Tag Archives: Israel

3 IDF soldiers from the same unit kill themselves within weeks of the Gaza ceasefire

This is messed up

In the weeks after Israel and Hamas agreed to an open-ended ceasefire, three Israeli soldiers decided to end their lives with their own weapons. And what was especially striking about their suicides was that all served in the same unit, the Givati Brigade, which had a reputation for its ruthless ferocity, considerable bravery, and the use of Old Testament religiosity to justify the merciless operations of its commander, Colonel Ofer Winter.

So why did it happen?

A contributing factor, according to Staff Sergeant J., who served in the Givati Brigade in the middle of the last decade, and does not want to be named, is that secular Israelis are now avoiding the military or declining to continue after mandatory service. “Those who do continue feel a religious and political duty,” he says. This has been discussed as a concern by Israeli academics and analysts for years.

The staff sergeant said that when he was in the Givati Brigade in 2007 or so, it was “openly secular.” He recalls “there was a group who had come from the yeshiva,” but “often they were uncomfortable… they felt sidelined.” As secular Israelis left, however, the vacancies were filled by settlers, he said.

Could any of this, or some of this, or none of this have affected the decision of three Givati soldiers to take their own lives? The Daily Beast reached out to several post-traumatic stress disorder specialists for their analysis.

“It is strange that they hadn’t seen a mental-health counselor,” said Mooli Lahad, an Israeli psychiatrist and psychotrauma specialist with over three decades of experience. He was citing reports that the Givati soldiers hadn’t received treatment. “This isn’t common for the IDF,” he said.

Lahad stressed that suicide usually has to do with pre-existing issues, such as depression, and an accumulation of factors can lead to a sense of hopelessness, which counseling helps to prevent.

“Sometimes, if there is a particularly macho culture, seeking help for depression or PTSD is seen as showing weakness, which is discouraged,” Lahad said. “If there’s a commander who thinks God is whispering in his ear, this can make things even more difficult.”

The article also speaks of religious radicalization of the Israeli military due to the role of fundamentalist settlements. 

Contextless Links

Contextless Links

Brad Wall on ProFootballTalk

Where did Michael Ignatieff go wrong?

Licia Corbella of the Calgary Herald looks at why Michael Ignatieff failed to connect with Canadian voters.

To his baffled Harvard colleagues who can’t understand how a Harvard man can’t beat a University of Calgary man, ask yourselves this: Would any of Ignatieff’s books have won awards if the positions he took waffled as much as his comments to Canadians? Would he have been a popular lecturer? Of course not.

Those of us who had read his work knew he didn’t really believe that Israel was guilty of war crimes, but that he made a calculated decision to throw Israel under the bus to quell a political storm in Quebec while speaking French.

Bob Rae, who was also fighting for the Liberal leadership at the time (which went to Stephane Dion) called Ignatieff "the guy who’s changed his mind three times in a week," with regard to the Lebanese-Israeli war.

Then in 2009, when Ignatieff was Liberal leader, he put forward policies that he clearly didn’t give more than a passing thought to.

Ignatieff wanted Canadians to be eligible to take a year off drawing employment insurance benefits after working just nine weeks.

The very people that was supposed to entice -autoworkers losing their jobs -were outraged. Why should some student whose summer job comes to an end get to draw EI benefits for the same amount of time as that autoworker who has paid into the system for decades?

For years, Ignatieff waxed poetic about how valuable the oilsands were to all of Canada, and then during the campaign, instead of supporting his very valid views, he spoke of how he would place a moratorium on development of our "dirty oil" and bring in a cap-and-trade system.

Ignatieff didn’t resonate with voters because he was a sycophant. He said what he thought people wanted to hear and thought Canadian voters are too stupid to know good policy from bad.

I am not really sure if that was it.  Early on the in the election, Canadians tuned into Ignatieff and seemed to like him and his platform.  Even out west, people seemed to like the Liberal platform, yet didn’t vote for them.  Part of me wonders the impact the horrible state of the Liberal Party’s grassroots in parts of Canada played a part, the other part of me wonders if his attempt to bring down the government last year had an impact.  While in Ottawa it may have played well, the rest of us in Canada were really tired to it.  So Harper brings out a budget that isn’t that bad and before it comes out, Ignatieff is saying his is going to bring down the government.  Meanwhile the rest of us are thinking, “Aren’t government’s supposed to fall on really big issues and mistakes, not on the Opposition Leader’s rhetoric?”. 

I don’t watch a lot of Canadian television and the Conservatives don’t advertise on History Channel so I don’t know if I saw the “just visiting” ads and I don’t think I was influenced by them but after Ignatieff said he be was bringing down the government in 2010, he sounded like a political opportunist, meanwhile Layton who occasionally propped up Harper (and “Made Parliament work”) seemed more and more like the government in waiting.  As that happened, I found myself ignoring Ignatieff more and more.

So what’s your reason for not supporting the Liberal Party?

A review of Obama’s Foreign Policy

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius speaks with former national security advisors Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, about the greatest success and shortcomings of the Obama administration’s foreign policy.

The two men cited the Israel-Palestinian peace process as Obama’s most important unfinished business. Both have argued often that the president should have started by outlining the basic parameters for a Palestinian state, as they have emerged in negotiations over the past 40 years.

Brzezinski contended that it was "pathetic" to see the United States making big concessions to Israel this month — ones that should be reserved for a final "grand bargain" — simply to add another 60 days to a temporary freeze on Israeli settlements. If the peace process should collapse, Scowcroft argued that it still would make sense for Obama to specify the terms of a U.S. peace plan.

What perplexed both men was the disconnect between Obama’s strategic vision and what he has been able to achieve. "He makes dramatic presidential speeches," said Brzezinski, "but it’s never translated into a process in which good ideas become strategies." One complication, both noted, was a process of "subcontracting," in which major policy areas such as Middle East negotiations and Afghanistan-Pakistan have been handed over to special representatives.

Gaza

Gaza During the Israeli attack on Hamas, I was sent a variety of links, Facebook groups, e-mails, and people to write so I could show my solidarity with the people of Gaza.  For some very complicated reasons, I decided to ignore all of them, even though they came from close friends.  The main reason is that I support Israel in their current war against Hamas.

I don’t support everything Israel has done over the decades.  I have talked to several Jewish and Israeli’s over the years and housing settlements in occupied territories have never made sense to me.  Israel would never tolerate those inside their borders and surely they much have foreseen the reaction them doing it to the Palestinians would create.  Israel has made a lot of foreign policy mistakes over their life time as a country.  Even a casual reader of the Jerusalem Post, the New York Times, or any publication that covers Israeli politics know that Israel can debate and second guess themselves as well as any country in the world.

Yet this isn’t a war about past policies.  Hamas started the fighting by choosing to fire 60 rockets a day into Israel with the hope of hitting Israeli cities and killing Israeli civilians.  If Canada was firing rockets with the hope of taking out Minot, North Dakota or Flint, Michigan, no one would question a United States military response.  If France started to shell Germany, no one would question a military response.  As Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said, “Israel has been attacked from Gaza, not just last year, but for almost 10 years.”  His stance is consistent with both Conservative and Liberal governments of the past.

Hamas shelled Israel hoping to make them back down and do nothing and therefore look weak to their neighbors or to provoke a reaction from Israel and then hide behind civilians and create a sympathetic global reaction which would lead to Hamas gaining international recognition (beyond the rather meager recognition they get now from Syria and Iran).  Finally Israel had enough and decided to act and stop the rockets and weaken Hamas.  To do that was going to cause civilian deaths, it almost always does, especially when Hamas decided to use mortars and rockets schools, hospitals, and mosques.  At a certain time armies used to do battle out in the battlefield but now we live in a different age where terrorists hide in civilians encampments to try to cause civilians deaths and gain the sympathy of the world, a world that didn’t care that much when it was Israeli citizens dying.  To do nothing was to allow Iran equip Hamas with more and more powerful rockets, mortars, and other weapons.  Will it work?  I have read enough military history to know that time will tell if it worked.  There have been many military actions deemed a tactical success but strategic failure while other tactical failures have achieved strategic success.  In other words, time will tell what happens in Gaza.  For the record, there are those that disagree that Israel is doing the right thing strategically, Andrew Sullivan suggests that Israel’s actions are disproporportionate to what Hamas is doing to it and will lead to only greater bloodshed.

When Israel finally had enough and decided to strike Hamas, Hamas did what everyone predicted.  They hid behind civilians (their own people) with the hope of enough of them dying would help them politically.  The weird thing is in some parts of the world, it worked.  Much was made of the United Nations Human Rights Commission vote to condemn Israel.  Many media sources and bloggers noted that the adopted motion calls for investigation of “grave” human rights violations by the Israeli forces. That’s is the press release version. In fact, the motion is four pages long that blames Israel entirely for the crisis, thus unilaterally responsible for the consequences. Thirty-three countries voted in favor, including several countries that are experts at human rights, Cuba, Russia, China and Saudi Arabia. 13 European nations abstained from the vote on the resolution while Canada was alone in voting against it.

Israel was put in a horrible situation as a country.  It is confronted by a foe that is comfortable firing thousands of rockets at it’s military and civilians day in and day out.  A foe that isn’t interested in peace but rather feels it’s purpose on earth is to destroy Israel.  To attack Hamas means civilian casualties but to ignore it means more and more civilian casualties within it’s own borders.

Is there an end to this?  Just as people felt Jimmy Carter was the answer, Ronald Reagan was the answer, George H. Bush was the answer, Bill Clinton was the answer, George W. Bush was the answer, and starting tomorrow, people hope Barack Obama has the answer (I suspect that the war in Gaza has stopped because both sides want to hear from the new American president).  I don’t see this being solved by an American president, a Canadian prime minister, Tony Blair as a peace envoy, or even Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie adopting the entire Gaza Strip.  It gets solved by doing what Saudi Arabia’s leaders have done, the King of Jordan has done, what Egypt has done, and what other Arab nations have done and that is give up the desire to destroy Israel and recognize their right to peaceful co-existence. Then the hard work of peacemaking can start.

I am not saying that Israel has not made mistakes but it’s an awfully tough neighborhood they live in and until countries like Iran and Syria stop using Hezbollah and Hamas to wage proxy wars for them, Israel is going to find themselves making tough decisions that aren’t black and white, right or wrong.  I do know that decisions made under the fall of rockets and mortars are far different then decisions made during peace times.  Hopefully in the future we will see more decisions made in the quiet of peace than under the roar of rockets and the sounds of suicide bombers.

More Opinions

Gaza

Warren Kinsella has a good post about the spin that is coming out of Gaza.  I agree with what he is saying but I struggle with the strategy of what Israel is doing and if it is going to work.

First of all, I can’t imagine how difficult it is to live right beside a people group whose stated goal is your destruction.  When I am traveling in southern Saskatchewan, I am never worried about a missile strike from Montana or North Dakota.

In reading Thomas Rick’s excellent book, Fiasco, he speaks of the concept of honor among Arabs.  Many of the sniper attacks on American soldiers were in response to being assaulted a couple of hours/days/weeks before.  The reason they often missed was not because of poor marksmanship but because the Iraqi’s just didn’t feel like killing anyone but had to do something to restore their honor.  I can’t help but wonder that by attacking back with force that the Israeli’s are not just helping the Hamas instead of weakening them.  I am no terrorist strategist but I would assume that this is Hamas’ strategy, to irritate and anger Israel into acting, placing civilians in harm’s way, appealing to the west to make Israel stop, then proclaiming Israel’s weakness to anyone who will listen.  Of course if Israel doesn’t act, then the rockets get bolder and bolder and it’s people suffer more.

Of course the other side my thinking is drawn back to many of the books that I have read by Bernard Lewis on Islamic culture and the west and he maintains that Israel is too soft on the Palestinians therefore introducing the thought that they are weak.  Hamas comes from the rebellion in Hama under the Egyptian Brotherhood.  To deal with the rebellion, Syria surrounded, shelled, masacred, and then paved over Hama.  Thomas Friedman described Hama as a parking lot as the city no longer exists.

It has been suggested by giving aid and helping rebuild homes mistakenly hit by rockets, Israel is undermining its own show of force.   That being said, I don’t think the Israeli people or the western world has the stomach for the kind of war that would deliver the kind of blow to Hamas that Lewis is talking is necessary.

Despite what Jimmy Carter says, I don’t think Hamas wants peace now or in the near future, they want to destroy Israel.   Israel on the other hand is caught between needing to take drastic short term steps to survive right now that may actually be prolonging the conflict in the future.

It puts the struggles that our own countries are facing in perspective.