The Parents' Protest / Those Who Suffered, Those Who Did Not

Not every Knesset member can call a news conference. That is, he can but it is doubtful that journalists will come. Usually only very senior MKs can do it, and even then their spokesman will have his work cut out for him.

A bereaved parent or company commander in reserves on the other hand, can easily summon dozens of journalists, including television crews.

Perhaps it's because we don't believe politicians. We only believe people who are directly involved, who suffered personally, who shed blood. Israeli public opinion - or is it Israeli media? - is like the High Court of Justice 30 years ago. Only those who are personally involved could file a petition, not just anyone.

The emotional impact of this is indisputable. When Ariela Goldman, Noam's mother, reads the wondrous statement about her son who died in vain, nobody can remain indifferent.

Expertise, on the other hand, has no weight in this discourse. A sergeant or company commander has much more impact than a general. The assumption is that if he is senior, he's a charlatan. In any case, defense policy and tactics come across badly on the air.

Here is a paradox which cannot be ignored: one of the main reasons cited by those demanding Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's resignation is that he appointed as defense minister a man with no defense expertise. But the people leading the public discourse and demanding that Olmert resign are almost exclusively without any defense expertise.

Actually it may not even be called a discourse. As every politician knows, you cannot argue with bereaved parents. It is hard to ask them difficult questions; you cannot answer their questions. And you cannot face their pain, which renders the politicians helpless. The most that politicians can do - like Olmert at the Herzliya Conference yesterday - is attack political rivals "who are swooping on the boys' blood."

It is also very hard to argue with company commanders in the reserves. They are really the salt of the earth. What power has the counter argument, that the company commanders' letter demanding the prime minister's dismissal, is undemocratic and crosses the boundaries of what may or may not be done in the military?

One of the most important sections in the bereaved parents' report released yesterday says "the bereaved families have kept silent for decades, throughout Israel's existence. They remain silent despite failures, deficiencies and negligence. Such sacrifice may be understood in a young, weak state fighting for its survival, but it has no place in strong, developed Israel."

The implication that the bereaved families of the past were suckers is infuriating. They kept quiet because they believed in what the state was doing.

Above all, this quote summarizes all the characteristics of the Second Lebanon War - privatizing the public discourse, putting the individual above the many, and emotion above reason.

But the main problem is the bereaved parents' basic assumption. Has Israel stopped fighting for its survival? Can it really afford this outcry?

Finally, we have been hearing that the soldiers died in vain so often that it seems like the truth. But the truth is that they died in a justified war - and that was not in vain.