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A Secret Memo from the Israel Defense Forces to Bibi Netanyahu

By: Barry Lando Friday August 1, 2014 11:17 pm

A fictitious communiqué provoked by the very real horrors of Gaza.

From: Israel Defense Forces Special Gaza Group
To: P.M. (eyes only)
Date: August 1, 2014
Gaza: Removing the Fish from the Sea.

Following your request of July 25, we believe we have an answer for Israel’s problem with Hamas. We liquidate all Hamas leaders and members. We do it by separating Hamas from the Palestinians, or, as Mao would have said, we remove the sea from the fish.
First, to restate the problem:
We (and our American allies) maintain that the 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza are hostages to Hamas, a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel.
The guilt for more than 1,300 Palestinians killed so far—including hundreds of women and children—is totally Hamas’s. They are cowardly using U.N. schools, hospitals, mosques, and homes as cover for their tunnels, arms caches, and rockets.

They rejoice in the high “civilian” casualty figures. It makes them look like martyrs and us like Nazi monsters, though all we are trying to do is defend our people.

Bottom line: As we have always maintained, as long as Hamas, with its bloody-minded ideology of hate, is running Gaza, the peace—which Israel so desperately wants—will not be possible.

The solution is simple: get rid of Hamas and, while we’re at it, other terrorist groups like Islamic Jihad.

These are the steps:

1.Egypt agrees to Hamas’ demand that the Rafah border crossing, currently closed by Egypt, be reopened.

2.Israel then gives one week for all Palestinians to leave Gaza. At the end of that week, Israeli forces, using rockets, phosphorous, ships, tanks, etc. kill anyone still found in Gaza–men, women or children.

3. That threat will bring about a mass flight of Palestinians from Gaza (similar to the mass flight of Palestinians from Israel back in 1948). International observers will ensure that Hamas is unable to prevent the Palestinians who want to leave from getting out.

4. Hamas (and other) terrorists who choose to remain in Gaza and become martyrs to their lost cause will be shot on sight, or captured and sentenced to life in prison. (We prefer immediate execution, since there is no risk of prisoners later being exchanged for captured Israeli soldiers.)

5. To ensure that members of Hamas are not able to escape by joining the flood of Palestinians fleeing to Egypt, the border crossing will be screened by the Israeli Mossad and Shabak, the Egyptian Secret Police, and the CIA. As you know, our intelligence on Hamas is impressive. We have lists of all the leaders. While a few low-level cadres may slip through, the vast majority would be weeded out and dealt with.

6.What will happen to the 1.7 million Palestinians now in Egypt?
They will be temporarily housed in massive refugee camps in the Egyptian Sinai. The camps will provide shelter, water, food, schooling, and freedom from the constant threat of death, currently facing Palestinians in Gaza. Though the cost will be sizable, we have been assured that the U.S. and wealthy Arab states will be willing to foot the bill. Anything to get rid of Hamas.

7.Thousands, of informants will circulate in those camps alert to any Palestinians displaying Hamas-like tendencies. Once found, they will also be disposed of.

8. Egypt, of course, will only go along with this concept if they are assured that those 1.7 million Palestinians—even if politically “sanitized” –will not become permanent refugees in their country.

9. The ideal solution would be for other Arab countries, or countries further afield –like the U.S. or Canada or Brazil–to open their doors. Judging from the fate of Palestinian refugees since 1948, that scenario is highly unlikely.

10. Instead, while the Palestinians are being held in Egypt, a massive reconstruction program would be undertaken in Gaza to provide new housing, schools, hospitals, small industry, power stations etc. etc. etc. Obviously, the opportunities for Israeli construction companies and businesses would be immense.

11. Once that program is well underway, the Palestinians would be transported—either willingly or not—back to their former homeland in Gaza.

12. We would end the total blockade of Gaza. But we would still insist on strict control of all ports, goods, and individuals entering and leaving the territory. With Hamas now totally removed from the scene, we might also consider letting certain closely vetted Palestinians work again in Israel.

13. We would allow the Palestinians to vote for a local government, but would insist on clearing all candidates based on their political views. The only issues they could discuss would be directly concerned with day-to-day life; nothing to do with Israel, the settlements, a Palestinians state, the status of Jerusalem, or any fictitious claim to regaining the lands their ancestors lost in 1948.

Thus, with the Palestinians “cured” of the virus of Hamas and terrorism, our problem with Gaza is resolved.

At the same time, the Palestinians will have achieved their aim of economic growth and an end to the total embargo. But Hamas won’t be able to take any of the credit—because they’ll no longer be there.

We might consider a variant of these tactics get rid of the more vocal Palestinians on the West Bank as well.

The majority of the high command agrees with this proposal.

The only problem raised by a couple of dissenters is: Though we wipe out the virus, how do we ensure that in three or four or ten years, a new generation of Palestinians won’t become infected?

The answer is evident: With the experience gained the first time around, we simply repeat the procedure as necessary.

 

OK Wise Guy, So, what would you do about Hamas?

By: Barry Lando Wednesday July 23, 2014 9:28 am

“If  I was an Arab leader I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal, we took their land. It is true that God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They see but one thing: we come and we have stolen their country. Why should they accept that?”

That statement—which would certainly outrage the current government of Israel and most of its supporters–was made by David Ben Gurion (1886-1973), revered as the father of the State of Israel.

http://thinkexist.com/quotation/if-i-were-an-arab-leader-i-would-never-sign-an/347288.html

From the very beginning that issue has been at the heart of hostilities between Israel and the Arabs, particularly, of course, the Palestinians—including the tragedy being played out in Gaza today.

Yesterday, I posted a blog calculating what would happen if the United States, with 176 times more people than Gaza—were to suffer the same proportion of casualties that the Palestinians in Gaza have borne. As of today, the figure would have increased to 105,000 Americans killed, of which 26,400 would have been children. (According to the UN, 75% of the casualties in Gaza are civilian).

My purpose in citing those figures is not to say that Hamas is right. It’s an attempt to make readers—many of whom just don’t want to know—to make them understand how appalling the situation has become, in terms they might be able to understand.

Of course, Israel’s leaders have to respond to the on-going, indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza. But Israel’s sledgehammer reaction has been totally out of proportion.

To those who judge that statement naïve or hopelessly biased, 10 Israeli human rights organizations—these are people living under the constant threat of those missiles from Gaza—have condemned Israel’s ongoing onslaught in the strongest terms, and raised concerns abut grave violations of international law.

O.K., you say, we acknowledge the horror of it all, but what the hell is Israel supposed to do, confronted with an implacable enemy like Hamas?

The answer is that slaughtering hundreds of Palestinians and wreaking horrendous carnage on one of the most densely populated places on earth is not the answer. It hasn’t worked in the past. It won’t work going forward. If, somehow, Israel manages to kill all the current generation of Hamas, they’ll be replaced by their kids in even more radical form.

Hamas rocket attacks into Israel are a direct and desperate answer to the policies of Israel (backed by the United States) to keep the Palestinians at bay, by whatever means necessary. That has led to Israel’s (and Egypt’s) stranglehold over Gaza, its economy, its people, and its government. No people or government could accept such a drastic situation without ultimately striking back.

The attempt to throttle Gaza has included a campaign to wipe out Hamas–Israel refusing, for instance, to return tax funds collected from the people of Gaza back to the government of Gaza to fund day-to-day operations. The upshot: because of Israel’s strategies, and other political upheavals in the region, Hamas finds itself on the ropes. Thus, their desperate and near suicidal willingness to lash out.

That desperation, I repeat, is not just Hamas’s. It also haunts the 1.7 million people living in what has been called an open air concentration camp.

So what to do? A simple cease-fire with no preconditions, which is what American, Egypt and Israel have been advocating, probably will not work. It would mean a return to the status quo of Israel and Egypt maintaining their stranglehold on Gaza.

If Hamas were to accept such a deal, after their own huge losses and the horrors all the people of Gaza are suffering, they’d be committing political suicide. Which is just what Israel, the U.S. and the Egypt devoutly wish.

The problem is, as I’ve said, Hamas would probably be immediately replaced by something worse—even more radical.

The only way to bolster more moderate voices among the Palestinians is for Israel to make it evident that more moderate policies can achieve something for the Palestinian people. Otherwise, forget it.

In Gaza, that would start with an easing of the blockade and a real agreement by Israel not to attempt to destroy the government of Gaza. Such an agreement would, of course, have to contain tight controls to make sure goods coming into Gaza were goods needed by the people, not to construct more rockets and secret tunnels. That would not be easy; it also would not seem to be an impossible task.

Israel and its backers also have to find some way to help restore Gaza’s disastrous economy—currently more than 50% of its people are unemployed. What does the world expect those people to do?

There are other obvious steps that Israel could take, beginning with ending the illegal settlements on the West Bank, to actually recognizing that, yes, Israel did take Arab land, and drove out the Palestinians in 1948—a fact recognized by Israeli historians, but still denied by Israel’s government and its supporters.

Ah, but the Palestinians are not willing to negotiate. They’ve shown that over the years. Not true. Many of their leaders have been weak and incompetent. But in almost every case, when there was a chance for serious negotiations over the years, Israel’s actions—particularly the inexorable expansion of the settlements, undermined the moderates, and only strengthened radical groups like Hamas.  (Remember, it was Israel itself who helped found Hamas as a way of undermining the PLO).

But the problem is: just as Hamas cannot accept a cease-fire in Gaza at this point, without getting anything to show for the huge sacrifices the Palestinians have made, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu would also risk political destruction if he made any significant concessions to Hamas or the Palestinians, particularly after the loss of at least 29 Israeli soldiers.

And so the slaughter continues.

The tragic irony is that Israel, which has become one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, has been unable to resolve the quandary that has bedeviled it since its creation.

(Thanks to retired Egyptian diplomat and journalist, Ezzeldin Shawkat, for the quote cited above from David Ben Gurion)

 

 

 

 

Known Knowns, Part 2: Shinseki Revisited

By: Barry Lando Monday June 2, 2014 1:53 am
Eric Shinseki speaking in front of American & Armed Forces flags

Barry Lando and journalist Jamie McIntyre look deeper into the mythology around Shinseki the “truth teller.”

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know. – Donald Rumsfeld, February 2002

I concluded my last blog about the resignation of General Eric Shinseki as head of the Department of Veterans Affairs with this rather dramatic statement:

But now, the sorry circle is complete: the officer who cautioned about the true costs of attacking Iraq and was eviscerated as a result, has been felled by the consequences of the very invasion he warned against.

That, you could definitely say, is a known known.

Maybe not. I’ve now been told that my conclusion, though pithy, was wrong—an example of the mythmaking generated by both sides of the Iraq debate.

(It’s also an instructive look of the frustrations of journalism: endlessly peeling away the layers of an onion; never 100% certain you’ve arrived at the truth. In the case of General Eric Shinseki, I’m still peeling.)

Shinseki, as I wrote, is viewed by liberals as something of a martyr–having had the guts to tell truth to power during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

In February 2003, he testified before a senate committee that the occupation of Iraq could take hundreds of thousands of American troops, not the tens of thousands, that the neo-cons pushing for war were claiming. In the end, of course, the general’s guestimate proved far closer to the truth than those of the Pentagon spokesmen who dismissed Shinseki’s views as rubbish.

But for challenging Rumsfeld, the story grew, Shinseki became an outcast, an object lesson to military commanders about what happens to those who took on Rumsfeld and his cronies over Iraq.

Indeed, when Barrack Obama nominated Shinseki to be secretary of Veterans Affairs in December 2008, it was seen by many as a rehabilitation of the general, a poke in the eye of Rumsfeld.

But, according to Jamie McIntyre, who covered the Pentagon for 16 years for CNN, the Shinseki myth is just that—myth…

“Shinseki the ‘truth to power’ teller? just ain’t so.In my opinion,” McIntyre wrote me in an email.

The main thing is:  Shinseki had ample opportunity to voice his concerns. In fact, as a member of the Joint Chiefs, he had a DUTY to voice them.

Once the plans [for the invasion of Iraq] were in place, Gen Richard Myers the Chairman at the time — polled all the chiefs and asked each one if they had ANY reservations about the war planning to speak up. He asked Shinseki DIRECTLY (I was told this by Myers and Gen Pace the Vice Chief) and Shinseki said nothing.

Shinseki NEVER — And I repeat NEVER — voiced a single concern to ANYONE in the administration or the military.

His one and only comment was the one forced out of him by Sen. Levin, in that Feb 2003 hearing. And Shinseki steadfastly refused then — or forever afterward — to clarify what he meant — until his exit memo to Rumsfeld. In the June 2003 memo, Shinseki admitted he didn’t think there was a “right” answer to a question that would depend largely on what the commander on the ground’s analysis. He said he only offered an open-ended nonspecific larger number to  allow for maximum flexibility.

So, people read into it what they wanted.

This whole mythology that has grown up around Shinseki is maddening because it’s just not true.

According to McIntyre, “Shinseki’s clash with Rumsfeld was more about Shinseki’s insular taciturn style, than any dispute about the size of the force:”

Known Knowns: Part 1

By: Barry Lando Monday June 2, 2014 1:45 am

There is a certain ironic symmetry in the resignation of General Eric Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

There is a certain ironic symmetry in the resignation of General Eric Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans Affairs—the final act of a personal tragedy, perhaps not Shakespearean but pathetic nonetheless.

Shinseki was forced to quit because of outrage over reports that the sprawling Veterans Administration he oversaw was appallingly inefficient and corrupt. Hospitals and clinics across the system have been falsifying reports to hide the fact that staffs and facilities are overwhelmed by the bourgeoning numbers of injured veterans.

Rather than admit that the crisis existed and take the steps to fix it, the management of the V.A. had for years decided that the best way to deal with the awful problem was to pretend it didn’t exist. Congress and the administration went along with the sham.

Such self-serving lies and deceit are nothing new. From the start, they have been integral to the disastrous American invasion of Iraq. No one perfected the technique more cynically than Donald H. Rumsfeld.

In February, 2002, Rumsfeld, then Secretary of Defense, delivered his now infamous lofty musings at a briefing on Iraq, about the difficulties of finding the truth in the fog of war–talking about “known knowns” and “unknown unknowns.”

The fact is that, in most cases, the “unknowns” were unknown because that’s the way the people on top wanted things to be.

No one knows this better than Eric Shinseki. He was part of a movement in the army, determined to end the kind of official obfuscation that had led to America’s disastrous experience in Vietnam. Soldiers of all ranks would now be encouraged to tell the truth to commanders, all the way up the line, without fear of reprisal or intimidation.

Only, that’s not the way it worked out–as Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the neo-cons prepared America for a military adventure in Iraq. It was going to be a cakewalk, they said.

Shinseki, then Army Chief of Staff, saw things differently. The occupation he told a congressional committee, would require not tens of thousands of soldiers—as the administration had been claiming–but hundreds of thousands. Rumsfeld was livid. Shinseki’s statement was immediately disavowed by the Pentagon. It was attacked by Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz as “wildly off the mark.” Shinseki was marginalized, retiring a year later. His fate sent a clear signal to others in the military about the line they were expected to follow.

The invasion of Iraq, of course, was based on other fabrications as well. Contrary to what was claimed, Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction; Saddam Hussein had no important ties with Al Qaeda.

And once the attack was launched, the falsehoods and distortions continued. Widespread looting that presaged the total breakdown in government was written off by Rumsfeld as ‘stuff happens.” Iraqis beginning to target American soldiers were disparaged as “dead enders.” The rising American casualty level was dismissed as not even on the level of urban violence in the U.S.

The Pentagon refused to let the media know the time and place that caskets containing American dead would be shipped back to the United States. No pictures. No problems.

There was a steadfast denial that Iraq, with thousands of civilian deaths each month, was headed towards full-scale civil war. No official count was kept of the rocketing number of civilian casualties.

Saudis Bankrolling Israel’s Mossad: More confirmation?

By: Barry Lando Saturday March 8, 2014 11:24 am

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (then Crown Prince) with George W. Bush (then President), 2002

In October 12, 2012, I speculated there was a strong likelihood that Saudi Arabia was bankrolling Israel’s Mossad. Those funds paid for, among other things, the assassinations of several of Iran’s top nuclear experts over the past couple of years. That cooperation was, I wrote, the latest bizarre development in a clandestine alliance between the Zionist State of Israel and Saudi Arabia, guardian of Islam’s most holy site.

The Huffington Post refused to run that blog because I only had one source, which I was not allowed to name. Instead, I posted it on my own and other sites.

That blog went viral, particularly in Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia, where it was picked up by several news agencies. Now that claim has received new backing from a reputable Israeli source. But before getting to that, here is my original blog.

A friend, with good sources in the Israeli government, claims that the head of Israel’s Mossad has made several trips to deal with his counterparts in Saudi Arabia—one of the results: an agreement that the Saudis would bankroll the series of assassinations of several of Iran’s top nuclear experts that have occurred over the past couple of years. The amount involved, my friend claims, was $1 billion dollars. A sum, he says, the Saudis considered cheap for the damage done to Iran’s nuclear program.

At first blush, the tale sounds preposterous. On the other hand. it makes eminent sense. The murky swamp of Middle East politics has nothing to do with the easy slogans and 30 second sound bites of presidential debates.

After all, nowhere more than in the Middle East does the maxim hold true: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And both Israel and the Saudis have always detested Iran’s Shiite fundamentalist leaders. The feeling is mutual. Tehran has long been accused of stirring up trouble among Saudi’s restless Shiites.

Israeli and Saudi leaders particularly fear Iran’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons. Thus, it would only be natural that (along with the U.S.) they would back a coordinated program to at least slow up, if not permanently cripple, Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

It also makes perfect sense, that, in retaliation for the cyber attacks on their centrifuges, the Iranians reportedly launched their own cyber attack on a Saudi state-owned target: Saudi Aramco, the world’s most valuable company. Last August 15th, someone with privileged access to Aramco’s computers was able to unleash a virus that wreaked havoc with the company’s systems. U.S. intelligence experts point their finger at Tehran.

Indeed, a report earlier this year by Tel Aviv University cites Saudi Arabia as the last hope and defense line for Israel. With most of Israel’s traditional allies in the region sent packing or undermined by the Arab Spring, the Saudis are the Jewish State’s last chance to protect its political interests in the Arab world.

Now comes further confirmation of that strange alliance, from Richard Silverstein’s excellent blog Tikun Olam. Silverstein gets many of his scoops from Israeli reporters, often confiding information they’re not allowed to report in Israel. Silverstein also closely monitors the Israeli media.

He has been following the close cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia in targeting Syria and Iran. In his latest log he reports,

Shalom Yerushalmi, writing in Maariv, dropped an even more amazing bombshell.

Saudi Arabia isn’t just coordinating its own intelligence efforts with Israel. It’s actually financing a good deal of Israel’s very expensive campaign against Iran. As you know, this has involved massive sabotage against IRG missile bases, the assassination of five nuclear scientists, the creation of a series of computer cyber weapons like Stuxnet and Flame. It may also conceivably involve an entire class of electronic and conventional weapons that could be used in a full-scale attack on Iran. Who knows, this might even include the sorts of bunker buster bombs only the U.S. currently has access to, which could penetrate the Fordo facility. It might include scores more super-tankers which could provide the fuel necessary for Israeli planes to make it to Iran and return. All of this is expensive. Very expensive.

As background to his story, Yerushalmi, cited a recent speech by Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Nethanyahu, referring to the possibility that Arab states, which privately maintain better relations with Israel today than does the European Union, would do so publicly if peace were to break out.

“Nethanyahu,” wrote the Israeli reporter, “referred almost certainly to Saudi Arabia which finances the expenses of the enormous campaign which we are conducting against Iran.”

“The question” Silverstein writes in his blog, “is how far is Saudi Arabia willing to go. If Bibi ever decided to launch an attack, would the Sunni nation fund that as well? The answer seems clearly to be yes.

The next question is, given there is airtight military censorship in Israel, why did the censor allow Maariv to publish this? Either someone was asleep at the switch or the IDF and Israel’s political and intelligence officials want the world to know of the Saudi-Israeli effort. Who specifically do they want to know? Obama, of course. In the event the nuclear talks go south, Bibi wants Obama to know there’s a new Sugar Daddy in town. No longer will Israel have only the U.S. to rely on if it decides to go to war. Saudi Arabia will be standing right behind….

I don’t think this news substantially alters the military calculus. Israel, even with unlimited funding, still can’t muster the weapons and armaments it would need to do the job properly. That will take time. But Israel isn’t going to war tomorrow. This news reported in Maariv is presumably Bibi playing one card from his hand. It’s an attempt to warn the president that the U.S. is no longer the only game in town. Personally, it’s the sort of huffing and puffing that I can’t imagine plays well in Washington. But it’s the way Bibi plays the game.

Barry Lando has just written a mystery, The Watchman’s File, about an American reporter attempting to unravel Israel’s most closely guarded secret. (It’s not the bomb). Available on Amazon in soft-cover and Kindle format.

Israel’s most closely-guarded secret. Another excerpt from “The Watchman’s File”

By: Barry Lando Friday January 17, 2014 8:16 am

I invite you to read the latest excerpt from my mystery, “The Watchman’s File,” specially featured on Amazon’s Kindle again this week. It’s the gripping tale of an American TV reporter, Ed Diamond, as he risks his life to to unravel Israel’s most closely-guarded secret. (It’s not the bomb) To whet your interest, I’ve been posting excerpts here.

To recap the story to this point, Ed Diamond, one of America’s best-known reporters, based in Paris, receives an urgent call to come to Israel from an old friend, Dov Ben-David, former deputy director of Israel’s Mossad. Dov has alarming information, he says, concerning the U.S. and Israel. Diamond flies to Israel, but before they can meet, Ed’s friend is blown apart by a car bomb.

The next day, Ed mingles with hundreds of prominent Israelis attending  Dov’s funeral at the kibbutz of Ein Gedi, by the Dead Sea. He is stunned when Dov’s widow, Esther, accuses Ed of being responsible for her husband’s murder. To find out what’s behind that accusation, after the funeral Ed joins other mourners at Esther’s home.

———————–

It was a modest, one-story bungalow, like all the other dwellings on the kibbutz, faded yellow ochre stucco walls, roof tiles of burnt sienna, several splintered and cracked. No one came to live on a kibbutz to make a fortune. In exchange for your labor, you and your family could count on a roof over your head, three meals a day, education, health care, and—in the early pioneering days at least—the feeling that you were constructing something new and grand, fulfilling the destiny of your people. No more. The dream had been tarnished long ago.

There was a small garden in front of the Ben-David home, a few roses, a bougainvillea, and a towering banana plant that shaded the entrance. The door was open. Inside, it was cool. Esther sat on a beige sofa in the living room with a few close family and friends, all talking softly. She looked up when Ed entered. He wasn’t sure what to expect, but she gave him a wan smile.

“Mr. Diamond, please, come in. Have some coffee and cake.”

Ed poured coffee into a Styrofoam cup and took a seat by the bookcase, next to a couple of men who were turned to each other in deep conversation. A mourner’s candle burned on one of the bookshelves, its light flickering over an old photo of Dov Ben- David: a strapping young man in his twenties, dressed in short sleeves, shorts, and sandals, a Sten gun on his shoulder as he beamed confidently at the camera. Behind him, the mountains of Ein Gedi. Vintage Zionism, more than forty years ago, thought Ed. These days it has a vinegary taste.

The man sitting beside Ed, who had been talking with someone else, now turned to face the reporter. It was Arik Ben-David. “Mr. Diamond. Shalom again.” His smile was warmer than it had been at the cemetery. He glanced at the photo of Dov. “A fine-looking man, yes? And such dreams. We were so naive back then.” He took a sip of his coffee. “You know, I’ve often wondered why the Palestinian terrorists have targeted so few Israeli leaders. Maybe that’s all going to change now.” He shrugged. “It’s just something we will have to live with.”

He took a small piece of sponge cake and then glanced across the room at Esther.

“My sister-in-law says you came here to see Dov.”

“That’s right.”
“What about?”
“He wouldn’t tell me over the phone.”

“Well, then, I suppose we’ll never know.”
“I’d sure as hell like to.”
Ben-David patted Ed’s knee. “Things have changed in this country, Mr. Diamond. Even with the Wall, it’s become a far more dangerous place for government officials, past and present, perhaps even for reporters like you. Here, everything has become a fight for survival.”

”Dov never told you what was bothering him?”

“No. Dov and I lived in such different worlds. But you can’t imagine how much I will miss him.” Arik rose and extended his hand. “Goodbye, Mr. Diamond. By the way, if you do decide to look into this matter, let me know. Perhaps I can help you.” He smiled again. “I still have friends in high places.” He turned and limped across the room, said a few words to Esther, embraced her, and left.

Moshe Weinstein had been listening nearby. “I’ve known Arik forever,” he said as he sat down next to Ed. “I used to admire him tremendously. Military hero. Brilliant businessman. Grandmaster at chess. But now we rarely talk. Today was the first time in years he even shook my hand. The country is going berserk.”

“What do you mean?”

Weinstein glanced at the newspapers on the coffee table. They all carried pictures of yesterday’s bomb attack and a photo of Dov Ben-David. “I mean that the political weather around here is getting very ugly, as bad as it’s ever been: Jews against Palestinians, Jews against Jews, Palestinians against Palestinians. Some of them hate their own people more than they hate one another, and that is saying something.”

“And all sides are convinced they’re doing God’s will.” “Exactly.”

“And that’s what makes it so interesting for you reporters,” a woman’s voice interjected.

Gabriella Ben-David was standing before them. She had a tight smile on her lips as she handed them some sponge cake. “A peace offering—from my aunt.”

“Peace offering?” said Ed.
“That’s what she told me to say.”
“Thanks. How could I refuse?
“I’ll leave you two to figure things out,” said Weinstein. “Ed, here’s my card. If you’re going to be in Jerusalem tonight, give me a call.”

Gabriella took Weinstein’s place. “I can understand why you might have been surprised by my aunt,” she continued in lightly accented English. “I heard what she said to you by the grave.”

“She thinks I’m somehow to blame for what happened to Dov,” said Ed. “I’ve got an idea that Arik feels the same.”

“No, believe me,” she said solemnly. “It’s just that everyone is still so shocked by what happened. We do not hold this against you. Not Esther, Not my father. None of us.” She raised a hand to push her long hair back from her face. Once again, he was mes- merized by her emerald green eyes. He searched for something to say. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand Hebrew, but what you said by the grave moved everyone. Dov would have been proud. I’m sure your father was.”

“Thanks, maybe he was,” she said curtly. “He didn’t say.” The color rose in her cheeks. “Now come, my aunt would like to talk with you.” She guided Ed to the leather sofa across from Esther. The other mourners had departed. The widow was drawn and gray.

“Mr. Diamond, I am sorry if I am rude before. I hope you understand.”

“Of course. Please,” he put his hand on her shoulder. “You don’t have to—”

“I do know it is not your fault. You are just answering Dov’s call. He insists on calling you.”

Ed hesitated. Esther was exhausted, emotionally drained, but he had to ask. “What was it about? What did he want?”

She looked away. “He—he won’t tell me. He—all I know is that, the evening before he calls you, he is here, reading the paper and watching television, like always. When I come out of the kitchen, he is very upset.”

“What was he watching?”

“I don’t know. Usually CNN. He tells me he cannot believe what is happening.”

“Happening where?”

“I don’t know.” Esther threw up her hands. “He says he doesn’t want me involved. That night he does not sleep. He is up all the time. Walking. Around and around. Like an animal in a cage. For years, I don’t see him like that. The next morning he says he is going to call you. He says he trusts you. I have bad feeling about it. I don’t want him to do it. But he doesn’t listen.”

She stared at the picture of her dead husband on the bookcase. “He doesn’t listen to me—or to Arik. He says it is too important. Someone has to make the alarm.”

“Alarm about what?”

She looked helplessly at the reporter and shook her head. “And then, he has to go back to the spa. Why? Why?”

“But I don’t understand,” said Ed. “The declaration the terrorists made today was that they murdered Dov because he had targeted radical Palestinian leaders when he was in the Mossad. What does any of that have to do with his call to me?”

Esther’s eyes widened. She bit her lower lip.
“Please, what is it?” he asked. “What’s going on?”
She looked at Gabriella.
“It’s all right, show him,” said her niece.
Esther hesitated.
“Dodah, it’s all right.”
Esther walked unsteadily to the bookcase. She opened a cupboard on the left-hand side, removed a piece of paper, and returned. “Yesterday, just before the bomb goes off, the fax rings on Dov’s desk. It is this message.”

She showed the fax to Ed. There were two sentences hand– written on it, in a script that appeared to be Hebrew.

“Can you translate this?”

Gabriella took the paper. “It’s ancient Aramaic,” she said. “It is addressed to Dov and says, ‘Warning to those who commit sins causing dissension in the community, passing malicious information to the gentiles, or revealing the secrets of the town.’ It goes on to say, ‘Next time there will be no warning.’”

“You mean that bomb was supposed to have just been a warning?” said Ed. “It wasn’t supposed to have killed him?”

Esther stared ahead.

“That’s what we think,” said Gabriella. “Usually my uncle would never have been there when the bomb went off. He went to work at the spa early in the morning around eight. Then he would come back around 11:30, have lunch, rest, go to his study, read, write. During the tourist season, he’d go back in the late afternoon, maybe four or five, to see if there were any problems. But yesterday he went back down right after lunch.”

“He has to fix the computer at the cashier’s desk,” Esther explained. “The cashier’s desk is next to the front door.”

All expression had drained from her face.
“Do the police know about this?”
“The Shabak come last night. I tell them the same thing I tell you.”
“They took the fax with them,” said Gabriella. “I made a copy.” “Esther, I’m sorry to push so hard,” said Ed. “I hope you understand. I’ve got to go now. I’m staying in Jerusalem tonight, but I’m flying to Paris early tomorrow morning.” He took the widow’s hands and continued. “If you do find out more, please let me know. And if I can ever do anything to help, don’t hesitate to call.”

Not a very gracious exit, thought Ed, considering the circum- stances: Dov is dead because of what he wanted to tell me—but what the hell was it?

Gabriella accompanied him to the door. “I’ll walk you to your hotel.” The children were no longer playing on the lawn; the sun was at its peak. They strolled along the bamboo-shaded path toward the hotel, Ed very conscious of the attractive woman at his side.

“So that’s it? You’re not going to investigate Dov’s killing any further?”

“Unfortunately, I’ve got to get back to my office. I’ve another report to complete. And then I’ve got to get to New York. Besides, I wouldn’t know where to begin on this. Your intelligence services are supposed to be the best in the world. What could I possibly come up with on my own?” He’d almost convinced himself.

They walked for a while in silence. Her skin gave off a faint scent. Jasmine?

“You mentioned you are going to Jerusalem now. Would you give me a ride? That’s where I live. I came here with my father last night. But he had to go back early. I was going to take the bus.”

“Of course.”

“Great.” She touched Ed’s bare arm. “I’ll go and get my bag. Meet you here in ten minutes, okay?”

Ed watched as she turned toward her aunt’s house. His skin still tingled at her touch.

When he looked back, he noticed a tall, broad- shouldered man who looked like an ad for a Nautilus workout at the hotel door. He wore a white open-necked shirt, had an angular Slavic face, and appeared to be in his midthirties. He was staring at Ed and made no secret of it. Ed had seen him talking with Arik at Esther’s house half an hour before. He stepped forward to produce an ID card with the blue shield of Israel printed in the center. “Mr. Diamond, Amos Givron, Shabak. We are investigating the bomb- ing. I need to talk with you.”

“Fine. But I really don’t know how I can help.”

“We will see.” He contemplated Ed now with hard, unfriendly eyes. “Please, come with me.”

“I’ve also got to get to Jerusalem tonight.” Ed said.

As if he hadn’t heard, Givron continued into the hotel. Suppressing a brief surge of anger, Ed followed him past the gift shop, where a noisy group of tourists was trying on souvenir T-shirts, and into the cafeteria. The two men bought coffee and then sat at a small table by the window. The only other people in the room were sun-bleached teenagers, a boy and a girl in shorts and sandals, their heads close together, talking softly. The boy had a light blond beard.

Givron glanced at the couple, gazed out the window where hotel guests sat around the swimming pool shaded by giant palms, and then looked back at Ed. “As I said, Mr. Diamond, we are looking into yesterday’s bombing.”

Ed furrowed his brow. “I thought a Palestinian group has taken responsibility, the Sons of the Prophet.”

“They did—at least that’s the e-mail they sent to the press this morning.”

“You don’t think it was them?”
“I said we are still investigating,” said Givron testily.
“But why Dov Ben-David? I mean, he was retired, and he was known to favor a deal with the Palestinians.”
The Israeli looked up sharply. “Mr. Diamond, why don’t you let me ask the questions.”
Ed shrugged. “Be my guest.”
“Why did you come to Israel?”
“Dov called and asked me to come.”
“Did he say what it was about?”
“He didn’t want to talk about it over the phone.”
“I don’t understand, Mr. Diamond.” The tanned young girl cross the room began to laugh softly. Givron paused and glanced in her direction. Her boyfriend had his hand under the table; she had her foot raised between his legs. “Look, you are in Paris, and someone in Israel phones you, tells you to come to Israel, but says he can’t tell you why. And you—a very busy, very famous reporter—you simply drop what you are doing and fly to Israel.”

“No, you look, Mr. Givron. Dov was an old friend. I’d known him for many years. I trusted him. If he said ‘Come,’ that meant it was important.”

Givron’s eyes narrowed. “He helped you in the past—when he was with the Mossad, of course? Just how did he help you?”

“I can’t tell you. You can be assured he gave away none of Israel’s valuable secrets. But that’s as far as I’ll go. I’m a reporter. I protect my sources—even when they’re dead. That’s something authorities in my country understand.”

“You are no longer in your country,” Givron said flintily. “You are here, in Israel. We play by different rules. We are surrounded by enemies. We take our security laws seriously. It’s not up to you to decide if Dov Ben-David broke them by talking to you. It’s up to us. Perhaps what he revealed to you is connected with the bombing.”

Ed felt his temper flare. “Hey, I’m as interested as you to discover who killed Dov! And why! So cut the shit—and back off.” Ed rose from his chair. “Now, unless you’re going to arrest me for something specific, I’m out of here.”

The young couple stared at them across the room. Givron’s jaw tightened. He took a deep drag on his cigarette, exhaled, and smiled grimly. “Arrest you? Who’s talking about arresting you?” He spread his hands wide. “You are free to go. But if you do get any information, we shall expect you to be in contact with us, you understand? Another thing, Mr. Diamond…”

“Yes?”

“An intelligent man like you should be more cautious before he jumps into situations he knows nothing about.” His eyebrows arched. “You are dealing with crazy people here. You get in the way, they kill you.”

———————-

I’ll be publishing more excerpts, but if you don’t want to wait, you can download the book this week for only $0.99 while it’s featured on Amazon.  Also available in softcover.

America & Iraq: A Black Hole of History

By: Barry Lando Saturday January 11, 2014 4:09 am

The last thing the U.S. should do is become militarily embroiled in the conflict raging again in Iraq. But for Americans to shake their heads in lofty disdain and turn away, as if they have no responsibility for the continued bloodletting, is outrageous. Why? Because America bears a large part of the blame for turning Iraq into the basket case it’s become.

The great majority of Americans don’t realize that fact. They never did. So much of what the U.S. did to Iraq has been consigned by America to a black hole of history. Iraqis, however, can never forget.

In 1990, for instance, during the first Gulf War, George H.W. Bush, called on the people of Iraq to rise up and overthrow Saddam Hussein. But when they finally did, after Saddam’s forces were driven from Kuwait, President Bush refused any gesture of support, even permitted Saddam’s pilots to keep flying their deadly helicopter gunships. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were slaughtered.

[H.W. Bush later denied any responsibility for that uprising, but you can hear his appeal to the Iraqis in a documentary I produced with Michel Despratx, “The Trial of Saddam Hussein.”]

Even more devastating to Iraq was the Draconian  embargo  that the United States and its allies pushed through the U.N. Security Council in August 1990, after Saddam invaded Kuwait.

The embargo cut off all trade between Iraq and the rest of the world. That meant everything, from food and electric generators to vaccines, hospital equipment—even medical journals. Since Iraq imported 70 percent of its food, and its principal revenues were derived from the export of petroleum, the sanctions dealt a catastrophic blow, particularly to the young.

Enforced primarily by the United States and Britain, the sanctions remained in place for almost 13 years and were, in their own way, a weapon of mass destruction far more deadly than anything Saddam had developed. Two U.N. administrators who oversaw humanitarian relief in Iraq during that period, and resigned in protest, considered the embargo to have been a “crime against humanity.”

Early on, it became evident that for the United States and England, the real purpose of the sanctions was not the elimination of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, but of Saddam Hussein himself, though that goal went far beyond anything authorized by the Security Council.

The effect of the sanctions was magnified by the wide-scale destruction of Iraq’s infrastructure —power plants, sewage treatment facilities, telephone exchanges, irrigation systems—wrought by the American air and rocket attacks preceding the first Gulf War. That infrastructure has still to be completely rebuilt.

Iraq’s contaminated waters became a biological killer as lethal as anything Saddam had attempted to produce. There were massive outbreaks of severe child and infant dysentery. Typhoid and cholera, which had been virtually eradicated in Iraq, also packed the hospital wards.

Added to that was a disastrous shortage of food, which meant malnutrition for some, starvation and death for others. At the same time, the medical system, once the country’s pride, careened toward total collapse. Iraq would soon have the worst child mortality rate of all 188 countries measured by UNICEF.

There is no question that U.S. planners knew how awful the force of the sanctions would be.  In fact, the health calamity was coolly predicted and then meticulously tracked by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency. Its first study was entitled “Iraq’s Water Treatment Vulnerabilities.”

Indeed, from the beginning, the intent of U.S. officials was to create such a catastrophic situation that the people of Iraq—civilians, but particularly the military—would be forced to react. As Denis Halliday, the former U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, put it to me, “the U.S. theory behind the sanctions was that if you hurt the people of Iraq and kill the children particularly, they’ll rise up with anger and overthrow Saddam.”

But rather than weakening Saddam, the sanctions only consolidated his hold on power. “The people didn’t hold Saddam responsible for their plight,” Halliday said. “They blamed the U.S. and the U.N. for these sanctions and the pain and anger that these sanctions brought to their lives.”

Even after the sanctions were modified in the “Oil for Food Program” in 1996, the resources freed up were never enough to cover Iraq’s basic needs. Hans von Sponeck, who also resigned his post as U.N. coordinator in Iraq, condemned the program as “a fig leaf for the international community.”

By 1999 a UNICEF study concluded that half a million Iraqi children perished in the previous eight years because of the sanctions—and that was four years before they ended. Another American expert in 2003 estimated that the sanctions killed between 343,900 and 529,000 young children and infants–certainly more young people than were ever killed by Saddam Hussein.

America’s Obscenities

By: Barry Lando Monday December 16, 2013 10:14 am

At times, outrageous juxtapositions in the news shriek for attention. Sometimes, they’re actually obscene.

A G-222 Turboprop plane

While our military wastes millions, Americans go cold and hungry.

On one hand, for instance, a series in the New York Times last week about the plight of 22,000 homeless children in New York City– “the highest number since the Great Depression in the most unequal metropolis in America.”

On the other hand, was a scattering of reports, facets of another on-going outrage: The hundreds of billions of dollars that the U.S. continues to pour into the cesspools of Central Asia, in a still undefined and ultimately futile effort to control political events thousands of miles away. I invite you to read  the rest of my blog.

We begin with the startling five-part series about the plight of the huge “invisible tribe” of  homeless children and their families in New York City, written by Times reporter Andrea Elliott. She eschewed mind-numbing statistics and faceless generalizations to zero in on the day-by-day plight of one 12 year-old girl, named Dasani.

She [Dasani] wakes to the sound of breathing. The smaller children lie tangled beside her, their chests rising and falling under winter coats and wool blankets. A few feet away, their mother and father sleep near the mop bucket they use as a toilet. Two other children share a mattress by the rotting wall where the mice live, opposite the baby, whose crib is warmed by a hair dryer perched on a milk crate.

Dasani lived for three years in a teeming, squalid homeless shelter, the Auburn Family Residence in Brooklyn. She shared a cramped, dank room with seven siblings and her parents, both of whom battled—not always successfully- with drug addiction.

Adding to the indignation, the Auburn Residence, which holds 280 children and their families, is located in Forest Greene, one of the new gentrified glories of  a supposedly transformed Brooklyn.  Despite New York’s spectacular resurgence over the past few years, the numbers of poor have also risen. Thousands, like Dasani and her family, have been consigned to “shelters” like the Auburn.

It is a place where mold creeps up walls and roaches swarm, where feces and vomit plug communal toilets, where sexual predators have roamed and small children stand guard for their single mothers outside filthy showers….

Almost half of New Yorkers live near or below the poverty line.

Their traditional anchors — affordable housing and jobs that pay a living wage — have weakened as the city reorders itself around the whims of the wealthy.

—-

But there were reports about another scandal last week, the continuing drip-drip of exposes that have been going on for so long that most of us are inured to them. Our eyes glaze over. And yet, it continues: the hemorrhaging of hundreds of billions of American dollars, part of a War on Terror that no one has ever clearly explained—nor convincingly justified.

One shocking case involves almost half a billion U.S. government dollars flushed down the drain in Afghanistan. Four hundred and eighty-six million dollars, to be precise. That’s the amount the U.S. spent to provide twenty G-222 turboprop transport planes to the Afghan Air Force. The planes are currently gathering dust on the tarmacs in Kabul and Frankfurt. Most never flew for more than a few hundred hours.

The problem? For one thing, the company running the program –Rome -based Finmessanica Alenia Aermachi –never bought enough spare parts to keep the planes running. To do that, another $200 million would be needed. Another problem:  Some of those parts are no longer available. Indeed, six of the original planes have already been cannibalized for spares.

The upshot: even before entering fully into service, those $486 million dollars worth of planes are to be junked.

—-

Back to New York: According to the Times, the reasons for the disturbing existence of huge numbers of homeless children are complex. They range from the economic crisis to wage stagnation to the rising costs of housing. They are also a direct result of Draconian cutbacks on government spending, on all levels, particularly for programs intended to help the poor: rent subsidies, special education, child care, health etc. etc. etc.

Americans, after all, have to tighten their belts, make sacrifices, get their financial house in order.

On the other hand, a few blocks from Dasanis’s shelter, the much more affluent kids have tutors to help boost their SAT’s and attend a private school where tuition is $35,000 a year.

Dasani, however, attends a nearby public school: