Friday, July 31, 2009

The Foreign Ministry Releases Its Version of the Gaza Op

The Israel foreign ministry has released a hundred and fifty page defense of the IDF's "Operation Cast Lead".

You can read about it here.

But I can tell you basically what it says in a few lines about any accusation, 'X'.

1. We didn't do X.

2. If we did X, it was legal.

3. If we did X, and it wasn't legal, then we are investigating those cases.

4. In any event, we will try not to do X again, if we can.

Just take your favorite war crimes – use of human shields, white phosphorus – and substitute it for 'X'.

I am not exactly sure of Israel's strategy, if it has one. It has now made its definitive case before the Goldstone Commission publishes its report, thus giving Goldstone ample time to examine the Israeli report. If Goldstone makes extensive mention of the report, then Israel will not be able to say that Goldstone ignored its side of the story. Of course, there will be those who say that this is not enough (a replay of the ICC verdict on the so-called security fence, where Israel only made its case in writing, which gave American Judge Thomas Burgenthal enough of a rope to partially exonerate Israel.)

This story "broke" yesterday. Since then I haven't seen it in any of the world media outlets. Ynet and Haaretz and Jerusalem Post. C'est tout.

Compare that with the sensational and instantaneous effect of the Breaking the Silence testimonies two week ago.

Ah, but as we Israelis like to say, the world is against us. Interesting that Israel can lose the hasbara war outside Israel to a small organization of IDF veterans.

That must drive the Israeli government nuts.


Anonymous said...

For me, the most striking fact is that Israel is consistent with not cooperating with any international committee / fact-checking-envoy / judicial body etc. on the one hand, and then uses that noncooperation as a "proof" that all the critique and allegations against it are "one-sided". It's amazing - first Israel doesn't let Goldstone enter Israel and talk to Israeli officials, and then Israel accuses Goldstone of hearing just one side.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen the NYT paying much attention (if any) to the Breaking the Silence group. On the other hand, it would not surprise me if they write a sympathetic article about this Israeli report.

And my guess (but you'd know better than me) is that the Israeli government cares more about what appears in the American press than what appears in most of the rest of the world.


Debbie said...

Have you ever served in the IDF? I think you need to take a long, hard look at the Koran and Hadiths.

Anonymous said...

Debbie the Palestinians would use their religion in their defensive struggle even if they would be Hindus or Buddhists. All tribes/nations rally behind their religion when their land is occupied and their rights violated. It is not a question of Islam. By the way Debbie part of Palestinians are Christians, why do you not recommend to take hard look at the Bible.

Pretending that there is no religion on the Israeli Jewish and Zionist side and only the Palestinians' religion is problematic is not very "intellectual". The whole Jewish tribe and the state of Israel are based on religion and "they" use religion at least as much as the opposite side.

Debbie said...

My two questions remain unanswered. Anonymous, are you the blog owner?

Debbie said...

Also, Anonymous (very brave of you to use btw), apparently you have not read the Koran or Hadiths. It's very obvious from your post. I would suggest you read them. Here's a Hadith...

SAHIH MUSLIM Book 041, Number 6985: Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews.

Jerry Haber said...


Anonymous is not the blog owner. But let me give you a little musar. Or rather, tokhekha. It's a mitzvah, you know.

1. Yes, I have studied the Qur'an. And I have read it in Arabic. And I am familiar with hadith, including the one you cite. But I hope you won't think it presumptious of me to suggest that you have never read the Qur'an, much less studied it or its message, have you?

No, you are content to be fed, by anti-Muslims, those passages from the Qur'an and the Hadith literature, which will make the Muslims look lousy.

May I ask -- are you familiar with Prof. Israel Shahak's work? Shahak collected all the nasty, illiberal things from the Jewish tradition and published it in a book.

Here is what one rightwing Jewish critic wrote about the book

"'the texts that Shahak cites are real (though Shahak's sporadic use of footnotes makes it difficult to check all of them). Oftentimes, the interpretation of these texts is debatable and their prominence in Judaism negligible, but nonetheless, they are part of Jewish tradition and, therefore, cannot be ignored.'

So that is exactly what I say about the hadith you cited (and others like it.) It is part of the Muslim tradition and therefore cannot be ignored. But its prominence in Islam over the centuries is negligible, and if it has made a resurgence in certain quarters, today, well, that is because of obvious reasons.

Debbie, if you are serious in studying religion, or for that matter, anything, you should always try to understand that a centuries old tradition has almost numerous elements, some very beautiful, some very ugly. The scholar doesn't care so much about their beauty or ugliness, but simply how to understand them, and in particular, what historical contexts give rise to some over others.

It is important for us, as Jews, to know that major elements of our traditon say that goyim are not human, that Jews are metaphysically superior to them, that a Jewish doctor should not desecrate the Sabbath to save the life of a gentile (if he can get away with it without anybody knowing), etc., etc.)

You realize, of course, that Jewish civilization owes an enormous debt to Islamic civilization, without which there would never have been an Ibn Ezra, a Judah Halevy, or a Moses Maimonides (not to mention all the more recent gedolim that Avram would mention.)

You can spend your life dissing somebody else's tradition. Maybe the best thing for you to do is to get friendly with some Muslims, and then ask them what they make about that hadith -- not because you want to shame them, but because, since you are friendly with them, you want to understand them.

Because you see, although I know the halakhot on Shabbat, I know a lot of orthodox Jews twho would save a gentile's life even if it meant desecrating the Sabbath. Maybe they would do it with a shinuy, but they would do it. Either you are a mentsh (used non-sexistly!) or not.


PS. Yes I did serve in the IDF. But only as a shlav betnik, since I made aliyah with 4 children, all of whom have served in the IDF, two of whom became officers, one in Golani.

Jerry Haber said...


The BtS was pretty much ignored by the Times and the Washington Post. It was picked up by AP and ran in a lot of US newspapers. Why didn't Ethan Bronner write something about it? I don't know.

My hunch is that now that the story is basically over, Bronner may refer to it when one of the other reports come out. The point is that Gaza isn't news, whereas settlements and Jerusalem are.

Tree said...

If I may, I'd like to respond to Debbie with two points.

Number one, I fail to see any relationship between the Qur'an and the Hadiths and the actions taken by the IDF in Gaza. The vast majority of IDF soldiers are either secular or religious Jews and so their actions are certainly not the result of Muslim texts. Your post seems to be a simplistic and disingenuous demand to "look over THERE", instead of dealing with the issue at hand, which is the IDF's actions in Gaza, which are solely the responsibility of the IDF and no one else.

Second, its quite obvious that you have neither read nor understand either the Qur'an or the Hadiths. The hadiths are oral traditions handed down through the centuries of the quoted sayings of the prophet Mohammed, whereas the Qur'an is believed by Muslims to be the word of God.

Book 41, which includes the hadith you quote, is titled
"KITAB AL-FITAN WA ASHRAT AS-SA'AH", or, in English, "Book pertaining to the Turmoil and Portents of the Last Hour" and contains the prophecies of Mohammed concerning what in Christianity are called the End Times and Judgment Day. This explains the meaning in your quoted hadith of the words "The last hour would not come unless ....", which you seem to have ignored in your attempt to impute a more sinister meaning, as if the hadith was an instruction rather than a prophecy of the "Last Hour".

Here are some other hadiths in book 41:

6935 Abu Huraira reported that Allah's Messenger may peace be upon him) said: THE LAST HOUR WILL NOT COME UNTIL fire emits from the earth of Hijaz which would illuminate the necks of the camels of the Busra.

Book 041, Number 6948:

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: By Him, in Whose hand is my life, the world WOULD NOT COME TO AN END UNTIL a person would pass by a grave, would roll over it and express the desire that he should be in the place of the occupant of that grave not because of religious reasons but because of this calamity.

Book 041, Number 6949:

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: By Him in Whose Hand is my life, a time would come when the murderer would not know why he has committed the murder, and the victim would not know why he has been killed.

Book 041, Number 6956:

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: THE LAST HOUR WILL NOT COME UNLESS you fight with people whose faces are like hammered shields and the LAST HOUR WOULD NOT COME UNTIL you would fight against those wearing the shoes of hair.

Book 041, Number 6988:

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: THE LAST HOUR WOULD NOT COME UNTIL there would arise about thirty impostors, liars, and each one of them would claim that he is a messenger of Allah.

The hadith you quoted is clearly not a commandment, but is instead a prophecy of a time of great turmoil and catastrophe prior to Judgment Day, just as the other hadith's in that book are prophecies.

ben azzai said...

Not to be nitpicky, but isn't "mentsh" already non-sexist? I.e. isn't "mentsh" yiddish for "human being," whereas the yiddish for "man" (in the specifically masculine sense) is "mann"?

Toby said...

Your response seems to treat Debbie as a Jew, but I'd be very surprised if that were true. If she's religious, I'm guessing it's some form of conservative American Christianity, say around the vicinity of John Hagee.

Notwithstanding, that was one of the best responses to anti-Muslim quote-mining I've come across.

Jerry Haber said...

Two "linguistic" comments

"Mentsh" is the same as "Man" in English. It covers humans because of the subsumption of women under man, as in "mankind". That is because of patriarchy. Yes, a woman can be a "mentsh," but you know what I am driving at.

"Debbie" can be the name of any female, and I happen to know Jewish and non-Jewish Debbie. So Toby, your point is an excellent one; I lapsed into tribe talk because I made an assumption. But I did that also to speak not to Debbie, but to some of my other readers, many of whom are observant and Jewish.

fiddler said...

Jerry, you certainly know way more Yiddish than I do, but the German "Mensch", from which "mentsch" is certainly derived, does not have the double meaning of the English "man". "Mensch" means simply "human being", and is gender-neutral. The adjective "menschlich" means both "human" and "humane", and I understand the latter meaning is the root of to "tsu sayn a mentsch".
Am I missing something?

Jerry Haber said...

fiddler, you know German better than I do, but I respectfully disagree that 'mensch' is gender neutral. Perhaps it is today, and that is why you will see contemporary dictionaries translate it human. And, of course, German and Yiddish distinguish between 'mann' and 'mensch' where English does not. I concede that point.

But my point was different, and to illustrate it, let me use the Hebrew phrase, "benei Yisrael." It is commonly translated "children of Israel". But it is more correctly translated, "sons of Israel", not because the term excludes women, but because women were not counted -- unless they were singled out as a class.

Here's another example. In the phrase "man-to-man talk", does 'man' mean "human"? If my daughter had a "man-to-man" talk with her mother, would that not carry the nuance of gender? And yet,mensch is used in this phrase in German.

I grant you that nowadays, with our sensitivity to gender, the dictionaries translate human rather than man. But look at some old German dictionaries.

The difference between "mann" and "mensch" is the difference between an individual masculine person and the class man. You call that "humanity," a term with man in the root. Others call it 'mankind'. You say that it is gender neutral. I say that it is subsumes woman under the the man. There is a difference, no?

By the way, in Hebrew the distinction is between gever and ben adam.

fiddler said...

Jerry, if a dictionary translates a gender-neutral word to a gender-specific word, that would point to gender bias on the side of the target language (or the translator), wouldn't it?

Anyway, I'm not arguing that German-speaking societies were/are any less patriarchalic than English-speaking ones. That would be silly, and besides, the German language with its gendered nouns is a prime example for gender bias. My argument is rather that you can't judge the full range of meaning (and its limits) of a word in one language by the range of meaning of it's "equivalent" in another language. The ranges will obviously overlap, but will often not be 100% identical.

According to wiktionary "Mensch" as a masculine noun evolved from the Old High German adjective "mannisco" (both "human" and "manly"), which puts its origin around the 11th century at latest. When did the word turn up in the Yiddish language?
Curiously, "Mensch" exists also as a neuter noun in some southern dialects, where it used to mean "young woman" or "servant", "maid", but is now used in a derogatory sense (prostitute).

You are right in that "Mann" and "Mensch" have a common root, and also that women usually didn't count, but that's not the case any more, and the etymological connection is all but lost on the modern German - as opposed to English - speaker. Is that the same in Yiddish, or are modern Yiddish speakers still acutely aware of (even though not endorsing) the connection?