Jerusalem Magazine
 July 26, 2006 Day 15 War in Israel 06
Today is Rosh Hodesh Av, the first day of the Hebrew month of Av. According to Jewish legend both the First and Second Temples were destroyed on the 9th of Av, even though about five hundred years separated the two events. In any case even the latter of the two was nearly 2,000 years ago.  Still the legend persists. Religious people believe that these 9 days are times of woe. One is prohibited from eating meat, from buying new clothing, and if purchased from wearing it until after the 9th of Av, which is a 24-hour fast day just likeYom Kippur. It is also supposed to be a bad time for Jews to have relations with Gentiles.  How much of these stuff is superstition and how much practical? Who knows? But what’s clear is that these are not good times for Israel.
Nine soldiers were killed yesterday in a Hezbollah ambush. The nation of Israel mourned. TV commentators jumped in with advice and criticism. The Hezbollah looked at this as if it had defeated the same Israeli army that had itself fought successfully against the combined armies of five Arab countries (in 48-56-67-73). Israelis were angry at the Army. Some said we shouldn’t send in more ground forces, others argued for a massive call-up, overwhelming the well entrenched but essentially small weak enemy with force.
The argument continued into the night and spilled onto the morning news. The young reporters were filled with indignation at Israel’s inefficiency, but the veteran Generals called up to give their analysis had a different tale to tell. War is lousy. It hurts, but people die. One ex-General was on a Israel TV Channel 10 panel, and  retold his experience as a young soldier in the famous Israeli army victory in the ’67 Six-Day War. He said they’d been fighting in Gaza and were suddenly moved to fight for the liberation of Jerusalem. He was listening to the radio and heard then Prime Minister Levi Eshkol express doubt about the army’s tactics. “My legs started to shake,” he said. Later, after the war, he learned that 99 men had died fighting for Jerusalem in the first days of the war. But Israel kept on, and won. Today Israel TV covers the war live in color all day and all night. Dramatic pictures of wounded soldiers on stretchers, white body bags of the dead lined up in front of a tank, first frighten, then anger the Israelis. Resolve turns into insecurity.
Also on the panel with the General was a professor of Arab affairs. He said that the press had it all wrong. You should have heard the two young anchorwomen let him have it, but he kept on. If you listen to Hezbollah, they’re asking for a cease-fire. If you listen to Syria, they’re calling for a cease-fire. Iran sent it’s Foreign Minister to call for a cease-fire. You don’t get it, he told these chippies, countries call for a cease-fire when they’re loosing, not winning! If Iran wanted to expand the war they wouldn’t call for a cease-fire. You people have it all wrong. Israel has them on the ropes.
Now, that was refreshing to hear. And in perspective, it seems to be true. The horrible losses in the battle were just that. Probably more troops are needed. The new Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army is the first Air Force guy in the job. He took his cue from the US and bombed ceaselessly. Like the US the strategy seemed to be limited ground forces, and heavy bombardment. Didn’t work in Iraq. I’m not a general but it seems that thinking that Diet Cola is good better for you than Classic is a fallacy. Big forces in a well-planned attack can overwhelm the enemy.  Viet Nam was different, but that’s another story. What the US is doing in Iraq is sending in a policing force to quell a revolution. Israel tried the same thing. Don’t know if it’s gonna work. Probably a massive invasion will be called for. Meanwhile little by little the Israel Army is whittling away at Hezbollah.
Yesterday the Isael Air Force destroyed a six-story Hezbollah control center in Southern Lebanon.. Israel has to get to the point where Hezbollah can’t rebuild, ever, no matter what it takes. By the way, turns out one of Hezbollah’s activities is construction. Hezbollah runs some of the largest construction firms in the country. Given a chance Hezbollah will get rich rebuilding Lebanon.
This war is not good for the U.N. either. Kofi Anan was reportedly livid over the four U.N. officers killed by Israeli armaments in Southern Lebanon. One Irishman who survived complained that he notified the Israeli Army a number of times that the UN was in the building. He claims it was clearly marked, also with big U.N. on the roof. Okay, I’m sure it was. But why haven’t he UN stopped even one of the 150 missiles that fell today?
I recall working on a film once for the Israeli Army meant to educate the Israeli soldiers to the fact that the UN Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) was not the enemy. Problem was that the terrorists frequently used the UN as a shield, literally hiding behind UN buildings while firing at Israelis. As one ex-General said today, the UN was usually good for the Arab side, but usually got in the way of Israelis doing their job. I assume this was an honest mistake on Israel’s part. Who knows? But maybe one of the UN guys was actually hiding Hezbollah fighters. Maybe more than one of the UN guys was working with Hezbollah out of ideology or pay? It’s happened before. Since the UN has not been able to enforce resolution 1559, demanding that Hezbollah disarm, what good have they been?
Ah, when Mr. Anan spoke in Rome he never once mentioned UN Resolution 1559, nor the UN  failure disarming Hezbollah. When the Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora spoke, he blamed Israel for the war, claiming Israel had not withdrawn from the “Sheba Farms” area on the Lebanese border. He said, that Hezbollah was only doing what good Lebanese should do, get back Lebanese land. Mr. Siniora didn’t cite the fact that the UN General Assemble ruled that the Sheba Farms was part of Syria, not Lebanon. Nor that according to the UN Israel had withdrawn from all of Lebanon in 2000. Of course he didn’t mention 1559. Why should he? Then he’d have to admit Lebanon let Hezbollah start all of this.
Mr. Siniora earlier had the audacity to ask Israel for damages because of the war. Isn’t it funny how the world can turn things upside down, and believe that upside down is right side up? And this is the guy we’re betting on the run a fair Democratic government. Why is it the US is always supporting guys who you wouldn’t buy a used car from?
I’m reminded of that Iraqi  huckster Ahmed Chalabi, who convinced the CIA that he had a huge backing in Iraq for a popular uprising. Earlier, Jordanian TV ran reports that a warrant was out for Chalabi’s arrest for bilking Jordanians who’d invested millions in a bank he’d opened.  Now we have PM Siniora. I guess it’s sort of what Saul Alinksky, the great labor organizer said back in the ‘30s. “The essence of any choice is in it’s alternative.”
The battle for Bint Jabail continues. A bloody horrible battle. One of those wounded Golani fighters, recuperating in Rambam Hospital in Haifa, said he couldn’t wait to get out of the hospital and back to the battle, to his friends. He said that its easy to criticize the war from the sidelines, but harder to fight and win. But he believed Israel would win.
The radio commentators thought he was uplifting. Showed backbone.
I’m glad he was chosen.. It’s nice to hear the kids believe what they’re fighting for.  Later, on the news, the Israeli General in charge of the Northern battle said the Israelis were fighting guerillas, and that Israel had switched to guerilla tactics. He said he expected the war to last a few more weeks.
My wife asked me twice, as if I know the answers, why the Air Force didn’t simply destroy the town, rather than risk Israeli lives. I’d guess that it’s easier said than done. Hundreds of buildings flattened like Hiroshima wouldn’t look good on the news, and these days the news is a real battlefront, too. When the news shows Southern Beirut we always see the same few streets where Nasrallah had his offices and headquarters. And I admit, they’re shocking to look at. The Hezbollah are brave cunning fighters. Israel reports about 250 Hezbollah have died. Their people should be proud of them. Too bad they have to use hatred to fuel their ambitions.
The poor and elderly Israelis are stuck in the North..The TV shows elderly widows alone, their help having fled the safety in the south. Some reports are of blown out windows with no one around to repair them. Others are heart-warming stories of people from Tel Aviv coming up to the northern bomb shelters with food, or entertainment. The reports are also of people who fled to Tel Aviv and now are homeless since they can’t afford to stay in a hotel any longer. Mostly when people flee, if they don’t have money, or family in the center of the country, they’re on their own.
The peach harvest continues in the north. My son is helping his uncle. His cousins Amos and Pnina are there too, gainfully employed. Back on the farm. Not their first choice. They’re all up at 4:00 am, pick until 2:00 pm. Listen to the Israeli artillery fire. Listen to the katyushas falling in the nearby Galilee. My mother-in-law is there too. Nasrallah has said he’s going to bomb beyond Haifa. He’s a man of his word. One of his deputies mentioned the coastal resort town of Netanya. So Israel is in a race; get Nasrallah before he starts using the longer-range Iranian-Syrian rockets; beat Hezbollah into submission before the delicate sensibilities of the International Community force a cease-fire; hang-on even though the costs of the war are spiraling out of control. But as Israel’s leading military commentator Zeev Shiff wrote in Haartez, Israel has no choice but to crush Hezbollah, because otherwise the real Arab armies will smell weakness and attack.
The nine days of Av were never good times. But hey, there’s only nine of them.
July 26, 2006 War in Israel Day 15