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Another Rocket From Gaza Today – Will IAF Retaliation Follow?

August 12, 2011 1 comment

Seems that there have been rocket firings every couple of days from Gaza. The latest was yesterday (in Israel – 8/11/11).  But this has been going on for a while. They are being shot mostly into the “Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council” which is the administrative area that includes Sderot.  They have been sporadic, and since the area is quite sparsely populated, usually have done little harm. However, last week, after rockets landed near Ashkelon and Sderot, the IAF retaliated with several strikes in Northern Gaza.  I learned about the attacks live while I was monitoring #J14 on Twitter.  #J14 is the Twitter hashtag for the so-called July 14th demonstrations in Israel.  (If folks out there are not on Twitter, but would be interested in finding out why I think it is by far the best medium for getting news and commentary, please leave me a comment below.  I would be happy to post a blog on why I feel that way and how I use Twitter).  It isn’t clear who is firing the rockets (that is, even though Hamas controls Gaza, there are still multiple rouge factions within Hamas – several of whom are far more violent than the main governing organization), or why.  With the serious domestic turmoil that is going on throughout Israel, if these provocations lead to a major military action against Gaza, it will probably actually strengthen the current government.  Nothing pulls together a country like a good ol’ war.

Anyhow – here are some recent Jerusalem Post posts which provide a flavor of what is going on in the south:

08/11/2011 21:01  Kassam from Gaza lands in Sha’ar Hanegev council; none hurt
08/07/2011 20:35  Kassam lands in Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council; no injured
08/03/2011 11:25  Kassam explodes in Ashkelon, no injuries reported
8/1/2011 11:11 PM  IAF strikes several Gaza targets following Kassam attack
Air Force action comes in response to Kassam rocket fired at southern  Israel, moderately injuring a woman in her fifties.
8/1/2011 10:59 PM  Kassam explodes near Ashkelon, 1 moderately injured
7/31/2011 3:17 PM  Two Kassams from Gaza land in Israel; no injuries reported 
7/28/2011 7:46 AM  Kassam explodes south of Ashkelon; no injuries or damage 

This is clearly terrorism – drip by drip.  But let’s be clear.  It is not: “thousands of rockets raining down on Israel”.  It is not meant to damage property or kill people per se.  Rather, it is meant to instill fear and fray nerves because the possiblity of death is very real.  Nevertheless, at it’s heart, it is really psychological warfare.

But let’s also be clear:  there are indeed 40,000 rockets on the other side of the security fence that would cause widespread death and destruction if used.  Let’s hope, for the sake of both sides, that they never are.

Scathing Attack on J-Street in Today’s Jerusalem Post

August 11, 2011 4 comments

In what was nominally a review of Jeremy Ben-Ami‘s new book, “A New Voice for Israel“,  inIsi Leibler an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post titled ” J Street’s Soft Sell for the Uninformed“, Isi Leibler pulled out every argument to discredit J Street as not being “pro-Israel” that has been used over the past two years .  His arguments use half-truths, lack of context, and every mistake that J Street has ever made (and there have been a few) to malign the organization.  He trots out Gaza, Goldstone, UN vote, blah blah blah.  His conclusion can be summed up as follows:

The dividing lines between J Street and mainstream Jewish groups are not its views, but its efforts to convince Americans to encourage President Barack Obama to pressure the Israeli government. It is surely unconscionable for trendy American Jews to canvass their government to force Israel to act contrary to its will regarding national security, with potential life-and-death repercussions. J Street justifies this on the grounds that Israelis need “tough love,” comparing us to children on drugs who must be pressured into doing what’s good for them, or impounding the car keys of a drunken friend…

The list of J Street’s anti-Israel initiatives is endless. Most are either ignored or played down in Ben-Ami’s misleading book, which could well serve as a case study of Orwellian double-speak, topped by the dishonest manner in which it portrays itself as “pro-Israel”.

I sent a Letter to the Editor of the JP in response to the column that essentially said:

“This is a fantastic* piece of satire.  Some of the facts presented are undoubtedly true – but many of them simply repeat previous criticisms of J Street which have been shown to be half-truths or simply taken out of context.  Since, I doubt that Mr. Leiber is ill-informed about these matters, they are either thinly veiled political polemics, or meant to be viewed in a satirical context.  I assumed the latter because there was a clue that clearly gave it away.  He writes that “in Ben-Ami’s misleading book, which could well serve as a case study of Orwellian double-speak, topped by the dishonest manner in which it portrays itself as “pro-Israel”.”  Once I read that I realized that he had written a piece filled with facts that were either “ignored or played down” that he meant the entire column to be read as a mobius strip of so-called Orwellian logic.

Brilliant.

* Merriam-Webster Online:  Definition of FANTASTIC

1 a : based on fantasy : not real”

David Grossman’s Poetic Essay on Saturday’s March in Tel Aviv

August 9, 2011 Comments off

From the Guardian: Thousands of Israelis march in central Tel Aviv during a protest against the rising cost of living in Israel. Photograph: Oded Balilty/AP

Richard Goldwasser translated a heartfelt reaction and reflection by one of Israel’s top writers, David Grossman (Yellow Wind, To the End of the Land) about his march on Saturday night, along with 300,000 others, in the demonstrations in Tel Aviv.  A sample paragraph seems to capture how many of us feel about the world around us today.  As a matter of fact, it strikes me that by changing a few names and places – and squinting into the future at the descriptions of the demonstrations actually taking place – this essay could just have easily been written about the situation right here in the USA:

And then also rises the amazement where were we until today? How did we allow this to happen? How have we put up with governments that we have chosen turning our health and our children’s education into luxuries? How did we not shout when the Treasury officials crushed the social workers, and before them – the disabled, the Holocaust survivors, the old, and the pensioners? How for years have we pushed the hungry and the poor into soup kitchens and charities and to lives of humiliation for generations. And how have we abandoned the foreign workers to the abuse of their persecutors and exploiters, to the slave trade and the trafficking of women. And how have we put up with the destructive instances of privatization, and among them the privatization of everything dear to us – solidarity, responsibility, mutual aid and the sense of belonging as a people?

I urge you to read the entire essay at Blog Zahav:  http://blogzahav.blogspot.com/2011/08/david-grossman-window-to-new-future.html#comments

   

Could The Domestic Social Protests in Israel Be The Greatest Impetus for Moving Towards a Two State Solution?

August 8, 2011 Comments off

Tent 48 - Named for 1948, the Year of the Declaration of Israel as a state

With all of the emphasis (and rightly so) on the domestic economic and political crises here in the U.S. , it may be lost on people that there are huge (and growing) demonstrations against Israeli government social policy going on in Israel virtually as we speak.  Reports are that Saturday night there were 300-350,000 people in the streets.  As Dimi Reider and Azziz Abu Sarah, wrote in an op-ed published last Wednesday,

The protests that are paralyzing Israel began on July 14, when a few professionals in their 20s decided they could no longer tolerate the city’s uncontrolled rents, and pitched six tents at the top of the city’s most elegant street, Rothschild Boulevard. Three weeks later, the six tents have swelled to over 400, and more than 40 similar encampments have spread across the country, forming unlikely alliances between gay activists and yeshiva students, corporate lawyers and the homeless and ultra-Orthodox Jews and Israeli Arabs.

So far, the protesters have managed to remain apolitical, refusing to declare support for any leader or to be hijacked by any political party. But there is one issue conspicuously missing from the protests: Israel’s 44-year occupation of the Palestinian territories, [emphasis added] which exacts a heavy price on the state budget and is directly related to the lack of affordable housing within Israel proper…

Had the protesters begun by hoisting signs against the occupation, they would most likely still be just a few people in tents. By removing the single most divisive issue in Israeli politics, the protesters have created a safe space for Israelis of all ethnic, national and class identities to act together. And by decidedly placing the occupation outside of the debate, the protesters have neutralized much of the fear-mongering traditionally employed in Israel to silence discussions of social issues…

If the protests continue to stir more and more Israelis out of their political despondency, Mr. Netanyahu still holds two possible trump cards: a sudden breakthrough in the negotiations to free the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held captive in Gaza, or a sudden escalation of armed conflict.

Moreover, the impending United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood in September imposes a deadline of sorts on the protesters. If Palestinians react by marching on Israeli army checkpoints to demand freedom, Israeli protesters will have to choose between losing internal support by siding with the Palestinians, or abandoning any claim of a pro-democracy agenda by siding with the Israeli soldiers charged with suppressing them.

Interestingly, It didn’t get much press reporting here in the U.S., but the night after this op-ed was published, the Israel Air Force conducted several bombing raids in northern Gaza.  However, unless Bibi has some pull with Hamas that nobody is aware of, this was a legitimate (in Israeli terms) response to several rockets that had been launched at Ashkelon and Sderot the previous day.  Obviously, from Didi and Azziz’ point of view, whoever fired these rockets (not necessarily the Hamas government itself – there are various factions both within and outside of Hamas which hold varying degree of militancy) played directly into the hands of Netanyahu  by providing a pretext for this military action which could potentially take the spotlight off of the domestic protests.  For now, the raids have not the averted the attention of the demonstrators – as shown by the fact that the largest turnout yet was on Saturday night.

Bibi finally began to react to the protestors this week with new proposals for more government subsidies for housing and new building.  But the protestors don’t seem to be buying that and Bibi is trying desperately day-by-day to get the situation under control.  

So, we will just have to watch and see what happens.  Certainly, one eventual outcome could be the fall of the current government.  And that is what this post’s title refers to is just that.  If the government does fall – though it might be based solely on domestic issues – it might well be replaced with a new government that at the same time makes a significant change in Israel’s foreign policy.  They might really understand the dangers inherent in the status quo, and do everything possible to make a two state solution happen.

Condolences

August 8, 2011 Comments off

Chinook helicopter in action

I just want to express my support for the families of those who lost their lives Saturday night when their Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan with the largest single-incident loss of American lives since the Afghan War began.  As we have just found out in the past several months, Seal Team Six is made up of the soldier’s soldiers (or perhaps, sailor’s sailors) – the best of the best.  It is a tragic loss for the Seals, the Navy and the country.

I would also like to extend my condolences to the families of all of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And I mean, all.  Thousands of combatants on all sides have been killed – but the numbers of innocent civilians killed is simply staggering – certainly in the hundreds of thousands.

May all of those who died rest in peace.  And let’s hope our President brings the troops home as soon as practicable.

After the Optimism of the Arab Spring – Mayhem Returns All Over the Middle East

August 4, 2011 Comments off

Not much time here, so here is a short list of events – with no attempt to prioritize:

Hama, Syria Under Fire 

1. Syria – Tanks rolling into Hama to violently put down civilian rebellion

2.  Israel – Protests in the streets re: housing, etc and other, mostly economic, issues.  Tent city (Twitter: #tent48) in Tel Aviv

3.  Israel – Settlers disrupt protests by engaging protestors with slurs and obscenities (#j14)

4.  Israel – Gaza fires missiles into Southern Israel (Sderot & Ashkelon) – luckily only minor injuries

rockets - AFP - April 10 2011 An Iron Dome missile outside Ashkelon responding to a rocket launch from the Gaza Strip in April 2011.
Photo by: AFP

5.  Gaza – Just minutes ago, Israel retaliates with large bombing raid on Gaza.  Early reports are a couple of children injured

Gaza IAF airstrike AFP 24.02.2011 A Palestinian man walking at a destroyed beach front facility in Gaza City on February 24, 2011 following an Israeli air strike the previous night.
Photo by: AFP

6.  Israel – Knesset continues to move to the right with its legislation – anti-boycott law, proposals to reduce rights of Israeli-Arabs, etc.

7.  Palestine – Meeting last night to finalize plans to appeal to the UN for recognition

8.  Lebanon – Hezbollah rattling sabres

9.  Egypt – Mubarak going on trial

Visceral anger at Mubarak and his inner circle helped unite Tahrir Square during Egypt’s 18-day uprising [EPA]

10.  Libya – Fighting drags on

11.  Iran – Announces new missile a few weeks ago

Raouf Mohseni/AP – Iranian revolutionary Guards personnel watch the launch of a Zelzal missile during military maneuvers outside the city of Qom on Tuesday.

Other than that, not much going on…

Forget Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya – There is a Much BIGGER & MORE SERIOUS Invisible WAR Going On Right Now: The Cyberwar

August 4, 2011 Comments off
Dmitri Alperovitch

McAfee Vice President of Threat Reseach Dmitri Alperovitch

While we spend billions on new fighter jets, refueling tankers, drones and other robotic fighting machines, there is another war going on that is invisible to all of us.  Dmitri Alperovitch, VP of Threat Research at McAfee Security (not exactly some independent hack blogger) has just posted a spine chilling report about a long-term concerted, concentrated (and apparently, successful) effort to steal vital corporate and government secrets:

“I am convinced that every company in every conceivable industry with significant size and valuable intellectual property and trade secrets has been compromised (or will be shortly), with the great majority of the victims rarely discovering the intrusion or its impact. In fact, I divide the entire set of Fortune Global 2000 firms into two categories: those that know they’ve been compromised and those that don’t yet know.”

He goes on to say:

“the majority of the recent disclosures in the last six months have, in fact, been a result of relatively unsophisticated and opportunistic exploitations for the sake of notoriety by loosely organized political hacktivist groups such as Anonymous and Lulzsec. On the other hand, the targeted compromises — known as ‘Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)’ …[that] we are focused on are much more insidious and occur largely without public disclosures. [Emphasis added] They present a far greater threat to companies and governments, as the adversary is tenaciously persistent in achieving their objectives. The key to these intrusions is that the adversary is motivated by a massive hunger for secrets and intellectual property; this is different from the immediate financial gratification that drives much of cybercrime, another serious but more manageable threat.

And perhaps most disturbing:

What we have witnessed over the past five to six years has been nothing short of a historically unprecedented transfer of wealth — closely guarded national secrets (including from classified government networks), source code, bug databases, email archives, negotiation plans and exploration details for new oil and gas field auctions, document stores, legal contracts, SCADA configurations, design schematics and much more has “fallen off the truck” of numerous, mostly Western companies and disappeared in the ever-growing electronic archives of dogged adversaries. 

Unfortunately, the way our Military-Industrial-Governmental complex works, it will be very difficult to get adequate funding to counter these threats.  And it goes beyond the very real budget issues the US faces.  Frankly, cyber war is invisible.  And that ain’t good.  The M-I-G depends on blowing things upWhy? 

  1. Citizens need to be able to see and feel the threat;
  2. They need to see the results of our troops (or at least, our really cool technologic equipment [drones, robots, etc.]) in action (remember, “Shock & Awe” – better than a Navy Pier fireworks show, eh?); and
  3. Most importantly, when things get ‘blowed up’, they have to be replaced which means the military has to buy more stuff.  For example, a single cruise missile costs approximately $1.2 million dollars.  It is reported that on the first night of the Libyan action, approximately 80 missiles were launched at Tripoli.  80 missiles doesn’t sound like much – but in about 8 hours, our government spent $100 million dollars.  [Come on Tea Partiers – where is your outrage?]

This is a serious stuff…

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