An Unholy War That Spells Disaster for Democracy

Every day Israel's misguided Gaza operation continues, it threatens to overturn and decimate our nation's humane foundation.

Tomer Appelbaum

On Friday while I was listening to the radio, I was gripped by melancholy that mingled with a tear. An Arab Israeli soldier was being interviewed on his way from the battlefield to his home in the Galilee for a short weekend leave. He sang a song of praise to the Israeli flag, the State of Israel, and the devotion of the Arab soldier to the Israel Defense Forces. He said that his youngest son is also a soldier, but he had not gotten leave over Shabbat since he was mired in the fighting in Gaza. They took away his dear son’s cell phone, and since then his mother and father, who was being interviewed on radio, hadn’t heard a word from him. A bizarre situation.

My dear grandson also got a short Shabbat leave. He is now back on the waves, opposite the Gaza coast. After 10 days of fighting, the nerves of his mother and of his father, a former paratrooper, as well as my own nerves, were already frayed.

Due to my advanced age I have accompanied the foolish wars of mankind, from the Spanish Civil War to Operation Protective Edge.

I had sworn myself to silence since June 8, 2014, because I was paralyzed with concern for my grandson. I am violating the silence not because of the Arab soldier who is worried about his soldier-son, and not because of worry for my own grandson, but out of fear for Israel’s fate after this war.

I’m writing after the army of right-wing extremist Baruch Marzel occupied the center of Haifa. He did the same when he stirred up the streets of Afula, and people like him did likewise when they attacked peace lovers in Tel Aviv. Many consider Marzel to be a Samson-like hero, whereas the Israeli Arab soldier from the Galilee, as well as Arabs and Jews who oppose the war, are considered traitors.

While the IDF has not been able to subdue any community in the Gaza Strip, Baruch Marzel, with the help of Operation Protective Edge and the belligerent atmosphere leading up to it, has succeeded to terrorize Israeli cities.

From my experience I learn that war – any war – is a sickness. Just as there are no holy sicknesses, there are no holy wars. The rickety government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the rift between him and his partners to his right have created the warlike belligerence. Netanyahu’s rejection of the peace process has isolated Israel in the international arena.

I saw the first seeds of the war being sown in the frightening performance and horrifying stage-managing of the response to the abduction and shocking murder of the three teens on the West Bank. It seems that for four days Generalissimo Netanyahu did not allow any minister or other office-holder to be interviewed in the media. His loud voice was heard, a fateful voice. A voice of drums and flags, which prepare people’s hearts for fire and columns of smoke.

The outcome of the war, if it continues, will be disastrous for Israel. Baruch Marzel has yet to sew uniforms for his troops, but his dark threat is liable to be realized if Netanyahu continues on his path, which began with the incitement that led to the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

This war has long since lost its way. First they told us that we have to severely punish the perpetrators of the murder of the three boys on the West Bank. Afterward, we were told that we had to put an end to the firing of missiles from Gaza. Then, although the shower of missiles turned into a downpour, it became secondary in the eyes of those who are running the war. Today the tunnels are the main target. An entire naïve nation is being led deceptively from one obstacle to the next.

Meanwhile, Israel’s humane and liberal values are being trampled by the militias of Baruch Marzel and his ilk.

The number of dead on the other side reveals a sick tendency for revenge in Israeli society. Over 1.5 million Arab citizens are turning into strangers and even suspects within Israel. The voice of wisdom is being drowned out. Barrels of condemnation, curses and violence are being poured on it.

Everyone knows for a long time already that the IDF does not have the power to defeat Hamas. But every day the war continues it is liable to defeat Israel as a democratic country, and to lead to the rise of a government of various militias and colonels.

The writer is an author and the president of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.