Sunday, November 30, 2008

Terror here, terror there

Arlene Kushner

On Friday night, terrorists in Gaza fired mortar shells at an IDF base near Nachal Oz, wounding eight soldiers -- two seriously. One soldier -- Sgt. Noam Nakash, 21, of Beersheva -- has lost his leg as a result of the attack and doctors are working to save the other leg. Two other soldiers were moderately to seriously wounded. First the Popular Resistance Committees and then Hamas's military wing, Izzadin Al-Kassam, claimed responsibility.

According to Voice of Israel radio this morning, Hamas has acquired 120-mm mortar shells that are more accurate and lethal than previous models they had used.


In a classic instance of trying to have your cake and eat it too, Hamas announced by Saturday that this attack didn't signal the end of the "ceasefire."

Spokesman Ismail Radwan said that the attack was "a natural reaction to the enemy's crimes, to the blockade and the closing of the Gaza crossings...[It] was not meant to violate the ceasefire. We are simply responding to the enemy's violations."

In fact, explained Radwan, various Palestinian factions will be meeting soon to discuss an extension of the "ceasefire" past December 19. A pre-condition for an extension would be an Israeli commitment to keep all crossings open.


The question now is how long the government is prepared to continue to make fools of us by playing along with this.

I'm no fan of Haim Ramon, but when he's right, he's right. And he was on the mark yesterday when he said:

"The agreement for calm [tahadiya] in Gaza was a mistake. Hamas was on the verge of collapse and by entering into the agreement, we helped stabilize it. We have been and will continue to pay, with compounded interest, for every day of this calm."

He noted that the agreement had been the idea of Hamas, "which couldn't get control of Gaza because of our daily attacks. No other country in the world lets terrorists fire rockets on its electric power plant, which provides electricity to the people firing the rockets."


I rather like the creative thinking of MK Gilad Erdan (Likud), who said the defense minister should set up a temporary detention facility in the Gaza vicinity and jail Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners there.

"If they [members of Hamas] don't work to stop the fire, they should take into account that the rockets may hurt their men as well. When the government fails to fortify the south's residents, there's no reason to protect terrorists jailed in Israel."

Of course it will never happen. Our government hasn't the guts. Can you imagine the international furor that would ensue if we put prisoners in range of rockets and mortars from Gaza? A furor -- fueled by Arab PR -- much greater than the international concern for our innocents who are within that range. Such is the nature of the world.


Meanwhile yesterday Deputy Minister of Defense Matan Vilnai said,

"There's no doubt we're getting closer to a wide-scale operation in Gaza, but it will be different from what took place in the past...The truce is important to us and to them, as we control the crossings and the other side is afraid of the IDF's strength. But we must find the right time for an operation. Their provocations are not leaving us with much choice."

Heaven help us! More saber rattling. He also wants to have his cake and eat it too. What does it mean, "The truce is important to us"? What truce? Time this was said forthrightly. Sounds like he expects "a different sort of operation" that will ostensibly keep the "truce" in place.


For the record, what we're dealing with is a tahadiya, which is an informal agreement to cease firing, as compared to a hudna, which is a formal ceasefire with written terms.


Back to Mumbai:

The story as it continues to unfold is a heartbreaker in one respect after another.

In all it is now said nine bodies were found in the Chabad House, seven of which were Israeli. Rabbi Gavriel Herzberg, along with kashrut inspector Aryeh Teitelbaum were found in the Chabad library with holy texts before them. Rivka Herzberg was found covered by a tallit (prayer shawl), it is being speculated that was placed over her by her husband before he was killed.

Rivka Herzberg's parents, Shimon and Yehudit Rosenberg, who have been in Mumbai since Thursday night, are eager to facilitate movement of the bodies back to Israel as quickly as possible. Jewish law requires a speedy burial.

They are also seeking to cut through the red tape so that Sandra Samuel, the Indian nanny for the Herzberg's little boy, Moshe, might be granted a visa to come with them. She is the only one the child -- who calls constantly for his mother -- is responding to. Samuel -- who saved the boy by running out of the building carrying him -- is currently with him, along with his grandparents, at the home of Ehud Raz, the top security officer at the Israeli Consulate in Mumbai. The Rosenbergs had last seen their grandson about the time of the high holidays.
Photo: Chabad Info

What I have learned is that Gavriel and Rivka Herzberg lost a child to a degenerative disease, and that another child, who is ill, is in the care of relatives in Israel.


Members of ZAKA -- an Israeli volunteer body rescue and identification group that does selfless work with immeasurable devotion -- are on the scene. They will be present, watching over the bodies, until all have been identified and brought out. They described a horrendous situation in which some victims were tied with phone cords, holy books were strewn about, blood was smeared over walls and floors, and live grenades remained.

The ZAKA people protested any handling of the bodies, which must be treated with maximum respect, and any autopsies.

An Israeli forensic expert will be doing some final identification.


News regarding the broader picture of the terror in Mumbai is, as would be expected, a bit fuzzy at this early stage.

An unprecedented four-nation intelligence investigation has been launched to uncover what happened: There will be cooperation between India, the US, the UK and Israel in this matter.

What I am getting is that there were 10 terrorists, nine of whom were killed, who came from the sea. The one captured alive, Azam Amir Kasab, is Pakistani. He says it was intended that thousands would die in this multi-pronged attack, and that the Chabad House was targeted because of Israeli treatment of Arabs.

UK security is investigating the possibility that British citizens may have been involved in the attack. Some sources are saying that two British-born Pakistani were among the terrorists but this is not confirmed.

There are other sources that suggest an Al-Qaida connection, also unconfirmed at present.


According to Roee Nachmias, writing in YNet, some Arab columnists are saying that the Mumbai attack constitutes a warning to Obama:

"The Mumbai operation is a message to President-elect Barack Obama to say: you have dreams of a better world but this is the real world that you must deal with. In spite of how you have arranged your priorities, terrorism will always be at the top of the list."

The really big question, of course, is how Obama will handle terrorism.


Speaking of Obama, and his ostensibly pro-Israel appointments:

Do you remember the Geneva Initiative? It was a private, not a gov't initiative, that aimed at "solving" the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It called for return to pre-'67 borders, the sharing of Jerusalem, and the return of some refugees based on an obscure formula. It was one of those plans that, if implemented, would have brought slow but sure destruction to Israel.

Well, I have just learned that Rahm Emanuel, Obama's Chief of Staff, supported this. We need to be a lot clearer on what "pro-Israel" means.

I've just seen a JTA article that identifies Obama team member Daniel Kurtzer being "well regarded in most of the pro-Israel community." Not so. Unless you call Peace Now "pro-Israel." I don't.


A matter of considerable importance: This may be the last chance to secure the release of Jonathan Pollard, who has been held in US prison for far too long: 24 years. An outgoing president traditionally offers pardons. Flood the White House with demands that Pollard be let go.

202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414.


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