Date: Mon Jan 05 2009 - 06:21:00 EST
The neighborhood bully strikes again
By Gideon Levy
Israel embarked yesterday on yet another unnecessary, ill-fated war. On
July 16, 2006, four days after the start of the Second Lebanon War, I
wrote: "Every neighborhood has one, a loud-mouthed bully who shouldn't be
provoked into anger... Not that the bully's not right - someone did harm
him. But the reaction, what a reaction!"
Two and a half years later, these words repeat themselves, to our horror,
with chilling precision. Within the span of a few hours on a Saturday
afternoon, the IDF sowed death and destruction on a scale that the Qassam
rockets never approached in all their years, and Operation "Cast Lead" is
only in its infancy.
Once again, Israel's violent responses, even if there is justification for
them, exceed all proportion and cross every red line of humaneness,
morality, international law and wisdom.
What began yesterday in Gaza is a war crime and the foolishness of a
country. History's bitter irony: A government that went to a futile war two
months after its establishment - today nearly everyone acknowledges as much
- embarks on another doomed war two months before the end of its term.
In the interim, the loftiness of peace was on the tip of the tongue of Ehud
Olmert, a man who uttered some of the most courageous words ever said by a
prime minister. The loftiness of peace on the tip of his tongue, and two
fruitless wars in his sheath. Joining him is his defense minister, Ehud
Barak, the leader of the so-called left-wing party, who plays the role of
senior accomplice to the crime.
Israel did not exhaust the diplomatic processes before embarking yesterday
on another dreadful campaign of killing and ruin. The Qassams that rained
down on the communities near Gaza turned intolerable, even though they did
not sow death. But the response to them needs to be fundamentally
different: diplomatic efforts to restore the cease-fire - the same one that
was initially breached, one should remember, by Israel when it
unnecessarily bombed a tunnel - and then, if those efforts fail, a
measured, gradual military response.
But no. It's all or nothing. The IDF launched a war yesterday whose end, as
usual, is hoping someone watches over us.
Blood will now flow like water. Besieged and impoverished Gaza, the city of
refugees, will pay the main price. But blood will also be unnecessarily
spilled on our side. In its foolishness, Hamas brought this on itself and
on its people, but this does not excuse Israel's overreaction.
The history of the Middle East is repeating itself with despairing
precision. Just the frequency is increasing. If we enjoyed nine years of
quiet between the Yom Kippur War and the First Lebanon War, now we launch
wars every two years. As such, Israel proves that there is no connection
between its public relations talking points that speak of peace, and its
Israel also proves that it has not internalized the lessons of the previous
war. Once again, this war was preceded by a frighteningly uniform public
dialogue in which only one voice was heard - that which called for
striking, destroying, starving and killing, that which incited and prodded
for the commission of war crimes.
Once again the commentators sat in television studios yesterday and hailed
the combat jets that bombed police stations, where officers responsible for
maintaining order on the streets work. Once again, they urged against
letting up and in favor of continuing the assault. Once again, the
journalists described the pictures of the damaged house in Netivot as "a
difficult scene." Once again, we had the nerve to complain about how the
world was transmitting images from Gaza. And once again we need to wait a
few more days until an alternative voice finally rises from the darkness,
the voice of wisdom and morality.
In another week or two, those same pundits who called for blows and more
blows will compete among themselves in leveling criticism at this war. And
once again this will be gravely late.
The pictures that flooded television screens around the world yesterday
showed a parade of corpses and wounded being loaded into and unloaded from
the trunks of private cars that transported them to the only hospital in
Gaza worthy of being called a hospital. Perhaps we once again need to
remember that we are dealing with a wretched, battered strip of land, most
of whose population consists of the children of refugees who have endured
For two and a half years, they have been caged and ostracized by the whole
world. The line of thinking that states that through war we will gain new
allies in the Strip; that abusing the population and killing its sons will
sear this into their consciousness; and that a military operation would
suffice in toppling an entrenched regime and thus replace it with another
one friendlier to us is no more than lunacy.
Hezbollah was not weakened as a result of the Second Lebanon War; to the
contrary. Hamas will not be weakened due to the Gaza war; to the contrary.
In a short time, after the parade of corpses and wounded ends, we will
arrive at a fresh cease-fire, as occurred after Lebanon, exactly like the
one that could have been forged without this superfluous war.
In the meantime, let us now let the IDF win, as they say. A hero against
the weak, it bombed dozens of targets from the air yesterday, and the
pictures of blood and fire are designed to show Israelis, Arabs and the
entire world that the neighborhood bully's strength has yet to wane. When
the bully is on a rampage, nobody can stop him.
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