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31.10.2014
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Dror Eydar

Spilling and defending blood

"As the face of a city being built / So is the face of the killing field / The camp spreads, its sentence is / To spill man's blood and be his defender" ("Night of Parking," by Natan Alterman).

Nine years have passed since the Jewish dwellers of Gush Katif were uprooted from their homes and their communities were destroyed. The greenhouses left behind by the Jewish farmers, as well as countless other structures, were given to the Arab residents of the Gaza Strip, together with an invaluable lesson on how to make the desert bloom. The entire world clamored to help make Gaza an example of peace and harmony in the bleeding Middle East.

Gaza's residents were not satisfied with the rule of the Palestinian faction Fatah, and they chose to elect Hamas -- a party whose spiritual and political platform (the Hamas charter) suggests that it is a Nazi-like organization seeking to kill Jews wherever they may be and to destroy the entire West, starting with Israel. Once elected, it wasn't long before Hamas put its doctrine into action. Hamas does not care about the welfare of the Gazan people -- instead it turned the Gaza Strip into a military fortress whose walls are made of civilians. The women and children of Gaza serve as human shields protecting terrorists. Since then, tens of thousands of rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israeli cities and communities.

Then there are the tunnels. Billions of aid dollars and thousands of tons of cement have gone into building an entire underground city below Gaza. There are dozens of immense tunnels, each one leading into an Israeli community across the Gaza border. It stands to reason that the plan was to send out hundreds of Hamas terrorists into Israel through each of the tunnels (somewhere around 10,000 terrorists in all) on one of the major upcoming Jewish holidays and to launch a massacre under the sleepy cover of the holiday. It is also possible that they planned to conquer the territory surrounding the Gaza Strip. Hamas could have kept Israelis occupied with thousands of rockets simultaneously fired at us, and with a little luck, Hezbollah would have also lent a hand from the north. This scenario is entirely possible, and not at all imaginary.

The issue is not a few lone suicide bombers trying to take as many Jewish lives as they can. It is an entire culture that raises its children in this way, an entire society right on our border that is willing to commit suicide as long as it takes us down to hell with it. Take the Islamic State group (ISIS), for example: They behead their opponents and put the heads on display in the streets; they force all the women of Iraq to undergo female circumcision; they transport dissenters in cattle cars and force them to dig the holes into which they will be dumped after being shot. This group is not separate from Hamas. In fact, they are congruent. These are the madmen we are fighting against. It would be horrendously wrong to negotiate with these groups, just as it would have been wrong to negotiate with the Nazis. The only appropriate response to such ideology is to fight back with equal force.

"He is talking about love (with love it starts) / And about duty and war and burden, all and all / He does not say that in all the nuances of the poetry, but in loud voice / Without fear of heart and without worry from cheapening."

I am hearing a lot of talk about intolerance and even incitement. I have written numerous times about the hypocrisy inherent in the arguments of those who accuse others of being intolerant of their views. I have discussed many times the intolerance that exists among those who champion so-called freedom of expression.

Nevertheless, there is some truth to the adage "the voice of the people is the voice of God." There is something very true about the Israelis' primal gut reaction to what they perceive as a reality distorted to the point of absurdity. It is wartime; we are being bombarded with thousands of rockets; our boys are dying to ensure our security; the enemy is exposing its ugly face and sacrificing its own families on the altar of evil and blood, and meanwhile, here in Israel, there are Jews, flesh of our flesh, who are busy undermining the war effort. Well-known organizations are gathering and distributing information against the Israel Defense Forces, while others disseminate petitions and fabricate blood libels against us.

There is a story in the Mishnah about an incident that occurred in the Temple during the Sukkot water libations (Josephus elaborated on this in his history). Judean King Alexander Jannaeus, who rejected the widespread tradition of pouring water on the altar in prayer for a rainy winter, instead desecrated the tradition and poured the water at his feet. The crowd at the Temple was appalled. They saw this as a desecration of the holy. Their reaction came from the gut: they pelted him with etrogim (citrons), as that was what was in their hands.

Because this is the truth: The moment the electronic media outlets become politically balanced -- which means a balanced mix of radio presenters, television newscasters and reporters -- the level of verbal violence will miraculously decline. The media outlets can't shut out the majority of the public and then cry out when they are shut out on the social media networks.

"And only the popular song, that is not valuable / And it is not jewelry, will carry them in full / Yelling of its sharp colors on its flute."

People are talking about incitement on social media. Why are we talking about social media when even before Israel launched its ground invasion, an Israeli newspaper that is widely read in English ran a headline on its website reading "Israel's real purpose in Gaza operation? To kill Arabs" with the sub headline "Since the First Lebanon War over 30 years ago, Israel's main strategy has been killing Arabs. The current atrocious war in Gaza is no different."

It is true that this is the norm for Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy. But the editors of the newspaper opted to emphasize his mean-spirited sentiments and feature them very prominently. This is what Internet users around the world saw when they searched for information about Israel. If that is not blood libel, I don't know what is. It is easy to blame Levy, but it is not right to do so. He has every right to write whatever he feels like, and it is our right to shake our heads. The bigger evil lies with editors of the Haaretz English website. The average Internet user has no way of knowing that Haaretz is situated on the back shelf of the radical Left. The average user sees a Jew saying such things and infers that if even Jews are saying this about Israel then it must be true. You want to talk about incitement? Well, here it is. This is precisely what fuels global terrorism.

"Time of war. The image of these things / Was its image too. To the sound of wandering chants / Like a thread pulled from candle wax / They will pull the soul of a generation, also in the field sow / To remember, not only for badness, awful days."

The national concept within our collective consciousness has been eroding for decades. After countless efforts to unravel the delicate embroidery that links the various cliques within our society, after bloody disagreements on war of choice and war of no choice, one of our leaders' most important tasks is to enlist the widest possible support from the people before going to war. A leader needs to serve as a sounding board of the public's sentiments, but not necessarily to act on certain ideas just because they are sounded more loudly. After all, the leader, standing at the bridge, has access to all the information to which the people below are not privy. But part of being a sounding board is to time the war just right, in full consideration of external factors.

There was a similar sense during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002. Our very short history has taught us that conservative or right-wing governments can't launch wars without wide support, including that of its left-wing opponents. I have heard some voices on the Right accusing the current leadership of being too hesitant or cowardly. Nonsense. Bringing most of the Left around to support the current operation is an impressive feat and quite an achievement. Just look at the radicals screeching about it, deathly afraid of this consensus. After all, the radicals have spent years trying to convince us that we are a collection of individuals rather than one single people, and now their hard work is drowning in a sea of unity. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not gain politically from this. But a good leader puts the good of the people before his own gain. What we need now is patience. And faith.

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