Israel

the school and the Kassamim

I am putting together research on communities in southern Israel right now and there is one image that just does not want to get out of my head any more: The moment a mother confessed to being a little worried sometimes by her son attending a high school in Sderot. “There are the kassamim, you know.”, she told me, “If it is really bad they even close the school.”

"When we visited the family with the children, the young boy said "he brought a piece of a kassam home one time, but my parents did not let me keep it."

“When we visited the family with the children, the young boy said he brought a piece of a kassam home one time, but [his] parents did not let me keep it.” – Carry Jarrett

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine sending your child to school knowing that at any time, with only fifteen seconds worth of warning, a rocket might strike their school bus on the open road? Maybe if we stopped seeing Israel as a faraway backwards country but as the western society – just like our countries – we could start to grasp the meaning. These are people like you and I. These are teenage children like all the noisy ones you meet on the bus every day. Smart, sometimes withdrawn but good kids. They have dreams and they have plans for the future.

And they live with that knowledge deep in their head that in just a few years’ time they will be soldiers.

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine raising your children with all the love in your heart, keeping them as close and secure as you can only to see them become part of a tide of soldiers. While you and I went to university, founded a home and started a family these young people spent years armed waiting for what seems to be the unavoidable conflict that strikes generation after generation. They are young adults like all the ones you find swarming the bars and the parks. They do not want to go to war, to see these things. They want to get going with their lives; to travel, to study and to move in with their boyfriend. They are into fashion and the latest hair styles, they are into sports and technology and music – not into guns.

 

Don’t get me wrong. The situation in Gaza is so disgraceful I am out of decent words to describe it. It is almost surreal to imagine that boarder, on the one side a cruel dictatorship, unimaginable povery and an infrastructure that most closely resembles that of some godsforsaken African tribal lands fifty years ago. On the other side a high-tech civilisation with one of the highest overall levels of education and technology utilisation in the world. How can the two of them possibly even exist on the same planet, let alone only a stone’s throw away? But nonetheless it is reality.

But what the Frigg is Israel to do? It is not the shut border crossing, that is the problem. The problem is Hamas, a terrorist regime almost as bad as the Islamic State next door. Opening those borders won’t change a thing for Gaza residents but it will allow more weapons to be built, more deaths, more warfare. Have you ever thought about it, why it is Egypt that has completely shut down their border crossing at Rafah and is on a crusade against smuggler tunnels right now? Why they are going as far as bulldozing their own city of Rafah? Those are their Muslim brothers after all, Egypt has no motive for cutting off Gaza other than the safety of its own territory and population.

 

If it was your country, would you tolerate your children driving to school under rocket fire or not being able to go to school at all? Think of European countries in turmoil, of brutal regimes taking over strips of land adjacent to your own border. Use your fantasy. What would you want your government to do?

Think about it. Think about what the US Americans did to Afghanistan and Iraq, on the other side of the world, after a single terror attack. Think about military intervention in Syria and Iraq against Islamic State just because governments are worried of future terror attacks on their own soil. Think about what our governments are doing to other countries without any proven danger to their civilian populations whatsoever.

Think about that and think about the boy riding the bus to Sderot every day before you demonise Israel.

– Migdalit

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Drying up the Nile – the al Jazeera Spy Cables

The cache of spy cables recently released by al Jazeera – and copied by most western news outlets – seem to be but the latest in a series of leaked intelligence sources. This time though US American agency mostly get a break with South Africa and the all famous Israeli intelligence service Mossad at the centre of it all.

At the beginning of the week one cable in particular, a Mossad brief to South African intelligence agency SSA gained attention throughout global news outlets: “Spy Cables reveal Mossad concluded that Iran was not producing nuclear weapons, after PM sounded alarm at UN in 2012.” al Jazeera reported:

A secret cable obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit reveals that Mossad sent a top-secret cable to South Africa on October 22, 2012, that laid out a “bottom line” assessment of Iran’s nuclear work.

It appears to contradict the picture painted by Netanyahu of Tehran racing towards acquisition of a nuclear bomb.

Writing that Iran had not begun the work needed to build any kind of nuclear weapon, the Mossad cable said the Islamic Republic’s scientists are “working to close gaps in areas that appear legitimate such as enrichment reactors”.

Little surprise the report was passed on throughout media outlets around the globe seemingly proving Israel’s (or at least its prime minister Netanyahu’s) warmongering using false threats against a nation that might have the rhetorics but not taken the actions to be a threat.
I have to admit it did raise my eyebrows too.

Bibi Netanyahu's all famous red line (C) the Guardian

Bibi Netanyahu’s all famous and much-mocked red line (C) the Guardian

And then, the other day, I leisurely scrolled through my news feed and found this gem from the same cache of al Jazeera spy cable leaks at the Guardian:

Israel has been trying for decades, the report says, to undermine Egypt’s vital Nile water source so that it becomes preoccupied with water shortages rather than the Arab-Israeli conflict. “Towards this end Israel’s Ministry of Science and Technology conducted extensive experiments, and eventually created a type of plant that flourishes on the surface or the banks of the Nile and that absorbs such large quantities of water as to significantly reduce the volume of water that reaches Egypt.”

Frankly, I did not know whether to laugh or cry about it. A water sucking plant in order to dry out the Nile? Seriousely? This one fits right in with the old rumour about Mossad handing out libido enhancing candy to faithful Egyptian wives so as to undermine the fabric of their Muslim society.

Do people actually believe these things?

And more importantly: How did a fairy tale like this end up as a classified spy cable right out there with the really juicy stuff?

What it really showed to me though was that you have to take leaks like the recent al Jazeera one with a grain of salt. As the Guardian’s Seumas Milne and Ewen MacAskill caution in above-mentioned article:

Intelligence agencies thrive on impressing politicians and the public with their mystique, exploits real or imagined, and possession of information that supposedly gives them a unique understanding of the world.

[…]

In the world of espionage, today as in the past, spies peppering reports with half-truths, rumours, the outlandish and the downright ridiculous is par for the course, the secret cables show – and not that remote from the lucrative fantasies and inventions of Graham Greene’s fictional MI6 agent in Our Man In Havana.

So while, yes, I can absolutely see a character such as Bibi Netanyahu right out ignoring the intelligence he is given if it is inconvenient for his own agenda this particular one just does not add up. Yes, Netanyahu might well have been exaggerating the threat in order to make his point. But there being no conceivable treat whatsoever, no sign for a non-peaceful nuclear program at all in Iran as the cable suggests? It just does not quite fit in with the activity we have seen around the Irani nuclear program – such as the Stuxnet worm targeting Irani nuclear centrifuges just to name an example.

Also we need to remember that intelligence agencies the world over are adapt at placing misinformation or intentionally “leaking” material. The al Jazeera article itself hints at a schism between Mossad and Netanyahu, quoting former head of Mossad Meir Dagan’s concern about the prime minister prematurely embarking on war with Iran which he thought was “a stupid idea”. There is ample motive for the agency to distribute de-escalating material if they indeed have come to mistrust Netanyahu.

It is simply careless to be dismissing Iran as a nuclear threat to Israel just yet without doing our homework on this leaked so-called “intelligence”. As usual in Israel there as more to it than meets the eye.

– Migdalit

Iron Dome explained – and why it is not a panacea

Find below a reblog from the Conversation‘s Raoul Heinrichs with friendly support of the Conversation webpage.

Explainer: Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system

By Raoul Heinrichs, Australian National University

The breakdown of an initial ceasefire between Israeli forces and Hamas last weekend played out to a familiar soundtrack: the wail of air-raid sirens and the menacing hiss of incoming rocket fire, followed in many cases by the concussive crackle of Iron Dome missiles intercepting their targets.

The Iron Dome anti-missile system first attracted attention two years ago, when it achieved between an 80-90% success rate.

But the sudden escalation of rocket attacks from Gaza in recent weeks, coupled with the success of Iron Dome in averting death and destruction by neutralising rockets headed for populated areas, has renewed interest in the system’s workings and wider strategic implications.

A ‘system of systems’

So how does Iron Dome operate? In the arcane lexicon of military technology, Iron Dome is a “system of systems” and comprises three principal components:

  1. a radar tracking station
  2. a control-centre
  3. up to three missile batteries.

Each component is responsible for a distinct phase of what military wonks call the “detect-to-engage” cycle. When a rocket is fired, it is detected in-flight by an advanced radar specially designed to track small, fast-moving objects.

That data is then passed via wireless connection to the control centre. Here, teams of Israeli military personnel assess the trajectory of the incoming rocket and determine whether or not it should be intercepted. Given the high cost of Iron Dome’s missiles, only those headed for populated areas are selected for interception.

When it’s necessary to intercept a rocket, a launch order is transmitted to the Iron Dome missile batteries, and a Tamir interceptor missile, using a sophisticated guidance system and information from the control-centre, is directed into the rocket’s path. The whole process takes between two to three minutes.

Iron Dome is capable of intercepting missiles launched from between four and 70km away.

Iron Dome was developed in just four years and has been in service since 2011. Surprisingly, the impetus for the project came not from Hamas.

Despite its prolific use of rockets in the years following Israel’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza, Hamas rockets mostly fell harmlessly on sparsely populated Negev. So long as casualties remained low, and damage to property limited, the rockets were considered more a political nuisance than a national emergency.

The birth of Iron Dome

This perception was shattered in July 2006, with the outbreak of war against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. What began as a terrorist attack on Israel’s northern border quickly escalated into an all-out exchange.

Over the course of a month, Hezbollah fired around 4,000 rockets into northern Israel, necessitating an expansive campaign of air-strikes, a blockade and a costly ground invasion. By the time Israeli forces eventually brought the rocket-attacks under control, the damage was done.

The daily barrages exacted a human and economic toll and dealt a serious blow to Israeli morale. Out of the recriminations which followed, Iron Dome was born.

The problem with rockets

For Hamas and Hezbollah, rockets have long been attractive. They are cheap, highly mobile and their use requires no great technical expertise.

Rockets can be launched at Israeli cities from inconspicuous locations well within friendly territory, without the need for air-superiority. Rockets are also readily available from Iran, a country determined to undermine Israeli security. Most importantly, rockets are effective at instilling terror amongst the populations against which they are directed.

An Israeli Iron Dome interceptor blasts apart a missile fired from the Gaza Strip.
EPA/Jim Hollander

There are two main reasons Iron Dome offers Israel incomplete protection. First, each Tamir missile costs Israel between US$50-90,000, compared with only a few hundred dollars apiece for the rockets they intercept. Given such a profound cost imbalance, a sustained rocket campaign could have a crippling effect on Israel’s defence budget.

Second, rocket attacks are effective regardless of whether they hit their targets. The disruption they cause is what matters most. Civilians still take cover as rockets approach. Sirens sound, which is frightening and humiliating. The mere possibility that rockets could cause death and destruction is enough to sow terror on the ground.

Despite its apparent success, Iron Dome does not represent a significant technological breakthrough in missile defence. The reasons are fairly straight-forward.

The kind of rockets Iron Dome can intercept only fly short distances. Lacking any meaningful guidance system, they fly slowly along a low, predictable arc and are relatively easy to track and destroy.

Long-range ballistic missiles, by contrast, leave the atmosphere and re-enter at supersonic speeds. While they also follow a parabolic arc, they can be assisted by decoys, multiple manoeuvrable warheads, and electronic counter-measures – and the difficulty of interception can be increased by the launch of additional missiles.

For these reasons, and despite an impressive 90% success rate, Iron Dome remains a stop-gap measure tailored to the specific circumstances in Israel and of questionable value elsewhere.

The Conversation

Raoul Heinrichs does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

The others

I stole a face off A Soldier’s Mother for you. It’s none of the faces of Israeli soldiers killed that have been published by the Jerusalem Post. This one is, as far as I know as I write this, very much alive.

Col. Rasan Alian

Col. Rasan Alian

The reason why I brought his image here is because it reminds me of something I want to tell you about Israel. Something most people don’t know.

There are not only Jews in Israel. And there aren’t only Jews, Christians and Arabs either. A hand full of minority groups have been living in these lands for the-gods-know-how-long. Rasan Alian, for instance, is a member of the Druze community. Other groups are, for instance the Baha’i and Negev Bedouins. And really, all of them seem to be reasonably happy living in the modern state of Israel. Probably the Apartheid regime isn’t that bad after all …

Especially the Druze have quite a reputation in Israel. They are said to be the most loyal and fierce of all fighters and they are also very politically active. Col. Alian’s story as told by Paula Stern is but the latest example.
I have been told on many occasions that this is because Israel is the one place in the Middle East where the Druze can live their faith and culture freely and without fear of prosecution. And they are quite willing to risk their life fighting for the survival of the one nation that guarantees their freedom and safety. In all other lands where Druze are living, I was told, they have been subjected to one attempted genocide after the other.

The Druze are the major non-Jewish residents of the Golan heights. The original residents, one could argue. I wonder whether, in a truly democratic society that believes in the individual’s right to decide about their own fate, we should just let them decide what country they want to belong to. Wouldn’t that be an easy and democratic solution to the whole issue? But of course what may be just and truly democratic will never be attempted nor accepted in Israel’s disputed territory. The Gods forbid there may be an end to the conflict. Where else would all the warmongers and corrupt politicians turn to mask their own dirty laundry?

– Migdalit

HAMAS – Hides Amongst Mosques and Schools

Dear Hamas, you have done it. You have driven me back to this blog. And you have done so by adding rage to my stomach until it felt like exploding.

What I will be telling you in this post can all be backed up by sources. Contrary to what some media keep claiming this is not a lie and it is not propaganda. Many of the facts have been written about in this blog during years past because little has changed. Only that this time Hamas have clearly crossed all the boundaries. Boundaries that, mind you, most countries in this world would have put a lot, lot closer to home. If you manage to enrage Israel into risking the life of its youth in a ground operation you have done a really awesome job. Because contrary to what some people seem to think Israel does value life. It values the life of its citizens, its soldiers and, yes, it values the life of its enemy. To Israel every single life is sacred.

What I cannot, even after seven years of going through the same discussions over and over, understand is this: How can a country, any country, be expected to passively accept its sovereign borders being violated by a continuous stream of rockets? How can the so called international community look the other way for years and years and then erupt in disbelief when said country is forced to take measures to stop it? I just don’t get it. Here in Australia everyone is up in tears about a Malaysian airliner that has, somehow, got caught up in the Ukrainian / Russian war and was shot down, probably in an tragic accident. Don’t get me wrong, those 20-something lost Australian lifes are a tragedy. But how can one and the same population think about reinstating the cold war over this and the same time condemn Israel for protecting its civilians from an not ending stream of rockets?

Yes, the number of casualties is disproportionate between Israel and Gaza. But there is a quite simple reason for this and it is not Israel’s brutality. Not by a far shot. Israel leaves no stone unturned to protect its citizens. People in Israel have bomb shelters or reinforced rooms in almost every single house. They are warned by an early detection system by every means possible in the modern world. And, of course, Israel has Iron Dome. Iron Dome is not a panacea but I don’t even dare to think what would happen to the places I spent some of my happiest hours at if it wasn’t for Iron Dome. It has come just in time. It is a life saver – literally.

HAMAS

HAMAS

Hamas on the other hand … well … Hamas hides amongst mosques and schools. Just the other day weapons were found in a United Nations school. You want to guess what the UN did with them? Did they sound all the alarms and accuse Hamas of war crimes as they should have? Hell no, they didn’t. Your friendly UN personnel handed the weapons straight back to their owners in Gaza. To Hamas. And no-one outside the usual suspects of pro-Israeli bloggers and journalists seems to raise as much as an eyebrow about it. They are all way too busy bashing Israel, it seems.

Israel meanwhile – remember, these are the guys that treasure life – do whatever they can to protect the civilian population. Both their own and that in Gaza. They are dropping leaflets – hell, they are making phone calls and sending text messages so people have a chance to get the hell out of their houses turned weapons storage facility. But they choose to stay and one can but wonder whether the countless stories of Hamas keeping civilians in buildings marked for bombings at gunpoint are true. It somehow fits their style, doesn’t it? Israel has opened their hospitals to casualties from Gaza – they have been taking in severely ill Gaza residents for years. And rather than using it for a couple of PR brownie points Israel has even recognized that nobody can know you have been treated in an Israeli hospital if you want to return to your life in Gaza. So they have protected their patients and kept a low profile about it.

Israel is doing a lot more than can be expected. They are certainly doing a lot, lot more than any other governments have in recent wars. Have you ever heard of any of the above when allied forces bombed Baghdad? I haven’t. I am tempted to think that with most other armies on this planet we would be looking at 3’000 rather than some 300 casualties by now. If any the IDF should be praised for their effort. They are doing an awesome job.

Don’t get me wrong, Israelis aren’t angels. I am sure there are some soldiers in the IDF that have gone mad with rage. Really, I can’t blame them. I get really mad at times and I am thousands of kilometers away and have, thank the gods, never lost anybody or seen anyone of my friends suffer because of war and terrorism. I mean, what is Israel expected to do? Are they expected to stay put and, like lambs bound for the slaughterhouse, just wait for Hamas and Hizbollah to tear the country apart? Are they really expected to trust empty promises from the international community when they have deserted them every single time Israel was in need for a friend? If the UN wants to bring peace to the Middle East it’s quite easy: Put your money were your mouth is! Send peace keeping troops to Gaza and make sure they don’t fire any more rockets. Lock away Hamas leaders as the terrorists and war criminals they are, maybe. Don’t expect Israel to agree to more unilateral ceasefires that still keep ending in the same thing: We cease: They fire. That is not a ceasefire.

I just wish next time a journalist sets out to ride the bashing Israel train they take a minute to sit down and consider the following: What would you do if one single rocket was fired, with purpose to kill as many civilians as possible, into your country’s territory? Would you expect your government and the international community at large to sit tight and wait for the next one or would you expect them to do what must be done to keep people safe? Now multiply your answer by 1’500.

What would you do if it was your country? It’s not that hard to understand, is it?

– Migdalit