Middle East

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 Smart, sometimes withdrawn but good kids.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

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

Iran, Iran

Boker Tov,

when I went through my blog roll yesterday I noticed with delight that a lot of the old sites are still going strong. The other thing I noted, however, was how all of my former Iranian links have now gone private and password-protected (not that there were ever too many in the first place).

Frankly, it sent a little bit of a shiver down my spine and acted as a reminder, much as Yana did to the Pagan community in regards to Syria early last year, that nothing is well in Iran.
Last time I was in Israel was last May and I remember it being a particularly tense time in the ongoing conflict, really almost a cold war, with Iran. I was travelling north on my own this time and I remember vividly how vulnerable I felt. It is a completely different story whether you are surrounded by well-informed Israeli friends discussing the latest at the dinner table on a daily basis or whether you have just been out of touch with everyone and everything for years and are stuck in a bed-and-breakfast led by and filled with clueless tourists in a town you don’t know. You don’t know whether the helicopters patrolling the beach are just the normal drill or whether it’s a more short interval patrol. They say knowledge is power and last May that definitely prove to be quite true for me; without the knowledge that used to shield me when I was living in Israel full time I felt very vulnerable to the situation completely out of my control.

Anyway, Iran. It’s a country that has started to fascinate me increasingly over the years, so rich in culture and history yet with such a tragic past. It seems to be, in the end, one of a long succession of states driven into ongoing chaos by US “world supremacy” diplomacy of the 20th Century and is now in what seems to be a headlock of extremism. It’s so easy to see them just as “the enemy” willing to bomb the people and places you love with nukes just because … well, because they can, I guess. It’s easy to see Ahmadinejad (who was in charge back in my day when I was following Middle East politics more closely) as some kind of Persian Adolf Hitler too. The truth, however is never quite that easy or easy to grasp.

It was around the time of the Obama elections that I had a little conversation with one of the Tehran-based bloggers now gone private blog about Ahmadinejad and how people would possibly vote for him. She made a point of comparing his charisma to that of Obama, especially to a people desperate by years of sanctions, oppression and poverty. And in doing so she opened a tiny window for me into what people in Tehran are thinking and why they are acting the way the do. Unfortunately, as much as I enjoyed our conversations, some via our blogs and some via email, she never deviated from Ahmadinejad’s line when it came to the Evil Zionists of Israel. I never found out whether that was for fear or her truly buying into it.

So what about that new guy, Hassan Rohani, people that know I keep an eye on Middle East politics keep asking me. I know for most of the folks with a strong connection to Israel the question is easy to answer and most see Rohani as not much but a new face of the same old story, more fine-lined to confuse the West this time so they can eventually duck out of their sanctions. Me, I am not always certain about it. Maybe he is, I wouldn’t rule it out. But then I think if something is to be learnt from the now nearing-its-end presidency of Barak Obama (and here again I know people will disagree with me) it is how hard it is even for a man that entered presidency with the noblest of plans to achieve anything at all if he finds himself in a nation-sized political deadlock. I cannot help but think that if Rohani was who he claims to be and if the extremist-induced political deadlock is only half that of the United States of America the situation would probably be looking exactly like what we have been seeing since he took up presidency. So yes, I think there is a chance he may be sincere and there is a chance that things may go up stream for Iran and, eventually, the relationship to Israel.

On the other hand, though, this has not diminished that lingering fear in the back of my head that one day, without much of a warning, someone in Iran will push a button and the aftermath will see places and people I love reduced to ashes, a mushroom cloud for a monument. Not just because I am all but certain about the intentions of Hassan Rohani to create a more peaceful Iran but even more for knowing that even if he is sincere there is not much stopping the ultra-religious would-be martyrs that obviously cover high political functions with lots of power from taking over over at the blink of an eye.

It really is a mess of a situation to be in for all involved parties. Even if politics weren’t as corrupted as they are, even if I had any trust whatsoever left in the doings of the United Nations it would be. How do you offer a nation that may be willing to change a hand in peace when you have to be aware of the possibility that someone else is pushing the button just as you sit and negotiate? On the other hand if you do not reach out to them now that there is willingness to talk you will inadvertently give fuel to the ultra-extremists in confirming everything they have been preaching about the West for decades. It seems like either way you can only loose. And that is if we were living in a perfect world, which we are most definitely not. In the real world there is nobody sincerely interested in the fate of Iran or Israel or any other of the Middle Eastern countries at those negotiating tables; You are lucky if their interest is limited to polishing their respective country and party’s image as peace doves rather than more personal economic intentions.

If you ever try to understand what is happening in the Middle East imagine your own country’s political parties and how they would be inconsolable on whatever is a politically charged matter in your country at the moment. Now add the temperament and the high stakes of Middle Eastern politics to that. Voilá, there is your very own home-brewed Middle Eastern mess.

– Migdalit

Circus Maximus

Ahlan everybody,

this morning my long-standing friend Aracuron dragged out one of my old posts from 2010. In this context I also may want to link to my latest article from my active (Pagan themed) blog on freedom of speech that Aracuron too was referring to in his post. Really I probably could have posted it here instead of over there content wise. At times it feels almost schizophrenic to be dealing with two different blogs – which is probably why for simplicity’s sake I leave even the more political content over at Migdalit Or these days.

In the aftermath the usual conversation just had to start: why aren’t you blogging in that other blog any more? It has been almost a year after all and that’s your normal blogging interval in that one after all he teased me.

So why don’t I?

It’s not that Israel, my time there and the people I had to leave behind aren’t dear to me any more. Certainly not. I still visit there any chance I get (which is way too rarely for my taste) and though I may not count Quassamim and Katjushas any more I still do keep an eye out on the news. I also still have much of the same discussions with people around me as I have been having for the last half decade; I am still hearing much of the same old song about evil, occupying and human rights violating Jews that really ought to have learnt from their own history but didn’t. While I am sick and tired of these conversations it turns out the rest of the world isn’t. “The Conflict” (TM) still is the same kind of global circus maximus it used to be five and even fifty years ago.

Luckily as of today buses still haven’t gone back to blowing up on Sheinkin road on a daily basis. Whether that is because nobody tries any more or because security now has a more tight lock on it I will leave to the experts – and self-declared experts – to decide. For the time being it means that, besides from the regular rocket scares that seem to happen on an almost predetermined interval much like the holidays come and go, people in Tel Aviv and the rest of Israel have their lifes mostly back. The novelty of going to the beach and gathering in crowds larger than three has now worn off and in many ways Tel Aviv is becoming a lot more like other Mediterranean metropoles with much of the same kind of problems. I sometimes wonder whether, if I went there today rather than 2007 it would change me as much as it did; I still thoroughly enjoy Tel Aviv as a place that seems to bring out the best in me but it is not quite the same any more.

So really I gather I don’t write more than I do on this blog because not much is changed since 2007. Truth be told I could probably dig up some of my posts from five years ago and just change a few names before re-posting and most readers would never be the wiser. I may as well just leave the blog as is as an archive for anyone interested to look up the same old information, help yourself to the search field if you are looking for something in specific.

What I have done today, though, is found a new theme. I really couldn’t bear the old one any more so I hope you don’t mind. I am also going to go through the blog roll and weed inactive links. I know it frustrates the crap out of myself if other pages have more dead than active links.

To celebrate the occasion I have gone through my other blog and found you links to some of the somewhat Israel-relating articles. Bear in mind, though, that the other blog mostly is a Pagan one so these are somewhat of a different style.
If Aracuron keeps being his usual pain in the neck I may even think of cross-posting anything relevant in the future 😉

Ysrael
explaining to the uninitiated why I keep babbling about Israel sometimes

Now, After
about PTSD albeit mostly in the American context. Includes a very good video.

on Warrior Paganism
some of this is inspired by my time in Israel and the time immediately after, also some Israel anecdotes mentioned

Paganism
mostly general definitions but, again, some Israel anecdotes mixed in

Yana
Yana, a Syrian Pagan that got caught up in the civil war in March 2013 caused quite a stir in the Pagan community. It sometimes are single people getting caught up in a picture too big to understand that make us appreciate the human dimension.

Alive
honouring the wonderful lady I lived with in Tel Aviv. She has passed away in the meantime but I will never forget her.

So, yep, that’s it for this year, I guess. I have a story from my last visit in the back of my head that I may or may not come back to tell some of these days.

Otherwise … enjoy the blog archives.

Migdalit