I have often wondered why a people that professes itself, as the prophet Isaiah said (Isaiah 49:6), to be “a light unto the Nations” — something that it manifestly is, as any objective study of its world-benefitting discoveries and humane military practices would demonstrate — is so often a darkness unto itself.
For example, a video clip has just surfaced of a Palestinian mother whose child was saved by Israeli doctors, gleefully proclaiming that she will raise that child to become a shahid, a suicide “martyr,” who will repay his gift of life by slaughtering Jews. The doctor and nurses are presented as smiling and full of fellow-feeling for someone who hopes her son will destroy them and their homeland. Why are Jews so eager to help those who seek to destroy their children? The moral calculus on the part of Israeli benefactors is self-destructively skewed.
On a similar note, I wonder why Israeli officialdom tarried so long before acknowledging Philippe Karsenty’s documentary evidence proving that the Palestinians staged the travesty at the infamous Netzarim Junction and the presumed death of Mohammed al Dura, for which Israel was duly blamed. Why was Israel so slow to proclaim its innocence and so prone to take seriously the scurrilous charges leveled against it?
More recently, a report reveals that the IDF is preparing to defend itself against potential charges of war crimes for its campaign in Gaza to defend Israel from thousands of rocket attacks launched by Hamas at Israeli civilian communities. Yet the fact remains that it is not the IDF that is guilty of war crimes, but Hamas itself, which deliberately targeted non-combatants and conscripted its own civilians as human shields, while Israel cripples its military effectiveness by warning Gazans of impending strikes.
Compounding the absurdity, for years after the Gaza withdrawal up to the present day, Israel has been furnishing an avowed and determined enemy with food, fuel, electricity, medical supplies, and building materials. Earlier embargos on certain dual-purpose items were eased in 2010 and 2012. According to IDF estimates, 181,000 tons of gravel, iron, cement and wood entered Gaza via Israeli crossings in the last half year alone. I know of no other nation on earth that would stockpile and replenish a bellicose entity devoted to wiping every one of its supplier’s citizens off the face of the planet.
I freely admit that I am no military expert and certainly not a diplomat or policy wonk; nonetheless, it seemed undeniable to me that not only was Israel reinforcing a terrorist aggressor but that the so-called building materials would be used not only for civilian purposes but to construct military installations and structures, such as bunkers and tunnels. How could the Israeli political class and its high command not perceive what was so blatantly obvious that even a mere Canadian poet could see the writing on the underground walls?
Again, I freely admit that I cannot understand Israel’s official policies and even its humanitarian concerns, laudable as they may be. You do not win a war and save your own citizens in the process by alerting the enemy in advance of your intentions. You do not protect the lives of your people by healing future shahids. You do not earn brownie points by victualing those who wish only to exterminate you, as the Hamas charter and its asymmetrical guerrilla practices make abundantly clear. You do not allow shipments of cement and iron to the diggers of terror tunnels.
Nor do you immunize yourself against the allegation of war crimes by the consuming exertion of building a defense case; rather, you go on the attack, deploying the legal weapons at your disposal — journalist affidavits, the captured Hamas combat manual sanctioning the strategy of using human shields to sway the international press, the more than ten thousand rockets aimed at Israeli villages and towns since the disengagement — and prosecuting a case at the International Criminal Court accusing Hamas of war crimes. Israel does not and should not wait upon a judicial summons to The Hague by Hamas and its bigoted fellow travelers in the morally compromised West: it should immediately initiate a prosecutorial case against the real criminals, and force them to account for their actions before the world. It must take the bull by the horns, not wait to be gored.
Tikkun Olam, the mandate to repair a broken world, is a lovely theological notion, but it should not come at the expense of sacrificing one’s own civilians, soldiers and children to a bloodthirsty adversary, a decadent commentariat and a hopelessly corrupt United Nations. It is high time that Israel — its political and legal authorities, its commanders, the media, and the intellectual elites — adopt a new mode of thinking if the country has any hope of surviving into the indefinite future. If the prevailing mindset does not change, 1973, the year in which Israelis almost lost their country, may happen again, this time with a different result. A punching bag does not win a boxing match. I realize that the issue is insidiously complex. Soi-disant “allies” need to be partially mollified or taken into consideration, especially if they are surreptitiously hostile, but a country cannot be passive or half-hearted, always seeking to appease, always deferring victory, if it is to embrace a viable future. As Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky wrote in The Story of the Jewish Legion, “if you want to be ‘good,’ allow yourself to be killed and forego all that you made it your aim to defend: home, country, freedom, hope.”
A purely defensive posture, an extensive reliance on Iron Dome, limited military engagements that only prolong the agony, and legal extenuations are expressive of, as well as engender, a garrison mentality that is ultimately self-defeating.
Isaiah may have been right, but a light has at least two properties: it casts a glow, and it can be extinguished.