Showing posts with label Security. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Security. Show all posts

Monday, June 27, 2016

Secrets in Plain Sight: Israel's Security Secrets in Books

"Mossad the Greatest Missions..." is on sale, NIS 50 (about $12.50) in this year's Israeli book fair week, D-A Vider 2016

Israeli veterans are secretive about their military experience. They say a little about where they served (unit and position). Sometimes they blurt out a few small details about an extraordinary experience in "the war" (one of many they participated). But real details about missions (real battles) are best read in books or seen on TV. In general, Israel does not publish specific operational details. This is true for other countries, but in Israel, there seem to be more curiosity about the neighbor next door. There is always a strange feeling when a former army officer "suddenly shows up" as a CEO of an obscure company. Usually companies related to security products or services. But this curiosity does not lead to any real information. There is a term in Israel about hiring executives with military background: "friend brings a friend". Literally, bring a friend from your army unit, get a hiring bonus and the company will be happy. You two have a bond beyond work friendship. Nothing said out in the open, but certainly a feeling of "something is going on here, but I don't understand". If you are curious about secret Israeli military and espionage operations, turn to books. In Israel there are few good fiction espionage writers, but the real stories with fictionalized names and places are told in wonderful detail. See these books:

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Comfortable Safe Haven: Cafes, Shops, Malls, Parks, Beaches

Last post was about the daily stress in Israel. But most Israelis probably are not more stressed than any modern (i.e. western) people. There is stress related to the security situation, especially when there is an incident close to home. The shooting in Tel Aviv earlier this month (January 1st, 2016) reminded everyone of this situation. But Israelis see this situation similar to crime in some cities, difficult weather in many places or even stress related to economic difficulties. Every place (or person) around the world has it's problems and difficulties. This is what people say here. Yet in reality, many people avoid this stress and find comfort in traditional and creative ways. Israelis in cities head for cafes and restaurants. Tel Aviv is well known for it's cafes and restaurants as places to escape the daily stress. Around most of Israel parks and beaches attract people looking for quiet places to meet. Even the large malls, almost everywhere, have places to sit and get away from everyday stress. Outsiders usually need to look at a few places and meet a few people to get a true picture of how people handle stress.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Pressure Cooker in Everyday Life: Stress on the Job

Security guards in public buildings feel more stress than most Israelis

A recent incident with a mall security guard brought out the stress some Israelis feel: daily ongoing tension. Simply put, some jobs and situations are stressful here. Security guards in public places: shopping malls, government buildings, business parks, outdoor markets (shuks) and fenced public areas (beaches, parks) are at the top of daily stress list. Security guards in public spaces are about a notch above cleaning personal in respect and pay. Which is somewhat out of place (and unfortunate). They are paid at a low salary scale, they usually work under freelance contract in security contract companies (i.e. they are not permanent employees with full social benefits). While their working conditions are below average, they are expected to deliver vigilant accurate service at all times. Most guards are calm and present a professional image. They check bags for suspicious objects. Sometimes they ask a few questions to see if someone is nervous or seems suspicious. While Israeli security services pride themselves on superior training and highly qualified guards, Israel's economy and culture create a different reality. Here is a salute and a tip of a hat to these unsung heroes. More in future posts...


Monday, January 11, 2016

Tel Aviv Up and Moving

Cafes along Tel Aviv's commercial strips are up and running, but residents are still cautious. Echos of last week's attack.

Last week's events still feel fresh here. But Tel Avivians are not ready to hide from the left over suspensions. As more details about the attacker stream through the media, residents are slowly getting back to normal routines. Tel Aviv's cafes stand out as one of the city's ever present "vibrancy indicator" are starting to show life. Residents have stayed away from sitting in the open for a few days. I have not seen the cafes this quiet for years. Even during the last war in Gaza the city was still buzzing at a normal beat. The term "bubble" is an old one, given to the city as a moniker for essentially living in a "different place" than the rest of the country. Tel Aviv's residents are well aware of the situation in Israel. They are also sensitive to the issues all around, especially the difficulty in securing the country. While Israel may seem like an isolated island among the surrounding Arab states, the reality is different. Israel's borders are not hermetically sealed. Also the isolation between Jews and Palestinians is mostly cultural. There are still enough interactions between Jews (even in Tel Aviv) and Palestinians and Arab Israelis. Actually, that last incident is a good example. The killer was a resident of a small Arab village and in the past worked in one of Tel Aviv's small outdoor mall / commercial center. Interviews with people who knew him in the past filled the news programs in the days after the attack.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Fragile Israeli Confidence or Real Secure Feeling?

Almost empty King George (Ha'melech George) street on a weekday morning. Tel Avivians see the fear in empty streets, shops, cafes and public events. Is this a peek of "things to come"?
The last week revealed a hidden side of life in Tel Aviv. Israelis are teetering between smug secure confidence and (almost) complete fear. Something we have not talked about in many months. A seemingly tectonic change after a one man attack in the heart the city's commercial section. Some see this as a change in the security forces' ability to keep Tel Aviv's "bubble" calm and confident. A day after the capture and killing of the terrorist, media channels started buzzing with opinions (on what should be done next). While outsiders (especially Palestinian supporters) tend to see Israelis as secure and fearless, this one incident tells a different story. Israelis are secure and fearless as long as their immediate surrounding feels secure. This fragile reality is somewhere in the back of many Tel Avivians' minds. The tensions many feel, but mostly keep to themselves, is real. Some are quiet not to alarm people around them. Some assume revealing their true fears is playing into the attacker's aims. Terror is thought to pray on our inner most fears. Killing three in a city of 600,000 is not a true act of war. What's next? It's hard to say. Opinions are firmly split between more visible security (patrols, show of force) and less visible or more "normal" (i.e. hidden) security efforts. Will Tel Aviv turn into an always "watched" metropolis (i.e. taking a page from the London example of massively equipping every street with a hidden security camera)? Or will the city turn into a cold-war like "secret agent" Berlin? This small revelation of hidden life in the city is just getting started. Let's see where it goes.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

3 days, 2 dead, 1 killer

Memorial candles and funeral notices at 130 Dizengoff, site of the two killings, January 2nd, 2016
I do not write about politics and security in Israel. This comes by choice, made over eight years ago. There are so many stories about politics, Palestinians, terrorism and fear to occupy anyone full time. In the social media (I follow Twitter & Facebook) there are more stories than anyone can follow. This is more so on days, like earlier this week, when there is a big terrorist event. But at the cost of telling the great story of Tel Aviv and modern Israel, I do realize how some of my "mundane" everyday writing get's lost in the noise. Terrorism and the fear for dear life is a real aspect in our lives here. The last three days, many parents in N. Tel Aviv (some in the most luxurious neighborhoods) have kept their kids at home, away from school. The fear of an attack by the terrorist hiding somewhere in the city has gripped us. The search for the killer is reported constantly, to the point where some don't want to hear any more. If anyone ever wonders how fragile the feeling of security here, this event is a sure way to explain our deep dark fears. Simply read the news stories from the last three days. Dizengoff street, one of Tel Aviv's busiest commercial strips, is practically deserted. I have seen more people on the street on Saturdays (the Jewish Sabbath) than this morning. This fear and avoidance of an area after a terror event is common. Where a memorable terror event took place, we usually say "near such and such place, where the 199# event took place". Seems like a crazy way to live. But somehow people get used to it and eventually ignore the craziness of it all.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

40 Years To Yom Kippur War

Israeli newspapers and TV/radio stations are running stories about the Yom Kippur war (1973). A war that was not popular and to some became a slap in the face and the first real loss for the state. More frightening, the war that saw the IDF losing soldiers and territory. To the Israeli public, in all the years, neither the military nor the government ever explained and analyzed the war. Once the government in charge was voted out, everybody wanted to make the war go away and move forward to better times.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Israel's People & Technology: PRISM in Israel

Graphical representation of Israel's electronic snooping story: People & Tech
Israel's technology site "People and Technology" reports on security expert's' opinion of Israeli's privacy in the electronic world as exposed as in the US. After the public exposure of the PRISM system in the US by Edward Snowden, technologists from around the world are wondering how much of their information is in their government's data banks. Or even more disturbing: how much information is in the NSA, CIA, or other American security agency's from "my own" e-mail and internal data? In Israel it goes without saying that the state and its security organizations snoop on potential security risk suspects. Israel is not only under physical attacks, virtual electronic attacks are also a daily part of life here.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Credit Card Records Theft Hits Israeli 'Net Shoppers

A group of Saudi Arabian hackers broke into a small Israeli shopping site. Apparently 400,000 account details, credit card numbers, PINS and more disturbingly Israeli identity numbers (teudat zehut) were taken. The group threaten to publish the details on the Internet so others can use it to steal. It seems like Israelis are not concerned about the fact that Saudis did this, or that this might be an attack on the state. They are much more concerned about their own bank accounts and paying for pizzas delivered on a camel to a tent in the Saudi Arabian desert. (There was a cartoon in the paper showing a pizza camel delivery to a tent, the delivery boy calling out an Israeli name and the man in the tent saying "cool, thank you" in Arabic (shookrah). Yes, our jokes also make us think of Saudis as camel riding Arabs of the 1930's, we all need our stereotypes. )


Monday, February 21, 2011

Will New Arab Democracies Open Diplomatic Relationships With Israel?

Let's look forward a year from now. Let's dream of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Jordan and Bahrain with a democratically elected government. Let's dream a little of open diplomatic relationship and trade agreements with all these new democracies. Not just with Israel but with most of the countries in the world. Happy buzz around the world for the great advances in the Arab world. Something most of the west was hoping for since the 1950s. What does that mean in terms of diplomatic relationships with Israel? Not too far fetched if you just go back a few years. Remember the had shakes between Rabin and Arafat? Rabin didn't want to do it, but he did. Arafat was full of himself. They both got a Nobel Prize for Peace (1994). What most people forget is how the whole world suddenly loved Israel. They suddenly thought that the Palestinians are going to be just like the Israelis, free and democratic and unbelievably successful. Well, that didn't last, but it could have. If the Palestinians did become a democratic pluralistic territory, regardless of the issues with Israel. But with no real example of pluralistic democracy in the Arab world, that did not happen. Maybe it was just too hard to expect a small territory to innovate while organizing a whole new world for themselves.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Arab Uprisings All Around: Quiet Tension in Israeli Press

  Haaretz showing protests around the Arab world. Not exactly democracy yet, but quietly hoping for a change. From 18-Feb-2011  

Arabs are rioting now for over a month. It started with Tunisia. A country that seemed quiet and cultured. The Israelis who came from Tunisian descend are known for their quiet personality and hard work. Then came the Egyptians, hardly people of protest, at least not the violent kind. We still hear a bit of echoes from Iranian protests. But somehow the government's harsh suppression and communication isolation has made us forget. We hear protest in other places, like little lights turning on in the middle of the night. One should remember that Israel is the only democracy in our little corner of the world. From the Atlantic ocean to India. Far south as South Africa and who knows how far north, maybe Russia if one considers that government democratic. Israel is by far the only democracy here. So suddenly seeing countries who did not go through the adoption of democracy asking for rule by the people is refreshing. But not really. Israelis are cautious about celebrating democracy in Egypt, Syria or Jordan. Here, we better off not getting our hopes up. We have seen the rise of Gaddafi in Libya and Mubarak in Egypt. We have seen changes in economy and government in the gulf states. We have seen the war between Iran and Iraq, with very little change in how these countries are ruled and their acceptance of democratic processes by the people. So the press is quiet about our hopes, so is the government. Unlike Obama and Clinton in the press, Bibi and Lieberman are shy to advise Arabs what to do next.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Satire (cartoon clip) about the Gilad Shalit popular views

I stumbled across this video (on another blog) about views of different Israelis negotiating with Hamas over Gilad Shalit. As an Israeli I am sure that it is funny, in certain places. Each of us has a way of laughing at certain characters in everyday Israeli life. Overall, the clip is also disturbing, that's what satire is all about. It has the mother character (second to speak), the Israeli negotiator (main character) and various prototypical Israelis (Facebook geeks, techno geek (called "talk back" like comments on blogs), army buddy and dark song writer.) A disturbing thought comes across: how in the press and in private conversations we have all kind of banal excuses for keeping a man in a hole for years. The political view in Israel is continuously debated. The characters in the clip are familiar to most Israelis. It ends with a "calculation" of the amount of Palestinian prisoners for Israeli soldiers (and one Israeli drug smuggler.) If you have a sense of humor... or are interested in Israeli opinions on the exchange issue... ENJOY!


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Israel's Future: Trust and Doubt Among Israelis

Israelis act as if they are here forever, but sometimes speak as if just temporary visitors. Israeli survey point marker at the end of Tel Aviv's marina pier / © 2010

I don't understand how Israelis think about the future. It's not because I don't understand the words or ideas, it's just that there are so many different views, most conflicting. Some Israelis really believe that the state is not going to survive. If saddam hussein with chemical rockets from Iraq, the Palestinian suicide attack or Ahmadinejad's nuclear bombs don't succeed, eventually someone is going to bring down the state. These views are based on personal fears and media reports. On the hopeful side, Israelis simply point out where Israel is today and how people struggled for a long time to keep us safe. Attacks on Jews (essentially pre-Israel) started before the state was declared, wars with bigger armies and more determined leaders did not bring down the state, why would someone succeed now? Then there are the middle thinkers, Israelis who think that a really strong force came at us, an Iranian nuclear bomb for example, the Israeli army would retaliate. Something would remain after the smoked cleared. To outsiders this all seems grim, but what else can we do with daily news reports of someone making a speech to squash us?


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Building, Inventing and Innovating: Positive Attitude Under Stress, Israel's Culture

How do you describe a country's personality? How do you explain to someone how things are done in a different culture? or business environment? Israelis have been doing things their own way for such a long time, it is hard to most people to understand a unique and very different culture. Israelis are not at all like their American Jewish cousins, also they are not like their European Ashkenazi ancestors and certainly not like the Arabs surrounding cultures (and the Arab countries from where the Israeli Sephradi population came from.)

Israeli culture of creating is unique and can help others in becoming more creative, productive and constructive. Israelis have an 120 year record of building, inventing and innovating intensely. That attitude of doing the "hard-fun work" or what here is considered the "important work" gives Israelis pride and confidence. Some say over-confidence (or false bravado) at extreme cases. Israelis are known to be overly optimistic about their abilities. For most Israelis culture and history also gives a sense of reality and a "can do" attitude. I think this is the most crucial difference between Israeli and people in other countries. In some countries, like the US after World War II this was the case. American won the biggest world war so now Americans felt like they could do anything. For a generation, this attitude propelled the American economy and society which became the envy of the world. Attitudes are developed in Israelis as a cultural element from early age. It makes sense when you are here and you see and experience how Israelis think and work. It is very strange for foreigners with different cultural attributes to understand (or even believe) Israelis describe this attitude. A combination of historical success and strong personality gives the country a truly unique behavior.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Gilad Shalit's Plea for Freedom: Nervous, Quiet, Worried in Tel Aviv

Unless you have been living under a rock in Tel Aviv you definitely hear, see and FEEL the quiet nervous tension here. This quiet two minutes and forty second plea for freedom was streamed on TV and computer screens like a thunder bolt in mid-summer. The first few seconds after he finished was the most silent Tel Aviv has been in a long time. Than came the whispers and interpretations. What can you say to a prisoner held for four years? What can you tell the family? What should the government do? Tzipi Livni more than two years ago blurted out in anger something like "we are not going to bow down to the Palestinians on the count of one..." Immediately Olmert, Ashkenazi, Barak and everyone you can think of wanted to hit Livni on the head with a baseball bat (OK we don't have baseball here, we can find a bat somewhere.) But there was something to that blurb that is finally sinking in for Israelis and Palestinians: nobody wants to back down and look like a loser. The Israelis are not willing to let murderers out just to be treated like heroes in Gaza. The Palestinians are not willing to settle for not getting everyone out of prison, specially their big heroes. Shalit sits in a hole just beyond our reach. To most at first impression he "looked good". But the way he looked did not calm the nervousness. Just seeing this face reading quietly a simple speech [video/transcript] made everyone's hair stand in the back of his neck.

I think you know things are bad when nobody talks about it. The old white elephant in the middle of the room, the king walking naked in the middle of the street, Shalit still "there" four years later. The situation indicates two big shifts in attitude in Tel Aviv:

1) Israelis are no longer willing to trade Palestinians at any price. If we "JUST" get Shalit without a complete stop to terrorism "they" are not going to get the "very bad ones". (Israelis are not willing to release mass murderers which for the Palestinians are heros)

2) Israelis can be silent and tolerant for a long long time. We can take stress, we can take Iranian presidents on TV, we can take Nasrala and Haniya on TV. We can take silence from Ashkenazi and Bibi... few remember 8 years of shelling from Gaza, Israelis remember.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Obama in Tel Aviv: US Policy for the Israeli Citizen; Good News???

Obama's message to Tel Avivian's is not simple to accept here. Is this a problem to Netanyahu's government? Should Obama or Netanyahu change their stance? Should Tel Avivian's change? (from White House web site)

Ha'aretz [Hebrew addition] recently published a story about the unfinished state of the security fence between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (14/07/2009). A not so hidden message mentions the "America's disapproval of the whole idea of cutting the country into two". Therefore the Israeli government budget and matching US funds simply stopped in 2007. Since then the work has slowed down to a crawl. At the time nobody wanted to aggravate the Bush administration or restart a wave of negative press from international media channels.

Actually, Ha'aretz is focusing on the unresolved settlements issue. The settlements issue is complicating a final border agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Therefore the uncompleted sections of the security fence suddenly make for news. The unresolved settlements issue can be seen in the "three fingers" jutting out of the green line (official Israel 1949 armistice map). The Palestinian Authority will not give up on this land without getting something in return from Israel. Israelis are not blind to the position of the Palestinian Authority and the people they represent. This issue has been slowly resolving itself. Tel Aviv residents clearly view this issue as the most visible item holding up the security fence completion. That makes it the most controversial and a key factor in the security of the central part of Israel.

Security Fence, August 2008, mostly finished, still un-built in controversial sections.

The feeling about the security fence in Tel Aviv is one of annoying necessity. Some would say it is a necessary evil. The fence is annoyance in terms of the international press and Israel's image in some countries, but not all. Comparison of the security fence to the Berlin wall and walls between North and South Korea or the US and Mexico border barrier are made all the time. At the same time, the security fence has clearly helped in quieting down complaints from both side of the border. Terrorism inside Israel has virtually stopped. Complaints about Israeli citizens in Palestinian areas has also completely stopped. Palestinian Arabs are not seen in the central part of Israel and Israeli Jews are few and far between anywhere outside the green line. The necessity of the security fence is undeniable, fences work in other places and they work just as well here. The same can be said of the security fences with Lebanon in the north and with Gaza in the south. But they also cut off the daily interaction between Israelis and Palestinians. It feels like we are in one large pen. Even cows and horses feel penned in when you put them into a fenced area. Once in a while you hear Tel Avivian's mention the good old days when you can shop for olive oil in Beit Jalla (the best in the world some say [Cooperative site] [YouTube clip]) or shop at some roadside stand for vegetables. But you also hear about the brisk trade of stolen cars taken from upscale Tel Aviv neighborhood to an anonymous orchard in the 'territories' and chopped up for parts. This has stopped as well. Like most people, Israelis have positive and negative labels to the Palestinian territories. When things were better construction workers, car mechanics, cleaners and restaurant workers made their way daily from Palestinian refugee camps [UNRWA page], towns and villages [pictures] to work in Israel. Sometimes they would even find a place to sleep, a storeroom in a restaurant, the back of a garage, a rented room in an Arab village or even in Jafa (close to Tel Aviv). This would help in the daily travel but also had the consequence of being caught (most Palestinian Arabs did not have permission to live in Israel just to work there). But this is just nostalgia speaking. The sad part is how few people have essentially caused two nations to feel haltered and fear towards each other. NO TEL AVIV RESIDENT would ever think of the majority of Palestinian as terrorist. Not even a fraction of a percent has attacked Israel. But even the thought of another attack in the middle of the city is enough to accept the security fence and call it a necessary evil. Overall, the security fence is good news, being isolated - possible NOT, AmiV @ TLV


Monday, June 22, 2009

Iran Election Demonstration from Tel Aviv Perspective

Soldiers from battalion 52, givati brigade, after taking the bank in Ness Tziona, 1948-1956, photographer: unknown, [] Attribution: ארכיון לתולדות רחובות

There is an unwritten agreement among countries when it comes to internal political strife: "don't tell me what to do and I will not tell you what to do". I guess this goes for these developed and civilized countries. The ones which fought hundreds of years ago when gentlemen made the rules and stuck by them. When it comes to political media sniping and gentleman's agreements its pretty safe to say that Israel and Iran are on the other side of this "don't tell me what to do" spectrum. Iran's leaders have used the media to attack Israel's politics so much that when you see a crowd of chanting Iranians following a leader's chant "... death to America, death to Israel..." most people just ignore this, after 30 years of the Iranian revolution it's not news any more. International TV news channels (CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera) run these videos as if they are meaningless. But in Tel Aviv it is not meaningless. Americans and Britons can take some comfort in distance and strength in numbers. It seems improbable that Iran would carry out on the chants 'death to America'. But with intermediaries like Hezbollah in Lebanon, it does not seem such a far fetched idea to be attacked - even if not killed by extremists in Iran. So the idea of "I am not going to tell you what to do" does not fit here. Israeli leaders have shied away from voicing their opinion in public. Many here think that this is a big mistake.

Why should Israeli leaders incite Iranian demonstrators? Why should Israel be on the side of changing a government in Iran? Because the election demonstrations in Iran is the best news Tel Avivians have heard from Iran in a long time. Why should it seem to most of us that fighting Hezbollah in Lebanon is OK but speaking out in the media is not? Does this make sense? No, it does not make sense. It also does not make sense to be silent about an oppressive Islamic government exporting it's hatred to Israel's borders left unchecked. Words may not influence Iran during peaceful times but these are not peaceful times in Iran. Israel wants to stay neutral, so far that has been one sided and it does not seem like Iran is going to stop using international media against Israel. Even without absolute proof, Iran has been supplying Hezbollah and Hamas with arms to use against Israel. It seems that this "I will not tell you what to do" equation is not balancing in the side of Israel. On the streets of Tel Aviv there is a split between these who think of achieving peace by simply being peaceful and these who feel that we need to defend ourselves against Iran and it's Palestinian intermediaries (Hezbollah and Hamas.)

The situation is a little more complex since US President Obama entered the scene. He was elected with the agenda of bringing a solution to the Israeli - Palestinian problem. To most outsiders that seemed like a good idea. From an outside perspective of US or Britain the situation here seem trivial. Obama probably thinks: [A] let the Palestinians declare a state, [B] give Israel more support in case the Palestinian government loses control over militant factions, [C] everybody goes home happy => [D] Obama/Clinton look great, take the credit, make the American public happy. What's wrong with this picture? A reality test in face of the fierce split among Palestinian factions and basically the Iranian support of Hisbollah and Hamas. No Arab leader, government or organization can be credible in assuring control over extreme factions' terrorizing Israel. So we are back to the first point, should Israel wish for Iranian government fall or even change in policy? If Iran's government falls or even alters it's support of intermediaries terrorizing Israel, than we can have the Obama scenario. Well, at least this is one scenario, hey a Tel Avivan can dream can't he? Let's wait and see what happens with the second Iranian revolution - oh sorry, election demonstration.