No, no, Egypt can’t open its border with Gaza – the terrorists will come in and
threaten our security, our very existence! So last week Egypt opens its border
with Gaza, and suddenly it’s no big deal, maybe we’re better off, now the Gazans
won’t be able to complain so much that we’re starving them. Never
Oh no, oh God, we can’t transfer customs money to the Palestinian
Authority now that there’s a unity government – the money will get to Hamas and
they’ll use it to destroy us! So the whole world tells us it’s not our money,
it’s the PA’s, we can’t keep it, and before going to Washington, Bibi gives the
PA the money, like we always have, we’re back to normal – and this once-pressing
threat to our lives is forgotten instantly.
Remember the hysteria over
the coriander menace? Until a year ago, we were stopping coriander and God knows
how many other edibles from entering Gaza – in the name of national security!
Then the Mavi Marmara
sails for Gaza, we shoot it up, the pressure’s on again,
and suddenly a long list of previously banned foods – yes, even coriander – is
moving into Gaza, and suddenly no one wants to remember how mindless and
sheep-like they were to take the army’s and government’s word that this insane
policy was necessary to keep Israel safe.
I’m not saying there are no
threats to Israel and that we should dismiss anything any security maven says.
What I’m saying is that we have gone so absurdly far to the other extreme –
somebody says “security,” and nobody asks any questions, everybody is
immediately scared into total agreement and obedience.
And while this
reaction is, of course, understandable, that doesn’t make it any less absurdly
extreme, any less dislocated from reality, or any less destructive to ourselves
It’s because of the way the cry of “national security!” and
“threat to Israeli lives!” just shuts down all thought in this country that the
army stayed in Lebanon for 18 years. Ask anybody living on the peaceful northern
border if he’d like to have those Katyusha-crazy years back, if he regrets that
the army is no longer fighting on Hezbollah’s turf. But I have to admit – I was
against the 2000 withdrawal at first, too, because I didn’t believe it would
work, it seemed way too easy. I couldn’t believe that the IDF had been fighting
all those years when it didn’t have to. Now I think just about everybody
believes it, even if they won’t admit it.
The same with Gaza. People want
to believe that all our troubles started after the disengagement, but the fact
is that many, many fewer Israelis are getting hurt or killed now than when the
army was fighting inside the Strip, and Hamas was targeting not just the people
in Sderot, but the people in Sderot plus the far easier-to-hit people in Gush
Katif. The fact is that the warnings that our security would collapse if we got
out of Gaza proved false, too; life hasn’t been nearly as safe in Sderot, of
course, as it’s been on the border with Lebanon, but life wasn’t safe in Sderot
before disengagement, either, and meanwhile, it’s become incomparably safer for
IDF soldiers and the former residents of Gush Katif.
THERE’S A long list
of wolf cries that used to be consensus and are now embarrassing to remember
because of all the needless tragedy they caused. Remembering the Yom
Kippur War, how many people still think Sharm e-Sheikh was preferable to peace
with Egypt, as the security god of the time, Moshe Dayan, infamously said?
many people still think that every cockamamie settlement looking down on Nablus,
or looking down on Ramallah, is vital to national security?
Once upon a time,
Israelis believed all this garbage because Moshe Dayan told them it was so, or
Menachem Begin told them, or Ariel Sharon told them, or the deputy chief of the
General Staff of the Southern Command of the National Security Council told
They were wrong. Incidentally, there were usually at least a few
security mavens with lots of stars and bars on their uniforms, too, who were
saying no, we don’t have to fight and conquer and build settlements everywhere,
it’s not vital to our security, it’s devastating to our security – but these
dissenting voices were asking Israelis not to be ruled by fear, so Israelis, as
a rule, refused to listen.
Now we’re being told by the government and
army that this new flotilla that’s preparing to leave for Gaza is a really
dreadful threat to our security, and these Palestinians in Syria and Lebanon
planning to make another run for our border are very simply an existential
threat to the Jewish state, and they all must be stopped!
And if the army and
government end up saying, again, that we had no choice but to shoot the people
on the flotilla and shoot the people coming for the borders, even though they
had no guns or bombs themselves, Israelis, again, will make their minds a blank,
stand up and salute. And if and when disaster follows, they won’t be able to
remember that they marched in step behind their leaders.
It would be more
than a little helpful if Israelis could question authority over matters of
national security before the troops are sent out, before the orders to fire are
given. It would save everyone a lot of trouble if we could ask ourselves in real
time instead of in retrospect: Is Sharm e-Sheikh really all it’s cracked up to
be? Is coriander? The writer blogs at Israel Reconsidered (www.israelleft.com).