4.1007 Israeli Diaries: Werman (2/399)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Sun, 10 Feb 91 20:50:04 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 1007. Sunday, 10 Feb 1991.

(1) Date: Tue, 5 Feb 91 18:49 +0200 (195 lines)
Subject: Revised Waiting

(2) Date: Wed, 6 Feb 91 17:34 +0200 (204 lines)
Subject: After Three Quiet Nights

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Tue, 5 Feb 91 18:49 +0200
Subject: Revised Waiting

Tuesday, 5 February


Another night without an attack. We are waiting. Last night
was the second night in a row without an attack. Since the onset
of the war, we have not had more than two consecutive nights with-
out an attack. Does this mean that there will be one tonight? We
do not know. The attacks this past week have been ineffective,
with Scuds [I have been corrected, not SCUDs] landing short of
their marks, in uninhabited regions. Is this a reflection of
reduced capacity of the Iraqis to fire missiles in the wake of the
one per minute sorties of the coalition? Or bad weather, too?
Today it is sunny and cold here; is that a reason to be concerned?
We live in a vacuum, an information void that renders us impotent
when our overwhelming desire is to know, to understand - a desire
that is grows from day to day.

There clearly has been a general relaxation here; it is now
quite obvious. As I walk through the streets of Jerusalem, carrying
my gas mask with me, I am clearly in a minority. Relatively few
people are now carrying masks; only a few days ago almost everyone
carried his mask with him.

Two motifs can be clearly identified in the Israeli character
to explain the relaxation. One is the macho impulse, to be a "gever,"
a real man [or woman, the masculine word serves both sexes in modern
Hebrew]. The other is not to be a "fryer", a sucker. [I think the
word, not Hebrew in origin, is derived from the German "frei", or free.
How did free degenerate to a pejorative? It seems that the term
referred to a person so free as not to think as the crowd did; it still
does refer to someone who is not a member of the herd, but what was
originally intended as a compliment has become, by an interesting but
not unnatural transition, state of being to be avoided.]

I have spoken of the psychological impact of wearing gas masks,
especially on children. I would like to report on the responses of
my three oldest grandchildren, 8, 5 1/2, and 5. Adi, the oldest,
was least affected. She refused to leave her home until school began
again for her grade, and now seems unaffected. Anat, the 5 1/2 year
old, still will not go back to school, is much more restrained and
quiet than usual. When asked why she did not want to go back to
school, Anati answered, "Because I do not want to die."

Yochai needs the proximity of his gas mask and his own sealed
room. He appeared completely normal when my wife took him home from
his improvised kindergarten [no more than five children, per
instructions] - until she saw that they had forgotten to take his gas
mask. When he understood this, and on the way back to get the mask,
he became uncontrollably disturbed, his behavior bordering on
hysteria, until the mask was retrieved. He will no longer eat in my
house although he loves my wife's cooking; he insists on being near
his own sealed room; ours will not do. He makes a papier mache
model of a child, with a gas mask.

None of these children live in a city that has been attacked

I am not so much afraid as I am angry.

An educational spin-off of the present emergency. Elementary
school teachers were asked to prepare worksheets for pupil use and
to meet, one hour to each group, the next day with small groups -
no more than five in a group - of pupils to go over the work. This
approach, a solution to an emergency situation, has proven not only
successful but is seen by many educators as an improvement over the
classroom centered activities practiced until now. [A cousin, Samuel
"Tami" Baskin, formerly of Antioch College, years ago introduced a
similar method of instruction for college and university students,
called - I think - Office Universities, where students were given
office space and access to reading materials, long term assignments
with occasional consultation with teachers. He would be interested
to hear that it works for children as well. He has a son now living
in Jerusalem, working in Tel Aviv.]

The problems of the deaf and the blind are particularly apparent
in the time of alarms. The deaf cannot hear the siren or radio and
TV announcements and the blind are subject to the stress of having to
find their way, seal their poison-gas proof rooms and then there is
their dependence on seeing-eye dogs. Some thought has been given to
these problems, with sensitivity to the added strain placed on relatives
and neighbors of these disabled people. The deaf have now been provided
with buzzers whose vibrations indicate the beginning and end of an alarm.
There are plans, not yet implemented to add words to the TV screen
announcements that report the progress of the alert, important to all of
us or using signers to spell out the announcements. The blind now have
a muzzle-based mask for their dogs, a benefit to all large dog owners.

Terrorist attacks, promised by both Saddam Hussein and the PLO,
have begun here. It is interesting that even here, in the land of
Israel, the common enemy, that the attacks are directed not against us,
Israel, but against members of the coalition. The British Airways office
in East [mostly Arabic] Jerusalem was trashed last night; windows broken,
gasoline poured inside and ignited. No injuries. Just property damage.
The phenomenon has been reported elsewhere. It will increase.


Some more on censorship. Is an interview with Saddam Hussein
just distasteful? Or broadcasting to the world scenes orchestrated
by Iraqi propagandists of the problems with a children's hospital
whose electrical supply has been compromised by the coalition bomb-
ings? I am not sure that it is not much worse than that.

Why is it necessary to broadcast these things? Does it add to
our insight into the conflict or just pluck on untuned emotional
strings in us? What cynicism dictates the production of these film

Do not the Iraqis share responsibility [Share? In fact, they
are primarily responsible.] for the plight of the infants by their
unprovoked invasion of, rape of and annexation of Kuwait? Why does
no one ask if the incubators shown - out of use because electric
power supply is unreliable following coalition bombings - are the
very same incubators stolen from Kuwaiti hospitals? After throwing
out the babies in them? What motivates the TV producers to show them?
Is it really concern for justice or fair play? Pardon me if I doubt

My impulse is to say, "Shame. Shame." to the TV producer who
showed that clip.

"Peter Arnett's reports from Baghdad" writes a correspondent,
" - as well as all reports from Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Pentagon
- are clearly labelled "cleared by Iraqi/Israeli/U.S. military/what-
ever censors." But is there no difference between these? Do you
think that everybody understands the difference?

I am told that I missed seeing a BBC Newsnight program that
examined censorship in Iraq a week ago. This program pointed out
that scenes of damage to civilian population areas were cuts of
previous footage. It also showed a Japanese crew in Iraq interview-
ing what purported to be an ordinary civilian complaining about bomb
damage; he was being prompted by a military person standing off camera.

Am I the only one who missed seeing that program? I doubt it,
just as I doubt that the TV producers who play this faked footage
missed the BBC expose. But, in the name of Freedom of the Press, they
continue to play the released material with the very same [Fair?]
censorship disclosure used for Israeli/Allied film clips.

There is a difference.

It is also possible not to broadcast "cooked" news.

I am sometimes amused by the rows of distinguished reporters
listening to Pete William's briefing in the Pentagon [Wolf Blitzer,
who sits in the front row, left, used to be a Jerusalem Post re-
porter and is the author of a rather unsympathetic book on Jonathan
Pollard. His "authoritative" reports on CNN have gained him some
fame in this war. Does he really have news to report, other than
the managed news passed along to him?]. This scene is repeated in
Saudi Arabia where the daily military report is given out, just so
much and no more. The reporters take notes assiduously, aware of
their own role as players in this TV drama. They ask questions.
When Pete Williams or Captain Harrington do not want to answer they
say so or say that they will get the information and come back with
it. They don't, as a rule. They only let out what they want. This
is not censored, but it certainly is managed - and TV producers have
the effrontery to show this management as news, itself. Ah, well.


I gather that my remarks about increased birthrates in hospitals
outside of Tel Aviv were unclear and misunderstood. This increase does
not reflect an increase in premature births but rather tells us about
expectant mothers in Tel Aviv who have decided to give birth away from
their threatened city.


An advertisement in the newspaper yesterday:

Black- Brown Yorkshire Terrier Lost
Answers to the name "Bonnie"
On Jabotinsky Street, Tel Aviv
-> The honest finder will be rewarded <-
Tel: 03-393360

Has the smart dog joined others who decided that Tel Aviv is not
the most safe place these days? Not even for dogs.

__Bob Werman

copyright 1991 USA. All rights reserved.

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------210---
Date: Wed, 6 Feb 91 17:34 +0200
Subject: After Three Quiet Nights

Wednesday, 6 February

After Three Quiet Nights

It is sunny and warmer than yesterday; it was
pleasant to walk through the renewed-by-the-rains grass
on the campus of the University. There was something
spring like in the heavy lethargic feeling that accom-
panied me in my walk. But something is wrong.

It is not spring, not here, not anywhere, not even
in the Southern Hemisphere where everything, including
the direction that flushing water swirls, is backwards.
You can't even get orientated from the stars in the
night sky there. And here we have gone through a third
night without an alarm, three in a row. We feel this
both as a blessing and as a threat. What does this
chaotic mind, this Saddam Hussein, have in store for us?

Until now, we have not had three consecutive quiet
nights since the Scud attacks started. Does it mean that
Saddam Hussein's missile launchers have really been ef-
fectively inactivated by the massive coalition bombings?
Or have these same bombings so distracted him that we are
no longer [or at least not for the time being] on his
agenda? Perhaps he has killed all the officers respons-
ible for sending missiles at us for their failures - the
last five falling short of their marks, landing impotently
in uninhabited areas? He is capable of killing his of-
ficers; his past record shows that. It was Saddam Hussein
who, when urged by one of his cabinet members during the
Iraq-Iran conflict to abdicate - as a ruse, only - and
when the conflict was settled to resume power, walked up
to that devious but unfortunate minister and executed him
[for his deviousness? for his unloyalty?] by shooting him
through the head. Saddam Hussein does not use decapita-
tion as his neighbor, Saudi Arabia, still does, but dead
is dead.

Or, as we fear, is he saving up something for us,
even possibly waiting for us to put up our guard? For
Saddam Hussein has a long unsettled account with us, ever
since we bombed and destroyed his nuclear weapon capa-
bility in the June 1981 raid on the French built Tamuz
reactor in Ossirick. Well, destroyed the reactor if not
his capability, but at least we set him back 10 years.
He has never paid us back for that and we know that he
has neither forgotten nor forgiven us for that slap in
his face. His impotence against our attack and his
inability to pay us back in like coin has strengthened
his hatred for us, his enmity to us - a hatred and enmity
which can only have grown over the years, for our demon-
strating as we have his weakness and vulnerability - not
the most desirable qualities for a self-announced savior
of Arab pride, for a new Salladin.

Saddam Hussein is still motivated by his need to
galvanize Arab and Muslim support to his cause. Motiv-
ated to hit us hard. Although his efforts to date with
the Scuds have not been as successful as he may have
wished, he has had some success. Popular support for
his cause, perceived as an Arab or Muslim fighting the
Imperialistic West intent on turning the Arab world and
its resources to its needs, has spread through the Arab/
Muslim world, even among members of the coalition.
300,000 supporters parading for Saddam Hussein in Morocco
join similar but smaller rallies in Egypt and Jordan.
Volunteers for his army are being recruited in Pakistan
and Indonesia. Iraq is perceived as suffering only for
its being Arab and standing in the way of Western ag-

We understand the phenomenon here, in Israel. We
have watched the PLO turn the Israel-Palestine story
upside down. The unsuccessful Arab attempts to oust us
from our country are said to be and then understood as
and finally remembered as Israel's stealing the country
from the Palestinians. Just so, Saddam Hussein's unpro-
voked invasion of Kuwait, its subsequent rape and annexa-
tion are now forgotten and only the US lead invasion of
the Arab subcontinent is seen, understood and remembered
as proof of Imperialistic Western designs on Arab hegemony
and oil.

Israel is still a crucial element for Saddam
Hussein in galvanizing Arab/Muslim support and forcing
Arab nations to withdraw from the coalition, where only
the US and Britain appear to be fully committed. Even the
threatened Saudis feel the pressure of ground-swell support
for Saddam Hussein. He who ravages Israel, the symbol of
Western intrusion into the Arab subcontinent, has the best
chance to rally this support, and thus to pull apart the

We know that Saddam Hussein has poison gas; his own
citizens have been poisoned by it. He has already used it
to kill 5000 helpless Kurds and in battle against the
Iranians. There is good reason to believe that he also
has the armamentarium of biological warfare at his dis-
posal. He hints that he has nuclear weapons but all we
know of is that Iraq had functioning reactors; he has
never tested such a weapon. These are the three threats
that most concern us. And we wait. And wonder. And
question. And speculate. And try to return to normal
routines - as much as possible.


The need for information is compelling. Those re-
mote from the battles need it, and spur the media on to
provide it, at almost any cost. We who are closer, need
information even more, we hunger for it, we thirst for it.
We watch TV while keeping the radio on in the background
and a third ear peeled to the possible sound of a siren.
And we buy more newspapers than ever before - and we are
a newspaper buying country even in peaceful times. Not a
few people read as many as three or four different news-
papers each day. And many more join them in buying the
Friday [weekend] editions.

During an alarm, this need becomes acute. The
Israeli wife of one of the foreign ambassadors tells that
during an attack her husband insists that she translate
every word broadcast. We can understand that. Most wives
and children of diplomats were evacuated. A notable ex-
ception is the wife of the Egyptian Ambassador, neither
Israeli nor Jewish. She insists on remaining in Tel
Aviv during the attacks, sharing our fortune and mis-
fortunes. The example of Mrs. Bassioni is reassuring; it
suggests to us that peace with the Arab world is possible.


Dr. Ruth Westheimer, sexologist and American TV
personality is visiting us. She is a holocaust survivor
and lived here for some time. Her Hebrew is still quite
good and she explains her visit as both professional, to
study conditions under stress, and personal, "In 1945, the
only country that would agree to accept me was Palestine/
Israel. My family was killed in Auschwitz, now I must be

She expresses her views about sex problems during
a war. If there are problems, the added stress will only
make them worse. On the other hand, she admits, the prob-
lems may be dwarfed by the real danger.

In a TV interview, she said that it was better if
sex were deferred until after the conflict. The interviewer
interjected, "I have a friend...", his point being that the
need was great and sex could be relaxing and reassuring.
Dr. Ruth, as she is called, said that in such a case the
sealed room with its negative connotations should never be
used. In fact, it was advisable not to have sex at night.
"Do it in the daytime, send your children to the neighbors -
Israelis are so cooperative and helpful, especially in


We cannot, as a modern Western society, function with-
out opinion polls. And so the latest poll shows that 60% of
us believes that the war will be prolonged. 80% of us are
for the government's policy of restraint, but 83% feel that
Israel must respond immediately if unconventional war measures
[chemical, biological or nuclear] are used against us. 57% of
us complain of feeling "down." 7% are actually elated.

For 19% of us - the most common response - the hardest
part of the current situaton is worry about members of the
family. For another 18%, a close second, it is the uncertainty
that bothered most. Other responses were much less common. 8%
were not bothered at all [presumably the same people].

As to leaving home in face of the threat, 35% of resi-
dents of Tel Aviv and 16% of Haifa residents said they already
had left or were ready to leave home for safer parts if the
attacks continue.


Jerusalem's cafes are again filling up, at least during the
daytime. These popular refuges are doing a good business, with their
cafe hafuch [cappuccino; that name is reserved here for expresso cof-
fee served with whipped cream and cinnamon] and rich cakes. I over-
heard the following conversation at the next table:

He: You are a non-reactor.
She: Yes, a nuclear non-reactor.

__Bob Werman

copyright 1991 USA. All rights reserved.