Sunday, August 07, 2016

September 13, 2001, Haaretz, Op-Ed, Meek and Stammering, by Meron Benvenisti,

September 13, 2001, Haaretz, Op-Ed, Meek and Stammering, by Meron Benvenisti,

The apocalyptic scenes and depth of the tragedy turn every effort to express something about them - no matter how sincere and noble - into an embarrassing stammer. Nevertheless, people who use the pen, keyboard or microphone can't remain silent: They feel a duty to explain to themselves and to others how, why, and what to do.

It seems that the ultimate test of all our words is what Barbara Olson, who died in the crash into the Pentagon, would say if she could hear us. After all, her last words were: "What should I tell the pilot to do?" - leaving us speechless and filled with humility. Do we have an answer for her? And if we don't, maybe we should simply make do with reciting psalms in her memory and in the memory of the thousands who died. "Out of the depths have I cried unto the, O God. Lord, hear my voice: Let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications." (Psalm CXXX)

But the dead are doomed to have the living turn their deaths into forms that suit the needs of the latter, and use their spilled blood to advance their own objectives; after all, the dead have no voice.

The attempt to give meaning to an apocalypse requires finding historical parallels, and the one that is being heard over and over is Pearl Harbor. But the comparison belittles the meaning of the tragedy of September 11. In 1941, the Japanese destroyed the U.S. fleet in the Pacific Ocean, but it was thousands of miles from the American continent, which was left free of mass violence the way it had been for more than 150 years.

There can be no likening between the events of the World Wars - or the Vietnam War - and the terrible blow at America's heart. The descendants of immigrants from the Old World believed they had escaped the fate of their ancestors, that they had left behind the ethnic and religious violence of the Old World and had built themselves a pluralist and open society in which there are no identity numbers and a sense of aversion to signs of a police state prevails. Now, suddenly, they find that globalization has also brought just what they had run from to their complacent home.

Now they face a terrible dilemma: The calls for tightening security and behaving like a country under siege will ruin the American dream, and, in effect, terror will win. If the U.S. president listens to those voices from the Old World that are trying to enlist him into the defense of "the free world" - and, in effect, drag him into a "clash of civilizations" - he'll sink into a vicious circle of bloody revenge and counter-revenge. But if he licks his wounds, buries his dead and decides that the American dream can survive even a horrible tragedy like September 11, the terrorists could interpret this as a weakness; the free world would be disappointed with an apparent American incompetence; and his own people won't be able to give vent their feelings of revenge.

This is an Israeli dilemma, which the Americans hoped they would always be able to observe from the sidelines. Indeed, Israelis - more than any other nation - feel profound solidarity with Americans and not only because of the intimate relations between the two nations. The terror that strikes at us, the suicidal terrorists, their religious affiliations, the myth of a "defensive democracy," and especially the hope that now they will understand Israel's own steps to eliminate terrorism have made the attack in the heart of New York feel like it took place in Tel Aviv.

Drawn into the tragedy, Israel declares a day of mourning and enlists blood donors. But it also has its own agenda: A team from the Spokesman's Office of the Israel Defense Forces was sent to film the scenes of joy and candy being handed out in East Jerusalem "for public relations purposes." The politicians compete with each other to present the tragedy as proof of their own long-standing political attitudes toward the Palestinians and use their best rhetorical skills to call for an international coalition to save Western civilization.

They ignore, however, the fact that not every Israeli action in the territories is deemed proper by the standards of Western civilization; not every act of violence perpetrated by the Palestinians is perceived by "the enlightened world" as an act of terror in keeping with the events that took place in New York and Washington; and putting Israel at the front of the coalition against terrorism will not necessarily be welcomed by the free world, just like in the days of the Gulf War. Hopefully, the tragedy won't be used as a means to remove the last of the restraining blocks left in "the war against Palestinian terror," with the old excuse that "they danced on the rooftops."

There's no doubt that the world after September 11 will be different to the world before this date, but what kind of world it will be remains an unknown. What is clear is that if it is shaped only by feelings of vengeance, and not in accordance with the need to deal with the rotting soil in which the hate, envy and frustration of the terrorists grew, it won't be a better world.

But what do we know? We're standing here, mouths agape, full of humility and stammering.

Meron Benvenisti is the ex-deputy mayor of Jerusalem

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Efraim Halevy, Mossad chief 1998-2002, Interviewed by Peter Klein of The Standard [Canada] Part 1,

Efraim Halevy interviewed by Peter Klein on The Standard - Part 1, by Peter Klein, 7:51


Klein: Ever since its founding in 1948, Israel has had to deal with multiple enemies bent on its destruction. Mossad, Israel's Intelligence Agency, has primarily been responsible for keeping the country one step ahead of those enemies. Efraim Halevy was the Mossad's director from 1998 through 2002. An advisor to five Israeli prime ministers, he also played a pivotal role in the peace deal his nation brokered with Jordan in 1994. Here is Part One of the candid interview Mister Halevy recently granted us.

Klein: Mr. Halevy, thank you very much for joining us. Um, you spent forty years at the Mossad. Um, during that time, the agency really develop this mystique, this idea that, you know, you could break my neck with two fingers. Is that a mystique, is that a reputation that, that the agency cultivated, that you cultivated?

Halevy: Not at all. We didn't cultivate the mystique, the mystique was born as a result, I think, of several ah, very, very spectacular things that Mossad had done in that period of time. A couple years after I entered the Mossad, ah, we had the ah, Eichmann, ah, event, which was ah, very, very ah, traumatic event for many---it was also very dramatic event for others, and this created the aura of ah, the Mossad as an international organization, which had its tentacles spreading around the world, and that we could do almost anything and everything, everywhere, which is a slight exaggeration, of course. But there is a merit to this exaggeration, because it also creates an element of, ah, ah...should we say, "fear" amongst our adversaries, our enemies. And it is also useful, from time to time, to come up with something very spectacular which has been done, which proves, ah, people who ah, cross our path, the path of Israel, in an aggressive manner, have much to fear and have much to think about before they take action.

Klein: That reputation can also backfire, can't it? I mean, after, after 9/11, for instance, there was this...there were conspiracies all over---certainly within the Arab world, but even beyond that---that ah, Mossad was the only one who had the power and the strength, and the organizational skills to pull off something that spectacular---somehow Israel was behind that, for political gain. Do you feel like that's the dark side of the reputation of Mossad?

Halevy: Like everything in life, there is a downside to the mystique as well, On 9/11 I was head of the Mossad, and within hours of the event became public, there were rumors flying around the Middle East that this was a Mossad operation, because, after all, one of the immediate results of the 9/11, ah, was clearly a very, very severe backlash of international approbation of Islam in general. Islam had a very bad day; the Saudis had a very bad day; Muslim countries had a very bad day, including moderate countries; so who benefits from it? And, as you know, even in crime, the immediate question is asked: who benefits? Who benefits from something? Obviously, Israel benefited, the Jewish people benefited, so it was the Mossad, this, of course, was a very vicious...ah, ah, libel, it was, ah, a clear lie...

Klein: So, for the record, obviously, were...?

Halevy: Certainly not! Certainly not! And people began going into it, and there were stories that on that day the word went round to the Jews in New York not to go to work in those buildings, which was, of course, a lie, because many Jews, unfortunately---like many others---lost their lives, But yes, in situations like this, ah, obviously, ah, it is easy to pin things on the Mossad.

Klein: The United States certainly changed after 9/11, in terms of the Patriot Act, a number of different things that changed within the laws, allowing more freedom for the government to ferret out potential terrorists, Um, at the time, I....I....Mike Wallace and I covered a number of these stories after 9/11, and people in Washington often referred to Israel as the model. That Israel will do, for instance, targeted assassinations, in some cases. Um, there was a point at which the Israeli supreme court, I believe, even made stress positions, sleep deprivation---things that some people consider torture, legal, right? Um, and people in Washington were saying, "why can't we do what Israel is doing---they've been effective at ferreting out terrorists with looser restrictions." In your opinion, is that, ah, is that a good move, that the United States has made---moving towards that...allowing those, those things to take place---like, for instance, the types of interrogations that have taken place in Guantanamo and elsewhere?

Halevy: Have you tried to shoot a gun with one of your hands tied behind your back? That is the issue, that is the problem here, and I believe we are now in a state that, most probably, as a result of events which have taken place, which you mentioned, and events which are now taking place, and which might take place in the months to come, that there will have to be a revisit of some of the basic rules of law, rules of war. When you have a situation in which so many non-state actors---this new expression: "a non-state actor on the international scene," are involved in conflict, not in small little terrorist-group conflicts, but as players. They're players on the international scene---like Hezbollah, like Hamas, like, for instance, a totally different example, the Kurds in the northern Iraq, were non-state actors, you have non-state actors in Afghanistan. Taliban is a non-state actor; they are an actor on the international scene.You can't have a situation in which you fight a war with a set of rules which apply to one side, and set of rules--no rules whatsoever, applied to the other side.

Klein: So you're saying things like the Geneva Convention, the rules, the Red Cross rules for the treatment of prisoners, are antiquated because they... they're based on a different model for war?

Halevy: I'm saying that they're based on a different model of war, because the wars of the 21st century are not wars between nations. We talk about "international law"---inter-national, inter-between-nations. The wars of today are not between nations. Between---when there is a war between Israel and the Hamas, the Hamas is not a nation. When the Hezbollah attacks Israel and showers 4,000 rockets on Israel, as it did three years ago, it was between us and Hezbollah---it was not Lebanon. Lebanon was, formally---pro forma---the state which we were fighting against, but it was not the government of Lebanon which was fighting us. You can't simply say let's take the rules which applied to World War One or World War Two, when Germany attacked, and Russia attacked, or Britton attacked, or the United States attacked. These were nations; these were countries. Now the warring sides are not equal; not equal in status; not equal in their, ah, ah, moral basis of how they approach life; how they approach the rules of war; how they approach the future; how they approach relations. You have a, a, a, lopsided situation here, and this could not last for a very long period of time.

Halevy: In my view it was a mistake to describe Iran as an existential threat to Israel....