The Gaza Crisis in Yediot Aharanot

Thus Spoke the Man

Yediot Aharonot signed editorial by Yael Gvirtz, June 27, 2006

[Following comments in brackets are by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of The Shalom Center. "Yediot" is a moderately right-of-center very popular Israeli newspaper. This editorial is therefore remarkable not only for its content –- arguing against precisely the mass frontal attack on Gaza that the Israeli government has now begun – but for the grounding of its analysis in some aspects of feminist thought.

[Probably because its author is addressing Israeli publics about an Israeli decision, she does not point out that the Palestinian attack on the IDF base was grounded in the same masculinist assumptions, only carried out by men with far less power to act out their violence-driven assumptions than the Israeli Army has. The attack on an army base was certainly not "terrorism" – it was an act of war. But the kind of disaster it would bring down on Palestinian heads and homes was totally predictable.

[What kind of narrowness of thought and disregard for human life – not just the soldiers being directly attacked, but the victims of the consequences -- was involved in the decision by Hamas to carry out this attack? What kind of disregard and narrowness of thought was involved in the decision by the Israeli government to destroy more of the infrastructure of Gaza, thus punishing hundreds of thousands of the common folk with more misery, more hunger, more thirst, more disease, more death?

[As the editorial suggests, prayers on behalf of the captured soldier that were prayers in the Asiyah world of Actuality might have been prayers for exchanging prisoners.

[And prayers for the freedom of Palestine might have focused not on one tiny "successful" act of war, but on the creative use of nonviolent resistance, a campaign for its adoption by a great wide wave of Palestinian society. (There are Palestinian nonviolent campaigns now under way – especially in efforts to move the Wall out of Palestinian territory. Israeli responses have been violent, but nothing like as totalistic as the invasion of Gaza.) This ends my comment. Here the "Yediot" article begins. ]

The predictable reactions to the Palestinian attack on the IDF position near Kerem Shalom expose two disturbing phenomena.

First is the traditional dichotomic division, prevalent in the Israeli society: discussion of the course of the battle, commentaries and the strategy of response is an exclusive male preserve. The woman's voice is, at best, included in the discussion only with regard to the negative results of the fighting - death, capture or family life under a hail of Qassam rockets.

The problem with this division of labour is not only with its inherent male chauvinism, but mainly with its creation of a one-dimensional discussion which moves in a futile closed circle, with an artificial division between the world of "The Response" and that of "The Result".

The war discourse is based on the endless quest for an immediate "response". The instinctive male reaction, expressed in the "expert" knowledge of "our commentators" (all of whom are past or present wearers of uniforms) is to demand "A smashing, painful reaction". About the unendurable pain which such a response may entail also on our side, there will always be time to send "our correspondents" to the homes of the grieving families and bring from there the womanly-motherly voice.

Had this male "expertise" truly worked, good and well. Had artillery pieces proved capable of shooting out successful solutions which can bring about a satisfactory conclusion, political correctness may have been dispensed with. But there is no way to avoid facing reality, which is far more complicated and problematic. It is not enough to let blood flow into your eyeballs and make an unrestrained use of force. One should first take a close look at the result which is supposed to be achieved.

On the micro level, what occurred is a failure of the IDF command and Intelligence in the prevention of this attack, It turns out that in spite of the enormous investment, there is no satisfactory operational solution to the tunnel problem. Moreover, the capture of the soldier clearly puts severe restrictions on the possibilities of response. In fact, it is clearly impossible to actually go into that "automatic pilot" of "a wide response" which the inner cabinet hastily decided upon. Critical decisions cannot be taken by just "a quick draw".

On the macro level, it is clear that - despite bombings and bombardments from land, sea and air - the IDF has no operational answer to the shooting of Qassams. The intensive operations of the past months just serve confirm that, even when given a free hand by the government, it is not capable of "winning".

There can be no military decision without a parallel political initiative. A demand to have "an eye for eye" is simply a demand for more of the same cycle of bloodshed. The demand to "stop talking and start acting" means simply to stop what we had been doing at all, and go on with what we have doing all the time. We have already found out that Dan Halutz cannot by himself extricate us. [Note: The Hebrew has here an untranslateable play on words, Halutz's name comes from the same root as "Hilutz" (extricating)].

The exclusive macho club of stimulus-response includes also the second disturbing phenomenon, that of automatic backing. There is always the same pyramid of backing, which ensures that failures will remain perpetually "fatherless". The government and inner cabinet quickly back the IDF High Command with authorisations of another wide operation, the Army Chief of Staff, quickly backs the commanders on the ground, the Air Force commander backs pilots whose operational mistakes cost civilian lives and the base commander under whose nose sexual abuse took place, the Minister of Internal Security backs the police commanders who were warned by a commission of inquiry, past Prime Minsters mutually back each other's past failures and the present failures of their incumbent colleague, everybody who wants a "smashing response" backs up the previous "smashing response" and whitewashes its failure.

All members of this cycle are quick to back themselves up by upholding "the system" - instead of backing a critical examination the drawing of lessons. As long as leadership is defined as giving an automatic backing rather than taking responsibility, failures and fiascos will always remain built in.

So used did we become to this automatic backing and to the Gordian Knot tying malehood with "a suitable response". Who remembers still that, with all due respect to the IDF, the saving response which had cut short the cycle of killings in Lebanon has come from "Four Mothers"?