Dr. Idan Lando teaches at the Linguistic Dept., Ben-Gurion University.
(Special translation from Hebrew by Dan Barkye to IAM. Thank you Dani!)
Time for refusal
By Dr. Idan Lando.
Maybe you didn’t get yet “Tzav 8” (The emergency military call to arms in Israel, taken from its form number designation; DB); maybe it’s on its way. Maybe they contacted you already from the unit, and you are now packing. And maybe you are in the congregation areas, warming the tank engine. Wherever you are, you are convinced, probably, that you are doing the right thing at the right time. You agree with the saying “It cannot go on like that”, and you think that after this war, and the heavy losses that the Palestinian will incur, it will really stop.
In the next lines I will try to convince you that you are wrong. Not on purpose, [but] in good faith, and still, you are wrong. Many words were uttered; nevertheless I will try to tell you new things. To react to the arguments put forth incessantly in the Defense Establishment and in the media. A very dense system of lies and half-truths, empty slogans, empty promises and wild gambling on human life.
When you will see how all this framework crumbs to dust and will discern the reality that glances through it, maybe you will hesitate a little before you will cross the fence into Gaza. Maybe you will say – that's enough.
First fact: The current war is not intended to remove the rocket threat from the residents of the south. It is meant to collapse the Hamas regime. I call it fact, because the things are documented, and were declared by our most senior leaders again and again (in Feb. 2002 - http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3218102,00.html, and in the current week, also -http://www.exego.net/admin/:%20http:/www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART1/829/200.html).
The offices of Hamas police and government bear witness that it is all about crashing the authority apparatus in the Gaza Strip, similar to the crashing of the Palestinian Authority apparatus at the beginning of the second Intifada (which paved the way, how ironic, to Hamas’ ascent). And why was the central medicines warehouse in Gaza bombed? Plain evilness, seemingly.
Why is it important to recognize this fact? Because, according to all the experts, the removal of the Hamas regime will not remove the rockets threat. Without Hamas, anarchy will reign in the Strip, in which every bully is king and any extremist with a Kassam launcher will be able to fire on the southern settlements, or, much worse, the most extreme factions will rule in the Strip, extreme Islamists and al-Qaeda cells.
Which means that our government and army aim for a political goal that has nothing to do with the defense of the citizens of Israel. On the contrary, with the current move, they gamble on our lives now and in the future, when the battle dust will settle.
Suppose that you agreed with me on the first fact, but you support the idea of overthrowing the Hamas regime through a military invasion. Did you consider for a minute if this is a real possibility? Did Israel ever succeed to change an Arab regime that it didn’t like?
Let us ask it this way. If your house, neighborhood, the hospital near it were bombed, and all this in addition to a prolonged chocking blockade – would you toss your regime to the drain? A government that engraved on its flag the struggle and the rebellion against the enemy? No, it would be more probable that you’d do what ninety percent of the Israelis do now: unite around their elected government and urge it to escalate the war, to kill the enemy evermore.
If this is how you stand by your flag, why would you think that the Palestinians won’t do the same? And if so, the unavoidable result of this war will be a strengthening and fortification of the Hamas rule, totally contrary to its stated goal. Does it remind you something from Lebanon, from Hezb’alah, from the summer of 2006?
In short, the rocket threat won’t be removed, because this is not the war’s goal; and Hamas rule will only strengthen, in spite of the war’s goals. Now ask yourself if you want to take part in this bleeding fraud?
Second Fact: The present war endangers in a real way Gil’ad Shalit’s life. It’s an unpleasant fact that the regime won’t dare touch, of course; and the unpleasantness only grows when you think that Shalit’s family joined the war cries. Well, even if the IDF bombs dropped on Hamas bases won’t kill Gil’ad mistakenly, his captors have all the reasons in the world to do it now. There’s no more bargaining, there’s no negotiations for prisoners exchange. What is left is only an ever-growing vicious circle of revenge. Gil’ad Shalit has lost his bargaining value the moment the IAF slew 150 Palestinians in four minutes. In the next days, IDF will push to the wall more and more Gil’ad’s captors. The chance that in the end he will be alive, is very slim.
Meaning that the same government that had sent Shalit to defend the southern settlements (and, from the Palestinians’ point of view, to enforce the siege), the same government that abandoned him for three years, is now pronouncing his death verdict.
And on the margin of this issue: what about you, reservist? Now you enter Gaza. And what will happen if, heaven forbid, you will be captured? Do you have any reason to believe that your life is worthy enough in the eyes of the Israeli government to bring you back? Will the government that deserts citizens on the front-line, that deserts every man and woman in distress and poverty – will it move a finger for you? And if not – why do you put your life on line?
To defend our citizens? Do you think that this war will stop the Kassam fire? Go back to first fact.
Third Fact: The tunnels won’t be destroyed, period. In spite of the IDF’s self-praise, there is no basis for this claim. Even if forty were hit, there are more than eight hundred active tunnels. Even if their majority will be hit, or all of them, they will be rehabilitated faster than you would think. They are rehabilitated in this very moment. Understand: this is the lifeline of Gaza. This is from where everything comes, because Israel closed the crossings. The tunnels are a huge industry, with police registration, transport system, marketing, and a manifold system of vested interests, employers and employees. They tell us that what is crossing there is ammunition, but the truth is that everything is crossing through them – from refrigerators to pencils. This is the only economic sector in the strip that is flourishing (as can be glimpsed from http://www.haaretz.com/hasite/spages/1050253.html). No air bombs will stop them.
One action only is able to choke the tunnels: The opening of the crossings. The tunnels economy is based on huge transport expenses and won’t be able to compete with regular ground economy if it will be allowed to develop. But Israel won’t do it. Let me commit myself in a solemn language: if there is something certain, it is that the tunnels will only flourish after this war. My word.
Fourth Fact: Hamas is interested in the continuation of the lull and the ceasefire. Israel isn’t. Immediately after the end of the ceasefire, a week ago, Mahmoud a-Zahar declared (http://news.walla.co.il/?w=/2/1403150) that Hamas is interested in the extension of the agreement by an additional half-year if Israel will implement its promises of June 2008 (end to Kassams [end to Kassams??? How so? Israel doesn’t fire them. DB.], opening of the crossings, and an end to the attacks on Gaza). Israel responded that it doesn’t talk with Hamas about a lull. Yesterday, a week after that, Haled Mashaal announced (http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3646388,00.html) a similar announcement. Again – no one to talk to on the Israeli side.
Therefore, they tell you that we want peace and quiet, but when the other side offers quiet, we don’t allow him to spoil our party. Of course, there are always excuses (“their word is not worth it”, “they don’t even recognize us”, it’s only temporary with them”), but the simple fact is this: Peace is not achieved with a bang, but in small pieces. He who is not ready to hold his fire and if only for a short time, partially, doesn’t go to war in good faith. The impression is that the lull was the lever for the war and not inversely. Right, Hamas armed itself to the teeth. But what exactly did IDF do? Beat its swords into ploughshares?
Fifth Fact: This war killed already people on both sides, on the Palestinian side in particular, thirty children having been killed there (among them five sisters of between 4 and 17 years of age - http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/spages/1051201.html). No doubt that the number of casualties will grow from day to day. Maybe you think that in war there are not moral limits, and all are in the crosshairs – women, old people and tots. If so, skip this, we don’t have anything in common. But if you think that there are some limits, ask yourself how is it that, again and again, IDF is killing such quantities of uninvolved civilians.
Inaccurate bombardments? The Palestinians are too crowded? The walls of their houses are too thin? And maybe all this is true, and especially this: The Palestinian civilians’ lives are not an essential operational consideration. Right, Israeli lives aren’t a Hamas consideration also. But I’m talking now about us. If you think that there shouldn’t be a difference between us and a terror organization, then, again, skip on. After the aircrafts, the tanks will come. Remember Jenin? Remember how a street, through which a tank passed, looked? All the houses façades were peeled. Whole neighborhoods are falling apart. Want to be in such a tank, to crush everything in your way?
You see pictures of ruin and destruction from Gaza. They don’t show you broken people. Broken people are only here, in Israel.
Are you moved by such pictures? If not, skip on. Maybe they annoy you. Maybe it seems to you unbalanced to speak about the Palestinian suffering without talking about the Israeli one. But this is only an optical illusion, of course. Everyone is talking about the Israeli suffering and the Kassam casualties are photographed around the clock – “Yediot” and “Haaretz” and “Maariv” and Channel 2 and who not. And admit that they are not exactly strictly balanced. So, two and a half minutes from al-Jazeera against the deluge of pictures and interviews from the south – this is what will upset the balance? A drop in the bucket is what you saw now, not more.
No, you are aggravated because of a different reason. Maybe you think that people like me empathize with the Palestinian suffering and not with the Israeli one. You’re wrong. Really. Every citizen that gets a rocket on his house is suffering, in Sderot or in Gaza. A refugee is a refugee and a dead is a dead. I also think that the citizens on both sides are victims of fanatic, inciting, short-sided leaderships. If there is a suffering that invokes my empathy, it is the unnecessary one, the suffering of the innocents.
But it is important to be credible and accurate – even in issues of suffering. The Palestinians are suffering more. For every hundred of their dead, we have one. For every ruined house of ours, a whole neighborhood is ruined there. They had a hospital bombed, we had not. The individual suffering on both sides is similar, but the collective suffering on their side is much bigger.
No, even this is not interesting you. Maybe the pictures from al-Jazeera are annoying you because they are not to be shown on our side. Not now. In war every side needs to concentrate on its achievements – not on those of the opponent and on the suffering of the opponent. To glimpse the suffering of a Palestinian child is to upset this simple equation. It is to upset the desired solution. To be adamant to show the suffering of the other side and to put it on the same level with ours is to upset fundamentally our rightness.
It’s true. I’m upsetting. But anyway – why is it irritating you? If you agree with the Israeli attack and with the price that it imposes on the Palestinians – why then it bothers you to see this price in front of you? Will it make any difference to you? Maybe you’re afraid that too much exposure to the Palestinian suffering will upset your confidence, your own confidence in our morality, in the wisdom of our leaders? And maybe the anger is just a reaction of self-defense – the brain refuses to receive information that may move it from the comfortable position in which it is already entrenched.
Sixth Fact: The reactions will come, now. The curses, the vituperations, the hatred in the eyes. Did you notice it? The criticism of the Left on the Right is always less violent than the criticism of the Right on the Left. Especially in times of war. The Left says poignant things, but doesn’t lash on the representatives of the Right. It does not shut them down and does not recommend that they go to Gaza or abroad. It never occurred to me to object to the legitimacy of my interlocutors, to them being less Israeli than I, to the fact that their stances stem from an authentic worry for the fate of the country. For some reason, all this is doubted, if not outright denied, in the criticism of the Right on the Left. Much delegitimization, little true debate.
It’s not right to say: “If you would live in Sderot (and not in the Tel-Avivian espresso bubble), you would have talked otherwise”. If I lived in Sderot, I would have thought just the same, only I would have been afraid more. But let’s not talk about me. See, at least 500 people that live in Sderot think as I do, and sounded a different voice (http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3645778,00.html); together with partners on the Palestinian side, they call for a stop to the bloodshed. So what about them? What, are they robots remote-controlled by Uri Avneri and Gideon Levi? Maybe they are just people who see the same facts that their neighbors see, but also what is going on on the other side and conclude opposite conclusions? Maybe they understand that their own interest dictates negotiation and reconciliation, and not war?
Seventh Fact: Why be against the war: because it is immoral or because it is ineffective? Maybe you think that he who is focusing on the moral side is by definition from the Left, and he who is focusing on the efficiency is from the Right or Center. But this is a mistaken distinction.
The Israeli power solutions that were clearly immoral as far as violating the international law (the separation wall, the bombing of civilians in Lebanon, and the current war), were always effective for the short term only. They removed an immediate threat and in the same time released nationalistic steam on our side. In the long term, all of them were or will be colossal failures. This, because of the moral aspect. When so many people suffer so much for so long from the Israeli punishment – in the end, they revolt. And every revolt breaks the violence record of the previous one. This is the cycle of violence in which we are trapped. Both sides behave in a criminal abandon, and still, our guilt is heavier, because our blows are much more violent, and, in any case, most of the solutions for an arrangement are in our hands (territory, prisoners, freedom of movement, water).
And so, in the long term, the moral consideration and the efficiency consideration meet. It is immoral to bomb residence neighborhoods, without distinguishing between civilians and militants, and certainly ineffective. In this war, Israel is sowing the seeds of the next revolt, which will be much more painful. In the next revolt, the rockets will reach Tel-Aviv. Yes, up to my espresso. You will be astonished; even then I’ll insist that it was all avoidable. That it can be otherwise.
If so, for what are you fighting? For a safer future or for revenge? And on whom do you take revenge, on terrorists or on women and children? It seems fair to you that the government puts on your modest shoulders such decisions? Do you think that there will be someone that will gain from this war beside the politicians that won’t be in power when it will be over, and will be investigated, after stormy demonstrations in the city square, and the conclusions of the investigating committee will be published with great fanfare, and then will be concealed and will gather dust, and will be forgotten?
Till next war. That will be quick to come, doubtless. Olmert government broke one record already – two wars in one tenure. Who will stop its successor?
Maybe you? Maybe now, when you stand on the edge of Gaza, you will say – That's enough?
Citizen and Capt. (Res.)
Published on Dec. 30, 2008.