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Laugh - UN Returns Rockets to Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 23, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Even painful and costly conflicts are not without humor. Sometimes, when we find the humor, it serves as both critique and catharsis.
Laughing helps.

Israel told the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza that Hamas was hiding rockets in their schools. This has happened several times.

The first time it happened the United Nations school run by UNRWA called up Hamas and asked them to come and please take the weapons out. Hamas did just that. The school was not targeted by Israel. But the rockets were taken to be used by Hamas.

Yesterday, the same thing happened again.

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird was livid when he heard of these events. How can the UN give weapons to Hamas? Here is what Baird said:
"I was appalled to hear reports, one as recent as today, of stockpiles of rockets in a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza."

"Even more alarming were reports that in the first case, officials with the United Nations returned these weapons to Hamas, a listed terrorist organization, once Israeli officials discovered their location."

And in conclusion, Baird said, "Canada unequivocally calls on the United Nations to launch an immediate independent investigation to determine the facts surrounding these reports. Canada also calls on the United Nations to ensure that in the second case, no rockets are returned to Hamas. Anything less than an independent investigation would be absolutely unacceptable."

Laugh. It's our only response. Laugh.

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Israel is Not Using Disproportionate Force
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 22, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

There has been a lot of talk about Israel's "disproportionate" reaction to Hamas.

But proportionate and disproportionate force are not literary or mathematical terms. They are legal terms and mean something very different than what one might think.

The terms are found in the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949 and mean "a defensive operation." In other words, it is by definition a category of self-defense.

The Geneva Convention lays out 3 basic requirements.
# 1: Use the amount of force necessary to remove the threat but not more than that.
# 2: Avoid civilian casualties as much as possible.
# 3: Use as much force as necessary to make certain that the threat does not return.

When these limits have been exceeded, you have perpetrated disproportionate force.

Add to that the Rome Statute which confirms that, under these conditions, in a defensive operation civilian casualties are regrettable but they are not a war crime.

It seems clear that Israel is fulfilling all the requirements of a defensive and proportionate response.

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Israel Respects Human Life
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 21, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israel is a society that respects human life.

The value of human life is primary, it is second to none. And it is for that reason that Israel began the operation in Gaza - to protect the lives of Israeli citizens.

That's Israel. Hamas is different.

Hamas is using their citizens as human shields and it is for that reason that it is innocents who are being killed. Hamas does not care about the deaths of their people. If they did, they would not use human shields and they would certainly have accepted the ceasefires.

Israel has a very low threshold for the deaths of innocent civilians and even for the deaths of soldiers. Israelis have an even lower threshold for kidnapping.

Hamas operates differently.

In order of goal prioritization, Hamas wants to kidnap soldiers, kill as many civilians as possible and kill as many soldiers as possible.

Up until Sunday Israel was very successful at preventing Hamas from achieving any of their goals. But it was always clear that as soon as Israel initiated a ground operation in Gaza, the risks would increase dramatically.

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ISIS Take Over Oil in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Saturday July 19, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Over the past week our attention has shifted to Gaza and Israel. But there are still major issues that need to be monitored.
Syria had been relatively quiet.

ISIS, now IS, took its battle to Iraq and forces loyal to Assad are mopping up major swaths of regions that had been under the control of IS.

Then yesterday, from out of nowhere, IS attacked and captured a major oil field in Dir el Zour. It is the most significant oil production area in Syria and it fell to the Islamic State.

In the process over 100 of Assad's soldiers were killed and 200 taken captive. While at the same time only 20 IS fighters were killed.
This is a huge victory for IS, Baghdadi and his movement - not from the economic point of view but because of how the capturing those oil fields will stifle Assad's economy.

IS does not have the wherewithal to extract the oil and the markets and ability to sell the oil. But they prevented Assad from having it.

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Hamas Does Not Listen
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 18, 2914

I've Been Thinking:

It should be abundantly clear that Hamas does not listen to any outsiders. Not Egypt, not Turkey, not Qatar.

And it should be absolutely clear that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has absolutely no influence over Hamas either.

That was the case before the unity government and it is the case now with the conflict between Hamas and Israel.

It should all be crystal clear.

In many ways Abbas is happy that Hamas is being pounded by Israel. Destroying Hamas's leadership and organizational infrastructure allows Abbas to lead with fewer restrictions and hindrances in the West Bank.

There is a small chance that if Hamas is weakened a scenario will emerge in which Gaza will toe the line with Abbas and again join the PA. It is only a small chance and it is very unlikely, but it is possible. Should it happen, it would require enormous PA police resources in order to bring Gaza under its wing and to keep Hamas under control.

It would also mean dissolving the Hamas / Palestinian Authority unity government.

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Hamas Can't Have a Ceasefire Yet
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 17, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

People are asking me to explain why does Hamas not want a ceasefire, not even for a few days.

The answer is simple.

Hamas does want a ceasefire, but Hamas cannot accept a cease fire.

One reason Hamas cannot accept a cease is because of Egypt - and spitting in the eye of the Egyptians is a very attractive byproduct of not accepting the Egyptian sponsored plea for the ceasefire.

Hamas wants Egypt to squirm. Hamas wants the Egyptians to open their borders and if they do, then Hamas will consider agreeing to a ceasefire.

But the main reason Hamas cannot participate in a ceasefire is that they have nothing to show for all the rockets they have launched into Israel. Hamas cannot point to a single success. And given the tremendous damage inflicted by Israel on Gaza, they need to show their people some symbols of victory.

In the eyes of Hamas victory means huge numbers of Israel casualties and gross amounts of damage.

That is what Hamas needs. And that is a Catch-22 Middle East style.

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US Allocates More for Iron Dome
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 16, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee just approved a spending bill that will allocate $621.6 million to Israel for missile defense.

Of that, $351 million is directly allocated to the Iron Dome.

In this time of military aid cutbacks and the reduction of defense budgets, this is a huge success. Dick Durban, the chair of the subcommittee, said "it works." He was referring to the Iron Dome. The Iron Dome saves lives.

The Iron Dome cost billions of dollars to develop but costs only $70 million to assemble. Each missile costs about $20,000 to $30,000.

Right now Israel has 8 Iron Dome batteries. There is no doubt that Israel needs more batteries because, just as the senator said, "it works."

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