4.0963 Israeli Diaries: Werman (1/391)
Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Thu, 31 Jan 91 16:16:34 EST
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0963. Thursday, 31 Jan 1991.
Date: Wed, 30 Jan 91 19:32 +0200
Subject: 30 and 31 January 1991
Wednesday, T'u b'shvat, 30 January
After the War
We had no alarm last night; at 3 AM I finally - in a state of exhaustion
- went to sleep; I slept three hours. Waiting for the siren.
Waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for the SCUDs to reach us
from Iraq has become a national sport. You finally get to sleep at some
hour early in the morning; the second Army radio channel, the one that
is silent at night UNLESS there is an alarm, set at high volume, so that
you will not miss the siren. At 6:00 AM, the radio starts blaring the
regular morning broadcast and you are shocked into the semi-awake state
that will last all day. These are not, however, normal times and 6:00
AM is just too early.
Today is T'u b'shvat, the New Year for trees; we are used to plant trees
today. We also have parties where we drink white and red wines and eat
dried fruit. Usually, not this year. Our minds and hearts are
elsewhere. These are not normal times.
Someone writes to suggest a fitting "punishment" for those strange Jews
- E. Alexander calls them "Arafat's Jews" - who are so active in
movements that oppose every action of Israel, those who are sure that
Israel is so intrinsically bad that any action - even seemingly good -
of Israel's must be condemned. These same perverse Jews seem also to be
convinced that any action of the PLO - even the most heinous - should be
excused because of the suffering the Palestinian Arabs have undergone
[even that which is not our fault at all]. The "punishment" is to plant
a tree in Israel in their name and to mail them a certificate of the
"gift". A truly mild punishment, so gentle, perhaps much too gentle.
He only regrets, he contin- ues, that he would not be able to see their
faces when they read the certificates.
I recall the wanton destruction by fire of 8000 trees in the Carmel
forest last year. I presume the Arabs who lit the fire considered the
trees to be Jewish trees.
The flight of 100 of the best Iraqi aircraft to Iran is particularly
disturbing. These aircraft will be spared the bombings of the coalition
and this frightens us, now that we know that we are indeed high on the
Iraqi agenda; that more SCUDS - by one - have been fired at us than at
Saudi Arabia, where the coalition forces are mainly based. The obvious
collusion of Iran in this flight for preservation of the Iraqi
aircraft adds an other element of uncertainty. We speculate on the
meaning of this flight; none of the scenarios are encouraging, from
the Israeli point of view.
The coalition views the picture differently; from their point of view,
the straight forward, pragmatic conclusion is operative - these planes
have been removed from the war scene, guaranteeing coalition air
supremacy. This difference in viewpoint indicates that Israel and the
coalition may have very different goals in the present conflict and
raises the issue of what, exactly, are the minimal goals for the
coalition. Since Israel is a neutral, except in the eyes of Saddam
Hussein and his supporters, both in Iraq and elsewhere, it is not strange
that our goals should be somewhat different from those of the USA and
its coalition partners in this conflict.
There is little doubt that the death of Saddam Hussein, the destruction
of the Iraqi military machine, and even strip- ping the ruling minority
party, the Bath, of power would please President Bush, and perhaps his
partners as well, even Arabs - President Mubarak of Egypt, for one. But
these do not appear to be goals that must be obtained in order to
satisfy the coa- lition, always worried about the ephemeral nature of
home sup- port for so distant a war, particularly if the price in casual-
ties is too high and if the war continues behind the brief attention
span that characterizes mass opinion. The added burden in real cost
must also be taken into account; Britain, already burdened by a
recession,is now anxiously debating the cost of the war and where the
money to pay for it will come from.
What then are the minimal goals that the US and its coa- lition powers
accept? There is good reason to believe that if necessary - read:
wavering home support - Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait and paying some
sort of fine will be sufficient. It is clear that the damage to the
country's resources and supply lines, heavy equipment and armament will
prevent Iraq from entering into another similar adventure for some
reasonably long time. This worst case goal, however, cannot be accept-
able to Israel, which of course has no say in the matter.
Israel's goal - of necessity - includes destruction of both Iraq's long
range missiles and their launchers and the air- force, the sources of
Iraq's capability of attacking Israel. In addition, Israel can not rest
unless Saddam Hussein is eli- minated [killed, imprisoned for life,
permanently exiled - preferably the first, the only irreversible method
among these]; we remember too well the reemergence of Nasser after his
dramatic resignation speech in the aftermath of Egypt's defeat by Israel
in the Six Day War.
The scenario that sends chills down our spines is one that begins after
the war, with Saddam Hussein and his airforce - more than 700 planes -
intact. A call by a postwar Iraq, with Saddam Hussein at its head, for
a Holy War of all Moslem nations, includ- ing Iran - a long time leader
in the Islamic campaign to destroy Israel - as well as the Arab states
in the region, lead by Syria and financed by Saudi Arabia and the
oil-rich Emirates is a reason- able possibility. The blow to Arab pride
that will follow any suit for peace by Saddam Hussein, even with Arabic
nations represented in the coalition, is predictable; Muslim right-wing
elements, in Iran and even among the Arab nations in the coalition
continue to undermine cooperation with the Western powers in the fight
against Iraq. Syrian, Jordanese and Lebonese newpapers do not hesitate
to suggest that the war is really between Israel and Islam, with America
and its partners fighting for Israel.
A combined Arab air assault on Israel, with the participation of an
almost intact Iraqi airforce may or may not be repulsed by Israel; but
there is little reason to doubt that the cost in lives and property
damage will provide - even in the best case - cause for Jewish tears for
generations to come. Coalition forces will probably be far from the
scene by that time; even if not, why would they interfere?
Are these nightmares unwarranted?
Can we rely on Israel's new popularity to galvanize world-wide support
to prevent such an attack by the Muslim airforces?
As a Jew, and as an Israeli, I am suspicious of our newly gained
popularity. As pleasant as it is to be the sudden recipient of such
welcome warmth and approval - after so long a time in the cold, after so
much disapproval - from the nations of the world, something is wrong.
In view of our recent history all the expres- sions of admiration for
our restraint do not quite ring true.
The Pope himself has even joined in the chorus of praise, although his
court, the Vatican, still does not recognize Israel's existence.
Why is our popularity dependent on our suffering loss? Is this the
requirement for winning the approval of other nations? Or are other
nations judged by different rules, by their actions and inactions alone?
When the Israeli Airforce attacked and destroyed Tamuz, the Iraqi
nuclear reactor at Ossirak - whose French nuclear engineers NOW freely
admit was built for military purposes alone - we were condemned by all.
Were we better off, some ask, with the disfavor of the world weighing
heavily upon us, with confidence in our being in the right and our
ability to defend ourselves? Better off than today, with our dead, our
wounded, our homeless, with the status of an obedient client state and
the favor of the world?
Is our blood, we ask in Israel, worth the favor of the world? And how
ephemeral is this favor? Will it continue when we stop bleeding? Will
it continue if we finally act to defend ourselves?
And even if we behave, bleed silently, show restraint, we ask, how long
will the favor we have found last? The very same politi- cians and
governments that praise us so fulsomely now were those that condemned
us, placed economic sanctions on us, when was it? Why, only yesterday.
Why are we to trust them now?
Today, in a rush to appease the Arab nations, to prevent premature
dissolution of the coalition, just as our restraint is meant to do, the
US and Russia announced - without consulting us - that they will lead a
conference to settle the Middle East problems immediately after the
successful resolution of the Persian Gulf crisis. What do they mean by
this? I do not know. But the Muslim states in this region will
understand it as a promise to create a Palestinian state, all our
objections not withstanding. And they will not allow any other
Did our restrain earn us the right to consultation before making so
untimely - for us - a decision and announcement? No, not even that.
No linkage, we were promised. The Iraqi conquest of Kuwait is not
linked to the Palestinian problem, we were told. Has Saddam Hussein
already won one victory, so early in the war?
So to what end do we toil? The PLO, despite its committment to and
support of Saddam Hussein is to be punished by having its dream
realized. And Israel, after behaving "well," showing restraint,
absorbing loss to life and property quietly, will be rewarded by being
forced to swallow the poison we fear most. Is there any question that
we have a right to be skeptical?
Moreover, the position we find ourselves in, characterized by complete
dependence on the US - only some of the military information obtained by
satellites shared, refusal to give Israel aircraft identi- fication
codes to prevent clashes with coalition aircraft - and restraint where
we would usually punish attacks on us, is both un- natural and perhaps
dangerous as well. We have invested heavily over the years, since the
founding of our state, in the development and strenghthening of our
ability to defend ourselves. Our environment is hostile; all the
surrounding nations - both those in the coalition and those opposed to
it - have signed a compact to root us out of the Middle East, to destroy
It appears that our good behavior has brought us one step closer to
realization of the Arab/Muslim goal to rid themselves of us.
This is too heavy a price; we will not remain passive.
I have been asked if this is a good war? I do not think that there is
such a thing as a good war. War is bad. Killing can only be justified
to prevent wanton murder. [By the way, the seventh commandment - in the
original Hebrew - does not read "Thou shalt not kill" as it is usually
renderded, but "Thou shalt not murder."] That is the case with this war;
it is a justifiable war, born out of necessity. Out of the need to
prevent wanton murder.
copyright 1991 USA. All rights reserved.
Thursday, 31 January
Cautious Return to Normalcy
It has rained and the winds continue to howl as winter finally comes to
us. For the second night, we have had no attack. Those of us who
succeeded, myself among them - I thank all those concerned readers who
wrote, worried about my loss of sleep - slept well. I managed a solid 7
hours. It helps. The rain has been plentiful and it has again snowed
on Mount Hermon, all needed to replenish our waning water supply. And
there have been loud thunder storms, as well.
In Tel Aviv, many were frightened by the thunder and thought that they
were under attack, with bombing quite close. The radio kept
broadcasting reassurances. This morning, life in Tel Aviv is beginning
to return to normal. Cafeterias at places of work, empty until now,
were filled. Appetites had returned. It is wonderful what two days of
quiet can do to frayed nerves.
Women tell me that they have undergone a change in their sense of time.
Women who used to feel that there never was enough time now find
themselves sitting down to watch TV early in the afternoon. If - as
they had formerly believed - 24 hours is not enough time to do all they
had to, how is now possible for them to waste time? Men feel the same,
but do not admit it.
People speculate on the effect of our exposure on world TV. Will we now
be more acceptable, less strange? Even more attractive in their eyes?
We think that we did not do too badly on CNN. Does this mean that -
once this all over - more tourists will come, that more people will want
to meet us, face to face?
But life is still not normal. Yes, we can see joggers once again, a
few, but we had not seen them for two weeks. A few brave people in Tel
Aviv have returned to the empty swimming pools. What a place to be
caught in a raid! In a bathing suit!
We are - with some embarrassment - a bit proud of ourselves. All Tel
Aviv thought of leaving the city at one point or another. Only
relatively few actually did so. We have survived [for the time
being]! It is as if we went through the Blitz. We have faced the
unknown and survived - and that is a very good feeling. But there still
is uncertainty as to tonight, and tommorrow. We do not talk about that.
People actually look better. You can see it. Less haggard, less
No, it is not yet over. But we have had a breathing spell, a much
needed breathing spell. And we are stronger now. That is good to know,
important to know.
People go home earlier than they used to. As early as 14:30 the major
roads in the cities begin to fill up; trips that took only 15 minutes in
normal times now take an hour - the congestion.
Sex? Even that. We have begun to talk about it; that must be a first
An unpredictable increase in the purchase of training suits has taken
place here. People do not want to be caught in their pajamas,
nightgowns, or underwear if an alarm is sounded at night. The training
suit is the solution to that problem.
Tommorrow, my son returns from the Far East. We had worried about his
wandering alone in such strange places, but when the war began, my wife
and I, his sister and his brothers all agreed that he was much safer
there than he would be here. When he called and said that he wanted to
cut short his trip - it has been "only" 4 1/2 months - we tried to talk
him out of it. We were proud that he felt he had to return; after all,
he had been a severe critic of Israeli policy, what he saw as
intransigence. But we were worried about his safety. "There is nothing
for you to do here", I said. But he was adamant, and is now about to
return. We still are proud of him - but wish that he had stayed.
Palestinian Arabs in Lebanon have been bombarding us with rockets for
the last three days. Most of these rockets have landed in the security
zone in the south of that country, where a local militia of Lebanese,
aided by us, has become a buffer between the waring factions in that
unsettled country and us. The motivation of the militia is not to aid
us but to keep out these guerrilas who do not hesitate to kill local
citizens, steal and occupy villages. We share interests with the
militia, which is strongly supported by the local population, a very
workable relation. Luckily the rockets have caused insignifi- cant
West of the security belt is another, less effective, buffer zone,
policed by troops of various countries, under United Nations auspices.
In the past day and a half, three Palestinian guerrilas, attempting to
reach northern settlements in Israel have been killed. The mission of
these Palestinian Arabs was to attack settlements, kill settlers and
prove Palestinian identification with Saddam Hussein. Thus far, they
have not succeeded. We retaliated by bombing staging centers for these
What was the UN response? Why, naturally, it was to reduce the number
of soldiers under United Nations supervision in the area. Just as the
UN did in 1967, in Sinai, when Nasser threatened Israel. Is it not yet
understandable to the rest of the world why we are so loth to rely on
the promises of external agencies or countries when it comes to our
Meanwhile Peter Arnett's staged interview with Saddam Hussein has been
released. We can understand the Palestinian drive to actively identify
with Saddam more easily when he says that he "sees through the plot; he
knows that it is Israel who is fighting with Iraq" and the US and its
coalition partners are only doing Israel's work.
Saddam Hussein did not forget to thank the peace demonstrators, whom he
characterizes as agreeing with him that Iraq is fighting a war against
I have suggested that Israel might be more effective than the coalition
forces in eliminating certain strategic targets - especially the SCUD
missile launchers - because of Israeli willingness to engage in
low-level bombing and our expertise in that form of bombing.
There is good reason to believe that US satellites can,at the time of
firing, pick up the launch heat flare and thereby localize launchers.
The US - we believe - will not take full advantage of this knowledge
because of a policy not to engage in low-level bombing runs, a
hestitancy bred by an attempt to minimize US casualties. There is
reason to believe - as part of US desire to keep Israel out of the
conflict, at least as an active participant - that the US is not sharing
knowledge of these launcher sightings with Israel.
Twelve US Marines dead. Sad. War is a process which increases the
chance of dying. "Will the US stand fast?" we ask.
The F-117 videos that have been shown are indeed impressive, showing
pinpoint accuracy during night flights. Most bombing, however, is
carried out from high altitides, where US smart bombs are reported to
have a 60% accuracy rate, meaning that 60% of the bombs land within 10
feet of their target. Misses are usually the result of failure of
sophisticated aiming devices; for example, if the bomb is unable to
follow the laser beam into its target - as the result of malfunctions or
weather disturbances - the bomb may land as much as 5 miles from the
target. The American decision not to engage in too much low-level
bombing has been reinforced by the excessive losses suffered by the
British Tornados, which specialized in low-level attacks on airfields.
Moshe Arens, the Israeli Minister of Defense, in a TV inter- view,
seemed to indicate that Israel was being inhibited by US refusal to
share the identification codes used in their aircraft. Israeli jets, as
do the coalition aircraft, carry the IFF (Identify Friend or Foe)
transponder. This device, when used by the coalition, allows allied
planes and even Patriot missiles to determine whether to attack or not.
Modern planes can shoot down enemy jets which the pilot can- not even
see; moreover, if we are talking about night bombing, the pilot must
depend completely on his instruments. Thus, any plane not broadcasting
the proper IFF codes might be shot at. The Patriot missile was
originaly designed to shoot down planes, and it still can; it too looks
for the IFF signals. Even though Israeli planes are different from
Iraqi planes, if the Israelis launched an attack,the US planes would
have to intercept the Israeli planes and confirm that they were indeed
Moreover, it is likely that Israeli planes, not equipped with IFF codes
would not be able to differentiate between French and Iraqi [Guess where
they came from.] Mirage aircraft. Thus, the likelihood of someone
beginning to fire, with everybody joining in, is real. Furthermore,
coalition interceptors would be diverted from their other missions in
order to check out the Israeli planes, whose presence would be
unexpected (both to surprise the Iraqis and to circumvent American calls
It rains. We have had two quiet nights. Another night closes in on us.
What will it bring?
copyright 1991 USA. All rights reserved.