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July 26, 2006

More required reading

Daniel Gordis explains the reaction of Israelis to the fighting with Hizbollah. (Permalink here.) A long excerpt follows. Please read the entire piece.

This is a different kind of war, and an old kind of war. In the last war, when they blew up buses and restaurants and sidewalks and cafes, Israelis were enraged, apoplectic with anger. This time, it’s different. Rage has given way to sadness. Disbelief has given way to recognition. Because we’ve been here before. Because we’d once believed we wouldn’t be back here again. And because we know why this war is happening.

A rocket hit Haifa in the first days of the war, killing no one, but injuring a number of people. It also tore the face off an apartment building, leaving the apartments inside eerily exposed, naked, for all to gaze into. That small block of Haifa, with its shattered shell of a building, rubble all along the street, citizens dazed as they wandered about looking at it all, appeared to be exactly what it was – a war zone.

And yet, the people in the street stayed near their homes, going nowhere. The newscaster asked them why they didn’t go somewhere else, where it might be safer. One man answered with statistics. “Why leave now? We’ve already been hit. The chances of us being hit again are one in a million.” To which another man responded almost with outrage. “What do numbers have to do with it?” he asked. And then, he turned to the camera, almost screaming, pointed to the broken building, and said, “This is our home. Mi-po ani lo zaz. From here, I am not budging. And he repeated his refrain over and over again. “This is my home. And from here, I am not budging.” Mi-po ani lo zaz.

Israelis understand what this is. This is a war over our homes. Over our homes in the north, for now, but eventually, as the rockets get better and larger, all of our homes. This is not about the territories. This is not about the “occupation.” This is not about creating a Palestinian State. This is about whether there will be a state called Israel. Sixty years after Arab nations greeted the UN resolution on November 29 1947 with a declaration of war, nothing much has changed. They attacked this time for the same reason that they did sixty years ago.

At first, it was the Egyptians, Jordanians and Syrians. We put a stop to that in 1949, 1956, 1967 and 1973.

Then it was the Palestinians, who bamboozled the world (and many of us Israelis) into believing that they just wanted a State, and that their terror was simply a way of forcing us to make one possible. We fought the terror in 1982 (Lebanon), 1987 (Intifada) and even after Camp David and Oslo, once again in 2000-2005 (the Terror War). And then, we actually tried to make the State happen. We got out of Lebanon to put an end to that conflict. And even more momentous, we got out of Gaza, hoping that they’d start to build something.

And now, it’s Hezbollah. Or more accurately, Syria. Or to be more precise, Iran. What’s Iran’s beef with Israel? Territory it lost? It didn’t lose any. And does anyone really believe that Iran cares one whit about the Palestinians and their state? That’s not the reason. We know it, and so do they.

Now, the bitter reality of which Israel’s right wing had warned about all along is beginning to settle in. It is not lost on virtually any Israelis that the two primary fronts on which this war is being conducted are precisely the two fronts from which we withdrew to internationally recognized borders. We withdrew from Gaza, despite all the internal objections, hoping to move Palestinian statehood – and peace – one step closer. But all we got in return was the election of Hamas, and a barrage of more than 800 Qassams that they refused to end. And then they stole Gilad Shalit. Not from Gaza. Not from some contested no man’s land. From inside the internationally recognized borders of Israel. As if to make sure that we got the point – “There is no place that you’re safe. There is no place to which we won’t take this war. You can’t stay here.”

Because as much as we have wanted to believe otherwise, they have no interest in building their homeland. They only care about destroying ours.

Six years ago we pulled out of Lebanon. Same story. In defiance of the UN’s resolution 1559, Hizbollah armed itself to the teeth, and as we watched and did nothing, accumulated more than 10,000 rockets. And dug itself into the mountains. And established itself in Beirut, effectively using the entire Lebanese population as human shields. And, assuming that there was little that we could or would do, it attacked on June 12, killing eight soldiers, and stealing Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Not from Southern Lebanon. Not from Har Dov, a tiny hilltop that’s still contested. But from inside Israel. Inside a line that no one contests.

Unless, of course, they contest the idea of the whole enterprise. Which they do. And which is precisely the point.
Hat tips: Mrs. A and Bo