Though they are vindicated time and time again, it’s remarkable how often those who criticize Israel’s position are denigrated as being anti-Israeli, ignorance and motivated by a desire to see harm come to Israel and its people.
Inevitably, I was deluged with e-mails accusing me of anti-Semitism (as if!), anti-Israeli bias and ignorance. Patronising readers told me that I had no understanding of Israel’s position in the Middle East. My warnings that Israel’s killing of nearly 1,000 Lebanese civilians and displacement of half a million would only add to the ranks of Hezbollah sympathisers and further inflame Muslim opinion against the West were dismissed as prejudice.
So it is some consolation that the Winograd Commission – set up by the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, himself – savagely criticised him this week for the failed war against Lebanon. On the decisions made in launching the war, the report says: “We determine that there are very serious failings in these decisions and the way they were made. We impose the primary responsibility for these failures on the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence and the Chief of Staff.
What this ought to (but doubtless won’t) do is puncture the delusion held by many in the Jewish community that any criticism of any action by any Israeli government is either anti-Semitic or anti-Israel or both. It simply isn’t.
Most discouraging is that Israel find themselves in a quandary as a result of the Lebanon war, and rather than use the opportunity to scruitinize the defacto foreign policy of the Israeli government, they are merely resorting to scape goating.
Should we topple Olmert? Perhaps it would be better to replace Olmert with Tzipi Livni or Shimon Peres? (No, I’m not joking.) Or maybe it would be better to hold new elections, even if Netanyahu might win them? Is the failed Netanyahu better than the failed Olmert, or must we bring back the failed Barak? Or perhaps we should leave Olmert in place after all, in the hope that he won’t start any more wars without thinking?
Yes, Olmert must indeed go home. We need a new leadership, one that understands that Israel will know tranquility only if we make peace with the Palestinians, even when the price is the dismantling of settlements. Is this being discussed seriously? Would this demand draw hundreds of thousands to the square? Of course not.
Israel is due for a sea change. The country cannot exist while indefinitely readied for war with its neighbours. The opportunities are there for a breakthrough, if Israel wants peace. Uri Avnery still remains optimistic.
What do we need now: to prepare for the next war – or to prevent the next war? To set up a government that will invade Lebanon again, and perhaps Syria, too, in order to “restore the deterrent power of the army” – or a government that will start serious negotiations to achieve peace?
My answer to myself was something like this: Even if it does not look like this on the surface, our people have already moved a long way – from “there is no Palestinian people,” “Greater Israel,” “United Jerusalem for all eternity,” and “Our brothers the settlers,” toward the recognition of reality. In spite of the brainwashing. In spite of the cult of power. In spite of the anxieties.
If you watch the hands of a clock, they do not seem to move. But after looking away for a while, you notice that their position has indeed changed.
In time, the people will assemble in the same square and demand the end of the occupation and peace with the Palestinians, the Syrians, and the Lebanese. Most of the crowd will applaud and, perhaps, even sing. Amen.