Silence and a Wink Obscure What's Really Happening in Golan Right Now

The generals and the politicians collaborate with the media, and we are denied the basic right to know true motives behind periodic confrontations.

yossi klein
Yossi Klein
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IDF outpost in Har Dov, 2013
IDF outpost in Har Dov, 2013Credit: Gil Eliyahu
yossi klein
Yossi Klein

Until recently, the most urgent question in Israel seemed to be how much snow had fallen on Mount Hermon. On Wednesday, after days of tension in the north and the death of two soldiers near the Lebanese border, the question is why we killed those Hezbollah guys in Syria two months before the Israeli election and whose interests that operation served.

Israel’s army and government are convinced that the question of who started it and why will fade away from public memory, as usual. It’s a particularly flawed kind of memory, one that was able to forget the summer’s Gaza war even before the earth had dried on the graves of the fallen.

Those who think our military reporters will answer our questions don’t know the nature of military reporters. Anyone who can’t investigate why 70 soldiers were sacrificed in Gaza can’t investigate why we killed 10 Arabs in Syria. Military reporters aren’t objective, like crime reporters, or skeptical, like business reporters. Military reporters represent the Israel Defense Forces to us, not us to the IDF. “I don’t owe you anything,” they say to themselves. “If I’m obligated to anything at all, it’s solely to national security.”

“National security” is our generals’ secular deity. It has its priests and interpreters, and acts that are far worse than the killing in Syria have been committed in its name. The high priests of national security sit on the General Staff. They are also the military reporters’ sources. Every reporter has a different source, his own personal general.

If there were angels sitting on the General Staff rather than men planning their post-army political future, I might think the operation in Syria had been motivated by professional considerations. But generals on the General Staff are no different from senior treasury officials; one is preparing to take a job with business magnate Yitzhak Tshuva, while the other has his eyes on Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett.

Military reporters know that senior military positions are a springboard to a political career. They also know the path: Strike a deal with a tycoon if you want a career in business, or a politician if you want one in government. Every senior treasury official knows exactly what the tycoon wants from him without needing to ask, and every senior military officer knows exactly what the politician wants.

Military reporters don’t have to ask about the nature of the relationship between the general and the politician, or about how it’s connected to elections. No one has to ask the government if it really minds knocking off a few Arabs about to commit a terror attack instead of dealing with illegal transfers of funds. It’s no coincidence that in recent years there have been at least four military operations only a short time before general elections.

Military reporters know all this and remain silent, because they don’t owe us anything. Their silence hides nothing from Hezbollah, which isn’t exactly waiting for their commentary. The reporters are hiding the information from us, because after all, they work for their generals, not for us. They know that revealing the politics behind the operation will damage their generals.

Generals don’t ever forget what happens the day after. Generals understand that on the day after, the rules of the game are different: devoted military reporters are replaced by nosy journalists and alert MKs. We know how much public money the World Zionist Organization’s settlement division stole, but not why we killed Hezbollah operatives at this particular time. Our military reporter can always appear on television with wrinkled brow and say in a grave tone, “They were about to commit a terror attack.”

Obviously they were “about to commit a terror attack,” because they are always about to commit a terror attack. These future politicians know how much the current politicians like to kill a few Arabs about to commit a terror attack. Let’s heat up the area, they say, and then we’ll call our reporter and tell him to make something up.

But someone out there is responsible for the operation in Syria. Someone, in a combination of stupidity and apathy, “fulfilled his duty.” As if his duty is divorced from reality, as if 1,000 wise men can remove a stone that was thrown into a well by a fool. Everyone — the military, the media, and the politicians — are partners to this obfuscation. They hope one day to be able to use “national security” for their own purposes.

As for the sanctimonious Zionist Camp chairman Isaac Herzog,he is certain that the considerations of the generals — that is, those of the wannabe politicians — were totally professional and not politically motivated. Herzog forgot that the generals are meant to work for the government, not the government for the generals. He forgot that there are always political considerations behind such operations.

The responsibility for security shifts from the politicians to the generals depending on the circumstances. “We are only carrying out their policy,” the army brass says when it’s convenient for them. “You’re the professionals,” the politicians say when it’s convenient for them. They throw the responsibility from one to the other over our heads, like a ball. Pretty soon we’ll hear them say, “We were only following orders.”

The generals and the politicians collaborate with a wink and silence, and the media see the wink, hear the silence and look the other way. That’s how we are denied the basic right to know what happened in Gaza over the summer and what is happening in the Golan Heights right now.

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