The great untold story of Operation Cast Lead was the level of euphoria and national unity that gripped Israel. Those who think the era of miracles is over will have to explain this sudden wall-to-wall political consensus in Israel.
In what is arguably the most contentious society on earth, public opinion polls were showing a 94% approval rating among Israeli Jews for the military action against Hamas. Almost the same percentage opposed any cease-fire that did not include the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.
The emergence of this sudden national consensus came against a backdrop of an international wave of naked anti-Semitism on a level not seen in decades, and of Israeli Arabs almost uniformly expressing both opposition to the operation and outright hatred of Jews and the Jewish state.
The really amazing thing, however, was that the man responsible for the surge of good feelings and patriotism among Israelis was the most unpopular and probably the most corrupt politician in modern Israeli history.
Ehud Olmert already had one foot out the door of the Prime Minister’s Office before the shooting started, and many believed his other foot was headed straight for prison. Olmert’s approval ratings before the Gaza war were not significantly above zero. Yet within moments of his ordering the commencement of operations, Israelis were closing ranks behind him in a way that caught nearly everyone by surprise.
The rest of the world may be united in denouncing Israeli “brutality” and the supposedly disproportionate level of Palestinian casualties. But Israel was just as united, at least for the moment, in celebrating the beginning of the end of its era of national self-debasement and capitulation.
Israeli television stations and newspapers reported in great detail on the countless anti-Israel demonstrations all over the world, down to and including the swastikas and the chants that Hitler had been right. This only seemed to augment the sense of national unity and determination among Israelis.
The devotees of Hamas could march on Western campuses all they wanted, Israelis seemed to be saying, but we will deal with the savages in our own way.
The new Israeli national unity manifested itself even in the face of the distorted and maniacal denunciations of Israel for its alleged insensitivity to the plight of Palestinian civilians.
Of course, the same world media that failed to challenge the lies surrounding the infamous “death” of the Gaza boy Muhammad al-Dura back in 2000 kept repeating the Hamas “estimate” as if it were a scientific finding from an unimpeachable source.
In any case, clearly the bulk of the Palestinian dead were armed genocidal terrorists. The usual “human rights” organizations, which have never acknowledged that Jewish civilians in the Negev are entitled to their human rights, kept claiming that a quarter of the dead were “children.” Of course, they count any 17 year old killed while firing a bazooka at Jews as a “child.”
My youngest son spent most of the war dodging rockets in Netivot, a town of 26,000 in the Negev near the Gaza Strip best known for serving as the spiritual center for Moroccan Jewry, with its shrines of leading Moroccan rabbis. Netivot was hit by more than its fair share of Hamas rockets.
Home for a weekend, my son watched the televised images of a Palestinian man sitting on a pile of rubble that had once been his home and sobbing about how there is no justice.
“You do not like having your house blown up?” my son responded to the TV screen. “So who told you to start firing rockets at me?” He speaks for nearly all Israelis.
And then of course there was all the whining by the media about how Israel was preventing convoys of supplies from entering Gaza, as if the Allies in World War II had sent convoys of supplies to Berlin when it was under siege. A caller to an Israeli radio program put it rather succinctly: “So release Gilad Shalit and stop shooting rockets at us and you can have all the supplies you want; in fact you can shop in Israel and use our hospitals and beaches.”
Even some – though certainly not all – members of the country’s dwindling far left came out in support of the operation. (I say “dwindling far left” because half have woken up to the fallacies of leftist thinking while the other half have morphed into outright anti-Zionists.)
Consider the following developments, which would have been unthinkable a month ago and which are a very small sampling of the changed mindset in Israel:
The novelist A.B. Yehoshua, leader of Israel’s leftist literary soviet, wrote a scathing article telling off an anti-Israel columnist at the far left anti-Zionist daily Haaretz.
The popular singer Arik Sinai, long associated with Tel Aviv bohemian leftism, suddenly went on a Zionist crusade, complete with bashing of leftist anti-Zionists.
Street protests in Israel against the war consisted almost exclusively of Arab students and Jewish members of the pro-terror HADASH communist party.
The Israeli national consensus opposing the declaration of a cease-fire by the Olmert team was almost as broad as the consensus in support of the actual fighting.
* * *
Within days of the new cease-fire, however, it was becoming clear that Olmert had blown the whistle before the team had finished its work. The abandonment of Gilad Shalit was just part of it. The new cease-fire would allow Hamas to re-stock its armories and replenish its rocket warehouses.
Hours after the cease-fire went into effect, Hamas’s smuggling tunnels were being repaired and returned to operations. Worst of all, most of the Hamas leadership remained alive.
Even more worrisome, the Olmert people were reverting to the approach that had produced the rocket blitz on Israel in the first place. After eight years of a policy of restraint that had achieved absolutely nothing, turning the other cheek was being restored as the national defense policy.
Olmert and Livni were back to offering land for peace, reaffirming that two decades of giving up land and getting war in return had taught them nothing. For decades Israeli leaders had agreed to one unilateral cease-fire after the next. These bought Israel nothing but demonization in the world media.
After their brief incarnation as fierce Zionist warriors, Olmert and his pals were once again pretending that Mahmoud Abbas and the PA were something different from the Hamas; that they were reasonable people who yearned for peaceful coexistence with Israel and with whom deals could be struck. And Israel was again offering to release hundreds of terrorists from captivity.
If there was one lesson Israel should have learned over the past eight years, it was that Israeli restraint buys neither goodwill for the country nor moderate behavior on the part of Palestinians. For eight years Hamas and its affiliates in Gaza fired rockets at Jewish civilians, while the Israeli government’s main response was to turn the other cheek and order the country just to wait passively for Hamas to run out of ammunition.
Israeli leaders had deluded themselves into thinking that if only the world would clearly see unprovoked Palestinian aggression and terror, Israel would enjoy a public relations Xanadu. Especially after the Israeli government, for the sake of peace, drove all Jews out of Gaza.
The expectation that restraint would boost Israel’s image was among the stupidest of the delusions of Israel’s Osloid leadership. The world not only ignored the thousands of rockets fired at Jewish civilians, it went to contorted moral lengths to justify them.
For decades Israel’s leaders misunderstood and misjudged anti-Semitism and they continue to do so now.
Anti-Semites and those with totalitarian ideologies always reverse cause and effect. For them, every atrocity against Jews is a righteous protest against Jewish wrongdoing and Israeli misbehavior. Every retaliation by Israel is an unprovoked criminal act of malice and Nazi-like aggression. It is exactly like claiming the Japanese were the victims of American aggression at Pearl Harbor.
The real problem is that the Anti-Israel Lobby does not consider Jews to be human. Therefore Jewish deaths never matter and Jewish lives are expendable. Because Jews are not quite human, they can never be entitled to the right of self-defense or permitted to engage in it. Anti-Zionism has now been thoroughly Nazified. There can be no other word for people who insist that Jewish life is worthless and that Jewish deaths never count.
If Olmert had responded to the firing of thousands of rockets at Israel by merely sneezing in the general direction of the terrorists, thousands of protesters would have take to the streets and the campuses in Europe and America to denounce this as a disproportionate response and a war crime; many would no doubt describe it as an act of biological warfare.
Absolutely nothing can ever be gained by Israeli restraint, except to demonstrate weakness and fan terrorism. But that insight, clear to any reasonably intelligent seven year old, was too complicated for Israeli officials who for eight years ordered residents of Sderot and the other towns of the Negev to sit and take it. Sderot had been turned by the Israeli government into an undefended Guernica, its children traumatized, its families reduced to paupers.
* * *
Another delusion that fell victim to Operation Cast Lead was the notion that Israel’s far left, while perhaps dangerously na?ve, is not at all anti-Semitic or self-hating.
Over the past two decades a malignant plague of anti-Semitism has swept the left, including the Jewish left. It affects Jews in the United States, in Europe, and even in Israel. While 94 percent of the Israeli public was solidly behind the soldiers and the attack on the Hamas infrastructure, the Jewish left was out at the forefront of the pro-jihad Nuremberg marches, waving Hamas and PLO flags, demanding international boycotts of Israel, calling for a Hamas victory.
The Jewish-born British Member of Parliament ranting about how Israel is a Nazi regime was just the tip of the iceberg. While the Arab regimes themselves were letting everyone know the contempt they felt for Hamas, Jewish leftists were out displaying their contempt for Jews, from the members of J Street to the Reconstructionist “rabbi” leading a pro-Hamas rally in Philadelphia,.
Those who thought that “Jewish anti-Semite” was an oxymoron will have to think again. Increasingly, the left, and especially the campus left, produces a mass of Jewish collaborators with the enemy, the Jewish equivalents of Taliban John. Just about every Israel-bashing newspaper and Internet site now features anti-Jewish columnists and writers, many of them Israeli faculty members.
But the rudest awakening of all at the end of Cast Lead came with regard to the Israeli far left, led by the academic fifth column. For years, the pursuit of leftist silliness has been just as fashionable on Israeli campuses as it’s been on campuses in the U.S. and Europe. As Orwell wrote, some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals can believe them. As the guns in Gaza began to fall silent, a number of Israeli leftists emerged from their bunkers with a vengeance, sabotaging the consensus of patriotism that had filled Israel during the war.
Ben-Gurion University, the campus with arguably the largest number of anti-Israel extremist faculty members, was shut down for weeks as Hamas rockets bathed Beersheba. Several rockets landed close to the campus. Public-school buildings in Beersheba were destroyed by rockets. Yet leftist faculty members at BGU went on the warpath against Israel and in support of Hamas. In an article titled “Black January,” BGU sociologist Lev Grinberg proclaimed Hamas terrorists to be the true Maccabees, struggling against the evil empire:
I admit that I find the name “Cast Lead” in bad taste because of its allusion to Chanukah and the Maccabees who fought against a mighty conqueror. If indeed there is a struggle here of the weak against an occupying empire, it is the struggle of Hamas against Israel, not the other way around. Our self-image as the weak victim is utterly surreal and trapped in the mythology of the Jews as the ultimate victims, regardless of reality…. The firing of missiles by the prisoners in protest against their starvation was interpreted as aggression, while their oppression by their jailers was interpreted as self-defense.
Grinberg had earlier denounced Israel’s targeting of terrorist leaders as “symbolic genocide.”
Neve Gordon, a BGU lecturer now serving as the chairman of political science at the university, turned out one pro-terror anti-Israel article after the next for anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi websites, denouncing Israel as a criminal entity. In one, he excoriated Israel for bombing the Islamic “university” in Gaza that was serving as the storage warehouse for the very same rockets being fired at his own university campus.
Oren Yiftachel, a professor of geography at Ben Gurion University who has made a career out of denouncing Israel for being an “apartheid” regime, cheered the firing of rockets at the children of Sderot and Netivot as the moral and just response of Palestinians “imprisoned” by Israel firing at their “jailers.”
At my own University of Haifa, left-wing faculty members exploded in a wave of outraged protests when the campus heads decided to fly Israeli flags as a gesture of solidarity with the embattled residents of the Negev towns. The leftists claimed this would be insensitive because it would offend the pro-jihad Arab students who fill the campus.
The most important lesson of the past eight years, at this late stage understood by everyone except university leftists and most Israeli politicians, is that nothing will really put an end to the terror and rockets other than some good old-fashioned R&D – Reoccupation and Denazification.
Everything else is a delusion.
Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at the University of Haifa. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.