Truth - or consequences
A flood of advice inundated Gabi Ashkenazi upon his appointment as chief of staff. I have known Ashkenazi for many years, and his selection seems to me worthy. Herewith our plea to him: Please, Gabi, have mercy on us and do not join the ranks of the disappointers. So many disappointments have piled up on our backs and the Israel Defense Forces are also among the disappointers. Perhaps first and foremost the IDF, because of the high expectations. Instead of a small, smart army we got a big, stupid and lying army. I will suffice with one bit of advice: Ashkenazi must restore telling the truth to the IDF. This is my entire "security doctrine" at a glance.
When did the IDF become integrated into the culture of telling lies and become an inalienable part of a society that is wallowing in forgeries? This occured after 1967 - following the splendid and wretched victory - and it had to happen, because this is what happens to a fighting army that becomes an army of occupation. Every occupation is a beast of prey; there is no such animal as an "enlightened occupation."
And excuses need to be given for the villainies, in order to justify bad deeds. When the vermin multiply and the excuses run out, there is no alternative but to enlist the lies, which are the last refuge of the robber who is robbed. Even decent people start to lie, to others and mainly to themselves.
The IDF not only occupied the territories, it also took their administration upon itself. All the governments of Israel refrained from deciding on the fate of the territories and on the future borders of the country, and the IDF was pushed into the vacuum, to its detriment. From that moment on, it was no longer possible to take politics out of the army or the army out of politics. And the politicians, for their part, were glad to see the uniform-wearers stoop to pull the chestnuts out of the fire. But this was not comfortable for the IDF, so it disguised its face with camouflage paint. Thus the "Civil Administration" arose, which is a military government in every respect. And the Civil Administration had to cover not only for its mistreatment of the Palestinians: It also covered for the doings of the Jewish settlers in the territories throughout their generations. The army became a collaborator of the heads of the Yesha settlers' organization, whose art is mendacity. They lied right and left, and the IDF shut its eyes or winked, and consciously allowed scores of settlements to spring up like toxic mushrooms on stolen land.
And in the meantime, the first Lebanon War broke out - "Operation Peace for the Galilee," which, like every initiated and opportunistic war, took the name of peace in vain. It was created in the image of its perpetrator, Ariel Sharon, for whom lying was a way of life, and for others a way of death.
Soldiers were on the front then, and between Beirut and Jounieh, between bombardment and bombing, they listened to reports on the radio. In spite of themselves they came to the conclusion that in Jerusalem people were reporting on one war while they themselves were in the midst of another, different war. Thus another war unrolled along the path of lies, far beyond the 48 hours and 40 kilometers that had been promised to prime minister Menachem Begin and to the nation.
And then the first intifada broke out, and the second intifada and the number of innocent people who fell victim on both sides increased, and the "hitches," about which it is customary to express profound regret, multiplied. All too often we are informed that "the IDF is investigating," and only all too infrequently are we informed of what the findings are hiding. But who are we to complain if even bereaved parents are not told the truth, as has been proved again in a series of programs now being screened on Channel 10, prepared by Orna Ben-Dor with toughness and sensitivity. The parents themselves can no longer rely on the IDF version, and at the end of the days of mourning that never end, they are forced to hunt for the eradicated traces of their lost son.
It's no wonder, then, that the second Lebanon war, after a conquest that didn't happen (Bint Jbeil) and armaments that should not have been used (cluster bombs), millions of Israeli citizens were more prone to believe Hassan Nasrallah than the IDF spokesman. In the IDF arsenal, there is no better deterrent weapon than the truth, and like the rifle and the tank it, too, must be cleaned every day lest it rust. Lying armies that deliver "Egyptian reports" are weak armies that have lost their deterrent capability. Rumor has it that the Egyptians have already understood this and will therefore no longer leave their shoes along the escape route. Are the Egyptians of yore the Israelis of today?
When the lie sticks, it is like a contagious disease and like an ineradicable ink blot. Even in recent weeks it was stated that the IDF had lifted barriers in the territories, as had been promised to the Palestinian Authority; there was no such thing. Ostensibly about 40 of about 500 roadblocks were eliminated, and they were in any case superfluous and hadn't been needed for a very long time. And at Tel Rumeida, which is now better known as Tel Sharmuta (or Tel Slut), the IDF continues to pretend to be an army that enforces the law and embodies the human spirit. And the illegal outposts are not being evacuated and will not be evacuated, because it is hard for the IDF to define its legitimate children as bastards born of forbidden marriages.
From the moment the army volunteered to do the dirty work for the government-civilian echelon, it could no longer remain clean. Not only liars are responsible for the lies: Also responsible are all those who insist over the years on leaving the investigations in the hands of the army without any real supervision or oversight, and those who repulsed any skepticism as though it were anathema.
The most urgent task now is to break up two commands: the Supreme Contumely and Mendaciousness Force (SCAMFORCE) and the Chief Ass-coverer's Division (CAD). If Ashkenazi succeeds in dismantling them, his other tasks will become superfluous - or will at least lose their urgency. And if he leaves them standing, they will bring down upon him and all of Israel more wild licentiousness.
Gabi Ashkenazi, thank God, is not alone in the battle for telling the truth. He still has quite a number of partners, even in the army, and not all is lost. Young officers are no longer children and they no longer play truth or consequences as though an either-or contradiction is inherent in their missions. In war games as in war itself, truth and consequences, consequences and truth, must spring from one and the same root.
Two weeks ago in this column I published harsh criticism of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee and its chairman, MK Prof. Menachem Ben-Sasson (Kadima), in the matter of the committee's intention to change the status of the Arabic language as the second official language in the country. The criticism was based on detailed reports that were publicized on Channel 2 and other media, and were not denied or corrected. Chairman Ben-Sasson has written me that the discussion was quite different and that there is no intention to diminish the status of Arabic. I was glad to hear this and to find that Liebermanism remains outside that committee's door.