We can rely on friends like the United States: Our faithful ally has once again come to our assistance. Were it not for the American media, we would know nothing whatsoever about that mysterious night. Only because of the United States is the fog now beginning to lift. It is such a sign of weakness that 10 days after the action that was - or was not - taken by the Israel Air Force in Syria, the Israelis were fated to grope around in the dark or to rely on the American media, as if there were no local media here.
The combination of sweeping censorship and media representatives that do not fight enough on behalf of the freedom of information is dangerous. Israel attacks, or does not attack, bombs or does not bomb - who knows? And nothing is said to the people, everything is secret, without any public supervision or accountability. The public is expected to keep quiet and to blindly support its government and army, no matter what. This is an intolerable situation at all events, but the special circumstances of the incident in Syria make the blackout on it especially dangerous.
For months now, the security establishment has been flooding us with incessant warnings about an impending confrontation with Syria. The source of these warnings and the degree to which they can be trusted has never been clarified. The average news consumer knows merely that Syria has proposed peace and has cautioned against starting a war. He also knows that Israel did not relate favorably to the peace proposal and did not even try to challenge it or to examine how serious it was. The situation is explosive, the defense establishment has told us time and again.
And then suddenly one night - boom! Suspicious cargo from North Korea, according to the report in The Washington Post; North Korean know-how for enriching uranium, according to Fox News; an aerial-photography mission, according to The New York Times; or weapons systems and "a big hole in the desert," according to CNN.
It's any man's guess what happened and, mainly, any man's guess whether such an action, if taken, was at all justified. Did we once again go off on a dangerous and pointless military adventure, as some say - or perhaps it was indeed a necessary and unequaled action? Against the backdrop of the defense establishment's own warnings about the explosive nature of the situation, such acts can have fateful significance. And if, heaven forbid, a war does break out now with Syria, what will they say? That the situation was already explosive and that that action did nothing to change it? Will we go to war when we do not even know what was, or was not, done in the skies of Syria, in our names?
There are serious doubts here. At the helm of the decision-making process in Israel today stand the prime minister, who has a proven military failure chalked up to him, and the defense minister, who has an innate tendency toward military adventurism. There is no one we can rely on with our eyes closed - certainly not on Ehud Olmert or Ehud Barak. One wants to wipe away the stains of his failure in Lebanon and the other wants to prove he is better than his predecessor. To this must be added a battered army, which is likewise trying to get people to forget its failure. And what about us? We are expected to support them and their actions with our eyes shut.
The usual reason given for the resounding silence is that Israel does not wish to embarrass Syria or drag it into a war. That is a strange excuse. It is to be hoped that it was taken into account before the air force planes took off to wherever it was that they flew - if they did indeed fly there. Syria will, or will not, take retaliatory action against Israel not for what it says, but for what it does. News reports do not drive a country to go to war.
The Israeli media have unconditionally given themselves up to the smoke screen. It is not the media's job to weigh the considerations of war; their job is to report. When they do not even try to fight for this, they are not doing their job properly. As was to be expected, the smoke screen is gradually dissipating meanwhile, but not thanks to the Israeli media. Only after everything is clarified will we know whether it was correct to jeopardize ourselves, in a situation that was so explosive, or whether we perhaps got involved in yet another adventure.
Meanwhile, let's thank The Washington Post for its information service.
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