There were many examples of heroism and sacrufice in this war, but pride isn't the only thing the IDF bequeathed to Israel. We cannot forget that the destruction and mass killing were also the work of the IDF soldiers
by Gideon Levy 7 August 2014 Haaretz
The national chorus is trying to fake a victory. In the absence of many achievements, they’re also trying to fake the fall of Hamas. Previously it had faked “national unity,” “steadfastness” and of course the heroism and morality of the Israel Defense Forces. It has dismissed the volleys of global criticism as anti-Semitism. That’s our national chorus, the chorus of fakers.
GOC Southern Command Sami Turgeman, one of the military leaders of this brutal war, said, “Our fighters overcame the enemy.” An Israeli businessman wrote me from New York in response, “Real Madrid overpowered Sakhnin.” A terror organization, or an army of daring warriors? The chorus has changed its definitions.
The commentators vie with one another to spew the most words about how Hamas is on the ropes, but the truth is quite different. Its leaders, who are now meant to crawl out of their burrows, view the destruction sown by Israel and wave the white flag, are indeed emerging to a different Gaza. It was destroyed in a month, but most of the bill will be submitted to Israel, which will be forced to pay it. We’re not talking only about the worldwide wave of enmity against it, but also about one more generation of Gazans who will retain forever the shocking memories of death and destruction and grow up in an atmosphere of terrible (and justified) hatred. An Israeli victory? Very doubtful.
The national chorus has obscured the fact that Israel acceded to Hamas’ demand for the IDF’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, as a condition for agreeing to the cease-fire. It also ignores the fact that in the wake of the war, Israel is suddenly willing to talk to representatives of the Palestinian unity government. Is that not a Hamas success? The chorus chuckles now over Hamas’ demand for a seaport and an airport. Unfortunately, Gaza will presumably not get its (justifiable) wish on this matter. But to laugh?
The chorus is also sniggering at the resignation of Britain’s first female Muslim cabinet minister, over her government’s position on the Gaza conflict. “Why should she resign? After all, they started it,” one television anchor babbled, and the commentators explained that there were actually other reasons for her resignation. That’s how the chorus misrepresents the world’s position.
National unity and the home front’s steadfastness was another place where the chorus was off-key. Although there were impressive expressions of solidarity, any unity that existed was of aggression, incitement and ultra-nationalism. One can even question the home front’s steadfastness. It’s better not to think about what would have happened to the home front had Iron Dome system not protected it. Of course it’s good that this was the case, but there was no real test here. One day of a semi-siege of Ben-Gurion International Airport, and Israel began to reconsider. No steadfastness there.
Even the warm embrace extended to the troops, however moving, understandable and authentic, blurs the overall picture. Israel was filled with billboards and posters: The nation loves its soldiers, the nation is proud of them. We cannot comment on the love. But is pride indeed the (only) emotion evoked by the IDF these days? What exactly is there to be proud of? The defense systems were indeed impressive, but can a military victory over a guerilla group, accompanied by an almost unbridled attack on a civilian population, be considered an impressive military victory, a source of pride?
There were many examples of heroism and sacrifice in this war, but pride isn’t the only thing the IDF bequeathed to Israel — far from it.
At the end of the war we cannot forget that the destruction and mass killing in Gaza were the work of IDF soldiers, the ones that Israelis so love to love. The pilots, the armored corpsmen, the artillery gunners and the infantry didn’t decide to go to war, but their commanders shaped its character, and they executed it.
“We salute you,” and “Thanks to the brave fighters,” as some headlines crowed on Wednesday? Yes and no. Thanks for your sacrifice and bravery, no thanks for the death and destruction you sowed. Around 1,900 dead, including about 700 women and children, around 10,000 injured, 30,000 homes damaged and a half a million displaced persons, most of them now homeless, are numbers not of pride, but of shame. As for those responsible, the chorus cannot get them wrong. Hail, hail, Israel.
Gazans return to what’s left of their homes and families
'People go into every house of mourning for five minutes, shake hands, everyone list the dead he knows of, and then they hurry to the other houses of mourning"
Despite the cease-fire, A. remained in her home yesterday and did not travel with her husband to the Shabura refugee camp in Rafah. She couldn’t bear the thought of the emptiness she would find there instead of the three families of relatives who had lived there in their simple asbestos dwellings until a single bomb fell on them Saturday morning.
“Did you know that Fathi’s [Abu Ita] three children who were killed were geniuses? Like their father, like their uncle Yakoub, the mathematician,” she said yesterday, as she delivered a lengthy report about her relatives who were killed, her work colleague who was killed, those who were wounded, those whose houses were destroyed this time, those whose houses were destroyed for the second time, those who were buried with their bodies whole, and the children killed whose body parts had to be collected.
A. heard the blast that killed her relatives, she said, and asked, “I want to understand how those soldiers are happy when they hug their own children, after they cut our children to pieces. I don’t understand how a soldier can hug his children and annihilate families. You have raised here a generation full of anger and hate. Do you think this generation will be afraid after this war? After a missile chased them in the street? This is a generation that doesn’t know what fear is.”
Her husband, S., did visit the family home yesterday in Shabura – and seven other homes of mourning in the neighborhood. “People go into every house of mourning for five minutes, shake hands, everyone lists the dead that he knows of, and then they hurry to the other houses of mourning.”
B. returned yesterday from the home of her relatives in Shabura to her own home in the Janina area of Rafah, and immediately rushed back to Shabura with her children, terrified. Her neat home was still standing, thank God, but a drone had fired a rocket into her neighbor’s home and it hadn’t exploded.
“What happens now?” she asked. “Is it going to explode? Is there someone who can dismantle it? And there are a lot of other missiles like this that haven’t exploded, all over the Strip. What do we do?” she asked her sister, but got no answer.
At 8:01 A.M., when the cease-fire went into effect, R. returned to his neighborhood near the border. “There was once a neighborhood there,” he said, wryly. During an earlier lull, a few days after he was forced to flee his home, he went back and found it half demolished, its contents burned and smoldering, with a few flames still licking at a table leg or rug. When he hurried to his home yesterday he found a pile of rubble. Since he’d been there last, it had been bombed.
“What hurts me most is our garden, all the fruit trees I planted,” R. said. “The lemon tree is black and dry, as if no one had watered it for 10 years. When I saw the garden I cried. Now we’re with relatives, we’ll go out this afternoon to find an apartment to rent… and we’ll see what happens next.
“This is what we got, from Hamas and the Israelis alike. Your house will be destroyed against your will, against your will you will die. Journalists asked me, ‘So you’re standing firm?’ And I asked, what standing firm are you talking about? We’re standing on the blood of our children, on the rubble of our homes. That’s standing firm?
“Our culture forces us to say that God will compensate us. So I say it, what else am I supposed to say? Forty years I saved to send my children to study, and I didn’t build a home, and then I built one and my dream was destroyed within hours,” R. continued. “One mustn’t express an opinion about the war. They’ll make you trouble if you say anything. I speak my mind, but others, if they say what they think, they’ll say they’re collaborators, or they’ll beat them or even kill them.
“And what did we do? Since the first Egyptian initiative – if they’d signed it, there would be 1,600 or 1,700 fewer people dead and none of this destruction. My house would still be standing. But 75 martyrs wouldn’t have brought any money to them or to Gaza. They waited until they could get money.”
M.’s house in Beit Lahia, as well as his brother’s, remained practically intact. “Some broken glass, and piles of sand in the rooms, which we’re cleaning out now,” said M. “But I’m embarrassed to talk about it in front of all the people who have lost homes and entire families. I haven’t gone to the destroyed neighborhoods so that I shouldn’t get upset, I have to make sure my blood pressure doesn’t go up.
“I’ve visited friends I hadn’t seen the entire war,” said M. “H. sends you regards. He’s fine. A missile was fired on the story above him. There’s almost no house that hasn’t been hit by a missile. If Hamas doesn’t accept the PLO’s proposals now, support and solidarity with them will disappear.”
Like A., B. also stayed home yesterday. “And it was lucky that I didn’t go out, because the electricity went back on for the first time in 10 days, so I ran to do things like laundry.”
She didn’t feel much like going out in any case. “The cease-fire exposes you to a situation a million times more difficult than what was during the war,” she said. “During the war we were focused on ourselves, on our fear of a missile, on the lack of electricity, on the water we didn’t have because there was no electricity, on the food that no one felt like eating, on the relatives who were killed. Now we’re starting to realize to what degree this wasn’t our own private nightmare. I’m much more afraid of the coming few days than I was during the war.”