Former Mossad intelligence agency head Meir Dagan is afraid and concerned. Most of the politicians, and amazingly (and absurdly ) enough, also a large number of journalists, want him to be quiet. They don't want him to get us upset with his fears or arouse us from our slumber with his warnings. We'll just leave the fateful decision of whether to attack Iran to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and to them alone, and let the storm over the issue subside.As if blind, we will follow them and be led by them straight into the midst of the danger.
There is no clearer symptom of the sickly state of public discourse in Israel than efforts at silencing Dagan, as well as the smears now directed at him. As Mossad head, he managed to stop this adventurism, and now when he has retired and left the decision-making arena to the prime minister and defense minister, whom he views as dangerous, he has decided to break his silence.
He should be commended for his responsible and courageous act. If Dagan the civilian is worried, if he thinks it's a matter of a threat to our existence at our doorstep, it is not only his right to make himself heard, it is his supreme duty. He should attempt to stop it, to act as a gatekeeper. If he acted otherwise, he would have been abusing his role as former Mossad director.
What would you have done if you had known what Dagan knows and if you had thought what Dagan thinks? Remain silent? If so, you, too, would have betrayed your civic duty. Dagan fears a second Yom Kippur War. If we had had a Dagan prior to the first Yom Kippur War, perhaps that conflict would have never broken out or would not have unfolded as it did. Just imagine if a retired military figure had appeared then and sounded the alarm that a horrible war was in the offing and that we must prepare for it. That's precisely what Dagan has done now.
Those great patriots who are currently calling on him for security reasons to shut his mouth are endangering Israel much more than all his warnings. Dagan has not disclosed a single state secret. He has simply voiced his tough assessment, the likes of which have been expressed in the past, but not by a man of his stature. A silent Dagan would have harmed state security, while a vocal Dagan contributes to it. This is Dagan's finest hour - a person whose past contains more than a few murky, adventurous and even horrifically cruel chapters.
It is precisely those who were repulsed by his path and his actions in the past who should now salute him for his civic courage, which is much more impressive than any operations carried out by his notorious Rimon commando unit in Gaza. Having twice been decorated by the military, he should now been given a medal for bravery for now he is a true Israeli hero, a real gatekeeper.
Dagan is no leftist. Far from it. His published statements are laced with amazing contradictions, in support for example, of the Arab Peace Initiative but opposed to a return to the 1967 borders; opposed to war but in favor of keeping the Golan Heights. On the Iranian issue, however, he has been a voice of reason. Those who entrusted the Mossad to him for eight years cannot now portray him as crazy, as a political source was quoted by Channel 10 as saying. If we had a crazy man running the Mossad, the awesome responsibility for that would fall on his superiors.
There is an issue on the agenda that goes far deeper than the question of citizen Dagan: the issue of the nature of civic discourse in Israel. Those who seek to silence him are trying to prevent public debate. They dismiss crucial warnings as idle prattle. They want society to be silent. If we wake up one morning to an Israeli attack on Iran, with all its frightful implications, that's proper in their view. Warning of those dangers, they say, does damage to Israel's security.
It is understandable, if not acceptable, when politicians attempt to silence public debate so they can do with the country and the army as they please. But when an army of commentators and reporters behaves this way, something is fundamentally amiss in the concept of the role of the media in a free society. This is not the first time that more than a few journalists have forgotten what their job is and mistakenly imagined themselves as statesmen and generals. It is the task of the news media to sound the alarm, at least as loudly as the former Mossad chief has. We have had a silent society for some time now, but now the media are also seeking to paralyze it. What we need instead are more prattlers like Meir Dagan and a lot more such chatter.
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