Live from an Israeli bunker

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Welcome to the Network

Thirty years ago a film was made titled Network. It was written by one of my favorite writers (Paddy Chayefsky), directed by one of my favorite directors (Sidney Lumet), and stared by one of my favorite actors (William Holden). Great movies get better with time, this one may be the best movie of all time.

I've watched it again tonight, sleep avoids me for some reason, and this is just so uncanny, so surreal that I have to share it here.

Howard Beale was a long time anchorman who's life, upon hitting middle age, went downhill. After a streak of bad luck he was fired. This conversation follows, in a bar between him and his best friend Max Schumacher:
"Howard: I'm gonna blow my brains out right on the air... right in the middle of the seven o'clock news.

Max: You'll get a hell of a rating, I'll guarantee that. Fifty share easy.

Howard: You think so?

Max: Sure. We could make a series out of it. "Suicide of the Week." Hell, Why limit ourselves? "Execution of the Week."

Howard: "Terrorist of the Week. "

Max: They'll love it. Suicides. Assassinations. Mad bombers. Mafia hit men. Automobile smashups. "The Death Hour."
"A great Sunday night show for the whole family." It'd put fucking Disney right off the air."

Sure enough, when Howard next goes on the air (he has two weeks notice to complete) he utters the words: "Tune in next Tuesday. I'm going to shoot myself."

Meanwhile, enter a young producer hungry for her shot at success:
"Diana: This is really terrific footage. We can get a movie of the week out of it, maybe even a series.

Man: A series? What are we talking about?

Diana: We've got a bunch of hobgoblin radicals, the Ecumenical Liberation Army... who go around taking home movies of themselves robbing banks. Maybe they'll take movies of themselves kidnapping heiresses, hijacking 747s, bombing bridges, assassinating ambassadors. We'd open each week's segment with their authentic footage... hire writers to write a story behind that footage, and we've got a series.

Man II: A series about a bunch of bank-robbing guerrillas?

Barbara: What will we call it, the "Mao Tse-Tung Hour"?

Diana: Why not? They've got "Strike Force," "Task Force," "SWAT." Why not Che Guevara and his own little "Mod Squad?"

These words hung in the air for me. Are the hobgoblins not Hezbollah? Isn't this exactly what the media has been doing? SWAT, they have COPS now instead.

All of a sudden the words Max said cynically become all too real. After Diana finds out that Howard threatened to shot himself on the air you can guess what happened. He becomes a TV phenomenon, a news anchor that in his own words "ran out of bullshit", a news anchor who cracked up and started telling the truth.

Click to watch VideoAnnouncer: And starring the Mad Prophet of the Airways, Howard Beale!

Howard: Edward George Ruddy died today!

Edward George Ruddy was the chairman of the board of the Union Broadcasting Systems
and he died at 11:00 this morning of a heart condition. Woe is us! We're in a lot of trouble! So, a rich little man with white hair died. What does that got to do with the price of rice, right? And why is that woe to us?

Because you people... and 62 million other Americans are listening to me right now. Because less than three percent of you people read books. Because less than 15 percent of you read newspapers. Because the only truth you know is what you get over this tube. Right now, there is a whole and entire generation that never knew anything that didn't come out of this tube! This tube is the Gospel. The ultimate revelation. This tube can make or break presidents, popes, prime ministers. This tube is the most awesome goddamn force in the whole godless world... and woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people!

And that's why woe is us that Edward George Ruddy died. Because this company is now in the hands of CCA, the Communication Corporation of America. There's a new chairman of the board, a man called Frank Hackettn sitting in Mr. Ruddy's office on the 20th floor. And when the 12th largest company in the world controls the most awesome, goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network!

So you listen to me. Listen to me! Television is not the truth.
Television's a goddamned amusement park! Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats.. We're in the boredom-killing business. So if you want the truth, go to God. Go to your gurus. Go to yourselves! Because that's the only place you're ever gonna find any real truth. But, man, you're never gonna get any truth from us. We'll tell you anything you wanna hear. We lie like hell. We'll tell you that Kojak always gets the killer and that nobody ever gets cancer in Archie Bunker's house. And no matter how much trouble the hero is in, don't worry, look at your watch, at the end of the hour he'll win! We'll tell you any shit you want to hear! We deal in illusions. None of it is true! But you people sit there, day after day, night after night. You're all ages, colors, creeds. We're all you know.
You're beginning to believe the illusions we're spinning here. You're beginning to think the tube is reality and your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you! You dress like the tube, eat like the tube, raise your children like the tube, even think like the tube. This is mass madness, you maniacs! In God's name, you people are the real thing! We are the illusion! So turn off your television sets. Turn them off right now. Turn them off and leave them off. Turn them off in the middle of this sentence. Turn them off!"

The producer, realizing that she was unto something (60 million viewers after all) goes ahead and cuts a deal with a communist woman to give her one hour of airtime to use as propaganda her for her party's political views (who don't really interest anyone) in exchange for more of the above mentioned footage, weekly. Not talking to the terrorists directly but using her as a go between and protecting themselves with the 1st amendment, the right of free speech, and their privilege not to disclose their sources. All in the name of ratings.

So many parallels, so many similarities. During the movie you hear about Arab countries wanting to raise the prices of oil and the civil war in Lebanon is briefly mentioned as a backhand remark. I even think I heard the word Iran. Some things never change. But Howard goes on:

Click to watch Video"We all know that the Arabs control $16 billion in this country. They own a chunk of Fifth Avenue, 20 downtown pieces of Boston, a part of the port of New Orleans, an industrial park in Salt Lake City. They own big hunks of the Atlanta Hilton the Arizona Land and Cattle Company the Security National Bank in California the Bank of the Commonwealth in Detroit. They control Aramco, so that puts them into Exxon, Texaco and Mobil Oil. They're all over!

New Jersey, Louisville, St. Louis, Missouri. And that's only what we know about. There's more we don't know about. Because all of those Arab petrol dollars are washed through Switzerland and Canada and the biggest banks in this country. For example, what we don't know about is this CCA deal and all the other CCA deals. Right now the Arabs have screwed us out of enough American dollars to come right back and with our own money buy General Motors, IBM, ITT, AT&T,Du Pont, U.S. Steel and 20 other American companies. Hell, they already own half of England!

Listen to me. Listen to me, goddamn it! The Arabs are simply buying us. There's only one thing that can stop them! You! You! So I want you to get up now. I want you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the phone. I want you to get up from your chairs, go to the phone, get in your cars, drive into the Western Union offices in town. I want you to send a telegram to the White House. Oh, my God - By midnight tonight I want a million telegrams in the White House! I want them wading knee-deep in telegrams at the White House. I want you to get up right now and write a telegram to President Ford saying "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take this anymore! I don't want the banks selling my country to the Arabs!"

The CCA deal he's talking about is part of the movie plot where the Western World Funding Corporation are buying the large company he's working for "the most awesome, goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world", and that they are buying it on behalf of the Saudis, secretly. This has in fact already happened in a sense.

Look at the places he mentioned. Howard turned out to really be a prophet. How strange it is that a 30 year old movie can be so relevant, can resonate so well, with the situation today.

But unfortunately this is real life, we don't have Beale's with a 60 million audience to tell the truth too. In fact many people are in denial, or just not interested to hear about it. Like he said, if we want the truth (and we do want it, don't we?) "Go to yourselves!", go to the blogosphere, tell people who don't know better, and just for laughs send the White house a telegram.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

An attack is inevitable

I've talked about this before, but not extensively. I think this is a good time to dwell deeper into this seeing how everybody moved forward after the UK terror plot that was foiled. It didn't happen, but it could have. Unfortunately, I think it will inevitably happen in the future. Before we go over why its inevitable, let me explain why its currently even possible.

The picture above is of the US, and it's two boarding countries; Canada and Mexico.
The United States has a coastline of over 12,000 miles (almost 20,000KM). The red line is it's border with Mexico (~2000 miles, ~3000KM), the yellow is it's border with Canada which is three times it's size. Ladies and gentleman, the borders are big. HUGE.

Let's start with the Mexico border. It's guarded by the National Guard, It is estimated that over a million people cross the border illegally each year. Now, no offense to my Mexican readers but this just not good. Issues of illegal immigrants crossing over for jobs is beyond the scope of this blog, but from a purely security point of view this is nothing short of a disaster. Never mind the drug and weapon smugglers or the people who die in the attempt, this is an easy way for terrorists to gain entry into the country.

Is it possible to control such a border? Absolutely. In the 90's the army was sent for a time to control the border, by all accounts it was a successful attempt. What people are looking into now is a fence, and the fence should work. It has been done before on a smaller scale with success rates of over 90%. A 2,000 mile, fence that would cover all of it would cost roughly $1.5 - 3 billion and be completed in 6 months. See for yourself in this except from The Colbert Report (just about as accurate as other main stream news sources, but much more entertaining).

It's doable, it worked for Israel and it will work for the United States but for some reason it's not being done. Not fast enough at least. So supposedly this border which is crossed over 350 million times a year and leaves over a million illegal immigrants in the country will come under control sometime in the not distant future.

Let's turn our attention to the north, the United States-Canada border. A border which is three times longer then the one with Mexico and is dubbed as: "the world's longest undefended border". I can't help but have the urge to smack my forehead here.

The sheer promiscuity, for lack of a better word, of that border I witnessed first hand on my trip there. Crossing over by bus we stopped at the border for a customs check, stamp passport, finger print, picture. There were no metal detectors, nobody was searched or checked at all. But that's just the checkpoint, the border is so vast that taking an SUV and finding some remote unmonitored crossing is a piece of cake.

But it gets worse:
"This official U.S. Customs and Border Protection reporting station is on the border between Manitoba, a Canadian province, and Minnesota, and relies on the honor system. Yes, the U.S. government is counting on all people who cross into Angle Inlet, Minnesota, to report themselves via telephone. There are no permanent customs or immigration officials who work at the checkpoint."
- Anderson Cooper. Read it all, you'll be amazed.

Using the honor system on a border which is three times longer then the one with Mexico, or any border really post 9/11, is ludicrous.

The black line is the combined coast lines of the United States and Canada. Canada has by far the longest coast line in the word at over 240,000KM. I think its pretty obvious that if a terrorist wanted to gain entry into the United States today he could get in (some of the 9/11 terrorists used fake documents and didn't even have to sneak in). Couple that with the lack of gun control and the picture is not pretty.

"Alright, alright, this is quite scary. But if its so possible why hasn't it happened already then?" - Therein lays the meat of the matter, so to speak.

Some would say that it's already happening. But thats not exactly right.

September 11 took the lives of less then 0.0001% of the US population. They cant destroy and kill all of America, that wasn't what it was all about. It was meant to terrorize, scare, and provoke. Just because a terrorist can sneak into America, buy a gun, and kill half a dozen people or so, doesn't mean its worth the effort in their eyes. Thousands of people are murdered in the States every year anyway, its not scary enough.

Planes exploding over the atlantic, or crashing into buildings or over populated cities, now thats scary. The UK plot was foiled, the next one is probably not far behind, is America ready?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Best footage of this war I have seen - Must Watch

Video removed - watch it here instead.

"Itai Anghel accompanied regiment 931 of the Nahal Brigade (infantry) to a battle that took place on the night of August 6-7 in Houleh, a Hezbollah-controlled village in Lebanon that is about 3 kilometres north of the border with Israel. Anghel documents the fierce battle that took place using a camera equipped with a night vision lens.

With the exception of the officers - Avi Dahan and Biche - all the soldiers are reservists in their 20's and 30's who did their three-year mandatory army service (ages 18-21) in the unit; in other words, they are civilians who responded to emergency call up notices." - Via On the Face.

That is, hands down, the most impressive footage I have seen from this conflict. I don't want to give it away, watch it all the action gets quite intense but I will reveal this: at one point Hezbollah fighters are discovered who were wearing IDF uniforms. First I hear of that tactic on their part, and it doesn't seem widespread but this is interesting to say the least.

A little less reporting a little more talking please

Breaking news: No news to break.
Well that's not accurate, the president might be corrupt and basketball, football (soccer) and other sporting events may or may not be hosted in Israel for a while. Again. Turkey has explosions, UK had a terror plot with 10 planes, but apparently Israel is not safe for sports anymore (again). It's all nonsense of course, but who cares about sports really. Sure, this will furthermore hurt the tourist industry, and sure this is yet another effect of terrorism, but its not new, not breaking and not news.

The war is over. I don't personally agree with that sentiment (I heard a newscaster utter here today) and there is a lot to write about and do. But breaking news, live, right now? There is none. The excitement, the frantic unfolding of events, it's over.

What's a Bunker Blogger (obviously not in a bunker anymore, but the name stays and I'll tell you why in the future) to write about from day to day? His thoughts. This is a blog after all, I tried for it to not be in the common way, but when the news stop-a-flowing a writer must dig down into the bottom of the barrel and present his personal musings. I apologize in advance.

Breaking news: (oh the irony) In yesterdays blast in Turkey an Israeli family was present, the wife injured. I've just watched an interview with the husband in perfect hebrew and calmness telling his experience and how "it" followed him there from home. Can't help but feel that somebody from here would handle this so much better then if they were from elsewhere. If you were planning a trip to Turkey have a guide that speaks the language and be careful about where you go.

Back to my musings. Before I get my own round of interviews started I'd like to share a feeling that I sometimes have. If this is a sure sign of schizophrenia we I don't care. I sometimes like to hold fictional conversations in my head, there I said it.

This might range from Woody Allen discussing my latest screenplays with me (he has some comments but generally he is very impressed usually) or Nietzsche telling me how right I am. But at times like these it usually turns to interviews that I'd very much like to conduct but am unable to (at the moment at least, anything is possible, long live the blogosphere, 'etc). During the Rome Summit I had wild fantasies of asking Siniora why after they drove out Syria they didn't drive out Hezbollah as well. "It cost your predecessor his life, and he was well aware of the danger he was putting himself in, we had it happen as well, the Americans at one point had in the past had it happen. Historic times call upon leaders to do historic things. What are you doing for your country Mr. Siniora? Your country was able to drive Syria out but not Hezbollah? If you were unable to, why did you not ask for assistance from the UN? Syria was driven out with the support and pressure from the international community. Why have you not been in contact with Israel's PM even once?" - it was a lot more eloquent in my head at the time, believe me.

I'm getting that feeling again. Olmert visited the north, including Haifa, and said the following: "..the claims that the North of the country collapsed are false, those who's hearts bled for the North for the most part sat in coffee shops in Tel-Aviv talking about how bad the situation is." The second part is probably very true in a way, the first is complete nonsense. And so here goes.

BB: "Mr. Olmert thank you very much for sparing the time to take this interview."
Olmert: "Don't mention it."
BB: "You've said some interesting things today. In your opinion the North wasn't damaged?"
Olmert: "The North held firm and is fine now, it didn't collapse, were on the right track to-"
BB: "It did hold firm, but I don't I don't think upon your visit you realized what the damage was and is. The Hezbollah doesn't have guided missiles, it points and shoots and has no control where it might hit. You don't see condensed areas of damage, a rocket here, a rocket there, one-two dead at a time, without a pattern. Going thru the cities, thru Haifa and farther to the North, the effect is not fully seen. But the fact is that we had a million people living in bunkers for a month, not being able to work, not being able to do much of anything. Shopping for food was a danger, in fact people were hit because of that, the personal damages, you just don't see it."

I'd like to say it's my lack of imagination that's responsible for me not having an imaginary answer from Olmert to my question. Then again I lack a question mark there as well, don't I?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Things you didn't see

The above was emailed to me as a powerpoint presentation, I took the liberty of uploading it to youtube. This is what life was like in Israel for a month.

About 30 minutes by train from where I am the city of Nahariya is located. During the conflict this city of 50,000 turned into a ghost town, it was easily within range of rockets and repeatedly targeted by rockets. Most residents left, the trains stopped arriving so far for fear of being hurt.

Of course some people couldn't (or in rarer cases wouldn't) leave.

In Nahariya a hospital was hit, in Haifa the hospital had daily close calls.

Both cities are now back to normal, over the next week I'll be showing you both, ideally visiting locations that were hit and talking to people. You'll get to see first hand how war effects Israelis (I'll give you a hint, once its all over were shaken for a little while but not stirred. The "bounce back" as I like to call it will be interesting to see).

Or you can go watch CNN.

Notes: For more pictures click on the title of this post, CNN please don't sue me.

At least one Palestinian is not crazy

Excuse the provocative title, but this has never happened before and I'm intrigued. The spokesman of the Palestinian government has criticized the people, this is the first time a senior figure (with ties to Hamas no less) isn't blaming Israel or the IDF but rather calls for soul searching on their own part.

"After the withdrawal we hoped for a bright future, we thought we were reaping the fruits of our sacrifices. But I'm asking myself today - why did the occupation return? The wise and the critics will say the occupation is responsible. I'm not here today to defend the occupation, but I'd like us to stand by our mistakes, mistakes we are used to always blame on others.

The anarchy, the needless killing, the robbing of land, thugs on the streets, traffic disorder - is the occupation responsible for all of these? We got used to blame our own sins on others and trumpet the conspiracy theory which limited our minds.

When Israel withdrew it's forces a year a go as part of the disengagement plan, there were high expectations that prosperity and growth will follow and end poverty and hardship. It didn't take long for things to grow worse and for that hope to dissolve.

Following Israel's withdrawal many Palestinians hoped that positive forces will take the place of the Israeli army and bring order, instead anarchy captured the void and now hardly a day goes by without a criminal murder occurring or squaring of off debts between families and rival organizations [Ed note: think Sopranos but an order of magnitude or two worse]"

Well there you have it folks, from the horses mouth, hopefully this wasn't a temporary burst of lucidity or that he won't be swiftly assassinated (like over a dozen Lebanese politicians who opposed Hezbollah for example).

Speaking of Hezbollah, rearming and movement activities have been spotted, returning with the refugees and civilians. The arming activity is obviously meant against the IDF but also against the Lebanese army, which is interesting because UNIFIL announced that they won't prevent the Hezbollah from rearming because its the Lebanese army's job. Are we going to see clashes between Hezbollah and the Lebanese army? Is this a prelude to a civil war? It's too early to tell.

Just to leave you with a note about the UNIFIL, the extensive tunnel network that the Hezbollah built is being systematically destroyed by the IDF (what they control and are able to find in time), the footage I've seen is nothing short of amazing, they have sinks and showers there and solid concrete walls and stairs for miles and miles. Many of which are right next to UN outposts. I find it hard to believe that the people posted there were oblivious to this.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bunker Blog is heading home

I'm writing this from the airport, finally heading home. I had a very interesting trip and met enough people to warrant quite a few posts, but the real work will just start once I get back. The above photo was taken with my Macbook, I hear Vlogs are all the rage, in fact I was planning on doing one in the UN but my interviewee was understandably busy (guess who it was). In the following weeks you can expect a number of these, I have a few interesting things coming up.

I've met a number of security personnel here, huge looking guys in army uniforms with guns (one of them a policeman), unfortunately they refused to be shown or answer many questions but basically they are there to reassure the public. It's a show of force. I'll see if I can get one of them to spill the beans.

Regular updates to resume soon.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Answer to US security in my pocket, and News

Unsurprisingly enough, most European countries are not tripping over each other to send troops to south Lebanon as per the new UN resolution that they pushed for so badly. France, for example is only willing to send 200 troops (in addition to the 200 they have there as part of UNIFIL already), their secretary of defense saying: "You can just send people there not being able to defend themselves and not being allowed to fire back", no kidding.

Other the Italy (world cup champions, great food) who are leading the way with 3000 (nonetheless, one of their generals was quoted saying the UN resolution was a joke) most countries are side stepping this, not that I blame them, except I do because those hypocrites pushed for this to pass but when push comes to shove they don't own up to their words. Muslim countries however are more then happy to offer their services, in fact they are yearning to do it, Malaysia and Indonesia who do not recognize Israel have asked to participate and send their own forces. Naturally, our ambassador intervened and hopefully that nightmare won't come to pass.

The Lebanese army so far has deployed about 4,500 out of the 15,000 it's supposed to. But again, it was said time and time again by them that the Lebanese army has no intention of disarming Hezbollah. That's great because the Hezbollah has no intention of taking on the Lebanese army (or so they claim right now): "There is no chance of that because we favored this from the started, there is coordination between us and every social and political movement in the south, especially with the army."

The geopolitics here are so complex it's sometimes hard to keep track, but the Muslim countries who are allied with the US and are uncomfortable with the thought of Hezbollah growing in power and popularity are setting up their own Arab summit in the next few months. Before you get your hopes up they still blame Israel for failing the peace process anyway.

As for the political situation in Israel, as I said before the Likud and Bibi are going to win this big time. It's starting already. More on that in the future.

I'd like to close with my own experiences of today and previous days. I bused from Canada into the states, on the border we stopped, everybody got out of the bus with just their passports, wait in line, get stamp, scan fingers, take picture, go on your way. In my pockets I had an iPod and headphones, and a wallet, they were bulging but nobody checked them. I could have easily taken anything I wanted, the lack of control is frightening.

Today I was in NYC, I haven't been here since 1999 and I didn't know what to expect. It's largely the same. Going into the Metropolitan Museum two bored security guards were idly checking bags and passing people thru, no metal detectors. My point being that following the foiled terror plot in the UK news networks kept asking if America is safe and if attack here is possible. There's your answer.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The fallout continues

Soldiers returning from the south of Lebanon have interesting things to say (via - Following a couple of fighting days they asked for resupplies, they were told they will receive it but it didn't arrive. Exhaustion setting in they realized that they quickly need to find food or they will lose focus, so they entered houses in the village of A-tiiba and cooked for themselves, one scant meal a day for 12 days until they reached the Litani river and were given the order to turn back. For water they searched houses and added Chlorine to tap water.

This is one report from one troop, how widespread this was I do not know but it shows of a severe lack of planning and organization that went on in the IDF.

A glimpse into an infantry soldiers day is a ten mile (17 km) or so walk, sometimes helping carrying stretchers with wounded, heat, keep quite, keep low. Modus operandi is to scout out an area and pick a tactical position and lay in wait, sometimes for 24 hours, observation, sniper action, upon spotting more significant activity consulting with head quarters and then going in for a coordinated attack with other groups in the area. Clearing areas in such a way and moving forward with your rear securing the positions. That is what we do, and we are supposed to be very good at it. It didn't happen quite like that this time.

Instead of having perfectly coordinated movements and constant resupplies what went on there is best described as chaos. Not to exaggerate but this is what I keep hearing and reading.

There have been numerous cases of near friendly fire, troops not knowning the movements of fellow soldiers, rapid changes in objectives (march to one village, reach it, suddenly order is given to turn and head for a different one). "We didn't use even 10% of our capability" one soldier said, they were the first to reach the Litani and just as they were getting ready to truly deploy they were called back. Just as they started breaking Hezbollah they were called back and neither they nor I, and really I haven't seen anybody offer an explanation to this yet. On the way back they saw the late arriving food supplies that were left in the field, in one case an arms supply was dropped onto a wrong hilltop basically arming Hezbollah instead.

Our current militarily inexperienced government held the army back, the army leadership is in teeters as well. Where are the generals? It's astonishingly irresponsible what went on there. I can understand trying to go out of their way to not hurt Lebanese civilians (that is very much the case, the military picture of what went on there is becoming more and more clear) but soldiers are not playthings, indecisiveness means casualties. Heads need to roll and there needs to be a shakeup, we cannot afford to have this repeat again in the next conflict which will in fact be worse.

Peres (on a visit in the united states) said that he obligates himself to stand behind Olmert in these difficult hours. "This is not the time for internal wars in Israel , because this war is far from over," he said, stating his full backing for the prime minister. I can understand that, but Hezbollah's strongest tool turned out to be their propaganda, while what hurt us the most was weak leadership, a military shakeup at the very least needs to happen as soon as possible, and there in fact people who are looking into this already. Also notice that he said hours. If this cease fire sticks (and that is uncertain) we need to have swift reelections, in a matter of months. Things need to change, I cannot stress this enough. Most Israeli's think we failed, and rightfully so in light of the previous paragraphs. We failed ourselves.

In other news, while few people seem to be talking about our two kidnapped soldiers, even fewer seem to talk about our third one. Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas who now announced they want 600 prisoners for his return, Egypt acting as broker. You read that right, that's six-hundred. While I badly want to see him back, accepting that deal would be insane as it will only anchorage more kidnappings. This wouldn't be a first however.

The media are also upto their same old tricks, Reuters photoshop and staged photos not enough? How about a BBC reporter out right lying! In a video that could have come straight from a Hezbollah's PR vault Barbara Plett claimed that the entire town of Bint Jbeil was destroyed. Luckily she wasn't the only reporter there, and cross referencing their reports reveals the truth. This from a country where just days ago a large terror plot was foiled meant to kill thousands of people and to be largely executed by homegrown (UK born) terrorists. Insanity.

Here is an image of the view behind her.

"As you can see, the centre of the town destroyed on a really wholesale scale, more so than since the last civilians left here, though it has to be said that on the outskirts, the suburbs - pretty much untouched by the Israeli attack and invasion."

This is why I love the blogosphere, kudos drinkingfromhome. Do any of the British readers here want to comment on the fact that your tax money is paying this womans salary?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Will the cease fire hold? I doubt it - some breaking news

Last night I put up a picture of a rocket hitting Haifa right around the time the cease fire went into effect, I did that for a number of reasons: to remind us what has been going on (as we so easily tend to forget and move on), and because I seriously doubt this will hold.

The IDF has received clear instructions to hold their fire unless absolutely necessary, three hours in they opened fire and killed a Hezbollah fighter as they were threatened, a similar event occurred again later in the day. Approaching the 20th hour Hezbollah fired a number of rockets (from what I hear it was 4, CNN says 10) into Israel that fell short and hit south Lebanon instead. No one was injured. While the people in both Lebanon and Israel decided the situation deescalated quickly and decided to return to normal life as soon as possible, not so. Events such as that can trigger wider hostilities and we might get back to what we had before quite fast, at any moment.

The Hezbollah of course declared a glorious victory and announced that it will not disarm. The Lebanese army has no intention of disarming Hezbollah, an advisor to the Lebanese PM and government official went on CNN and dodged the issue entirely but did utter the above statement. It's becoming painfully clear that the situation will remain as it was before all of this started, differing in only two things; An expanded UNIFIL and Lebanese force, and two of our kidnapped soldiers still missing.

But the effect of this month long war is significant. Lets start with some background on Israeli politics. Ariel Sharon, the former PM of Israel created a new political party called "Kadima" (forward) to carry out his plan of disengagement. It was a major political event in Israel, the new party's main purpose was to "end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and achieve two states for two nations will be the road map. It will be carried out in stages: dismantling terror organizations, collecting firearms, implementing security reforms in the Palestinian Authority, and preventing incitement. At the end of the process, a demilitarized Palestinian state devoid of terror will be established." Shortly before the elections Sharon's health deteriorated and he basically fell into a coma (there is virtually no chance of him recovering), Olmert took over as PM until the elections. Sharon was a major political force in his own right and it was unclear if the new party would survive without him, nonetheless It emerged as the prominent force in Israeli politics and won the elections, and the most seats in the Knesset (cabinet). In my opinion, Kadima enjoyed the momentum it gathered and an extra block of voters who ironically enough would not have voted in support of it with Sharon as it's leader.

This landed us with an Olmert as PM, and Peretz as the defence minister. Peretz up till now concentrated on social issues such as unemployment, worker rights, and education, but I suppose that's what political turbulence can do. Neither of them are experienced military men. The election was also the one with the lowest voting turn out in Israel's history.

The effect of this war on Israeli politics is probably not smaller then Sharon's breaking from the Likud and his subsequent illness. 65% think that Peretz didn't do a good job (which is correct), a similar percent think that Israel did not achieve it's objective and lost, if elections were to happen today the Kadima and Labour party's would lose badly. Making a comparison here with the Iraq war and Lieberman's loss for supporting the war which was used as political ammunition by both Republicans and other Democrats (oh you know it's true, come on - Lemont won because his not Lieberman, what kind of a campaign is that?) - The Likud party is probably sharpening it's political weapons as we speak, but out of respect for the casualties they choose to take the high road and show unity, for now. In my opinion, elections are eminent and will happen in the next 12 months or sooner. And so it is that Nasrallah (and Ahmadinejad) who claimed victory and who is supposedly fighting for the benefit of the Palestinians, has managed indirectly to create a political shift where the party who's leading political agenda I quoted above have lost power. Sometimes I wonder if that scarf of his isn't on too tight.

At least we will have what might be a stronger and better government in place, because this conflict obviously effected more then just us.
Enter stage right Assad, the Syrian president, a man who needs no introduction since he has been there all along. Ynet has learned that in a press conference his about to hold he will use the situation to push for his own interest, aka The Golan Heights. Hezbollah is very popular in Syria, it will be more so after these events. Assad said that: "The chances for peace has decreased and that the Golan will be freed by Syrian hands, if the political road won't be successful it will open the road to resistance." Last couple of days he has been saying: "The coming age is the age of resistance for the liberation of Arabian lands." It's not hard to figure out whats going on here, Israel has backed down, Hezbollah's tactics "worked out" in a way, and he can and will easily use this to his advantage.
If your wondering what was in it for him, by supporting Hezbollah he not only increased his popularity domestically and with other Arabs but set the stage for his play for the Golan heights, and that play is eminent. I won't be surprised if a branch of Hezbollah might suddenly turn up in Syria and start firing rockets into Israel (covering a whole new geographical area, Haifa perhaps targeted again but instead of the northen towns having it the worse, towns around the Kineret lake) demanding the stop of Israeli occupation of Syria, why not? It worked once, it might work again.

He also threatened to attack Israel if Israel strikes anything on Syrian territory, have the conflict drag on for a month while the UN gets it's pitiful act together, at one point declare that the Syrian civilian toll is too great for him and perhaps invade Israel on that premise. On one hand the cost for him would be very high, on the other this past conflict showed that perhaps the cost is not too much to bear as Israel grew softer. All of these smoke and dagger tactics might drag on for quite a bit, it's not impossible to envision one conflict dying down and another restarting, in sync. With all the attention focused on that, guess who gets more and more time to finish their nuclear weapons? If you think this is all far fetched read some quotes by the Syrian and Iranian leaders, they have made their intentions clear.

This is not over, it's not over by a long shot. The best we can hope for is this cease fire holding for a long enough time until we have a government in place that can deal with the situation, if I get to vote by that time I'm voting for Mr. Netanyahu.

Update: I know of somebody that was killed in the fighting. If on the off chance that one of the people concerned are reading this you have my sympathy.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Life in Haifa - A picture

The view from the house of my friend, about 24 hours ago a rocket hit about 5 km (3 miles or so) from his home. When the sirens goes off he goes into an inner room with enforced walls for protection. The number of rockets seemed to decrease a little bit, but really it's more of the same.

Myself I'm busy working away, you will see a lot of content and changes in the next couple of weeks, stay tuned.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Ceasefire, UK Terror, MSM - Must Read

So I'm finally back to where I have internet access and a lot has been going on.

Qana Poster - Made in advance
I've talked about this before but I'd like to start with the Qana incident again. Almost two weeks ago the Israeli air force bombed Qana at night, the building fell 7 hours later, the roof seemed to be intact. Shortly after a huge banner appeared condemning the event. It simply couldn't have been made that fast, it was prepared in advance.

Pictures started showing up of a rescue worker handling the bodies of dead children which after some analysis by the blogosphere turned out to be quite obviously staged. The reported number of casualties was also significantly higher then the actual number. These pictures (I covered this in the last post) were picked up by newspapers around the world making quite impressive front pages, a dramatic cover like that would sure make me want to buy one. 

Some people choose to not believe any of this, none of this however was reported by any mainstream media outlets, nobody paused before crying out how horrible Israel is.

Now this video is released proving it. (warning: it's graphic)

Taking this direction I just established about Qana and running with it further, Reuters has admitted a number of times to have photoshopped it's photos to add dramatic effect, smoke over Beirut makes for an impressive and more importantly effective picture, doesn't matter if it's real or not. Reuters in case your wondering is a major provider of pictures and reports to media all over the world, you see their pictures on CNN, BBC, and really just about anywhere. You can't avoid it, you can't escape it. The significance of this is mind boggling, sad, and very alarming at the same time.

To show just how wide spread this is here is a quote from an excellent piece by lgf, I urge you to read it in full: "..What this means is that while there are around 50 people producing news pictures for the whole world working in Camden at any time, there are a further 50 Arabic speaking staff producing finished stories exclusively for the Arab states of the gulf. This has a tremendous effect on the whole feel of the building as these two teams feed pictures and people back and forth and sit in adjacent work areas. The slant of the stories required by the Gulf States has a definite effect on which footage is used and discarded. This affects both the Gulf newsroom and the main global newsroom.
..Anything involving Israel is a favorite with Gulf Arab states for showing to their viewers. Could this be the reason why Israel receives such a disproportionate amount of particularly negative coverage especially and increasingly ever since the early 1970’s? Footage such as the Palestinian mob joyfully lynching two Israeli reservists in Ramallah in October 2000 is held by APTN’s library: any attempt to license this film for re-show is carefully vetted. Requests for the use of “sensitive clips” are referred directly to the Library director. This is not the case with clips that paint Israel in a bad light. Likewise, the re-showing of Palestinian celebrations on 9/11 is considered “sensitive”.

The way in which raw footage such as APTN’s is compiled into a news report and sent round the world has also been analyzed. The Second Draft gives a comprehensive view of how editing can make all the difference. APTN is the gatekeeper that sits between you and the actual event. You will never see what the editors at APTN see before they compile your evening news.

..[this is] an addition to the more familiar violent jihad: they also emphasized the importance of jihad by the written and spoken word - what we would recognize as classic propaganda. Without question APTN’s interesting business model represents a concrete example of an ongoing financial “contribution” to an important communication agency promoting a pro-Arab bias." -lgf.
(If you haven't yet, click on the title of this post to see a video of how they do it)

All of this is quite effective, in fact it has been so effective that a cease fire is eminent. France and the US drafted a UN resolution that both Israel and Lebanon seem to accept, it will be voted on in Israel on Sunday. Olmert whom I (now very regretfully) praised when I started this blog finds it agreeable and will recommend the government to vote for passing it. If it is passed the outcome of this war has been determined not by Katyusha rockets falling on Haifa and the north of Israel, not over a hundred Israeli casualties, not the 2 million Israeli citizens living in bunkers suffering sometimes up to 10 sirens a day (and a rather new occurrences of night-time sirens and rockets), but by propaganda. The pen is truly mightier then the sword and oil money used to buy the two major providers to news agency's around the world is mightier still.

I don't know how eminent a cease fire is, but one seems to be in the works. I'm sure some of you will raise the question "but isn't a cease fire good? this will finally be over" - I'll get to that in just a moment, but first I'd like to digress a little bit.

Sitting in a hotel in Canada yesterday with no in internet access I turned on the TV in the hopes of hearing some news about what's going on back home. Instead CNN was showing "TERROR PLOT FOILED". Indeed a terror plan was foiled, ten planes traveling from the UK to the US were supposed to be attacked in the next couple of weeks. The weapon was a liquid bomb, squads of 4-5 terrorist were to board each plane with components that individually would not arouse suspicion but when combined together might result in an explosion large enough to bring the plane down. Each plane would hold about 500 people and they wanted to bring 10 down, some say over cities in the US like NYC, LA, Boston, DC, 'etc making the death toll even higher (another version is 3 at a time over the ocean so their methods wouldn't have been discovered). This would have resulted in what probably would be the largest terror attack yet with double the casualties of 9/11. Law enforcement was on top of this and prevented all of this from happening making dozens of arrests.

The big story of this as presented on TV was the fact that liquids and electronics were not allowed to be taken on board, carry on's, handbags, 'etc. Dramatic shots of people throwing their shampoos away, a woman complaining about her blush (she doesn't see how it can be used to blow up a plane, great priorities there) cut to commercial. Rinse, repeat.

As an Israeli it felt strange watching it all, my sentiment was and is "get over yourselves". I suppose it's because this is part of life here and our security forces prevent terror attacks on a virtually daily basis, but it's not like the UK and US are complete strangers to terror, I keep expecting people to get with the program. Here in Canada a plan was foiled of blowing up the CN tower in Toronto and decapitating the presidents head, London had 7/7 just over a year ago, what is this amnesia that everybody have? Is it really so surprising that such things will happen?

If you look at the identities of these terrorists, most of them seem to be young British born Islamic citizens. A quarter of British citizens outright say that 7/7 attacks were justified. A third say they would rather live under Sharia law in the UK than British law. Of course if Bush says "Islamic Fascists" then Islamic groups are outraged, Islamic groups in the UK were outraged as well, not against the attempted terrorist attacks but because Muslims were arrested.

Islam is a peaceful religion and obviously they are concerned about misguided hate and labeling, poor Muslim kids going to school in the UK receiving abuse. Some will no doubt leave comments on this blog accusing me of just that, but I will not be apologetic. It's a question of definitions they say. Those who define themselves as not being part of the above mentioned groups, those who condemn them silently and privately (for fear of them) instead of condemning any occurrence of the word "Muslim" are the innocent ones, such is reality these days. Which brings me to my point about airport security, the weapons are the people not the scissors or intermediate knowledge of chemicals. A terrorist is under a huge amount of pressure and signs of it will show, this is where Israeli airport security differs.

However if in the UK a Muslim was to be asked a series of uncomfortable questions groups such as I mentioned above (CAIR) for example, will be outraged. I think it's high time that people start taking this seriously and swallow their pride for the sake of safety (by the way before anybody starts shooting remarks at me from his moral high ground, these questions are presented to everybody alike in Israel, if your deemed suspicious your questioned further) and shove their political correctness where the sun don't shine because unfortunately there is no room for that in today's world.

On that note, I'm coming full circle back to my previous line of thought (my digression wasn't accidental). That same self-righteous moral indignity that might allow a situation to occur where a person might be suspect to questioning based on his Arabic/Muslim appearances will say "how dare you question me because I'm Muslim!" and be let thru onto the plane, with an apology no less, and kill 500 people is exactly the reason Hezbollah's and others propaganda works so well on so many people in the world.

The time I spent here has opened my eyes to this, I've always realized it but didn't quite feel the extent of it. What I'm talking about is that Canada for example is 12 hours away by plane, it's not Canada's problem. It's not a problem for the French, or other European countries. So self-righteousness is affordable. After 9/11 when it became USA's problem, self-righteousness went out the window, they went to war. But collective human memory is a curios thing, 9/11 faded away as a horrible memory, so did 7/7. Even in Israel we sometimes had periods like that were we deluded ourselves with hopes for peace and quite, that's why we elected Olmert and have Peretz as the minister of defence, neither of them are proficient at war, the past election had the lowest turnout in Israel's history. For some reason we also forget, we thought we could afford self-righteousness. We can't. We can't, and during this month Israel has been united like it never has before. Unfortunately Olmert's indecisiveness is the reason this has been going on for so long.

A cease fire now means is nothing but a breather. It's a chance for aid to reach civilians in Lebanon, it's strange how nobody is talking about aid for Israeli civilians. The northern towns are mostly poor, this past month the north of the country was basically shut down, people can't work and so can't afford to buy food, some can't go out of the bunker for the food, it's not dissimilar, perhaps it's on a smaller scale but nobody even mentioned it. Israel does not allow traffic on the roads in Lebanon so aid can't always get thru (with co-ordination at times it does) but nobody will show on CNN a Nissan Primera that was coughed transporting rockets.

So sure, a cease fire is a breather and aid can come to Lebanese civilians and Israeli civilians but just as aid will come so will weapons for the Hezbollah. And if you think they won't break the truce after they regroup you have another thing coming. I hope in Israel on Sunday the vote doesn't pass and we won't accept it (backslash and all), I hope the Hezbollah will not accept it (Nassrallah has been begging for it however, it's a godsend for them). Ground operations needed to start a lot earlier, we need to go in and clean them out and only then a cease fire will mean something. Otherwise this is just a prelude to an even worse and longer conflict that will happen again, and will happen again soon. I definitely don't trust the Lebanese army (part of which supports Hezbollah) and UNIFEL to protect my family and myself from rockets.

And you know how I said that other countries can afford to be self-righteous because it's not their problem? It is, and they can't and I just hope they realize it in time before they themselves will get into similar problems. It's at least two long weeks away before a complete cease fire. Much more updates soon as I get back into the loop.

Edit: The poll above was probably not accurate but the point stands. The actual numbers are probably lower but this is still a problem.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

You bastards, is it worth it?

Qana, south Lebanon. July 30th, sometime after midnight. An airstrike by an Israeli plane hits a building. The building collapses, 7 hours later. The building was marked as a target because of suspicion of Hezbollah operations, rockets, and launchers. The village has been targeted a number of days prior.

Possible reasons for building collapse seven hours after being hit? Foundations could have slowly grown weaker until giving out, it's possible. I don't know if other possible reasons occur to people after hearing the words "Israel, hit, in Lebanon, casualties" in the same sentence.

I mean, we have all seen those pictures of dead kids from that attack right? Click on the title of this post if you didn't. I'm not denying there are casualties, of course there are, but if you were to follow that link (before posting, like so many of you won't do) you'd see how the pictures are created. Those pictures are propaganda and do not explain why people didn't get out after 7 hours, why people stayed there after the village has been targeted a few days before, and after being repeatedly warned before that.

The area was targeted before (successfully) because of Hezbollah operations in it. Instead of repeating that again so you will understand it, I'll give you this quote: "I lived until 2002 in a small southern village near Mardshajund that is inhabited by a majority of Shias like me. After Israel left Lebanon, it did not take long for Hezbollah to have its say in other towns. Received as successful resistance fighters and armed to the teeth, they stored rockets in bunkers in our town as well. The social work of the Party of God consisted in building a school and a residence over these bunkers! A local sheikh explained to me laughing that the Jews would lose in any event because the rockets would either be fired at them or if they attacked the rockets depots, they would be condemned by world opinion on account of the dead civilians. These people do not care about the Lebanese population, they use them as shields, and, once dead, as propaganda. As long as they continue existing there, there will be no tranquility and peace." - lgf.

Add that to reports of Hezbollah actually planting its flag on schools and hospitals and preventing people from leaving areas that IDF enters (the later confirmed independently on this blog). Shall we go over the sequence of event again?

July 28th, the Israeli air force bombs Hezbollah targets in the area successfully (other buildings nearby) after warning civilians to leave. July 30th, another building is hit. Seven hours later building falls down. Photographs are being setup to maximize dramatic effect, parading the dead around. Millions of people see pictures and immediately decide what happened. In light of Hezbollah's confirmed actions from the past, the shady circumstances of the building collapsing and the above quote directly from a former resident of the area, would you not like to pause and think about it a little bit more?

When terror organizations hide amongst and use the populations your going to have civilian casualties and that's unavoidable. As far as I know, today there was no sirens in Haifa. Is it worth it? People died. People died and it's terrible, and I feel bad, but the title of this post, that question should be addressed to Hezbollah and not Israel.

You also very likely didn't see the picture of the 7 year old killed together with his grandmother a few days ago. If you did, it wasn't of what remained of his body but him smiling, forever being 7 from that moment on. You probably didn't hear about it actually. We don't parade our dead, we bite our lip and carry on. Due to the events described above, air operations have been cut down to immediate threats instead of strategic targets, ground force activity will increase and soldiers will die as result.

Personally, I'm sad for innocent lives lost from both sides.