Confronting the North Korean Threat

Confronting the North Korean Threat
By Yuri Yarim-Agaev
FrontPageMagazine.com | October 31, 2006

The recent nuclear test by North Korea has once again underscored how little progress has been made to curb that country’s bid for a nuclear program. Six-party negotiations and even a U.N. resolution unanimously passed by the Security Council have all proven failures. The main problem with North Korea, however, is not its nuclear missiles, but its communist system. A democratic Korea, even with nuclear weapons, would hardly pose a threat. By contrast, Communist Korea, even bound by agreements and promises, remains a serious danger. From this premise it follows that the most realistic solution to the rogue state’s provocations is not to prevent that regime from producing weapons of mass destruction. It is to facilitate the rapid change of the regime.

The history of fruitless attempts to end the arms race with the Soviet Union shows us that no negotiations or agreements with a totalitarian state can stop it from pursuing a military buildup. Andrei Sakharov and other Russian human-rights activists realized very early that the only way to tame Soviet aggression was to influence public opinion in the West by exposing the system’s injustices to the outside world.

This was the goal that brought me into the ranks of the dissidents. Our position was supported most prominently by President Reagan. Uninterested in signing new accords with the Soviets, Reagan took a strong position against communism. This helped to open up the Soviet Union and to spur the development of the democratic movement. As a result, Soviet authorities were forced to make concessions in their arms programs that would have been unthinkable to Reagan’s predecessors.

The North Korean totalitarian state is a replica of the Soviet system. As it was with the Soviet Union, North Korea’s nuclear threat will end only with the end of the communist regime. How and when that regime goes may depend on us. Will North Korea’s leaders have enough time and resources to develop nuclear weapons and the will to use them, or will they depart before that with little resolve for resistance? Herein is the essence of the North Korean threat. This should determine America’s North Korea policy: Its goal should be to help weaken the Korean communist regime, thereby hastening its ultimate end.

Attempting to force out the ruling power through negotiations is not very realistic. Sanctions alone will not do the job, either. Trying to topple the communist dictatorship by military intervention is not only highly risky, but also hardly justifiable, morally or politically, as long as there are any alternatives to that approach.

In the case of North Korea, such an alternative exists. It lies in liberalizing and opening up North Korean society. Our goal should be to make the communist regime give in to the demands of its own people and international public opinion, and to leave peacefully, as happened in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe.

Such a policy will certainly meet with resistance from the communist government. Nevertheless, the suggested strategy is feasible, because the North Korean communist system has weakened significantly and lost the totality of its control over the country. Consider that North Korea’s border has become porous and now allows more people to defect and more contraband, including modern electronics, to be smuggled in. The government has begun to lose its hold on information. Many people have mobile phones operated by Chinese companies. Information about goings on inside the country has also become more available. CNN recently broadcast a video shot by hidden cameras in North Korea, including some episodes inside a labor camp.

The increasing weakness of the communist regime is also evidenced by the very adventurous behavior of its leaders. Their nuclear program is suspiciously demonstrative. It looks as if its major goal is not to prepare for aggressive war or to defend the country, but rather to blackmail the United States and its allies into providing the regime with the economic and political assistance it desperately needs to maintain power.

Unfortunately, the blackmail has been working, since the current policy of the allies has helped Kim Jung Il to procure the many things that he needs: He receives ongoing threats from a powerful enemy, which helps him treat any dissent inside the country as treason; he attains legitimization of his fading system by sitting at six-party negotiations with the major world powers; and he secures economic assistance, which provides resources for that same nuclear program.

The irony of the situation is that the West is helping to prolong and embolden the North Korean communist regime, while it is in our best interest to do just the opposite. Instead of propping up the regime, the West should support the liberalization of Korean society through direct interaction with the Korean people against the wishes of their communist rulers. Three measures in particular should be implemented.

  1. Information and technology should be provided to the North Korean people. Flooding North Korea with portable TV sets and computers, launching direct satellites, and expanding television and radio broadcasting in the country will help to break the regime’s uncontested hold on the flow of information.
  2. Ideas of freedom and democracy should be vigorously promoted inside the country. Propaganda is one of the regime’s most useful weapons and undermining its influence is an essential first step toward loosening its grip on power.
  3. Maximum support should be given to North Korea’s dissidents. Establishing direct lines of communication will make it clear to the regime’s opponents that they are not alone in their struggle.

In short, the thrust of the West’s policy toward North Korea should be to shift from traditional diplomacy to public diplomacy. There have been some steps in these directions, but too few to constitute an effective challenge to the communist authorities. The National Endowment for Democracy allocates only a few hundred thousand dollars for all its North Korea programs, while American assistance to the North Korean communist government has exceeded one billion dollars over the last decade. To make the policy work, much more can and should be done.

Destabilizing the regime in this way will not be easy. Even so, the successful realization of a similar approach toward the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe suggests that it is possible. When we were planning to send the first copy machine, fax and computer to our fellow dissidents in Russia, few people believed that this would have any meaningful impact on the political situation. Before long, however, our information technology was aiding the cause of the democracy movement in all parts of the Soviet Union. North Korea’s secret police may be even more vicious than their KGB predecessors, but the informational revolution works against them. Even at the peak of the dissident movement, we could not dream of mobile phones or camcorders inside the labor camps.

Technology is a necessary but not sufficient condition for successful regime change. Equally essential is expertise. That expertise is uniquely possessed by those who, in the 1970s and 80s, worked to weaken the Soviet Empire: governmental officials, Russian and East European dissidents, and the groups that supported them. The experiences of Chinese dissidents over the last two decades may also prove invaluable.

Even in the late 1980s, the Soviet Union was regarded by many influential thinkers as a permanent feature on the international landscape. Pyongyang has benefited from similar fatalism. To end the tyranny in North Korea, the West must first reject this conventional wisdom.

Yuri Yarim-Agaev is a former leading Russian dissident and a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group. Upon arriving in the
United States after his forced exile from the
Soviet Union, he headed the New York-based Center for Democracy in the
USSR
.

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‘US Only Answer for Middle East,’ Says Saudi Envoy — (CNSNews.com) – Voicing support for U.S. involvement in Iraq, the Saudi ambassador to the United States said the U.S. has a important role to play in the Middle East, “whether it wants to or not.” “It is of vital interest to us as well as the United States that Iraq would remain a unified country,” said Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Turki al-Faisal.

‘US Only Answer for Middle East,’ Says Saudi Envoy

But is he saying this with anything beyond Saudi interests in mind? A CNSNews.com story by Monisha Bansal (thanks to Mackie):

(CNSNews.com) – Voicing support for U.S. involvement in Iraq, the Saudi ambassador to the United States said the U.S. has a important role to play in the Middle East, “whether it wants to or not.””It is of vital interest to us as well as the United States that Iraq would remain a unified country,” said Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Turki al-Faisal.

If Iraq were to be divided on ethnic or sectarian lines, he warned, problems in the country would increase three-fold, and there would be “ethnic cleansing on a massive scale.”

Faisal talked about the role the U.S. plays in the region at a conference held by the National Council on U.S. Arab Relations in Washington, D.C. on Monday.

“The United States is the only one who can do the right thing for everybody in the Middle East,” Faisal said.

“Not only because of the size and strength of the United States, but because the United States is engaged and enmeshed in our political situation and has been for the last 50 years or so, whether it likes it or not,” he said.

But Faisal added that it was in U.S. interests for “peace to reign, so we can turn to more fruitful endeavors.”

Fear the Terrorists, Not President Bush — On the left, my former party of choice, feels that the biggest issues confronting America are corporate greed, “the culture of corruption” (as if this does not occur on both sides), Wal-Mart, “big business,” churchgoing Christians, global warming and an assault on the civil liberties of us and terrorists. To deny this would be scandalously untrue — The “Drive-by” big city media feels the need to rant about how we “torture” terrorists, keep “secret prisons,” check phone records of suspected terrorists, regress back to Katrina whining, yada, yada and yada. The ACLU, “peace organizations,” the legal world, academia and Hollywood, not surprisingly, fall for this flawed, inane logic too. History has always proved these acrimonious fools wrong, and will again this time… if we’re not killed first by our enemies because of their devious behaviors.

Fear the Terrorists, Not President Bush
October 31st, 2006

Next Tuesday is midterm election day. When you cast your vote – if you choose to partake in this most honorable American tradition – please remember what is at stake.

On the left, my former party of choice, feels that the biggest issues confronting America are corporate greed, “the culture of corruption” (as if this does not occur on both sides), Wal-Mart, “big business,” churchgoing Christians, global warming and an assault on the civil liberties of us and terrorists. To deny this would be scandalously untrue.

On the right, my current “fearmongering” party of choice feels the biggest issue (singular) is to eliminating and freeing the world of Islamo-fascist Nazis. There is no denying this, and the sooner we, as in all other world wars, are free to do this, the better. My party wants to save the non-Muslim world, America, Israel and especially “liberal values” like sexual and gender freedoms (not just libertinism, but the freedom of women) freedom of religion, speech and of the press.

Unfortunately, aside from Radical Muslims, we have many domestic factors working against us:

The “Drive-by” big city media feels the need to rant about how we “torture” terrorists, keep “secret prisons,” check phone records of suspected terrorists, regress back to Katrina whining, yada, yada and yada. The ACLU, “peace organizations,” the legal world, academia and Hollywood, not surprisingly, fall for this flawed, inane logic too. History has always proved these acrimonious fools wrong, and will again this time… if we’re not killed first by our enemies because of their devious behaviors.

President Bush, sadly as of late, has fallen prey to dangerous political correctness and multi-cultural balderdash as he tries to unite this country. He has attempted to make good on his promise to be the great uniter, and the man has undeniably been more liberal than conservative the past year.

There is no need to do this, Mr. President.

This country was divided long before President Bush took office, and he has done his best to unite it. But many who hypocritically seek “redistribution of wealth” spend their weekends picking up wheatgrass at Whole Foods on their way to Nantucket, do not want to be united with Americans who attend church on Sunday, wave the flag, and enjoy Nascar, Applebee’s and saving money at Wal-Mart. Too bad for them. These arrogant, misguided folks have chosen to regressively look back, to sacrifice their platform to go after Mr. Bush (who is not up for re-election, by the way).

Fatuous liberals like Paul Krugman — who saw nothing wrong with comparing the backlash against the Dixie Chicks to the rise of Nazism — or the countless jabberers who have over the years denounced William F. Buckley Jr., Barry Goldwater, Sean Hannity et al. as fascists are difficult to respect, much less take seriously. As Jonah Goldberg wrote in September,

“One gets the sense that today’s liberals — beyond their phobia of offending the coalition of the oppressed (in this case, the Muslims of CAIR) — are reluctant to let Bush use “Islamic fascism” because they don’t want to give up their monopoly on the F-word.”

George Bush needs to stop trying so hard to make “peace” with those who despise us within our nation and are more concerned with meaningless impeachment than saving our world. His efforts have never been appreciated, but someday, like Reagan and those before him, perhaps they will. 

Thankfully, by the grace of G-d, the patriotic men and women of the military will save this nation as they always have. They will not get thanks from the coastal elites, but this is expected.

It’s not just that the wrong party could take power, but this party’s leaders, some of those who would be in charge of essential committees like Ways and Means, the Judiciary, Commerce, etc, are variously on record as not supporting Israel (and being proud of it!), raising taxes, ending free trade, drilling in ANWR (animals are more important than people, usually) and naturally, impeaching Bush. That will surely take our attention away from the Islamic Nazis, North Koreans and by October of next year, as opposed to fraudulent filmmakers who dream of Bush being dead, we all could be in severe peril. I’d personally put it at 50/50.

I hope that most Americans will take a deep breath, realize Bush had noble, correct intentions for freeing tens of millions from a madman and then remember that unemployment is the lowest in five years; the Dow is over 12,000 points. Inflation is 2.1 percent, the deficit is being dramatically reduced, and gas prices are falling. Let’s just hope that if the GOP maintains control, we don’t waste time, effort and money on Democrat protests and recounts. Which state this time? Indiana? Missouri? Do I hear Maryland?

Vote accordingly, and consider whether you want to tell your grandchildren you defeated carbon dioxide emissions or Islamo Nazi Fascists who threatened the free world.

Ari Kaufman is a freelance writer in Indianapolis, regularly contributing to the Indianapois Star and the Jewish Post and Opinion. He’s also the co-author of an upcoming book on educational reform. His archived work can be accessed here.

Ari Kaufman

Kerry’s Reloads in Dogfight Over Snipe at Troops in Iraq — Foot in mouth disease plus dumbass loses every time

Conservatives to Spike the Supreme Court? — For several months we’ve been hearing the mantra that most Republican congressmen don’t deserve to be reelected because the party’s record in Congress is far from a conservative one, especially when one considers runaway spending, huge deficits, ignored scandals, successful filibusters, pro-terrorist legislation, and more.

Conservatives to Spike the Supreme Court?
By Henry Mark Holzer
FrontPageMagazine.com | October 31, 2006

For several months we’ve been hearing the mantra that most Republican congressmen don’t deserve to be reelected because the party’s record in Congress is far from a conservative one, especially when one considers runaway spending, huge deficits, ignored scandals, successful filibusters, pro-terrorist legislation, and more.At the same time, we’ve heard sincere pleas from conservative leaders and commentators that, nevertheless, Republican voters should “hold their noses” and return GOP majorities, no matter how narrow, to the House and Senate.

The principal justification given for what some consider to be a compromise with conservative values (but in reality is not), is that no matter how bad the Republican legislative performance has been, the Democrats are going to be far worse. For conservatives, that’s certainly true. Inevitably, the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi domestic agenda will be disastrous, especially for the economy (e.g., rescinding tax cuts). Their foreign affairs policies will surely endanger national security (e.g., abruptly pulling the plug on Iraq).

But even worse is that if Harry Reid becomes Senate majority leader, and if 87-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens leaves the bench (actuarially, a real possibility), conservatives can kiss goodbye – for at least two years and maybe longer – any chance of obtaining that one crucial seat on the Supreme Court which, with Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito, could have a profound effect on both domestic and foreign policy for years to come.

If this double whammy occurs – Reid running the Senate, and Stevens leaving the bench – there will be a battle for Stevens’s seat (and thus for the soul of the Court), that will make the Clarence Thomas confirmation fight of 15 years ago look like a walk in the park.

Like the Thomas fight, the one to fill Stevens’s Supreme Court seat will be a battle that conservatives must win if they don’t want to see more decisions like the following – for which Stevens was largely responsible:

  • Upholding the McCain-Feingold law’s suppression of political speech;
  • Abolishing the death penalty for young killers;
  • Seizing private property for “public purposes” through eminent domain;
  • Approving the use of race as a criterion for higher education admissions;
  • Providing enemy combatants with habeas corpus, due process, and court access; and
  • Invalidating President Bush’s Guantanamo military tribunals.It is a cliché to observe that we live in perilous times. But cliché or not, the fact is that we do. Pakistan’s unstable government already has atomic weapons. Despotic North Korea may be close to having atomic weapons. The Iranian theocracy is feverishly seeking atomic weapons. Al-Qaeda is trying to buy or steal atomic weapons.

    The military and foreign policy implications of atomic proliferation are almost too scary to contemplate. They will present colossally important and difficult questions of constitutional law for the Supreme Court to resolve – such as in meeting atomic threats, how far the president’s Article II powers extend without consultation with Congress.

    Also on the table are other questions of presidential power, of congressional power, and – always – of judicial power, especially in America’s current battle with Islamic terrorists.

    Indeed, the preliminary judicial skirmishes in that battle – the Hamdi, Rasul, Padilla, and Hamdan cases, dealing with enemy combatants, habeas corpus, due process, access to courts, and military tribunals – have been just a warm up for what’s to come.

    Those cases presented questions of presidential power to wage war under Article II of the Constitution, and although the President won a few rounds, he lost a few as well. The cases also examined the power of Congress, and its constitutional role in modern, asymmetrical warfare. And some lawyers believe, with good reason, that the Court’s tilt in those four cases was, on balance, away from presidential power and in favor of Congressional power.

    Now, with the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, new constitutional questions have arisen, chief among them whether the “due process” that Congress has provided enemy combatants is adequate. While there are those of us who believe the Act provided too much – see

“Khalid Sheik Mohammed is Not O.J. Simpson: Military Commissions Act of 2006” – not surprisingly, there are those like the ACLU who believe it provided too little, and that Islamic terrorist murderers should be treated with the kid gloves afforded defendants in the American criminal justice system.America’s national security has already suffered enough from Justice Stevens. We cannot afford another such appointment. Especially with national security constitutional questions such as warrantless surveillance still to be resolved.

If Stevens leaves the bench in the next two years, even if the president wants to make quality appointments like his of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, George H.W. Bush’s of Justice Thomas, and Reagan’s of Justice Scalia, the president will be stymied if Harry Reid controls the Senate. Indeed, even if Reid doesn’t, the Republicans will need a majority leader who, unlike Bill Frist, has the spine to break an inevitable Democratic filibuster if the nominee is a strong conservative.

That’s why this notion that conservatives should “punish” right-leaning leaders for their real and imagined shortcomings is akin not merely to political suicide, but invites at least one Supreme Court appointment that in national security cases like warrantless surveillance could tip the already closely balanced scales against the country’s war with Islamic terrorists and seriously endanger the survival of the United States.

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Muslim Rape? They Were Asking for It

Muslim Rape? They Were Asking for It
By Robert Spencer
FrontPageMagazine.com | October 31, 2006

The Mufti of Australia, Sheikh Taj al-Din al-Hilali, has gained international attention this week by saying that women are generally at fault if they are raped. Speaking to a Muslim audience in Sydney, he explained that rape (specifically, zina, sexual activity forbidden under Islamic law — a word mistranslated in published accounts of the Sheikh’s words as “adultery”) is “90 percent the woman’s responsibility. Why? Because a woman owns the weapon of seduction. It’s she who takes off her clothes, shortens them, flirts, puts on make-up and powder and takes to the streets, God protect us, dallying. It’s she who shortens, raises and lowers. Then, it’s a look, a smile, a conversation, a greeting, a talk, a date, a meeting, a crime, then

Long
Bay jail. Then you get a judge, who has no mercy, and he gives you 65 years.”
Al-Hilali invoked another Islamic scholar in support of his views: “But when it comes to this disaster, who started it? In his literature, writer al-Rafee says, if I came across a rape crime, I would discipline the man and order that the woman be jailed for life. Why would you do this, Rafee? He said because if she had not left the meat uncovered, the cat wouldn’t have snatched it. If you get a kilo of meat, and you don’t put it in the fridge or in the pot or in the kitchen but you leave it on a plate in the backyard, and then you have a fight with the neighbour because his cats eat the meat, you’re crazy. Isn’t this true? If you take uncovered meat and put it on the street, on the pavement, in a garden, in a park, or in the backyard, without a cover and the cats eat it, then whose fault will it be, the cats, or the uncovered meat’s? The uncovered meat is the disaster. If the meat was covered the cats wouldn’t roam around it. If the meat is inside the fridge, they won’t get it. If the woman is in her boudoir, in her house and if she’s wearing the veil and if she shows modesty, disasters don’t happen.” 

In the uproar that followed, Muslim leaders in
Australia and elsewhere distanced themselves from Al-Hilali. Ali Roude of the New South Wales Islamic Council declared that Al-Hilali had “failed both himself and the Muslim community…As a father, brother and son myself, I take offence at the portrayal of both men and women in the alleged published comments.”
 

Yet at the same time, Al-Hilali had defenders. Abduljalil Sajid of the Muslim Council of Britain said that al-Hilali’s remarks had been taken out of context, and affirmed that “loose women like prostitutes” encourage immorality in men. As for al-Hilali, Sajid said that “he is a great scholar and he has a great knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence….I respect his views. His intentions are noble in order to make morality and modesty part of our overall society.” 

It was also somewhat surprising that Al-Hilali’s remarks generated any uproar at all. After all, the idea that a woman is responsible if she is raped did not originate with him, and this was not the first time it has been enunciated in the West. One notorious example occurred in September 2004 in
Denmark, when the mufti Shahid Mehdi of the Islamic Cultural Center in
Copenhagen said on the Danish television program Talk to Gode that women who venture outside without a hijab are “asking for rape.”
 

Australian Muslim moderate leader Tanveer Ahmed acknowledged that “in a large number of Muslim households, young men will be taught that white women are cheap and easy. It is extrapolated to a much bigger scale, for it symbolises for them a moral corruption endemic in free societies, the kind they believe has led to a breakdown in families. Their views have some overlap with social conservatives in general, who see human freedoms, especially with regard to sexuality, as having gone too far.” 

Even more significantly, Ahmed conceded that “what Hilali says is consistent with a strict, conservative interpretation of Islam. This remains the fundamental difficulty with Islam’s attempts to sit with modernity. As long as Muslims view their religion as sitting above history and culture — with the Koran as the literal word of God, which in their view makes Islam undebatable — there will always be Hilalis who can point to certain texts and argue for a social and legal structure consistent with 7th-century Arabia….This is a man who knows the Koran in intimate detail and his views are consistent with a strict reading of the Muslim holy book.” 

They are also, unfortunately, consistent with the example of Muhammad, Islam’s prophet, as I show in my new book The Truth About Muhammad. The Qur’an tells men: “And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess” (4:24) — that is, slave girls who are considered the spoils of war. All too often in Western countries, particularly in Europe’s restive Muslim enclaves, young Muslim men have understood this as permitting the rape of non-Muslim women who venture out uncovered — in accord with Shahid Mehdi’s statement.  

What’s more, in traditional Islamic law rape cannot be established except by the testimony of four male witnesses who saw the act, as stipulated by Qur’an 24:4 and 24:13. Consequently, it is even today virtually impossible to prove rape in lands that follow the dictates of the Sharia. Unscrupulous men can commit rape with impunity: as long as they deny the charge and there are no witnesses, they get off scot-free, because the victim’s account is inadmissible. Even worse, if a woman accuses a man of rape, she may end up incriminating herself. If the required male witnesses can’t be found, the victim’s charge of rape becomes an admission of adultery. That accounts for the grim fact that as many as seventy-five percent of the women in prison in Pakistan are, in fact, behind bars for the crime of being a victim of rape.[i] Several high-profile cases in Nigeria recently have also revolved around rape accusations being turned around by Islamic authorities into charges of fornication, resulting in death sentences that were only modified after international pressure.[ii] 

In light of all this, al-Hilali’s remarks should not be surprising — but they should continue to be cause for concern. For they illustrate the fact that the clash of civilizations isn’t just taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places where the warriors of jihad are fighting today. It is taking place right at home, in Western countries where our deeply-held cultural values are being subjected to an increasingly forthright and assertive challenge. If we do not defend them now, it is those who agree with Sheikh al-Hilali who will determine the mores of the future.


[i] See Sisters in Islam, “Rape, Zina, and Incest,” April 6, 2000, http://www.muslimtents.com/sistersinislam/resources/sdefini.htm.

[ii] See Stephen Faris, “In Nigeria, A Mother Faces Execution,” www.africana.com, January 7, 2002.

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Sderot’s Trauma — The Voice of Israel Radio News reported on Saturday night, Oct. 21, 2006, that rockets were fired on the southern Israeli city of Sderot on Friday night. No casualties occurred. My son, Noam, who was there, wrote me the following letter:

Sderot’s Trauma
By David Bedein
FrontPageMagazine.com | October 31, 2006

The Voice of Israel Radio News reported on Saturday night, Oct. 21, 2006, that rockets were fired on the southern Israeli city of Sderot on Friday night. No casualties occurred. My son, Noam, who was there, wrote me the following letter:

I’m sitting at the back seat of the Sephardic synagogue, a 2 minute walk from my apartment, on Friday night here in Sderot. This is only my second Shabbat here, after spending the holidays at my parents’ home near Jerusalem.

I’m thinking to myself while the prayers are going on, in Hebrew in a thick Moroccan chant, that it’s time to go back to a routine, time to be a student next week, time to resume a weekly schedule with three days a week studying, one morning photography class, a few hours of volunteering with Ethiopian Jewish children helping them with their homework, and my new job with the media and information that was just opened up here in Sderot. Its purpose is bringing groups and reporters to Sderot to introduce them to the people in this community who have lived and worked under daily artillery bombardment for the past 5 years and bringing home the crazy reality that people here must live in.

While my mind is wandering in all directions, as the new prayers are sung, I hear the siren go off. ‘Tseva Adom’ -‘The color red’ in English. We all know that in 15 seconds or less an artillery missile  is going to fall.

The synagogue is packed with mostly older men and young fathers accompanying their children, most of whom continue to sing out their prayers, and who pay little attention to the siren. All this is ‘normal’; someone whispers — hearing the siren go off, and with only 15 seconds to take cover (if you have a secured room, which many here don’t even have), and hoping that it’s not going to fall close to you and your family, which by the way, every single person in Sderot has experienced in the past. Only the day before, only one day before, I went into the office of one of Sderot’s chief security officers who showed me a map of the city covered with dots — the places were the artillery shells hit in the past-everywhere.

The security officer said that he stopped putting the dots on the map 2 years ago, because the map was completely full.

After 27 seconds of alarm, the synagogue shook with a loud explosion. Everyone jumped out of his seat, with children running out of the synagogue to see where the shells fell. Maybe on their home?  Because it sounded so close, so very close.

Young children grabbed their fathers’ legs. Fathers held the youngest of their kids close to them, to protect them. You could see the horror on one 13-year-old boys’ face, his tears and shaking quite evident. The confusion in the father’s face was apparent also, as he hovered over his child to protect him with his own body. The father looked helpless.

I shall never forget those sights. What’s going through my mind is what I’ve heard until now about the investigations currently under way, listening to people from the outside trying to describe this traumatic reality.

I would remember the statistics that I heard from the head of the mental health services in Sderot about the city’s children. Almost everyone of them tested as suffering from some level of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Children sleep with their parents as old now as 14, still wetting beds. Some children can’t go anywhere by themselves, even to the bathroom. I won’t even mention the fact that children don’t go outside playing on swings in the park here any more, and that their entire daily routine is revolved around the rockets – “where is it going to catch me now? I have 15 seconds to take cover, where do I go?” is a frequent cry. Over 1000 homes here still have no secure rooms.

The questions that one hears on the street do not stop:

“How do I even leave my house? How do I send my children to kindergarten or a school when half of the classrooms are not protected? How do I answer my son when he’s in third grade asking to go back to second grade because that classroom was protected?

‘How should I feel even if the classroom is protected, there are children that have been killed in Sderot from missiles in the middle of the road?”

Everyone asks: “When is this going to hit me? Or close to me?”

These are just the tip of the iceberg of the questions that go through one’s mind here in Sderot. The only thing you can do when the alarm goes off is count to 15 and hope it doesn’t land near you. A life of Russian roulette… A life people in the Tel Aviv cannot even imagine, let alone Americans whose children are secure in their classrooms, at playgrounds and at home.for the time being.

In the end, the missile on Friday night fell 100 meters from the synagogue in the back yard of a family’s home. All the glass in the area shattered. The windows of cars in the parking lot outside the synagogue exploded. And a young boy on the sidewalk was injured from shrapnel that penetrated all parts of his body.

I shall never forget what I witnessed when the rocket fell – the shock, the frightened fathers who grasp their children, the cries of the young ones…

While writing this, I feel a bit shaky. And the only thing that is going through my mind is that no matter how I feel from one experience, this is nothing compared to the horrifying realith the people here that have been living with for over five years. A reality the outside world does not recognize.

It was hard to fall asleep that night, thinking that the Arab who fired his missile fired from a place where he is protected, taking cover among civilians, firing at homes and synagogues which are not protected…

Can this be reality? What kind of civilized country, a western democratic nation, would let this kind of reality to happen to its people?  More important, what kind of world would?

Is it really over 5 years? No one in Israel has an any idea about Sderot — not until you’ve spent at least 3 weeks getting used to waking up at 6:30 in the morning by a siren, getting used to wondering how close the missiles will fall — 3 blocks away this time or on the other side of town?

Who would believe that there is a town in Israel where Jews cannot feel protected and have to rely on daily miracles to survive?

Have we forgotten who we are, and where we come from? Must we always be sitting ducks for those who want to annihilate us?

How many people have to get killed before any reasonable solution is found?

Since September, 2005, when Israel abandoned Jewish communities in Gaza that were transformed into terrorist bases, the Israel Civil Defense Command reported that Arabs have conducted more than 1000 missile and mortar attacks on Israel and Sderot is the current target of choice.

Twenty-two people have been killed by the artillery that Arabs fire on the Western Negev. The media often refers to these altillery as “home-made kassam missiles” that rarely hurt anyone and only make lots of noise.

Except that the media outside of Sderot and the Western Negev do not understand what it is like for 45 communities in the Western Negev to live in an atmosphere of terror.

I got my first taste of that atmosphere of terror this past Friday night in the Sderot synagogue.

* Noam Bedein is 24. After a year of seminary study, three years of Israel Army service on the Lebanese border and a year’s trek around Asia, he moved to Sderot to study at the business school at the Sapir College Branch of Ben Gurion University and has started work at the new Sderot Media Information Center for the Western Negev region of Israel.

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