Self-Deception and 'Restraint' in Israel
Even yesterday evening, after the IDF already had killed about 50 Palestinians, at least half of them unarmed, and including quite a number of women and children, Jerusalem continued to claim, "At present there will be no major ground operation." It's incredible: The IDF penetrates the heart of a crowded refugee camp, kills in a terrifyingly wholesale manner, with horrible bloodshed, and Israel continues to disseminate the lie of restraint. Two days earlier Israel killed more Palestinians than have been killed by all the Qassams over the past seven years. Among the dead were four children and an infant. The next day Israel killed another five boys. And who is the victim? Israel. And who is cruel? The Palestinians.
This victimhood is not new, nor is our self-deception. The current lie: 'restraint.' Israel is demonstrating 'restraint' in the face of the Qassams; this assertion continues to spur the commentators and security experts to urge it to embark on the anticipated 'major operation.' But this operation began long ago. It reached its peak yesterday.
Our desperate attempt to have our cake and eat it, too, to claim that there is no 'major operation' at a time when the IDF is killing dozens every day, is nothing new. It has existed since the days of the 'enlightened occupation' and 'purity of arms,' through 'the major operation that has yet to begin' - all of them impossible desires. A senior minister who was asked last week about the siege on Gaza replied: 'Occupation of Gaza is less moral.' In this way, we have once again established ourselves a relative and distorted values system, with no absolute morality, only a double standard. Behind every action of ours in Gaza, even the terrible one this weekend, hides an option that is even worse. The fact that we are not yet carrying it out helps us to present ourselves in a positive light, to boast how moral we are.
During the past two years, we have killed almost 900 Gaza residents. About half of them were people who did not take part in the fighting. That is how restraint looks. At a time when we are counting the Qassams and their victims, in Gaza they are counting the dead. Presenting things as though we have not yet entered Gaza or "beaten the hell out of Gaza" is meant to deceive. Yes, more can be done.
Imagine if the Palestinians were to kill dozens of Israelis, including women and children, in one week, as the IDF did. What an international outcry we would raise, and justifiably. Only in our own eyes can we still adhere to our restrained, forbearing image. All the talk about the 'major operation' is designed to achieve only one goal: to show it is possible to be even more violent and cruel.
That is an extremely pathetic consolation. The siege, the assassinations and the raid this weekend are terrifying enough. The claim that as opposed to them, we do not intend to kill children and citizens, is also overused and deceptive. The gun sights of Israeli weaponry are sophisticated. If the Palestinians had Apache helicopters and sophisticated drones like ours, we can assume that they would choose more strategic targets than the yard of a hospital in Ashkelon or a parking lot in Sderot. The Qassam is the weapon of the poor and helpless.
In the South, a war of attrition is taking place between the strong and the weak. It will not be stopped by military means. It is therefore surprising and depressing to see the uniform chorus of the residents of the Western Negev, city dwellers and kibbutzniks, the direct victims, in favor of the IDF's pointless fighting. How is it that in the entire South, not a single different voice can be heard, calling for a change in direction? How is it that no group of Sderot residents, yes, they of all people, is shouting in protest? Demonstrating in the city squares, not in favor of more of the same, but in favor of a different, much more promising approach? After all, they are the ones who are paying the heavy price, and they should be the first to see what the residents of the center of the country cannot see.?
The residents of Sderot, and now Ashkelon as well, have to look and see beyond the fence that is meant to protect them, and is imprisoning their neighbors. To understand that as long as things are so bad there, things will be bitter for them as well. That as long as we don't talk to them, nothing will change. They, who know that every assassination is followed by the 'Color Red' Qassam alert, fear and anxiety, who know that dozens of assassinations have not improved their lives at all, that the present raid will not help either, should be the pioneers who bring about the change we need.?
A large operation is now at its height. It has not helped at all so far; it will never help. Neither will the siege, the assassinations, the raids or the bombings. Perhaps the good will originate from the South, and someone there will call for something else?
© 2008 Ha'aretz