The following article is by Israeli writer David Grossman. It appeared in Ma’ariv on June 11 and was translated by The Other Israel:
The view of the girl from the Gaza beach, whose life was torn to pieces in front of our eyes, must wake us up from a years-long hypnotic slumber. Instead of worrying about “the damage to Israel’s image”, instead of immediately starting to formulate the automatic, cliche counter-arguments, we should take a good look at our handwork. It is long overdue for us to notice the slippery slope down which we sliding ourselves, and to start asking which deep abyss lies ahead.
And why/what is it all for? Where did we get by endlessly shooting at “the Qassam launching sites”, and by the “detention of wanted terrorists” which takes place night after night in the Occupied Territories, and by the “focused” assassinations which mainly murder innocents? How much security for our future did any of these acts gain us? How long are we going to remain silent and passive in face of a clique of “security” experts – who turn out to be totally uninspired and incompetent even in the field of their supposed specific expertise! – is continuing to lead us into the same deadly “loop” in which our lives are trapped already for decades: between blow and retaliation, retaliation and blow.
Today it is the girl from Gaza. Tomorrow Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv kids may be paying the price of Palestinian retaliation. The IDF, once a daring army full of original thinking, is already for many years moving like a heavy mindless machine – hitting again and again at the Palestinians, and managing only to drive ever deeper the feeling of humiliation and fury and the desire for revenge.
The Prime Minster is declaring in every possible forum that Israel “will make every possible effort” to start negotiations with the Palestinians, before giving up this effort and turning to unilateral steps, the “convergence” or “realignment”. But Abu-Mazen’s daring declaration of a referendum is dismissed out of hand as “completely meaningless”. Consistently and persistently, Olmert ignores any feeler from the Palestinian side. Certainly, he has no intention of initiating any kind of dialogue, or making any courageous Israeli offer to challenge Hamas.
None of this is getting done. Only the heavy machine continues to hit mechanically – at the Palestinians, but also at ourselves. Its repetitive, automatic and stupefying movement is blurring even our basic existential instinct. We no longer notice the alarms, the smaller and bigger danger signals warning us to wake up from this stupor in which we are sliding deeper and deeper down.
The Army Chief-of-Staff, who usually sleeps well at night while the blood is flowing, has this time ordered the artillery silenced for one night. But perhaps it should be silenced for a longer time? Perhaps this is exactly the time to proclaim a complete cease-fire and call for immediate negotiations without preconditions?
Would such a move be interpreted as a sign of weakness, even as an Israeli defeat? Certainly, some will choose to see it this way. But the girl child running in total fear on the Gaza shore is, in the final reckoning, a far more severe and fundamental defeat for Israel. A defeat for Israel’s values and underlying moral foundations. The infamy on the shore is a defeat in a struggle far more important than Israel’s scuffle with the Palestinians. It is a defeat in the struggle for our very essence, as a people and as human beings.