Why the mighty fell
Here they are again, the protesting officers. After their failure in the wake of the Second Lebanon War, they have returned to us on the eve of the release of the final Winograd Committee report. Now, as then, their protest is hollow.
Here they are again, the protesting officers. After their failure in the wake of the Second Lebanon War, they have returned to us on the eve of the release of the final Winograd Committee report. Now, as then, their protest is hollow. They are crying out together with the bereaved parents, but their cry is infuriating. While protest in this complacent country is a good thing, in this case its content is deceptive, it focuses on the trivial and disregards substance.
Both then and now, they want the prime minister's head; their be-all and end-all is Ehud Olmert's resignation. They are not protesting the outbreak of the war as such, the absence of any justification for it, or for that matter its moral and ethical failure. They like to talk about "values," but their values are not moral. They wanted the war to have been managed differently, to go on and on, until victory. But there was no chance of that war ending in victory, and that is one reason - though not the only one - that it would have been better had it not been fought.
The officers are leveling all their criticism at Olmert: "We are fearful of the behavioral norms of the political arena headed by you," the company commanders wrote, careful not to touch the army they hold sacrosanct. How the mighty did fall, a bereaved father lamented - when the question that should have resonated from one end of the land to the other is: Why did the mighty fall? They fell in vain, because Israel again turned to the weapon of war as the first option, because Israel again invoked the language of brute force it is so fond of. Accordingly, the answer to the terrible question of the fallen heroes is: They fell because Israel embarked on a futile war of folly. Many are to blame for that war, and above all the Israel Defense Forces, which pushed for it.
But even from the point of view of these officers - whose protest is aimed solely at the war's execution, not against its very pursuit - they are the last people who have the right to complain. Every gung-ho company commander knew that the IDF had become an occupation police force, heroically taking on stone throwers and old people at checkpoints, and was not trained for genuine military tasks. The company commanders were a part of this but said nothing. More than anyone else, these reservists knew what the IDF was doing, and how. They kept quiet. Let them not complain now.
Their words resonate because they are officers and bereaved parents. That constitutes a profound statement about the society we live in. No other groups - not human rights activists and promoters of peace, not the poor, the sick or the disabled - generate this kind of resonance with their protests, because they are not part of the "fighting family." The time has come to revise this order of priorities. The commanders and the bereaved parents have to be heard, but no more than other sectors. They have no priority in terms of civil society. "Who are they, anyway?" the company commander Tomer Bohadana cried out in the Knesset, and that question can be answered with another question: And who are you? Danger lurks from officers who go to the Knesset and ask a question like that about civil society.
The question of "Who are you?" also stirs reflections about their true goals and about those who stand behind them. In their own view they are "not political," but they are serving distinct political aims - those of the right wing. They have no right to cloak themselves in an "apolitical" guise. Uzi Dayan, their leader, is a politician like any other, except that he lost in the elections. One of their other leaders, Ronen Shoval, wrote in the weekend edition of the daily Maariv: "It is impossible to defend metropolitan Tel Aviv without the protective wall of Judea and Samaria." They also know that if their protest succeeds, a different politician will be elected, one who is worse than the present incumbent.
But gloomiest of all is the utter absence of a moral dimension in their protest. Not a word about a country that entered into a futile war against Lebanon, destroyed its homes and killed a thousand of its people. All we hear from them is "What about the ground operation?" and "Why wasn't it done earlier?" All we hear is more war. A protest movement with this message is hollow and without values. In the face of that, Olmert can survive handily.