Colombo, October 14 (Counterpoint): In the context of the unprecedented ferocity of the Hamas-Israeli war, many Israelis are disillusioned about their country’s claim to be a safe haven for persecuted Jews from across the globe.
Many wonder if their dream of living happily in a State of their own after millennia of persecution in exile, has turned into a nightmare.
But the blame for this is put entirely at the doorstep of the incumbent and longest-serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is accused of complacency, manipulation of institutions and corruption, and these are cited as the cause of the unmitigated disaster that is now unfolding in Israel.
But even leading commentators have failed to go beyond the immediate causes to the root cause – that is Israel’s consistent failure to address the Palestinian political question since Israel was founded in 1948.
Zvi Bar’el, writing in the liberal daily Haaretz supports the war against Hamas, which he brands as a terrorist outfit. But he trains his guns not so much at Hamas but at Netanyahu.
Zvi Bar’el says that Israel is now headed by a “corrupt leader, a criminal defendant who just a moment ago was investing all his effort in carrying out a judicial coup.”
“Natanyahu has marked the army, the Shin Bet security service and a majority of the public as enemies of the people. And now he’s leading the country into a war in which nobody even knows the precise goals, much less the outcome.”
Bar’el points out that it was Netanyahu who spent years nurturing Hamas. Netanyahu exploited the public legitimacy he gained 11 months ago to “wage a war on democracy, and now in his mad race toward a war of vengeance.”
Like other Israeli commentators, Bar’el makes no mention of the Palestinian political problem which is the root of all troubles in Israel.
David Brinn, writing in Jerusalem Post on October 13, gives full vent to his complete disillusionment with Israel both as a country and as a concept. He argues that the history of Israel has been pockmarked with battles that have proved that the “safe haven theory is erroneous.”
His contention is that a false sense of security had enveloped Israel following the unprecedented victory in the 1967 Six Day War. Complacency led to poor intelligence gathering, and that in turn, brought the country to the brink of extinction, Brinn explains.
“The last 50 years have remained more than turbulent, with two bloody intifadas, numerous wars with Hezbollah in the North and Palestinian terrorist organizations in Gaza, and a rising number of victims killed precisely because they were Jewish or Israeli,” he points out.
But all that paled in comparison to the large-scale massacre that took place last weekend, Brinn points out.
“It was a before-and-after watershed moment in the lives of Israelis that has forever shattered a number of long-held tenets,” he contends.
Given the colossal security lapse, there is a lack of trust in the country’s political leadership, and that is something that “will never be regained”, Brinn predicts gloomily.
He also claims that Israelis are leaving Israel for their safety.
“And those of us who remain will never leave our homes again without looking around the corner, and checking the media pushes and text messages about the situation outside,” he says.
But there is a ray of hope, according to Brinn. But his hope does not rest on a deep understanding of the problem. He merely asserts that the Israelis will unite, fight Hamas and secure peace.
But in his recipe for a united and secure Israel, accommodation with the Palestinians and acceptance of their political rights and long- standing demands, are not an ingredient.
An exception to this normal Israeli line is an article in Haaretz by Gideon Levi. Levi asks Israelis to spare a thought for the two million people of Gaza, where scores of towns are being pulverized by Israeli bombardment.
Levi says: “No animal commits such acts of savagery as they (Hamas) did. Still, Gaza is home to more than two million people, about half of whom are descendants of refugees, which is something that should also be kept in mind now, despite the difficulty.”
“Gaza is plagued with Hamas, and Hamas is a despicable organization. But most residents of the Gaza Strip are not like that. Before we start flattening and destroying and uprooting and killing, we should take this into account. The reckoning must be with Hamas, not with all Gazans. One’s heart must go out to them, regardless of one’s profound solidarity with Israel’s victims,” Levi says.
He goes on to says that “Israel can’t imprison two million Gazans without paying a cruel price. It should be possible to stand with the residents of the south, while still remembering that living on the other side are human beings just like them. We should be able to fear for the fate of Gazans and distinguish between them and their Hamas leadership. It should be possible, even in the current atmosphere, to speak about Gaza in human terms. A new generation was born into even greater despair.”
Levi then asks: “Is it possible to remain indifferent, even to joke in some cases, at the sight of the images from Gaza? How is this possible? How is it possible to forget that these are human beings whose ancestors were expelled from their land and placed in refugee camps where they would remain?”
“These were human beings whom Israel dispossessed and expelled, whom it conquered again in their land of refuge and then turned into animals in a cage. They’ve experienced indiscriminate bombardments before, but now the worst of all is ahead of them,” Levi says.
A powerful indictment indeed. But even Levi does not mention the need for a political solution to the Palestinian question. He does not call for meaningful negotiations on the Palestinian question and a sincere implementation of the agreements arrived at.
There is no remorse over the sinister machinations of successive Israeli governments to weaken the moderate, secular and internationally recognised Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and its military outfit Fatah, by promoting the radical Islamist Hamas. It was Israel which financed Hamas to grow and function as a counterpoise to the PLO and Fatah.
The idea was to keep the Palestinians from uniting and fighting for their cause effectively. But today, Hamas has come back to torment Israel as a Frankenstein’s monster.