No Longer Asking

African refugees rotting in jail, an airline wanted to allow aboard only Jewish travelers. The signs of Israel moral collapse are everywhere.

We've stopped asking. The press, whose job is to ask, almost doesn't ask questions; the Knesset doesn't ask questions; the attorney general doesn't ask questions; the Supreme Court doesn't ask; nearly all the teachers, doctors, students, and intellectuals don't ask questions; the heads of the army and the defense establishment certainly don't ask questions, they never asked. Nothing is more symptomatic of a society's ills than the fact that the society has stopped asking questions.

Even during a particularly bloody week like last week, when 14 innocent civilians were killed, nearly no questions were asked, and certainly not the real questions. In a feeble voice it was asked why it was necessary to fire missiles at a vehicle in the heart of Gaza, and why the second barrage was necessary when it was obvious that innocent civilians would gather around the car after the first barrage. But nobody asked about the difference between firing a missile into the heart of a city and a suicide bomber blowing himself up in the heart of another city. They asked who killed the Ghalia family on the beach and what Israel should do about the Qassams, but few asked what Israel should not do, under any circumstances, and what would happen if, heaven forbid, the GRAD missile in the vehicle were to blow up on a street bustling with people. Nobody, of course, even considered asking the commander of the air force or the chief of staff if they should take responsibility for this war crime.

And nobody asked what happened to the debate, which nonetheless has been underway here for some time, about the very policy of assassination, its legality and morality, nor even whether it is sensible or effective. Does anyone take into account the bloodshed stemming from the reaction to assassinations? They asked who started the current round of violence and answered in a chorus: the Palestinians. They fired first. But nobody dared ask, why do they fire? Were they born to kill, to launch Qassams? Do they enjoy it? What really motivates them? Has a new round of fighting begun, this time with Qassams, or maybe it is the inhumane conditions in which they live, the boycott Israel has imposed on the Palestinian Authority and the intolerable siege? We've locked them up in Gaza and blocked international economic aid, they shoot to free themselves of the heavy yoke we've placed on them ? as just a struggle as any for freedom ? and we don't even ask why, just dare to argue that "they started it."

And why has Israel rejected Mahmoud Abbas' outstretched hand for so long? Israel at least admits he is peace-seeking. And why haven't we listened to the new voices in Hamas? What would have happened if the prime minister were to invite his counterpart Ismail Haniyeh to a meeting the day after the latter was democratically elected? Would the danger to Israel from that meeting have been greater than the horror of the Qassams and the terrorist attacks yet to come? The killing we sowed has undermined the prisoners' document that was supposed to encourage Israel. Through a campaign of assassinations and massive bombings, Israel made it practically impossible for Abbas to conduct the referendum, which would have yielded results that could have been a lever for peace. And has anyone asked lately why the "safe passage" has not been opened as we promised, or why prisoners, starting with Marwan Barghouti, have not been freed?

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert returned empty-handed from a series of failed visit in world capitals, despite his hubris and self-satisfaction, and only in Israel does anyone still believe his claim that the "convergence" will advance either peace or an end to the occupation. Nobody asks why we should move in a direction that the entire world, from Washington to Ramallah, opposes. They tell us and the world that Israel will give a year for negotiations, and darn it, nobody asks why attempts to negotiate have not already begun.

Israel is waiting, silent and indifferent. Any glimmer of good news from the Palestinian side is immediately trampled by brutal military operations. We are pushing Hamas, really pushing, back into the cycle of terror, as a senior officer in the army, who of course refused to be identified, admits. In Gaza there is a prime minister who says he wants to reach an arrangement with Israel on the basis of the 1967 borders, a far-reaching statement as far as he is concerned, and Israel responds with threats on his life. In Ramallah is the most moderate of all Palestinian leaders, and Israel more or less is ignoring his existence. Four years ago the Arab world passed a brave decision ? the Saudi Arabian plan ? to normalize relations with Israel, but that didn't even get a serious discussion here.

Without asking questions, Israel is morally collapsing. African refugees are rotting in jail, an airline wanted to allow aboard only Jewish travelers, and in our backyard an entire nation is struggling against an Israeli boot that from year to year becomes more ruthless and brutal. And above it all hovers the horrible question: Do we really want peace? Do we really want to live in a just and sympathetic country? Or is the sad truth that the greed for territory and power has blinded and deafened us so that we are no longer able even to ask?