The Age of the Sniper

On Naksa Day, even as the snipers were shooting and the ambulance sirens were wailing, the Israel Defense Forces spokesman proudly said that the army had learned its lessons from Nakba Day.

The is the age of the sniper - Syrian snipers and Israeli snipers. Syrian snipers on the roofs of homes shoot at Syrian demonstrators protesting the regime, while the Israeli snipers on the border of the Golan Heights shoot at Syrian demonstrators sent by the regime.

It's an age in which diplomatic perspective has shrunk into the telescopic sight of a sophisticated rifle. What goes through the mind of a sniper when he looks through the scope, when he pulls the trigger? How does he decide at whom to aim, and at which part of the body?

The equation between the snipers on the two sides is a Syrian invention. It's easy to see that the Syrian regime, battling for its survival, is eager to replace pictures of the massacre in Hama and other Syrian cities with pictures of blue-and-white violence, albeit more moderate, near Majdal Shams and Quneitra. It's easy to identify the effort to divert attention from the lost legitimacy of Syria's minority Alawite government, and instead to try to undermine the legitimacy of Israel on the anniversary of the start of the Six-Day War, Naksa Day.

The troubling question is: Why did Israel cooperate with this Syrian equation so obediently, so unimaginatively?

The result, 20 Syrians killed and hundreds wounded by Israeli sniper fire, raises questions about the judgment of our political and military leadership, and about what lessons were learned from the events of Nakba Day three weeks earlier. After all, on Naksa Day, there were no surprises; there was enough time to prepare, maybe even to think for a change.

The Palestinian protests on Nakba Day, May 15, and on Naksa Day, June 5, were meant to acknowledge the Palestinian traumas of 1948 and 1967, and to demand a resolution of the resulting problems. But in the realm of nations, as in the realm of emotions, the hidden, unconscious goal of post-traumatic behavior in most cases is not to restore the situation to what it was (returning the refugees to their homes, for example ), but a ceremonial repeat of the trauma (for example, more killing and expulsion ).

From this perspective, the Israeli response, which included live fire on demonstrators trying to cross the border that was apparently not aimed just at their legs, played right into Palestinian hands, providing the world with the longed-for images of killing and expulsion. One might have expected the larger and better-prepared Israeli forces to have repelled the demonstrators by less violent means and without killing anyone. It isn't clear why weeks of preparation ended this way, and what the Israeli satisfaction with the results is all about.

True, unlike on Nakba Day, when there was a mass breach of the border on the Golan, on Naksa Day, only a few managed to get to the border fence and they were immediately arrested. With this result, the defense minister and the prime minister can indeed be pleased: The ritual of return failed, and the border wasn't breached. But other borders were breached - invisible moral borders.

On Naksa Day, even as the snipers were shooting and the ambulance sirens were wailing, the Israel Defense Forces spokesman proudly said that the army had learned its lessons from Nakba Day. If that's the level of Israeli lesson-learning, then we should all be worried.

What does this say about Israeli preparedness for the next Gaza-bound flotilla, which is readying to leave Turkey at the end of June? Where is the original, creative, out-of-the-box thinking? Will we always fall into the traps, even when they are known in advanced? Is the only message from our leaders with the analytical minds is that the brain is an obsolete organ, and if force doesn't work, use more force?