Monday, July 31, 2006

Israel's Allies and the Lack of Civility!

Dr. Khaled Batarfi (30 July 2006)

My pro-Israel reader was giving me a history lesson. He had most of his facts right but, like many of Israel's defenders, he was putting the events of the current Middle Eastern crisis in the historical order that fits his biased position.
Hamas and Hezbollah, according to him, started this war by capturing three Israeli soldiers. "Hamas" he asserts, "conducted a cross-border raid which resulted in the death of three soldiers and the capture of one. Israel then responded to them and only them. Then Hezbollah conducted a cross-border raid that resulted in the deaths of eight soldiers and the capture of two. Are these not acts of war?"
In my response I said: This is exactly our problem with Israel's allies and supporters. They choose the most convenient point of history to start from. No, please, let us start from the beginning of the episode.
In the case of Hezbollah, there are more than ten thousand Arab abductees rotting in Israeli prisons, most without trial for twenty-seven years. Five hundred of them are women. Some were born in prison.
In the case of Hamas, thousands of Palestinians have been killed, not to count the injured; all of them, except a few are civilians. More are imprisoned, many without trial, including ministers and legislators in the Palestinian government. All this is forgotten history, thank you very much, what is remembered is one Israeli hostage in Gaza and two in Lebanon. For them millions in Lebanon and Palestine had to be collectively punished. How much cheaper could we go before we could respond in kind?
Another reader asked me if I have Jewish friends, and went on to declare: "A basic assumption these days is that it is preventable to have civilian casualties. This is stupid and inane, especially when Hezbollah chooses to use their populace as shields. You should be writing an article on the restraint the Israelis have had so far."
I e-mailed him back assuring him that I do have Jewish friends. Some are writers and journalists; others are teachers and classmates during my graduate studies in America. Many are against Israeli aggression and ashamed of its recent actions.
Israel is targeting civilians after failing to find soldiers in the hope of using the tragedy to force a political solution. Hezbollah's soldiers are underground on the border area, not in children's schools, hospitals, mosques and refugee buses heeding Israeli warning to leave. To find soldiers, Israel must invade with ground troops. Now that they have done, they are finally finding Arab soldiers - the hard way.
A third reader wrote: "I think you have been caught up in the Al-Jazeera hype. Hezbollah and Hamas are terrorist organizations. They have been condemned by just about every civilized country in the world. The UN has called for the disarmament of Hezbollah, but Lebanon has been unable to do this. After weeks of random missile attacks and armed incursions into undisputed Israeli territory, Israel was forced to respond. Israel has no territorial ambitions in this conflict, but they are risking their citizens' lives and security to clean up a mess that other Arab countries are powerless to address - terrorism.
"Granted, there have been civilian casualties. When Hezbollah hides in residential areas and launches missiles from apartment complexes, those are the consequences. Israeli bombs and shells have been carefully aimed at known hide-outs and launching sites of Hezbollah, but I don't think the same can be said of the missiles launched by Hezbollah. Rather than condemn Israel, we should compliment them for doing what is right under the circumstances. Chris."
I wrote back: Chris, I believe you are caught up in the Zionist hype. No civilization in the world regards freedom fighters as terrorists except Israel and its allies. Strange enough, your buddy, Britain, once regarded the American freedom fighters as terrorists. According to your standards, which I don't agree with, they were right and we now have a terrorist "civilization".
Please, check the latest count on who is with and against an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon. Only the "civilizations" of US, UK and Israel are against. The rest of the world "civilizations" are for an immediate stop of the killing machine.
Four hundred were killed in Lebanon - only a handful are soldiers. The clearly marked and isolated UN base was shelled fourteen times, four observers were killed. Then their rescuers were shelled. All calls to Israeli Army didn't help.
Inside Israel, those killed by Hezbollah's primitive rockets number less than 20 - half were soldiers. No hospitals, schools or refugee buses were hit. How come a guerrilla group with no smart weapons or super intelligence can be more accurate than the world's best-equipped army and the third best intelligence agency? Go figure.
Another problem with most comments I received so far is the lack of sympathy for Arab victims - like we don't count - so much for civility and civilization, Chris.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Hezbollah’s Script and Israel’s Play

Dr. Khaled Batarfi
War is hell, explained Yankee Gen. William T. Sherman as he burned Atlanta during the American Civil War. Today, the Israelis are saying the same thing as they burn Gaza and Lebanon. They have been in this hell-making business for ages and have forgotten what it is like to be at the receiving end.

This time, it is different, for a change. Israelis are feeling the heat they used to export, just like the Serbs did at the end of the Kosovo War. And like the Serbs, they kept brutally pushing to advance their gains, until the tide finally turned against them.

So what happened here? The Israelis pushed Hamas to a corner. Put simply, they didn’t like what democracy brought — a government they hated to do business with. Characteristically, they tried to change the environment to their liking. As they overran the democratically elected Arafat government, they sought to overrun its successor too. The Palestinians are punished once more for making the wrong choice. According to Israeli rules, Arabs must elect not those who serve their best interests, but those who serve the interests of the Israelis. Hamas definitely didn’t fit the bill.

According to another Israeli rule, no rules, moral or legal, are applicable to the Jewish state. And since Hamas arrogantly refused to accept the role of yes, sir, they may all go to jail or hell, ministers and legislators included. They get killed or kidnapped until they agree to Israeli terms. This was easier done with the under-the-thumb Palestinian Authority. Hezbollah, however, is another story.

You see, the Israeli Army has got so used to flex its muscles on civilians that it has lost its ability to wrestle with soldiers. Operating missiles and jet fighters to bomb cities and villages from far and above is not the same thing as going down and dirty to fight real men. The surrounding environment helped. In the largely unarmed Lebanon and Palestinian territories, they could hit anywhere and fly over any place without even the pretense of a resistance. The Arabs also got used to being at the receiving end of the death and destruction assembly line. This changed a little bit with Hamas, and more so with Hezbollah. Escaping a humiliating war in south Lebanon, Israel had to withdraw in shame and shambles. The lesson they learned the hard way was: Stick with aerial bombardment and never try your super army with Arabs carrying primitive guns and superior determination. Your soldiers end up bleeding and running.

So, it was inevitable that Israel would want so badly to disarm and dislodge the unyielding, disobedient and out of control armed group from the inconvenient location it occupies. And since Israel is never alone, it uses its political capital and connections to get the big powers of the world to back it up in its quest.

Hezbollah and its backers, Syria and Iran, were acutely aware of these maneuvers. After the dislodging of Syria from Lebanon, time was dangerously short for the group. Disarming Hezbollah would have demoted it from its prominent position as the one and only militarily capable unit to a toothless political party. With West-backed government in Lebanon and collaborating Arab governments, the grip was tightening. So a script, like the one Osama Bin Laden wrote for the West, had to be executed in the hope that Israel will play along, as the West did.

The insulted and agitated Israeli government eager to show that its civilian leader is no less war criminal than his predecessors easily and eagerly complied. In the hasty and overkill response they weakened the same force they relied on — the Lebanese government — to neutralize the group. However, Hezbollah has escaped, so far, safe and sound. In fact, they became politically stronger in the Arab and Muslim world. Like other radical groups, they become more popular and credible with every outrageous action from the enemy camp. When forced to choose, no true Muslim or Arab will ever choose Israel over a brethren.

Armed with its military and political successes, Hezbollah will be a more important player in the region. All they need to do in this test is to survive. With their vast stocks of missiles and tested expertise in guerrilla warfare, this is almost a given.
The question Israel and its allies and friends must ask themselves, as they should have in Iraq and Afghanistan is, how they could complain and claim to be mystified about the rise of radicalism and Iranian dominance in the Muslim world if they serve them so well with such inhuman and barbaric actions as targeting civilians from Kandahar to Haditha to Beirut? The ignorant and arrogant, says an Arab proverb, is his own worst enemy.

Monday, July 03, 2006

What Choices Our Divorced Women Have?

Dr. Khaled Batarfi
Arabnews (July 3, 2006)

My last article “What is It Like to Be a Saudi Woman” evoked many responses, positive and negative.
Some thought I was generalizing, and claimed that Lila’s story was either exaggerated or unique.
Most women, they asserted, are happy and content with their role and position in society. But since most respondents are men, I wasn’t too surprised.
Women, on the other hand, were overwhelmingly in agreement. Some related their own tragic stories. I had to do some investigation to confirm the basic facts. To protect their true identities, I won’t use their real names.
Suha is the daughter of a prominent merchant — very beautiful, sweet, and smart. Her mother used harsh methods to bring up her daughters as obedient and respectful girls.
When a young man from a prominent merchant family came along, Suha welcomed him without asking too many questions. She was barely seventeen and had just finished high school. Her unhappy experience at home made her think that it won’t get any worse. It sure did.
The husband was cruel, self-centered, womanizer and distasteful. While she continued her college education, he was busy building up his family business empire. She didn’t mind his absence; what she dreaded was his presence.
So harsh were his methods, she longed for her mother’s cruel ways.
But one child after another made her hesitant to opt for divorce. She was so attached to her five children that she couldn’t bear to leave them behind.
Finally, she decided to end her misery. After a year without her kids, she was granted divorce, but custody of the children went to her husband. Another year passed without getting the court-set access to her children. Her ex-husband decided to punish her by denying her what she needed most.
She described how she used to hide in her car every morning outside their school to watch them go in and out. And how it tore her to pieces not to be able to hug and kiss them.
Finally, with the help of her father’s connections, she managed to get back custody of her kids. In the meanwhile, she finished her university, found a good job and established herself as a women’s rights activist.
Hanaa is another intelligent, sophisticated beauty queen. She was forced into a marriage she hotly refused.
Her suitor of choice was accepted at first, then refused because the rest of the family thought he was of a lesser class. Her father was adamant that she accept her cousin.
The boy was so stupid that he couldn’t understand that she wasn’t kidding when she told him to look elsewhere.
After the marriage, she tried to make it work, but couldn’t. Her husband had no character, no education, no sensitivity, no romance, not even a mind of his own.
His family controlled him completely. He couldn’t stick to any promise he made, like letting her finish her college.
Fourteen years and four children later, her psychiatrist gave her two options: Either to get divorce or be treated indefinitely for depression and related illnesses. When she finally divorced, her sister, married to a man of similar personality, “congratulated” her. She might follow suit, soon.
Roeda was in love with an airline captain. Her father refused him because flying would take him away from his wife so often. To escape the immense pressure they put on her, she took the first suitor they chose for her on two conditions: She would be allowed to finish her college studies and invite her divorced mother to the wedding party. She got both wishes, but for a romantic girl of eighteen, the man was too vulgar, insensitive and cruel.
After a year of increasingly unhappy life, she decided enough was enough. Against enormous resistance, she got what she asked for — divorce. Her punishment was movement restriction for eight years. This means she could hardly see a friend, attend a party or go out. All suitors were refused for one reason or another. Now 28 years old, she finally got married to a married man with wife and children.
He is kind and considerate, but too shallow and primitive for her taste. Why accept him? She was escaping her torturing at home and a cruel father. What choices did she have?
To those who felt I was generalizing and exaggerating, please look around you. We have enough cases to regard the situation as quite normal. Without protected and enforced rules and regulations, we cannot claim that all our women have their rights.
Leaving it to the conscience of society and the kindness of male guardians is not fair. Justice can only be upheld with law and authority.