It’s Complicated

Will the Americans attack Syrian Government forces? Will the British join them in such an attack? (It seems not.) Will the U.N. back them in such a move? How about the E.U.? If the Americans do attack, how will Assad react? Will he make good his threat to fire rockets at Israel, or to have his Hezbollah allies do so, from Lebanon? If he does so, will they be equipped with conventional warheads or Weapons of Mass Destruction? How will Israel react to such an attack? And how are we to understand Iran’s threat, if the Americans attack in Syria, “to leave Israel in flames”?

By the way – kudos to the E.U. and Russia  for wanting to hold up any attack on Assad’s forces until the U.N.  manages to verify who actually is responsible for the use of chemical weapons. Would that they displayed such circumspection when Israel is accused of such crimes!

If it comes to that – should the U.S. attack Syria (by which I mean Syrian Government forces i.e. President Assad), even if it should be proved that it was Assad’s forces who used chemical weapons against his own people? Why is it America’s business anyway? Why should the U.S. interfere in what is, in fact, a civil war? What good is likely to come out of it? Hasn’t the U.S. learned anything from the mistakes of Afghanistan and Iraq? All that is likely to happen is the replacement of a (more or less) secular anti-Western dictatorship with an Islamist anti-Western dictatorship.

Remember all the euphoria in the West over the so-called “Arab Spring”? It didn’t take long for that to degenerate into an Islamist Winter, with a democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood president in Egypt, who still enjoys considerable grassroots support, despite the disillusionment of large sectors of Egyptian society which has led to the present turmoil in Egypt.  In Libya, the downfall of the dictator Muammar Gaddafi has led to the rise of Islamist militias and a worsening of the rights of women. In Iraq and Afghanistan there is complete chaos and the likelihood that, as soon as the Americans and British withdraw, Islamist groups will seize power. So, I ask myself – what is likely to happen if Assad is removed?

The Americans say it is not their intention to remove Assad, that this will be a “limited operation”. Well, we’ve all seen how “limited operations” tend to get drawn out and bogged down in the Middle East. And if the object of the exercise is not to remove Assad, then what is the point of an American attack? To punish him? To administer a slap on the wrist?

The Syrian government and its supporters, Iran and Hezbollah, are promising to retaliate against Israel if they are attacked by Western forces, claiming that the U.S. is merely doing Israel’s bidding. It reminds me of the story about the Polish landowner who discovered that his neighbour’s lackeys had attacked some Jews who were living on the landowner’s property, under his “protection”. In retaliation, he sent some of his own lackeys to “punish” the Jews living under his neighbour’s “protection”, sending him the message: “If you beat up my Jews, I’ll beat up your Jews”.

Meanwhile, Israel is being accused by both sides of meddling in the civil war. Assad and his allies accuse Israel of trying to topple his regime, whilst the rabid Israel-hater British MP George Galloway has even accused Israel of supplying the nerve gas used against Syrian civilians via Al Qaeda!!!

No, my friends, I kid you not. According to the arguably certifiable Galloway, it was not Assad’s forces who used chemical weapons in Syria (which, it seems to me, is, in fact, a distinct possibility) but the rebels – or rather, their allies Al Qaeda – and the chemical weapons, according to this nut-job, were supplied by Israel!

Now, I ask you – is it likely that Israel would supply one of her worst enemies with deadly chemical weapons which would , in all likelihood,  at some stage be used on her?

On the other hand, we have no reason to support Assad, who is, as I said before, supported by Hezbollah and Iran. In fact, one is tempted to quote Shakespeare on this and say “A plague on both your houses”.

And yet, on the humanitarian level, one can’t help but pity the thousands of civilians caught up in the fighting, which is why, every day, we hear about more Syrian refugees crossing the border into Israel to be treated, free of charge, in Israeli hospitals.

What will happen if Syria does fire rockets into Israel? The past few days have seen long queues of civilians waiting to receive new gas masks (which, theoretically, are supposed to protect the wearer in the case of a biological or chemical weapons attack). On the TV, I see journalists interviewing people waiting in line, often for hours at a stretch, to receive the equipment which the Home Front Command has been urging them to collect for at least two years now, but which, being Israelis and therefore, certain that “everything will be okay”, they have neglected to do. I hate to admit this, but it’s hard not to feel smug. I collected mine months and months ago.

On the other hand, I’ve been reading up on chemical weapons and it appears that the most commonly used kinds can also be absorbed into the body via the skin. So, even if we’ve all got gas masks, their efficacy is likely to be limited. We can only be properly protected from the deadly effects of nerve gas, if the government issues us all with full HazMat suits.

But hey, not to worry! The pundits tell us that the likelihood of Assad or Hezbollah bombarding us with chemical weapons is, in fact, very low.

That’s good to hear, isn’t it? Only – how low is “very low”?

I ask because, you see, I’m just a lawyer. I’m not a political scientist, a military expert or a strategic analyst, nor do I pretend, like certain bloggers, to have any “highly-placed confidential sources” in the Israeli (or any other) government. (If I had them, I certainly wouldn’t blab about them and thereby risk exposing them.)

Sometimes, common sense is enough. And common sense tells me – this is the Middle East. Things rarely turn out as planned. Expect the Unexpected.

And, above all, don’t expect Common Sense.


About Shimona from the Palace

Born in London, the UK, I came on Aliyah in my teens and now live in Jerusalem, where I practice law. I am a firm believer in the words of Albert Schweitzer: "There are two means of refuge from the sorrows of this world - Music and Cats." To that, you can add Literature. To curl up on the sofa with a good book, a cat at one's feet and another one on one's lap, with a classical symphony or concerto in the background - what more can a person ask for?
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42 Responses to It’s Complicated

  1. Pati says:

    Oui, en effet, c’est compliqué. …

  2. If the chemical used was sarin then atropine can and should be administered promptly. I recall that at the time of the first Gulf Way, the gas mask kit included an atropine injector. Didn’t the reissues kit also include this?
    Has the government given out any information on what to do in the case of a suspected sarin attack?

    • On the box containing my gas mask, there’s a sticker saying it does not contain the atropine injector – in contradiction to what’s printed on the box itself, which says it does.
      And no, the government hasn’t given out any such information.

  3. Once again George Galloway tells the most brazen lies in a nefarious effort to demonize the Jewish state.

  4. katecrimmins says:

    I don’t understand man’s need to continue warring. My heart goes out to all of you who live in the midst of it all the time. We in the US don’t worry about things like chemical warfare or rockets landing in our yards. Although now we have to worry about deranged gunmen going into schools and shooting our kids. The world needs a lot less testosterone.

    • “A lot less testosterone”? And yet, some of the most dangerous terrorists have been women. We’ve even had female suicide bombers. Or are they trying, somehow, to “prove themselves” in a paternalistic Muslim society?

  5. ShimonZ says:

    Your argument sounds good, Shimona. And I have to agree with you, that since there is a lot of evil on both sides of the conflict in Syria, it is tempting to let them work out their enthusiasm by killing one another. But when seeing pictures of innocent men, women, and children lying dead on the floor, doesn’t organized society have an obligation to do something about it? Could the UN ever be respected if they did not take some responsibility for the situation. Not to help one side against the other, but to protect the innocent. And even when both sides are evil, there are some innocent victims.

    • “It is tempting to let them work out their enthusiasm by killing one another.”
      That’s not quite what I meant, Shimon. What I was trying to say was, we have no reason to take sides. Whatever side we choose will turn out to be the wrong side. And if we do take sides, we’ll only be adding fuel to the claims both sides and their supporters are making, that Israel is deliberately trying to destabilise Syria.
      But of course,you are right about the obligation of society to do something to protect the innocent. That’s why Israeli hospitals have been treating Syrian wounded. However, let’s face it, we all know that, if the West interferes militarily, what is most likely to happen is that one tyranny will replace another, exactly as has happened all over the Arab world.

  6. Chrissie says:

    While it seems as if Assad’s forces did indeed gas Syrians, I have to say that I hope we (the U.S.) don’t make the mistake of becoming involved. First, we don’t seem to be doing a good job of being the world’s “policeman”. Our politicians have difficulty deciding which is best: to do the right thing for human beings or to do the right thing for their next election. Second, we have a perpetual inability to realize that our brand of republicanism will not work in the Middle East. While I deplore involving noncombatants, it’s not as if the disputing parties agreed to abide by the Marquess of Queensbury rules. Israel needs no permission to defend it’s borders. But I think that if we do become involved, it will be to keep the neighborhood bully(s) at bay. Russia and her cronies (Iran) would love nothing more than to swoop in to “save” the civilians of Syria, and then go on to dominate the entire Middle East. There’s an awful lot of rubles to be had thereabouts. And Russia needs them, badly.

    • Indeed, Chrissie, I think the Russian involvement is greatly underestimated. People thought that with the end of the Soviet era, Russia would just “fade away” as far as Big Power politics go, but the Russian involvement in Asia and the Middle East (especially Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq) predates the Soviet Union by many years, and actually goes back as far as the early 19th century. Remember Kipling’s “Great Game“?

      “we have a perpetual inability to realize that our brand of republicanism will not work in the Middle East.” – Except in Israel, of course 😉

      “But I think that if we do become involved, it will be to keep the neighborhood bully(s) at bay.”
      The trouble is, it’s getting harder and harder to know who “the neighbourhood bully” is. That’s why I said “it’s complicated”.

      • Chrissie says:

        When I mentioned “our brand of republicanism” I was thinking of the Egyptians, the Turks, the Jordanians, The Gaza-ites, Hamas, The Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah (in all it’s spellings and iterations) Lebanon, Syria and all the folks who’re round about Israel who are inclined to view the U.S. as the Great Satan and Israel as, well, the various and sundry epithets that fall so easily upon their lips. I tend to think of Israel apart from the “Middle East”. Do forgive me.

        Regarding bullies, I was thinking more of those who finance the bombings and the rhetoric, the Arab Springs and port embargos.

        Nevertheless, I would never disagree with you, Shimona. It’s infinitely complicated.

  7. mysending says:

    One of the problems I see from my side of the pond is the ridiculous line that Obama drew for himself last year, never ever thinking that Assad and/or the rebels would be [add your own adjective] enough to actually cross it. So the only reason that he is thinking of action now is due to that statement; not due to true concern for the victims. The children and women and innocent civilians were already dying; why is this different? Thank G-d Israel is getting some positive press about their care for the victims, not that it will change anyone’s mind about Israel. I’m sure that people will still line up to lionize Israel. Shabbat Shalom.

    • “One of the problems I see from my side of the pond is the ridiculous line that Obama drew for himself last year…”
      Yes, it rather reminds me of that scene in “Tom Sawyer” where Tom draws draws a line in the dust and dares the new boy to step over it, on pain of being beaten till he can’t stand. The new boy steps over it and dares Tom to make good his threat. But Tom actually tries to wriggle out of it and says that for two cents, he will do it. Presumably, he doesn’t think the new boy will produce the money and it is only when he does so, and Tom can’t find further excuses, that he does fight with the boy.
      “Thank G-d Israel is getting some positive press about their care for the victims.” Don’t get your hopes up 😦 There are still plenty of Israel-bashers ready to pour scorn on Israel’s humanitarian efforts and to claim we are only doing it to divert attention from our “crimes” against the “Palestinians”.

      • mysending says:

        No, I won’t get my hopes up too high. I wonder what Mark Twain would say about the whole mess here. I think I would enjoy his satire.

  8. Excellent post as always! One thing I cannot really understand is why “the West” choose to intervene in the middle east where genocide is taking place but will not intervene in sub-Saharan Africa where some of the greatest and hideous atrocities have taken (and are taking) place? Is it the emotive term “chemical weapons” that’s the decider?

    BTW Galloway is not arguably certifiable, he IS certifiable. He is bonkers, but what is so frightening is people listen to him and give him air time!

    • Why does “the West” choose to intervene in one place but not in another? Frankly, I suspect that humanitarian considerations play little part in the decision. Sorry to be so cynical, but I believe that “the West” intervenes when they perceive some threat to Western interests (such as oil, influence, etc.)

      • Chrissie says:

        You’re right, of course. Isn’t it true of most nations? They only take an interest in a conflict or an atrocity where it touches their own? It’s not cynicism at all-only reality. There’s also the idea of a “sure thing”. If the West believes it can win or at least turn the tide in it’s own favor, well-there ya go. What we have yet to learn is the disparity between Western and Eastern thinking. What we need to do is to stand firmly and vocally behind the only free country in the region. And resist, by all reasonable methods, the influence of those who’re actively working for Israel’s destruction.

      • Also, of course, there’s the wish to be on what they believe is likely to be the winning side.

  9. Silke says:

    when I read last night something of Kerry’s speech it struck me how much I already knew almost verbatim from my following Turkish FM Davutoglu, who btw said (says my memory) at the beginning of this phase that he favoured NATO intervening and Turkey would be willing to be in command. Just from memory it seemed to me that Peres synched his words with Kerry.

    i.e. my guess is that it isn’t just oil it is also Turkey’s fear of a second semi-autonomous Kurdistan on her borders.

    • “Turkey would be willing to be in command.” I bet she would!
      No doubt I am being cynical 😉 but I suspect that it’s also connected to Turkey’s seeing herself as restored to greatness and becoming the major power-player in the Eastern Mediterranean once again, just like in the good old days of the Ottoman Empire.

      • Silke says:

        yes!!! I read one speech by Davutoglu in the Balkans about the Balkans saying as best I remember that Turkey would re-integrate them and all the others also of course and of course it would all add to their well-being.

        But it isn’t Turkey alone – one of our best-selling historians of the holocaust wrote a piece about the benefits Ottoman revival would hold for the region and believe it or not he wrote it while on assignment to Yad Vashem. At least he had the good luck to have had it written some days before the Mavi Marmara incident but I doubt that he would have refrained from publishing it afterwards … and I have good reasons for that doubt … but with or without Mavi Marmara to wish a hegemon of any kind on a country in which I am a guest (and a German in Israel to boot) seems to me to be a bit inconsiderate.–historiker-die-osmanische-union–ein-traum,10810590,10718726.html

        this hoping for the benevolent hegemon that pops up again and again must be linked to a yearning-for-big-Daddy left-over from early childhood me thinks. BTW Götz Aly stems from a Turkish POW turned courtier who died in 1716 … i.e. 300 years ago and still …

      • Centuries ago, the Hasmoneans turned to Rome for help against the Hellenist Syrians – look how that turned out. We should have learned our lesson then about “Big Daddies”.
        “Put not your trust in princes…”

      • Silke says:

        Turkey achieving relevance would be a variation of Big-Daddy-Syndrome which is when somebody not quite so much in the limelight takes a problem off a big man’s/woman’s hands and sorts it out for him/her.

        I keep being deeply worried that to my ears Kerry seemed to repeat Davutoglu and Peres Kerry. Whenever ones with power agree on a common narrative/template “normals” better pay attention.

        My best hope for Israel remains that she’ll become MENA’s version of Switzerland.

      • As long as we continue to give the world rather more than the cuckoo clock 😉

  10. Chrissie says:

    There’s also that tendency to kick the can down the street. If we shift the decision making responsibility to the UN or to NATO or to someone else, it certainly relieves the “us” of making any move that may emperil our future influence in the area. We (in the US) are working so hard to balance our new shale oil deposits with the threat from Saudi Arabia should we decline to receive their oil henceforth and a President unable to balance his vacation schedule and his legacy.

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  12. Pati says:

    La France se retrouve seule au G20. Hollande qui apparemment ne comprend pas grand chose en politique internationale continue à vouloir une intervention armée en Syrie. Heureusement qu’il n’est suivi par personne.
    Cet homme est dangereux. il veut sans doute provoquer un conflit mondial.. en fait il est complètement dépassé… voire complètement débile.
    Le Figaro
    je cite :
    «Il n’y a pas de solution militaire en Syrie», a insisté Herman Van Rompuy, le président de l’Union européenne. «La solution doit être politique», et s’inscrire dans le cadre de l’ONU, a martelé le représentant de l’UE à Saint-Pétersbourg, appuyé par José Manuel Barroso, le président de la Commission.

    • Malheureusement, Hollande ne se retrouve pas seule. Obama (qui ne comprend rien en politique internationale, lui aussi), appuie aussi une intervention militaire.

      • Pati says:

        Il ne va pas oser….

      • Pati says:

        S’il ose, alors cela voudra dire qu’il privilégie la terrorisme islamique au terrorisme laïque.. je pense que Hollande est un débile mental qui ne comprend rien.. par contre, Barack Hussein Obama est loin, très très loin de l’être. il risque d’être un éclair du style catastrophe naturelle (juste du style, parce que pour le coup, la catastrophe ne serait pas si naturelle que ça..)
        Mais ce n’est qu’un avis purement personnel..

      • Tu veux dire,en effet, que Barack Hussein Obama a un “agenda” caché.

      • Pati says:

        Je n’ai aucune confiance en cet homme.. s’il n’avait eu qu’un seul prénom, j’aurais peut être eu confiance, mais là, j’avoue que cet homme m’effraie…
        Il sait pertinemment que s’il attaque, cela veut dire simplement qu’il pose toute son armée aux côtés d’Al Quaïda contre le tyran laïque..
        D’un autre côté, il est évident que laisser l’arme chimique ainsi utilisée est une ouverture sur une utilisation encore plus terrible sur l’occident.
        Qui l’a utilisée ?? ici est la question…
        Obama mets toute la population américaine et toute l’Europe en danger, simplement pour donner le pouvoir aux islamistes.. pourquoi ?? question qui peut rester en suspend..

      • Il affirme qu’une telle attaque aidera Israël – qui garantit que nous seront blâmés quand tout va mal.

    • Pati says:

      aider Israël ?? ah !!! comment ?? parce que que ce soit d’un côté comme de l’autre, malheureusement, Israel est toujours blâmé… Israel est toujours rendu responsable de tous les maux du monde.. que ce soit en Syrie ou ailleurs d’ailleurs !!!
      Aider Al Quaïda et les frères musulmans pour aider Israel ??? là, pour le coup, il se moque du monde.. il peut aussi aller plus loin, et armer le Hezbolla et le Hamas à l’intérieur de Gaza ce serait le même ordre d’idée.. c’est du moins ce que je pense.
      Hollande est pro islam cela se voit tous les jours en France, et c’est pour cela qu’il y a tant de Français qui font actuellement leur Alya, mais bon, ici cela se voit comme le nez au milieu de la figure.. mais que ce président américain utilise une pseudo aide d’Israël pour déclencher un potentiel troisième conflit mondial, là, il fait fort…. il nous prend pour des imbéciles…. et pire encore, il trouve le moyen de légitimer une xième haine d’Israel et des juifs du monde entier.. il prévoit peut être une légitimité à une future shoah !!

      • Pati says:

        Je ne l’ai pas entendu dire cela, j’ai bossé et je n’ai pas tout écouté, mais s’il a réellement dit cela et si (que Dieu nous en préserve), demain un conflit mondial explose, Israël et tous les juifs seront détestés du monde entier, parce que nous serons rendu responsables une fois de plus de ce conflit, et cela ira encore crescendo.. c’est sans aucun doute ce qu’il recherche.. peut être pense-t-il trouver quelques vierges au moment de son ultime voyage.. je sais pas.

      • Pati says:

        voilà ce qu’ils font avec les armes.. ceux de Nairobi sont les mêmes qu’en Syrie qu’à Gaza et ailleurs.. ils pourrissent le monde……..
        L’éclair noir a pris position pour le radicalisme islamisme.. Hollande aussi et lui, il veut en plus les armer……donc pour moi, et ici, je persiste et signe, L’éclair noir défend la religion de ses ailleux et hollande se met à plat ventre devant les arabes simplement pour les faire entrer en plus grand nombre ici en France et avoir des chances d’être à nouveau élu.
        Quoi qu’il en soit, ce sont des fous…. certes, l’un d’eux est intelligent il n’en demeure pas moins vrai qu’il soit fou.. le diable est fou, n’est ce pas ??

      • Le diable n’est pas fou, Pati – mais il rend fous ses victimes, pour les détruire plus facilement.

      • Pati says:

        Oui, Shimona, il rend fous ses disciples, mais en creusant un peu.. en réfléchissant juste un peu.. je me dis qu’il faut quand même être fou pour s’opposer ainsi à Dieu…..

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  14. Jamel R. Lindsey says:

    Following an incident on 19 March near Aleppo, President Bashar al-Assad’s regime claimed that opposition forces used chemical weapons against its troops. State television claimed that more than 30 people had been killed in an attack near the northern city after “terrorists fired rockets containing chemical materials”.

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