Now What?

The killing, for the most part, has stopped. But the nightmare is not over. This catastrophe is about to be induced into Israel’s hall of fame, right next to other prides such as Operation Entebbe and Tal Brody. The collective Israeli memory is going to remember the bloodshed of the last few weeks as a happy period, when we “let the IDF win”. It does not matter how many rockets fall on Sderot from now on, operation “Cast Lead” will always be remembered as a success, a testimony to our elan. Or at least a step in the right direction. The only dispute now is whether we should have continued the killing.

This has been a bitter lesson for me. Since 2006, I have been in dispute with this country regarding the war in Lebanon. I was outraged when it started, both at the government and the gullible public. During those summer weeks there was nobody I knew in Israel who was thinking sensibly and not repeating the hasbara ex-general pundits were feeding everyone over the tube. The entire venture was a failure. A commission was formed, politicians were forced to quit public life, and the army practically purged it’s entire senior command.

I was not expecting Israel to apologize, to knock on my door and say “we were wrong, you were right”. I was pessimistic on one hand, Israel’s military was going to look for the first chance to redeem it’s lost esteem, but optimistic in on the other, the public will not eat this kind of bullshit again. I was hoping that the 2006 experience would cultivate some healthy scepticism that would not allow generals to get away with anything.

I was wrong. The war in 2006 was a failure, and everybody took it upon themselves to make it “work” this time, not just the army and government, but the public too. I naively believed that the disproportionate destruction and civilian death in Lebanon tickled the public, just a bit, but it didn’t. Lebanon turned into an unpopular war because of the shoddy intelligence, the rusting equipment and the hesitant commanders. The national disgrace was not the carnage, but the amateurish way in which it was carried out.

By those standards, this last episode was an outstanding success. The intelligence was good, the raids were potent and demoralized the enemy, the reservists recieved modern and lubricated equipment, and the expectations were low. The dying and suffering civilians in Gaza did not play a role in the metrics of this operation’s success. The disfigured children in overcrowded hospitals were a setback only in the sense that the world was watching, and it was getting awkward. The public here did not blink.

Do you want your children to learn that narritive in history class? It is a mark of Cain, not a victory. We can’t let it go down as one.

Now What?

Shampoo Queen #2

I hope this does not turn in to a wartime tradition. After the last Lebanon war, I posted a rough translation from a song that was featured in Shampoo Queen (or Queen of The Bath), Hanoch Levin‘s provocative satire about the Israeli consensus surrounding militarism and national schovinism, specifically following the 1967 victory.

A lot of these themes remain relevant today. Because of the illegal nature of our actions in Gaza, I thought I would share the following song. Please excuse my rough translation:

The Ten Commandments

On a sunny and pleasant spring morning
We all rose as one man
Strong and invigorated people
Of good stature and brave
We rose and we climbed mount Sinai
Where we received the word of The Lord
We climbed proud with song and poem
The word of The Lord to return.

First conclusion, for security needs
We tossed to the sky the first commandment
After that we also tossed the second commandment
It too, because of the security situation
After the second, the third came next
An understood act of a state under siege,
And this naturally includes
In the same package the fourth commandment

The fourth commandment, and the fifth with it
Because ‘If he come to slay thee, forestall by slaying him’
And with a similar cause of the struggle for existence
Will throw the sixth away with urgency
It was necessary and so justified
That the seven commandment was tossed too.

After it the eighth and the ninth with it
Both for reason of battlefield morale
And to finish with an even number
The tenth commandment was sent with the others.

On a sunny and pleasant spring morning
We all returned as one man
Strong and invigorated people
Of good stature and brave
Our heads held high
Our shoulders light
Filling our lungs with air.

I found on the internets a video about the Shampoo Queen scandal. It features the song above. If I had all the time in the world, I would have translated it. My favorite quote there comes after a high-school student asks the IDF’s chief of staff, Bar-Lev, if “The Queen of The Bath” has hurt the army’s morale. Bar-Lev replies “A week ago I went to an IDF outpost in Sinai and asked the soldiers ‘what is your opinion regarding The Queen of The Bath?’ they answered ‘Bring the queen, we will give her a bath over here!'”. I love that quote because it plays so well into Levin’s critique of a militarized society.

Shampoo Queen #2