4.0927 From Israel: The 7th Day (1/112)
Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 23 Jan 91 17:26:28 EST
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0927. Wednesday, 23 Jan 1991.
Date: Wed, 23 Jan 91 15:19 +0200
Subject: Israel Report: The 7th Day [eds.]
This is a particularly difficult report to write. I am not ordinarily
given to persistent, burning anger but that is what has happened to me.
It is in the air here, and I, too, have been infected. And - just to
show the extent of my anger - I feel no guilt about it, I feel that it
is the right response, the only possible response.
Last night was not a quiet night; between 8:32 to 8:33 PM an alarm was
sounded and we rushed to our gas-proof rooms, donned our gas masks [you
have to remember to take off your eye glasses], and turned on the
transister [What if the electricity goes! We have candles and matches
ready, too.] radio. Within a minute or two we were told that this was
not a false alarm, that there was a missile attack on Israel and that we
were requested to enter our rooms and put on the masks, to wait
patiently and to listen to further reports on the radio. Some 15
minutes later we were told that all people outside the greater Tel Aviv
area could take off their masks and leave the room, but to stay at home
with our masks handy. About a half-hour later, Tel Aviv residents were
also let out of the gas-proof rooms. We were told that a missile attack
took place but no details. Later, I hear that the missile struck at
8:37. I calculate, 4-5 minutes advance notice, just enough time to get
to the gas-proof room and put on the mask.
We learned the details through a long night's vigil, waiting for news,
waiting for another missile. 96 wounded, 4 dead [3 were old folks who
suffered heart attacks], 20 multiple family buildings badly damaged,
hundreds homeless. We watched TV, called relatives and friends, to ask
if they were safe. We could recognize the neighborhood from the TV
reports. The Patriots fired missed the SCUD, and the illusion of safety
disappeared. We watched the rescue crews at work on TV. Wounded, a
young man clutching his dog while being put a stretcher, collapsed walls
being raised by heavy equipment to free the trapped. It was terrible.
The 13th missile, the 3rd attack. All bearing conventional warheads -
so far. Should we use the underground shelters? We were told not to,
that the threat of poison gas was still real, that gas could do far more
damage to human life. We are not sure that Saddam Hussein has chemical
warheads for the SCUD missiles but we do know that he has chemical
weapons that can be dropped from planes. It is not possible to
guarantee that at least one plane with such weapons would be able to
penetrate our air defenses. So, we still will use our gas-proof rooms.
When Jonathan Pollard asked his superiors why the US did not protest at
the Soviets and Germany selling poison gas technology to Iraq, he was
told that the Jews, since the second World War, had become oversensitive
to the subject of gas. Oversensitive? These are bad guys, but not
evil, just dumb and insensitive, without fore- sight. The Peace
Demonstrators do not differentiate between bad and evil. They rightly
condemn both, but do not see the essential differ- ence. Saddam Hussein
is evil. He is not accused of making a fast buck by selling restricted
technology, but of raping a country, of callously attacking civilian
populations in a neutral country. Even if it is true that the US
stupidly supported Saddam Hussein in the past, are we to condemn the
Americans for coming to their senses? By the way, Pollard got life in
prison; Saddam Hussein is not even targeted by the coalition forces.
Something seems out of balance.
Poison gas? Yes, we are sensitive to the subject.
Yesterday, we were on our way back to normal life - except for carrying
a gas mask; the classical music station came back on the air, final
proof of "life must go on". Strangely enough we continue today to act
as if life must go on. The schools are still closed but almost everyone
is back at work, even in Tel Aviv, except for mothers [in some cases,
fathers] who have not been able to make arrangements for watching their
children. I meet a young woman on the street who tells me she is going
to an aerobics class. With her gas mask in hand. I ask myself, "Is it
possible to do aerobics wearing a gas mask?"
The matter of striking back is now in the air; everybody here feels that
we should do something to defend ourselves. Anger and frustration at
our inactivity are widespread. Our restraint until now has brought us
much approbation throughout the Western World. This condition is
unusual for us, and has even produced a certain sense of pride in us.
Approving Israel seems strange to the world as well. A friend tells me
that a Los Angeles commentator said, "The American government feels that
Israel's restraint should be condemned...Oh, I mean commended." A new
situation, the world approves our action. Or, really our inaction. We
have briefly enjoyed the approbation of the world; but we now feel the
time for inaction has passed. What will that fickle lover, the world,
What sort of an action? It would have to be elegant and pointed, to
show that we are not to be dealt with impunity. We want a response that
would involve limited risk in numbers and yet achieve an important and
visible goal. The killing of Saddam still seems to be an attractive
It is unlikely I that he dares to leave his bunker now. The bunker is
reportedly proof against anything less than a nuclear weapon. Could
gaseous explosives be introduced into the bunker through the air-intakes
and detonated? Or poison gas? The later would have an asthetic
advantage, poetic retribution, as in a Greek tragedy.
Another elegant action suggested in a letter to me would be a raid to
free the allied POW's. If the Iraqis do place them - as they have
threatened - at military targets, it be even easier, with no need to
penetrate a guarded POW-camp or prison, and no need to operate in an
We are angry, but we are capable of planning while we are angry and we
will defend ourselves. Restraint has its limits. Retaliation is not a
word that I like, implying as it does returning evil for evil. We
will not return evil. We are not evil, we are under attack, unprovoked
attack. We will defend ourselves in the only way understood in this
part of the world.