Saturday, August 18, 2012

Does a barking dog not bite?

- "Ah, a barking dog doesn't bite."
- "Yes, I know it and so do you, but the question is: Does the dog know?"

Never in the annals of Israel - and only rarely in history in general – was a war talked about so much before it broke out. All moves and counter-moves and counter- counter-moves analyzed at length and in public. All the military and political and economic considerations stated openly and in detail. It quite often happens that generals are trigger-happy and exert their force to drag a  reluctant political echelon into war. There are far fewer cases of the reverse, of political decision makers straining with all their might to go to war while the military remains wary and apprehensive and reluctant. But, this situation is now here.

In "Makor Rishon", one of the Israeli newspapers most identified with Binyamin Netanyahu, the commentator Ariel Kahane explained the warlike turmoil in terms of the struggle between the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of the United States:

After his first meeting with Obama, Netanyahu told his aides: 'If that is  how he is treating us as a freshly-elected President during his first term, when he still needs the Jewish vote, all the more he is going to clash with us should he be re-elected.’ (...) Since the post-election Obama is not to be trusted, the best timing for action is the time between now  and the elections on November 6. Should Israel attack during this time, Obama might be furious, but narrow political interests would require him to come to Israel's aid. A moment before the elections Obama cannot abandon America's ally to bleed under a barrage of missiles from Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Gaza. In spite of himself he would have no choice but going to help Israel defense, otherwise he would  lose the elections."

A similar analysis could be heard in the past week from various sources, but a commentary article in Makor Rishon can be considered as a kind of semi-official message from the office of the Prime Minister. And if Obama does not act according to the script  Netanyahu's office prepared for him? If the price of oil rises steeply and the world economy collapses and people around the world  blame Israel? Well, nothing in life is without risks ...

And so, more and more people in this country are beginning to take seriously the possibility that this dog would not only bark but also bite - and in the very next coming months. They take it seriously and start to be very, very worried. And the protest movement against this war which is on our doorstep is growing apace.

The traditional demonstration on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing,   held at the Ministry of Defense every August 6, the hard-core advocates of nuclear demilitarization of the Middle East were this year joined by many  others. Many who were roused by the drums of war.  The momentum continued in a string of demonstrations at the foot of the residential tower where the Defense Minister lives (alongside some of the richest tycoons in the Israeli economy).  Night after night was the tower surrounded by hundreds of protesters.

"No war with Iran". "No roulette of at least 300 Israeli dead". "No, to war for the sake of maintaining ministerial positions." "Armageddon? No, thank you". "The Defense Minister is leading us to disaster." "Bibi, you have already ruined our lives, do not terminate them." "No, no, we don't want / A government of bombers / No, no, we don't want/ A government of tyrants." "He's crazy, he's crazy, he's crazy."

Yesterday, Israel's ambassador to the U.S., the trusted representative of Netanyahu, declares that an attack on Iran would be worthwhile even if it does not destroy the nuclear program, since "even a delay of a year is significant". And in Tehran President Ahmadinejad presented his view of "A new Middle East, one without the Zionist Cancer". As if seeking deliberately to ignite the flames of war and provide Netanyahu with material for war propaganda. Maybe its' not "as if" - since an Israeli attack may finally put off the coals of internal opposition to the Iranian regime and force the bitterest opponents of the regime to join in "national unity".

Today I saw on the bulletin board at my Holon home an urgent call for  the residents to remove their belongings from the air raid shelter at the bottom of the building, so that it could fulfill its function in case of aerial bombardments …

Voices of protest

Public call upon pilots

(So far signed by 600 academics and public figures - and making headlines in all the media)

The Air Force pilots
Israel Defense Forces (IDF)


We issue this appeal to you out of a deep sense of concern and anxiety at the present situation in this country. We know a little bit through the media, and much more is happening behind the scenes, of which we may know only when it is too late. We do not know your names, your family status, your views or your opinions. We do know one thing - at this moment our fate, our very future, lies very much in your hands.

In the near future, possibly within weeks, you may get the fateful order – to man the planes and take off for the task of bombing Iran. You will have, of course, the choice of obeying the order, accepting the arguments and assertions of those who give it without questions, and striving to perform the task to your best professional ability. This would amount to accepting the argument that bombing Iran's nuclear facilities is essential for the defense of the State of Israel, thereby also accepting that you will be firing the first shot in a war whose results might be catastrophic for all of us.

This, however, is not the only choice open to you. You also have the option of saying "no". Certainly, this is not a simple option. It involves profound professional and moral dilemmas, and carries the risk of losing a career which is important to you and also the possibility of being prosecuted. Nevertheless, it is your duty to consider most carefully and seriously the possibility that by saying the little word "no", you will be rendering an important and vital service to the State of Israel and all who live here. This service would be infinitely more important than blind obedience to this particular order.

 (...)No one can make the decision for you. We hope - for your sake as well as ours - that should the moment come, you will be able to make the right decision.

Professor Menachem Mautner, former Dean of the Faculty of Law at Tel Aviv University.
"I understand the far-reaching implications of the petition, and I do not think there is a legal problem about such an attack as such. And I do not think the pilots real the ones to address. But the possibility of a decision being taken to attack Iran is keeping me sleepless for weeks. To the best of my judgement, taking such an action without waiting for the U.S to take the main role would entail disastrous long-range results for Israel. Because I am concerned and  desperate, I have decided to join this petition. I'll do anything it takes to prevent Israel from plunging into what I see as a disaster unparalleled in its history, including even the terrible tragedy of the Yom Kippur War. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures."

Scary statues of Pharaonic birds
Roy Chicky Arad

Tonight, and also tomorrow, and also the day after tomorrow, at 20:00, a demonstration under the house of the Minister of Defense. Facing the depressing lobby cluttered with scary statues of Pharaonic birds made of hard  stone, and crying out to reach him on the fourteenth floor with a very simple basic message which we learned as children: that this war is bad, like all too many of its predecessors.

A war which is so unnecessary in terms of possible achievements, so dangerous both immediately and in the longer range, so cynical, with so many possibilities for unforeseen entanglements, a war on which the army itself is  not interested in embarking, already smelling the failure and the damage to security. A war which nobody would know how to close down after the fire box opens.

Even those who now give some credence to the scare propaganda of Bibibarak and their communication lackeys and are inclined to let the experts about such things (Barak!) deal with them – even they would show up at the Rabin Square a month after the war, shamefaced, and join us in crying out about this terrible folly. All the opportunist politicians will come then to make speeches…

As in the first Lebanon War, as in the Second Lebanon War, everything is so transparent. Why wait for the disaster to happen? It is clear, it is here, with us, with the foul smell of death. Is there anyone who claims that the home front is ready for a missile counter-strike? And is there someone who does not see how problematic it is to cut the budgets for the collapsing health system just  before embarking on such a war?

This adventurous war can be prevented. Public pressure against the war can make a difference, especially when the majority among the public is known to oppose the war.  A lot of people should reach the demonstation, not just the hard left, but also worried mothers who are not interested in politics but are very much interested in their children. On Facebook I see that also my Likudnik friends ask hard questions to which there are no answers.

Chances versus Risks
Assaf Peretz

They say "You have no way of measuring chances against risks". I answer "Perhaps I can't, but what about the Air Force commander, Major General Amir Eshel? And the General in Command North? And the IDF Chief of Staff? Can they measure it? And all of them are opposed.

Do you think there will be a Second Holocaust if we don't attack? Well, you have to persuade of this the Commander of the Air Force, who will need to look into the eyes of the pilots. Then, the Chief of Staff. And for two years already you are pumping up the inevitable threat, then damn it, prepare the home front. To go on an offensive like this breaks all records of cynicism, spitting in the face of social justice.

For who will get hurt? The weak and neglected towns of the periphery, first of all. (Dr. Ron Lobel of the Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon said this morning that the hospital lacks any protection), and those citizens who have no safe room in their apartments and at the first bombing will search in vain for the keeper of the key to the public air raid shelter.

More? The national information network has no head in the past eight months, the Civil Defense Command stopped issuing gas masks because its budget was finished. Incidentally, in the whole country there are only eight beds for burn victims. Who fucking cares?

So anyone who cares, every night at eight there will be a protest in front of the Minister of Defense's home, at the corner of Shaul Hamelech Boulevard and Ibn Gvirol Street in Tel Aviv.
Riki Cohen - Parents Against War

Nothing was shaking in the fancy building where Defense Minister Ehud Barak moved recently, on the evening when some 300 protesters, myself among them, came to hold a demonstration against the planned attack on Iran.  The lobby is designed in expensive modernist statues and seating systems. A  nouveau style of some kind, probably nouveau riche. Around the tower an artificial pool was bubbling behind an engineered garden with well-designed trees. At seven o'clock, Security sevice operatives were already buzzing  around, waiting for the plebs to arrive, later joined by riot police Border Guards. 

A lot of baby carriages were there, and children who had to be carefully preserved against getting lost in the crowd. The children who this fall might encounter for the first time the dubious protection kits offered by the government and get into air raid shelters of questionable utility. Those whose   parents cannot afford the fares to fly away to a safe place until shooting ends. In many homes this debate is going on this week, where, in case of…? Ironically, the communities of the South were mentioned as a possibility.

Would establishing a Parents Against War movement be the right step? "Sure," answered my neighbor in the line of march. "Four Mothers was the only political movement that ever managed to achieve something". He gave me hope, perhaps an exaggerated one. The myth of the Four Mothers, who got the army out of Lebanon, lives on and was not impaired despite some jeering talkback messages from warmongers.

Those parents with prams who last summer went out on the streets in their thousands to protest the cost of living and specifically the high payment for kindergartens, would they now join a movement struggling to preserve the very life of their kids (and of themselves)? Difficult to know, especially when the campaign of intimidation seems to work well on a large sector of the public, those who still  see no alternative to Netanyahu, and who seem inclined to just wait out the deluge and hope for the best. And still, it is hard to believe that they too do not have this nagging feeling, this realization that in just a few weeks, my own life and that of those dear to me would also be laid down the in the roulette of death, Barak's bargain price of 500 dead. How many of us would see the winter?

Yes, at the conclusion you are faced with a grim truth which can not be hidden.  I don’t mind being accused of being a selfish Tel Avivian. That's OK. I really feel no urge to make sacrifices for a crumbling nationalist ethos marred with ambiguity, lies and personal motives. Bibi and Barak, who lead the way to a hedonist capitalist jungle, cannot be surprised about the lack of such a spirit of sacrifice.

Let's make some noise. They don't have a monopoly over wisdom.

Not a single medal
Vardina Salomon
Letter to the editor, Yediot Ahronot August 12, 2012

Israel sent to London its best athletes and was sadly disappointed - not a single medal. This is just a sport, and no one died from it. But we must remember this story in connection with a far more sensitive issue: the bombing in Iran that is so talked about.

Our Air Force has excellent pilots, professional and highly motivated. Nevertheless, success is not guaranteed. There is a great risk of entanglements and blunders, a rain of missiles might fall on the Israeli home front. They are trying to "comfort" us that it be "only" 300 or 500 deaths. Alas for such a "consolation"!

If as a result of this war oil supplies are damaged and oil prices rise steeply worldwide, we might be accused of it, and the consequences can be very serious. The average American is not really interested in what happens outside the U.S. and does not really know who is fighting who in the Middle East, but the price of fuel is very important to him. If the price is doubled because of a war which Israel started, this could cost us dearly. It is doubtful whether in such a situation Netanyahu could once again get applause in the American Congress.