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I am writing this article on the eve of Remembrance Day, the day of national mourning, in memory of those who died on duty in Israel's wars. Based on official figures, 22,682 soldiers were killed from 1948 until today; another 3971 lost their lives in terrorist attacks and 111 soldiers died since last year’s anniversary.
According to the Hebrew calendar, Remembrance Day begins Sunday, April 18th at 8 PM. The siren sounds and a minute of silence is observed in memory of those who sacrificed their lives so that Jews from all over the world can have a homeland of their own. 24 hours later, Independence Day starts with sudden joy, instead of pain and sorrow, commemorating the 62 years since the founding of the Israeli state.
It always seemed to me a harsh transition from the mourning in cemeteries and the overwhelming sadness to the fireworks and parties in city squares; but the entire history of Israel is a mosaic of tragedy and success, a mixture of tears and laughter, sad looks and flashes of triumph.
In what follows, I will not mention unknown heroes, nor talk about bereaved mothers who will suffer forever; not about unexpected victories, or orphans, or decorated generals, not even about spectacular and risky military actions that have cost or saved lives. Nor will I mention unpublished stories, or anonymous people who contributed more to Israel from the shadows than those who are in the spotlight constantly or named frequently in the mass media.
Of course, for most Israelis, Remembrance Day and Independence Day have great symbolic value. The entire country is adorned with white and blue flags, hung from the balconies or looking like butterflies out-the-window of rushing cars – the usual way people show their solidarity and share their joy and patriotism. Yet, precisely during such events, I decided to write about certain myths related to Israel perpetuated (in Israel and elsewhere) during these 62 years when the Jewish state "transformed the desert into a blooming garden"; these myths, in my opinion, have proved quite fragile and have not passed the test of time.
Myths and legends
1. Israel has a very well equipped and trained army, the strongest in the Middle East.
False - Even with an impressive military arsenal, it failed to win the confrontation with terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah (Lebanon war) or Hammas (operation Cast Lead in Gaza); these battles extended beyond expectations and the operations revealed weaknesses, contradictory and confusing orders, lack of professionalism, and the failure to achieve its initial objectives.
2. Israel wins any war with Arab countries.
False - With the exception of the Six Day War of 1967, Israel did not win, politically, any of the wars; not in 1973 (Yom Kippur), not even the two wars in Lebanon – all ending in traumatic or unilateral withdrawals. Moreover, many soldiers died killed in "friendly fire” in the chaos of battles.
3. Security and counter intelligence services are exceptional and the Mossad is a gigantic and very capable organization.
False – Mossad agents are less numerous than it is believed; 20 years ago it had only 1,200 members. Today, according to "reliable sources" Mossad numbers approx. 2500. Blunders, such as in Jordan in 1997 (the failure to liquidate Khaled Mashal), or the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January, (if indeed staged by Mossad – it remains uncertain, but probable) highlighted numerous deficiencies, including the mobilization of more than 20 agents for the killing of a single terrorist. In addition, Mossad used identities of Israelis with dual citizenship without their consent (were there really no other alternatives?).
Of course, there were many success stories, most of them unpublicized, but also failures, like the Mossad collaborators captured in Arab countries, or last minute canceled operations due to info breaches and lack of in-depth organization.
In more recent news, there’s the explosive story of Anat Kam, a young woman who copied confidential information from the computer of General Yair Naveh on CD upon her release from the army. Over 2,000 secret documents were turned over for publication to Uri Blau, a Haaretz journalist, now a London refugee. It should be clear that the defense system suffers from serious shortcomings in protecting military secrets if vital materials for national security could be so easily stolen.
4. The Jewish lobby in U.S., supports Israel anyway, is very influential, and the U.S. president will always respect the position of Jewish organizations.
False - Both Rahm Emanuel, Head of Cabinet at the White House, as well as David Axelrod, Senior Presidential Advisor, both Zionists, continue their efforts to compel the Israeli government to make excessive concessions. The Jewish Lobby keeps cheering Hillary Clinton while falling to the charm of Obama's rhetoric. On April 15th, Ronald S. Lauder, president of World Jewish Congress, sent an open letter to President Obama, expressing concern about the change of U.S. Middle East policy, as manifest in the unilateral pressure on Israel.
5. Israel has the atomic bomb, which will always confer military superiority in the area.
False - Even if Israel has the atomic bomb (not officially recognized), Israel will not be the first country to use nuclear weapons in a military conflict; at the same time, Israel is being pressured to plan simultaneous denuclearization of itself and Iran. Egypt and Jordan are strongly requesting international inspection of Israel’s nuclear weapons. I believe the day when Obama gives an ultimatum putting Israel on par with Iran is not far away.
6. Jews love their country and, in moments of difficulty, they are united.
False - More and more Israelis citizens request second citizenship at various embassies, under the pretext that their descendants want to pursue studies in EU countries. They privately admit they “don’t know what the future holds”— the subtext clearly pointing to the dangers threatening Israel today.
7. Israel is a strategic ally of the U.S., and given preferential consideration by the American administration.
False – U.S. needs peace and a prosperous economy; US wants to get rid of the burden of the Afghanistan war and sending troops to Iraq; President Obama's current policy reflects a rapprochement to Arab countries that works to the detriment of Israel.
8. Israel gave in and will always give in to American pressures.
False – Under Prime Minister Shamir, the Israeli government opposed various U.S. initiatives and the current government coalition will force Netanyahu to oppose Obama’s demands, despite appearances. The current crisis between the two countries will worsen, because both the government and the majority of Israelis feel the American president has gone too far and the U.S. policy has changed radically.
9. Israel's population is mentally prepared for a long war.
False - Israel cannot afford long wars (months or longer) because the economy would suffer; civilians would be bombed through long-range missiles launched from Lebanon, Syria and Gaza; and, in the case of military conflict, Iran (who wishes Israel’s liquidation) could act solely through proxies, with no need to shoot even one bullet.
10. U.S. will defend Israel, guaranteeing its security.
False – in the event of a sudden war outbreak, before American troops can be deployed in the area, half of Israeli cities would be destroyed by missiles, together with refineries, ports, the international airport and the army headquarters located in the heart of Tel Aviv. In such an extreme case, Israel would probably respond by bombarding the center of Damascus, Beirut and Tehran; of course, Israel would be immediately condemned, followed by international sanctions. History shows that UN resolutions and diplomatic actions have been mostly unilaterally against Israel.
11. Israel does not give in to terrorist blackmail.
False – Israel already gave in to terrorists during Rabin’s administration. Furthermore, both Sharon and Olmert agreed to humiliating conditions exchanging terrorists in for dead soldier bodies. Soon, Netanyahu will be equally willing to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails for a single soldier kidnapped by Hammas, Gilad Shalit. The Entebbe rescue mission (Israeli military units flew into Uganda and freed the Air France passengers hijacked by the Abu Nidal terrorist group supported by Idi Amin) remains a nostalgic legend.
Illusions and realities
I mentioned above only a few myths related to Israel's military power and its special relationship with the USA. They are legends and illusions deeply rooted in the minds of Israelis. Beliefs create feelings of euphoria - smoke screens that prevent people to notice the dramatic geopolitical changes in recent years, the shift of power in international relations and Israel’s modified importance for the U.S. government and Western Europe.
Middle East dynamics and demographic changes have moved the interests of big powers to openly court the Muslim world. Interests always override principles, but more so recently in the Western countries wherein massive Arab immigration has impacted both political and electoral preferences; Israel has now become an inconvenience to the Western world. Although Iran's nuclear arm threat is real, the proposed sanctions against it are ridiculous and inefficient, while Ahmedinejad openly despises the values of democracies and threatens Israel's liquidation.
Israel's population seems unaware of the imminent outside threats, the international isolation or even its internal changes. The Zionist state has become a land of shopping malls, a consumerist society wherein human relationships have deteriorated, ideals are fuzzy and money rules. You could say Israel is now like any other country, for – in a world open and globalized – humanitarian principles have been cast to the wayside.
Between freedom and arrogance
The situation is more critical for Israel, because arrogance has taken the place of modesty, creativity and the desire to build a modern state. Zionist ideals have turned into political and/or religious extremism. We live in a minefield, blinded by myths and illusions, while the international community considers Israel (even if not openly) an embarrassment and a destabilizing factor. But we cannot ask others to support us politically, when we pretend not to see Israel’s failure to impose itself both as military force and as political promoter of initiatives capable of resolving belligerent situations and the demographic imbalance. This perception will continue to grow, recently exacerbated by the American president’s comparison of Holocaust and Naqba - obviously a cold shoulder turned to the Jewish state.
With Israel’s internationally isolated, many countries would perceive its disappearance from the world’s map as a relief. I cannot foresee immediate solutions, only further deterioration of the present situation. Yet, a first step would be to abandon illusions. We need to place certain myths on “a shelf with the rest of Israeli history” and look at the changes happening around us with eyes wide-open.
Perhaps some readers will think I exaggerated in stating myths or in my attempt to dispel them. Others will feel I lack sensitivity by publishing this when Israel commemorates its fallen soldiers and celebrates 62 years since its founding as a state. But I feel it is now, between mourning and joy, that we must shatter false beliefs and face reality with courage; now is the time to understand current circumstances and stop “getting drunk” with illusions – so that Israeli soldiers who died in wars would not have sacrificed their lives in vain.
Israel’s Independence Day should stand not only for the creation of the state but also for our spiritual liberation, the renunciation of conventional legends and the adoption of new ideals suited to the new and serious political and social situation. Otherwise, parents will continue to bury their children while we object that Western countries watch indifferently the doomsday scenario of Israel’s destruction. It could well be that the same Jews who “turned the barren desert into a blossoming garden” will become a nation of refugees one more time.
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