4.1066 Israeli Diaries: Werman; Koren (2/530)
Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Thu, 21 Feb 91 00:59:36 EST
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 1066. Thursday, 21 Feb 1991.
(1) Date: Fri, 15 Feb 1991 19:46:41 GMT+0300 (308 lines)
Subject: Wednesday 13th
(2) Date: Sun, 17 Feb 91 18:01 +0200 (222 lines)
Subject: The Ultimate Aloneness of Israel
Date: Fri, 15 Feb 1991 19:46:41 GMT+0300
DIARY OF THE GULF WAR -- THE VIEW FROM HAIFA
Copyright 1991 Judith Koren, all rights reserved.
Wednesday 13th February
Yair has been overloaded with homework since school restarted, and has
got into the habit of studying with one friend or another. Today the
friend is Ori, whose family spent the first part of the war "on holiday"
in Cyprus. But by the time I get home at 5:15 they've decided to take
a break and have gone out, presumably to the ball court.
At 6:15 the phone rings. Ori's mother. Upon hearing that the boys are
out she becomes frantic with worry. Immediately, as if someone had
flipped a switch from "low-tension" to "high".
"You mean they're out on the streets? AFTER DARK???!!!
It takes a while to convince her that this is a residential neighbourhood
and the ball court is surrounded by houses, including a high-rise
apartment building with an excellent communal sealed shelter. (I don't
actually know if that shelter is sealed, all I know is that it makes
a wonderful place for birthday parties; but a helpful assumption never
hurt anyone, did it?) From the way she reacted, you'd think we lived
in a solitary tent in the middle of the Carmel National Park.
"Ori's father'll have a heart attack if he hears of this!" she cries.
And she makes me promise to go out, now, to the ball court, round up
the delinquents and shepherd them home. And call her back.
I sigh and out I go. The kids aren't at the ball court. That probably
means they've gone on to another friend and will phone me at 9 pm to
ask for a lift home. I wonder what to tell Ori's mother; decide to
wait for her to phone me back. Luckily the boys arrive home 10 minutes
after I do: they'd gone to a different ball court, slightly farther
away. Ori pales when he hears his mother has phoned. "My dad'll have
a HEART ATTACK if he hears of this!" he says. And his first words
when he phones (which I have to force him to do) are: "Mum, don't tell
I am beginning to understand who it was who dreamt up the trip to
Cyprus. Luckily Ori's father is in the army right now (reserve
duty) and unlikely to discover how near his son came to disaster
through association with mine.
I hope Ori comes over some more. It's probably good for him to spend
a few hours now and then with people who don't jump every time a car
backfires. When he returned from Cyprus he was much tenser than he
was when he returned from 2 hours in the ball court with Yair (until
he heard his mother had called, that is). In fact the first few days
after his return Yair spent a lot of time on the phone reassuring
Ori that life in Haifa is livable. Children are mostly affected by
how their parents react, not by the situation itself (with the possible
exception of the babies and toddlers, for whom being in those plastic
gas-proof "incubators" must be stressful enough, however their parents
I'm reminded of Joey, a huge boxer whose ferocious appearance hides
a gentle soul (really he should have been born a St. Bernard). Joey
belongs to a friend down the road. Every time the siren sounds, she
says, Joey races for their Sealed Room and sits there shaking, his heart
going pit-a-pat. She puts her arms around him (when they sit on the
floor they're about the same height) and tries to soothe him, but
it's difficult to explain to a dog. But this tells me more about her
family's initial reactions to the alerts than perhaps she wanted me
to know. Joey's reaction, after all, sounds like a classic Pavlovian
response. Surely his fear was triggered by fear among his humans,
and since this was always associated with the siren, the sound soon
became the trigger for Joey's fear, even though the panic of the
humans has distinctly lessened. Poor Joey! He doesn't even know
what he's scared of.
Thursday 14th February.
There have been no missiles for 2 days and we have slept gratefully.
The nearest thing to an alert has been the car engines, or, especially,
motorcycles, especially when they accelerate uphill in low gear. You
hear the note rise gradually from low to high and you tense; then a
one-second pause; it's not followed by a corresponding descent, high
to low, and you relax. It was only a car, after all. Then, and only
then, you notice you had tensed. I'm somewhat ashamed to find myself
reacting in this way, perhaps because of its dissonance with the
self-image I would like to preserve. But I think even the first notes of
Gerschwin's Rhapsody in Blue would bring most of Israel to its
collective feet at the moment.
I recently heard (perhaps from the other Israeli diarists? -- I forget)
that our consumption of chocolate has risen by 45 to 50% since the war
started. Here I'm a big offender; is this also evidence for being
tense? How depressing. On the other hand, how comforting to know
that I can Blame It On The War.
I'm trying not to comment on the attack on the Iraqi bunker. On the
human level, anything an outside commentator can say is trite and
inadequate. On the political, there's enough rhetoric bouncing around
already. What I don't understand is why people should be surprised.
Saddam has a well-established policy of placing military facilities
in population centres (so, incidentally, does the PLO in Lebanon) and
of placing civilians, his own or the enemy's, in military installations.
It must have been clear to the Allies from the start that a military
bunker of strategic importance would have a high chance of also
housing civilians. So someone must have taken the decision from
the start, that this is not a sufficient reason for not hitting
military targets. What's the alternative? Once a "human shield"
can be shown to work, Saddam has only to place civilians in all
military installations and he's stopped the Allied attack. There is
no way to fight a completely moral war.
I'm reminded of Churchill's decision in WWII, not to evacuate the city
of Coventry even though intercepted German messages showed that it was
to be bombed. Britain decided to accept massive civilian casualties
rather than take steps which would have signaled the Germans that their
military codes had been broken. Soldiers' lives are always "worth"
more than civilian lives in war, even if the civilians are your own,
because it's the soldiers who determine the outcome of the battle.
You can wrangle about whether 400 actual civilian deaths are a
justifiable price to pay for the potential saving of 20 times as
many soldiers' lives, and about whether it matters if the soldiers
and civilians are on the same or opposite sides. What it boils down
to is that you cannot fight a humane or moral war, and all the wrangling
is either propaganda or an attempt to square your self-image as humane
and moral with that sad fact.
I cannot look at the tear-worn face of the man who says "I lost my
wife and 2 children. Is that fair?" No, it isn't fair. War is not
fair. Life is not fair either, and death almost never. The question
is beside the point, but still I cannot bear to look at his face.
I think it very probable that the U.S. will try to demolish the other
military bunkers in Baghdad, whether or not there are civilians inside.
The alternative is to leave the command and communications centers
functioning in the approaching ground battle. I only hope the Iraqi
population will now have the sense to stay out of what may have been
presented to them as "public air-raid shelters". (I wouldn't be
surprised if they didn't even know there are military command posts
Well, that was the result of trying not to comment.
Before I leave work, a colleague shares with me the latest news. A
friend of a friend...of a friend who listens to the Arabic radio
channels reports that the Arab station(s) have been urging all the
Arabs to leave Haifa this weekend. The grapevine is very efficient.
I make a mental note of whom not to tell. Ori's parents head the list.
Undoubtedly the rumour arouses some slight feeling of apprehension. If
it's true, we're in for an interesting weekend. I wonder which
channel(s) broadcast it. There are 3 possibilities: Iraq (if they're
still broadcasting), Jordan, or the PLO in Lebanon. I wonder if it's
a real threat or a contribution to the war of nerves.
I decide not to tell my own children either; in the end I tell only
Gadi. "Just like the War of Independence," is his immediate comment.
He's right: then too, the Arab countries warned the Arabs of Haifa
to get out and let them mop up the Jews unhampered. It'd only take
a few days, they said. Those who left have been stranded in Gaza
and the West Bank ever since, "personae non gratae" to all the
countries who told them to leave as well as to Israel. I wonder
how many of them will believe their radio this time.
8 pm. By the time I wander into the living-room, the earliest of the
evening news broadcasts is already in the middle of a subtitled English-
language report on the bunker bombing. It takes about 2 minutes to
realise that this isn't a CNN report. It's too comprehensive, too
Right, says Gadi, it's NBC.
When you can tell whether a report emanates from CNN or not, just by
the tone, in 2 minutes flat, you know CNN isn't broadcasting news.
Not objective news, anyway. In fact the 2 Israeli TV channels
sometimes cut a few pictures from CNN reports into their own news,
but almost never relay a complete CNN report, and I can't blame them.
We get NBC reports; we get ABC's Nightline, both duly subtitled.
Those who want CNN have to watch it on Lebanon (and I assume the
central area, which is too far away to receive Lebanon, gets it
on Jordan. I can't get Jordanian TV, I'm too far away from them,
so I can't check the point.) Having watched it on Lebanon, I have
to admit I agree with the policy of the Israeli stations. CNN has
placed itself too firmly in the Iraqi camp to be acceptable as
What does it help to be the biggest voice in Baghdad, if you pay
for it with your independence and your integrity?
Friday 15th February.
A dull, grey day. Low clouds and a cold, dry north-east wind: a
winter hamsin. The trees rock in the gusts, tall ships riding out
the wind-waves; the geraniums in the window-box shiver. The radio
can find no more cheerful fare than the widening gap between the
cost of living index and the level of wages. After this
it brings us the current argument between the honourable and cultured
Ministers Pat and Moda'i, each of which, according to the other,
himself needs the Ministrations of a white-coated attendant in a
closed ward. A grey February day and life is getting back to normal.
The Allies have their disagreements too: each presents a conflicting
view of when the ground war will start. Their voices rise in turn
from the media, point counterpoint. Very soon, says one. Not for
some time, says another. Unlike Pat and Moda'i, this is an orchestrated
harmony of dissonance; for if one thing's sure, it's that they intend
to keep the Iraqis guessing about when the ground campaign will start.
The U.S. is confident that it can finish the ground war in a week.
So says the radio, and the radio never lies. I still think they'll
need at least two. If this were Britain the bookies would be taking
bets on it; in Britain they probably are.
9:30 am. The radio announces that the U.S. has started using fire-bombs
to clear minefields. It sounds like a high-intensity modern version
of napalm. I look out of the window into the garden and see the flat
rice-fields of Vietnam. Mental associations are dangerous beasts.
They say it's only to clear minefields. The radio says it so it must
be true. I wonder what else they have in their arsenal. If the
sun were shining I could be optimistic, I could reflect that this
probably means the ground attack is approaching, and therefore the
end of the war. Under these grey clouds I can see only the rice-fields.
10:10 am. The radio suddenly switches to a loud, monotonous wail.
The siren? No, can't be, it's not rising and falling. Must be a
technical fault. But I'm not sure. I hurry to the kitchen. From
the window I could swear I hear, faintly, the siren. The kids are
in school, what's happening there now? Then the kitchen radio falls
silent, and a moment later the announcer reassures us that it was
indeed just a transmission fault. Not what he knows we're all
So I couldn't have heard the siren from the window after
all. My ears are playing tricks on me.
I'm surprised to notice how fast my heart is beating, even though
I know it wasn't the siren. I don't react like this when there's
a real alert. Why now? Perhaps because a daytime alert would be
a major break in the pattern.
At 10:15 the radio tells us that the siren in Haifa was a false
alarm. Perhaps some siren operator was misled by the sound on
the radio, too. At least I can still trust my own ears.
I take back what I said about Ori's parents jumping at every car
I go back to vacuuming the house. Back to Normal. There won't be
an alert till tonight. We can expect one tonight, there almost
always is one on Friday nights. My heart won't race when it comes,
we'll be Back to Normal. What worries us is not the attack but
3:30 pm. Gadi was in the Technion all morning and I was so busy
cleaning and cooking alone that I don't catch Saddam's announcement
till now. Just as well, by 3:30 I have all the reactions too.
Saddam gives 6 impossible conditions for leaving Kuwait. Now the
world can get on with its favourite game of guessing. Perhaps the
new American weapon, which threatens to wipe out Saddam's carefully
laid minefields, has forced his hand? But the announcement sounds
as if it was formulated slowly and carefully, not in a rush since
9:30 this morning. Perhaps this is another attempt to sow discord
in the coalition, among the Arab partners?
Meanwhile the bombing continues. The Allies hesitate for a moment,
shrug their collective shoulders, and it's Back to Normal. Bush
must be feeling very relieved. The least important objective of
this war is to get the Iraqis out of Kuwait.
I hope the announcement doesn't mean that Saddam's getting
desperate. We know that if and when he feels he has nothing more
to lose, he just might "go chemical", if he can. I remember the
warnings to the Arabs of Haifa.
I'm in the car as I hear all this, taking Liron to a birthday
party (the kid's father is manager of a movie theatre and the
whole class is invited to a free and private showing of whatever
it is that kids enjoy. Indiana Jones, I think; it's at about the
10-year-old level. Public movies haven't resumed in Haifa yet.)
I continue to the Technion to check some batch jobs I put in for
the weekend. Next week we're moving to our new computer -- on
schedule despite all -- and I have some housekeeping to do on the
The library is closed, of course, but I find it awash in song.
There's folk dancing on the roof of the student centre, right next
to the library. They usually have folk dancing on Friday nights,
but have missed a few weeks (B. of the S.) and are now resuming
in the afternoon instead. Quite a few students have
gathered; not as many as I've seen on other occasions, but not bad.
Folk dancing plays an active role in the Israeli tradition we have
invented, as soon as a suitable new song appears, someone will be
sure to fit a dance to it. Liron is herself an avid folk dancer.
At her age the boys think it's sissy, but by the time they reach
the Technion there are almost as many boys in the folk-dancing
group as girls. Unfortunately the main thing I remember about my
own folk-dancing years is how hard it was, as a 14-year-old youth
group leader, to get the 8-year-old boys and girls to hold hands
when the dance required it. But it's nice to hear the music as
I check my mail. The sun has come out, too. Perhaps we really
are getting back to normal.
And a quiet weekend to all of you, too.
Date: Sun, 17 Feb 91 18:01 +0200
Subject: The Ultimate Aloneness of Israel
Sunday, 17 February
The Ultimate Aloneness of Israel
Things are getting back to normal. The few days - and
even weeks - when all the good guys were wearing white cowboy
suits and working together against the bandits in black may be
slipping away from us. The originally reluctant members of
the coalition once again appear reluctant; the theme that was
initially common to the activist members of the coalition as
well as to the minimalists - stopping Saddam Hussein - no
longer appears to be a sufficient bond to unite all members of
the coalition. There are those, like Russia and some of the
Arab members of the coalition, who see Saddam Hussein's
conditional agreement to withdraw from Kuwait, announced on
Friday, as real and providing a basis for negotiation.
France - relatively uncommitted even at the beginning -
is again wavering. After initial reluctance to participate
actively, France joined in the bombings with some appetite but
now, who knows? And France is not alone.
Some of the allies think that Saddam Hussein's
humiliating terms for withdrawal [Including reparations for
damage done to Iraq; withdrawal of foreign troops from the
Persian Gulf; forcing Israel to withdraw from the administered
territories] should be accepted; others reject them for what
they are - a cheap trick, with publicity as its aim,
attempting to create a picture of Iraqi willingness to
negotiate as opposed to the intransigence of the US and its
Amazing to me is that there is one area of agreement that
still binds the allies together, a desire to get Israel to
enfranchise a Palestinian state. Even more amazing to me is
that this purpose is shared by the other side, by Iraq. And by
the PLO, hero of this new drama whose staging is actively being
prepared backstage, the new production slated to follow the
Persian Gulf War. The same producer, the US, is hoping to have
one success follow another. The PLO, the accepted voice of the
Palestinians in the world, in the UN [where Yassar Arafat is
allowed to hold forth, gun in hand], in the Vatican [Which
accepts the PLO but does not yet recognize Israel] is to be
rewarded for its support of Saddam Hussein by getting the
leading role. Israel, for its restraint, praised by all, will
be the villain again - a matter of type casting.
Hollywood, Hollywood. A wonderful town.
But while there seems to be some confusion as to whether
or not the Iraqis are responsible for the bombings and
casualties that country has suffered, there is little doubt in
anyone's mind that Israel is guilty of some great crime and
must be punished.
The US State Department has shown great irritability in
response to Israeli complaints that the State Department has
blocked Israeli bidding for defense contracts that Congress
has approved, for ignoring the promise given to provide
guarantees for an Israeli loan to deal with the problems of
absorbing the great Russian immigration that has already
arrived here and continues to stream in our direction, for
asking why non-coalition countries are given licences to
purchase a super-computer while Israel is denied that right.
Irritability, yes. Denial, no. Correction, no. These
requests of Israel will not be honored - unless. Israel as
a friendly nation or even ally, as a fellow sufferer in the
war, for showing restraint at the specific request of the State
Department is to be bent at the rack. Every bit of ammunition
available will be used to force Israel to enfranchise a
Palestinian state in its midst. No, none of Israel's requests
is enough. So let us use them all together to force the
Palestinian state down Israel's throat after the Persian Gulf
War is over.
The streets of Moscow are filmed with a large procession
of Russians carrying placards inscribed in red and black paint
denouncing the Jews in general, and Israel in particular. No
Jews in the government, say the signs. What Jews? It makes
no difference that there are no Jews; perhaps Gorbechov is
thinking of converting. No fighting a Jewish war, read the
posters. What Jewish war? Presumably this proclamation is
responsive to Saddam Hussein's claim that Israel is Iraq's real
opponent in the Persian Gulf war and that the coalition is
merely doing Israel's fighting for her. And the conservative
and military elements in the Soviet Union are applying pressure
to get out of the Persian Gulf. The government is eager to
accept Saddam Hussein's conditions as a basis for negotiation -
if he would only relax them a bit. They need to end their
participation in the War to thwart the anti-perestroika forces.
The Muslim states in the USSR are interested in gaining
their independence. They fight the central government on any
issue possible; given their religious identity, it is only
natural for them too to support the new Saladin, the hope of
Muslim regeneration. And they do.
In the face of this backlash, in the face of growing
and outspoken anti-semitism in the USSR, it is also no surprise
that Russian Jews continue to flow into missile-attacked
Israel. The economics of the move are simple. It is safer for
a Jew to be in Israel now than in today's Russia.
The foreign minister of the USSR and the US Secretary of
State - at their very first meeting after the onset of
hostilities in the Persian Gulf - rush to announce jointly the
importance of settling the Palestinian problem immediately
after the Persian Gulf crisis is resolved. There is nothing
more important on their agendas. The first order of business -
on the very day the war ends, I presume - will be to punish
Israel for cooperating with the US and its coalition allies and
reward the Palestinians for their unflinching support of ....
Of whom? Of Saddam Hussein.
Syrian and Moroccan troops in Saudi Arabia, members of
the coalition in good standing, break out in hurrahs of joy and
triumph and fire automatic weapons into the air on hearing that
Iraqi Scuds land in Israeli cities. A celebration is a
celebration - and cannons are also fired. Finally a Saudi force
has to be sent to calm them down. More than 100 Syrian officers
have been arrested following their outspoken criticism of Syrian
involvement on the US side in the Gulf War. They demand to be
returned to Syria. They, too, know that Israel is the real
There is also the Arab Jihad, an interesting organization
with a strong Palestinian element, headed by Sheik Assad Tamini,
a former resident of the Hebron region in Israel. He was
expelled a good number of years ago for fomenting riot and
revolution and now lives in Jordan. It is frightening to listen
to him on TV; he is an avuncular and sweet looking man who
speaks softly; no histrionics for him. And in a soft voice he
enunciates legions of hate. He now threatens to assassinate
President Mubarak of Egypt, "just as we killed Sadat." "Hussani
Mubarak," he continues,"has sold his his soul to the Americans
and he too will die." He threatens all members of the coalition
with acts of terrorism. But the chief object of his animosity
is Israel and the Jews. "We must kill all the Jews," Tamini
says, "they have always been the source of mankind's troubles.
Hitler saw us as firm allies against Zionism. We would like the
unified Germany to help us now."
Clearly, as all nations [almost all?] are agreed, Israel is
guilty of crimes against mankind. Or at least against the
Palestinians. And must pay.
What is this great crime that Israel is guilty of? I have
neither the time nor space to tell it all here; but in brief the
recent history [one can go back to the crucifixion or earlier,
too, but ...] of our "crime" began in November 1947 when the UN
decided to divide the British Mandate in Palestine into two
countries, one Arab, one Jewish. Lead by the Palestinian leader
and former ally of Hitler, the Mufti of Jerusalem, within and by
five Arab states without, five Arab armies invaded the new Israel
with the explicit purpose of destroying her. Arab leaders told
Palestinians to leave their homes for a short time to clear the
field for the invading armies and a great number did, creating
the refugee problem which still exists. Badly outnumbered and
out-gunned, the Israelis managed to stave off the attack, but
not before Jordan seized the West Bank and East Jerusalem and
Egypt seized Gaza.
In 1967, Egypt and Syria once again decided to eliminate
Israel from the map of the Middle East [CNN has done the work
for the Arabs; the name Israel does not appear on the CNN map
of the Middle East.]. Israel, arming for the struggle warned
Jordan to stay out of the conflict. Jordan did not accept the
warning and when the dust of battle cleared, Israel had captured
East Jerusalem and the West Bank from the Jordanians, the Golan
Heights from Syria, and Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt.
Israel hoped to return some of these territories in exchange for
peace. Only Egypt has agreed to deal with Israel and following
the Camp David agreements, received Sinai back [Egypt refused to
take back Gaza, a constant source of trouble.]
Other than Egypt, which maintains correct but not friendly
relations with Israel and exchanges Ambassadors with us, none of
the Arab nations recognize the existence of Israel or is willing
to sign a peace treaty with her. That is - in a nutshell -
The Palestinians have been the great losers throughout,
not without their own fault. But the Arab nations which have
absorbed them have hardly been outstanding in helping them,
leaving many in refugee camps without work for years - in
Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. The reasons for this include both
indifference to Palestinian suffering and use of their poverty
as a political football to arouse the sympathy of the world.
The Palestinians [Like Sheik Tamini, one of them] want Israel
out of the Middle East; they [sometimes] say that they are
willing to live in peace with us - but the organizational
charter of their most representative political body includes a
paragraph on the necessity for exterminating Israel.
Forgive us for our opacity and what seems like cruelty.
But we are not willing to allow armed enemies bent on our
destruction to live in our midst; we are worried about the
short distance to our cities, we are worried about the ability
of countries like a still armed Iraq to march to within 10
miles of our coast, where they could cut the country in half.
Do not forgive us if it is not in your heart to. But we
will not commit suicide. That is not our style.
Meanwhile, under the threat of the Scuds, under the threat
of a poison gas attack, we stand mostly united, hoping for the
best and expecting the very worst.
copyright 1991 USA. All rights reserved.