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Israeli Soldier near border with Lebanon
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Bomb shelter in apartment building. A Ladder connects the shelters in the building
Rhonda Spivak

Photo by Rhonda Spivak

Editor's children-summer of 2007
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Seven Years Ago-Remembering Israel's Second War in Lebanon

by Rhonda Spivak and Dr. Haskel Greenfield

[Editor's note: The following was published in the Winnipeg Free Press in August 2006, seven years ago].




In his article Israel’s bombs test the limits of loyalty (Free Press, August 3) Warren Goldstein, an American Jew, claims that nothing justifies Israel killing innocent civilians “in the hope of taking out a rocket launcher” and calls for the “killing to stop now,” notwithstanding the fact that “the Israeli public seems unusually united in favour of the current offensive.”

We are Canadian Jews, one of whom spent the first month of the war in Israel, and one of whom leaves for Israel shortly for the next month. Both of us will have had to ready our bomb shelters and be prepared to have our young families in them if need be.

We, too, regret the loss of life of innocent civilians, both Israeli (Jewish and Israelis Arab) and Lebanese, but cannot agree with your criticisms of Israeli conduct.

It is well-known that Hezbollah deliberately places its rocket launchers in civilian areas in order to use civilians as a defensive shield. If Israel cannot attack those areas (for fear of unintended civilian casualties), then how else can it properly and rightfully defend its citizens?

Why doesn’t Mr. Goldstein write to Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and politely tell him that next time he sends Hezbollah terrorists to murder and kidnap Israeli soldiers and rains rockets on Northern Israel, Israel won’t go after any of his rocket launchers as long as they are hidden in civilian areas? Somehow we don’t think that this kind of publicity will deter Hezbollah. On the contrary, it will only embolden it to get more rockets and launch them with greater force on Israel.

For the past six years, Since Israel withdrew from Lebanon unilaterally; no one has done anything to enforce the United Nations resolution to disarm Hezbollah. During this time, Hezbollah has been allowed by the international community to stockpile it arms, develop a sophisticated system of bunkers and function unabashedly as a state within a state. Mr. Goldstein refers to the fact that “the Israeli public seems unusually united in favour of the current offensive.” Maybe someone should explain to Mr. Goldstein why that is. It’s because Israelis see this as a fight about protecting their right to exist as people in a secure homeland. It is an essential issue that everyone in the country agrees on.

For Israelis this isn’t about an attempt to make claims to a Greater Israel, or any suggestions about trying to permanently occupy another people. This is about whether the residents of Haifa and Tiberius and northern Israel (more than ne million people) must live alongside an armed terrorist entity committed to its destruction.

It’s also about whether the rest of the Israelis in the country have to live with the fear that they are the next to be targeted, and there will be nowhere in the country left to flee. It’s about whether Israelis can ever be allowed to live a normal life, as the likes of Mr. Goldstein can afford in the comforts of the United States ( and from where they can criticize decisions about Israel’s security from the safety of the bosom of a superpower).

It’s also about whether the Palestinian extremists in Gaza and the West Bank will be further emboldened to use long-range rockets and missiles to hit deeper into central and southern Israel. Should we tell the extremists in Gaza and Lebanon that Israel will restrain its response, so that no innocent civilian is accidentally killed, if these rockets are knowingly launched from civilian neighbourhoods?

Is it fair for Mr. Goldstein to seriously suggest that Tel Aviv can be fairly targeted in war, but that Israel cannot respond in a way that potentially injures civilian life/ No country at war would or can accept this limitation to its deterrence power.

Until Hezbollah is disarmed, we hope that Mr. Goldstein wouldn’t mind trading places with his Israeli brethren, by living in the hot claustrophobic bomb shelters or in homes on the border with Lebanon, until he is satisfied that Hezbollah has disarmed. Mr. Goldstein could let an Israeli family needing a respite stay at his home in the United States, until this whole thing is sorted out. Maybe, then, Mr. Goldstein will better understand why most Israelis deem it essential to provide the citizens of their country with a more secure future, if they are to remain in Israel as opposed to seeking visas to North America or elsewhere.

After all, if it was so easy to disarm Hezbollah, doesn’t Mr. Goldstein think that the Lebanese government would have tried to do it by now, rather than tolerating an independent army within its borders?

One of the main reasons that the Lebanese government hasn’t disarmed the Hezbollah is because the terrorist group has the support of a substantial segment of the Lebanese people, as well as neighbouring Syria, and, of course, Iran.

In conclusion, it is frightening to read Mr. Goldstein’s anti-Israel diatribe. It is frightening because it is an ahistorical perspective it completely ignores history. We would have imagined that he, as a professor of history, would respect the lessons of history. Instead, he asserts that they are not relevant.

There has been a major shift in recent Israeli politics from a majority support for disengagement less than a year ago to support for military action in Lebanon and Gaza.

Nowhere in Mr. Goldstein’s’ article does he make reference to the fact that Israel unilaterally withdrew from Lebanon six years ago and Gaza less than a year ago. Nor does he refer to the fact that the week before the recent crisis, Israel’s prime minister was in the capitals of Europe proposing a further set of withdrawals in the West Bank.

Israel’s reward so far for it withdrawals over the past six years has been an increased stockpiling of weapons by it enemies, a second intifada, perpetual attempts by suicide bombers to blow up innocent civilians, incursions into Israel along all borders and incessant rocket barrages across into pre-1967 Israel.

One cannot but be struck by the obvious historical relationship between Israeli withdrawals (and perceptions of weakness) and stepped up military action by its enemies. This is the lesson of history that Mr. Goldstein has failed to learn.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.