Everyone is guilty

Israel continues to suffer political turmoil after the release of the Winograd report on the Lebanon war. Major changes seem inevitable, even if nobody seems to be seriously discussing the morality of the war, merely the botched tactics.

Gideon Levy, one of Israel’s finest reporters, has written an essential column. Only in Hebrew, and translated by Sol Salbe for the Middle East News Service, it reveals the utter corruption at the heart of the Israeli political and media elite:

Why are they picking only on Ehud Olmert? Why are they tearing strips off Amir Peretz and Dan Halutz and no one else? True, this unholy trinity bears most of the responsibility by virtue of the positions they held. But at this time when they are justly being bled dry politically, it is impossible not to be reminded of the rest of the mob. The hands of the vast majority of us are covered in this war’s blood. The time has come to get even with this cheering, supportive majority who have been inflicted with selective blindness since the war’s first day. Olmert go home? What about the screaming band of eggers-on that accompanied him? Generals and commentators, opposition leaders and journalists – through the entire war, they demanded the infliction of more and more blows. The all wanted to sink further into the blood-drenched quagmire.…  Those who advocated a ground offensive and the wiping out of villages should not get off scot-free. Any self-examination worth its salt needs to include the prevailing mood that pushed and supported that war. Otherwise the conclusions will be meaningless.


Israel embarked on a war whose outcome was known in advance — blind Freddy could have seen it. With or without a ground offensive, whether or not a proper protocol was followed, with or without the mobilisation of reserves — the aims of the war were unrealistic and the pretext clearly immoral. And what if everything had been perfect — the decision making process had been correct and efficient; the forces had been properly prepared; and the battle rations had been sufficient — what exactly would have happened? Would we have freed the kidnapped soldiers? Would we have wiped out Hezbollah? Poppycock and drivel. A state does not go to war over two kidnapped soldiers. An army cannot kill and destroy to that extent without a genuine casus belli.


An unjustified, hopeless war received the automatic and blind support of just about everyone from one end of the spectrum to the other. The commentators, who are now shamelessly drinking the Prime Minister’s blood, sat in the very same studios and told him to go deeper and harder into Lebanon. They kept on advising him to attack and occupy – do anything but stop the war. The 32 soldiers killed in the last battle were only some of those who died in vain in that war, and that’s before we start tallying the other side’s victims. There were so few who took a public stand against the war you could almost count them on the fingers of one hand. It was a popular war like no other, a genuine hit, with over a 90 per cent public opinion approval rating at its beginning. So who are they blaming now and where were they then?


Where were the learned commentators, reserve generals, reporters and the assorted claimants to the “Mr Security” title when all this was happening before our very eyes? If a case could be made that at the beginning at least there was insufficient evidence for the US war in Iraq, the same cannot be said here. Everything was crystal clear in advance. From the very beginning it was obvious that it was impossible to free the hostages or smash Hezbollah,


But the eclipse of reasoning that occurs here every time Israel declares war is not mentioned at all in the dozens of harsh pages of the Winograd Report. As expected, the commission dealt with the organisational, operational and command-structure failures but not with the worldview that underpinned it. It’s that the doctrine that allows Israel to use such a limited rationale to undertake such a broad operation. The Winograd Commission said nothing about this kind of selective blindness, the blindness which will afflict us again in the next war, with or without Olmert.

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