Published in The Jerusalem Post on March 10, 2002
The real war being waged today is not in Tulkarem, Balata or Rafah. It is here at home. A battle for the hearts and minds of Israelis. The ultimate ideological-political confrontation now underway between defeatists and nationalists has decisive implications for the existence of this country.
It’s no coincidence that Peace Now is back blowing its horn, shaking off the shame of Oslo, with the slogan: “Get out of the Territories. Return to *Ourselves*”. The Leftist complaint, you see, isn’t merely about the degree of force used against the Palestinians or the cost of defending isolated settlements in Judea and Samaria. For the Left, Yasser Arafat’s terrorist war is a useful launching platform for renewal of the debate about a definition of “ourselves” – about the nature of Zionism and the Jewish-nationalist character of the state.
Consider the following: “Rabbis for Human Rights” and “Betselem” ran bold ads in the newspapers last week equating Ariel Sharon, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Meir Shitreet with Saddam Hussein, the Ayatollah Homeini and Idi Amin! Why? Because they supported the passage of a Knesset law which will keep Hezbollah chieftains Obeid and Dirani behind Israeli bars. “Israel is turning into a terrorist and outlaw state that holds hostages”, howled the ads. This inflammatory drivel goes far beyond the usual right-left debate, and tells us that much more is at stake.
Yossi Beilin – the visionary intellectual who concocted the Evil Authority headquartered in Ramallah and gave the PLO tens of thousands of weapons; who was roundly drummed out of office by the electorate and who today isn’t even a member of Knesset! – is on every radio station every single morning, again and again, pontificating about our “soul”, and urging us to free Arafat from Ramallah so that he can “take control” and “fight the extremists”. Nay, the extremists are Arafat and Beilin themselves.
The Beilin-owned Israeli media is doing its best to broadcast the despair, fear, fatigue, resignation and sense of defenselessness that feeds the defeatism of the Left. “There is not much that democracies can do against guerrilla movements”, we’ve been limply told *ad nauseum* by lily-livered commentators on Israel Radio and TV. And the despondency is sinking in. “Nu, what else can be done?”, I hear people flaccidly sighing at work, in my neighbourhood, in the shuk, and in the halls of academia.
Despite 25 years of Likud and national-religious governments, this country still has no significant alternative media; no major (Hebrew-language) newspapers or established electronic media that might offer another, right-wing and Jewish nationalist, perspective. Now, more than ever, this almost-criminal failure of the Right, hurts tremendously. We have no mainstream media to mobilize and invigorate the public as we face war; no one to encourage us; to stiffen our resolve; to broadcast determination, strength and belief.
The depressing and enfeebling mush being shot into our veins limits, inevitably, Israel’s options. Of course, there is a *great deal* that “can be done”, and ought to be done, about the revanchist, armed and hostile Palestinian state that has prevailed over the peaceful Palestinian neighbor envisioned by Oslo.
However, tough and truly decisive IDF action requires national resilience, the courage of conviction and broad public support. Waging war requires an almost-religious level of national fortitude. George W. Bush’s America seems to have it. Israel’s social grit, alas, is now being worn away by an appeasement-minded loser mentality; by our hesitant and obviously bumbling political leadership; and by media-fed melancholy.
Several days ago, a religious commentator had the temerity to suggest that every Israeli take to reading a chapter of the Bible each day as a spiritual upper, or light a Shabbat candle as a sign of national unity and our hunger for peace. He was mockingly shot down in an instant by the two scornful, yuppie anchors on TV.
Of course, the scornful, disbelieving yuppies would be willing, I’m sure, to put stock once again in Yasser Arafat and shake his hand for the sake of peace. They’d be prepared, no doubt, to hand over all the territories for the sake of peace; to divide Jerusalem; forsake the Temple Mount; and rely upon Marwan Barghouti for their security.
But to light a candle, or recite a chapter of Psalms (as the Rabbinate has asked everyone to do this coming Thursday, *Rosh Chodesh*), or – Heaven forbid! – observe Shabbat just once for a chance at Jewish unity and a shot at eliciting Divine intervention and protection – naw, what rational person would put stock in such nonsense!