Only In Israel

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Red Cross comes to visit.

Last week I was in a checkpoint commander's course. It's a course the IDF has to train it's checkpoint commanders, you train on both operational aspects (threats on the checkpoint, how to identify fake IDs) as well as on moral ones.
One of the lessons we had to pass was passed by a Red Cross volunteer. A guy in his 20s, who volunteers for the International Red Cross. I immediately knew this was going to be my chance to ask a few hard questions and try to get them answered. It's my understanding that the International Red Cross regularly passes classes to Israeli combat soldiers, and I was wondering what kind of info do they teach on those lessons.
I've debated quite a few people I've disagreed with in the recent years, this one was one of the hardest to debate. First of all, the guy was Israeli. Secondly, he served in the IDF, in the Intelligence, no less. Thirdly, he now lives in Tel Aviv, he has witnessed terror attacks and knows what its like to live around here. So this is no foreigner, who doesn't understand Israelis, this is an Israeli who voluntarily reached the conclusions he has.
The beginning of the class was fine. A little background on the International Red Cross, a little history, why the symbol ETC. The guide made quite a point of indicating the symbol isn't religious and that it's just a Swiss flag invented (to tell you the truth, I've never heard that explanation). That's when I asked how come Israeli Magen David Adom isn't a full member in the ICRC.
To those of you who don't know, the ICRC has repeatedly refused to accept the Israeli Magen David Adom which symbol is a red star of David. This organization has been providing Israelis with medical services since the 1930s, and yet, the ICRC refused to accept it as a full member, thus cutting it out of votes, certain funds, and other privileges reserved to member. The official excuse was that they don't accept other symbols except the red cross and the crescent. Once I pointed out the red sun and lion used until recently by Iran as an emblem of its medical personnel, he had nothing to answer and said he had to research the topic. He looked a bit disgruntled.
He moved on to explain the Geneva conventions and when they were written, and their contents. He then stated, just like that, that targeted killings are a war crime. Another soldier asked him whether Israel is allowed to bomb an explosives factory, he answered no. I jumped immediately. The Geneva convention supports the right of a country to bomb military installations, as long as it uses proportional force.

(a) An attack by bombardment by any methods or means which treats as a single military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives located in a city, town, village or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians or civilian objects; and

(b) An attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

Boy oh boy did he not like me pointing that one out. He immediately began saying that Palestinians have no military, and that Hamas and Al Aqsa martyrs and other terrorist organizations don't count. This is when other soldiers got into the conversation. It is a really warped view of reality, to suggest that one military target is different from the other, and people began realizing that. Just then another soldier asked him a question: What is the position of settlers according to the ICRC's ideas?
The guy immediately responded that while settlers are considered civilian, settlements are a war crime and a violation of the Geneva convention. Everyone sat there quietly and apparently, I was the only one in the room who knew the answer to that. I said "uh, NO, they aren't illegal, that's twisting the Geneva convention."
What the Geneva convention really says is this:
The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.
Settlers were neither deported nor transferred to the West Bank and Gaza, they moved there. The government didn't force them to, they CHOSE it. The guy was clueless on how to handle it. This continued for a little longer, and then he just apologized and said he had to leave, not before a soldier sitting next to me got a chance to pound him on the ICRC missing out Auschwitz and Terezin, and suggesting that the conditions Jews were held in were satisfactory.
Here are my conclusions for that day:
First of all, it's sad that the IDF allows ICRC to spew such nonsense among its soldiers, not providing any way to refute such ridiculous claims. Secondly, it's sad that the ICRC and its volunteers, knowingly twist the Geneva Convention to fit their needs. The guy knew the paragraph about settlers, he knew about the Red Star of David not being in the ICRC, if this wasn't raised by the guys in the class, he would've never answered those questions. And if people in the class wouldn't have known better, we might have as well left the class thinking we're all war criminals.
This is why it's important to educate yourself on politics. You have to know your stuff.

Worth your attention

Two new Israeli sites that, in my opinion are worth your attention and regular surfing.
The first is a blog which deals with aspects of life in Israel without political aspects and punditry (which I think is wrong, since you can't separate life here from politics, but is still is an interesting insight on life in Israel), here comes Israelity!
And, the #1 Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot now launched a Beta version of an English site. It's worth a read. It's a nice way to read the news most Israelis read.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Why everyone hates officers.

Don't get me wrong, I don't REALLY hate as in want-them-dead officers, I actually considered becoming one once (before I turned down that offer), it's just, sometimes, it's too much. I don't know if the same attitude is taken towards officers in different armies, but here's my look at it.
As you know, everyone in Israel serve three years in the military, if you want to be an officer, you have to sign in for one more year, and if you want a military career, eventually you sign for more and more years. So an officer is someone who is willing to give up his "freedom" and basicly the return for civilian life for further service in the military. Now, the thing is this, some people in the army, precisely because it's an obligatory service aren't exactly happy to be there. Hence if an officer likes army while his soldiers don't, you have a problem.
Another problem is officers may be less time in the military than you, and have great authority over you. So a guy with less combat experience than you, who doesn't know how things work, and spent his entire life in courses has a huge effect on your life in the military.
Officers always want more from you, to do more, to have lessons in the little free time you have, to have more and more orders to be more pedant on the rules and laws. Nothing really big, but small annoying things. And the higher an officer gets in his rank, the more power he has. And occasionaly, you get the feeling, that the only reason these people are officers is because they would never do better in civilian life.
You usually call that pedantry "faltzanut", which literally translates into "farting" but the closest English translation to that would be "pompousness". Now not just officers are "faltzanim" sometimes, other commanders are "faltzanim" too. It's usually the small stuff like "Hey, if we do a patrol, we might as well walk another mile for your fitness" or "We have to learn about Israeli history, even if you haven't slept for three days straight".
This behaviour prompted lots of military songs, wishing for all officers to die, those are traditionally sung on Friday night dinners which are usually festive because of the Shabbat, sometimes even the officers join in. We all take it humorously, but I have encountered cases where officers were insulted by it.
I wonder if it works the same way in other armies, or is it just because the IDF isn't an all-volunteer army, any of you guys served in other armies and know the answer?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Ceasefire, anyone?

And again, another story the world media just missed. I mean the Reuters photo is right there, it's not some obscure source, but noone bothered to take a look at it and publish it.
And this time, it's just a regular training of Palestinian security forces. Now they are saluting to their commander, nothing wrong with that, right? The only problem is, it's a very special salute style. I think I saw it somewhere before.

Palestinian security forces salute during a training session in the West Bank city of Tulkarm February 1, 2005. The White House on Monday backed efforts by Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate a cease-fire with militants, but said he would ultimately need to disarm the groups. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

Right... And those are the people who are supposed to fight terrorism instead of the IDF.

Comments, Please!

I'm back home again. I've been looking at the Blog's statistics, and I see that many people read the blog but I get very few responses.
So please, if a topic interests you, or you agree or disagree with me on an issue, feel free to respond to my post, or email me.
Also, I'll use this oportunity to thank everyone who emailed me, I'm sorry I haven't answered you, I was in the army, I'll get to it right away.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The source for all their problems

A Palestinian girl died yesterday after being shot. Immediately Hamas fired on Israeli settlers, the Islamic Jihad declared Israel to be at fault and all major media began, as usual painting Israel as the evil child-killing country they want us to be. Everyone blamed Israel, including (oh, the surprise!) the UN.

Palestinian and United Nations officials said earlier Monday that Deeb was killed by IDF gunfire as she was walking into a UN school in the southern Gaza Strip. But UN officials later said that they could not definitively identify the source of the gunfire, although all signs pointed to the Israelis.

"The only firing that took place at that time in the entire Rafah area came from the so-called Salah Adin [Saladin] IDF observation post," about 800 meters away from the school, said Johan Eriksson, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency, which administers the school.
And then, a few hours ago, the following story surfaced. So far it's only covered by Israelinsider and Haaretz, and I have doubts on whether it will get as much coverage as the original one did.
Palestinian Authority security forces on Tuesday evening said they arrested a Palestinian man who shot dead a 10-year-old Palestinian girl in Rafah the day before, Israel Radio reported.
But that's not all in the "Jews done it" section for today. An Egyptian weekly found the cause behind the Tsunami waves that wrecked South-East Asia.

Among the various ?explanations?, an Egyptian opposition weekly offered its theory, claiming the earthquake was a result of a joint India-Israel-U.S. nuclear experiment, that brought about the movement of the tectonic plates located underneath the ocean.
But why would Israel, USA and India run nuclear experiments in an earthquake prone area? Don't worry, they figured it all out for you.

According to Al Usbua, the experiment?s goal was a U.S.-Israel attempt to put an ?end to humanity?.

Those tricky Jews, as if controlling the world is not enough, they want to end humanity as well.

Things you only hear on Aljazeera.

This is the exact reason the Arab world hates jews. They're being fed with lies, propaganda and horrible libel.
For instance take this JihadTV article about the settler protest yesterday.

Thousands of Talmudic Jewish settlers participating in the demonstration demanded the Israeli government to apply "Jewish law" on non-Jews in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

"We call on the government to apply the Jewish religious law on all Goyem (derogatory for non-Jews). They have two choices, either accept Jewish supremacy or be expelled or killed,” said Noam Shabatai, from the settlement of Elon Moreh in the northern West Bank.

Anyone with basic knowledge of Hebrew would know that goyim is not a derogatory term but the Hebrew word for "nations", which in the Torah is often applied to the nation of Israel. And ofcourse what would JihadTV be without a bit of phony historical notes:
Palestinian Arab were present in Palestine before the Jews came by nearly two thousand years, and most of the present Ashkenazi Jews have no connection with the early Israelites, many of whose descendants are Arab Christians and Muslims.
Right... Palestinian Arabs were present in palestine before the Jews. They should just open a Koran and read it.

The job.

I've been serving in the West bank for about a year now and it's clearly not an easy job. I don't mean I'm not having fun, but sometimes, it can get to you. One of the most disturbing things for me are shepherds.
Usually they're either young boys, or very old men with lots of sheep and goats going around the mountains and hills of the region. Them being a security hazard is unquestionable. They collect intelligence overlooking major junctions, settlements and checkpoints, and for all I know they might as well be terrorists waiting for a chance to get near and blow up. Occasionaly, when a shepherd gets too close, you get sent to drive him away. Now, this is about the worst image you can possibly imagine, at the beggining of my service in the territories, the shepherds were guys around 20 so telling them to go away was an easy thing, but now? The Palestinians learned the trick. The shepherds are either very old 70+ men or very young 15- boys.
I'm telling you, going to an old 70+ guy and telling him he can't be there, breaks my heart. Trying to explain a young boy he can't be there and has to go away because he's a danger is one of the hardest things possible. I'm sure you can see the picture in your mind. A soldier with full-gear and automatic rifle telling a little boy to go away, you don't even have to imagine, because the media always bothers to find those scenes and publish them all over the world.
And here's what happened two weeks ago. I got called, as usual to drive away some kids (kids would be unnacurate, teenagers is more like it: they were about 15-17) with their flock that always get to a hill near the checkpoint. I never really understood what they were doing there. There was plenty of grass all around the valley which is lower than the checkpoint. The same kids used to return to the same point over and over again. It was quite annoying, you go there, tell them to go away, they go away, and come back within the hour. Once in a while you shout your lungs out hoping they'll get a hint, and occasionaly throw in a few swears in Arabic which the Arab soldiers serving with us bothered to teach us.
I swore the next time I see those boys, I'm gonna load my weapon on produce a similar noise with it and spook the hell out of them. It was getting out of hand, everytime they came back, they were getting closer and closer to the checkpoint. They were already in the position to throw rocks and hit us good, and I'm not even talking about the option of them having granades.
That occasion arrived within the week. I was on another shift in the checkpoint, and the boys returned. As usual, we geared up, rushed to them, and then I noticed something weird. One of them turned around and quickly put something inside his pants. In such occasions you usualy think of the worse: an explosive device.
We kept a good distance and shouted at him to remove what he just put in his hands and put it on the ground. He reached into his pants and took out something I haven't expected. A book. I told him to put it on the ground and step away from it. A book? why would he read a book there? Why would he hide it when we came near?
I took the book away. Seemed like some schoolbook, probably history, and then I noticed the sidenotes. I read a little arabic, and noticed that many numbers were in it. We drove the boys away and took the book down to the checkpoint. One of the Arab soldiers serving with us translated. What those little innocent boys did, was write down every single action we were taking in the checkpoint. When did we switch positions, How many trucks have we let in and when. What were the procedures for checking Palestinians going to work. Every single thing was right there in the notebook.
Suddenly letting the guys off didn't seem like such a smart idea.
What those kids were doing can easily clasify as terrorist activity. They were clearly collecting data for an attack. They had it all ready, and who knows how much they managed to collect before we caught them. There's now a high probability of us being attacked.
Naturaly, all the procedures and times that they managed to gather were immideatly tuirned over to the higher ranks and everything in the checkpoint was altered, so the data is now useless. But still, this clearly comes to show that the Palestinians are using the decency and the moral values, me and my friends were brought up with to sneak in spies (I can't think of a better definition to that) that we'll have problem handling.
Don't get me wrong, it won't change my attitude one bit. I will still have a hard time driving out old men and boys from hills next to Jewish towns and Israeli military positions, but atleast I'm aware of the risks of it now.