Monday, July 31, 2006

The War Fever

Moments after the abduction of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah it was clear that outbreak of war on Israel's northern border was inevitable. I anticipated the unleashing of the Israel's military might, not because I willed destruction but because I saw no other alternative. The simple and logical Israeli conclusion is that Hezbollah is a fundamentalist terrorist organization who had infiltrated into our sovereignty, captured two of our boys and killed eight more in the battle that ensued. We had not provoked Hezbollah, we were not occupying Lebanon and therefore there could be no plausible justification for their actions… so they must be punished.
However, after what seems to be an eternity of combat on the northern border, I have reached the sobering conclusion that there is a point where justice transforms into vengeance and vengeance cannot be justified. To vengeance there is an alternative. As the war wears on and casualties on both sides accumulate each us must take a moment to ponder at what price must justice be served. How just is the displacement of over half a million Lebanese civilians? If we tear an entire village to the ground, even if it does harbor terrorists, is that justice?
The public consensus in Israel is quite simple – yes. Security above all else. Sometimes I wish that current surge of patriotic pride would overtake but regretfully I see the ongoing conflict in blinding shades of gray.
I cannot help but wince when I see my city adorned in billboard signs proclaiming "WE WILL WIN" – a national rally cry to a war that can bear no decisive winner. I cannot rejoice when I hear of a successful air force operation that wiped out an entire neighborhood in Beirut. I cannot miss the irony that this Lebanon war followed the retreat of Israel from Gaza, which many Israelis viewed as a national weakness, much like the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 took place only two months after the evacuation of Yamit, the largest Jewish settlement in Sinai, which was returned within the framework of the Israel-Egypt peace accords, also objected by many in Israel.
In this part of the world war has become routine. Exerting your power is seen as the only means of survival and showing restraint is an unquestionable weakness.
Israel is caught up in war fever. An understandable phenomenon, as we are constantly rushing into bomb shelters and our loved ones are called up to fight against the source of all this chaos. I absolutely relate to the fever but I cannot march blindly to its beat. I shiver with each news report of another salvo of katushya launchings into Israel, another air force bombing in Lebanon, another action, another reaction and who will remember who started it all when we are busy counting the dead.
My greatest fear is that the democratic values, on which we pride ourselves, will also come under the threat of the war-fever. Ninety people protested in Haifa against the operations in Lebanon last week. They endured verbal and physical abuse from a much larger group of onlookers and were ultimately arrested for conducting an illegal protest. I did not attend nor witness the protest, I am not brave enough to voice anti-war sentiments at a time when the country is fighting what the public perceives as an existential battle for existence, but I believe its outcome serves as a warning. Even in times of national adversity, we must not sabotage the democratic foundations of Israel and not allow ourselves to be drowned in patriotic sentiments. It is crucial to take a moment to listen to the other side, what he says might actually make sense.
Opinions like mine are marginalized in this fever-ridden country. I thought I was a traitor for thinking what I thought. Maybe I am a traitor but at least I know that here I can publish these thoughts without fear of being arrested for treason and this is a point the Israeli populace must fight with equal passion to preserve… even in times of war. – Tel Aviv, 29 July

by A. Werner

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