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Monday, December 03, 2012

One man's family in Israel

Investigative reporter Richard Behar writes about how his family in Israel weathered Operation Pillar of Defense. One cousin was on the jeep that was hit in the attack. Another lives near an apartment building in Rishon LeTzion that was hit by rockets. And a third was near the bomb attack on a Tel Aviv bus the day before the operation ended. In the process, Behar does a good job of explaining why there's no peace in this region.

Here are some excerpts.
The four soldiers who were inside that jeep included a 21-year-old distant relative of mine (not that Jews can ever be truly distant, given our history.) To say they’re all lucky to be alive is – well, hell, – no words will make the rest of this sentence right. Instead, have a look at the video that Hamas’s operational arm – the Popular Resistance Committees — made of the occasion, before they claimed responsibility for it. They set the video to jihadi music, amid their tiresome cries of “Alahu Akbar” [God is Great].

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The PA is considered more “moderate” than Hamas, but as I’ll be demonstrating here, that’s open to debate if you consider what they are actually showing on official PA media, and teaching in PA-controlled schools, summer camps and other institutions. In short, they are indoctrinating the next generation for war with Israel, not for a peaceful statehood alongside it. And it’s hard to imagine how that could change for the better after a merger with the maniacs in Gaza.
The missile that nailed my cousin and his fellow soldiers was identified in media reports as a Russian-designed or reverse-engineered “Kornet,” which can penetrate up to 1.2 meters (3.9 feet) of the tank’s steel skin. My information is that it was not a Kornet — but the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) declines to say what type it was, in part because they are still investigating the incident.
Still, when used for their intended purpose – in other words, when fired at tanks, not jeeps – all of these laser-guided missiles employ two stages. First, they lodge themselves deep into the wall of a tank. In the second stage, they are supposed to explode, producing a jet of heat that burns through the armor. The molten armor becomes roastingly-hot fragments that annihilate the crew and detonate the tank’s ammunition.
But in this case, the missile blew right through the jeep without exploding inside of it. That’s probably why my cousin (he was the jeep’s commander) and his buddies are still breathing. But not without serious injuries, in part because the missile went through the jeep’s windshield and – before continuing its journey — struck a metal section of the jeep. That caused them all to be lacerated with glass, and lots of flying chunks of that metal.
Thanks to family members, I’m able to provide some exclusive details. My cousin escaped with the lightest injuries – which in this case meant no fewer than 35 shards of metal inside his right arm and leg, plus a blown-out eardrum. Worst hit was the driver, with serious head injuries, blindness in one eye, and still-ongoing medical operations to try and save the other eye. (As my cousin was lifting the driver from the jeep, he saw that part of his brain was exposed.) The jeep’s medic suffered metal pieces in both eyes, but he is expected to be okay. The fourth soldier was an Arabian Bedouin ‘tracker’ who underwent one operation to remove shrapnel from his body. (The Bedouins are known as “the IDF’s sharpest eyes” because of their historic ability to spot and trace even the lightest footsteps in desert terrain.)
It was this incident – the attack on a patrol jeep making a routine drive approximately 150 meters (500 feet) from the border with Gaza — that was a game-changer for Israel.  For one thing, Israeli civilians are living barely a half-mile from the border. Moreover, in such attacks, IDF soldiers could more easily be kidnapped, dragged through border tunnels, and made to suffer the same fate as Gilad Shalit (also spelled as Schalit)– the soldier held for five years in wretched conditions by Hamas. “The attack on the jeep was the immediate catalyst for the escalation of this month’s conflict,” says an IDF spokesman, Captain Eytan Buchman. “That kind of thing — an attack on Israeli soldiers inside Israeli territory — you can’t let go unanswered,” he adds.

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Tzipi arrived with her parents in the early 1930s from Poland, just as the persecution of Jews there was escalating. She worked as a clerk in the Israeli Air Force during the war of independence. “I still remember the period of 1936-39 [the Arab riots], and it was the same situation – and we didn’t even have an army or a country. They just don’t want us here, what can I tell you? And they don’t mind if their own people are killed. I just don’t understand their mothers, because when their own children are killed they are calling them shaheed [martyrs]. I am unable to understand their mothers.”
Her views are echoed by Itamar, a member of my kibbutz ‘family’ that I pretty much adopted three decades ago when I picked bananas on one of Israel’s collective settlements on the country’s northern coastline. “People are not bothering themselves anymore with the question of whether we should stay there [the West Bank] or not stay there, whether we should continue to build [settlements] or should we not,” says Itamar, a manager for an Israeli multinational that is largely owned by a U.S. conglomerate.
“It’s not going to change anything,” he continues, “since the last ten years have shown that there’s no one to talk with on the other side. And if there is something to talk about, it’s not going to last. If there’s an agreement [with Abbas], in 2-3 years he’s gone, and the area will probably be left to those fanatical extremists who in the first place would not agree to any negotiations with Israel. There is no partner on the other side. It’s gonna be Hamastan.”
And this from an Israeli who has always been – and remains — in the political center. “I’m not a left-wing fellow, I’m not a right-wing fellow. I’m somewhere in the middle.”

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For years, official Palestinian media, schools and cultural institutions have been breeding their younger generations for war – not peace. It simply can’t be denied at this point. And I don’t mean Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. While many of my colleagues still label these groups as militants (rather than death-worshipping terror cults), most Gazan youth have been so thoroughly indoctrinated that seeking peace with them would be like asking Americans to negotiate with al-Qaeda. Hopefully the recent blitzkrieg drove that fact home for most Western journalists, or at least more of them than before.
No, forget Hamas. I’m talking about the Palestinian Authority, in the West Bank, run by the unelected Abbas — who presides over and controls the PA’s official newspaper, TV, schools, and cultural institutions. Let’s see how truly moderate they are.

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Salah Khalaf, who planned the murder of two American diplomats — on top of the killing of 11 Israeli athletes in the 1972 Olympics — has a sports stadium in his name; it was even built with U.S. funding. Dalal Mughrabi has schools, sporting events, camps and a square named in her honor. She’s become an iconic figure throughout the West Bank. Her achievement: directing the hijacking of a bus and killing 38 passengers (13 of whom were children), in what was the most lethal terrorist attack in Israel’s history. A young American nature photographer was shot to death in that attack. Her crime: Responding to a gunman’s question about what town they were in, as the terrorists landed their rubber boats on a beach.
During the 2010 peace talks and ever since, the PA has maintained the practice of defining all of Israel as “Palestine” on maps and websites. Even the Palestinian Writers’ Union logo includes a map of “Palestine” erasing Israel – and with a machine gun through the country. In geography textbooks, the name “Israel” does not appear in maps of the Middle East. This means that Palestinian kids aren’t even being taught the reality of what exists today.
Just two months ago, Abbas and six other senior PA leaders were in the audience at a packed concert when a singer from his political party praised him by name — within a song that presented all of of Israel as “Palestine.” These events happen all the time.
What’s going on here? Basically, there are two Abbas’s – the one who speaks in English to the international community, spouting the politically correct things the West wants to hear. And then there is the duplicitous Abbas – the one who works in the shadows, speaking in Arabic, and making his people believe that Jews and Israelis are inherently evil and that there is no room in the region for the state of Israel. His deputies are doing it, too. As Richard Chesnoff, a former executive editor of Newsweek, and a prize-winning veteran reporter with four decades of global news experience, wrote in an article last January: “If there were an Oscar given for doublespeak, the Palestinian political leadership would win it, hands down.”

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The bottom line: Israel has always been willing to give land for peace – as it did with the Sinai and with Gaza. But the result has not led to the end of the hatred. Just how much more should they give, when all indications are that the hostility – now being pummeled into the younger generations — will continue? Put another way, if children on a daily basis are being indoctrinated to see Jews and Israelis as innately demoniac, then how can they ever grow up to accept a Jewish state and not work to destroy it.

Read the whole thing.

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