Behind the Lines / Still-bleeding wound
But Olmert has no regret. Indeed, he is so pleased with the successful comparison he made between a person and a cow that he reiterates it proudly to reporters, as though it were the witticism of the year.
"They did not stick to the goal. They wanted zero losses. That's a terrible thing! Utter stupidity! Sticking to the goal is to go all the way and to determine the outcome!" - Meir Har Zion, on the failure of the Second Lebanon War in the documentary film "May Every Mother Know"
There's no getting around it. The constitutive event that still casts its shadow on 2007 is the Second Lebanon War, which ended almost a half year before the end of 2006. There is no better proof of this than two important works for television that are putting the seal on this year - exemplifying the traumatic presence of the war in the collective consciousness. Together, they teach about the war's harsh and deep effects and prove that the gaping wound is still bleeding. If anyone had thought the war was behind us, along came TV to prove that the process of coming to terms with it has only just begun.
The first of these works is the drama series "Portion of the Week" (Parshat Hashavua), which begins its second season in the coming days (on Hot 3). The series deals with the dramatic implications of the war for four Israeli families, using the Lebanese fiasco as a metaphor for the internal crumbling of Israeli society in general, and the Israeli family in particular. "Everyone is dealing with the porridge that Olmert and Peretz cooked up for us," the series' creators (Ari Folman and Rani Blair) are quoted as saying, an utterance whose spirit hovers over the entire series.
The character who more than all the rest represents their pessimistic and anti-war outlook is Saul Nawi (Menashe Noy), whose life falls apart before his very eyes because of a personal crisis ("I surf and surf to nothing, to death. I am a living dead man, Netta, a zombie," he reports to the moderator of the therapy group in which he participates). His crisis deepens when his son Assaf (Michael Moshonov) is sent to battle in Bint Jbail. In the first episode, Saul drives Assaf to his base and uses the opportunity to tell his son about his fears and his views of the government that has hastily embarked on the Lebanese adventure in the wake of the abduction of two soldiers along the border ("It's all a matter of ego ... Those degenerates won't be able to stand this humiliation"). It is hard to imagine a more concrete political statement in a drama series that collides with such force with reality.
The second work, Nir Toib's documentary film "May Every Mother Know" (which was broadcast in two parts this past week on Channel 1), also deals with the humiliated Israeli ego in the wake of the war, but from a different angle. The work's protagonists are reserve fighters in a select reconnaissance unit, some of them sons of famous fighters (like Meir Har Zion), who together formulate an unprecedented indictment of the collapse of the fighting ethos and heroism in the Israel Defense Forces. The officials accused are the senior commanders, from the chief of staff down to the brigade commander, who abandoned the supreme value of sticking to the mission until victory is achieved and gave preference instead to the value of survival and returning home safe and sound. In the end, they sinned in giving up on missions, in operational failures and even in abandoning wounded fighters for fear of risking more lives.
It very quickly becomes clear, however, that the flabby behavior of the military command is only a reflection of the value chaos in Israeli society as a whole. Nir Rubin (the team's commander, and the son of reserve Major General Doron Rubin), Moshe Har Zion and their comrades-in-arms are living in a new and confusing era. They are torn between the values of collectivism and solidarity that their fighting fathers had instilled in them, on the one hand, and on the other, the culture of capitalism and hedonism, which has grown weary of call-ups and wars, which holds individual success as the chief of its desires and which contends that "we don't have any goal for which it is necessary to go to war." Their characters reflect a blend of guilt and acceptance.
No wonder the elder Har Zion is beside himself. He does not understand how his son and his son's friends can come to terms with defeatist norms. That is not how he had educated them. Doron Rubin goes yet further, saying that the elite "Egoz" unit is "wiped out" as far as he is concerned, because out of so much desire to prevent losses it left a wounded fighter for 24 hours at Maroun al Ras until he died ("Why, because he's from Ukraine?"). Rubin's accusations have aroused harsh charges about "purposeful falsifying of facts" within the IDF, but they are only one small sub-section of the huge indictment that emerges from the film.
In the end, these two works for the small screen come together in a single, sharp statement - the Second Lebanon War was a reflection of a dismantled society that has lost direction, that suffers from a leadership crisis and that finds it hard to connect with the roots of its identity. Chances are that it will continue to cast a huge shadow on 2008 as well.
Olmert goes back to the dairy barn
"She meowed like the sound of the grunting on a sports field. I told her that she reminded me of our heifer in the dairy barn in Binyamina" - Israel Basketball Association chairman Yermi Olmert, of Orna Ostfeld, a member of the association directorate and the coach of the Ramat Hasharon women's team
A bit of background: During the course of a discussion at the directorate of the Basketball Association of the discrimination against the women's teams in the sport, the chairman interrupted the remarks of one of the participants and according to eye-witnesses "insulted her to the point of tears." Orna Ostfeld, an indefatigable fighter for the rights of women's basketball, hastened to intervene and scolded the chairman for his behavior. Olmert struck back and called Ostfeld "a heifer in the dairy barn." When a reporter for Haaretz asked him for a response, Olmert did not deny his remarks and arrogantly expanded on them. As far as he is concerned, Ostfeld "meowed" (he apparently meant "mooed"), made "grunting" sounds and thus reminded him of the heifer in the family dairy barn. Ostfeld did not take this lightly and has sued him for NIS 200,000, plus an apology.
Usually I steer clear of slander suits involving imprecation, especially when they represent the political correctness police. With all the repugnance that is aroused by a crude and chauvinistic public figure, this is not a matter for a court but rather for trial by the public. However, in this case it seems to me that Ostfeld is satisfied with too little. Her real aim should be to eject Olmert from the public position he is filling. It would have been possible somehow to have forgiven the chairman had he admitted his error, related to it as a regrettable slip of the tongue and apologized for it.
But Olmert has no regret. Indeed, he is so pleased with the successful comparison he made between a person and a cow that he reiterates it proudly to reporters, as though it were the witticism of the year. It is possible to hear behind his words the macho giggle of an infantile male who derives primitive satisfaction from humiliating women in front of his mates at the pub. Olmert is not worthy of his position (which entails managing women's basketball in Israel), not only because of chauvinism but also because of idiocy - he is not intelligent enough to understand how stupid he is.