larry derfner 88.
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For once, Israelis seem to believe that Syria is telling the truth - that Israeli jets invaded Syria's airspace last Thursday, and that Syria fired at our jets but missed.
The reason Israelis believe the Syrian story is because if it wasn't true, Israel would deny it. Why would Israel deny it? Because countries aren't supposed to fly their jets into another country's airspace without permission. It's considered an invasion. An act of aggression. It gives the invaded country a casus belli - a justification to strike back.
In short, it's wrong. It's the sort of thing that starts wars, and countries are supposed to try to avoid wars, not start them.
So Israeli leaders have nothing to say about the Syrian reports. This is the diplomatic equivalent of a wink. Everyone understands.
What's hard to understand, though, is how the Israeli media can be so docile, so obedient, in the face of such a reckless Israeli act. I was watching Channel 2 Thursday night, and I couldn't believe what I was hearing, or rather not hearing.
None of the journalists, who clearly assumed that this incident had really taken place, thought it worth mentioning that Israel had just risked starting a war with Syria. None of them challenged Israeli officials on the wisdom of this. All they talked about was what Syria might do now, whether Syria would go to war. That Israel had just provoked Syria, had just escalated the conflict, was the elephant in the newsroom that they pretended not to see.
This has been the tenor of the coverage ever since - lots of speculation on what Israel was trying to achieve and how Syria might react, hardly a hint about the incredible risk Israel took, about the morality of tossing a lighted match in a dry forest as this country's leaders just did.
It's almost surrealistic. It's like there's a conspiracy of silence. The people who are supposed to ask questions act as if they've been lobotomized. I feel a little bit like I'm living in a police state.
What would have happened if Syria had shot down one of our jets? We would have been at war with a country on our northern border that has biological and chemical weapons as well as lots of missiles - and Israel would be guilty of having provoked the war.
FOR MONTHS now, Israeli political and military leaders have been saying the danger on the border is not that Syria will invade, but that Syria is afraid we will invade, and that one thing will lead to another and a war will break out due to one side "miscalculating" the other's intentions. Implicit in this was that Israel would never invade Syria because Israel doesn't want war, Israel doesn't do things like that, so the real danger was Syria's paranoia.
Evidently, Syria wasn't so paranoid.
Since Thursday, spokesmen for this country have been trying to calm everyone down, assuring everyone that Israel doesn't want war.
What a joke. If Israel wanted to calm things down with Syria, why did it fly its jets into Syrian airspace at a time like this? If Israel doesn't want war, why did it risk war?
While I'm surprised the Israeli media are just falling quietly into line behind the government and the army, I'm not surprised the Israeli public is doing so. When it's Israel vs. the Arabs, there is no policy too belligerent or too dangerous for a majority of Israelis to support.
They will accept any official explanation or non-explanation without question, they will put their children's lives at risk with trepidation but without protest - anything rather than wonder aloud whether Israel might be in the wrong this time and the Arab enemy in the right. As was the case on Thursday.
IT TURNS OUT that nothing has changed since last summer's war in Lebanon. With rare exceptions, the Israeli media didn't ask any questions then, and they aren't asking any questions now. Same with the public. In fact, the situation seems to have gotten worse. Last summer's war was started, after all, by Hizbullah, so even Meretz, even I supported it at first. The failure by the media and the public came later, when they didn't ask what purpose Israel had in continuing the fighting indefinitely. Now we've got a situation where the country has gone mum after its leaders behaved recklessly not in self-defense, as in Lebanon, but in aggression.
We've set up a strict double standard for ourselves and the Arabs. We believe Israel is entitled to breach Syrian airspace, or Lebanese airspace, because - well, because they're bad and we're good. But if they breach ours? If Syrian jets dared fly over Israeli territory, everybody knows what would happen - we'd shoot them down without a moment's hesitation. And afterward we'd complain to the whole world, we'd say, "You see? The Arabs are trying to kill us all, just like the Nazis." Yet if, on the other hand, Israeli jets fly over Syria - and get away with it? Wink, wink. The little country with the big heart has done it again. Damn, we're good.
DESPITE WHAT some readers think, I'm not one of those people who blame Israel for all of the Middle East's troubles, who think the Arabs would leave Israel alone if we'd only leave them alone. That's a ridiculous idea. But it's no less ridiculous to claim that Israel wants peace with its whole being and it's only the Arabs who are preventing it. I think Thursday's incident showed otherwise.
No, I'm one of those people who believe the Middle East is a bloody mess because both the Arabs and the Israelis are oriented to war. I like to think the Arabs are the bigger part of the problem, but even if that's true, we are no small part of it.