August 7, 2014
GOC Southern Command Sami Turgeman, one of the military leaders of this brutal war, said, “Our fighters overcame the enemy.” An Israeli businessman wrote me from New York in response, “Real Madrid overpowered Sakhnin.” A terror organization, or an army of daring warriors? The chorus has changed its definitions.
The commentators vie with one another to spew the most words about how Hamas is on the ropes, but the truth is quite different. Its leaders, who are now meant to crawl out of their burrows, view the destruction sown by Israel and wave the white flag, are indeed emerging to a different Gaza. It was destroyed in a month, but most of the bill will be submitted to Israel, which will be forced to pay it. We’re not talking only about the worldwide wave of enmity against it, but also about one more generation of Gazans who will retain forever the shocking memories of death and destruction and grow up in an atmosphere of terrible (and justified) hatred. An Israeli victory? Very doubtful.
The national chorus has obscured the fact that Israel acceded to Hamas’ demand for the IDF’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, as a condition for agreeing to the cease-fire. It also ignores the fact that in the wake of the war, Israel is suddenly willing to talk to representatives of the Palestinian unity government. Is that not a Hamas success? The chorus chuckles now over Hamas’ demand for a seaport and an airport. Unfortunately, Gaza will presumably not get its (justifiable) wish on this matter. But to laugh?
The chorus is also sniggering at the resignation of Britain’s first female Muslim cabinet minister, over her government’s position on the Gaza conflict. “Why should she resign? After all, they started it,” one television anchor babbled, and the commentators explained that there were actually other reasons for her resignation. That’s how the chorus misrepresents the world’s position.
National unity and the home front’s steadfastness was another place where the chorus was off-key. Although there were impressive expressions of solidarity, any unity that existed was of aggression, incitement and ultra-nationalism. One can even question the home front’s steadfastness. It’s better not to think about what would have happened to the home front had Iron Dome system not protected it. Of course it’s good that this was the case, but there was no real test here. One day of a semi-siege of Ben-Gurion International Airport, and Israel began to reconsider. No steadfastness there.
Even the warm embrace extended to the troops, however moving, understandable and authentic, blurs the overall picture. Israel was filled with billboards and posters: The nation loves its soldiers, the nation is proud of them. We cannot comment on the love. But is pride indeed the (only) emotion evoked by the IDF these days? What exactly is there to be proud of? The defense systems were indeed impressive, but can a military victory over a guerilla group, accompanied by an almost unbridled attack on a civilian population, be considered an impressive military victory, a source of pride?
There were many examples of heroism and sacrifice in this war, but pride isn’t the only thing the IDF bequeathed to Israel — far from it.
At the end of the war we cannot forget that the destruction and mass killing in Gaza were the work of IDF soldiers, the ones that Israelis so love to love. The pilots, the armored corpsmen, the artillery gunners and the infantry didn’t decide to go to war, but their commanders shaped its character, and they executed it.
“We salute you,” and “Thanks to the brave fighters,” as some headlines crowed on Wednesday? Yes and no. Thanks for your sacrifice and bravery, no thanks for the death and destruction you sowed. Around 1,900 dead, including about 700 women and children, around 10,000 injured, 30,000 homes damaged and a half a million displaced persons, most of them now homeless, are numbers not of pride, but of shame. As for those responsible, the chorus cannot get them wrong. Hail, hail, Israel.