Israel, an Overly Emotional, Easily Rattled Military Power

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Israeli soldiers by the West Bank security fence, on Wednesday

I’m very disappointed with Israeli Jewish society. How is it possible to run a country that is said to be the world’s eighth-ranked military power if last week’s escape of six Palestinian prisoners from Gilboa Prison rattles it so? For days now, from the time they get up until they go to sleep, the country’s citizens have been living and breathing on whether the prisoners were still on the lam or have been caught.

How can a military power that threatens every neighborhood with its lethal army be maintained when the killing of a single soldier drives people out of their minds? Where is the sense of self-confidence, and where are the nerves of steel?

With calls for revenge bursting from the radio, even when it’s turned off, I find myself coming to the defense of Israeli army chief Aviv Kochavi. Folks, on one hand, you have Barel Shmueli, the Border Policeman killed at the Gaza security barrier, and on the other hand there have been hundreds of Gazan residents killed there. And I would also like to come to the defense of the Israel Prison Service commissioner, Katy Perry. On one hand, you have the six escaped prisoners and on the other, there are thousands of others rotting in prison.

After the prison break, more and more prisoners will join their ranks. In the process, the Palestinians will be doing their part in adding more prison staff and generating (expensive) overtime for the guards. And let’s not forget the fat pensions that await them just around the corner. The Palestinians will do anything to improve the employment conditions of their cousins in Israel – a land flowing with occupation and jobs.

I would also like to take this opportunity to assure Haaretz columnist Israel Harel, who painfully asked: “Does anyone really think that, like them, we are capable of bombarding and killing thousands of civilians and wounding tens of thousands more?” Yes, Harel, there is someone like that. Me. It has occurred to me, and not only this. I also have solid proof on every front – Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank – of the killing of thousands of civilians and the destruction of entire neighborhoods. Maybe the time has come, Harel, to stop this repulsive pretense of innocence.

Senior media figures from the military power that is Israel are being driven crazy at the moment. Attila Somfalvi, a senior editor at the important Ynet news website, has called for Israeli security forces to be turned into killers: “Our fighters, feel free to shoot, preferably at the upper part of the body. Good luck.”

And former Knesset member Yoel Hasson expressed his regret that the escaped prisoners who have been recaptured didn’t try to resist, because then “we would have rid ourselves of them for good.” And on Channel 13, following the death of Shmueli, Arab affairs commentator Zvi Yehezkeli wondered: “Why isn’t Israel responding?”

I once wrote that tomato affairs correspondents would have more empathy for the subjects that they cover than what Yehezkeli has for the Arabs. Really, how can a man who exhibits such an attitude towards Arabs describe the mood among Palestinians to his viewers? Yehezkeli is like the lawyer in a dictatorship who seeks to impose a harsher sentence on his client.

The current mood in Israel is like a pendulum in the middle of a nervous breakdown. At one moment, everything hints that the Arabs in Israel are “traitors” who are assisting the fugitives. The next moment, following rumors that they informed on the prisoners to law enforcement, the Arabs are darlings of the establishment. That’s what they want in Israel from its Arab citizens.

The architects of public opinion in Israel will never understand what Israel’s Arab citizens are going through, seeing how their brothers in the West Bank and Gaza suffer under a blockade and an occupation. They won’t understand the Arab citizens because they don’t understand the human nature to oppose injustice, particularly when it’s being caused to people who are your own flesh and blood.

They won’t understand because they are shut into their own closed world, busy with their own dreams and pains and desires, and the “other” can go to hell. The time has come to describe the current mood in Israel using the expression from the Book of Isaiah: “I am, and there is none else beside me.”

If Israel were a small country going about its life quietly and modestly, one could have understood the emotional response to any unusual incident. But it’s not healthy when a military power is overly emotional and easily rattled. That could pose a great many dangers both to itself and others.

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