Jerusalem Magazine
July 21, 2006 Day 10
The scenes of refugees piling onto ships as they escape the mess in Lebanon are startling.  Now Israel has announced it will allow a humanitarian aid corridor from Cyprus to Lebanon. 300 Lebanese have been killed since Hezbollah began this war, and over 1,000 injured.. While most of the Israeli counter-attack has been on the Hezbollah controlled Southern Beirut neighborhood,(Israel is also bombing bridges, and roads, to cut off the resupply of weapons to Hezbollah from Syria and Iran) occasionally Israeli air attacks did drift over onto other parts of Beirut. While these incidents are regretted by the Israelis, no such regrets are expressed by Hezbollah. When a Hezbollah rocket fell on an Arab town killing two young Arab children, Hezbollah’s leader Sheik Nazrallah called the boys “Shaidim.” Martyrs.
Nasrallah was a big disappointment. I’d hoped he was dead. But he appeared on Qatar’s Al Jezarra TV, obviously alive and still filled with fight after Israelis had bombed what they thought was his bunker. Nope, missed me, he said. Didn’t get my top command either. And don’t get any big ideas, I still have lots of missiles left. To top it off he warned what was going to happen to Israeli troops if they dared invade Lebanon. Big surprises in store for them. For us.
But perhaps even more telling were the responses of many Arabs in Nazareth. They blamed Israel for the deaths, not installing sirens in the city, not putting in bomb shelters, firing on Hezbollah. They did not blame Nasrallah. He wouldn’t hit Arabs, they told the cameras. Other Palestinians, in the West Bank and Jordan, also supported Hezbollah. No surprise.
What’s amazing is there are only a few thousand active Hezbollah fighters, supported by about 40 % of the Lebanese Shiite population. (the Christians, Suni and Druze are against them). Sometimes I think back to the days of the Weathermen and the SDS. A few people making a big racket, terrorizing a nation.
Recently I worked on a film about WWII. I watched hours of footage of Berlin, Cologne and other German cities reduced to rubble. The US didn’t hesitate to carpet bomb enemy cities, nor were they soundly criticized when the bombs fell on innocent Germans, if such people existed. We won’t even mention Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Now Israel is getting lambasted by Arabs, or pro-Arab westerners, who have fled Lebanon during the Israeli bombardment, hunting Hezbollah rocket launchers. Only 30 Israelis have died so far since this war began. Only thirty. The Arabs lost ten times as many. But even one Israeli life was unnecessary. Thirty is a national disaster.
Today as of about 17:20, Haifa was hit three times, a dozen rockets, scores fell across the north, this after a 36-hour respite from Hezbollah shelling. In Haifa 30 people were injured, a few seriously. One rocket crashed through the roof of a three-story apartment building and went all the way down to the first floor. Luckily none of the building’s dwellers were home. Most had left town. The other rockets hit where pedestrians were strolling downtown, causing serious damage. And remember Hezbollah fills these bombs with oversized BBs, just to make the damage to the body more drastic. My daughter’s friend, who works for the Army Spokesman’s office, said that usually when the news reports serious injuries, they mean people dead or close to it. Time will tell.
Rockets also fell across the northern border on Israelis towns from Naharyia to Pekiin and into the Afula valley. Tsfat was hit yet again.  My brother-in-law Danny called from the Golan Heights. A few katyushas had fallen near his farm. A guy walked around warning them to get ready to go in the bomb shelters at a minutes notice. He wasn’t happy. “We’re tired of this,” he said. “When will they leave us alone?”
To really complicate matters Israeli soldiers were starting to get killed every day as exploratory units snuck into Lebanon. Now we’re hearing that these special units were a smoke screen to infiltrate thousands of Israeli troops into S. Lebanon who went in when the ever-present News cameras weren’t looking.  So, in certain ways, the ground war has started. Do the Israelis have a plan? Let’s hope they do. But maybe they don’t have a good one. Maybe, as my brother-in-law Danny says, people are just so fed up with these wars that they never planned another one against Hezbollah. Maybe the Army planners underestimated Hezbollah. The bombing campaign was to ‘soften up’ the ground. Let’s see if stage two is more successful.
We have friends with children serving in these units. Kids whose Bar Mitzvah’s I’ve attended. Our friends are not happy to have their children at risk. But they accept the reality. If Hezbollah isn’t disarmed we all know they’ll eventually get around to using the longer range rockets, killing people in Tel Aviv, Beer Sheva, and other Israeli cities. With an estimated 13,000 rockets, they can keep firing for months and months without stopping. Eventually they’ll get down to the big rockets. Then what?
Unfortunately the only way to stop them is on the ground. Israeli boys going into the little towns and villages in the hills looking down on Israel’s northern border, and finding the arms stored in tunnels dug under homes, in closets, under floorboards. Who knows where. House to house. Street by street. Neighborhood by neighborhood, until the threat is removed. It’s gonna be bloody. But what choice is there?
I’m reminded of the adage of the Sage Rabbi Hillel, “If I am not for me, who will be? If not now, when?”
Will the diplomatic community allow it? Hey, we’ve got the U.N. Haven’t they done a great job in Darfur? In Rwanda? In Bosnia? The U.N. is based on laudable goals, but run by people, many corrupt, with vested interests frequently at odds with the West. Oh, yeah, let’s call in the U.N. My experience with them when I was working on a film for the IDF’s Film Unit, is they’re working-class guys from Nigeria or Ghana or Ireland who joined the UN because they needed a job, and income, the tax-breaks of buying duty-free cars and booze, but hide when the shooting starts.
Southern Lebanon is a quagmire, and has been since the PLO turned it into Fatahland back in the 70’s. (Ironically, much of S. Lebanon was settled by Jews at the turn of the last century, but given to Lebanon in the 1947 Armistice Agreement.) My first trip to Israel in 1970 was brought about by a PLO missile which struck a school bus in the Galilee killing Israeli children. I went to Maalot and saw the remnants of the Katyusha that was fired then. Now instead of the PLO we call them Hezbollah. It’s still people who don’t want Israel to exist, whatever you call them.
Israel has made a sort of Peace with Jordan and Egypt. Israel withdrew from Lebanon behind what even the UN recognized as Israel’s borders. Hezbollah has only hatred to fuel this fight, they have no legal right.
One day Hezbollah will be pushed back out of range. One day they’ll start using longer range rockets. One day they’ll start using dirty bombs, in Israel, in Argentina, in the USA, who knows? Meanwhile it is Israel on the front line fighting terror. More boys will die. More people will be injured. This is not a war Israel wanted, but is stuck with it. If Hezbollah isn’t stopped, Israel will be attacked every day. Sooner or later they’ll get around the nuclear missiles.
So those folks who are squeamish, join the club. Everyone I talk to in Israel is nervous. No one likes this situation, but according to the polls in Israeli papers, 90% of the people support the action Israel’s taking.  But it’s like being mugged. A guy sticks a gun in your face, and you give him your money. You didn’t ask to be mugged. It just happened. What Israel is doing now is trying to drive the muggers out of the neighborhood.
July 21, 2006 War in Israel Day 10