Give Us Hope for Our Blood, Sweat and Tears

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Winston Churchill, delivering one of his famous speeches.Credit: AP

An analogy between Churchill and Netanyahu’s speeches appears at first to be insane. Comparing Winston to Bibi? Nonetheless, the circumstances in which certain speeches by them were made contain some common elements that make such an analogy less wacky than it seems.

On the eve of Memorial Day last week, I read the text of Churchill’s address before the British House of Commons on May 13, 1940, and watched Prime Minister Netanyahu’s latest speeches on YouTube. It was hot outside and not very pleasurable, but it was interesting to compare the Israeli Memorial Day speeches (“We cherish the contribution of the fallen…”) and the address in Parliament (“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat”).

The speeches by Churchill and Netanyahu were made at a time of crisis. Churchill gave his immediately after Germany conquered France and began to threaten Great Britain; Netanyahu delivered his at the last moment before Israel's destruction by an Iranian bomb.

The two orators promised their nations great hardship. Churchill with his blood, toil, tears and sweat, Netanyahu (who likes to embellish things more) with the words “If we’re condemned to do so, we’ll take hold of our sword and go forth to the battlefield to face our enemies.”

When it comes to biblical grandeur and majestic wording, Netanyahu is far superior to his late, grayish counterpart. But both speeches sounded the same warning that a great disaster will befall us if we don’t pay a heavy price.

Heavy price? What price? In Churchill’s case it was, as we said, blood sweat and tears. Netanyahu’s price is taken from another cash register: over 23,000 fatalities in Israel's wars. Okay, so that’s the price. We’ve received the bill and paid for it, but what do we get in return?

Netanyahu is telling his people simply that he has nothing to offer. How can he change anything if “we’re condemned"? Churchill, in contrast, promised a triumph. Or, in his words, “victory at all costs.”

Oh, victory… (here I must pause for a moment). How I miss victory, a real victory! Not a tie, not a defeat presented as a victory, not public diplomacy!

Let’s return to the subject of the price of victory. Churchill offers a light at the end of the tunnel, while Netanyahu shows another tunnel at the end of the tunnel. I’m ready to forget about victory, but what about some hope? Or a solution? At least a hint of a solution?

Forget it. Our best statesmen have already announced that they have no solution. In their opinion, whoever says there is one is lying. They have no solution for anything. Not the Iranian problem and not the Palestinian problem, to say nothing of the Hamas problem. And yet they keep saying they cannot solve the housing issues and bridge social gaps before all the other problems are solved.

Those putzes sit there in their armchairs, shrug their shoulders and say: "What do you want from us? So we don’t have a solution!" And I say that the lowest-ranking executive in the most negligible sort of plant would be fired if he told his employers he had no solution to any of their problems.

So why, asked a friend of mine, do we who have not received any solutions from our leaders, continue to support them and fatten them up with comfy jobs and huge pensions? I said I really don’t know.

I’ll tell you why, he said. We continue to vote for them because we're suckers, because the state matters to us less than our private business. We keep voting for them again and again, without imposing restrictions on their terms, and we don’t demand results. Suckers. We've believed that they, being corrupt, sly and greedy, will know how to solve problems that we, who are decent and modest, cannot. We hold our noses and vote for them.

We believe that those crooked bastards will get us some deal that we, with our screwed-up decency, would never achieve. We were even ready to let them steal from the public coffers here and there, as long as they didn’t get caught. As long as they did the dirty work for us, lie, scheme, conspire and be obsequious. Just as long as they brought us something – hope, a solution.

Is there anyone who can give us hope for our blood, sweat and tears? We’re willing to pay the price, as long as he has solutions. I imagine we won’t like him and we’ll probably fight him: This someone for whom accusations of apartheid and racism will glide off like water off a duck’s back; this someone who’ll suggest putting all the Palestinians on buses and sending them to Amman. Someone who won’t declare that time is on our side.

I even have a "blood and sweat" speech prepared for him: “I promise you blood and tears / And I am a man of my word / And if I promise you blood and tears / what you’ll get is blood and tears / and don’t even mention sweat… Soon things will get very bad / And I am a man of my word / And if I promise things will get bad / Rest assured they’ll get very bad…”

The late Israeli playwright Hanoch Levin may have written something along those lines, but I’m sure someone like our foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, won’t remain indifferent to the Churchillian spirit emanating from it.

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