Yitzhak Laor: Turning off the lights

By Yitzhak Laor, Haaretz – 6 Oct 2009
www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1119131.html

Yitzhak Laor

Yitzhak Laor

A breath of fresh air accompanied the panic that gripped the Israeli establishment with the publication of the Goldstone report. The humane Israeli macho man with his wavy hair no longer appears on the cover of Life Magazine, but rather in the lists of the human rights organizations’ suspects, and in the future also perhaps in the international tribunal in The Hague. After years of total disdain for the international community, of violating laws and treaties while Israeli legal experts turn into a kind of public defense counsel for our generals, there are finally members of the military elite who can no longer travel to Switzerland to ski, or to the opera in Covent Garden, or to a high-tech exhibition in Spain, without first consulting their lawyers. And that’s a good thing.

David Ben-Gurion’s boastful slogan, “It’s not important what the Gentiles say, it’s important what the Jews do,” has always been part of the State of Israel. It not only gave permission to the defense establishment, including the Mossad, the army, and the nuclear research facility, but also supplied the public with the nationalist fervor that helped it unite around the idea, “the whole world is against us.”

Another of Ben-Gurion’s stupidities, “a light unto the nations,” from the days of the raids on Qibya in 1953 and the Gaza Strip, became over the years an extinguishing of the lights so no one would see and no one would know. In short, Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, who provided legal advice to the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza, was invited to teach law at Tel Aviv University while the real work of “a light unto the nations” was done by the Jewish judge Richard Goldstone. (To our legal experts who are now calling for “a commission of inquiry,” where were you during the war?)

However, Ben-Gurion’s slogan was also false. Israel has always been dependent on what the world “says,” even now, with all its military might. Israel was born from a dramatic decision by the United Nations General Assembly but permitted itself to spit in the well only when many dozens of countries that had won their freedom joined the organization. That was when they were dismissed as being “unenlightened” and “not developed.” The world according to Israel was reduced to the former colonialist West, and it too was rejected by Israel with derision every time the occupation did not provide a good photo-op. With what excuse? Hypocrisy, of course, or anti-Semitism over the generations.

Over time, the West was reduced to the United States, which was reduced to the Israel lobby (which is very unpopular there), the military industries, the intelligence services and the Pentagon. In short, the world was reduced to what the military elite identified as its world. The “special ties” were seen as an achievement because, after all, Israel had made great efforts since its establishment to convince the United States that it was a strategic asset. Our democracy was sold merely as a wrapping for the main thing – we will do our work, which will also be your work.

If once upon a time Israel’s wars were planned according to the number of battle days left until the Security Council reached a decision, since 1967, the American veto has freed us even from this obstruction. The defense establishment learned that world public opinion can be based on pictures of atrocities, so the strategic concept of negative news ratings was developed. Gaza was closed to photographers and the war was planned for the saccharine season on Western television between Christmas and New Year’s.

To put it briefly, the bluff about “it’s not important what the world says” is once again blowing up in our faces. There is a world. Not all of it sells arms. Not all of it is hypocritical. Not all of it is anti-Semitic. There are good Jews who do not carry out each of the IDF’s orders. The time has come for us to equip ourselves with a few new examiners of reality.

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