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The War Nerd May 1, 2002
Israelis On Wheels!
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
Page 2 of 3

The Pals used to be a total joke. The PLO, people said it meant "Perfect Losers Organization." Worst guerrillas in the world.

Then the Pals got tough thanks to Sharon. It's funny in a way, how he trained 'em up to take him on. He sent the IDF into Lebanon in '82. The Israelis were at the top of their game then. They were amazing! Their air force sliced and diced the Syrians without losing a single plane. They made it look so damn easy even the Americans tried to join in -- and wham!, the US Navy lost two A-6s in a few hours. Of course, only the fucking Navy would be dumb enough to send A-6's into a SAM-rich environment. That's sorta like taking a VW Campervan on a windows-down tour of Compton on a Saturday night.

The Israelis cut right through Lebanon and only lost about 400 guys, which was less than Israel lost in car crashes that year. They shelled the Hell out of Beirut and booted the PLO all the way to Tunisia. Reagan just drooled and smiled at 'em. They could do anything they wanted.

And then this weird thing happened: a 16-year-old Shiite girl got in a car packed with TNT and drove it into an Israeli patrol. And everything changed. One of the Israeli generals said on TV, "We're going to regret coming here. No Palestinian drove a car full of explosives at us, not in 30 years of war."

Back then the only suicide bombers were those crazy Tamil Tigers in Ceylon. They invented the whole suicide-bomber look, with the vest of C4 and string fuse. But everybody figured it was just Hindu weirdness, like if you believe in reincarnation what's one life? You just have to stand in line till you get a new one.

Then this crazy girl in Lebanon showed that it wasn't just Hindus who could die well. The game was on for real. Amal and Hizbollah had all the martyrs they needed. Boom! goes the Marine barracks in Beirut, the French barracks, Bashir Gemayel's HQ. Suddenly everybody wants to be a martyr.

It was those Shiites who taught the slack Pals what fighting was about. And it didn't happen quickly. The Pals were slow learners. For ten years they watched the Shiites drive trucks and bikes and cars into Israeli checkpoints without getting the idea. They started their Intifada in '87 but all they did was throw rocks and get shot in the face. There's nothing wrong with getting killed. I know that. It's a big part of getting a rebellion going. Starts things off big, gets people excited and all that. But sooner or later you can't just settle for dying. You got to kill also. Throwing rocks at tanks looks good on TV, but it doesn't make a big impression on people as tough as Sharon.

The Pals...they're a little slow, like I said. So it took them till 2000 to copy the Shiites' suicide bombers.

Which reminds me of this great segment I saw on the news: a camp for "training suicide bombers." I mean, how hard can it be? "You see, Ahmad, here is the string. Now, when you get to the bagel stand, you pull the string like so. And the next thing you know, you will be in Paradise attended by 62 Virgins." You don't have to be a Prussian General Staff aide to master the subtle military skill of pulling a string.

But eventually the technique got through to the Pals. Like Bela Lugosi in that Ed Wood movie: "Pull ze string! Pull ze string!" The explosive vest came into fashion among stylin' Pals from Gaza to Nablus, with roofing nails for rhinestones. 454 dead Israelis later, Sharon's visit to the ol' Dome of the Rock isn't looking so clever any more. Of course the Israelis have been killing Palestinians at a rate of four or five Pals for every Israeli. But that's a really bad ratio for guerrilla war. You want a ratio of 9 or 10 natives for every settler in that kind of war. Even then, it's a bad risk. The British killed 20 Kikuyu for every settler and still lost.

So back to the Merkava. A great design, yes. But the whole greatness of the design advertises the weakness of the Israelis: they don't like taking casualties. You're thinking, "Nobody likes it you jerk!" Except that's totally untrue. Lots of places like taking casualties. The Shiites -- they never felt prouder or happier. The Russians under Stalin -- they died crying for joy. All you fucking happy people -- you think everybody's like you? Lots of people want to die. I want to die! There's more like me than like you, you smug bastards.

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Gary Brecher
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Email Gary at, but, more importantly, buy his book.

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