Saturday, January 31, 2009

"Mommy, Don't"

And those were the last words of a twelve-year-old girl, imploring her mother not to take away her life. The most difficult part of this atrocious and horribly sad, tawdry story is the realization that a child - who chose to live with her mother rather than remain with the father who loved her and in whose care she would be safe - understood at the end of her twelve years of life that she was not able to invoke in her mother the normal response of any mother for the well-being of her child.

It simply boggles the imagination that any mother would deliberately and with degraded malice seek to take her child's life. A life that she had a hand in bringing into the world, a life that she was able to witness bloom as her child grew from infancy to maturity, able to think for herself, display the emotions of need and love, clinging to the belief as all children do, that their mother is their protector, charged by nature to nurture, love and support them.

It is painful in the extreme to read the account of this mother who chose to take literally the choice given her by a boyfriend - to make the choice between his needs and that of her child. A choice - difficult as it might seem to any normal human being - that has been made countless times by others, who chose to abandon their children, or to leave them in the care of others to enable them to pursue an interest they placed before that of their children's.

But to plan to murder a child, to dispose of the life of a young girl, a daughter, for the sole purpose of assuring a lover that his interests were more meaningful and precious to her than those of her child? To cold-bloodedly, in the heat of passion, determine that she would be the instrument of her daughter's death for her desired purpose of retaining the loyalty and interest of a jealous and possessive man? Impossible, a crime too heinous for the human mind to absorb.

Yet the woman, Penny Boudreau, set about to plan and execute a ruse whereby she would murder her child, manipulate her daughter's corpse and surrounding evidence to encourage the belief that her daughter had been abducted, sexually assaulted and left to be discovered by the police. In the process posing as a grief-stricken mother, her performance exonerating her from any undue suspicion.

In the end, this woman informed police how she had wrapped rope around her hands, placed the rope around her daughter's neck then pulled with all the strength she could muster until her child breathed no more. She then lifted her daughter's body into her car, drove to an isolated spot where she removed the child's clothing and then dragged the body to dump it beside the LeHave River.

Returning home, she reported her daughter's absence, as a runaway. And then spent the following several weeks publicly mourning, and presenting tearful appeals over public media to appeal to her daughter to come back to her, to return home to her loving mother. Evidence finally appeared, to confirm what already-suspicious police felt, that the mother murdered her daughter.

Penny Boudreau was sentenced to life with no opportunity for parole. In her case, life will result in a mere 20 years' imprisonment. She had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Legal niceties aside, this woman planned to murder her child, she took care to assemble the tools she would need to complete the horrible crime. She forced her daughter, who sensed something badly awry, to remain with her, as she drove her to a desolate area.

In the annals of criminal, murderous brutality utterly bereft of human compassion, the mother of Karissa Boudreau will have her own, very special place of solitary infamy. The unspeakable horror of this act, of a mother betraying a daughter's love and trust, choosing to terrorize and to murder her own child, is a very peculiar act against nature and against humanity.

Those imploring words, "Mommy, don't" will haunt, psychically torment and profoundly affect all those who have read or heard of them, the last desperate words of a dying child begging her mother to have pity, to love and cherish her.

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The Doha Round Of International Fuming Interests

Of all places for two countries, former allies, to air their social-political disentanglement; at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Turkey, the Muslim country with which Israel enjoys the closest confidence, has taken great moral umbrage at Israel's recent retaliatory invasion of Gaza, attempting to oust Hamas militants, or at least destroy their arsenal of rockets before they're all lobbed into Israel.

Turkey, just a relatively short while ago, voted in an Islamist government. Despite which, sound political relations were maintained, something of great importance to Israel, which desperately seeks to improve its relations with Islamic countries. However, in seeking to defend oneself against the incessant onslaught of fanatic jihadists, the reality of offending Muslim sensibilities is always a distinct problem.

Besides which, any government of any Muslim country which becomes too intolerably comfortable with Israel risks punishment from the ordinary citizen on the streets of their towns, cities and backwaters. This is a slow and tender process, one whose slender possibilities and brutal backlashes must be carefully weighed. It's one thing entirely for governments to meet and greet; another for the population weaned on hatred and suspicion to accept unquestioningly.

Israel goes out of its way to ameliorate bad feelings that result from its need to defend itself. Curiously enough, in Israel's blandishments to Turkey, the offer was made to provide the country with unmanned drones; one particular type of which has so recently been used, within Gaza, to the misfortune of Hamas terrorists.

And when Shimon Perez got into a slinging match of accusations and counter-accusations at the conference, to the dismay of the general assembly, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was infuriated, claiming his response time was half of that allotted Israel, and as such insulting to the point where he withdrew, fuming he would never return.

The business community in Turkey is not so certain that this is the language nor the journey they themselves wish to take, regardless of the position of their prime minister. And when Mr. Erdogan stormed out of the Davos conference, effectively putting on ice President Shimon Peres's overture toward reconciliation, he was playing a one-man band.

But in perfect pitch with Arab League head Amr Moussa and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon both of whom took great pains to express their disfavour of Israel's Cast Lead operation. In their debate, Shimon Peres, perhaps looking for greater understanding from Mr. Erdogan, suggested that under similar circumstances Turkey would have reacted exactly the same way.

"Do you understand the meaning of a situation where hundreds of rockets are falling a day on women and children who cannot sleep quietly, who need to sleep in shelters? ...You don't understand, and I am not prepared for lies." That kind of direct offensive obviously took Mr. Erdogan by surprise, but the offensive managed to impress the general audience, which applauded Mr. Peres's passion.

The brevity of time Mr. Erdogan was granted in his response irked him, all the more so when he was silenced by a moderator, having been enabled to eke out a mild condemnation of Israel's actions corresponding to "very wrong" and "not humanitarian" rather more diplomatic than earlier statements made slamming Israel's
“perpetrating inhuman actions which would bring it to self-destruction".

"Allah will sooner or later punish those who transgress the rights of innocents,” he thundered, calling upon Israel's expulsion from the United Nations. He also took formal steps in Turkey to establish a one-minute silence to be observed in schools, in commemoration of the deaths of Palestinian children who died in the Israeli bombings of Gaza, to further bring home his point.

When Mr. Erdogan was cut off by the moderator he said, as he left, "Thank you very much. I don't think I will come back to Davos." Predictably enough, on his return to Turkey, Mr. Erdogan was overwhelmed by thousands of exultantly pleased supporters. At the airport demonstrators bore Turkish and PLO flags, shouting slogans in support of Gazans and their stout defender of the defenceless, Prime Minister Erdogan.

Mr. Erdogan clarified his anger; it was directed against the government of Israel, not its people. "The death of civilians cannot be seen as a simple work accident", he fumed. Israel's ambassador to Ankara has his work cut out for him. Istanbul's anger is understandable, and it will cool when the light of distance and reason returns. The two countries share strategic interests and a long-standing relationship of some considerable value.

And Turkey is, in all conscience, trying to do its part in helping to establish a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Prime Minister Erdogan's first point of entry to establishing that potential, however, should be to convey to Hamas the necessity of laying down its hatred and burning desire to violently remove Israel from the Middle East, along with its almost-equal wish to eradicate Fatah.

It will be interesting to see if his passion and humanity can be mustered to the cause of achieving first, unity, then an attempt to usher in a durable peace. In the process he can avail himself of the considerable efforts exerted by Egypt toward the process, along with the desires of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and now that of the new president of the United States.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

The Spleen In Spain Falls Mainly On Israel

How unfortunate it is that countries like Norway and Spain find it politically and socially expedient to declare their contempt for a country like Israel, having to cope with its geography in a manner not likely to challenge those countries. Their moral outrage at Israel's need to defend itself from ongoing attacks from fanatical Arabs, now that moderate Arabs have declined to further assault the Jewish state, leaves them open to questions about their murky vision.

Spain is responding to a complaint lodged by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights with respect to what Judge Fernando Andreu terms a "disproportionate and excessive" attack. How Europe revels in those denunciations of a small state having to arm itself and conscript its young into the warrior arts of defence because they are not permitted by surrounding enmity to live like a normal country at ease with its place in the world.

Everything, in fact, is forever 'disproportionate' and 'excessive' when it comes to Jews and so much of the world's apprehension of their intrepid insistence on the right to live, unmolested by hatred and retribution of one kind or another. Certainly, when it comes to arrogance the Jews demonstrate an ultimate chutzpa; collectively denying that they haven't the same rights of survival as any other ethnic group, despite all the best-laid plans of collective execution.

Israel's very particular sin in this instance was to target an unrepentant and determined mass murderer, who planned and assisted in the execution of hundreds of deadly attacks on Israelis. As such he was singly responsible for the atrocious destruction of countless Jewish lives. What to do with someone like Salah Shehadeh, behave in such a civilized manner as to ignore his presence, his ongoing threat, and simply submit to it?

Or do as the commander of Israel's air force at the time and the defence minister did at that time seven years before the protective wall was built, and defuse this terror-master's determination to keep on planning and sending suicide bombers into Israel? By the simple enough expedient of using reliable intelligence to pinpoint his whereabouts and dispatch him. In the process, and most sincerely unfortunately, taking a number of innocent lives, along with his.

"I do not regret the decision I made as defence minister to take (Shehadeh) out. He was one of the biggest murderers", Benjamin Ben-Eliezer commented in an Ynetnews interview. "A hundred Israelis were killed under his orders. At the time, suicide bombings took place on buses, at coffee shops and on the street on an almost daily basis. If we hadn't assassinated him, he would have continued with the attack and killed more Israelis."

What's that old adage? Live by the sword, die the same way? Or, more currently, engage in bombing of innocent civilians, expect to be aerial-bombed by repetition-avoiding retribution. The Spanish judge, Justice Fernando Andreu, claims the assassination may represent a crime against humanity. Because the focus of the attack lived in a densely populated area, resulting in the incidental deaths of civilians.

Justice Andreu has based the legitimacy of his prosecution on a law that permits Spain to prosecute crimes in the commission of terrorist acts, or of genocidal intent, regardless of where they take place, beyond Spanish borders, and not impacting on or involving citizens of Spain. Spain, in fact, has herself been the target of terror attacks, thanks to their own separatist terrorists.

Nor has she been immune to dread attacks killing hundreds of Spaniards through al-Qaeda-inspired sources. March 11, 2004 marked Spain's own al-Qaeda-inspired jihadist attacks in the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people, and wounded another 1,800.

It's fascinating to muse about what Spain would do, how she would react, if her next-door neighbour consistently insisted on attacking within her borders, and she had knowledge of the presence of the main fomenter.

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Letter From An Israeli Soldier

An Open Letter to A citizen Of Gaza: I Am the Soldier Who Slept In Your Home
By: Yishai G (reserve soldier)
[Originally published in Hebrew in Maariv]


While the world watches the ruins in Gaza, you return to your home which remains standing. However, I am sure that it is clear to you that someone was in your home while you were away.

I am that someone.

I spent long hours imagining how you would react when you walked into your home. How you would feel when you understood that IDF soldiers had slept on your mattresses and used your blankets to keep warm.

I knew that it would make you angry and sad and that you would feel this violation of the most intimate areas of your life by those defined as your enemies, with stinging humiliation. I am convinced that you hate me with unbridled hatred, and you do not have even the tiniest desire to hear what I have to say. At the same time, it is important for me to say the following in the hope that there is even the minutest chance that you will hear me.

I spent many days in your home. You and your family’s presence was felt in every corner. I saw your family portraits on the wall, and I thought of my family. I saw your wife’s perfume bottles on the bureau, and I thought of my wife. I saw your children’s toys and their English language schoolbooks. I saw your personal computer and how you set up the modem and wireless phone next to the screen, just as I do.

I wanted you to know that despite the immense disorder you found in your house that was created during a search for explosives and tunnels (which were indeed found in other homes), we did our best to treat your possessions with respect. When I moved the computer table, I disconnected the cables and lay them down neatly on the floor, as I would do with my own computer. I even covered the computer from dust with a piece of cloth. I tried to put back the clothes that fell when we moved the closet although not the same as you would have done, but at least in such a way that nothing would get lost.

I know that the devastation, the bullet holes in your walls and the destruction of those homes near you place my descriptions in a ridiculous light. Still, I need you to understand me, us, and hope that you will channel your anger and criticism to the right places.

I decided to write you this letter specifically because I stayed in your home.

I can surmise that you are intelligent and educated and there are those in your household that are university students. Your children learn English, and you are connected to the Internet. You are not ignorant; you know what is going on around you.

Therefore, I am sure you know that Qassam rockets were launched from your neighborhood into Israeli towns and cities.

How could you see these weekly launches and not think that one day we would say “enough”?! Did you ever consider that it is perhaps wrong to launch rockets at innocent civilians trying to lead a normal life, much like you? How long did you think we would sit back without reacting?

I can hear you saying “it’s not me, it’s Hamas”. My intuition tells me you are not their most avid supporter. If you look closely at the sad reality in which your people live, and you do not try to deceive yourself or make excuses about “occupation”, you must certainly reach the conclusion that the Hamas is your real enemy.

The reality is so simple, even a seven year old can understand: Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip, removing military bases and its citizens from Gush Katif. Nonetheless, we continued to provide you with electricity, water, and goods (and this I know very well as during my reserve duty I guarded the border crossings more than once, and witnessed hundreds of trucks full of goods entering a blockade-free Gaza every day).

Despite all this, for reasons that cannot be understood and with a lack of any rational logic, Hamas launched missiles on Israeli towns. For three years we clenched our teeth and restrained ourselves. In the end, we could not take it anymore and entered the Gaza strip, into your neighborhood, in order to remove those who want to kill us. A reality that is painful but very easy to explain.

As soon as you agree with me that Hamas is your enemy and because of them, your people are miserable, you will also understand that the change must come from within. I am acutely aware of the fact that what I say is easier to write than to do, but I do not see any other way. You, who are connected to the world and concerned about your children’s education, must lead, together with your friends, a civil uprising against Hamas.

I swear to you, that if the citizens of Gaza were busy paving roads, building schools, opening factories and cultural institutions instead of dwelling in self pity, arms smuggling and nurturing a hatred to your Israeli neighbors, your homes would not be in ruins right now. If your leaders were not corrupt and motivated by hatred, your home would not have been harmed. If someone would have stood up and shouted that there is no point in launching missiles on innocent civilians, I would not have to stand in your kitchen as a soldier.

You don’t have money, you tell me? You have more than you can imagine.

Even before Hamas took control of Gaza, during the time of Yasser Arafat, millions if not billions of dollars donated by the world community to the Palestinians was used for purchasing arms or taken directly to your leaders bank accounts. Gulf States, the emirates - your brothers, your flesh and blood, are some of the richest nations in the world. If there was even a small feeling of solidarity between Arab nations, if these nations had but the smallest interest in reconstructing the Palestinian people - your situation would be very different.

You must be familiar with Singapore. The land mass there is not much larger than the Gaza strip and it is considered to be the second most populated country in the world. Yet, Singapore is a successful, prospering, and well managed country. Why not the same for you?

My friend, I would like to call you by name, but I will not do so publicly. I want you to know that I am 100% at peace with what my country did, what my army did, and what I did. However, I feel your pain. I am sorry for the destruction you are finding in your neighborhood at this moment. On a personal level, I did what I could to minimize the damage to your home as much as possible.

In my opinion, we have a lot more in common than you might imagine. I am a civilian, not a soldier, and in my private life I have nothing to do with the military. However, I have an obligation to leave my home, put on a uniform, and protect my family every time we are attacked. I have no desire to be in your home wearing a uniform again and I would be more than happy to sit with you as a guest on your beautiful balcony, drinking sweet tea seasoned with the sage growing in your garden.

The only person who could make that dream a reality is you. Take responsibility for yourself, your family, your people, and start to take control of your destiny. How? I do not know. Maybe there is something to be learned from the Jewish people who rose up from the most destructive human tragedy of the 20th century, and instead of sinking into self-pity, built a flourishing and prospering country. It is possible, and it is in your hands. I am ready to be there to provide a shoulder of support and help to you.

But only you can move the wheels of history.”

Yishai, (Reserve Soldier)

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Friendly Iran

There was the response to President Obama's open hand. A counter-offer from Iran, of course, to meet that open hand with his own. Trouble was, President Obama's open hand was extended to meet a handshake of willingness to explore possible avenues of detente, while President Ahmadinejad's open hand was a slap across President Obama's trusting face.

Well, then what else to expect? After all, the United States stands accused - and needless to say guilty as charged - of dastardly deeds uncountable. If we make an effort, however, as Mr. Ahmadinejad obviously did, they can be recounted. Change in the direction of the U.S. power arc is required, and immediately if understanding is to take place between Iran and America.

"Change means giving up support for the rootless, uncivilized fabricated, murdering ... Zionists and letting the Palestinian nation decide its own destiny", spat the Iranian president venomously. "Change means putting an end to U.S. presence in (different countries around) the world."

And of course the United States should abjectly apologize for its "dark background". For such crimes as supporting the Shah of Iran, and for its unforgivable cheering and arming of Saddam Hussein during Iraq's war with Iran. Be humble enough and fervently beseech forgiveness and Iran may consider doing just that. May, just may.

Look at that, just when it seemed as though he might have a chance, President Obama went ahead and spoiled everything, and right on Al Arabiya television. Claiming that Israel "will not stop being a strong ally of the United States", and that the U.S. has pledged to increase its troop presence in Afghanistan.


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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Catholic Defence

Apologists for the Vatican claim that the recently reported lifting of the excommunication of four bishops illicitly consecrated by a rebellious archbishop in 1988 has been sorely misunderstood. The lifting of the excommunication had everything to do with the current pope's wish to reunify the fractured Catholic Church, and nothing whatever to do with the incidental and utterly irritating fact that one of the bishops happens to be a vile idiot.

The Church, in resurrecting its communion, and restoring the bishops to legal status within the embrace of the Roman Catholic Church has a larger, more subtle purpose. It has hopes that those Catholics who embraced a more orthodox church culture and who took affront at the liberalizing effects of Vatican II, will now return meekly to the embrace of the larger Catholic Church.

The unfortunate sidebar of welcoming back into the church one such as Bishop Richard Williamson who delights in 9-11 conspiracy theories, and who makes no secret of his addiction to Holocaust denial, happily uttering racist taunts, has nothing whatever to do with the decision of Pope Benedict to make amends and re-legitimize the bishops.

No, the Vatican is not, by welcoming Bishop Williamson back into the fold, validating his belief in the authenticity of The Protocol of the Elders of Zion. Nor, they are swift to explain, do they wish to associate themselves with any of his quite absurd positions on the world order and the Jewish conspiracy to overtake that order and re-order it toward Jewcentricity.

All, all, an unfortunate misunderstanding. That by this decision the Vatican has effectively trivialized its relationship with global Jewry and the State of Israel and its responsibility toward its larger church membership, is mere hostile sophistry.

Meanwhile, anti-Semites the world over now have cause to take heed and rejoice. Possibly serving as an invitational incentive to join the Catholic Church, now suddenly and with cause become so dear to their hearts, thus accomplishing Pope Benedict's mission by delightful default.

Alas, the misunderstanding. It was imperative that the traditionalist society of St. Pius X be reinstated. Cannot Israel understand? Where is Jewish compassion?

Pope Benedict beseeches understanding: "While I renew with affection the expression of my full and unquestionable solidarity with our [Jewish] brothers, I hope the memory of the Shoah will induce humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of hate when it conquers the heart of man." Sterling words of pious comfort.

Remember that tired old adage of actions speaking louder than words? Speaking of words: merely "unacceptable", according to the official Vatican newspaper, referring to Bishop Williamson's statements...? The confidently smirking Williamson has been formally barred from speaking publicly on such matters by his close superior. Frantic damage control the order of the day.

"It is evident that a Catholic bishop cannot speak with ecclesial authority if it is not a question of faith and morals", issued a statement from Switzerland. "Our fraternity does not claim any authority over other questions." Faith and morals? Why both are inclusive of those statements so proudly issuing from the mouth of the bishop.

"With great sadness we acknowledge the extent to which the violation of this mandate has damaged our mission. The statements of Bishop Williamson do not reflect in any way the position of our society." Solution? Remove his authority, go beyond denouncing the man's virulent anti-Semitism and functional illiteracy in world affairs.

His offence against humanity and rational thought is surely great enough to ensure his removal from active duty, as a representative of the Holy Roman Catholic church, is it not? How many minds might this man's poisonous utterings have critically vulgarized into believing he speaks the truth?

With no doubt equal sadness and the heaviest of hearts, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel has seen fit to sever official ties with the Vatican. And has cancelled a meeting scheduled in Rome with the pope's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.

For the simple fact is that Pope Benedict has himself irrevocably de-commissioned his very own commission and commitment.

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It's The Economy, Stupid

Amazing, is it not, that Vladimir Putin continues to enjoy an approval rating of 83% in opinion polls, even while the slowly imploding Russian economy is withering before the perplexed and irritated eyes of the population. All the more amazing, since Mr. Putin has built his reputation on renascent Russian assertiveness piggy-backed on and encouraged by the country's natural energy resources hauling them out of their erstwhile economic doldrums.

Sigh, good things seem to have a habit of worrying elusiveness, of evaporating at the very moment of self-congratulation. Life is so unfair. Russians are unhappy about the new strictures placed on their happy comfort with the new economy, and are finding it difficult to re-adjust back to the bad old days of the old economy of scarce goods and scarcer employment and monetary compensation.

And suddenly the grand old reconstituted Communist Party is re-asserting its old authority, calling for countrywide protests based on the reality of "a wave of popular rage". Rage, rage, against the tide of global recession, the downturn in the need to import pricey fuels whose value has plunged so disastrously for Russia, among others so recently strutting economic confidence.

Demonstrations? Why yes, they're going to occur in various cities; there are hundreds of thousands of disappointed, angry and extremely upset citizens at their loss of good fortune. The country's economy shrivelled by 0.7% in December alone, the first such decline in almost two decades. A million Russians are now out of work, matching falling oil prices, the bulwark of the economy.

To counteract the bad karma of protests against the government, the ruling party has reverted to style and is forcing factory workers, those still gainfully employed to take part in demonstrating loyalty to the regime through their own counter-rallies in celebration of the Kremlin's sterling governance and specifically the wisdom and guidance of their prime minister. Besides, the Kremlin has made it unlawful to demonstrate, on pain of arrest for fomenting unrest.

The Kremlin appears to be in the throes of increasing worry at the threatening clouds ahead endangering them through this trend toward protest. They're still confident that the anger of the country can be managed, as most Russians remain uninspired to join the protests. Yet what occurred in Vladivostok where thousands marched against the raising of tariffs on imported cars by 80% infuriating Russia's eastern port workers by the loss of 100,000 jobs has them duly concerned.

People there were so incandescent with anger by their government that there were placards urging Japan to colonize Vladivostok. Second-hand foreign cars, mostly from Japan, are exceedingly popular with middle-class Russians. The police in Vladivostok refused to quell the riots, forcing Moscow to send in special forces. The protests which began peacefully, ended violently.

As in all such situations, the government sought to explain its position by infusing the scapegoat solution into the public realm of ideas. The Russian parliament unveiled a document explaining that a Western plot led by Japanese intelligence agents planned and stimulated the unrest in Vladivostok. The larger purpose was to foment a popular rebellion, reminiscent of that which occurred in Ukraine and Georgia.

The incredible clumsiness of that propaganda is mind-boggling. Who might they think in their wildest dreams would poke a finger of belief into that indigestible tripe? It goes wildly beyond absurd into paranoid fantasy territory. Scary stuff.

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No sooner has the volatility of the situation between Israel and Gaza cooled with the tentative hope of a ceasefire, than the incendiary ambitions and hubris of jihadists tenderly whisper the flame of conflict back toward killing, wounding, further reprisal. Leading an Israeli attack helicopter to wound a motorcyclist later identified by Hamas as a member of one of its military units who had assisted in the placing of five bombs along the border, one of which proved to be lethal to an IDF soldier.

And, predictably, leading Israeli tanks and armoured bulldozers and infantry to once again cross into Gaza. Where, near the town of Khan Younis, the citizens there were once again impacted by the violating stresses of war. At the very time when President Barack Obama's newly-appointed emissary presented himself to the region. And once again, Israel's response to the attacks was to close crossings into Gaza from Israel. Halting humanitarian aid in the process.

Israel still hopes that a durable, long-lasting peace may result from the prickly, ongoing negotiations between itself and Hamas through Egyptian mediation. Hamas prefers, as always, a hudna, a one-year period of truce whereby it may once again undertake to acquire new weaponry, train more militants, collect additional funding, agitate through ongoing public relations ploys for more international sympathy toward its cause.

It seems clear enough to even the casually studied observer of the Middle East that Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other reasonably 'moderate' Arab states have no love for Iran's and Syria's proxy militias furthering their agenda that threatens not merely the State of Israel, but the longevity of those other Arab governments as well. It remains to be seen how West Bank Palestinians will react to further and future violence.

Their own aspirations, separate from that of Palestinian Gazans, may or may not yet be realized, differentiating their future irremediably from that of Hamas-led Gaza. The two enclaves, apart from their status as Palestinians, appear to have not all that much in common. They are inspired, from time to time, to agitate on behalf of their Gazan brethren, but there doesn't appear much heart in it.

Time and further pain and aggravation, mourning and blame, will inevitably lead to something; whether positive or entirely negative for all concerned, is yet to be realized.

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Right of Self-Determination

The world appears to have swerved from its erstwhile, much-heralded universal contemplation of itself as a modern inter-related and world community of communities to the sudden realization of rejection as national traditions and cultural heritage reassert their social hegemony, tribal affiliations, religious adherence, the ancient animosities of one group to another. Revealing the post-war, new-age global village to have been but a hopeful conceit of a wishful pluralist global society.

The world is now witnessing a new, multiple-decades-emerging split between nations, within nations, and among cultures, religions, ideologies and societies. Boundaries set up to delineate national embrace of disparate and traditionally suspicious ethnic groups with their tribal histories and blood-line ties have witnessed a reinsurgence of separateness, a struggle to become themselves, the primacy of tribal and cultural entitlement renascent.

The frail ideal of a universal social network of the brotherhood of man is an idea, a global ideal, unreflective of human presence, incapable of surmounting the very reality that genetic endowment, tribal affiliation, historical antecedents have instructed humankind to observe and obey - other than to encourage the liberated among us to accept the notion of universal equality. An equality not recognized, however, in closed societies.

Nations have returned to the past of strong-man power politics encompassing ethnic and tribal strongholds. Hope for internationalism has taken a slow but unerring course toward a dim, dark backseat to the growing reality of tribal resurgency, on both the micro- and the macro-scale. From Congo and Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Iran and Syria, Russia and Venezuela, a welcome to the future of de-civilizing power structures.

Where once a hopeful cadre of world leaders set boundaries in a hopeful, but hapless bid to halt the violent struggles between opposing ethnic, tribal and religious groups to head off the brick wall of ethnic nationalism, the grim reality of the current world of Realpolitik has returned us to the future, led by the very human phenomenon of ever-emerging strongmen heralding the collapse of the ideal of the spread of liberal democracy and its liberating freedoms.

The creeping menace of growing world destabilization in democracies which have received, in the past decades, growing hordes of emigrants from those parts of the world where ethnic, tribal and heritage-acculturated minorities have fled growing brutality and authoritarian rule and minority exploitation to find comfortable advantage and havens for themselves have led to further disruptions.

Having welcomed minority groups from various ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds into their midst, liberal democracies, once hopeful of spreading their political, cultural and economic freedoms in a globally liberating purpose of advancing nations other than their own into modernity, now find themselves internally embattled and pressed to the limit to contain opposition to their dearly held values.

Immigrant enclaves flex their own specific cultural mores and religious values as universal norms, insisting that their host countries adapt; not they to the moral values and the societal norms and cultural underpinnings of the host countries. After all, it is the liberal democracies of the world that insist on ethnic and cultural and religious groups' right to self-determination, to celebrating diversity, to going the extra mile toward absorbing these qualitative differences.

The globally felt euphoria with the unified determination to insist that there would be no more world wars, there would arise among peoples of the world a greater understanding between one another, a self-imposed and ethically liberating enthusiasm to welcome and tolerate differences, out of which stew would come a new world order, a Utopian functionality of diversity and universality of recognition of equality has been effectively squelched.

Humans are, alas, incapable of setting aside ancient grudges. Nations will never be the first to set aside their need to arm themselves, for to unilaterally disarm is to become vulnerable to predation, exploitation and occupation. Our inborn suspicions of one another can never, it would appear, become sufficiently allayed, buoyed on a shared perception of goodwill toward one another, that we are prepared to peaceful openness with the assurance of having such overtures companionably met.

There will never be union and comfort and peace between disparate societies, cultures, politics, religions; it is not in the nature of humankind. Multilateralism, the dream of solving the ills of the world by sacrifice and human compassion will remain a Utopian dream. The dissolution of great unions between countries and within countries has amply demonstrated our failings, our inability to trust and value one another.

This bleak assessment is borne out by the misery of ongoing vicious wars taking countless innocent lives in a process by which the human animal expresses the most vile emotions with which we are imbued. While those whose humble and sincere and noble aspirations toward achieving a better world, set those ambitions aside, and do their best to ameliorate the misery that humankind visits upon itself.

National, ethnic and tribal thrust toward heritage, the heritage of anger and revenge, of never forgetting nor forgiving ancient oppressions and perceptions of abuse from aggressors or neighbours struggling to achieve their own prosperity and civic advancement over those of others, remains the single most dangerous affliction that mankind has brought upon itself.

It is the memory, even the fables instilled through verbal documentation embellished by time and by aggravated compulsion to restore 'honour' and pride in a universal atmosphere that continues to compel societal groups toward violence in the belief that honour and pride will be restored through the use of violence and blood-letting. Hatred expunges the humanity residing deep in every human psyche.

There is no miraculous spiritual intervention that might propel humankind toward a healing process, a transition toward our own humanness, allowing us to accept that others, those whom we call strangers and whom we designate as our enemies, share our frailties, our aspirations and our common human heritage, deserving of respect and kindness.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Normalizing, Vindicating Terror

Such a popular option to submitting to Israel, is Hamas. Surviving the onslaught, pride intact, honour undisturbed. What's a few thousand Palestinian civilians dead; in any event; by misadventure, by Israeli steel and molten lead. Gazans may now be in doubt, surveying the damage, counting their dead, but not so Palestinians in Jericho and Ramallah. It is only the Hamas ministries, their police stations that have been broken, not the hearts of the Hamas police, the Qassam Brigades.

The rocket arsenal so carefully assembled and set aside for ongoing future use, now destroyed, can and will be replaced. There are ways, there are means, there is determination. The young men of Gaza, dedicated to Hamas; their sense of obligation to the resistance, their spirit of freely indulging in war games given free rein, stride with pride. Fear of retribution ensures the huddled masses remain quiescent, uncomplaining.

Besides, the streets and the buildings within Gaza City remain undisturbed. The four thousand homes destroyed are elsewhere. Elsewhere too is Ismail Haniyeh, not yet surfaced, more than a trifle comfortable in his safe haven underground. Hamas pennants fly defiant from street corners and rooftops. Hamas's victory undeniable. Triumph is theirs, the defenders of the Palestinians.

Some of those defenders used children as living shields in the UN school from which they fired mortars on the IDF. And, predictably, in firing back at the Hamas 'defenders', children were sacrificed to the larger purpose of demonstrating that the IDF heartlessly kills children.

Despite Ban Ki-moon's fury over the bombing of UN buildings in Gaza, it has become abundantly clear that UNRWA has been transformed as an welcoming haven for Palestinian terror groups. When the IDF targeted a weapons manufacturing workshop in Rafah, a teacher, educator and UNRWA school principal was killed. Who happened simultaneously to act as head of Islamic Jihad's weapons unit.

University students at Al-Quds Open University casually join the armed branch of the Islamic Resistance Movement. "We do the final tests on rockets and mines and advise launching units how best, from a technical point of view, to use them", explained one 22-year-old. "We won because we continued to launch rockets throughout the invasion and their forces did not reach many of the militants, only civilians."

Thus is victory determined; the decoying of civilians for exposure to the IDF's response, while the militants casually ease themselves out of the line of return fire. With Israel, claim these young Islamists, remains the responsibility for "killing so many innocent women and children." As for the rockets fired by Hamas killing women and children in Israel?

"For sure I don't feel sorry when their women and children die. They must drink from the same poisoned cup that they make us drink from." Complacent that their might is right, that the enemy's represents a sin against Islam. "The people who have suffered damage and death are against this. But the rest of the citizens are with us. They love Hamas and all its branches because we share the same customs and habits."

With this mindset what possible hope is there of persuading fanatical militants that their best and most humane course of action on behalf of the people they purport to support, is to recognize the legality of the presence of the State of Israel and prepare for the viability of a Palestinian state to be established alongside that of their neighbour?

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Monday, January 26, 2009

All, All Is Forgiven

Under Vatican II the Catholic Church made huge alterations to its long-held and honoured traditions. The changes impacted on the manner in which Catholics held themselves as Catholics in the world of the day, permitting them to interact in society and with other religions in a manner formerly proscribed. Vatican II permitted Catholics to consider other Christians in a far more kindly light, even to work together, pray together for their common belief.

The Church's strained relations with the Jewish community were altered, no longer condemning Jewry for their ancient role as "killers of Christ". With Vatican II parishioners were encouraged to think of themselves as "people of God", no less than their clergy, placing them in an equal station toward the Almighty. Priests now faced their audience, and spoke in the common language of communication, abandoning the Latin Mass. That same Mass that called for the conversation of Jews.

"The changes that took place in the Catholic Church prepared us for the very different society that we would live in the later part of the 20th Century", explained Thomas Rausch, a Jesuit priest who has gone on to work with ecumenical groups. "All of a sudden Vatican II said we should learn how to pray together, and work together." From witness to participant.

The Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, founded to protest the reforms of the Second Vatican Council consecrated four bishops in a clearly Papal-unsanctioned ceremony. Both the founder of the Society and the four bishops he consecrated were then excommunicated. Set adrift, they existed as a Vatican-separated body of the orthodox refusing to abandon traditions of the old Tridentine Mass.

Pope Benedict XVI, former Black Pope that he is, determined that it was past time to mend the schism in the Church. And to that purpose he has reinstated those four bishops. One of whom is a strident, unapologetic Holocaust denier, British Bishop Richard Williamson. Who has made numerous public pronouncements denying that the slaughter of six million European Jews ever took place during the Second World War.

"I believe" he has said, "there were no gas chambers... I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps but none of them by gas chambers. This spoken in an interview with Swedish SVT television. "There was not one Jew killed by the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies!"

What would it appear like to Pope Benedict were the Jewish establishment to conduct public interviews wherein leading spokespeople spoke of the errant nonsense of Catholic belief? That the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican, the Pope, carry on a long tradition of ferrying to their believers lies, lies, lies! Might he be affronted, outraged?

Of course, that smacks of childish immaturity. It would not happen. How, one wonders, will this pope balance the issue? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, take note.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Gaza's Economy

With human ingenuity, where there's a will, there's forever a way. Gazans willed Hamas to be elected to office as their legitimate representatives, and thus has Hamas taken full control of the Gaza Strip, put up their infrastructure, ensconced their leaders - those of their leaders who prefer to remain in full sight, rather than those who preferred full flight, to Syria and to Lebanon - and where the administration of Gaza focuses on building up arms, leaving the citizens to fend for themselves.

Egyptian troops placed in guard towers on the closed border between Egypt and Gaza look down below, and a few hundred metres from their towers, at the busy work of Gazans, hauling durable goods and fuel out of those tunnels which remain intact. But even many of the hundreds of tunnels pummelled by Israeli air fire remain usable; only their entry points having been impacted. Nothing will dissuade Gazans from their import-export business.

One can hardly blame them, the enterprising, ordinary citizens who see an opportunity to make some money, while conveying needed consumables and durables to their fellow Gazans in the closed Gaza Strip. Closed by some measure of security necessity as seen by Israel. Carefully separating Israel's border from that of Gaza and the government there which steadfastly refuses to recognize Israel, and insists on their right to destroy it.

That area, between Gaza and Egypt is a thriving hub of opportunity. Employment is in a dire condition in Gaza, partly the result of the border crossings kept closed, partly because Gazans, when offered the opportunity to produce an advantage for themselves with the departure forced upon Israeli settlers by their government, chose chaos and lawlessness instead of initiative and responsibility to advance their interests.

It is claimed that thirteen thousand hard-working, enterprising Palestinians from Gaza find employment through tunnel smuggling of vital goods. Those tunnels that suffered real damage are in the process of being restored to usable condition to re-commence the vital commercial lifeline to the Hamas-ruled Strip. They've been there since 2000, as private family initiatives, when the second intifada began.

They have since expanded, become longer, more numerous, and smuggling has become a way of life, of necessity. And Hamas has been enriched by their presence, exacting their own taxes on the work of the civilian smugglers. Those tunnels separate and apart from those built by and operated by Hamas itself. Where the smuggling concentrates not on illicit drugs, medicines, electronics, foods, fuels, but fighting men, arms, munitions, rockets.

The real target of the Israeli Air Force. Not the collateral damage experienced by those other tunnels. The tunnel system is another potent and priceless symptom of the 'resistance', one that has functionality and civil purpose. These tunnels present as trade opportunities, opportunities to make money, and a lot of it. The allure is irresistible.

Should the borders become open by some miraculous bargain reached between the adversaries for a truce, a durable one leading potentially to a peaceful solution, the use of the tunnels will be negated. Trucks will rumble through the crossings, laden with all the goods and products and services that the Gazans require to begin to build a life for themselves.

In the meanwhile, Israel, Egypt, the United States and the European Union feverishly devise schemes whereby they may thwart those addicted to the tunnels. More particularly the exclusive smuggling of weapons, the importation into the Strip of the elements of rockets that fire incessantly over the border into Israel. Discussions evolve around additional troops, high-tech detection gear.

"If there can be a legal way to bring things in, with good prices rather than the extreme prices that we are now charged, who would want this? Open the border terminals with Israel immediately, and there will be no need for tunnels" according to one genial and knowledgeable Gazan, incidentally also a tunnel entrepreneur. He's right.

One can only wonder whether he can commit some of that energy and optimism to opposing the Hamas agenda, to enable all of this to come to pass?

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Unintended Death, Destruction

War is destructive. The destabilizing, dehumanizing conditions of war prove time and time again precisely how destructive war is of civil infrastructure, of tender human lives. War is that condition when one country seeks to oppress another, or one country offers its defence against the intent of another.

For which purpose each country expends enormous amounts of treasury that would otherwise be more gainfully utilized to advancing their economies - health and education systems, public infrastructure, culture, peoples' lives - to the assembly of prohibitively costly new-generation armaments.

The better to knock the living hell out of their perceived enemies.

Armies are constructed of individuals whose individuality has been knocked awry, to assume close partnership in a collective of others all of whom become interdependent for their survival on a choreography of delivering cold hard, sharp steel and blazing hot explosives to the lands they invade, toward the living breathing bodies of their opposite militaries, and just incidentally to civilians unfortunate enough to be in harm's way.

In Pakistan, as in Afghanistan, American drones fire missiles on presumed military targets. In the process, perhaps accomplishing the mission to kill militants, but also, alas, killing civilians, inclusive of children. Dozens of wayward strikes targeting militias, but hitting civilian enclaves, and also killing hundreds of unarmed civilians, taking an unintended toll. This is the unacknowledged face of war.

In Somalia, in Congo, in Sudan, millions of people have fled the scenes of battle, hundreds of thousands have lost their lives. These are not those enlisted in government armies, nor in irregular militias, but people cowering for safety in inadequate soft-target shelters.

War wafts its deadly impact anywhere it will, wherever armies shift their fields of attack and defence, and invariably there are thousands of people resident there and they become the unintended consequences of waging war.

Generally the international community feels great regret about this longstanding, ongoing, impossible condition of war and unintended death. There is a mental shrug and life goes on, wherever the conflicts do not impact.

It's hugely different, however, with the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Then, the world asserts its collective hostility and anger toward Israel, deeming it an unrepentant aggressor, clamouring for cessation and relief for civilians.

In the process the dire necessity for one country to protect itself against the deadly incursion of terror fire upon its civilians is sacrificed to world opinion that would have it that Israel, alone among nations, can do no right.

While a thousand civilians may die in inadvertent and regrettable fall-out from the attempt to dislodge from among them an army of terrorists, hundreds of thousands of innocents can lose their lives in internecine conflict, with no word of condemnation.

No outraged marches, no incendiary demonstrations calling for the world body to rescue the frightened refugees from Darfur from further and ongoing violent depredations, nor the Congolese from rape and murder; no high-flown rhetoric from the capitals of the world's nations, and the affronted gatherings of diplomats within the United Nations.

Why is this?

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Go Right To It, Mr. Negotiator...

President Barack Obama has been wasting no time in initiating his administration's effort to come to terms with the incendiary Middle East in general, the Israel-Palestinian conflict in particular. One of the first orders of business on his first day in office was to personally speak to the PA's President Mahmoud Abbas, to Israel's President Olmert, Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, and Jordan's King Abdullah. An exercise of exhibiting commitment.

Now the seasoned veteran, George Mitchell, has been assigned to the position of special envoy to the Middle East. This man has a heralded curriculum vitae as a peace negotiator, having helped to forge the Northern Ireland-British peace agreement. Which, for so many years appeared as though it might never be resolved, given the level of the violence and the commitment to brutality exhibited by all of the principals in the conflict.

But the Middle East? Is it even remotely possible that any effort, however Herculean, could result in a final status of peace between Israel and Syria's and Iran's proxy militias? For there lies the key to a Palestinian settlement. Mr. Mitchell is scheduled to depart his home country and travel to the Middle East "as soon as possible" to lend the conflict his seasoned diplomacy and reasoned experience.

Diplomacy and reason don't go over that big in the Middle East, between nations and the terror groups that plague them. Even terror groups that aspire to some level of legitimacy on the world stage as "freedom fighters", not "terror groups". President Obama has not minced words, stating his country's, and his own, determination to defend Israel's sovereign right to defend itself.

His compassion for the plight and the misery of the Palestinian population notwithstanding. Everything is contingent on Hamas, the intransigent jihadists determined to oust Israel from the geography, in coming to terms with the reality of Israeli possession of a portion of the land that was once Palestine, and is now destined forever to be half Israel, half Palestine, anew and sovereign.

Mr. Obama is determined to secure two states living side by side in peace. He is at least determined equal to the extent that former Presidents Carter, Clinton, and Bush presented themselves to be. Perhaps, as Mr. Obama is such an obviously singular individual with such great promise before him as an outstanding leader, he may be able to accomplish that which his predecessors could not.

"To be a genuine party to peace ... Hamas must meet clear conditions; recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence and abide by past agreements." Yes, indeed yes. And how, exactly - or even inexactly - is this to be accomplished? To persuade a bloody-minded, blood-soaked, supremely revanchist entity fuelled on hate and funded by two medieval-minded states, to do an abrupt turn-about in their vision and purpose?

Still, one cannot discount the potential for miracles. Miraculous intervention by a peace-and-freedom-dedicated society that has once more found its way through its own vale of tears and dysfunctionality. Mr. Obama's respected emissary, furthermore, has an even broader mandate for himself; to secure a wider peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours.

Which has, of late, suffered an unfortunate set-back. Mr. Obama, however, has pledged to support an international donors conference in Egypt, to raise reconstruction funds for Gaza; a nice first step. Ah, a cautionary note slipped in there, lest overtures meet with stony indifference yet again: there were "many reasons to be skeptical" about the potential for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, sighed Mr. Obama's envoy.

Not to despair: "But the President and the Secretary of State don't believe that. The key is the mutual commitment of the parties, and the active participation of the United States government", said Mr. Mitchell, with regained confidence.

Oh, yes. Now let us pray.

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Palestinian Reconciliation

That's a large subject. Palestinian reconciliation toward the existence of Israel? Would that this could be accomplished. Israel's withdrawal of its West Bank settlers might result as an impetus to move reconciliation forward. Then again, it might not, given the experience with the unilateral withdrawal of Israeli settlers from Gaza. Which gave rise not to an amicable recognition that Gazans were given the opportunity to begin to lift themselves out of dysfunctional social and political dystopia and into a realm where they could administer their affairs toward normalcy, but to violence and further mayhem.

Nothing was solved, nothing has been resolved, with the Israeli settler-withdrawal from Gaza. In all fairness to the larger aspiration of both the Israelis and the Palestinians to live separate and sovereign lives as neighbours absent hostility and ongoing instances of violence, the West Bank withdrawal should be acknowledged as a necessity. Unfortunately there are no guarantees that such a painful but long-overdue withdrawal would amount to anything approaching a solution to the seemingly intractable problems facing each entity.

Well, how about reconciliation between West Bank-governing Fatah as the Palestinian Authority, and the elected-but-disreputable terror group Hamas? It's been attempted and it failed, desperately. The deadly animosity between secular Fatah and Islamist jihad-dedicated Hamas appears unappeasable. And, as long as Israel is able to bargain only with one-half of the equation, nothing of any enduring consequence toward an eventual peace agreement and the realization of a Palestinian state can be accomplished.

Truly a dilemma of perplexing proportions. Gaza has been taken prisoner by Hamas. The Strip has become Hamas's launching pad for its holy war against the presence of Israel on what it claims remains Arab land. It will not rest until it has somehow managed to wrest that land from Jewish occupation, restoring it to Arab possession. Two million Palestinians are represented by Fatah; among whom there is a goodly proportion who loathe Fatah for its incapacity and legendary corruption, secretly cleaving to Hamas.

One and a half million Palestinians live under the occupation and strictures imposed upon them by Islamist Hamas. Given Hamas's most recent demonstration to Gazans of precisely how vital it is to them to protect the interests of civilian Palestinians by inviting the Israeli military into Gaza through constant violent provocations, it is entirely likely that Gazans, already dispirited and penurious as a result of the economic blockade, would as soon see Hamas depart, which it will not voluntarily or involuntarily proceed to do.

And even while Mahmoud Abbas through his aides accuses Hamas of killing, arresting and torturing Fatah fighters in Gaza, along with refusing to consider the matter of reconciliation between the warring factions, Fatah still clings to the hope that they may once again attempt to co-administer the Palestinian Authority. Fatah claims that 19 Palestinians were murdered by Hamas, with over 60 others having been knee-capped, many more placed under house arrest. Hamas claims they had arrested "collaborators", during and after the Israeli incursion.

Still, Fatah is willing to form a national unity government, alongside Hamas. The "moderate" Fatah and the "immoderate" Hamas appear to have little in common other than each considering Israel the "occupier", and their "enemy", current and ongoing talks with Israel notwithstanding, on the part of Fatah. And the spectre of renewed fighting between Hamas and Israel, further distancing any opportunities for a potential peace agreement, is nigh on the horizon.

All the more so, since Israel's aim, in bombing and entering Gaza was to disarm, disrupt, dismay Hamas, and to destroy the hundreds of smuggling tunnels whereby arms, munitions and rockets have been spirited into the Strip. Clearly, its first aim, despite the carnage and the many deaths, has not been truly realized. Nor has its second, since reports from the Egyptian border claim Palestinian smugglers have lost no time in rebuilding the tunnels.

And while Egypt, which earnestly and honourably applies great diplomatic efforts in attempting to breach the defensive walls between the antagonists, appeals to Israel to re-open border crossings, it will not itself be bound by any agreement to clamp down on arms smuggling, such as has been agreed upon between Israel and the United States.

A puzzle within a conundrum, in a labyrinth of deadly deception and viral violence.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Living Laboratory

Angel of Death? What kind of nomenclature is that for a man dedicated to the Nazi ideal of Aryan perfection? One who absorbed and accepted fascist ideology and willingly undertook his duties, to perform medical scientific experiences causing physical torment and mental anguish to helpless, incarcerated concentration-camp dwellers.

Negating his responsibility as a compassionate human being, as a medical professional dedicated to the healing of human beings. The Angel of Death dispatched his duties willingly.

It was he who would greet new arrivals at the welcoming gates of Auschwitz, swiftly assessing the physical condition of men, women and children and assigning them to the long lines of those who would swiftly perish in the gas chambers, and those whose existence within the concentration camp would be prolonged and miserable, and ultimately lead to death through disease, starvation, dire privation.

But in the meanwhile, they presented as handy living objects for his countless experiments. Experiments to ascertain how much cold a living human being could withstand before losing the struggle to live. How much pain could be inflicted on a human being before the wish to transpire into the Valley of Death would overtake them. And he loved experimenting on twins, to determine all manner of hypotheses.

He managed to evade justice when the Second World War concluded and the living corpses of those still existing were liberated from the death camps. He became a legend of evil incarnate. The search for his whereabouts were fruitless, in the end. He was thought to have escaped to Argentina, a country which somehow managed to overlook the fascist blight and welcome many Nazis, saving them from the Nuremberg Trials.

He eventually fled his sanctuary in Argentina, when he felt that Israeli agents were coming too close to discovery. And settled instead in Paraguay, in 1963. Then, good man that he was, he presented to villagers in a little town, Candido Godoi, in Brazil, as an itinerant medical practitioner. First as a veterinarian, offering to assist in the care of the animals there.

Later, extending his professional expertise to the women, offering to help them with their pregnancies. Gaining trust, he treated women with new experimental drugs. He amazed the townspeople, speaking of the potential in artificial insemination for animals and for people. Such advances in medicine had never before been spoken of, nor visualized. He gained the respect of the town.

"He told us he was a vet" explained a farmer. "He asked about illnesses we had among our animals, and told us not to worry, he could cure them. He appeared a cultured and dignified man. He said he could carry out artificial insemination of cows and humans, which we thought impossible, as in those days it was unheard of."

The town became his personal, living laboratory, where he was able to indulge in his professional curiosity. Originally he had sought to increase the incidence of multiple births in Germany, to produce, for the Third Reich, blue-eyed, blond-haired, strapping youth. And soon a very odd thing happened, in that small Brazilian town, women began to give birth to twins.

Imagine: one in five pregnancies resulted in twin births, where the usual rate of such events is one in eighty. And many of these Brazilian children turned out with blond hair and blue eyes. Of course, this was not Dr. Josef Mengele, this man was Rudolph Weiss. And the town boasts a road sign welcoming visitors to a "Farming Community and Land of the Twins."

His mission was accomplished.

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On This Momentous Occasion...

Finally, America has reached social maturity. A politician has been elected to head the great United States of America, recognized for his genetically-endowed abilities, his steady hand and head, his soaring oratorical skills in communicating his vision of a new America, enthusing, alerting, mesmerizing and infatuating the voting population to his promise of a new day dawning.

That his antecedents reflected a racial divide that bitterly coloured society, politics and human rights for three centuries before Barak Obama's ascension to the presidency of the United States became an incidental to the value of the man's perceived attributes. The tide of enthusiasm over his serene presence, his assumed integrity, his glowing optimism, carried the day.

A leader unlike so many others of late, one whose word was to be believed, one whose careful identification of the miseries that plagued his country and his vow to turn the fortunes of America back to its fundamentals of justice, liberty and fairness for all, was believed. Sufficiently so to elevate him in the esteem of his countrymen, and of the watching world.

Now that he is installed and faces the unenviable, monstrously difficult tasks of converting fear, suspicion and failure to trust, hope and success, intrinsic political failures back to basics, pulling his country out of its recession, rescuing its crumbling financial systems, forestalling further job losses, and bringing self-respect back to the country, hope simmers, holding its fragile breath.

Racial equality, by the bye, achieved in the process. Ancient animosities, mistrust, evaporated. A new world of acceptance visualized and brought forward to elevate the discourse, bring people to the recognition of equality of opportunity for all, and the celebration of diversity strengthening the social compact. Pluralism surrendered to the celebrity of unity.

Except, perhaps, in the Mississippi Delta. In Charleston, Tallahatchie County where people adhere to what they know best, where the population honours traditions and customs and advertise the town with a complacent motto: "A Good Place to Live". Why, the famous actor Morgan Freeman lived there, it's where he grew up. And a little bit of him is still there, invested in its future.

Race relations in the U.S. South are nothing like what they were. Integration and understanding and appreciation of the other has made great strides. Mississippi boasts the highest per-capita percentage of black elected officials, police and fire chiefs. In recognition of their capabilities, their professionalism, their trustworthiness. Their place in the greater society.

Which is, without doubt, as it should be. Yet, in Charleston, Mississippi, population 2,100, the good folks who live there are comfortable with two separate senior proms, one for black students, another for whites only. Morgan Freeman has twice offered to pay for a single, integrated prom. His interference was not appreciated. "Tradition is one thing; idiocy is another" he informed the school board.

A Canadian filmmaker, Paul Saltzman, who had first visited the Delta in 1965, as a civil rights worker, recently returned, and persuaded Mr. Freeman to proffer his offer again. Accepted, this time. Mr. Saltzman, and his wife - and co-producer of a film about "Prom Night in Mississippi" - Patricia Aquino, documented the resulting integrated prom. Most of the high school students were in favour of it.

Their parents decidedly were not. While the young people fully agreed that segregation and racism are idiotic, their parents cling to the comfort of those traditions. Lest their daughters be impregnated by black boys. Miscegenation; how utterly dreadful.

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The Blackest of Deaths

Bubonic plague, a deadly scourge that wiped out great tracts of frantically helpless populations in Europe through flea-infested rats picking up the deadly bacterium and passing it on to humans is on the prowl once again, thanks to the efforts of the most vile of humanity, those who identify as cadres in the battle against the future of the West.

A more evil pathology than that of bubonic plague is scarce to have been found in medical history. Unsanitary conditions in crowded urban centres helped immeasurably to spread the bacterium, killing an estimated 200 million people, about one-third of Europe's population. Daniel Dafoe, author of "Robinson Crusoe" wrote a first-hand account of the Plague.

This deadly scourge appeared in the 12th, the 15th and the 19th Centuries, sweeping through fearful populations, with no nostrums capable of halting its onset nor able to stop the spread. The initial symptoms of buboes in armpits, groin or neck, alerted to its onset. Red skin spots that turned black, bloody vomit, painful limbs and dreadful pain caused by skin decomposition led to death spasms.

The fearful reputation of the Plague is known to everyone. It would take people infested with another kind of plague, the pathology of deadly hate, to plan the use of bacteriological weapons as a means by which purported 'enemies' could be defeated.

A method of demonstrating to an aghast world that dedicated Islamist jihadists could deliver the most horrible of deaths to a mass audience of helpless populations.

The British tabloid, "The Sun" confirmed that Algerian security forces, searching for an infected site, alerted through an intercepted communication of great urgency between the AQLIM (Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Maghreb) and the executive suite of al-Qaeda in the tribal mountain areas of Pakistan, had news of a catastrophic backlash suffered by jihadists.

The message delivered was to inform that they were in the process of summarily abandoning their secret hideaway subsequent to the loss of control of a bacteriological substance. Searching the area, the security forces discovered the body of a terrorist, close to a road beside the abandoned hideout. In total forty-one of the AQLIM terrorists were said to have paid the deadly price of hubris.

A black, dismal, miserable martyrdom. One wonders, since martyrdom in the Cause is such a celebrated issue, why flee the cause of that sudden death? Presumably the sight of the initial members who became infected, witnessing the gruesome onset of the disease, and the its swift trajectory as the tormented men succumbed to death, would have persuaded the rest that the better part of honour was to flee.

These utterly soul-less fanatics, seeking means by which they could deliver the pathogen to large populations, to alert the world to the seriously deadly impact of jihadist hatred, died what for them must be a noble death. Why then flee? Lacking the scientific-medical-research knowledge of proper, sterile handling of the bacterium, and certainly lacking an antidote, these miserable excuses for humanity put paid to martyrdom.

Would that this event might strike terror in their own hearts, but one suspects that those vital elements that give life to all living creatures; heart, soul, mind, were absent in these specimens from birth.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Intolerant and Intolerable Complexities

The Democratic Republic of Congo has joined with Rwanda, permitting thousands of Rwandan troops to enter Congo in the hunt for Rwandan Hutu rebels. Rwanda would still like to bring some of the Hutu leaders of the Tutsi massacre in Rwanda to justice. Apart from the fact that the Armed Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda are preying on, raping and murdering Tutsi Congolese.

This is an about-face for the government of Congo, to make common cause with Rwanda, since a previous invasion of their country gave rise to a tide of bloodshed and civil war. A cataclysmic upheaval that resulted in the deaths of over five million people, through the fighting, through disease and starvation. But Congo is desperate to bring stability to the country, to eradicate the Hutu militias.

Now, in eastern Congo over a million people are refugees, forced from their homes in the last two years. Battles between the army, militia allies and Rwandan and Congolese rebels forced refugees to flee for their lives. The Congolese army hasn't been any too kind to them either; tasked with defending them, engaging instead in their own rape and murder sprees.

The United Nations has a peacekeeping force in Congo, known as MONUC. MONUC claims that the Congolese army blocks the UN's patrols, prevents humanitarian agencies from entering rebel territory and that the new fighting would cause additional civilian deaths and dire deprivations in the overcrowded and vulnerable refugee camps.

The Tutsi rebel leader, General Laurent Nkunda, allied with the Rwandan government, claims he is effectively battling to rid Congo of the Hutu-led rebels who attack Tutsis in Congo, killing, raping and spreading anti-Tutsi propaganda among the Hutu Congolese.

But eastern Congolese dread and hate the Rwandans, accusing them of looting the territory's mineral riches. Rwanda, in fact, would dearly love to take over that rich bit of geography to endow itself with the natural resources, to wrest them from the weak Congolese government.

The government of Congo is taking a risk, permitting Rwanda's army to enter the country for a combined military effort to hunt down the Hutu rebels and put an end to the dreadful strife in the country, setting Hutu against Tutsi and vice versa.

The Rwandan genocide is history, but history strives, through the intractable tribal enmities unwilling to fade into anguished memory, to repeat itself.

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Alarming, Yes It Most Certainly Is

Shocked and "heartbroken", the United Nations Secretary-General perused the damage done to civilian infrastructure in Gaza in the wake of the Israeli defence of its people and its territory. He pledged aid for the Palestinians in Gaza, in the wake of an estimated 1,300 killed by the Israeli invasion, and the thousands left homeless. Yes, it is heartbreaking.

And how could the outcome be otherwise, with Hamas guerrillas attaching themselves to the crowded communities in which Palestinians live? Rendering it impossible for the soldiers of the IDF to target Hamas, its weapons storage depots, its rocket launchers, its buildings, its fighters, without also targeting the vulnerable population? Was there a choice, other than to sit back and permit Hamas its rocket launching?

Munitions stored in mosques, in schools, within UN buildings. Hamas fighters firing directly at their enemy from their emplacements within schools, mosques, beside apartment buildings. Inviting a direct response. With the full knowledge that the response will be violently inimical to the civilian population sheltering within. They too can be martyrs. And the IDF forces responded as Hamas knew they would.

Where is that singular country on the face of this Globe that would do otherwise? In fact, that would have been as restrained as the military of the IDF, given the circumstances? It is the first duty of any country to defend its integrity of borders and population. The first order of business under such assaults would be to destroy the militias and their equipment to render them incapable of restoration.

Had the IDF pursued that imperative, far greater numbers of Palestinians living in Gaza would have been sacrificed. The people of Israel do care that innocent Palestinians' lives were wasted, their homes destroyed. Had they another option? The Hamas leaders who bear the ultimate responsibility for their deliberate use of civilians as living shields crow their victory at survival.

With the much-anticipated advent of Mr. Ban Ki-moon surveying the horrendous damage and loss of life in Gaza, Hamas preens itself, exultant over that maximum level of media exposure, where censure of Israel is first and foremost, and Hamas leaders crow their triumph, their determination to pick up where they left off; restore their armaments, continue recruiting, resume assaults.

"We've won the war, but we've lost everything" said one Gazan mournfully, adding his opinion to Hamas's "V for Victory" celebrations, as he surveyed the rubble that remained of his home. "This was my house", he said, standing beside a pile of smashed concrete. He isn't celebrating; how very peculiar. But then, he's a sacrifice, not a committed jihadist.

An estimated $2-billion will be required to restore the ruined areas of the Gaza Territory. Saudi Arabia has pledged $1-billion, Kuwait another $500-million, and the United Nations stands ready to supplement the needs for emergency reconstruction. Hamas, glowing with victory, stands ready, hands out, to receive that funding.

This is the second, third day of the truce, the Israeli-declared truce, and the separately, tardily-declared truce of Hamas. Rocket mortars continue to be launched from Gaza into Israel. There are other militant groups within Gaza that Hamas chooses not to control. And then, of course, they will be joined before too much longer, by Hamas rocket launchers.

Hamas is busy re-arranging and re-constructing itself and its resources. Jordan, for example, has reported that a Jordanian aid convey has been commandeered and forced by Hamas to load the humanitarian goods meant for the Palestinians into one of Hamas's warehouses. The goods were meant for UNRWA warehouses.

Under the influence of armed men firing at the Jordanian drivers, there was no objection to transferring the goods to Hamas. This is an old scenario merely replaying itself. Overlooked, of no particular moment. Just the way things are. Oh yes, Mr. Ban, also visited southern Israel, to assess the damage there: "appalling".

For Hamas, it is business as usual.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fatah-Hamas Unity?

That might once have been a solution. It's a game that played itself out to a bitter end, however. One secular and striving for moderation, the other singularly Islamist and intolerant of moderation. To even begin to consider how moderation is construed is anathema to a jihadist group dedicated to the eradication of a declared enemy, not a clasping of that enemy to its bosom in a search for acceptable negotiations leading to a treaty of peace and co-habitation through defined and contiguous borders.

The jihadists so love the regalia of terror. The flags and the banners pronouncing their intent, proudly held aloft as they march, masked, through the streets of Gaza and elsewhere - reaching even across the borders of Europe and North America. Theirs is a god-hallowed journey of revenge and recapture, and as such unquestionably noble and righteous. The black mask, the boots, the Kalashnikov, all symbolic of their might and their right.

Their dedication to their cause is reflective of Jihadists International. Their initial target Israel, and with success finally realized, they can move on to greater aspirations. Their growing conviction of their superior, theistic support - ensuring victory will be theirs (inshallah) - expresses a social malady, a pathology of hatred not readily eclipsed by rational consideration.

Crowing victory at the withdrawal of Israeli troops, Hamas promises to re-arm with "holy weapons". Holy weapons? Korans? To the international community, pledging to erect boundaries between Israel and Hamas, they respond: "Do whatever you want, bringing in and manufacturing the holy weapons is our mission, and we know how to acquire weapons", warned a Hamas spokesman.

Fatah has slowly and surely become pragmatically involved in negotiating for peace. And despite what it knows has occurred even throughout the Israeli "cast lead" invasion, it attempts to secure peace between itself and Hamas, hoping it can lead the Islamists to a unified peace treaty with Israel. "This is not the time to settle old scores and speak of winners and losers" urged Fatah's Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

"Either we coalesce around a political vision or agree on a way to manage our differences. There is room for diversity and pluralism here. I appeal to everyone to look at this without predisposition or prejudice. We must recognize what is fundamentally required and focus on that." Mr. Fayyad has appealed to Hamas and other jihadist factions to put aside their differences, for the common cause of representing Palestinian interests.

Egypt's Prime Minister Hosni Mubarak has gone so far as to infer it blames Hamas for goading Israel into its military response. To which Ismail Haniyeh responds by commending the families of "the martyrs who sacrificed their blood for this victory". Fatah, however responds with "Nam Hamas, Nam Jihad"; "No to Hamas, No to Holy War". While others mutter that "we are with Hamas now".

For its part Fatah claims it has evidence of the murders by Hamas of sixteen Fatah members, along with over eighty shootings of Fatah members by knee-capping, and hundreds of home imprisonments. They vow they will 'not allow' further attacks on their people in one breath, and implore Hamas to join them in a unity government on the other.

Somewhat reminiscent of the dysfunctional unity government that ended with Hamas viciously taking over Gaza, and in the process murdering dozens of Fatah members.

It was merely arresting collaborators with the enemy, traitors and criminals, during the Israeli onslaught of Gaza, Hamas claimed in all innocence. That Fatah members were ordered by the Hamas regime to stay in their homes under curfew was merely incidental. Any Fatah members who were sufficiently injudicious to defy those orders and leave their homes while under house arrest courted death.

So much for the unity of purpose of the Palestinian leadership.

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Wounded Gaza

Hail to the warriors of God, they have prevailed. Ismail Haniya has rediscovered the courage to emerge from his deep hiding place, now that Israeli troops have departed of their free will, and their wish to accommodate international opinion, and to offer the gift of respite to the civilian Gazans. Of course, it would not do to mar a day of jubilation for Americans, welcoming into office their new commander in chief, either.

The result, is that the international community is most definitely not pleased with Israel, and there are those from within that community who threaten to charge the country with human rights offences, in an international criminal court. Another result is the bombast erupting from Hamas, announcing a "great victory"; that the unilaterally announced Israeli truce validates the 'resistance'.

"God has granted us a great victory, not for one faction or party, or area, but for our entire people", he crowed. "We have stopped the aggression and the enemy has failed to achieve any of its goals." The goals, for example, to bring a halt to the incessant rocket attacks into Israel from Gaza. They were minimized in incidence to be sure, but not entirely halted. What can any rational mind think of the pathological irrationality of such a presumption of 'victory'?

In the process of teaching Hamas a lesson, bringing the full force of Israeli military might down on the Hamas government infrastructure, their militias and supporters, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of civilians, men, women and children lost their lives. This is the victory that God has granted to Hamas. It took a little bit of planning on the part of the Hamas leadership, but it worked.

The Israeli offensive against the Hamas provocation served Hamas very well indeed. It brought together an outraged Arab and Muslim world in fuming indignation over Israel's terroristic response against Hamas depravity, victimizing Palestinians. It brought down the indignation of the international community against Israel's 'disproportionate' response to aggravated violence against its people.

Best of all, it captured the hearts of the world, in a pre-programmed and eminently successful drama encapsulated hour by hour through video distribution, courtesy of Hamas public relations, of Gazans piteously mourning their dead, horrified by the measure of military might brought to bear upon them, leaving them distraught, wounded, homeless, bereft of food and of heat and of medicines.

This, of course, is what occurs when no solution appears on the horizon to an intractable problem, when one country's security is surrendered to a constant state of terror imposed by another which aspires to destroy it entirely and capture the geography for its very own, and the international community while giving lip service to the inviolability of Israel's right of existence cares little about its fragility.

Which is precisely the reason that Israel finally reached the decision it did, to cross that border and destroy the infrastructure of the unrecalcitrant jihadists who cunningly and heartlessly choose to sacrifice the innocent in a macabre dance of death, destruction and blame. So well calibrated and choreographed that world opinion lends itself willingly, handsomely to its design.

Victory is Hamas's simply because it has not been destroyed. With the exception of some hundreds of its dispensable fighters, and most of its infrastructure, its weapons depots, many of its smuggling tunnels. All can, and will be, handily replaced. Most of the leadership is intact; certainly the elite leadership, handily self-exiled into Lebanon and Syria, pulling the mechanistic strings from a safe perch.

As the personal losses of ordinary Palestinians continue to filter out through various news agencies, now prowling the scene of the unmitigated civilian disaster, and the world stands agape at the selective visions of what a war visits upon civilians, Israel's international reputation, already heavily weighted in a swamp of accusations, slumps further still.

Ah, the victorious, triumphant and shrilly celebratory Hamas. Happy to launch another 20 rockets in the wake of Israel's cease-fire declaration. But now, however temporarily, all is still. That additional taunting, however, declared emphatically that no amount of iron and blasting would deter Hamas's purpose.

And while the bitterness and blame of the Palestinians against the Israelis continues to soar, as the people of Gaza attempt to pathetically pick through the ruins of their homes to find something salvageable, Israelis suffer their crises of conscience, mourning for the deaths of Palestinians, fuming helplessly that they have been manoeuvred into acting out their part in the predestined Hamas choreograph of triumph.

All those deaths, all that destruction, and for what, actually? Does it further the aspirations of the Palestinians one iota? Can those lost lives be recovered? Does that show of military might do anything but persuade Palestinians that there is no hope for a moderate, normal life for them and their children? It's another round in the ongoing game of martyr-seeking and death-dealing.

If there is a winning formula in all of this, it's deftly hiding itself from the eureka of discovery.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

The Arab World

There is no room in the Arab world to admit of the feasibility of a neighbour whose antecedents are not Arab nor Muslim sharing a mutual geography. Not even a neighbour whose heritage is as ancient as their own, and whose religion is one out of which sprang their own, in no small portion. But then, this is human nature; no matter how many disagreements exist between family members who may view one another with repugnance and anger, any outsider is greeted as an unwelcome interloper, as family members join in a common front.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora whose own country has been rent asunder by the bitterness of civil war through sectarian violence, and whose country then became a satellite of neighbours - their autonomy and singularity as a nation burdened by the schemes of Syria to spread its tentacles, social, cultural, economic, into Lebanon - manages to overlook those outrages against peace and sovereignty for the greater purpose of denouncing Israel's status in the Middle East.

Osama bin Laden has issued a call to the Arab world and the world of Islam to come to the defence of the Palestinians, to finally rid the world of a colossal nuisance that the aspirers of the Third Reich attempted and did not succeed in achieving. Those Arab governments which saw the practical aspects of finally accepting Israel in their midst, however tentatively, have no vested interest in responding to the call of al-Qaeda; that same force that would wrest power from them.

But the call resonates in the Arab street, because Israel, the Zionist Entity, and its Jewish population, are the classic and universal scapegoats, not only within the world at large, but within the world of fanatical Islam in particular. Arab leaders must keep a cautious ear to the ground, to be attuned to the rumblings of the Arab street. The Arab street which has been fed a steady diet through the auspices of their governments, demonizing and blaming Jews and Israel, to detract them from the misery of their life conditions.

"Gaza is the focus of our hearts", claims the interior minister of Kuwait. The very country which another Arab dictator felt should fall to his regime's aspirations to inherit its vast fossil fuel wealth. Conflicts with Israel, currently points out Fouad Siniora, have "rendered millions homeless and disrupted the Arab world for six decades...wasted a substantial amount of resources". Israel is held responsible for ten wars over six decades. Lebanon chose to confine their Palestinians to foetid, squalid camps out of which rose Hezbollah, another curse imposed upon Lebanon.

Who launched those wars? Which countries deprived their Jewish citizens of statehood and personal belongings, thrusting them stateless and penniless to fend for themselves, and look for a haven in Israel? But the conflicts and the financial crisis the collective Arab states had imposed upon them were an "external" imposition, from the world that chose to entitle Israel at the expense of a stateless Palestinian population.

Stateless because the two occupying Arab powers, Egypt and Jordan, had no intention of granting sovereignty to Palestinians. Stateless later as refugees because the Arab governments of one country after another, felt it expeditious to grant refugee status, but not citizenship, to Palestinian refugees who fled the Territories, largely at the behest of the invading Arab armies certain of the imminent defeat of Israel.

"Israel is violating international conventions" stated the interior minister of Kuwait. "All we are concerned with are the suffering people in Gaza. We maintain the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and uphold anything that will help them create their own state. We hope the Arab stand will be clear with regards to this issue. We have endured more than 60 years of suffering."

And why might that be? Because, perhaps, of the intransigence first of the Arab geographic community and then, when saner government heads prevailed, the naturally-occurring advent of a guerrilla movement to aspire to what the Arab world assured the Palestinians they should avail themselves of. A partitioned territory unjustly declared with half-ownership of Jews, the other of Palestinians. Rejected in perpetuity.

Neither the Arab community of nations nor those of Palestinian descent claiming to have the best interests of Palestinians at heart, and who formed various nascent governments-in-waiting ever succumbed to the determination to do the right thing for their people and bring them to a place of advantage and statehood. Instead, they sated their appetite for grievance and conflict, and siphoned off UN funds for their personal bank accounts rather than invest in working civic infrastructure.

Birthing conflict in perpetuity.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Proportionality of Response

It is always preferable that reasonable beings interact reasonably. But what happens when reason absents itself and is overtaken by passion? Reason is the use of the cerebral function to recognize a dilemma and weigh its possibilities and to analyze various responses leading to a solution. Emotions have little to do with reason; they are representative of primal, visceral reactions, sans intelligent introspection.

There are many who profess that reason dictates that we turn the other cheek. Those who do so too often end up with two bruised cheeks and no settlement to show for it. Other than, perhaps, the satisfaction that a masochist enjoys in self-abnegation toward a brutal aggressor, and then we're talking about a pathological psychosis of victimhood. Most individuals react to brutal aggression by meting out their own form of self-protective aggression.

If someone is assaulted time and again, and finally decides they will no longer submit to such unlooked-for attention, their fury may be seen to be disproportional to those on the receiving end of such a response to attacks. Bullies usually shrink back in fear for their safety at the response which their aggression may have elicited from those sufficiently backed into a corner to actively assert their human rights.

Restraint is best served on light occasions, when thuggish adversaries' actions can be temporarily overlooked in polite society. When a country's, or a nation's very existence is threatened, it has an imperative to itself to struggle to survive at any cost. Humans have been imprinted by nature to conduct that struggle for survival, as have all living entities.

There are wars of annihilation, such as those conducted by the Rwandan Hutus against the Tutsi, the government of Somalia against Darfurians, Nazi Germany's sidebar war against Jews, and there are what are considered to be 'just' wars, where countries must meet the challenge of an oncoming army of conquest, or where countries intervene to halt atrocities against others.

It can be seen as 'just' for a country to engage in battle against another one whose purpose in attacking it is to gain sovereignty over it. Or to destroy the country and its people, much as North Korea now mutters is its intention over South Korea. Or the Gulf States looking on with great apprehension at the intentions of Islamist nuclear-aspiring Iran.

No less can be said for a country like Israel which has, over the entire course of its 60-year existence faced the reality of one wave of Arab or Islamist attack on it, after another. Rising each time with its own equally-determined defense to its right of existence. Israel aspires to continue existing as a sovereign state offering haven to Jews.

It intends to do so despite the most ambitiously bitter attempts of Islamist guerrilla militias who have developed a modus operandi that has them concealing themselves in the midst of crowded civilian populations, inviting violent military response to their violent militant assaults against Israel's existence. The world looks on with concern at the never-ending stale-mate.

Its concern is that Israel battles too hard for its right to exist. That it must spare innocent lives in the prosecution of its defence is always uppermost in the minds of the Israeli government, its people and its military. A sentiment not shared by those whose assaults against a civilian population represents their game-plan.

Nor do the Hamas and Hezbollah militants and their leaders concern themselves overmuch over their planned sacrifice of civilian lives representing those they claim to protect.

Every target that the Israel Defence Forces hit has first undergone an evaluation process, in an effort to distinguish it as a military base from a civilian structure; other than those structures deliberately selected representing a Hamas leader's dwelling, who has authorized deadly strikes against Israeli targets.

In a war situation there is never any way of guaranteeing that civilians will be spared the anguish of their homes being destroyed, loved ones being killed. With a strict separation of civilians and armed militias it might be possible; with the deliberate intermingling of the Hamas and Hezbollah fighters with the civilian populations, it is patently impossible.

Moreover, any war situation creates its unintended victims, as casualties of friendly fire. If a military, despite its professional training to the highest degree of accuracy and professionalism, is capable of occasionally misinterpreting its signals and striking its own, or friendly forces, how then could it not on occasion strike civilians as well?

In the final analysis, there is one single and incontrovertible value that wins wars; overwhelming force. And that single issue in and of itself happens to represent the single most impressive element of respect and deterrent in a medieval tribal, warring culture and tradition represented by much of the Middle East.

Simply put, those who celebrate hatred, bloodshed and death, respect and fear only physical force that meets their own with equal or overwhelmingly superior effect. In the final analysis the situation of attack calls for defence. In the face of an implacable enemy intent on your destruction, one who sees no value in diplomacy, violence is met with violence because no other response works.

No professional military army deliberately seeks out civilians in an attempt to target them specifically. It is those who are armed and actively engaged in war whom they seek out for it is they who do battle. To deliberately target civilians is universally recognized and condemned as a war crime. No self-respecting army would condemn itself by conducting a war against civilians.

On the other hand, for an army to embed itself within a civilian population, to use it as a human shield, deliberately exposing civilians to assault, that too is a war crime. If the defending army withholds its attacks for fear of assaulting civilians in their search for the embedded militias, they defeat themselves, and effectively reward the techniques used by the attackers, handing them victory.

The choice then becomes, logically, does the army spare the vulnerable and innocent civilians whom their government forces hide among? And in the process leave the assaulters of their own civilians free to attack again and again? Or does the army grit its teeth, cautiously attempt to spare as many civilian lives as possible, and still pursue the attackers, rendering them impotent to attack again?

For a government, a population and a military dedicated to their self-defence, the answer becomes obvious, despite lamentation revolving around being forced to make that choice; an evil and malevolent one imposed upon them and leaving them little practical option but to act as they do.

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