on the home front, there is no denying the difficulties it faces in the international and Arab public arena. Thus, if the first days of the Israeli operation in Lebanon were accepted by the western world and the international community (and even by great parts of the Arab world) with full understanding, and strict condemnation of Hizbullah for its “adventurous behavior”, now, with every hour that passes, Israel is increasingly being condemned and accused of committing crimes against humanity. The world’s view of Hizbullah clearly remained unchanged from a week ago. But there is a difference - the vast destruction and injuries caused by Hizbullah on the Israeli home front receive less airtime as opposed to the more sensational Beirut bombings. Consequently, Hizbullah is now less condemned, and in the long term, when considering “the day after” the military campaign, Hizbullah will be the first to enjoy its achievements, not within the battlefield itself, but in its vast, well conducted, media production.

To sum up: Israel must first of all realize that failure within the public affairs arena can result in political defeat, regardless of the results of the military campaign. Thus, Israeli official speakers, and in particular army generals, must be professional, eloquent and fluent when making their appearances in the media. At least for now, as one can gather, this is not the case: the generals are hardly capable of saying a single sentence without reading it, and the political leaders (especially Olmert and Peretz), lack confidence, experience and charisma (I cannot recall other Israeli leaders that match their poor performance). Second, while we cannot prevent the media from publishing photographs of bombed out Lebanese neighborhoods, Israel owes it to itself to do everything in its power to control the visual content that it releases to the media, especially the foreign networks. Failures in the battle for public opinion must be viewed with the same gravity as military setbacks. The recent release to the foreign media of photographs of Israeli children “decorating” IDF artillery shells is no less deplorable than the intelligence failure that resulted in the near-sinking of the Israeli naval warship off the coast of Beirut. Pictures of this nature serve as a welcome weapon in the arsenals of hostile bloggers Hizbullah’s propagandists, by devastating Israel’s image abroad. What the IDF was thinking when it permitted these children on the grounds of a closed military base, and why the IDF Spokesperson authorized the release of these scandalous photographs is beyond comprehension. For now, Hizbullah can chalk up another victory on the narrative-building battlefield. In the long run, it is clumsy displays of IDF incompetence in the public relations battle of this sort that will allow Hizbullah to emerge victorious, regardless of the warfare’s actual outcome.

Fifth Alarm

I just finished mopping the entire house and had worked up a sweat when the sirens came on again. Seems to be a false alarm. Maybe something fell in Carmiel, Tzfat (Safed), or Nahariyah. I really want to take a shower now but I'm afraid to get caught there by an alarm. The bathroom faces the north so it's the most dangerous area in the house. But it's 31 degrees in Haifa today and it's hot in my house (most homes in Israel don't have central air conditioning).

Fourth Siren

Just a couple of minutes after we experienced the third alarm, we're here in the hallway listening to the fourth one. Avinoam heard an explosion but it seemed to be far away; I didn't hear anything. I'm busy writing and our TV is blasting in the background.
I was in the middle of doing "sponja" - mopping the floors - when the alarm came on. Since we're stuck here the whole day, I guess it might as well be clean!

Third Siren of the Day

Avinoam and I are in the hallway again - the third siren of the day in Haifa. The siren has finished sounding but we haven't heard any booms yet. It may have been a false alarm.

An Hour Later, Second Siren Sounds

I'm in the hallway, listening to the second siren of the day in Haifa. The siren is pretty long - that's good, it means people have adequate warning time to head into safety - either in a bomb shelter or in their "protected room".
We heard only one boom now and it appears to be over. We'll stay here for another bit just to make sure there, and then we'll go back to the living room to check the room.

A note on the "protected room," or mamad as it's called in Hebrew: every new home in Israel must have one of these. It has thicker walls; the windows must open with hinges and have a heavy metal cover so the glass doesn't explode. The room's door is usually made out of thick metal with rubber lining so that it can be made resistant to chemical gases. Apartments in older buildings, like ours, do not have a mamad. We're expected to go to the local bomb shelter when the air raid warning sirens come on.

Good Morning, Haifa!

I was just woken again by the first siren of the day. Before I expressed that I stopped bothering to run into the hallway, but that isn't true anymore. After I saw more Haifa houses being damaged on TV, I realized that I should do what I can, even if it's minimal. If my house is hit, we're in big trouble. We don't have a "protected room" (mamad) and not enough time to run to the bomb shelter downstairs. The reason few people were killed from direct hits on their homes is because they weren't inside of them - they were either inside bomb shelters, had left the city, or were elsewhere. The sirens gave us a pretty good warning. Then the booms started - loud ones, and many of them. I've stopped bothering to count, because it doesn't really make a difference. We've starting saying "a lot of katyushot" or "just a few katyushot".
We're watching Israel's Channel 2 and they've just announced that two people have been killed by this rocket attack. CNN reported that the Technion, one of the two universities in Haifa, has been hit and there are wounded there. Nesher, a suburbian city of Haifa, was also hit. Avinoam's parents live in Nesher and heard the booms very loud. We recognize all the places shown on TV, but in general they're still not announcing direct locations.
I'm supposed to have my dentist appointment today (finally - it was delayed last week because of the situation). Now I don't know if it will be delayed again or not.

Updates: After I made my rounds to check on my friends, I realized that more people have left the city (although based on the traffic we faced yesterday coming back north, people are returning).
The dentist office just called me. My appointment has been cancelled again. I'm not concerned about my toothache because it's minor and manageable. But I've been told that if you don't care of those things at the beginning, you might need a root canal at the end.
On the news we just found out that one of the killed people was in his car. He was driving on a main street that we often drive on when a katyusha hit in front of him. The little metal balls from the katyusha pierced the car and killed him.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Back in Haifa

I'm back in Haifa, in my apartment. The apartment keeps trembling every once in a while - I'm finding it a bit unnerving. It's been like that at least for the past 30 minutes. I guess it might have something to do with planes, but I don't know anything about that.

Carmia to be interviewed on FOX News

FOX News is conducting a live interview with Carmia today, Saturday, June 22, at 8 PM E.S.T., which converts to 3 AM on Sunday, June 23 in Israel.

[ADDENDUM: After making a 3 AM local time telephone appointment, the FOX reporter never called. He has not responded to subsequent e-mails either.]

Many Sirens Heard in Haifa Today

My friend Zakhi, who also reported this in the comments section, informed me that there have already been about eight sirens up until now. According to news reports, missiles have hit Haifa but landed in open fields.

Migration South

I'm still in Ashdod. We're planning to return to Haifa this evening, but the family is putting a lot of pressure on us to stay here in the centre/south.
I just spoke to my friend from Haifa and he says they have already experienced two air raid warning sirens today - one at 10:45 AM and the other at 11:10 AM. They were both false alarms though. However, even here in Ashdod, we cannot avoid the news (nor do we want to) and know that other cities in northern Israel were hit today.

Because of these ongoing missile attacks on the north, many Israelis from anywhere south of Haifa are hosting family and friends.
My wonderful friend Pnina, a woman whose heart is an open door with a big welcome mat in front, is one of these people. Her family, which consists of her, her husband and three children, are also hosting her brother-in-law's family (husband, wife, four children), her sister and her three children, at some point also her daughter's boyfriend, and her parents were over for a visit. On top of that, she has also invited my boyfriend and me to stay with them. Yesterday when we visited them on our way down to Ashdod, there were 18 people in her home.
Another friend of mine who lives in Tel Aviv is currently hosting her mother, two of her sisters, and their children, all from the Qrayot (suburbs of Haifa who are also experiencing rocket attacks), in her small apartment.

Many hotels and guest homes south of Haifa are also reporting a 100% occupancy rate.

More of my friends have left Haifa in the last couple of days.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Missiles Fall Too Close for Comfort

I was at the shuq when Carmia called me, and she asked me to put up her post (she had been able to save it as a draft just before her cable burnt). This time she heard four rockets (at least this was true when we last spoke), but apparently seven fell in total, and they fell too close. I cannot divulge the details, but they seem to have landed in a nieghborhood that is a stone's throw away from hers, hitting a postal office. Our friend Rami, a Christian Arab from Haifa who is here in Tel Aviv with me now, lives in that neighborhood. This time, I really thank God that everything is okay, and I, too, am becoming afraid. She and her boyfriend are leaving Haifa soon. Shortly after I got Carmia's phone call, rumors were spreading among the vendors about the number of dead. "Oy oy oy," I heard one man exclaim, "more rockets on Haifa."

Friday's First Siren in Haifa

I wish I could say that there's nothing to report in Haifa, but we just had our first siren. I thought it might just be another false alarm but we heard three katyushot land and the explosions were really powerful. I screamed against my will with each boom. After we thought it was safe, we went back to the living room but jumped back right away to the hallway when we heard a fourth, even louder missile hit.
Hearing ambulances.
My electrical cable from the computer just burned and my laptop's battery is very old so it will last me only for a few more minutes. I will not be able to blog for a while now.
My boyfriend and I will try to drive to Ashdod soon. His parents and siblings live there and we always visit them every second weekend. With these missile strikes though, I don't know how safe it is to be on the roads in Haifa.

The War of the Missiles

A Wounded Soldier Being Evacuated Near Avivim

Operations on the ground have long begun, with thousands of IDF troops in the theater. The Hizbullah is proving to be a smart and determined enemy. The IDF has taken a number of casualties. But it looks like the katyushot are letting up a bit. The main aim of the operation is to root out the many Hizbullah positions in southern Lebanon, which involves destroying a vast network of tunnels. An acquaintance of mine, Prof. Ra'anan Boustan, observed that this war does not have a name yet. He is pushing the moniker מלחמת הטילים (The War of the Missiles).

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Will Israel Open a 3rd or 4th Front?

The US House of Representatives passed a resolution today "condemning the recent attacks against the State of Israel, holding terrorists and their state-sponsors accountable for such attacks, supporting Israel's right to defend itself."

No surprises here. Yet while the House bill echoed most of the language of Senate Resolution 534, passed Tuesday, the House measure was more robust. One Congressman who voted against the bill, Jim McDermott (D-Washington), objected to a particular clause not included in the Senate's resolution.

The House bill supports "Israel's right to take appropriate action to defend itself, including to conduct operations both in Israel and in the territory of nations which pose a threat to it."

I think McDermott is right to conclude that this amounts to the House endorsing an expansion of the Israeli campaign onto other fronts. How much one should read into that is anyone's guess.

Only 8 members of the House opposed the bill. The only Republican was a wacky libertarian type from Texas. Michigan Democrats came out strong against the measure. Detroit Reps. John Conyers Jr. and Carolyn Kilpatrick and the Dearborn area's John Dingell represent the largest Arab-American and Lebanese-American populations in the country, and they have all issued public statements on the crisis.

Here in the East Bay (CA) Pete Stark voted no, while Berkeley and Oakland's Barbara Lee abstained. We didn't get any statements.

To swap or not to swap?

The virtual cafe of opinion exchange that is the online English version of Ha'aretz has opened up discussion on the legitimacy of Israel's long-standing tradition of prisoner exchange. Is a prisoner-for-hostage swap the right move this time? I thought I would open it up here at kishkushim, as well. For some brief but relevant historical context, read Ha'aretz's excellent accompanying editorial, which, in my opinion, provides the best justification for Israel's use of force I've heard so far. They point out that the major difference between the most recent kidnappings of Israelis is that the kidnappers are no longer state or even quasi-state (e.g. PLO) actors, but rather extemist sects with paramilitary forces who glorify the use of terror. And states don't usually like to negotiate with terrorists.

Operating under the widely held belief that the IDF will be unable to destroy Hizbollah's infrastructure from the air alone, I think it's safe to assume that finishing the job (i.e., entering South Lebanon by ground) would result in many Israeli casualties. Is the risk of losing troops AND failing to eliminate Hizbollah (which will probably regenerate no matter what) worth the risk of losing the three young men - for whom Israel started bombing in the first place - to an organization who will refuse to release them as long as the bombs keep falling?

Overall, a "Quiet" Day in Haifa

Sushi saved me from insanity! Though Eyal, Avinoam, and I were pretty cranky because we all hadn't really been out for days, it was still good just to get out. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that more coffee shops and restaurants had re-opened: Lichi, Greg, Toot, CafeNeto, and Shtaym Sucar are open. But Giraffe, DinneRush, Aroma, and Jacko's remain closed and there are still few people on the street. Other businesses are also still closed.

Today was the quietest day of the week in Haifa; only two sirens, and both were false alarms. However, three different people told me that was exactly what scared them: the silence before the storm. Nasrallah has promised us more surprises, according his videotaped statements.

But I realized after going out for sushi that there is still life out there. It's safer for my emotional health to go outside than to be inside all day long and becoming paranoid. So in the evening, my boyfriend and I went out for a little walk in the Carmel Centre. There's a media party out there.

There are dozens of TV news crews camped out on Yeffe Nof Street.

Above is a beautiful lookout point in my neighbourhood that I always bring my out-of-town guests to. Cameras are stationed here hoping to catch sight of incoming missiles from Lebanon, which is 33 km north.

Haifa's mayor Yona Yahav, below, was in the area as well, being interviewed. He showed us the little metal balls that explode out of the missile. That's part of what makes them so dangerous - they scatter upon impact, maximizing the damage and killing people standing even many metres away.

Now we're back at home, watching news again. I'm very sad for all the civilians, Lebanese and Israeli, who are continually being affected by this conflict.

Hizbullah Blending into Civilian Population

According to United Nations' emergency relief co-ordinator, Jan Egeland:
"The Israeli military attacks are all over the country. There are aerial bombardments which are in hundreds of places really. I think it is a disproportionate response, really," Mr Egeland told the BBC.

"But I also clearly see that Hezbollah is trying to blend into the civilian population in too many places and they bear also a heavy responsibility for this. They do not seem to care that they really inflict a lot of suffering on their own population," he added.
Source: BBC News, "Fighting Inside Lebanese Border," July 20, 2006

I'm Starting to Go Crazy

Another siren at 1:30 PM. I can't stand it anymore.
I called my parents and just cried.
We've decided to go out and eat sushi for lunch. I call the restaurant first of all to verify that they are open. They are! Second I check if they have a bomb shelter in the area. We have a protected room, he tells me. Okay. Good.

Haifans are Again Awoken by Sirens

We woke up again this morning at around 5:30 to the sound of sirens. My roommate and I met in the hallway, as has been usual for this whole past week. I didn't hear the explosions; my roommate says he did. We didn't bother watching the news this time. Back to bed.

I woke up hearing more booms but I couldn't be bothered running to the hallway. I really can't be bothered anymore. I'm hearing booms all the time, and I don't know anymore which ones are real, which ones are in my head, and which ones come from the television. A few of my other friends told me they're also experiencing this paranoia and are constantly hearing sounds. Who knows anymore.

I'm starting to get depressed.

Before we could still freely leave our homes, we were looking for a new apartment. My lease will expire in the next couple of months. Yesterday my boyfriend made a few new calls but the landlords have left Haifa. They can't show us the apartments, and they don't know when they'll be back.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Min darrab as-suruukh? (Who's firing the missiles?)

Here's another moving video clip, from the living room of an Arab family in Haifa. On the clip, you can hear the mother or older sister asking a crying little boy if he knows who is firing the missiles and if (needlessly) if he's afraid. I do not have a television at home and I'm in Beer Sheva, far out of range of the missiles. Even as I read Carmia's posts and hear from her on the phone, I feel as if I might as well be back in Canada - it feels no more real to be in the Negev.


Like my fellow bloggers here at Kishkushim, I'm increasingly demoralized and worried by the toll the Israeli air strikes are taking on the lives of innocent Lebanese. Is this the inevitable cost of asymmetrical warfare? Is this what needs to be done in order to deter future attacks on Israel? Is the IDF really exercising maximum caution in choosing its targets? Tough questions. I want Israel to emerge victorious and more secure from this round of fighting, but I also want the killing of innocent civilians to end. I'm aware of how banal these sentiments sound, but I feel we owe it to ourselves to show compassion for those Lebanese caught in a war that was not of their own making. Today, I heard from two Lebanese acquaintances that I know from my days as an undergraduate at McGill University (1999-2003) in Montreal, Canada. One of these contacted me directly through this blog and told me about her parents having to flee the fighting back to their permanent home in the United Arab Emirates, through Syria. They had come to Beirut just as fighting broke out, because my acquaintance's grandfather had passed away (due to natural causes). As I was reading another Lebanese website and BBC news, I also came across a familiar name and face from my McGill Days. We first met 1999 on a party boat in the LaChine Canal near Montreal, during one of those silly events that the Student Society organizes for freshmen during "Frosh Week". That must have been my second day in Montreal. Here's what Nathalie Malhame had to say on the BBC News website:
If you can read these lines, Nathalie, I wish you and your family and all other innocent Lebanese all the best!

Sixth or Seventh Siren

I didn't like the timing of this siren, because they were just interviewing a young, eloquent Lebanese woman over the phone (she was heard yesterday as well) and I am really interested to hear what she has to say. The destruction we saw in Lebanon was horrible. But, the siren wailed and we had to run back to the hallway again. The boom was loud and close this time. There was a second, quiet boom. I'm going back to the living room to watch the news and see what the damage is.

Addition: I just came across this link. Someone from the German Colony, a mainly Christian neighbourhood of Haifa, ran out into the street during an attack. You can hear the sirens and the booms in the clip which I frequently describe during my posts. I don't recommend running outside during the shelling. He's obviously looking for the missile - you can hear him shouting out "wen, wen?" ( = "where, where?" in Arabic).

Another Siren

I was just watching the news report about the missiles that fell Nazareth and killed two children when my boyfriend called me from the area, on his way back from work. He saw his second missile of the day - it landed by the gas station he fills up at. The rocket isn't visible, but the fire and the damage is. He is getting nervous because the rockets have started falling in his town and also in the town he works in, and is seriously considering leaving the north for the time being. I, however, don't want to leave my home. We were having this discussion when the sirens went off again, so he quickly hung up the phone so he could get into safety. I grabbed the laptop and retreated to the hallway, as usual. I'm still here.

Today Isn't Going to be a Quiet Day, Either

I decided to check on my neighbour. She is the live-in caretaker of an elderly lady. Before the katyushas, we used to talk outside every so often because she takes out her employer's dog. But now, with me hardly going outside, I hadn't seen her in days.
I went downstairs to the next building and knocked on her door. She was glad to see me, and so was the dog. For the first time, we chatted inside the apartment. I asked her how she's holding up. She said she feels okay but her family back home in the Philippines is very worried. Her husband has started calling her everyday.
She also asked me to translate some Hebrew documents for her. The sirens started wailing in the middle. My neighbour stayed completely calm, but the dog went to hide under the coffee table. Some explosions, and we continued figuring out the Israeli bureaucracy. After about fifteen minutes, there were more sirens and more explosions. None of them sounded close, though.
There have been a scattering of exploding sounds throughout the day. The total number of sirens heard in Haifa today up until now is five. It's the fourth day like this. There's no work, most businesses are closed, and there's no mail delivery, either.

Haifa on the Fourth Day

First of all, I'm so happy that my internet is back up. I've been waiting to blog since this morning.

A little bit of my day so far, all in approximate times:

5 AM: I fall asleep.

7:30 AM: Apparently there's a siren, but neither my roommate and I wake up. We find out about it only later on the news.

7:55 AM: The second siren of the day. Inch, the cat, wakes me up by walking on me. I am competely groggy. It takes me a while to figure out that the real sirens are on and that this is not a dream. My roommate isn't in the hallway, so I go to his room and try to wake him up. I'm so tired I collapse on the hallway. I don't hear any explosions, so it seems to be a false alarm. I go back to bed.

9:30 AM: I wake up. I look at the alarm clock but the display doesn't work. I plug into another outlet but it still doesn't work. I try to turn on my bedlamp. There's no electricity. In the stairway, there's no electricity either. I grab my keys and walk to the neighbouring building. They don't have electricity either. I call my friend who lives a few neighbourhoods over. Same thing.

9:45 AM: Our electricity starts working again. It turns out it was a nation-wide power failure, probably unrelated to the "security situation." I watch the news. It's funny, they're showing the Ayalon Highway by Tel Aviv. Traffic moving south, towards Tel Aviv, is completely jammed. Hardly any cars are northbound. The internet doesn't work and won't work until several hours later.

10:00 AM: I decide to go back to sleep. I wake up to loud explosions some minutes later and jump out of bed. I run into the hallway. There are no sirens but I heard about six missiles hit Haifa. It's back to the news. There are no reports about new missiles hitting Haifa. I call the emergency hotline to tell them that although there weren't any sirens, I heard a number of powerful explosions. She instructs me to call the police and the city operator and tell them the sirens aren't working here. The mystery is soon solved when TV news catch up. A building in Haifa had been hit a missile.

10:30 AM: I decide to go back sleep. I'm woken up some minutes later by the phone. It's my mother's cousin asking me if we're okay. She recommends that I evacuate Haifa. I'm awake now, so it's back to watching some news.

11:00 AM: I decide to go back to sleep. I'm woken up some minutes later by an incoming text message to my cell phone. My friend is worried about me. I'm up once again. I go to watch the news. Another friend calls. I didn't know she had left the city. She went back to her village in the Galil to be with her parents. She was too scared to stay.

12:30 PM: A third friend from Rehovot calls to ask how I'm doing. I decide to take a shower. On my way back to my bedroom, the siren literally catches me in my towel. I take the chance and ignore the siren, choosing to get dressed. But after I hear a boom close to me, I jump back out into the hallway in my towel. The sound turned out to be only my balcony door slamming shut. We wait out the sirens in the hallway.

13:00 PM: The dentist office calls. The appointment I had scheduled a few weeks ago because of a minor, ongoing toothache, has been cancelled. The clinics (health clinics included) are still closed, as they they have been since the shelling began in earnest on Sunday. We rescheduled for next week but I was warned it may be pushed back once again, depending on the situation.

13:28 PM: My boyfriend calls as I'm writing the blog. A missile has just landed close to where he works, in the Jezreel Valley, and in the next town over. He can see the smoke rising from his office window. It's back to watching news, once again.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Why Don't You Stay in the Bunker?

After leaving Eyal's apartment and heading back up to ours, Avinoam and I decided to check out the situation at our local bunker. The door was open and welcomed us in. We quietly walked down the stairs because we expected sleeping children. The thick air and bad smell already started from the top of the stairs.

I guess maybe that's why weren't so surprised to see that the bunker was completely empty.

The walls however, were covered with bright posters that the children who were here during the day had painted. People had made sure to keep them entertained with different activities and projects.

And yes, there are toilets in the bunkers -

and a kitchen.

But ultimately, Avinoam and I don't suspect the bad smell or the messy kitchen to be the reason why the bunker was empty tonight. We think it's because the bunker isn't home, and after three days of sitting in it, there's nothing like being in your own home. Even with missiles falling down on your city.

What else can we do? מה לעשות? شو بدنا نسوي؟

Brigadier-General Miri Regev

Miri Regev, the photogenic IDF spokesperson said that the air force is taking all possible measures to avoid civilian casualties. I would love to feel at ease, but it is still very hard for me to hear that more than 200 Lebanese civilians have been killed over the past 6 days, according to the reports so far. Most Israelis are aware of these figures. They are cited in all the broadcasts and newspapers. But to be honest, there has been very little debate about these deaths in the media here, and I do not hear too many people talking about them on the street. As Regev pointed out, the current IDF operation has an astounding approval rate of 83% among the Israeli public. I have to say, that despite my sadness about the deaths of Lebanese civilians, I, too, support this operation.

How is this possible? Some of our "friends" will see this approval as further evidence that Israelis are bloodthirsty criminals, no different from the terrorists whom they are attacking. Such equations are quite common in the Lebanese blogosphere, even among those who oppose Hizbullah. But what is really responsible for the high civilian casualty rates?

So many civilians are dying because this war is being conducted against an enemy who launches missiles from the safety of non-combatant population centers at Israeli cities, towns, and villages with the explicit goal of harming civilians. As much as the equivocators will try to deny this, the IDF does not aim to kill non-combatants. Even if you want to believe that the Israeli army is morally indifferent, you have to concede that civilian deaths cause tremendous harm to the reputation of the country and its ability to operate in the international arena. It is against the IDF's own strategic interests to harm civilians.

This war is once again exploding the myth of the "smart bomb." Without amazing intelligence, it is inevitable that civilians will be killed even when the targets are armed militants, terrorist supply lines, and missile launch sites. To some extent, the air force, at least before the last month, had become extremely successful in carrying out strikes against Palestinian militants on the way to attacks. while avoiding civilian casualties. But let's not kid ourselves, unless Israel exposes its soldiers to extremely high risks, civilians will die in the fight against this kind of an enemy. Israel, like any other state, sees its primary responsibility in protecting the lives of its own citizens - combatants and non-combatants. In this, it is no different from the US or the countries who participated in the NATO intervention in Kosovo.

Let me add also that this is not a war that Israel is fighting in order to hold on to some conquered territory. Nasrallah, backed by Iran, is now waging this war to terrify Israeli civilians in the present and to be able to threaten them at any point in the future. Hizbullah is not fighting for any specific objective that Israel can compromise on.

This is why I think that a cease fire at this point would be a serious mistake, which would allow Iran and Syria to rearm Hizbullah and return us to the status ante. While I am not opposed to an international force a bit further down the line, provided that it has teeth, I find it hard to reconcile myself to the idea of a cease fire that does not include the return of the kidnapped soldiers, and the destruction of Hizbullah's ability to launch as much as a firecracker across the internationally recognized border into Israel.

I pray that future bombs spare the innocent.

Special Friends: France and Lebanon

The extremely close ties between France and Lebanon were on display Monday as French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin traveled to Beirut, the highest ranking emissary of any state to make the trip amidst the Israeli bombardment. In public comments, De Villepin has expressed his solidarity with the Lebanese people and called for "une trêve humanitaire immédiate [an immediate humanitarian peace pact]."

Indeed the French exercise great influence over the Lebanese. So it was particularly interesting to learn of the subtly crafted French position in today's editorial in Le Monde. While Jacques Chirac has denounced the disproportionality of Israeli reprisals, his recriminations of Israel have been muted. He has saved some of his harshest criticism for Hezbullah and its sponsor states (whom M. Chirac, treading lightly on Russian sensibilities in St. Petersburg, declined to name). As it turns out, former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in February 2005 by agents widely considered linked to Syria and pro-Syrian Lebanese elements, was Chirac's "meilleur ami étranger [best foreign friend]." His death had a profound effect on Chirac, and a rapprochement of American and French and interests in the region followed.

When the smoke clears, Chirac wants Hezbullah disarmed in fulfillment of UN Security Council Resolution 1559. That is definite, and that is good for Israel, the US, and the prospects for peace in the Middle East. In Le Monde's analysis, Natalie Nougayrède writes:
Jacques Chirac est arrivé à la conviction qu'aucun gouvernement démocratique ne sera viable au Liban, ni capable d'exercer sa souveraineté sur tout le territoire, s'il n'est pas mis fin à la capacité de nuisance du Hezbollah. [Jacques Chirac has arrived at the conclusion that no democratic government will be viable in Lebanon nor capable of exercising its sovereignty over all of its territory if it does not put an end to Hezbollah's capacity to cause trouble].
Chirac's conviction has important implications. First, the French certainly won't be putting undue pressure on Israel in the coming days to ease up on genuine Hezbullah targets. And second, if there is to be a new UN force in Lebanon, whether in the south, or, as Kofi Annan seems to imply, elsewhere in the country as the Lebanese army itself deploys in the Hezbullah-controlled south, there is a serious force of will on the Security Council to give this UN deployment some teeth. After all, I think most can agree that it won't be the Israeli Air Force alone that finally disarms Hezbullah.

Kishkushim in the Press

Amos's post on the murder of Hrant Dink was quoted on a blog round-up by Christopher Beam at on January 23, 2007.

Recently, Kishkushim received Blog Digest #1: The Hezbollah War", a pamphlet published by the New Pamphleteer, co-sponsored by Pajamas Media, and edited by Michael J. Totten. Part of a three-part series, the pamphlet in question is a compilation of Israeli and Lebanese blog posts published during the war. It includes Carmia's "Good Morning, Haifa" post.

In a December 21 retrospective on 2006 ("The web we loved"), the Times Online Newsdesk Blog singled out Kishkushim for its accounts of the Israeli experience of the July war:

As soon as Israel’s war against Hezbollah in Lebanon began on July 12, it was clear that the conflict was going to be imprinted on the internet like no other. Citizens under bombardment on both sides posted photographs and wrote of their experiences. We described the phenomenon at the time and found ourselves addicted to Kishkushim ...

An August 10 article in the Boston Globe cited Carmia and Amos.

On August 4, Kishkushim was cited (in German translation) on the Swiss web portal espace, and in the Daily Mail.

On August 1, Carmia joined a blog on BBC Arabic that includes two Lebanese and one other Israeli (Lisa Goldman, author of the superb Tel Aviv-based Ontheface blog). The blog, initiated by Egyptian BBC journalist Mustafa Menshawy, is a laudable attempt to bring more nuanced pictures of the conflict to Arab audiences. The participants post on a daily basis and their contributions are then translated into Arabic.

On July 25, around 4:00 PM EST, the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) interviewed Carmia live.

On July 23, around 7:40 PM EST, CNN quoted from one of Carmia's blog entries.

On July 20, around 5:30 PM Israel time, Kishkushim was mentioned and displayed in a CNN report on blogs about the ongoing conflict in the CNN program "American Morning". The following is an excerpt from the show's transcript:
To contrast that, we found a blogger in Israel. This is a woman there who actually posted a photo of herself in the hallway as well, as she turned to her laptop in order to try and post while she was under fire there.

She says on this Kishkushim blog -- she says, "My boyfriend is getting nervous because the rockets have started falling in his town and also in the town he works in, and is seriously considering leaving the north for the time being. I, however, don't want to leave my home. We were having this discussion when the sirens went off, again, so we quickly hung up the phone so he could get into safety. I grabbed the laptop and retreated to the hallway, as usual." That from someone who goes by the name Karmia (ph) on the Kishkushem, and you saw the photo of her there in the hallway. So, Miles, some amazing stuff when you're talking about video and blogs. Again, we have to tell people, just be careful, cyber-beware in terms of what you're seeing online.

The Wall Street Journal Online quoted a post by Carmia in a July 20 article.

Canada's CBC News Online mentioned Kishkushim in a feature on blogs from Israel and Lebanon on July 20.

On July 19, Kishkushim was cited in Newsweek

The Age specifically mentioned and cited Carmia's live updates from Haifa in an article published on July 18:
At the Kishkushim blog - an online forum dedicated to commentary on the Middle East, compiled by university students - Carmia writes from the heart about the Hezbollah attacks in the Israeli city of Haifa:

"Okay, I am feeling the apartment trembling. It trembled about four times in the last few minutes with the accompanying low, rumbling noise. I thought I might be getting paranoid, but my room-mate heard it, too - he thinks it might be a plane. But I've been hearing planes fly over our heads all day long and didn't feel the apartment shake. Anyways, the news aren't updating us about it so who knows.

I don't believe we are still awake; it's already past 1:30am. I must definitely go and brush my teeth now and head to bed! Hoping for a quiet night with no sirens. (The shaking continues as I write!)."

The TimesOnline writes

In Haifa, Israel's third largest city and the object of rocket attacks this morning, the excellent Kishkushim provides photos of quiet streets, nervous bus drivers and describes hot and thirsty dogs, abandoned by their fleeing owners and afraid of the explosions:

"The fate of Haifa's dogs also tells us something about their owners and the situation in which they have found themselves. As we were walking around our neighborhood, after a few hours of quiet, we noticed a number of ownerless dogs looking for their homes."

CNN Online links to Kishkushim in a feature on blogs during the war:
Bloggers in Haifa describe these sirens as they huddle in hallways and hide out in bunkers.

The German Frankfurter Rundschau Online has coverage of the Lebanese and Israeli blogosphere and has excerpts from two of Carmia's blog entries translated into German:
Haifa, Donnerstag, 13. Juli: "Die Informationen, die wir bekommen, sind eher verwirrend: ,Bleiben Sie zuhause, gehen Sie nicht hinaus'; andererseits hören wir von Anweisungen, die Bunker in der Nachbarschaft aufzusuchen. Das Einkaufszentrum, in dem ich arbeite, wurde einige Zeit nach dem Raketeneinschlag vorzeitig geschlossen. Alle Cafés und Restaurants, in denen am Abend normalerweise reger Betrieb herrscht, sind ebenfalls dunkel und leer." Carmia
Haifa, Montag, 17. Juli: "Die Sirenen heulten wieder und wir rannten in den Flur. Es ist der einzige Ort in unserer Wohnung, der keine Wände, Fenster oder Türen nach außen hat. Wir hörten vier Raketenangriffe, zwei davon sehr nahe. Ich konnte nicht anders, ich brach in Tränen aus. Wenigstens waren die Sirenen diesmal vor den Bomben zu hören, so dass wir Zeit hatten, uns an einen sichereren Platz im Haus zurückzuziehen. Das einzige Geräusch, das ich jetzt höre, ist das der Krankenwagen." Carmia
On June 14, and on July 17, 2006 Rabbi Eliyahu Stern referred to Kishkushim in one of his Virtual Talmud blogs on Beliefnet.

Nasrallah's call to Arab world to fall on deaf ears?

As a follow-up to Amos's earlier posts I re-submit the excellent resource, which has linked a translated and subtitled video clip of Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah calling for regional support. Thinktanker Edward Luttwack thinks his call will tank. Evidence vindicating Luttwack's viewpoint can be found on the same site: an Egyptian journalist who believes - in spite of his admiration for Nasrallah - that raising pictures of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in South Lebanon is not worth spilling Arab blood.

I wonder what it would take to bring the region over to Nasrallah's side. Based on Nasrallah's statements, it seems to me he thought (probably incorrectly) that the time was right to rally Arabs. As Amos suggested earlier, ideology (which they share with Hamas) cannot be discounted as Hizbollah's motivation for attacking Israel, nor can their desire to use the Gaza crisis as leverage for a prisoner swap. But they clearly also want to use Israeli counterviolence to achieve solidarity with Arabs who are normally ideologically opposed to the Hezbollah platform. Witness what they've done with ordinary Lebanese people, many (but by no means all) of whom now see Hezbollah as defenders of the Lebanese people instead of the instigators of their suffering. As Ari Shalit wrote in the English version of Ha'aretz the other day, Israel needs to keep its moral highground in this conflict if it wants to regain international support and keep Arab solidarity against it at bay. Easier said than done, but the bombing can't go on forever.

Hizbullah in Iraq

While many worry that the current conflict in the Levant will lead to conflagration across the Middle East, Tony Blair insists that Iran is already waging a regional war. And the British, who have felt a steady increase in attacks at their once quiet post of heavily Shiite Basra in southern Iraq, have the forensic evidence to prove it. Blair told the House of Commons in today's Guardian:

"Hizbullah is supported by Iran and Syria, by the former in weapons, weapons incidentally very similar if not identical to those used against British troops in Basra, by the latter in many different ways and by both financially."

The spy site Debka goes so far as to link these Basra attacks to the Abu al Fadal al Abas Brigades, a kind of Hezbollah in Iraq "sleeper cell," which, Debka claims, was activated on the Fourth of July. I guess Kim Jong-il wasn't the only one who wanted to rain on our party.

Haifa, Dark and Deserted

My roommate Avinoam and I decided to go to join friends for dinner. We drove to Eyal's house and couldn't help but feel astonished at the sight of this new Haifa, at night. As I've mentioned before, I live in the Carmel Center, a bustling, vibrant area full of pubs, restaurants, and coffee shops. This is the hang-out place in Haifa. You would never know that now by these pictures that I took around 8:30 PM.

The Greg and the Toot coffee shops (above) are normally open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and crowded. Notice also that the apartments above the cafes are dark and deserted as well. The inhabitants must have left the city.

The Mandarin, another 24-hour coffee shop, lies empty and dark.
Only the Levinsky Pub is "open." A few bar/restaurant/coffee shop owners have decided to stay open in order to boost morale and maybe try to pretend that it's business as usual. But it obviously isn't - the Levinsky, one of the most popular bars in Haifa, tonight barely filled a table.

Eyal prepared omelettes, bourekas, salad, and French fries for Avinoam, Adi, and me. Of course we talked about how the last couple of days have been for us. Though Adi has been called to work, she refuses to go. The drive to Nahariyah is just too scary for her. Many of the katyushot have been landing there. Eyal, too, has been at home for these past three days, as have Avinoam and I. Eyal's parents have left for Beer Sheva (in the south of Israel) to stay with cousins. They dropped the family cat off at Eyal's apartment. She's been crying all day and hiding under the bed.

I'm using Eyal's laptop to update the blog, but I'm about to put it away. We've decided to watch a movie to take our mind off the situation.

Business as Usual in Tel Aviv

I can't say that people have changed their routines here in Tel Aviv. Of course, everyone has a friend or family member in the North, and many people are hosting relatives who have fled south. One of my friends is currently having two of her sisters (plus children) staying at her house, together with her mom. The only person not there is the father who is taking care of the family's chicken farm, which is in katyusha range.

At the shuq here the vendors were selling as briskly as ever, and the mood was not terribly different from normal. Of course some of the vendors worked the war into their banter. One man pitching mangos and apricots told me that the "tsfonim" (lit. people from the North, but also slang for fashionable, yuppie types) had been buying from him all day, that they had left everything in Haifa to come to Tel Aviv. Also, apparently the fact that there is a war going on is an incentive to buy more tomatoes - or maybe some people will try anything to convince you to get your vegetables from them.


Another siren, another dash for the hallway. I'm blogging and I'm asking my roommate to count the booms so that I can concentrate on what I'm writing. Okay, we heard only two missiles strike in Haifa, and they didn't sound like they struck close to our home.
One person was killed in Nahariyah (the town 40 km north of us) earlier. Apparently he was in the bomb shelter during the day, but came out to breathe some fresh air. He managed to gather his kids and send them back down but was hit before he could get back in himself.
I think it's over now and we'll go back to the living room to watch the news.


Another siren just now... but I don't hear any booms. Still in the hallway... talking to friends from Venezuela, Canada, America, and Israel on the messenger.

Fourth Siren of the Day in Haifa...

It wasn't too long ago that I just finished writing my post that mentioned the false alarm. This time however, it was a real alarm. The sirens sounded and I grabbed the laptop and ran into my hallway. The explosions didn't sound too far and there were about four or five booms. Something was different about them though, at least to me. I felt that although they weren't necessarily louder, I felt the apartment trembling. Maybe these are different kind of missiles and that's the reason. I don't know.
I'm still in the hallway...

Are You Open?

Because we were running out of bread and some other basics, I decided to go to the supermarket (and I was glad for the excuse to leave the apartment). I hadn't been outside for the past three days except for a dash to the grocery store on Sunday.
Well, it was really quiet outside, though there were some people on the streets. Many of them had either just come from the supermarket, carrying plastic bags, while others no doubt were on their way. There's also the odd camera man and reporter that pounce on these people to ask them what it's like to be outside.
The businesses which are open are some of the falafel stands, the bakery, the supermarkets, the pharmacy, and interestingly enough, the booth that sells lottery tickets! Closed remain the clothing shops, the cafes, restaurants, the pet shop, banks, book shops, the video store, opticians, and basically everything else except that I mentioned as open. It's pretty sad to see the city centre so empty and dead.
On my way back home, the sirens started sounding. Some people panicked and started running for the shelters. I tried to stay close to the walls as I made my way home. I didn't hear any missiles fall.
Now that I'm back home, I'm watching the news and they confirmed that it was a false alarm.

An addition: on the news, they just mentioned that missiles landed in Nahariyah (north of here), which is why our sirens also sounded.

Arab Reactions in Israel to Recent Events

As I was sitting outside of Ben-Gurion University's Aranne Library eating lunch, I couldn't help listen in on a conversation between two Arab girls nearby. Judging from their accents, one of the girls was from a city in the north of Israel (my guess was Haifa or 'Akko), while the other was definitely a Bedouin from the Negev. The two were having a spirited conversation about the war. I could not hear enough to really understand what their views were, but the girl from the north, who was more vocal, seemed to say that it was really pointless for Hizbullah to have attacked. She kept emphasizing that the Arab countries were just sitting on the sidelines, and then she made this banal, but linguistically interesting incomplete remark. Talking about Nasrallah, she said "huwwe bihki 'arabi haval 'al ha-zman, bass..."* Here was a pretty funny example of a typical half-Arabic, half-Hebrew phrase that is characteristic of the speech of so many Arabs in Israel. Translated, the sentence, which starts in Arabic but then uses the Hebrew slang-expression "haval 'al ha-zman" to denote something very good, could be translated as "He [Nasrallah] speaks awesome Arabic, but ..."

*Transliteration into Arabic and Hebrew:
הוו ביחכי ערבי חבל על הזמן, בסס...
هو بيحكي عريي حفال عل ها زمان بس...

Hearing Explosions in the Background

(New Day, Same Hallway)

I just heard three powerful explosions in the background. I continued sitting in t
Okay sorry
I'm hearing explosions and I ran to the hallway to take cover. The siren came only after three explosions landed. They're still wailing. I wish I could tape this sound but I'm technologically challenged.
I'm a bit worried about my roommate, he decided to take his car and go to his friend's house, they're studying for exams which were supposed to be now. Okay, he just called me on the landline. He's okay. He's already arrived at his friend's house.
So, five explosions which sounded pretty close. There's this "game" we play - every time after an explosion, all of my Haifan friends get in touch with one another on MSN messenger or by landline. We talk about how loud the sound was for us and from which direction it came and try to figure out based on comparing the location of our neighbourhoods where the missiles actually hit. We never actually know if we're right because the locations aren't revealed in the news so that Hizbollah can't improve their aim based on them.
I'm still in the hallway. I'll wait a few more minutes before I go back to the living room. Okay, I'm hearing ambulances pass my house. The TV, which I can hear from here, still hasn't interrupted its regular broadcast to update us. There's some children's show on.

First Haifa Alarm of the Day turns out to be False

One thing that I noticed is that I have become very sensitive to sound over these last couple of days. Although I headed into bed slightly after 2 AM, it took me a long time to fall asleep. A truck winding up the road will sound like the beginning of a siren to me, and I even thought I might be hearing katyushot when it was only the partially open windows softly banging against each other because of the wind. When I finally did fall asleep, the hearing of sounds continued into my dreams. Actually, I've been dreaming about katyushot, sirens, and war for the last few nights and these dreams slowly merge into reality as I was woken up by a real siren this morning before 11 AM. Of course, I met my roommate in the hallway. Although it was a long siren this time, we didn't hear anything. When the sirens stopped, we went to the living to the check the news. It was a false alarm. My roommate was making fun of me that I didn't make an automatic grab for the computer (I had put it under the table in the living room in case the roof collapses). But my computer, "Sabba" [grandfather] as I call him, takes a loooong time to load.
But by now, both Sabba and I are fully awake, stationed in front of the TV as has been the routine (that, or the hallway).

Monday, July 17, 2006

Apartment is Shaking

Okay, I am feeling the apartment trembling. It trembled about four times in the last few minutes with the accompanying low, rumbling noise. I thought I might be getting paranoid, but my roommate heard it, too - he thinks it might be a plane. But I've been hearing planes fly over our heads all day long and didn't feel the apartment shake. Anyways, the news aren't updating us about it so who knows.
I don't believe we are still awake; it's already past 1:30 AM. I must definitely go and brush my teeth now and head to bed! Hoping for a quiet night with no sirens. (The shaking continues as I write!)


(Inch, our cat, watching the news and blogging with me in our living room)

Just as we were about to sit down for dinner in the living room, the wailing of the sirens started for the seventh time today (in Haifa). I grabbed my laptop and took shelter once again in the hallway with my roommate and my boyfriend. I couldn't blog though until a few minutes later because my computer is getting a bit old and slow and was overloaded with all the windows I had open. As we were huddling in the hallway (the discussion revolved around whether or not it was better to lie down), we counted eight missiles falling, though they didn't sound close. After that, some silence. We ventured forth again. There is a police patrol car outside yelling at the few people on the street to get into sheltered areas and not hang around outside.

The War on ????

As the world gawks at the carnage in the Middle East and vague proposals for an international peacekeeping force are bandied about, it's interesting to note how Israel and its allies frame the current campaigns in Lebanon and Gaza. On the one hand, this conflict is about people like Carmia, huddled in hallways or bomb shelters -- or the scores of displaced Lebanese non-combatants seeking safety. But it's also about both sides laying claim to a mantle: the mantle of Islam, or pan-Arabism, or avatar of Palestinian nationalism; or the mantle of prosecutor of the war on terror, the war on Islamic fundamentalism, totalitarianism, and, now, "extremism."

As many analysts have noticed, Hezbollah's actions in the north provided the Olmert government with an opportunity to bundle together both the Gaza operation and a retaliatory effort in the north as part of a greater struggle against radical Islam. The situation affords Israel a seductive moral clarity in its actions.

I see the frame placed around this conflict by Israel and its supporters growing ever bigger. This is evident in Sen. Hillary Clinton's comments today in front of the UN. For Hillary, the issue isn't just the Middle East, it's American -- even universal -- values: democracy, human rights, anti-totalitarianism, national sovereignty.

As a marketing tool, I think Olmert and Hillary have got a winner; somehow I think that a war on "Islamofascism" or "Islamic totalitarianism" wins over European hearts in a way a "war on terror" never could. Maybe it's our secular shibboleth in the West.

Incidentally, Hillary's comments are in my opinion yet more proof that she's fit to be the Democrats' candidate in 2008, and that barring a Republican nomination of John McCain, the former First Lady is unbeatable.