Analysis: Only the wars we win get a name

That's the rule: Wars that end unsatisfactorily never get a real name.

March 18, 2007 23:16
2 minute read.
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How many wars has Israel fought over the last six decades? There's no clear answer. It's a matter of politics and ideology that might eventually be left to the historians. It took the government more than three decades to officially recognize the War of Attrition, which raged for a year and a half in 1969-70, as a war and to award its veterans a campaign medal. It took years for the 1982 Lebanon War to gain war status, and even then it wasn't official. Neither round of Palestinian violence - those that started in 1987 and in 2000 - has been recognized as a bona fide conflict. Last summer's war in Lebanon remains unclassified. At Monday's meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Symbols and Ceremonies, the 34 days of fighting might be termed a war and be graced with an official title. If seven months after the cease-fire seems like a long time for the war to wait for a name, consider the fact that the first Lebanon War is still officially known by its original name, Operation Peace for Galilee, though nobody uses this term anymore. That's the rule: Wars that end unsatisfactorily never get a real name. The War of Attrition, which ended in a stalemate, was named by the enemy, in that case Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, and Israelis somehow picked it up. A similar thing happened with the intifada ("uprising" or "shaking off"), only Israelis didn't bother to translate the Arabic. Right-wingers accuse the media, with a large degree of justification, of accepting the Palestinians' narrative by using their names for the uprisings. This is especially true in the case of the second intifada, which some Israelis even call Al-Aksa Intifada. The Right retaliated by calling the terrorist offensive the Oslo War. But it didn't stick, and besides, is the second intifada over yet? This time, it doesn't seem the government has much choice. Angry parents are threatening to change the inscriptions on their sons' tombstones. Homeowners and businesspeople in the North are planning to take legal action. Political rivalries have also entered the debate. Defense Minister Amir Peretz has set up his own panel to come up with a name. That means Ya'acov Edri, chairman of the ministerial committee, has to beat him to the post. Various reasons have been given over the last few days for the government's reluctance to name the war: It wasn't fought against another state; It was only a military operation, not a full-fledged war; Calling it a war would mean having to pay huge sums in compensation. None of these should be taken seriously. If the IDF had enjoyed glorious success against Hizbullah, there would have been a name the day after the cease-fire took effect. And you can bet it would have been called a war. Everyone wants to win a war. But since the outcome is still so murky, with almost no one claiming it as a clear-cut victory, perhaps even something approximating a failure, it's better to keep it small. At least we haven't lost a war.

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