Rattling the Cage: Behind the Zion curtain

Israelis can't handle tension, so they close their minds and raise their hands for war.

larry derfner 88 (photo credit: )
larry derfner 88
(photo credit: )
The most spot-on comment I've read about Israeli society was made recently by Haaretz's Gideon Levy, speaking to the American magazine The Nation. "There was a time," Levy said, "when you'd ask two Israelis a question and you'd get three different opinions. Now you only get one." What better proof of this point could there be than the Israeli reaction to the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear program? There isn't a consensus Israeli view on the NIE, there's a unanimous Israeli view: The NIE is totally wrong. It's worthless. No one should pay any attention to it. Not three opinions, not two opinions - one opinion. For the whole State of Israel. (Not counting the Arabs, of course.) Sixteen US intelligence agencies, starting with the CIA, come out with a brand new assessment of Iran's nuclear activities - that Iran halted its drive for nuclear weapons four years ago in response to international pressure - and every single Israeli political and military official has the same exact reaction: nyet. The Israeli media follow suit. The Israeli public follows suit. So there's no debate. The only debate is over whether the US spy agencies made an honest mistake growing out of their amusing American gullibility, or whether they lied treacherously to stop President Bush from doing God's work and bombing Iran, or whether the whole report, even in the unlikelihood that it's factually correct, changes nothing whatsoever in how Iran's nuclear program should be viewed. In a word, nyet. In one voice. One nation, one opinion. I'm not exaggerating - I haven't heard of even one Israeli politician, military man, professor or influential journalist who's so much as said, "Hey, if American intelligence says Iran isn't as dead-set on getting nukes as everybody thought, maybe there's something to it. Maybe we should take a second look at our ideas." Forget it. If any prominent Israeli is saying such a thing, he's the proverbial tree falling in the forest that doesn't make a sound because nobody hears him. This used to be a vibrant democracy, but it isn't now. On the overshadowing issue of war and peace, Israeli public opinion is monolithic. And I'm afraid that this uniformity of thought, this groupthink, didn't begin with the NIE, either. At the beginning of September, just as the fear of a summer war with Syria was starting to lift, Israeli jets bombed a military target deep inside Syria - and the only sound heard in this country was applause. Nobody protested, nobody so much as questioned whether this was a wise move at a time of such tension. Israelis were told our jets hit some nuclear facility, and it didn't matter how many decades it would be, if ever, before that facility might produce nuclear weapons - everyone agreed that this was a great deed. AS FAR as I know, not one political or military figure, active or retired, nor one influential academic or journalist cast doubt on the wisdom of that enormously risky raid. For all the commentary that followed, there was no debate, no controversy, because nobody was con, everybody was pro. Luckily, there's been no counterattack by the Syrians, at least not so far. If there had been, there'd be a chorus of "I told you so" from Israelis without end, from Israelis dead for ages, from Israelis yet unborn. That's what happened after the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006 - but during the war? While there wasn't the kind of sheer unanimity seen here after the raid in Syria and the publication of the NIE, while towards the end of the war a few dovish politicians, intellectuals and journalists said enough was enough, from day one until the cease-fire, the Israeli consensus in favor of a pie-in-the-sky "victory" was overwhelming - not quite, but almost, unanimous. In the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, which Israelis viewed as a kind of proxy war, there was virtual unanimity of support. Aside from the non- or anti-Zionist Left, which, like Israeli Arab opinion, doesn't count in this country, the only prominent Israeli I recall coming out against the invasion was Amos Oz. Otherwise, Bush had far, far greater support for the war from Israelis than he had from people in any of the 50 states, including Texas. Now, of course, Israelis are telling Bush, "I told you so." (Just not to his face.) Maybe the saddest, most demoralizing thing about this lockstep Israeli attitude toward war is that it isn't imposed from above, it isn't enforced. This may not be a vibrant democracy anymore, but it is still a free country - people can say whatever they want against the government, against the IDF, and no one will punish them. The Israeli media is as free-wheeling and aggressive as any on earth. No, what's happened is that Israeli men and women have voluntarily welded their minds shut. It's not that they're afraid to voice a dissenting opinion, it's that they honestly can't imagine one, and they're not interested in seeking out other, non-Israeli, non-Republican sources of information - which they certainly don't get from the Israeli media - that might lead them to stray from the hard, national line. There's a whole Western world out there of people who don't think like Republicans, who don't think military force is the one and only way to deal with enemies, but this world has become lost to Israelis. This is a society that's been brainwashed by consent. The Arabs didn't give Israel peace, so all that's left is war. Anything in between means uncertainty, and uncertainty means tension, and Israelis can't handle tension, so they close their minds and raise their hands for war, which at least takes away the uncertainty, thus relieving a great deal of tension. And when all hands are raised together, it not only enhances certainty, it offers the added comfort of unity. This is a society that has become programmed for war. The only bright spot I see is that American thinking may be shifting toward the kind that informed the NIE. Such an America might be able to protect Israel from itself - until, God willing, this country becomes a vibrant democracy again.