4.1043 Israeli Diaries: Werman (2/403)
Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Fri, 15 Feb 91 14:21:46 EST
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 1043. Friday, 15 Feb 1991.
(1) Date: Wed, 13 Feb 91 18:53 +0200 (177 lines)
(2) Date: Thu, 14 Feb 91 18:27 +0200 (226 lines)
Subject: Anniversary; Hodesh Tov
Date: Wed, 13 Feb 91 18:53 +0200
Wednesday, 13 February
There are airplanes above us, all the time. We hear but do
not see them. In peace time there are almost never any flights
over Jerusalem; the contrast now is great. The planes were
very busy in the skies over Jerusalem the first week of the war
but not since, not until this morning. We had a quiet night
last night; it helped after the alarms of the previous night.
But now the skies are filled with the dronings and roars of
unseen planes - the sky is quite cloudy.
We hear from American TV and newspapers that the IFF codes
which allow planes to be identified as friendly have finally
been given to Israel. One source adds that the codes were
given with the understanding that no Israel retaliatory action
be undertaken before the beginning of the ground war. The
Pentagon denies this news item categorically; our spokesmen
refuse to comment. We tend to believe our silence more than
the Pentagon "no."
Are the planes we hear related to this new rumor? Are
they practicing using the IFF codes? Are they practicing for a
retaliation mission? Is this the beginning of such a mission?
We do not know.
We are concerned about the tender and loving relationship
now being shown us. Although this special treatment is public
and visible to all we feel the threat that lies behind this
massage; we already feel our arm being twisted.
All our requests for aid - other than the Patriots - from
the US have been torpedoed in the past few months by the State
Department. Even requests that have been approved by the
Congress and that should have been delivered months ago are not
honored. For example, the $400,000,000 credit for dealing with
the new Russian immigration that we have been asking for is
pushed aside, time after time. Congress approved Israeli
industry participation in the competition on defense tenders in
Europe - in those very countries which have failed to support
the Gulf war with more than token efforts, if at all - for
repair and renewal of weapons systems; this possible source of
badly needed income for us has been blocked by innumerable
State Department barriers, both political and bureaucratic.
The Arrow missile project and the Israeli super-computer have
also been shelved by State Department decisions - after these
were initially encouraged and even funded. These projects are
not only of importance to our defense posture - and perhaps
that of the US as well in the long run - but would provide
important sources of badly needed income and employment.
It appears that the State Department is interested in
withholding all aid now in order to increase the pressure to be
applied to us to accept their policies in the treaties that will
be drawn up for this region at the end of the conflict in the
Persian Gulf. The joint statement issued by Secretary of State
Baker and his Russian counterpart - and later shelved by President
Bush - about solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a
hint of what is to come. This is just not the time.
Meanwhile the State Department caresses us publicly.
The Persian Gulf War provides a living for the media.
All over the world they deliver their merchandise - not
literature, not history [not even journalism, I think at times]
but merchandise - tens of millions words, and countless
pictures, TV and photographic shots. 100's of millions readers
and listeners and viewers pay attention to what is going on in
the Persian Gulf 24 hours a day. The bitter truth is that
neither we nor they have the least idea of what is going on.
There are two types of reporting from the Gulf now. In
the first, the reporters of the great newspapers sit quietly,
like well-disciplined high school students before the spokesmen
of the US and British [Occasionally Saudi; rarely French]
Armies, who feed the reporters what the military wants and
these newsmen quietly take it all down, as if they are school
room assignments. If one of them gets a bit smart, he will
find himself on the first plane back home. There are no wise
guys in Saudi Arabia.
The Americans have set the stage by placing heavy
censorship on details, limited movement of reporters to and on
The great journalists sit with folded arms in a tent -
scene of desert splendor - to listen to a briefing once a day
- and then to say "thank you." Freedom of the press? The
right of the public to know? Forget it. Army people say just
what they want and only what they want to. They do not expand
and are frugal in their expressions.
The journalists stand on the roofs of Riyadh and say any
nonsense that comes to mind. These are the same journalists
who screamed against Israeli restrictions on them, spoke of the
right to know, freedom of the press. And now they have no
problem accepting the cereal served them - predigested, no less.
Then there is the other kind of journalist, the one who
reports from behind the enemy lines, who allows [Does he have a
choice? Of course not.] the most flagrant propaganda to be shown
while he is broadcasting.
Some have written me that Peter Arnett of CNN, broadcasting
from Baghdad chooses what to present in his broadcasts. If so, he
is simply an evil, destructive man. But this is clearly not the
case, he shows what he is told to show, he is a journalist and the
show must go on. O, is that the theatre? Well this is journalism
as theatre, entertainment - of a sort.
Mr. Shalom Rosenfeld, one of our leading senior journalists,
has made the interesting comparison of Peter Arnett to Ed Murrow.
[For those too young to remember, Murrow was also one of the
handful of TV - then in its infancy - journalists who lead the
fight to defeat the frightening Senator Macarthy.]
Murrow broadcast from London during the blitz in World War
II - night after night, bravely, just as does Arnett. But the
cause, the cause? asks Mr. Rosenfeld. Every day that Murrow
broadcast he did this not only with bravery but with a sense of
mission. Does Peter Arnett have that? Does he have a mission?
A cause? What mission? What cause?
Arnett persists in interviewing the Americans who visit
Iraq, even now. Carl Sagan, popularizer of science, now can
claim that he is a popularizer of fiction as well. Ramsey
Clark returns to the US after his Arnett interview and relates
that he saw no evidence of bomb damage to military targets.
Where did they take him?
Responsibility in journalism. It exists; Ted Koppel tells
ABC's Tel Aviv correspondent not to point in the direction of the
latest Scud impact.
One correspondent writes to tell me about a news report
where a soldier was interviewed and stated that he did not know
why he was in Saudi Arabia. US soldiers who saw this wondered
how many dozens of troops did the reporter have to interview to
find one that would provide that answer.
Now we learn that Arnett has been allowing Iraqi
government officials to use his satellite telephone. CNN
quickly claimed that he only allows them to use it to speak to
the Iraqi embassy in Jordan to arrange press credentials. This
story is contradicted by CBS evidence that the Iraqis have a
functioning Telex line to their Embassy in Rabbat Ammon.
An interesting observation is that most people of advanced
age - including my 86 year old mother - behave surprisingly well
during the attacks here. Even those in Tel Aviv. Even those
whose homes are damaged. Even those wounded. They seem to have
a great calmness that envelops them. They are more worried about
their children and grandchildren than they are about themselves.
They are not apathetic, they are just grand.
copyright 1991 USA. All rights reserved.
Date: Thu, 14 Feb 91 18:27 +0200
Subject: Anniversary; Hodesh Tov
Thursday, 14 February
Anniversary; Hodesh Tov
Today is my 37th wedding anniversary; on July 14,1954 I
was married to Golda, the mother of my four children and the
grandmother of my five grandchildren. We were married in New
York City and soon moved to Southern California; we
subsequently lived in New York City, Cambridge [England], the
US midwest and, since 1967, in Jerusalem, Israel. We believe
that there are rules; you make up your mind and live by them.
We know that there also are passions and we have had them,
and still have them, we have felt strongly about one another,
about our children and their wives and husband and their
children, about country, about religion, about ideas, about
books, about friends and relatives. But our religion teaches
us that there are rules and the America we grew up in also
taught the same thing - that there are rules.
We know that we support values that others disapprove
of: religion, nationalism [even patriotism], marriage, ideas,
feeling strongly, rules. We have heard each of these
condemned both as values and as institutions. None-the-less
we believe in them, live with them and by them. And not
infrequently the most important of these values becomes rules.
There are times that, without rules, none of the others is
possible. Certainly not marriage.
Even our religion distinguishes between life with and
without rules. The greatest holy man, says the Talmud, is a
man with the greatest inclination to evil, but by a life of
rule manages to overcome this evil inclination. The Talmud
relates the parable of the great sinner and the holy man who
- after death - present themselves for judgement. The sinner
is shown his evil inclination and it is as small as a hair, a
very small one, indeed. The sinner says in disappointment with
himself, "The drive to evil in me was so very small and yet I
could not overcome it." The holy man is then shown his evil
inclination and it is as large as a mountain; he is amazed that
he was able to defeat so huge and powerful an enemy.
Without rules, our marriage would not have lasted. Could
not have lasted. Inertia is no longer a reason to stay married;
it is almost easier to obtain a divorce these days than to get
married. Rules. Golda and I have common ideas and passions; we
enjoy doing things together. But our friends are not the same
and we frequently disagree about courses of action and what is
right. These days we share preoccupations if not occupations;
we are both busy writing. Usually our work involves activities
as far away one from another as it is possible to get in the
We had a quiet night; the best present for our
anniversary that anyone could give us. I remembered the date but
bought Golda nothing; she forgot but went to her exercise class
early in the morning and returned with a present for me - a
plastic bag [$7.50] for carrying my gas mask.
On Tuesday morning, after the very disturbing night when
we had three alarms and two actual Scud attacks, I went out into
the garden and saw the messenger from Federal Express with a 24
hour letter. It was for Golda; I signed for it and brought it
into the house. Golda opened the envelope. The letter inside
was to become our fourth siren, our third attack; she had been
fired from her position as coordinator of an overseas program
for third year students at a well known American university.
When the war was about to break out - in early January -
almost all of the students in the program wanted to stay. But
administrators at the university panicked, called the student's
parents [In the case of a 55 year old student, they even called
her son!] and told them that the university could no longer be
responsible for the students' safety in Israel and then wrote
letters to the parents with the same information. Under this
barrage, the parents pressured their reluctant - some more than
others - children to return home. I recall a phone
conversation at this time - the call was from my house - in
which one student berated an administrator for not consulting
with the student before contacting her parents.
My wife has worked at this job for the past 18 years; the
dismissal was hard for her to take, hard for me to take. It
was not completely unexpected; the program had become a
financial burden to the university as fewer students were
willing or able to come to Israel. There was a recession; the
winds of war were already blowing in the summer when the
Nor was the letter unkind or illogical; even some sort of
continuation of Golda's work was offered. The reasons were
spelled out; the regret was genuine.
The university had its priorities, its concerns; when they
coincided with ours everything was fine. When the financial
burden grew too great, when the possibility of litigation
loomed, as well as accusations of irresponsibility and the
attendant bad publicity, the university saw its interests to be
different from ours, and acted accordingly. This is natural.
The West, with the US at its head, now favors Israel; its
interests coincide with Israel's interests. Israel's actions
[inaction, actually] are the very ones that the West needs and
Tomorrow, we fear, the US and its allies will see their
interests in a different light than Israel does. At that time,
with less explanation than Golda received, with less courtesy
and thoughtfulness, the US and its allies will dismiss Israel.
Today is Rosh Hodesh, literally the head of the month, the
New Moon, the beginning of the Hebrew lunar month of Adar. Adar
is the month of our most abandoned holiday, Purim, the holiday
described in the biblical Book of Esther.
Gibbons, in a footnote to THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE
ROMAN EMPIRE, describes first century ACE Purim celebrations in
which Jews killed 75,000 and 100,000 non-Jews in Cyprus and in
Alexandria. The source of this contention is not given and it
is not substantiated in any Jewish or Roman sources. We
celebrate the holiday now by exchanging presents, especially
food, by giving children money, by reading the Book of Esther
in the synagogue. Some drink, play cards, produce satirical
At the New Moon, we say to one another, "hodesh tov,"
"Have a good month."
It is clear that the ground phase of the Persian Gulf
War is getting closer and closer; the air phase has been very
successful and soon significant targets will become rare.
Thus far, Saddam Hussein shows no sign of willingness to pull
out of Kuwait. One of the armchair generals who writes to me
says that Saturday, the 16th of February, two days from now,
is the day. On that day - or not too much later - the US and
its allies will use ground troops to force the Iraqis from
By the logic of the Middle East Saddam Hussein's first
reaction to the advance of coalition troops into Kuwait and
Iraq will be to bomb Israel, with missiles and perhaps with
aircraft as well. If he is committed to using poison gas, he
will use it on Israel first.
Our greatest fear is that Saddam Hussein will indeed try
to use poison gas against Israel. There are a number of
components to that fear: the horrible photographs and TV clips
of soldiers burned by the gases in the Iraqi-Iranian war; the
death of all inhabitants of a village of 5000 Kurds killed by
the Iraqis using poison gas dropped from airplanes; a fear
that signals our lack of experience with poison gas warfare;
the memory of the Nazi attempt to wipe out all Jews using the
poison gas, Zyklon B.
Many citizens of Jerusalem are convinced that our city is
being spared Scud attacks because we have been targeted for
the first poison gas attack. Where this rumor started I do not
know; there is no logical or factual basis for it. But this is
the Middle East where logic and fact are not always the most
important elements in decision making.
More and more Israeli Arabs have begun to find their
voice. We hear more statements of identification of these
Arabs with our fate, qualified by obviously sincere concern for
their fellow Arabs on the other side, in the administered
territories, and in Jordan. Arabs have offered to help repair
missile-damaged houses, to house Jews rendered homeless by the
missile attacks, especially the elderly. Israeli Arabs
complain that they are always required to reaffirm their
loyalty; they are committed to a joint fate, living together
with Jews in Israel and that this fact should be obvious.
They say that traitors in their midst are a marginal
phenomenon and no more prominent than the incidence of
traitors among Jews.
Meanwhile, in Jordan, overwhelming support for Saddam
Hussein persists and has even grown more audible following
King Hussein's speech last week. Scud missiles compete there
with Saddam Hussein himself for popularity. Scuds are
featured on watches, flags, T-shirts. Even cakes and rolls
are now produced in the shape of a Scud. The Saddam-burger
is reported to be the most popular fast food in Rabbat Ammon;
it is a missile-shaped roll filled with meat. Barbers report
that Saddam mustaches are definitely "in."
Barbers in the US are still not reporting a surge of
demand for a Bush hairdo.
I do not know whether the bunker in Baghdad where so
many unfortunate civilians were killed was a comand post as
claimed by the coalition. I tend to believe the coalition,
mostly because the Iraqi record of reporting has been so
completely filled with fantasy and lies. One comment: the boy
shown with burns reportedly from the bombing of the bunker
could not possibly have gotten them there - the burns are old;
any physician can tell you.
We will not go our to a movie or restaurant this evening
to celebrate. We do not feel too safe away from our home after
19:00 these days. We are not in too much of a mood for
copyright 1991 USA. All rights reserved.