Pic: Yaki Assaig
IDF in Lebanon
Photo: Reuters
Ammunition Hill
Photo: GPO
Kfar Giladi disaster
Photo: Reuters

So calm down already

Hysterical people always vacillate between depression and insanity. Please don't be hysterical. Be completely honest: How will we remember this operation?

Stop for a minute and think. How are you going to remember this ‘Operation’? Because that is how you’ll refer to in two years time, ‘The Operation’. If there is one thing Israelis have gleaned from the Arab world, it’s the inclination to exaggerate.


Ten years ago exactly, almost 1,000 rockets were fired on Israel during ‘Operation Grapes of Wrath’ 24 civilians and 31 IDF soldiers were killed. How, if at all, do we remember ‘Grapes of Wrath’?


Three years ago we awaited the delivery of chemical tipped scud missiles courtesy of Saddam Hussein. Today it seems a bit funny how we were absolutely sure that would be his final act of desperation. How do you remember it now?


A year ago exactly we were telling one another with trepidation that the country was on the verge of a civil war. We thought it was just a question f time before the first Jewish settler fired a gun at IDF troops, or that thousands would refuse the army’s orders to evacuate the settlements. The country was going to collapse from within. Remember? Maybe we’ve repressed it a little because it is unpleasant to admit that we scare so easily.


Nowadays ‘Ammunition Hill’


When did we become so hysterical? 800 Israelis were killed in the Six-Day war: 776 of them were soldiers and more than 3,000 were wounded. Only six days of the most precise, the best planned, most valiant and premeditated offensive and we still lost 800 people.


How easy it is to imagine how the media would cover the battles on ‘Ammunition Hill’.


7 AM and the ‘Special News Bulletin’ logo would flash across the screen. The energetic reporter in a flak jacket would say: “37 paratroopers were killed overnight during a four and a half hour fierce battle in the canals of Ammunition Hill.” All the facts about our losses would be accurate but the report would have been inaccurate because that it not what happened there.


Freedom of expression? Give me a break


Three hours after the katyusha attack on Kibbutz Kfar Giladi and I am glued to the television like everyone else. The Channel 10 TV news report explains without batting an eyelash that it was the platoon commander’s fault. I am not usually known for talking back to the TV screen but now I am yelling at him.


“What’s so urgent?” I beseech him. “Why now?”


Don’t you dare start preaching to me about freedom of expression and the public’s right to know. I am in this business for 25 years already. I have covered two wars and an ‘Operation’. I can assure you that there is no journalistic directive that says you are permitted to conjecture before there’s a military inquiry; before the bodies have even gotten cold; before the wounded have left the operating rooms; before the most miserable commander in the Israeli army has been given a chance to explain.


Middle East hurricanes


What happened is the Middle East. That is the way this region is. Once every few years something happens. Sometimes it’s horrible, sometimes just bad but this is our version of hurricanes. You never know when they are going to begin fermenting in the middle of the ocean or how they will attack.


You don’t ask who wins when a hurricane hits. You don’t argue that the hurricanes have to be destroyed. You don’t deal with the question of what the hurricane talks about with his friends the tsunamis.


When the smoke settles there will still be on one side of the border a country with a GNP larger than Portugal, a culture more vibrant than Greece and with better restaurants than London. On the other side of the border will still be a terror organization of a few thousand poor people, disenfranchised and forgotten who will celebrate on the ruins of their destroyed country. This is the only real victory, all the rest are emotional disorders.


“What are the objectives?” our learned commentators ask repeatedly. What are the objectives all the time? That as few of us as possible will die, that we’ll gain a few years of quiet, that we’ll continue to be aligned with the correct side of the globe.


Israel’s wars were never fought to resolve conflict. There is no resolution. The best one can hope for is to improve one’s position before the next outbreak of violence begins.


Hysteria and reality


Hysterical people always vacillate between depression and insanity. No, we can’t go into Lebanon and annihilate them and ‘we don’t care what the rest of the world thinks.’


It just doesn’t work that way. It’s not in us to kill 100,000 Lebanese civilians. In any case, the planes we use to bomb them are made in the USA; 82 percent of the fuel that powers our tanks comes from the former Soviet Union (and the rest from Egypt, from western Africa and from Norway); because the factories now closed because of the situation exported USD 15 billion worth of goods to Europe last year.


Without this, our economy which finances, among other things, the security establishment would collapse.


On the other hand, wipe your tears. Not every local screw-up means total failure, not every operational postponement becomes ‘the subject of an investigative committee’. And you don’t have to continue replacing officers every time they err in judgment.


The self appointed geniuses now speak about how the expanded ground offensive should have begun sooner. Let’s say they are right. So what does that mean? The war isn’t perfect? Life isn’t perfect? IDF Chief of Staff General Dan Halutz is not perfect? So, there have been mistakes, and there always will be but be grateful that there is something bizarre in our need to fall in love with them.


I know that ‘our deterrence abilities have been hit,’ because I met Rina G at the home of friends. She told me. Rina is a math teacher in an elementary school so she must know. Without hurting her feelings, we didn’t have much deterrence before the hostilities began. There is no deterrence for crazies who think that Allah whispers to them at night.


It too shall pass


The US has all the weaponry in the world and it hasn’t stopped Bin Laden from attacking American targets. The only deterrence that is important is directed at states like Syria who is dying to attack us but knows that if it tries it would be obliterated. The only damage they have caused us is the dancing on their roofs. I saw the pictures; our soccer players are better dancers.


There is no, nor could ever be, consolation for the grandmother and grandson who are killed by a katyusha rocket as they drink tea on their balcony. We will try not to forget but as the prophet Isaiah said, it’s God’s job to wipe the tears, not ours.


Eventually it will all fade away. It will be the Palestinians or traffic accidents or the fight for more drugs in the basket of subsidized medicines or some other scary thing that we don’t yet know about (just like up to a month ago when we weren’t so concerned about Hizbullah). In the end it’s one of those weird distortions of life in Israel. It’s painful, it’s terrifying but it too shall pass.


פרסום ראשון: 08.14.06, 09:16
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