Israel-Hezbollah War

A view of the July-August 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war from an Israeli living in Haifa (under Katyusha rocket attack)- send personal comments to david2@lisbona.com

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Getting used to the air raid sirens

We are in the 28th day of the war and Haifa (where my beloved Irit and I live) has experienced air raid siren alarms for most of the last 24 days. I have written before http://hezbisraelwar.blogspot.com/2006/07/air-raid-experience.html about the air raid siren experience but it's time to write again. These alarms (and the occasional rocket explosions we hear) are the way in which we personally are experiencing this war. There have been a few days that have been completely quiet, on other days we have had 8-9 alarms a day.

First of all, to get a feeling of what a real-life air raid siren sounds like, click on http://www.airraidsirens.com/mp3/uvfrsd10.mp3 . I don't recommend doing it near someone anxious or someone who's been in a war - Irit's daughter (who lives in Tel Aviv) turned as white as a sheet when she heard it, even though I told her it was just me. Israelis have a lot of fear.

When we hear the air-raid siren at home, Irit and I rush down to the shelter we have in the basement with our dog Sushi. In the first week, we kept Sushi's leash on during the whole day so it would be easier to lead her down. This is no longer neccessary - she has become perfectly conditioned and waits at the door to the basement as soon as the siren starts. Yesterday we visited some friends here in Haifa who told us that their dog is the first in their protective space when the alarm sounds. The alarm is supposed to give us up to 1 minute warning and we stay in the shelter for a few minutes after the alarm stops.

The alarms are a very mixed blessing. On the one hand, they do give warning although there have also been many cases of false alarms. Everybody who has taken refuge in a shelter has escaped injury even when there has been a direct hit . One couple were in a protective space (with concrete walls) when a Katyusha rocket hit and completely destroyed their home -apart from shock they were OK. There have been tragic cases where people were in a shelter, heard a rocket explosion, left the shelter to see where the rocket landed and were caught outside, and killed by a second rocket attack a few minutes later. So every sensible person with common sense takes shelter when they hear an alarm. That does not include those macho Israelis who think it's cissy or pointless to take shelter. They will say (and they have a point) that -on average- only 2 Israelis have been killed by 120 rockets each day over the small whole of northern Israel so the absolute risk isn't that great. Some people are fatalistic and say that if a rocket has their name written on it, then it will find them shelter or no shelter.

Fatalism or not, the alarms do have one major downside - they are in themselves very scary. Imagine if you heard a certain , very definitive loud noise several times a day bearing the message "Look, mate, you may die in a minute or so if you don't take shelter". One elderly lady already died from cardiac arrest on her way to the shelter. It's not surprising that some people prefer denial. The residents of Kiryat Shmona , an Israeli town of 20,000 people only 10 km from the Lebanese border who have suffered the worst Katyusha shelling by far in the last 10 days have only had alarms since the last few days. Before that they had no warning -residents there are supposed to stay in shelters 24 hours a day. But you can go crazy having to sit around all day in a confined space and probably more and more people have been going out for a breather. The army used to say that they couldn't provide warnings for the short-range Katyushas (like those that hit Kiryat Shmona) but now they do, and the locals are hearing 20-30 alarms a day as well as the deafening explosions when the rockets hit the ground or a house and the incessant artillery barrages from Israeli guns. God knows what this is doing to their sanity.

In Haifa, where the situation is much much easier, we are getting used to the alarms. Human beings are remarkably adaptive and somehow we are accepting these alarms as part of our current daily lives.

14 Comments:

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7:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can not imagine what it must be like to live with that kind of anxiety and fear. I must admit that I am thankful that I live in the US, but I do feel a strong push to be there with you. I know many Jews who have visited Israel despite the war. I applaud them and can't wait until it my chance to visit my second home.

On a different (and more frustrating note) Queen Noor of Jordan was interviewed on television this morning and she had the nerve to say that the "military wing" of the" legitimate polical party of Hezbollah" would cease their aggression if only Israel would pull out of Lebanon. I almost threw the TV on the floor while I screamed at her that Israel had been out of Lebanon for six years, all the while Hezbollah was rearming itself, planning to attack Israel as some future point. The interviewer didn't try to challange her either. I am so disgusted by most of the media's treatment of Israel I can not watch.

May Israel like in peace and security very soon.

9:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since when, according to Queen Noor's statement, has Hezbollah been elevated to the position of being a "legitimized political party" with a "military wing?" And by whom were they legitimized?

Okay, if I heard correctly there are two Hezbollah representatives in the Lebanon cabinet, or whatever it's called? Therefore, am I to assume that a total of "two" call all the shots for Lebanon? Seems that Labanon has forfeited knowingly, or unknowningly, their own sovereign country. They have allowed the systematic invasion by Hezbollah for decades. (Shades of what Mexico is doing in the U.S. comes to mind.)

Why is it that people such as Queen Noor, seem to skip over the the fact that Israeli soldiers were killed and two kidnapped on their own land, by this "military wing" of Hezbollah in the first place?

Right now, Sirens aren't going off in Jordon. With a cancer like Hezbollah spreading, (and it's here in the U.S. too as well as So. America) it's only a matter of time before Queen Noor and the rest of the middle east as well as ourselves, will be shaken to the core of our beings as well.

I agree, news media always seems to slant their points of view. Fair & Balanced is hardly ever present. And I wish to high heavens that they were made to keep their mouths shut when it comes to Israel's military's plans! American reporters don't need to know, we don't need to know, and Hezbollah sure as hell doesn't need to know.

I have yelled at my T.V. too. So many times our "freedom of speech" seems appropriate for American journalists/reporters (embeds) to report our troops moves in Iraq! I've yelled so many times, "well why don't you just tell the enemy ...here we are, come and get us? Some are over there in Israel and Lebanon now, as I overheard this morning, "trying to find out what Israel's next move will be." Personally, I don't think they should be told squat! Or, play the "disinformation game" with them, pat them on their little backsides and send them on their way.

There are oh so many ways the news media are out of line. Too many to mention.

I pray for Israel every single day. I pray for America's survival as well. Survival is exactly what we are all facing.

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Anonymous Yael said...

Dear David,
I thought long and hard about including this entry but felt I had to. I do not mean it to diminish what you are experiencing. I know from your entries that you are not prone to extreme comment and I hope you are aware from mine that I do not condone in any way violence as a means to end conflict. I advocate dialogue, but that dialogue has to be faithful to all sides, and I hope this comment is read with that in mind.

The air sirens you are experiencing are experienced on a daily basis, to disastrous effect, by Palestinians, through sonic booms. They have been rightly condemned by Israeli human rights activists. A report by the Physicians for Human Rights group, a group which have won several Israeli awards for their work, filed an action in the Israeli Supreme Court in November 2005, and appealed again to the court in 2006,

http://www.phr.org.il/phr/article.asp?articleid=270&catid=41&pcat=-1&lang=ENG

These booms, are not just loud, they are loud enough to shatter windows, shake the ground and repeated over time, as they are, can permanently traumatize children. They take place at night, in the morning, unexpectedly and repeatedly. They do not target military, they are indiscriminate and have caused an increase in miscarriages in Gaza.

An article in YNEWS below gives far more detail:
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3149531,00.html
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4402326.stm

To hear your own words spoken by a Palestinian read the blog below:

http://a-mother-from-gaza.blogspot.com/ and look for numerous blog entries on sonic booms.

I firmly believe that Israel’s security lies in giving security, to those within it borders as well as those in the occupied territories. Peace was only achieved in Ireland when the police force and security forces became a moral force of authority for all, a process still in the making. Your country will never be secure until all its citizens and those in the West bank and Gaza can join, respect and admire a controlled security force.

They said it was not possibly in Ireland, but it is, they will say it is not possible in Israel, but it is. The rule of law: blind, equal law for all, is the only guarantee peace.

I hope you stay safe,
Yael

5:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yael-Are you comparing Hezbollah or Hamas to the Irish? Is it possible that Hezbollah, a terrorist group dedicated to the DESTRUCTION of the state of Israel would have any insentive to stop the fighting? On the contrary, Hezbollah would not be sat to see the destructtion of Lebanon if at the samr time it could destroy Israel. What eveidence do you have to show that they have even tried to help the palestinian people ever. They are happy to keep the palestinians subservient.

If nothing else, the conflict in Ireland had two parties who had a stake in preserving the country. That is not true in this situation.

I too want peace in the middle east, but not at the risk of keeping Israel at the mercy of terrorists. Until the world can see Hezbollah for what it is there can be no peace.

2:28 AM  
Blogger Roof Fiddler said...

Hi, found your blog while surfing - I was also in Haifa when the war started, on an ulpan at the University - was only in the shelters for three hours on the Sunday when things really started hotting up, then managed to get out to J'salem...(the rest of the overseas students were evacuated later that day). How you can have spent three weeks in those conditions, in what sounds like the city where the rockets have been hitting (we were up on the mountain, at least) humbles me.

Am now back in the UK and, crazily enough, missing Israel. UK media and public mood in general is rather anti-Israel, there is some mention of the rocketing in the north but not enough coverage for people to really understand what's going on in the North. One problem I think is that, unlike in Israel, most Brits under 60 haven't personally been in a war situation themselves so can't appreciate what you are facing now.

Stay safe, I only had a week in Haifa before the rockets forced us away, it's a beautiful city and pg I will return to see it one day in the future. Will keep checking to see what it's like for you...

shalom

2:54 AM  
Anonymous Yael said...

Dear Anonymous,

Yes I am comparing the Irish, my own people, to the Hamas and Hezbollah. I do this not to cheer them on, but to show how to convert them.

In elections in Ireland in 1919, a parliament of Sinn Fein, that supported total independence of Ireland from England were voted in. They refused to go to London, and set up their own parliament in Ireland. The English sent in troops, arrested all parliament members they could find. A guerrilla war followed. The Irish parliament and representatives hiding, setting up their own courts, building a guerrilla army that attacked at night, carried out executions, etc. The driving force was a growing realization amongst the Irish population that peace gained you nothing. The English did not want to preserve the Irish, and the Irish wanted to drive the English into the sea. Does this not sound familiar?

Our democratic vote was ignored. Our right to self governance was ignored. We were dismissed as ignorant peasants, as vicious thugs. As to Hamas and Hezbollah not caring about the people, they are elected, not imposed, the same as Sinn Fein.

The English thought they could stop the rebellion with force, they were, at the time, the most powerful force in the world. They did not, because they did not understand that violence breeds violence. No one in the world will lie down after being beaten. Each pain inflicted becomes a source of strength.

Israel is killing itself by bombing Lebanon. It could kill every single fighter, it could remove every rocket, it could blow up every single road and building. But every single pair of eyes that is left will remember.

I know what Hezbollah is, they kill civilians, they want to kill off Israel, but that is not the point. The point is: How can you defeat them?

How in history have people like this being defeated? Logically, tactically, Israel is just building a new army of Hamas and Hezbollah. Stop the bombing, start a true, open dialogue, and you will drain them dry. They will grow small as Sinn Fein has, now holding only 3% of the vote, and then they will change their songs, as Sinn Fein did.

It worked here, it was the only thing that has ever worked. It will work in Israel.

Yael

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2:32 PM  
Blogger CIA: THE HUB OF TERRORISM said...

On the US-Israeli Invasion of Lebanon
Noam Chomsky
Al-Adab, August 19, 2006
Though there are many interacting factors, the immediate issue that lies behind the latest US-Israeli invasion of Lebanon remains, I believe, what it was in the four preceding invasions: the Israel-Palestine conflict. In the most important case, the devastating US-backed 1982 Israeli invasion was openly described in Israel as a war for the West Bank, undertaken to put an end to annoying PLO calls for a diplomatic settlement (with the secondary goal of imposing a client regime in Lebanon). There are numerous other illustrations. Despite the many differences in circumstances, the July 2006 invasion falls generally into the same pattern.
Among mainstream American critics of Bush administration policies, the favored version is that “We had always approached [conflict between Israel and its neighbors] in a balanced way, assuming that we could be the catalyst for an agreement,” but Bush II regrettably abandoned that neutral stance, causing great problems for the United States (Middle East specialist and former diplomat Edward Walker, a leading moderate). The actual record is quite different: For over 30 years, Washington has unilaterally barred a peaceful political settlement, with only slight and brief deviations.

The consistent rejectionism can be traced back to the February 1971 Egyptian offer of a full peace treaty with Israel, in the terms of official US policy, offering nothing for the Palestinians. Israel understood that this peace offer would put an end to any security threat, but the government decided to reject security in favor of expansion, then mostly into northeastern Sinai. Washington supported Israel’s stand, adhering to Kissinger’s principle of “stalemate”: force, not diplomacy. It was only 8 years later, after a terrible war and great suffering, that Washington agreed to Egypt’s demand for withdrawal from its territory.

Meanwhile the Palestinian issue had entered the international agenda, and a broad international consensus had crystallized in favor of a two-state settlement on the pre-June 1967 border, perhaps with minor and mutual adjustments. In December 1975, the UN Security Council agreed to consider a resolution proposed by the Arab “confrontation states” with these provisions, also incorporating the basic wording of UN 242. The US vetoed the resolution. Israel’s reaction was to bomb Lebanon, killing over 50 people in Nabatiye, calling the attack “preventive” – presumably to “prevent” the UN session, which Israel boycotted.

The only significant exception to consistent US-Israeli rejectionism was in January 2001, when Israeli and Palestinian negotiators came close to agreement in Taba. But the negotiations were called off by Israeli Prime Minister Barak four days early, ending that promising effort. Unofficial but high-level negotiations continued, leading to the Geneva Accord of December 2002, with similar proposals. It was welcomed by most of the world, but rejected by Israel and dismissed by Washington (and, reflexively, the US media and intellectual classes).

Meanwhile US-backed Israeli settlement and infrastructure programs have been “creating facts on the ground” in order to undermine potential realization of Palestinian national rights. Throughout the Oslo years, these programs continued steadily, with a sharp peak in 2000: Clinton’s final year, and Barak’s. The current euphemism for these programs is “disengagement” from Gaza and “convergence” in the West Bank – in Western rhetoric, Ehud Olmert’s courageous program of withdrawal from the occupied territories. The reality, as usual, is quite different.

The Gaza “disengagement” was openly announced as a West Bank expansion plan. Having turned Gaza into a disaster area, sane Israeli hawks realized that there was no point leaving a few thousand settlers taking the best land and scarce resources, protected by a large part of the IDF. It made more sense to send them to the West Bank and Golan Heights, where new settlement programs were announced, while turning Gaza into “the world’s largest prison,” as Israeli human rights groups accurately call it. West Bank “Convergence” formalizes these programs of annexation, cantonization, and imprisonment. With decisive US support, Israel is annexing valuable lands and the most important resources of the West Bank (primarily water), while carrying out settlement and infrastructure projects that divide the shrinking Palestinian territories into unviable cantons, virtually separated from one another and from whatever pitiful corner of Jerusalem will be left to Palestinians. All are to be imprisoned as Israel takes over the Jordan Valley, and of course any other access to the outside world.

All of these programs are recognized to be illegal, in violation of numerous Security Council resolutions and the unanimous decision of the World Court any part of the "separation wall" that is built to “defend” the settlements is “ipso facto” illegal (U.S. Justice Buergenthal, in a separate declaration). Hence about 80-85% of the wall is illegal, as is the entire “convergence” program. But for a self-designated outlaw state and its clients, such facts are minor irrelevancies.

Currently, the US and Israel demand that Hamas accept the 2002 Arab League Beirut proposal for full normalization of relations with Israel after withdrawal in accord with the international consensus. The proposal has long been accepted by the PLO, and it has also been formally accepted by the “supreme leader” of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has made it clear that Hezbollah would not disrupt such an agreement if it is accepted by Palestinians. Hamas has repeatedly indicated its willingness to negotiate in these terms.

The facts are doctrinally unacceptable, hence mostly suppressed. What we see, instead, is the stern warning to Hamas by the editors of the New York Times that their formal agreement to the Beirut peace plan is “an admission ticket to the real world, a necessary rite of passage in the progression from a lawless opposition to a lawful government.” Like others, the NYT editors fail to mention that the US and Israel forcefully reject this proposal, and are alone in doing so among relevant actors. Furthermore, they reject it not merely in rhetoric, but far more importantly, in deeds. We see at once who constitutes the “lawless opposition” and who speaks for them. But that conclusion cannot be expressed, even entertained, in respectable circles.

The only meaningful support for Palestinians facing national destruction is from Hezbollah. For this reason alone it follows that Hezbollah must be severely weakened or destroyed, just as the PLO had to be evicted from Lebanon in 1982. But Hezbollah is too deeply embedded within Lebanese society to be eradicated, so Lebanon too must be largely destroyed. An expected benefit for the US and Israel was to enhance the credibility of threats against Iran by eliminating a Lebanese-based deterrent to a possible attack. But none of this turned out as planned. Much as in Iraq, and elsewhere, Bush administration planners have created catastrophes, even for the interests they represent. That is the primary reason for the unprecedented criticism of the administration among the foreign policy elite, even before the invasion of Iraq.

In the background lie more far-reaching and lasting concerns: to ensure what is called “stability” in the reigning ideology. “Stability,” in simple words, means obedience. “Stability” is undermined by states that do not strictly follow orders, secular nationalists, Islamists who are not under control (in contrast, the Saudi monarchy, the oldest and most valuable US ally, is fine), etc. Such “destabilizing” forces are particularly dangerous when their programs are attractive to others, in which case they are called “viruses” that must be destroyed. “Stability” is enhanced by loyal client states. Since 1967, it has been assumed that Israel can play this role, along with other “peripheral” states. Israel has become virtually an off-shore US military base and high-tech center, the natural consequence of its rejection of security in favor of expansion in 1971, and repeatedly since. These policies are subject to little internal debate, whoever holds state power. The policies extend world-wide, and in the Middle East, their significance is enhanced by one of the leading principles of foreign policy since World War II (and for Britain before that): to ensure control over Middle East energy resources, recognized for 60 years to be “a stupendous source of strategic power” and “one of the greatest material prizes in world history.”

The standard Western version is that the July 2006 invasion was justified by legitimate outrage over capture of two Israeli soldiers at the border. The posture is cynical fraud. The US and Israel, and the West generally, have little objection to capture of soldiers, or even to the far more severe crime of kidnapping civilians (or of course to killing civilians). That had been Israeli practice in Lebanon for many years, and no one ever suggested that Israel should therefore be invaded and largely destroyed. Western cynicism was revealed with even more dramatic clarity as the current upsurge of violence erupted after Palestinian militants captured an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, on June 25. That too elicited huge outrage, and support for Israel's sharp escalation of its murderous assault on Gaza. The scale is reflected in casualties: in June, 36 Palestinian civilians were killed in Gaza; in July, the numbers more than quadrupled to over 170, dozens of them children. The posture of outrage was, again, cynical fraud, as demonstrated dramatically, and conclusively, by the reaction to Israel's kidnapping of two Gaza civilians, the Muamar brothers, one day before, on June 24. They disappeared into Israel's prison system, joining the hundreds of others imprisoned without charge -- hence kidnapped, as are many of those sentenced on dubious charges. There was some brief and dismissive mention of the kidnapping of the Muamar brothers, but no reaction, because such crimes are considered legitimate when carried out by “our side.” The idea that this crime would justify a murderous assault on Israel would have been regarded as a reversion to Nazism.


The distinction is clear, and familiar throughout history: to paraphrase Thucydides, the powerful are entitled to do as they wish, while the weak suffer as they must.

We should not overlook the progress that has been made in undermining the imperial mentality that is so deeply rooted in Western moral and intellectual culture as to be beyond awareness. Nor should we forget the scale of what remains to be achieved, tasks that must be undertaken in solidarity and cooperation by people in North and South who hope to see a more decent and civilized world.

10:30 PM  
Blogger Castro said...

i would just like to say that it's very sad that nobody here except for Yael has given a somewhat objective view on the Israel-Lebanon war. you're talking about getting revenge for israeli soldiers being kidnapped as if the kidnapping was the first move, but what you're forgetting is that the kidnapping was a perfectly ligitimate and fair reaction - Hezbollah is not the one deliberately targeting innocent civilians - to israel's ongoing colonial, capitalist and fascist expansion in the Middle East specifically the barbaric way in which israel is colonizing and torturing Palestinians (by e.g. turning off their water and electricity supply).
and by the way, israel and the cowardly international community is mourning the 'kidnapping' of the two israeli soldiers. their names were being mentioned on the news during the israeli offensive almost on a daily basis. but answer this question: do you remember even one name of the seven members of the same family slaghtered on the beach of Gaza by an Israeli war ship?
if you wish to comment on these views, please do so by visiting: www.hezbollahamas.blogspot.com

11:21 PM  

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