Kidnapped in Lebanon? I think not.

Joshua Frank did an important job in bringing two competing stories about the Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hizbollah: the main-stream story which says they were abducted on the Israeli side of the border, and the alternative claim that the soldiers were captured by Hizbollah on Lebanese soil. I am afraid, however, that this is one of these rare cases in which the main-stream (and Israeli) version is the credible one. Note that the Hizbollah itself, so it seems,  never claimed the alternative story was true: it’s not Israel’s words versus Hizbollah’s, but the general media versus unclear sources. Let me try to show why.

(1) As for the main-stream story, Frank writes: “Hezbollah attacked an Israeli border patrol station, killing six and taking two soldiers hostage. The incident happened on the Lebanese/Israel border in Israeli territory.”

-Not quite. The precise story is: Hezbollah attacked an Israeli border patrol station, killing three and taking two soldiers hostage. The incident happened on the Lebanese/Israel border in Israeli territory. Following the kidnap, an Israeli tank crossed the border into Lebanon and was destroyed, in which four soldiers were killed, bringing the number of casualties to seven. Some of the confusion seems to have been caused by these two separate events, which are sometimes conflated in the reports.

(2) As for the alternative story, Frank writes: “Israel sent a commando force into southern Lebanon and was subsequently attacked by Hezbollah near the village of Aitaa al-Chaab, well inside Lebanon’s southern territory. It was at this point that an Israeli tank was struck by Hezbollah fighters, which resulted in the capture of two Israeli soldiers and the death of six.”
-However, an Israeli tank of the kind used (Merkava) is normally manned by 4 soldiers, not by six or eight.

Now let’s check the sources for the alternative version, one by one:

(3) The AFP report: “According to the Lebanese police force, the two Israeli soldiers were captured in Lebanese territory.”

-But the same report contains yet another significant line: “Hezbollah did not specify the place of capture of the two soldiers”. Remember the actual organ in power in south Lebanon is Hizbollah, not the Lebanese police.

(4) The French news site “In a deliberated way, [Israel] sent a commando in the Lebanese back-country to Aitaa al-Chaab. It was attacked by Hezbollah, taking two prisoners.”

-However, this site says that this report is based not on its regular Middle-East reporter, but “grâce aux nombreux contacts dont il dispose sur place” – i.e., anonymous sources.
(5) The Associated Press reported that “The militant group Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers during clashes Wednesday across the border in southern Lebanon”.

-This ambiguous or rather contrdictory  formulation can clearly mean that the soldiers were captured across the border on Israeli soil; “southern Lebanon” may be used as a broad geographic term.

(6) The Hindustan Times writes: “The Lebanese Shi’ite Hezbollah movement announced on Wednesday that its guerrillas have captured two Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon .[…] The Lebanese police said that the two soldiers were captured as they ‘infiltrated’ into the town of Aitaa al-Chaab inside the Lebanese border.”
-This could sound pretty good if the Hindustan Times was responsible for this item. But this is not the case. Hindustan Times has taken the item from the Indo-Asian News Service. The Indo-Asian News Service, in turn, has taken it from DPA, the German news agency. However, the DPA report in German, posted immedialy after the kidnap (even before the tank incident) said the two soldiers had been abducted, according to the Hizbollah announcement, „from the border area“ („aus dem Grenzgebiet“).

(7)  The last source quoted is “a report from The National Council of Arab Americans, based in Lebanon”. However, this “report” is no more than a blog message posted by an anonymous “Zeina”, who was seeking shelter somewhere in Lebanon and was clearly informed second-hand.

     In short, there seems to be no real evidence for the so-called alternative story, especially not in view of the very extensive account and pictures released in Israel for the original version, i.e. that the two soldiers were abducted across the border just inside Israel.

Ran HaCohen


A “Civilized” Italian Minister

Italian Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli, following statements by Iranian President Ahmadinejad last November saying Israel ‘should be wiped off the map’, said Rome should recall its ambassador from Tehran. “I believe one cannot have a civilized relationship with people who have shown themselves to be uncivilized,” the Italian minister said.


The Italian minister must be a great expert on civilized conduct in a civilized society: he is now distributing T-shirts displaying cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad. “I’ve had T-shirts made with the cartoons that have upset Islam and I shall start wearing them today”, he said, adding that it was “time to put an end to this story that we need to dialogue with these people”, and asking: “What have we become, the civilization of melted butter?”


If that’s Italy’s great “civilization”, no wonder some people would rather be barbarian.

The World Wants to be Cheated (and Israel is happy to assist)

If anyone had any doubts about the army vs. settlers “clashes” in Hebron being nothing but a sham (see my latest column), today’s Ha’aretz reports of the so predictable outcome:

The state and Hebron’s settlers reached an agreement early Monday morning under which Jewish squatters would voluntarily leave the city’s wholesale market by Monday night, Israel Radio reported. In exchange, they are to secure the state’s promise to speed up legal proceedings that would enable them to return to the market legally.

And what about the Palestinian merchants, who had used the market until they were driven out as a “security measure” (guess whose security) in 1994, after a Jewish terrorist murdered 29 Arab worshippers? –Forget about them; this game is excelusively for Israelis (and for the media).

The Prison of Bethlehem

Amy Mina sends this report from her recent visit to Bethlehem:

The Prison of Bethlehem
July 2004

This weekend I went to prison. Imposing grey towers stare out of their opaque black roving eyes at the transparent sky above, and the prisoners below. I listened to prison stories and prisoner hopelessness told through sacrastic humour.

We drove between the white stone villas of bethlehem with their inviting balconies (where no one sits), their red tiled roofs and their withering gardens. The lanes were narrow and silent under the scorching sun. The distance to the prison wall was short. It stood erect, regular, silent, bisecting the prison from the world outside. The distance between the prison wall and the house did not exceed 5 metres. I imagined a child, inside the house, watching the prison wall rise permanently deleting the view of the child’s fields and flowers from all but the child’s memories. Instead, the guard tower now stares directly into the child’s room. A tall cinderella tower of soul-less grey topped with its grey hat above the evil eye. This is what the child sees from his bedroom every day. This is what the child imagines from his bedroom everyday: is the soldier looking down at me? Is the soldier pointing his gun at me? This is the child’s question when he wakes up: Where did our fields go? When I grow up, where can I work? When I marry, where can I live? There are no answers to any of these questions.

We drove back down the lane and around the houses that silently speak of past wealth to the other side of the lane. Through some twisted logic, the arichtect of the prison wall had decided on curves rather than straight lines. The curves hug the houses creating an artistic fluidity, pushing closer and closer to the centre, re-aligning itself to join the much deeper cut on the other side of the main road, leaving thousands of those olive trees outside the prison. I wondered what price the trees’ freedom was going to cost them? Without their owners, the trees would soon wither and die. Probably the bulldozers will help them first. The prison wall is nearly complete. In the refugee camp, it defied the dying light of day. The children threw stones at it. Prison walls don’t feel the pain. Children do.

Amy Mina

Doomsday is Already Here

Israel is now reported to have submarines equipped with nuclear weapons.

As an Israeli, I find it a great relief. Now, even if Israel is completely destroyed, we’ll strike back at whoever did it. We may all perish – but not ignominously!

In fact, the future is already here. Just like in the doomsday scenario, Israel’s governments have been doing their best to destroy the country in every possible way – devastating its economy, society, culture, environment, security, its political, education, welfare and health systems – but enhancing its ability to strike militarilly (in order to expand the settlements).

The only trouble is that we Israelis have no nukes to strike back at our own government. So we do perish ignominously, after all.