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Israel Is Strong – at Extortion and Self-pity

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Israel Defense Forces tank entering the Gaza envelope during Israel's war with Gaza in May 2021.
Israel Defense Forces tank entering the Gaza envelope during Israel's war with Gaza in May 2021. Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

The lesson from the war in Ukraine that the Israeli right (meaning almost all Israelis) is one: Only a strong Israel. Like the lesson taught on the student trips to Auschwitz, it’s all about power, power and more power – military power, of course.

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Israel can rely only on itself. The Holocaust and Ukraine teach us only strength, not about moral values or international solidarity. You don’t need to take in refugees or abide by international law, you can maintain the occupation and ignore the world. Just give Israel more bombs, and it will manage. Of all of Israel’s arguments, this is the most absurd – and the most outrageous.

Without the support of the West, Israel is a leaf blowing in the wind. Without the special international status that managed to create for itself (justifiably or not), it would have been crushed a long time ago. It is not bombs that protect it, but the “soft” power that it has built for itself that terrifies half the world with its emotional extortion, much more so than its hard power.

The lesson Israel should be learning from Ukraine is the opposite: Military power is not enough, it is impossible to survive alone, we need true international support, which can’t be bought just by developing drones that drop bombs.

It’s depressing to see how everything brings Israelis back to their mythical belief in strength. Without the Israel Defense Forces, we would have been pushed into the sea a long time ago. Without the pilots, we would already have been pushed into the ovens. This is a misleading truth.

Of course, we need military power, but without the international community we would be done for. First, because our military strength is based on aid from the United States. The day there’s no America, there’s no longer an Israel. Not just in the United Nations, but also on the battlefield. A boycott of one screw, and the war machine would grind to a halt. Ask the air force, even the acclaimed and longed for military power depends on the goodwill of the international community.

Israel has amassed most of the power in enjoys from the special status it has won for itself. The world is afraid of Israel, paralyzed in the face of its unrestrained actions, helpless in the face of its follies, at a loss in the face of its chutzpah. Israel says “antisemitism,” and the world stands at attention.

It’s not because of Dimona, it’s because of Yad Vashem. The world’s guilt feelings, which Israel knows how to cultivate and exploit for its own needs, together with the support of the powerful Jewish establishment, grant Israel this unique status.

Open doors to Washington, which Israel enjoys more than any other country in the world, supplies it with power that runs from Moscow to New Delhi, from Kyiv to Abu Dhabi. When Germany asks Israel’s permission to sell submarines and the United States to sell planes, it is not due to its military strength. Vladimir Putin meets with Israeli prime ministers not because of Sayeret Matkal. This is a special status, which must be cultivated.

But if Israel continues to rely so much on its military power, the guilt and emotional extortion and the power that comes with it will wane. New generations who know not Joseph will not understand why they should continue to bow down before a tiny, exploitative Middle Eastern country.

Any chance of preserving Israel’s vaunted status will come by cooperating with the international community, not by turning its back on it. The day will come that they will become sick and tired of Israel’s shamelessness: Always to receive and never to give. The day will come when Washington will ask, why is Israel out of all countries entitled to have more weapons and money showered on it than any other at the expense of the American taxpayer. The day is near.

The war in Ukraine could have served as an opportunity to begin thinking differently in Israel, to understand that it is impossible to survive in this total madness without the world’s support and that its support cannot be bought by ignoring all its decisions and standing off to the side in the face of all its disasters. The true lesson of Kyiv is not the one that calls on Israel to lock its gates, to wallow only among its Jews and to rely only on its army.

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