Uh-oh. I think Hezbollah’s been reading my blog. *UPDATED*

Day before yesterday, I wrote:

Reader Lulu send me an email pointing out something interesting, which is that Hezbollah is doing nothing right now.  You’d think that this would be a perfect time for Hezbollah to force a two-front war on Israel.  That it’s not doing so might be a good indication that, all propaganda to the contrary, Israel may have inflicted serious damage on it back in 2006.  Iran can replace the arms, but maybe she can’t replace the men.

And today I read the Hezbollah is starting to fire rockets from the North.  I wish I’d kept my mouth shut.

UPDATE:  And just idle curiousity, here, but why is no one shrieking about Hezbollah’s unprovoked attack on israel.  (Don’t bother with the answer.  I know it.  Israel by its very existence provokes attacks, right?)

A mish-mash

It’s been an incoherent day, one that never gave me the opportunity for contemplation and writing.  Instead, I’ve been bopping here and there, and dealing with one thing and another.  Nevertheless, I have been tracking the news, so I thought I’d just write up a mish-mash of thoughts about current issues and events.

Gaza

The top issue/event, obviously, is Gaza.  By now you’ve all seen the hysterical headline about Israel having blown up a UN school, killing scores of civilians.  At the exact second I read the words “UN school,” I knew it wasn’t a school at all but was, instead, a weapons storage facility and a headquarters for fighters.  Why did I know this?  Because the UN in Gaza is completely complicit with Hamas.  In that part of the world, the two are one and the same entity.  I also knew that the school wasn’t really a school because Gaza intentionally places fighters and weapons around children precisely so that it garner this type of scare headline.  Michelle Malkin has a fact-filled post detailing all the many ways in which my instincts on this one were dead on the money.

Speaking of Hamas setting its children up as targets so that it can further vilify Israel in the eyes of the world, you really must read Ron Rosenbaum’s article explaining why, to the extent there are differences between Hamas and the Nazis, Hamas is infinitely worse.  As part of that line of thinking, it’s worth noting that even the Nazis weren’t willing to sacrifice their own children merely to score propaganda points.

As is always the case, everyone in the world outside of America is urging Israel to back down.  (In America, while Obama is ominously quiet, even Dirty Harry Reid has acknowledged Israel’s right to defend against the non-stop rocket attacks that have poured death and destruction on the land for years now.)  In the past, Israel has listened.  This time, I’m hoping against hope that she gives the world the middle finger and does what she has to do to defend herself.  I’ve never understood why Israel, rather like the pathetic nerdy kid in high school, keeps twisting herself into damaging contortions to satisfy people who will despise her regardless.  Eventually, the nerd just has to go it alone and the hell with the critics.

Incidentally, although the world doesn’t deserve good fortune, if Israel is wise enough to give it the finger, it may just get good fortune anyway — the good fortune in this case being that an Israeli victory against Hamas in Gaza is also an Israeli victory against the mad Mullahs in Iran.  As has been the case for decades now, Israel is our proxy, and we should be grateful that she’s putting her bodies on the line so we don’t have to.

And one last word on the subject:  Reader Lulu send me an email pointing out something interesting, which is that Hezbollah is doing nothing right now.  You’d think that this would be a perfect time for Hezbollah to force a two-front war on Israel.  That it’s not doing so might be a good indication that, all propaganda to the contrary, Israel may have inflicted serious damage on it back in 2006.  Iran can replace the arms, but maybe she can’t replace the men.

God

In England, the atheists have launched an ad campaign encouraging people to abandon religion so that they can be happy.  One of the brains behind this initiative is Ariane Sherine. She decided to launch the ad campaign because “she became angry after noticing a set of Christian advertisements carrying a website address which warned that people who reject God are condemned to spend all eternity to ‘torment in Hell.’”

I’m perfectly willing to admit that trying to scare people into religion may not be the smartest way to go about things.  I do find the ad campaign peculiar, though, because I was under the impression that polls show religious people are more happy, not less happy, than the average atheist (putting aside the fact that the average vocal atheist always seem to be a pretty darn angry person).

As you all know, I’m a big believer in the many virtues of religion, although not particularly religious myself.  Aside from liking the core moral aspects religion brings, I’ve also always appreciated (and envied) the way religion brings meaning to life.

In a religious world, man is not just a random collection of atoms, molecules, cells and organs, put on earth to procreate and scrabble for food until he dies.  Instead, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition with which I’m familiar, man’s life has meaning and purpose.  Whether God used evolution as his tool or instant creation, man exists in God’s image.  His corporeal body may not necessarily be the mirror image of God’s being, but he is in God’s image to the extent that his mind and spirit are attuned to justice and a higher purpose.  We’re not just meaningless bugs.  We are something special and our time on earth has meaning, whether we emphasize that in our own lives or not.

All of which is to say that it strikes me as mighty darn peculiar to advertise an absence of religion as the answer to the search for happiness.  You might as well say, “You’re a meaningless bug.  Get used to it.”

Tolerance

While the first wave of hysteria following the passage in California of Prop. 8 has finally died down, hard feelings continue.  A Catholic Church in San Francisco was covered with offensive graffiti, likening the church and its parishioners to Nazis. The beautiful irony of this story is that this particular church, located near the Castro district, has always been a welcoming place to gays.

Aside from the fact that vandals, by their very nature, can’t be expected to be intelligent (I guess), I find it strange that we live in a world in which hewing to unexceptional traditional values that span all cultures and all times is an invitation to vandalism.  As you know, I’d be perfectly happy to see the state get out of the marriage business, leaving that to religion, and instead get into the domestic partnership business, with an emphasis on encouraging stable behaviors that strengthen society.  Pending that unlikely situation, however, I can’t help but wonder if the gay marriage advocates realize that offending ordinary people who support ordinary values is not likely to advance their cause.

Hezbollah turned over mutilated bodies

In my post yesterday about the corpse/prisoner swap in which Israel exchanged, I noted that an inviolate body is a very important part of Jewish religious law, going back to the ancient Jewish revulsion against pagan sacrifice and the subsequent desecration of corpses. (I also noted that I didn’t think that was a sufficient reason to put a whole nation at risk by making it appear very weak in front of an enemy that lives in a hierarchical world, where one is either king of the hill or dirt beneath the enemy’s feet.)

Sadly, it turns out that Israel received two badly (and manifestly intentionally) mutilated bodies:

Rabbi Yisrael Weiss, former Chief Rabbi of the IDF, who was present during the transfer of the fallen soldiers yesterday, said that “the verification process yesterday was very slow, because, if we thought the enemy was cruel to the living and the dead, we were surprised, when we opened the caskets, to discover just how cruel. And I’ll leave it at that.”

I can only hope for the sake of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev that this mutilation took place after their deaths.  It’s too horrible to contemplate that it may have happened before.

Incidentally, based upon my parents’ tales of dealing with Arabs in Palestine/Israel in the 1930s/1940s, I can make one guess as to the type of mutilation involved.  In a routinely used act of desecration that doesn’t need Freud to explain, Arabs who slaughtered Jewish men sliced off the men’s genitals (either before or after death), and stuffed them into the men’s mouths.

Hat tip:  Power Line

More Obama stupidity *UPDATED*

Not that they were ever really on, but when it comes to Obama, my gloves are off. I’ve concluded that the man is not just a liar and an ideologue, he’s stupid. With regard to the situation in Lebanon (where Hezbollah is using terror to topple the power of the democratically elected government), Obama has once again revealed that he is too dumb too live: except that, of course, he will live; it’s innocents in the Middle East (and the rest of the world, frankly) who will die. Richard Landes, at Augean Stables, has a great round-up of the various comments about Obama’s latest stupid foray in foreign policy.

UPDATE:  Not just stupid, but both actively corrupt and complicit in corruption, Chicago-style.  (H/t:  American Thinker)

Maybe Condi has a plan

I respect Condi Rice for the most part, but have thought her naive for believing (or, at least, appearing to believe) that the Palestinians want peace with Israel, as opposed to Israel in pieces.  David Brooks, however, thinks that there is a method to her madness, and that Iran’s follies may result in a back door route to some stability in the Middle East:

It’s not really about Israel and the Palestinians; it’s about Iran. Rice is constructing a coalition of the losing. There is a feeling among Arab and Israeli leaders that an Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas alliance is on the march. The nations that resist that alliance are in retreat. The peace process is an occasion to gather the “moderate” states and to construct what Martin Indyk of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center calls an anti-Iran counter-alliance.

It’s slightly unfortunate that the peace process itself is hollow. It’s like having a wedding without a couple because you want to get the guests together for some other purpose. But that void can be filled in later. The main point is to organize the anti-Iranians around some vehicle and then reshape the strategic correlation of forces in the region.

Iran has done what decades of peace proposals have not done — brought Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Palestinians and the U.S. together. You can go to Jerusalem or to some Arab capitals and the diagnosis of the situation is the same: Iran is gaining hegemonic strength over the region and is spreading tentacles of instability all around.

Though this article originated in the NY Times, I take its conclusions with a grain of salt, simply because I’ve come to distrust the Times.  Nevertheless, this is certainly not a wacky idea, and it does reflect an impulse to bring some central stability to a region that will become entirely unbalanced if the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas axis does in fact ascend to real power, rather than stopping at the noises of power, along with the violence of terrorism.

This time it’s so not Israel’s fault

Let’s see if I’ve got my chronology right here:

On January 29, Hamas and Fatah announced a ceasefire prompted, I think by a reminder from their compatriots that their real job is to kill Jews.

On February 1, Hamas gunman ambushed Fatah trucks, killing 6 people, injuring 70, and kidnapping 15 people. A Fatah spokesman seemed concerned that this little fracas might be seen as “plunging a 3-day-old ceasefire into grave danger.”

On February 2 (that would be today), Hamas and Fatah engaged in “some of the worst fighting between Palestinian factions so far” in Gaza. The numbers involved are impressive and, as always, children get caught in the crossfire, such being the nature of war, especially Civil War:

At least 15 people were killed, including a 7-year-old boy, bringing the total for the past two days to 21. Nearly 200 more Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been hurt over the same period, as fierce shootouts erupted in Gaza City and the northern parts of the Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian hospitals.

Give themselves time to regroup and rearm, the combatants announced yet another ceasefire:

Hamas and Fatah leaders met at the Egyptian diplomatic mission in Gaza City this afternoon and agreed in principle to halt the violence.

Fresh ideas at the UN

I’ve long thought the UN irredeemably corrupt, with the miserable Kofi Annan merely a symptom, not a cause of the problem there. I’m wondering, though, if I might have to revise that thinking just a little bit, in light of something new at UNIFIL. Thanks to Laer, at Cheat-Seeking Missiles, I’ve learned that UNIFIL has gotten rid of the French commander brought in after the Israel-Hezbollah war — the one who thought his mandate was to prevent Israel at all costs from defending herself — and has replaced him with an Italian commander who has a strong reputation in anti-terrorism work:

The IDF on Sunday praised the United Nations’ decision to appoint Italian Gen. Claudio Graziano as the new head of the UNIFIL peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.

Graziano, whose appointment has yet to be officially announced, is scheduled to take up his new post by mid-February, when French Maj.-Gen. Alain Pellegrini steps down after three years in the post.

“He is a serious officer,” IDF sources said of Graziano. “He takes his job seriously and we expect to see a continued crackdown on Hizbullah under his command.”

Graziano rose through the ranks in Italy’s Artillery Corps and commanded NATO’s Kabul Multinational Brigade in the past. He has extensive experience in combating insurgency and terrorism, according to the IDF.

Laer adds the right grace note to the above information:

When you think of it, the appointment of a terror-fighter to head the UN in Lebanon should not leave an odd, confused feeling. But it does, doesn’t it? If the UN’s mission is to promote world peace, why hasn’t it stood shoulder to shoulder with us to fight the greatest threat to world peace the world has faced since the Axis Powers?

I opened this post by saying there might be some fresh air blowing at the UN. However, I recognize that one appointment does not a trend make. Let’s see what other stories come out of the UN in the upcoming months when it comes to backing democratic stability and attacking tyrannical terrorism.

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Israel fights back

Israel has usually, although not always, been adept in the battlefield. She’s been a total failure in the media. However, for the first time, I’m seeing signs that she’s fighting back:

Israel’s military, which has been accused of abuses in its war against Hezbollah this summer, has declassified photographs, video images and prisoner interrogations to buttress its accusation that Hezbollah systematically fired from civilian neighborhoods in southern Lebanon and took cover in those areas to shield itself from attack.

Lebanon and international human rights groups have accused Israel of war crimes in the 34 days of fighting in July and August, saying that Israel fired into populated areas and that civilians accounted for a vast majority of the more than 1,000 Lebanese killed.

Israel says that it tried to avoid civilians, but that Hezbollah fired from civilian areas, itself a war crime, which made those areas legitimate targets.

In a new report, an Israeli research group says Hezbollah stored weapons in mosques, battled Israelis from inside empty schools, flew white flags while transporting missiles and launched rockets near United Nations monitoring posts.

The detailed report on the war was produced by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies, a private research group headed by Reuven Erlich, a retired colonel in military intelligence, who worked closely with the Israeli military.

Read all about it here.

Of course, this being a NY Times story, with input from a Beirut-based stringer, it (a) refers to the Qana bombing without question, although bloggers pointed out that there were lots of problems with the claim that it was an Israeli attack against innocent Lebanese civilians; and (b) quotes liberally from the anti-Israel Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Nevertheless, even these other sources — all opinion, all animus, all the time — can’t steer the Times away from hard facts such as real-time videos and photos of Hezbollah action, and from videotaped Hezbollah confessions, all pointing to a concerted plan to use civilian neighborhoods as staging areas for military action.

By the way, most bloggers were showing this footage throughout the war, since it was available on YouTube. How typical that, after maligning Israel and advancing Hezbollah propaganda all through the war and for months after, the old media finally gets around to some actual facts.

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Another reason not to like the French right now

From American Thinker:

The French will flex military their “military muscle” to shoot down Israeli observation jets. After years of ignoring Hezbollah preparations to terrorize Israel, after hiding a video that could have helped Israel find out what happened to soldiers murdered by Hezbollah in 2001 (the kidnappers used trucks with UNIFIL identification, trucks that UNIFIL found with the blood of the Israeli victims and that were promptly returned to Hezbollah), after providing Hezbollah with information about Israeli troop movements during the recent Hezbollah-Israel war, after stating that it will not disarm Hezbollah terrorists or prevent their return to southern Lebanon, UNIFIL finally finds some backbone: they intend to shoot at Israeli aircraft monitoring Hezbollah terrorists.

Here’s the story from Haaretz:

Commanders of the French contingent of the United Nations force in Lebanon have warned that they might have to open fire if Israel Air Force warplanes continue their overflights in Lebanon, Defense Minister Amir Peretz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday.

Peretz said that nevertheless, Israel would continue to patrol the skies over Lebanon as long as United Nations resolution 1701 remained unfilfilled, adding that such operations were critical for the country’s security, especially as the abducted IDF soldiers remain in Hezbollah custody and the transfer of arms continue.

Over the past few days, Peretz said, Israel had gathered clear evidence that Syria was transfering arms and ammunition to Lebanon, meaning that the embargo imposed by UN Resolution 1701 was not being completely enforced.

I do not like the French. They are unprincipled.

The fancy dress pig ball

As you read this about Hezbollah’s victory party, remember this: “[A]t the end of the day, even if you put a calico dress on it and call it Florence, a pig is still a pig.” Bradshaw v. Unity Marine Corporation, Inc., 147 F.Supp.2d 668, (S.D. Tex. 2001). In this case, you can call yourself the victor as much as you want, but the facts on the ground are what they are. And while Israel may not have had the victory she needed, Hezbollah did not have the victory it wanted.

UPDATE: If one believes Reuters, Hezbollah may indeed still have something to shout about.

Israel, on another learning curve

Writing at National Review Online, Emanuele Ottolenghi makes a good case that, while Israel might not have won decisively in this last go round, Hezbollah did not achieve any of its objectives at all, and suffered some serious losses all around, both in terms of soldiers and materiels. Ottolenghi also shows that the myth of “invincible Israel” was not shattered, because it’s always been that — just a myth. Although Israel has survived each conflict with the surrounding Arab states and non-governmental armies, it was only in 1967 that she moved with overwhelming speed, and even then she suffered tremendous casualties (especially in Jerusalem), and faced an arduous, illusory “peace” over the next 40 years. Nevertheless, what’s been important is that Israel is not stagnant; from each encounter, she’s learned:

There is a pattern, then: Each war brings Israel a new challenge. Each time, it takes Israel time to absorb the blow, understand its nature and mechanisms, and then make elaborate corrections and improvements to its combat doctrine. Israel has lost battles in the past. It learned from its mistakes and it improved its fighting capabilities the next time around. In this worn-out recent war with Hezbollah, Israel’s performance was no different from that in past wars. At a heavy price, it inflicted a severe, but not decisive, blow to Hezbollah. It will now learn how to fight better next time around.

What about the last myth, the idea that Israel cannot digest casualties anymore?

If this were true, how could we explain Israel’s victory in the second Intifada? Over 1,000 civilians were shredded to bits by Palestinian terror. Yet, Israeli society soldiered on — literally. In the latest round of fighting, it was Israel’s leadership that balked at the risk of casualties, not the country, which from left to right was united in an unprecedented support for a more comprehensive and aggressive campaign to finish off Hezbollah once and for all. Israel’s home front did not break down, despite a month spent in shelters in the North, and the severe shortcomings of its logistical machine and those who were in charge of it. Israelis proved their resilience and their stubborn will to stay and put up a fight, for when the real volley of missiles comes in from further afield.

As for the future, these myths and the misperceptions on which they may be based will no doubt contribute to the next round of war. When that comes, one should take note of how the two societies at war responded to their perceived successes and failures.

Israel will now have a commission of inquiry, whose outcomes may end the careers of military and political leaders. It will reflect on its mistakes. It will cry over the futility of the deaths of so many of its best, due to those mistakes. It will blame those responsible and it will demand a heavy price of them. But it will get its answers.

What of Lebanon? Amidst the ruins of Beirut, the rubble of the bridges over the Litani, and the craters punctuating the highways, what does Nasrallah do? He proclaims victory. What does Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora do? He cries in front of the cameras, praises Hezbollah, and clings on to the myths of victory even as evidence of defeat is all around. They do not set up independent commissions, and they do not summon generals, politicians, and clerics, demanding they take responsibility. The last time an Arab country had its own commission of inquiry about a military defeat was in Iraq, in 1949. That precedent will remain the exception. Lebanon will not inquire now into how a foreign agent, having taken over half the country and infiltrated the government at all levels, dragged it into someone else’s war. It will do away with the need to understand what went wrong by proclaiming victory. So that when war returns, the “shattered myth” will rise again, as reality catches up with the myths of Arab rhetoric.

You can read the whole of Ottolenghi’s article here.

By the way, if you want to read something less optimistic — much less optimistic — Rachel Neuwirth, at American Thinker, envisions a scenario in which America abandons Israel to go it alone against Iran.