|Israel Resource Review
||3rd August, 2006
The Harmless Children of Hezbollah?: A German Perspective
Henryk M. Broder
SPIEGEL ONLINE - August 3, 2006, 03:31 p.m.
Germans are squabbling about whether Israel's military strikes against Lebanon are justified. But how else can Israel defend itself against Hezbollah rockets? By staging sit-down protests along the Israeli-Lebanese border, perhaps?
Should Israel stop defending itself?
It was more than 20 years after the end of the Second World War, during the 1960s, when Germans realized that the Nazis had murdered a large number of Jews as part of their proposed "final solution of the Jewish question." The Frankfurt Auschwitz trial, which continued for two years (1963-1965) and involved 183 court sessions, resulted in an extensive documentation of what had occurred in the concentration camp near the Polish city of Oswiecim. The German public was shocked, horrified -- and most of all, surprised.
Apparently no one had ever read Hitler's "Mein Kampf," heard Hitler's speeches, subscribed to the Nazi newspaper Stürmer or even noticed that their Jewish neighbors had "moved out" without taking the furniture.
More than a decade later, in 1978, German television aired the four-part TV series "Holocaust." Once again the Germans reacted with horror, shock, and endless surprise. The fate of the Jewish family portrayed in the film brought tears to German eyes. They asked questions for which there were no answers. "How was that possible?" And: "Why did the Jews allows themselves to be led like lambs to the slaughter? Why hadn't they defended themselves?"
This question dominated debates on the Holocaust for almost 20 years, until Daniel Goldhagen published his book "Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust" in 1996. The book caused another wave of shock and horror. But this time the upheaval was not over what the book described, but about its author, who spoke of "eliminatory anti-Semitism" and claimed that the "final solution" was the logical endpoint of a development implicit in German identity.
Ever since Goldhagen's book, the debate is no longer about what the Jews experienced and didn't survive, but about what the Germans knew or didn't know -- about how many of them were more or less willing accomplices in the Holocaust. The focus of the discussions has shifted from the victims to the perpetrators, and the perpetrators are trying to present historical proof that they too were victims, at least in the end, when Dresden was bombed -- an event the political chief of the neo-Nazi NPD party has likened to the Holocaust -- and when the Gustloff, a converted cruise ship filled with German refugees, was sunk by a Soviet submarine.
Shifting the blame
By this point in the public conversation, Berlin-based political scientist named Ekkehard Krippendorf had already contributed an original thought. He claimed that if the Jews hadn't allowed themselves to be deported -- if they had practiced passive resistance and organized sit-down strikes -- the Germans would have rallied to their cause, the Third Reich would have been shaken to the core and the worst catastrophes would have been avoided.
So historical blame was re-distributed. In Krippendorf's analysis, the Jews were not only to blame for anti-Semitism -- there wouldn't be any anti-Semitism if there weren't any Jews -- but for the Third Reich as well. They had the power to destabilize the system and missed out on that unique opportunity.
Today the debate has advanced by a few rounds. Every day you read and hear people saying the Israelis have done to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to the Jews. Meanwhile the Germans -- or rather the "non-Jewish Germans," as the new expression goes -- take it to be their historical duty to ensure that the Jews learn from their own history and behave decently. Sociologist Wolfgang Pohrt's remark on the perpetrators who turn into probation assistants and make sure their victims don't relapse was never more topical and accurate than today.
The old question "Why didn't the Jews defend themselves?" is no longer fashionable. Today the Jews are accused of defending themselves. They're blamed for concluding from the last-attempted "final solution" that it's better to defend yourself early than to let yourself be pitied afterwards. As nice as the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin may be -- it's a place "one likes to visit," according to former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder -- a day on the beach in Tel Aviv or in Nahariya beats it hands down.
Now Germany -- where even a convicted cannibal can successfully sue for violation of his constitutional rights -- is witnessing a lively debate over the means by which Israelis should be allowed to defend their basic right to lie on the beaches of Nahariya or Tel Aviv. Politicians such as Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul from the Social Democrat party SPD, researchers such as Udo Steinbach from the Orient Institute and journalists such as Heribert Prantl from the center-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung are among those who argue that Israel's reaction to the rocket attacks from Lebanon is exaggerated and "disproportionate." "No one is denying Israel the right to defend its borders. But rockets fired across the border don't threaten the existence of a state," writes Claudia Kühner in the Swiss daily Zürcher Tages-Anzeiger, for example.
Stop shooting and start shopping?
But if rockets designed to fly across borders don't threaten a state's existence, then who or what does? Excessive payroll fringe costs? Excessively low taxes? Too many unemployed people? Too few children? And how would the Swiss react if one of their border regions were attacked with rockets? Would they retaliate by firing "Luxemburgerli" pastries from their famous confectioner? Or would they airdrop coupons issued by the Migros grocery chain and urge their attackers to "Stop shooting and start shopping"?
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Of course the question of a "proportionate response" is entirely justified -- and it's justified when asked about Israel or any other state. And: Those who ask the question have to be ready for an unexpected answer. It's a sign of reasonableness and moral maturity that Germans like to solve problems by sitting down at a round table to talk. The approach has worked for workplace conflicts and squabbles within clubs and associations, but it turned out to be ineffective in Northern Ireland and Kosovo. And it amounts to committing suicide for fear of dying when you're dealing with an enemy that loves death more than life.
The late King of Jordan had no qualms about using his might to put down a Palestinian uprising during "Black September" in 1970. He ordered refugee camps to be bombed. Between 3,000 and 5,000 people died. The PLO then moved its headquarters to Lebanon. Arafat moved to Cairo and later to Tunis.
Former Syrian President Hafis al-Assad, the father of Syria's present ruler, pulled no punches in fighting insurgent members of the Muslim Brotherhood. He devastated the city of Hama in February 1982, killing between 10,000 and 30,000 civilians. No one accused him of "genocide" -- and if someone had, al-Assad would have asked his critics not to meddle in the domestic affairs of his country.
When one considers what Israel is doing one has to admit that it is behaving quite moderately -- notwithstanding the bloodbath in Qana, in which dozens were killed including children. What happened in Qana just shows that the precision of high-tech wars can lead to catastrophic results. The war isn't between two regular armies, but one between an army and a guerrilla group that doesn't hesitate to use civilians as a human shield. At least the Israeli army warns the civilian population of imminent bombings by dropping leaflets, whereas Hezbollah fires Katyusha rockets without warning, in order to terrorize a civilian population.
"It'll work out somehow."
The most powerful army in the Middle East is fighting with one hand tied behind its back -- and paying for the mistakes of politicians. Everyone in Israel who had something to do with defense knew Hezbollah wasn't building holiday camps for Palestinian orphans in southern Lebanon -- it was preparing for military action. Instead of sounding the alarm because UN Resolution 1559, which calls for Hezbollah to disarm, wasn't being implemented, the choice was made to ignore the danger. The Israelis were glad to have turned their backs on the Lebanese quagmire. You could once again go shopping in Kiryat Shmona and swim in Lake Genezareth without having to hear the sounds of combat.
Of course it would have been better to disarm Hezbollah when it was still possible to do so relatively easily. But such a decision would have been difficult to justify within Israel -- and it would have caused the world to brand Israel as an aggressor. And so UN Resolution 1559 vanished into the mists of history, and the Israelis -- who can only think and plan in the short term -- said to themselves: "Ichije tov" -- "It'll work out somehow."
And since they didn't commit the necessary atrocities straight away, they're now paying twice the cost. They're fighting an enemy they underestimated and they're being pilloried as aggressors. It's not just on the nationalist and radical-left fringes of German civil society where people agree that Israel is the "new center of genocide" -- similar noises can be heard from the political center. Israel should negotiate with Hezbollah instead of shooting innocents, some commentators say.
You'd think Hezbollah was a group of children who had been playing with matches in the barn -- and that the Israelis insanely stoked the fire until the whole farm burned down. That kind of view is widespread in Germany. This is a nation where people will seriously debate whether a civilian airplane hijacked by terrorists should be pre-emptively shot down. But Israel is supposed to wait for Hezbollah to fire its rockets and then go complain to Kofi Annan.
So the Germans' "becoming-good-again" -- predicted by essayist Elke Geisel 20 years ago -- enters its final stage. The "Holocaust" has been outsourced; now it's taking place in the Middle East. What started with the question "Why didn't you defend yourselves?" ends with the cool observation that the Jews have learned nothing from history, and that they are doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to them. And it's apparently the task of Germans to admonish and educate them. Ahmadinejad's willing executioners only want the best for Israel.
Theologian and itinerant preacher Jürgen Fliege reminds Israel of the "common cultural and religious roots" that "our ancestors laid down in the Torah." The principle of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" is "no call for abandoning restraint in an emergency situation and swearing revenge, come hell or high water," writes Fliege. According to him, what the principle really means is: "Only one soldier for one kidnapped soldier" -- everything else would be going too far. In a ludicrous reversal of cause and effect, action and reaction, perpetrator and victim, Fliege calls on the Israelis to act moderately. But why doesn't he direct his appeal at Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah? Perhaps because in Hezbollah's case the "common cultural and religious roots" are still so fresh they should be given time to develop.
Even though Germany's former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has now relaized that the conflict with Hezbollah and Hamas is not about "occupied territories" but about Israel's existence, Middle East expert Michael Lüders finds it lamentable that "the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories" west of the border "are not perceived as a problem," unlike the "terror" that threatens Israel's existence. And he really does place "terror" in quotation marks -- suggesting it doesn't exist outside the subjective perception of Israelis. Western policy "in the region," he writes, creates "its own counterpowers, especially in the form of Islamic fundamentalism." With those words, Lüders justifies everything that Islamic fundamentalists do.
But what logical conclusion would have to be drawn from this insight that Lüders is still hesitant to utter? In order to eliminate the fuel of Islamic fundamentalism, the West would have to abandon Israel. The message is clearly there between the lines, and it's only a question of time before it's raised explicitly. For now, Lüders contents himself with Schadenfreude. "Even if Israel were to succeed in defeating Hezbollah and Hamas tomorrow -- the day after tomorrow there would be new groups with different names, ready to continue the struggle against the omnipotence of the Washington-Jerusalem axis."
Unlike the word "terror," Lüders doesn't place "the omnipotence of the Washington-Jerusalem axis" in quotation marks -- to him, that phenomenon is perfectly real. It used to be referred to as the "Jewish-American claim to world dominance." Today, it's not just Iranian President Ahmadinejad who is wishing for "a world without Zionism" in order to preserve world peace.
The situation is getting uncomfortable for the Israelis. They're beginning to suspect that they can't win this war, because they're dealing with an international public that demands a "proportionate" reaction even in an "asymmetrical conflict." And the appeals to respect international law and the rules of the game are always directed at Israel, never at those who believe that all means are justified in the struggle against Israel.
If the Israelis don't succeed in defeating Hamas and Hezbollah, they will have to come up with other forms of resistance. How about sit-down strikes along the Israeli-Lebanese border?
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Human Rights Watch:
Lebanon: Hezbollah Rocket Attacks on Haifa Designed to Kill Civilians
(New York, July 18, 2006) "Hezbollah's attacks in Israel on Sunday and Monday were at best indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas, at worst the deliberate targeting of civilians. Either way, they were serious violations of international humanitarian law and probable war crimes", Human Rights Watch said today.
In addition, the warheads used suggest a desire to maximize harm to civilians. Some of the rockets launched against Haifa over the past two days contained hundreds of metal ball bearings that are of limited use against military targets but cause great harm to civilians and civilian property. The ball bearings lodge in the body and cause serious harm.
Hezbollah has reportedly fired more than 800 rockets into Israel from southern Lebanon over the past five days, killing 12 civilians and wounding many more. The vast majority of these rockets, as in past conflicts, have been Katyushas, which are small, have a range limited to the border area, and cannot be aimed with precision. Hezbollah has also fired some rockets in the current fighting that have landed up to 40 kilometers inside Israel.
"Attacking civilian areas indiscriminately is a serious violation of international humanitarian law and can constitute a war crime", said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. "Hezbollah's use of warheads that have limited military use and cause grievous suffering to the victims only makes the crime worse".
On Monday, Human Rights Watch researchers inspected a three-story apartment building in Haifa's Bat Galim neighborhood after it was struck by a rocket around 3:00 p.m., causing extensive damage to the top two floors and wounding six residents, one of them seriously. They collected metal ball bearings that had pierced the walls of the apartment building across the street and car windshields up to one block away.
An Israeli ordinance removal expert at the scene told Human Rights Watch that the rocket used in the attack had a 240mm warhead. According to media reports, Hezbollah announced that it had fired dozens of Raad 2 and Raad 3 anti-tank missiles into Haifa in response to "aggressions against various Lebanese regions". An Israeli military official told the press on Sunday that Hezbollah had fired at least three Syrian-made Fajr-3 missiles.
On Sunday, a Hezbollah rocket killed eight workers in Haifa's main railway depot. Doctors who treated the wounded told Human Rights Watch that the rockets contained metal ball bearings. The ball bearings have increased the number and seriousness of injuries from rocket fire, the doctors said.
"In my medical opinion, they [these rockets] are supposed to injure as many people as possible", said Dr. Eran Tal-Or, director of the Surgical Emergency Room at Haifa's Ramban Hospital. "If you wanted to bring down a building, you would make a weapon with a heavier blast. And you wouldn't bother with the balls inside that don't do much harm to buildings; just to people".
Human Rights Watch interviewed three railway workers at the hospital wounded by the ball bearings in Sunday's lethal blast.
"There were three loud booms and I started running out of the depot", said Alek Vensbaum, 61, a worker at the Israel Train Authority. "One of the guys, Nissim, who was later killed, yelled at everyone to run to the shelter. The fourth boom got me when I was nearly at the door, and I was hit by shrapnel . . . I was hit by ball bearing-like pieces of metal in my neck, hand, stomach and foot".
Sami Raz, 39, a railway electrician, said a ball bearing pierced his lung and lodged near his heart. "I had terrible difficulty breathing after I was hit", he said.
Twelve people were wounded in the attack, four of them seriously.
Under international humanitarian law, parties to an armed conflict may not use weapons in civilian areas that are so inaccurate that they cannot be directed at military targets without imposing a substantial risk of civilian harm. Such attacks can constitute war crimes. Deliberately attacking civilians is in all circumstances prohibited and a war crime.
Human Rights Watch has called on both Hezbollah and the Israeli military to respect the absolute prohibition against targeting civilians or conducting indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas.
Since fighting began on July 12, Israeli attacks have reportedly killed 209 people in Lebanon, most of them civilians. On Monday, Human Rights Watch called on the Israeli government to provide details about a bombing on July 15 that killed 16 civilians in a convoy near the village of Marwahin.
© Copyright 2003, Human Rights Watch 350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor New York, NY 10118-3299 USA
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Olmert Administration Must Make Choice Between Lives of Human Shields and Israelis
Dr. Aaron Lerner
Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
There are many issues raised or clarified by the war in Lebanon that can
Whether one accepts Prime Minister Olmert's dubious claim that a victory in Lebanon would for some reason serve to insure that the Hamas-Land his
proposed massive retreat from the West Bank would create would not serve as a platform for firing thousands of short-range missiles into central Israel or not, the debate can wait. All agree, after all, that Israel is not retreating from the West Bank in the coming weeks or even months.
But there is one burning issue that urgently requires not only debate but
also a clear and rational determination: the policy towards human shields.
Question: what do you do when a group of "innocent civilians" that has
already been warned to vacate an area in which there are weapons that
constitute a clear and present danger to Israel decline to leave?
Right now the official Israeli answer is: "do nothing".
That's "do nothing" even if that means that the consequence of respecting
enemy "innocent civilian" human shields is that Israeli citizens die.
Let's be clear about this: the Israeli decision to give priority to the
lives of enemy human shields over Israeli lives is not dictated by
international law. International law doesn't require sovereign states to
engage in such bizarre behavior.
What then is behind this Israeli decision?
Better yet, what Israeli authority has made this decision?
The IDF? The Minister of Defense? The Prime Minister? The Security Cabinet? The Cabinet? The Knesset?
The IDF mentions this position in its press releases but it isn't clear if
it is the result of a formal process or simply something that developed with time.
Minister of Defense Amir Peretz has talked about human shields but his
position has been inconsistent over the course of the war, first stating
clearly that human shields would not be allowed to prevent the IDF from
acting to stop the rocket attacks against Israel only to publicly take the
opposite position after Qara.
This policy question is far too vital to leave to the IDF to set.
As a sovereign democratic state, it is up to the democratically elected
civilian Israeli authorities to establish and take responsibility for the
IDF's human shield policy. And the decision of these authorities should not be in the form of an off-the-cuff remark reflecting the investment of next to no serious thought regarding either the true moral issues at stake or the potentially devastating consequences of continuing to honor human shields.
Israel's success not only in reestablishing its deterrence but in adequately protecting its citizens could very well hinge on this issue.
The longer the current half-baked policy remains in place, the greater the
danger to the Jewish State.
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The Reaction of a Bereaved Parent of a Fallen Soldier to Olmert's Plan for Further Surrender of Jewish Communities and the Creation of a PLO state
On Wednesday night, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told AP : "…I genuinely believe that the determination that Israel manifests and the power that we project and the outcome of these operations both in the south and in the north will ultimately lay the foundations for movement in the framework of the realignment [The political program of the Prime Minister which promises further destruction of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and ceding more land to the Palestinian Authority]"
Yisrael Klausner, whose son Ohad was killed during the fighting in Lebanon last week, was hurt by the prime minister's statements.
"I was shocked by the statements of the prime minister, who could not
restrain himself and gave us, the parents, the hardest feeling that
bereaved parents can have: that my son was killed for nothing, that his
sacrifice was unnecessary, that his death and the deaths of his comrades
will advance Olmert's plan to destroy our homes," Klausner said. He was
one of 34 reserve officers from the Binyamin Brigade who signed a letter
of disobedience on the eve of disengagement and was afterwards
discharged from the IDF by order of the chief of staff.
Last night, a representative of the Prime Minister's Bureau arrived
at the family home for a condolence visit. Klausner gave him a letter
and asked him to deliver it to the prime minister.
"Mr. Prime Minister," Klausner wrote, "today I got up from sitting
shiva [the seven days of mourning] for my son Ohad, a soldier of the
Golani Brigade who fell in battle in Lebanon, feeling proud and
"During the entire shiva period, I had the honor of meeting with his
comrades from the unit and with his schoolmates, who turned out to be
wonderful young people, with ideals and willingness to contribute to the
people and the country. The president's visit to my home provided me
with the opportunity to give him a message of hope for the future, a
message about the devotion and strength of the younger generation.
"I was astonished to hear your announcement regarding the
continuation of the 'realignment' plan even as we were in the midst of a
warlike struggle in that has claimed and continues to claim the lives of
soldiers and civilians, a struggle for the existence and future of our
country. In these moments, Ohad's comrades are risking their lives in
Lebanon, ready to make the ultimate sacrifice, as their parents fear for
their fate. Your statements weakens their steadfast spirit.
"The spirit of the courageous fighters, not the spirit of the weak,
is at the forefront of my thoughts and the thoughts of soldiers and
civilians. Mr. Prime Minister, I would not have expected weakness of
spirit from you, but rather demonstrations of determination, leadership,
strength and faith, and that you allow our wonderful and courageous army
to do its work and win the war. I believe that there is a time for the
sword and a time for talk, and this is a time for the sword-to fight for
our existence, our future and the democratic vision upon which our
country was founded.
"Encourage your sons and do not weaken them, and we will pray for
their safe return.
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