Thursday, August 17, 2006

Post Ceasefire Thoughts

It's all in the PR
In May 2005, my friend Lucie and I went to a 3pm showing at the October War Panorama in Cairo. It was created to celebrate the Egyptian victory in the 1973 war against Israel. There was a huge, very empty car park and a display of several captured Israeli tanks. The Panorama itself was built to seat about 250. You get a twenty minute 'entertainment' with rousing marching music and deep-voiced American-accented commentary. The seating section spins slowly and the painted screen and life size figures stay put, or did the seating section stay put. I can't remember, but I do remember being struck by three things. 1. No expense was spared 2. We were the only audience present and 3. The staff (about 2o, box office and stewards) were very charming and the manager offered to run the show again, free of charge.

The Egyptian military success of October 1973 lasted but a few days before Ariel Sharon had the entire Third Army surrounded. So much for the Panorama in Cairo.

This reminds me of my French cousin Danielle who asked, ever so innocently, why the British insist on celebrating victories which were unquestionably French. How important is winning and how important is losing? Holding the IDF off for longer than any other Arab army is winning for Hezbollah. But at what cost? Assad might well declare a Hezbollah victory, but would he want to see his airfields, ports, military installations and communication centres bombed, and still call it a Syrian victory?

With less than a quarter of a percentage point of damage to its entire military arsenal, Israel still has by a very long way the most powerful army in the Middle East and whichever way you look at it - the Hezbollah infrastructure is decimated.

But the prize to the outright victor of this unclear, unresolvable conflict must be given to the media. Up to 10,000 world journalists, television teams, photographers and soon enough documentary film-makers will have influenced the progress and the outcome of this conflict as never before.

Four reasons why will this conflict will go down in history as the best reporters' war ever?

1. Israel and Lebanon are most westernised destinations in the Middle East, and not all that far away (US excluded).

2. These are not expensive countries and you can drink the water.

3. There is no-where else in the world where the journalists can stay in the best hotels, eat in the best restaurants, swim in the most luxurious pools and still hear bombs and missiles hitting their targets.

4. There is no-where else in the Middle East where journalists can drink in the finest bars, shop for the most fashionable labels and not be target practice for fundamentalists.

Where is the next surprise coming from?

I was in the Old City of Jerusalem yesterday, accompanying an intrepid American tourist. She wanted to buy for a crucifix for her grandmother. It was only three days after the murder of Italian student, a volunteer who had been working with Palestinian refugees and had come to visit Jerusalem. As a result, my friend and I elected to stay in the busier parts of the bazaar.

My friend had in her hand a postcard, the one with photographs of Israeli soldiers praying at the Western Wall. A shop owner looked at the card and announced with glee: "Israeli soldiers are rubbish. Did you see? Hezbollah fucked them. Hezbollah fucked the whole Israeli army." This was one happy man. He shouted at us as we walked away, so he could be heard by all his neighbours, he knew he had their support. The Old City of Jerusalem is an intimidating place to be today.

Citizens of the Arab towns and villages in the north of Israeli, who were in the main without shelters or sirens, are hugely critical of their government in this conflict. It won't take much for a pro-Hezbollah hot-head to make a murderous move, and it may take even less for the police to respond in force.

Israeli Jews, who were only just beginning to shop and eat in the Arab towns and villages after a five year haitus, are noting the publicised reactions of some Israeli Arabs and will keep away. The gap between Jews and Arabs in Israel widens and the loyalties between Israeli Arabs and Arabs beyond the green line tightens.

The Israeli government will ignore these developments at their peril

Questions I would like to ask Ehud Olmert before he packs his bags

1. Did you realise how much wall-to-wall coverage this conflict would get world wide, especially in August when there is nothing else going on? The Israel Press Office issued over 4,000 press permits for foreign media at the time of the Gaza disengagement. And it was August.

2. And with all your experience did you not know that human suffering is a good story? Human suffering over-rides theoretical rights and the wrongs - every time. Did your advisors try to estimate how many Lebanese refugees might take to the road? What were those estimates - 500, 5,000 or half a million? When the airforce dropped leaflets and told civilians to take to the road, did your advisors take into count which remaining road those civilians might take?

3. You are not an army man, with a conceptual vocabulary limited to 'advance' and 'retreat'. You have your fingers on the pulse of the most powerful and influential people in the world. You know that when Israel sneezes, a Jewish community somewhere gets bombed. You knew that it would take Israel years to build up its tourist industry again, that the flourishing economy would take a below the belt hit. Even if the IAF scored 100% direct hits, the Arab street would have gone insane with rage. Israel would have been penalised in a myriad of ways. Why did you let the military call the shots?

The question I would like to ask the Chief of Staff before he packs his bags
Before the airforce bombed the power plant in Beirut, did your advisors consider where the 15,000 tons of oil would go? Why didn't you just stick to petrol stations?

Jane's Post Ceasefire Observations
Unlike most of the Israeli media, I do not regard the result as any kind of military failure. Hezbollah awoke a sleeping giant, the giant flailed out, did a lot of damage but didn't quite manage to hit the mosquito. He's not a fool this giant, he's learned a hell of a lot and if he had more time to plan, he would have brought his anti-mosquito spray. He'll know for next time.

Nor do I see this cease-fire as a political failure. Political leaders always make promises they cannot keep. The public is used to it. We never had any chance of getting back the kidnapped soldiers on any terms other than the completely unacceptable ones of Hezbollah and Hamas. I find it hard to believe that there are Israelis who think otherwise. But what I do know is that it will be impossible for Hezbollah to re-arm under everyone's nose. From now its only chance would be to set up shop in Syria and start digging those tunnels again, and will Assad want that? I doubt it.

No, the real failure, the only failure which counts is that Israel has hit an all time low in the world-popularity-contest. This is a disaster for Israel and a disaster for Jews everywhere.

I would really like to know what the Israeli government intends to do about that. Come on Tsippi - don't pack just yet.


Anonymous Brian said...

Excellent article, Jane. Unfortunately I don't agree with one point. I believe that Hizbullah will rebuild their bunkers and arsenals in south Lebanon and nobody will do a thing to stop them- just like last time. Israel will have to fight this war again.

10:46 AM  
Blogger 49erDweet said...

I, too, share brian's fear. For anyone to seriously rely on the potential-but-not-yet-confirmed presence of a 9 to 5 comic opera inspired UN virtually un-armed military force overseen by the stalwart and ever-vigilant Fwench command structure is to put too much faith into myths similar to the 'tooth fairy', et al.

Jane, your comments are extremely interesting - and valuable. Thanks again for resuming your passion for clarifying your view of reality by means of this blog. It rocks! (if that means what I think it means).

1:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



I'm 66. And, I visited Israel way back in 1967. Even then, I saw the anger on the faces of arabs. Who were happy to take a tourist's money. But whose eyes burned with hatred. (And, this was before the ZOMBIES came to them and preached.)

I live near Pasadena, in California. And, I see that Olmert survives. So he had a short honeymoon.

Tzipi Lvini can't speak English. Nor can Amir Peretz. While Condi Rice burned her career trying to sell #1701 paper.

While I think, like you, Israel reacted before she was ready with her might; because she wanted to teach nasrallah a lesson. And, the IDF was MORE successful. Rather than less so. Because nasrallah wanted Metulla. All he got were 2 kidnapped soldiers. While the Palestinians are really ratcheting up success, here with their FOX captives. NOT.

I'm not so sure that Olmert can't hold his own, when it comes to politics. I actually see Bibi trying to take "perpetual" advantage; and I don't see a movement towards new elections. Either inside or outside the knesset. Sure. I could be wrong. But where's the heat coming from?

As to Israel and the press. Again, nothing new. Old as the hills. But the exposures of the faux-photograhy? The staged Pallywood. Exposed to many Americans, as well as others around the globe, who read the Internet sites. Not the propaganda sites.

As to the damages in lebanon; alas, that story will get told. Because that country suffered little damage. THOUGH the buildings that collapsed, did so beause they weren't built to CODE. And, the french? Sending engineers to profiteer. And, land on reconstruction contracts. Perhaps to clear the evidence? Dunno.

But the lebanese didn't win. Like Arik Sharon, there's a lot of things out there are life supports. Sucking oxygen. But not really alive, anymore.

Bush also knows he can't push Israel around, and demand that Israel take out Assad. That was on the list! The saudis put it there. However, the pressure backfired. Such dirty work wouldn't change a thing for the Israelis. And, Bush still has a war to fight, ahead. In my opinion.

4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You have no idea how BIG this win was for the IDF! For years, the threat from lebanon,with all those missiles, kept Israel's hands tied. If it wanted to take out the nukes in Iran? Lebanon would toss those missiles. Go after Assad, should he have decided to take his conscripts up the Golan? Lebanon would have tossed those missiles IN.

As a matter of fact, when Shalit was kidnapped on Israeli ground, by the Gazoo people, Nasrallah LEAPT at his chance. That was his mistake.

As to "not doing it in 6 days," Israel's already done it "in six days" and then spent 30 years being vilified. Plus, so much fun was made of arab fighters, that Israelis, by fighting them were judged (by the Brits, for instance), to be weak.

Or as Arik Sharon answered back to Field Marshal Montgomery, in 1958. When he said "arabs were ten-minute fighters, thereby implying that Israelis were 12-minute guys; he stood up and said NO. Arabs are heroic on the battlefields. They still lose.

Besides, the Saudis were telling Bush to "get" Israel to kill Assad. After that? I'd bet Condi would have said to Olmert "now that Assad was dead," he could hand back the Golan Heights to syria For piss.

Worse. The UN was giving hezbollah ALL the troop movements it saw. That's why, with Olmert's permission, the food trucks (logistics) went one way TO FOOL nasrallah. And, that is exactly how you fight.

While Mr. Snap-his-fingers Bush didn't get the cards to come up for him. Because Olmert plays poker, too.

If Bibi had 61 votes, Olmert's government would have fallen. He has, instead, 12 chairs. And, lots of ambition. Buy into it. The MSM is looking for you. Now that their Plame Game blew up; these Yankee Doodles want to take Olmert down. That's their prize. And, most Israelis won't give this to them. Ditto, for Mazuz. And, his spit charges. Leave it to Jews. And, America's LEFT. When you're losing, SEND IN THE LAWYERS. Ya gotta laugh.

8:37 PM  

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