No Wimps in SoJo

Haim Watzman

I would really like to punch Ismail Hanieh, the Hamas prime minister of the Gaza Strip, in the face. I would derive great pleasure from seeing every Hamas facility in Gaza reduced to rubble and every fanatical Islamic Jew-hater there blown to smithereens.

I just want to put that on the record for the readers of this left-wing accommodationist blog. Because, as always, some readers who disagree with me seem to think I’m a wimp. That rankles. I mean, I have nothing against wimps. Wimps can be fine people to know, especially if they are standing in front of you in a long line at the bank or have just picked the juiciest, finest-looking apple out of the pile at the supermarket. They’re so deferential, so anxious to please.

But that’s not me. In my guts, I’m as eager to bomb Gaza into the stone age as your average kindergarten bully is to push little Yoram off the sliding board. No cease fires for Yoram. Not even for a minute.

Alas, Gaza is not a kindergarten playground and I’ve learned a few things about self-control and clear thinking in my nearly five post-preschool decades. I realize that punching Hanieh in the face might be hugely satisfying in the short run, but will not help me and my country achieve our long-term goals and protect our vital interests.

I value the critiques offered here on SoJo by thoughtful right-wingers. We disagree on our assessment of the facts, our analysis of the geopolitical factors in play in this war, about the efficacy of military force, and about what goals it can reasonably be expected to achieve. Those are all legitimate disagreements. But I really dislike the implication by others that the reason that I favor a cease fire and talks with Hamas is because I’m a coward, or a traitor, or a lily-livered bleeding heart who thinks that if we make nice to our enemies they will make nice in return.

I’ve done my time in the IDF and have a son in an elite unit. With my encouragement, my older daughter has for the last year and a half studied and lived in Sderot. In other words, I and my family do not shrink from responsibility. We have direct experience of the realities of the conflict.

Its precisely that experience and commitment that makes me skeptical of what military force can accomplish and aware of how killing hundreds of Palestinians and destroying their homes can exacerbate the conflict in the long term.

That’s why I don’t let my primal urges determine my politics. “Mi-hu gibor? Ha-kovesh et yitzro,” said the Sages. Or in free translation: “Who’s not a wimp? The guy who puts his guts in their place.”

26 thoughts on “No Wimps in SoJo”

  1. “I realize that punching Hanieh in the face might be hugely satisfying in the short run, but will not help me and my country achieve our long-term goals and protect our vital interests.”

    Because you didn’t ask a friend to capture the punch on his cellphone and upload it to youtube. That, my friend, is satisfaction for all Am Israel.


  2. Hi Chaim, it was nice to meet you today. I’m curious to know why you think a cease fire is to Israel’s advantage at this point in the operation (I poked through some of your earlier posts and didn’t see anything directly addressing the issue, though I guess I could have missed it). Care to comment? I’ve left a link to my personal blog, where I’m outlining the argument against a temporary cease fire, as I see it. Just wondering what the in-favor argument looks like. Max

  3. Haim, et al.

    Before I had a clear idea of what kashrut meant, I dragged Haim to my wife’s Thai restaurant so my kids and wife could meet him. There I personally witnessed Haim resist the arresting aroma from my wife’s siren kitchen. Trust him when he says he has self-control and clear-headedness for on that day he outdid Odysseus.

    Best wishes and Happy New Year to all,


  4. Why won’t the Palestinians accept that they have been conquered? Well nobody get conquered anymore, that model has disappeared. Back in the day the Romans could kill all the Carthaginians and be done with them. The Israelite s killed most in Jabesh-gilead. Oh, those were the days.

    While Hitler wanted to take over Russia and kill off all the Slavs that’s about the only modern model for modern conquering left and it didn’t get too far.

    If the Palestinian can’t accept their conquered status it’s just as true Israelis are not too keen on accepting that they are conquerors and all that such implies. Half conquering doesn’t work so decisions have to be made. To make those decisions such niceties as law and contemporary morality and ethics have to be discarded.

  5. An eye for an eye has (already and ever) made us all blind. I am an outsider; I cannot know what it means to live under constant threat, on either side. I do suspect, however, that the social economic deprivation of the Warsaw Ghettto was not unlike Gaza in many ways. I do not mean deportations to death, but those who lived there. Is this not part of Memory as well–that life? If we invoke Memory, must we not invoke all of it? To never forget is a burden, beyond anyone’s control.

  6. Dear Mr. Watzman:

    Baruch Hashem [please, forgive my misspellings]!
    I’ll make this short and sweet.
    I’m nominating you for the “Neville Chamberlain” —Peace in our time— award. Lord only knows how many tens of millions will have to die for your “straw-filled head” of ideas?
    The best diplomat I know is a “fully activated phaser bank”. [Scotty, on the T.V. series Star Trek]

  7. That punch in the face, as you all but said, never works. And the punch represents humiliation, dictation and all the other things that show contempt for an entire people rather than appreciation that the acts of some do not represent the acts of all. In fact, “punching” pulls more of those observing it to extremism.

    Hamas was elected to head the Palestinian government by the Palestinians.

    What is desired is that the Palestinians of their own volition make a change for the better. Sending in the F16’s is not going to have a positive effect on those observing the destruction.

    Since the ’67 war, Israel has had access to just about every advanced weapon system the United States can produce along with close collaboration on anti-terror techniques and billions of dollars a year in support. So, for 41 years of this imbalance what is there to show for it? What success has there been that motivates those who make the decisions on military action? It seems to me more like a knee-jerk response that is predictable and automatic.

    Conor Cruise O’Brien wrote about Israel years ago in a book, The Siege, but I think the situation should more properly be called The Sentence – two adversaries chained to each other for all time.

  8. If anyone implies you are a wimp, tell them I said to read Company C. THAT should shut them up. One of the reasons I have tremendous respect for you, besides your writing, is because I’ve read your book and know what you’ve been through. Where we may disagree as to cause, effect and conclusion vis-avis the Matzav, I nonetheless respect your opinion.

  9. Good stuff that may shed a little light on how we got here.

    “According to Dahlan, it was Bush who had pushed legislative elections in the Palestinian territories in January 2006, despite warnings that Fatah was not ready. After Hamas—whose 1988 charter committed it to the goal of driving Israel into the sea—won control of the parliament, Bush made another, deadlier miscalculation.

    Vanity Fair has obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources in the U.S. and Palestine, which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war. The plan was for forces led by Dahlan, and armed with new weapons supplied at America’s behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically elected Hamas-led government from power. (The State Department declined to comment.)

    But the secret plan backfired, resulting in a further setback for American foreign policy under Bush. Instead of driving its enemies out of power, the U.S.-backed Fatah fighters inadvertently provoked Hamas to seize total control of Gaza.

    Some sources call the scheme “Iran-contra 2.0,” recalling that Abrams was convicted (and later pardoned) for withholding information from Congress during the original Iran-contra scandal under President Reagan. There are echoes of other past misadventures as well: the C.I.A.’s 1953 ouster of an elected prime minister in Iran, which set the stage for the 1979 Islamic revolution there; the aborted 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, which gave Fidel Castro an excuse to solidify his hold on Cuba; and the contemporary tragedy in Iraq.

    Within the Bush administration, the Palestinian policy set off a furious debate. One of its critics is David Wurmser, the avowed neoconservative, who resigned as Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief Middle East adviser in July 2007, a month after the Gaza coup.

    Wurmser accuses the Bush administration of “engaging in a dirty war in an effort to provide a corrupt dictatorship [led by Abbas] with victory.” He believes that Hamas had no intention of taking Gaza until Fatah forced its hand. “It looks to me that what happened wasn’t so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen,” Wurmser says.

  10. Mr Haniyeh is a man of peace, and is on the short list for the Nobel Peace Prize. The time is approaching when the world realizes that the zionists stole Palestine, and must give it back. One day, Mr Haniyeh will stroll into your luxurious mansions in Baqa and pick one for his ownership. You will worship in tawdry temples in Las Vegas and perhasp write a blog called “South Vegas”

  11. Haim, You make it sound like your only disagreements with right-wingers are practical ones about what tactics are effective and what goals are achieveable. I hope this is not really the case. That is, I hope you have some moral disagreements with them as well: not about the moral status of Ismail Hanieh, but certainly about the occupation.

  12. “Hamas was elected to head the Palestinian government by the Palestinians.”

    There is a major disconnect here. Hamas does not now, nor has it ever shown any intention of creating a democratic government. It puts this “election” of Hamas in a different light. When is the next election scheduled to take place? Most democratic governments have regularly scheduled elections, no? So if the population is dissatisfied with its current government, it can have (another) election and vote them out. Democracy demands those options. And, most important, where is the opposition party that will run against Hamas in the “next” election? Without these options, the “election” of Hamas in 1996 loses meaning.

  13. chn,

    You seem to be a little ignorant. The next parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2010. The term of Mahmoud Abbas as “president” is supposed to expire in January of 2009, but it is he who has indicated he will simply stay in power beyond that date, while it is Hamas who has been demanding that an election be held when his term expires.

  14. Did you ever think that maybe those punches to the face – repeated for the umpteenth time since 1948 – are what have put everyone into this mess?

    Israel humiliates, degrades, disenfranchises, murders, deports and steals from a people for 60 years, and still, you are surprised that a group like Hamas can come to power? The people of Gaza are disheartened and desperate.

    Stop ignoring the real reason for all this bloodshed and carnage. I won’t use the “A word” – but you should know what I’m thinking.

    There is a bigger sense of responsibility here, one far more important than serving in the IDF or sending your child to Sderot.

  15. What I find amusing is that when Israel starts defending herself – as is her right as a nation, the Palestinian apologists come out from their coffee-houses for a few moments to us all about “a bigger sense of responsibility.”

    Why now? Where was that moral outrage for the previous six months when Hamas was doing its part (you know . . . that responsibility thing) to partake in the ongoing vivisection of Israel while she quietly sat by and in a repetitive mantra pleaded, “please don’t do that.”

    For Palestinian apologists there is no moral outrage when Israelis fall victim to the business end of a rocket. Behind vizars of compassion, apologists hide their seething hatred of Judaism. When Israelis start defending themselves, these apologists endure a sudden mass paroxysm of anti-semitism and in an edema of words, they attempt to make everything appear complicated.

    It is not complicated. The residents of Sderot have 15 seconds to find shelter before a rocket designed to kill civilians comes crashing down. That is an unacceptable reality for any Jewish-civilized citizen attempting to conduct his life in a peace. If Hamas were to have ceased firing rockets into Israel, Israel would not have been forced to defend herself.

    Finally these Palestinian apologists remind me of a pithy Arab saying(translated): “you punch me in the face and then you start crying.” How fitting for this discussion.

  16. Civilian casualties on either side of this shameful affair are downright disgusting. There’s no question about that. But Israel is merely “defending herself” – really? ..I somehow have a hard time believing that the lopsided numbers or downright obnoxious/overzealous Israeli attacks can truly constitute “defense,” as you so eagerly call it.

    Bottom line: Israel has been illegally occupying Palestinian land for 40 years, not to mention building settlements where it shouldn’t. Palestinians are fed up, desperate and are sick and tired of being treated like second-class citizens (once again, not that this excuses attacks on Israeli civilians). And instead of dealing with the real problem – Israel’s violation of international law – they continue to bombard Palestinians, only deepening the seeds of hate and revenge within this occupied population.

    Is that still “make everything appear complicated”?

    And by the way, I’m Jewish. Not that that’s going to stop you from calling me, or anyone that dares criticize almighty Israel, an anti-Semite, Jew hater.

  17. Ms. Kestler:

    “Lop-sided attacks”? You might understand the difference between murder and manslaughter and how intent plays a significant role in determining which is which. War by definition is grossly obscene . . . no one who is civilized disagrees with you.

    I am all for proportiate use of force used discriminately against all Hamas military and political targets. The civilian kill ratio is telling: Israel forces 25% and Hamas forces 80%. The difference to my sense of ethics is intent. I can only conclude that Hamas is intentionally murdering civilians (rhetorical question: is this a valid military target when your goal is genocide?) and the IDF is accidentally and regretablly killing civilians. There is a difference and you know it.

    By the way, Israel evacuated its Gaza settlements years ago and not every Israelphile is a big fan of West Bank settlements. Gaza is “occupied” by Hamas. The West Bank is dotted with settlements legal and illegal as described by the authors of this blog; but there is no rocket fire from the West Bank now is there?

    That you are Jewish misses the point; it’s like an Arab saying, “how can I be anti-semitic? I am a semite!” You may be Jewish but your unbalanced comments help undermine the future of Jewish people. Criticism is fair and encouraged; failing to distinguish between murder and manslaughter (“lopsided numbers”) is unhelpful to either side.

    Your and your friend’s “bigger sense of responsibility” at crying foul everytime Israel defends herself only encourages Hamas, again with your collective input, to keep up the rocket attacks. Hamas has decided that destroying Israel is a more important goal than recognizing Israel and living a productive and peaceful existence as Palestine.

  18. Israel “has decided that destroying” Palestine “is a more important goal” than recognising Palestinians “and living a productive and peaceful existence as Palestine”.

    “No wimps in Gaza.”

    Dispossession. Good. House demolitions. Good. Torture. Good. Extrajudicial killing. Good. Destruction of culture. Good. Massive deaths and injuries. Good. Refugees displaced for a second and third and fourth time. Good. Second-class-third-class-nth-class citizenship. Good.

    Pissed off Palestinians. Punch them in the face. Bomb them when they get angry. No wimps here in Israel.

  19. Joshua:

    If the alternate to the above is even one Hamas-murdered Israeli, we agree except for the torture part.

    Every country in the world is expected to defend its citizens; Israel is no different. If you think rocket fire is some sort of angry symbolic protest, I invite you and your family to spend your next vacation in any city within the 15-second zone in southern Israel and afterwards I ask you come back to this website and tell us all about who is attempting to destroy whom.

  20. Lloyd, once again you are missing the point. We all agree that attacks on civilians from EITHER SIDE are disgusting, reprehensible and should be punished.

    But the only side I see being punished here is the Palestinian one. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization, and that’s how it should be as they are explicitly targeting civilians.

    BUT, what about Israel? An Israeli bomb just hit a UN school where Palestinians in Gaza were taking refuge; it killed 40 people inside, and injured another 45. Are you going to tell me that all those people were Hamas members? Rockets were being fired nearby? Hamas was hiding in th ebasement? Oups, my finger slipped on the trigger? Give me a break.

    Hamas is willing to negotiate another ceasefire, but Israel is stopping that from happening. They have an excuse to murder and maim an entire population, and it’s quite obvious that the Israeli government doesn’t care about Palestinian life.

    They also seem to think they have a free pass to commit war crimes (which IS what is going on right now, in case you were a little confused). It’s a massacre, plain and simple.

    Now.. *drum roll please* here come the excuses…

  21. Ms. Kessler:

    I *DO NOT* agree with your idea that Israel is attacking civilians. Your post contains a major example of petitio principii (second sentence) which suggests that the IDF is deliberately targeting civilians.

    As it so happens, the Jerusalem Post reports that Hamas attacked IDF positions from within a school and the IDF responded appropriately by targeting the position. “Defense officials” report that secondary explosions killed the civilians. Does the fact that Hamas is complicit in the deaths of Palestinians mean that the blood of the dead are any less red? Perhaps you could devote some of your boundless energy to hounding Hamas vis-a-vis pro-Hamas websites to cease using schools to launch rockets from.

    But let’s say for the sake of your argument that this was a war crime i.e. the deliberate targeting of civilians either by military order or voluntary action by an IDF soldier. This by itself does not negate the fundemental justice of Israel’s current action to defend its citizens. To think otherwise is to engage in a sweeping judgment of the entire IDF whose ethics and methodology in the conduct of war are considered among the best in the world.

    If it turns out through investigation that an IDF soldier fired upon known civilians with the intent of murder – regardless of the results, I will be among the first to support prosecution of that soldier and his chain of command (it it so warrants). This type of behavior, possibly fueled by emotion, undermines the ethos of the entire unit.

    What I think I am gleaning from your post is that the IDF might be using the subterfuge of attacking Hamas to murder civilians. That is an interesting if not horrifying accusation but it lacks the evidence of intent. Israel is not supposed to care about Palestinian lives; it is supposed to care about the safety of its soldiers and its citizens and if unfortunate enough to have to engage in battle, it is supposed to follow the international rules for the conduct of war. Hamas maintains the onus of responsibility to care for the safety of Gazans – not Israel.

  22. Lloyd, according to Richard Silverstein, Akiva Eldar reports in Haaretz ( that the UNRWA had conducted an investigation at the school and found no traces of mortars having been fired from there, and that the video that allegedly verified the army’s version was in fact from 2007.
    Fraudulent use of even genuine photos or video for propaganda is certainly not new, as Paul Reynolds recently observed:

    I can’t read the Haaretz article myself, since it’s in Hebrew.

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