Published by The Freeman Center
The Maccabean Online
Political Analysis and Commentary
Restraint Is Not Heroism
by Nadia Matar
With his article, "The Wailing of Sderot Compared to the Heroism of Gush Katif" (Hatzofeh, June 20, 2006), journalist & commentator Hagai Huberman joins a few of the deportees from Gush Katif with whom I spoke, all of whom express themselves more or less in the same vein: "The residents of Sderot are crybabies. Look how they\'re going mad in response to the Kassams falling on the city of Sderot. We in Gush Katif continued our routine lives, and we didn\'t wail over the Kassams that fell."
I read and hear these things, and I just don\'t believe them. Do you want to tell us that you are proud of having continued the sacred "routine," without having cried out "We can\'t bear it?" Don\'t you think that the response by the inhabitants of Sderot is the normal reaction in light of the not-normal situation of mortar shells and Kassams falling on a civilian population, day after day?
It is specifically the response of the residents of Sderot that is correct! Their message is clear: "It is inconceivable that daily life will go on in the country when the murderous enemy attacks civilians in an Israeli city. We will not remove the issue from the national agenda until the government will do something about this. Whether this is the cutting of electricity to Gaza or the razing of Beit Hanun from where the Arabs shoot- it doesn\'t matter what - we will not remain silent until you deal with the Arab enemy who is attacking us. This is the government\'s duty: to defend its citizens." These are the messages that are broadcast from Sderot. We will not enter into the debate regarding the type of protest (personally, I oppose hunger strikes and closing down the city under attack; in my humble opinion, instead of shutting down Sderot, Ramat Aviv and the vicinity of the Knesset in Jerusalem should be shut down by the Sderot residents and their supporters), but the bottom line is: the residents of Sderot have set out on a vociferous struggle.
The fact that the media highlights several individuals who are willing to leave the city is irrelevant. We know that most of Sderot\'s residents are staying put, just as our brethren from Gush Katif did. The media always found in Gush Katif the one individual who announced that he was packing and leaving. So what?
When the Gush Katif leadership and rabbis silenced our brethren in Gush Katif and lulled them to sleep, and prevented loud and vociferous protest, as a considerable part of them had demanded, they did an injustice, not only to Jewish morality (for how can one remain silent when Jews are attacked), they also did a great injustice to the struggle to save Gush Katif, and the entire settlement enterprise in general. When the victim remains silent, we cannot expect that anyone will come to his aid. No one interpreted the silence and restraint of the Gush Katif leadership as heroic. To the contrary, anyone who is silent when attacked, broadcasts the message that he does not deserve protection, that he admits that he is a second-class citizen, that his blood and the blood of his children doesn\'t count for as much as that of the inhabitants of Tel Aviv. Obviously, I know that this was not the intent of the leaders of Gush Katif, but as we see, the way to deportation is paved with good intentions.
Who knows where we would be today if the Gush Katif leadership had screamed a resounding "We can\'t stand it any longer" already when the first mortar shell and the first Kassam fell? Who knows if things would not have turned out differently if the Gush Katif leadership and rabbis had acted as does Sderot\'s leaders, and exceeded all bounds to protest, to cry out, and - mainly - not to remain silent.
And this should not be addressed only to the leaders and residents of Gush Katif. Where was the entire national camp; where were we all, when Kassams fell on Gush Katif or when Arabs killed our brethren in shooting attacks on the roads of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza? How did we dare continue our daily routine, as if this were a decree from Heaven about which nothing could be done? How was it possible that the leadership of the national camp and its rabbis did not demand that we put a complete stop to our everyday life, so we would not stand by while our brethren were murdered? Yes, it transpires that we all sinned the sin of the silence of the lambs. And, incidentally, we are still guilty of this sin of silence today - a silence that enabled the malicious government of destruction to carry out its wicked goal of deportation all the easier, without conscience pangs, and without the inhabitants of Israel and of the world sensing that a crime had been committed here.
Thus, instead of leveling criticism at the "wailing" of our brethren from Sderot, I propose that we learn from them. Not only must we support them, we must ensure that, from now on, we, too, the residents of Judea and Samaria, who are candidates for ruin and deportation, must not be silent and carry on with our normal lives. Unlike the inhabitants of Sderot, who face only an Arab attack, we, the residents of Judea and Samaria, must contend with the double war that has been declared against us: the Government of Israel has joined together with the external enemies of Israel, and they act together to destroy the settlement enterprise in Eretz Israel - as a first step towards the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state and its transformation into a state of all its citizens. Accordingly, our protest, our outcry, and our struggle must be even more assertive and determined than the battle waged by the residents of Sderot. Our struggle is not one to save some settlement or other, it is a battle to save all of the Land of Israel.
And so, we will go forth with a cry of fighting both Arab terror and the decrees of the internal foe - the Government of Israel. Yes, it is true, we will not win the sympathy of the media as is the case with Sderot, but it is a known psychological fact that someone who respects himself is respected. If we exhibit restraint, remain silent, and act as if "we look like grasshoppers to ourselves" (Num. 13:33), so we will look to them, and they will succeed in deporting us with ease.
But if we struggle, already now, against every decree (starting with a determined and uncompromising struggle for each and every outpost [settlement]), and cry out over every terror attack, the authorities will begin to think of us as a force that does not intend to turn the other cheek, not to the Arabs, and certainly not to the "leftists."
Women For Israel\'s Tomorrow (Women in Green)
POB 7352, Jerusalem 91072, Israel
Tel: 972-2-624-9887 Fax: 972-2-624-5380
TIME FOR ISRAEL AND AMERICA TO
END THEIR POLICY OF RESTRAINT
By Bernard J. Shapiro
"He who is merciful when he should be cruel will in the end be cruel when he should be merciful."...Midrash Samuel (Jewish rabbinic text from early Middle Ages)
From the very early days of the Haganah and continuing with the emerging Israel Defense Forces (IDF), there was a policy of self-restraint or havlagah. This policy mandated that defenders could only return fire, hold their positions, and never to engage in counter-terror. This policy was based on the false premise that the Arab masses did not support the war against the Yishuv (the Jewish population before independence) and then the State of Israel and would be brought into the conflict if Israeli forces were too aggressive. There were some good and practical reasons for restraint in the early days. There was legitimate f! ear that the British would cut off immigration if the Jews were to go on the offensive against the Arabs. Havlagah was essentially a Haganah (Labor/Socialist) policy and many supporters of Jabotinsky\'s Revisionist Zionist movement broke off from them to form fighting units (Irgun Zvai Leumi and Stern) unrestrained by that policy.
The modern IDF was dominated by Labor and quickly adopted the policy of restraint and the concept of "purity of arms" as its official doctrine. The later reinforced the former by adding that a soldier should never have to obey an illegal order to commit some atrocity. The enemy, including prisoners of war, should be treated with dignity and civilian populations should be spared as much harm as possible, even if this causes greater Israeli casualties. There was some flexibility in this strict moral code.
This policy of restraint may have been practical during the pre-state days and even during the! early years of Israeli independence. These periods were characterized by weakness and relative dependence on foreign goodwill. Following the Six Day War in 1967, the need for havlagah decreased and the damage it caused began to become more evident. Israel became the preeminent power in the Middle East, yet failed to grasp the strategic opportunities that came with such dominance. Here are some of the historical highlights of the failed policy of restraint:
1. Following the Six Day War (1967) and the capture of Jerusalem, Moshe Dayan turned over control of Judaism\'s most sacred place, the Temple Mount, to Moslem authorities. He did it to appease their sensibilities to the Israeli capture of the city. Jewish rights were ignored to please the defeated Arabs, who had plotted our destruction. Dayan also prevented a mass exodus of Arabs from YESHA, which ultimately led to the problems we face today.
2. During the War of Attrition with Egypt (1969-70), the Israeli forces adopted primarily a defensive posture. They built a system of bunkers (The Bar Lev Line) along the Suez Canal. Israeli soldiers were heavily pounded daily by Egyptian artillery. Finally they began to use aircraft to strike targets deep into Egypt. The policy of restraint kept them from striking anything but military and minor economic targets. Israeli soldiers died because the government was inhibited from causing Egypt \'real\' pain.
3. The Yom Kippur War of 1973 is a classic example of restraint run amok. Israeli military intelligence did not fail to recognize the approaching danger as has been the common account. In fact, Israel\'s leaders made the political decision not to utilize the great power of the IDF to crush the Egyptian and Syrian armies that they KNEW were planning to attack. Thousands of Israeli soldiers died needlessly.
4. The Camp David Accord with Egypt was another example of the failure to exert Israeli power. The oil fields of Sinai would have given Israel economic independence from America. The cost of redeployment from Sinai placed Israel in almost permanent debt to American diplomacy (often pro-Arab). Did Israel achieve anything worthwhile at Camp David? I think not and believe history will bear me out. Egypt has become one of the most ant-Semitic and hostile Arab countries in the world. As a result of Camp David, the Egyptian army now threatens Israel, having been equipped with the most modern American weapons.
5. During the War in Lebanon (1982), the IDF reached Beirut and then failed to complete the destruction of the PLO. Our enemies were allowed to escape and prepare to fight another day. Why didn\'t the Israeli Navy sink the ships loaded with PLO troops (including Arafat) as they fled Beirut? RESTRAINT!
6. In 1987 the intifada began and the Israeli forces showed great restraint and thus were incapable of crushing it. Of course, Israel received no credit in the Western media for such restraint. The failure to defeat this uprising began a process of demoralization among the Israeli population.
7. The Persian Gulf War (1991) and the SCUD attacks on Israel led to further demoralization. The failure to adequately respond to Iraq\'s aggression and the humiliating sealed rooms, led to a rapid decline in Israeli morale and desire to defend itself. More and more Israelis began to feel impotent, weak and fatigued with the continuous battle for survival. The Oslo Accords were the logical outcome of this depression and feeling that they could not sustain the struggle.
8. The Oslo Accords (1993) were the ultimate failure of the policy of restraint. Israel like America actually was very powerful. The IDF was unequaled in the Middle East while the US was the most powerful nation in the world.! Yet despite this power, Israel\'s leaders, were ready to grant equal status to a band of murderers and ultimately create a state of "Palestine" which would challenge its right to the Land and its capital of Jerusalem.
9. Israeli forces in Lebanon should have been given a free hand to \'punish\' all those who facilitate attacks on them including Syria, Lebanon, and Iran. There should be no more agreements that tie Israeli hands.
The damage caused by havlagah (restraint) has been immense and it far past time to reverse that policy. Americans have been viciously attacked in Africa, Yeman, and Saudi Arabia. The attempt to try to criminalize terrorism has been a dreadful mistake. Terrorism is sponsored by states who allow their territory and funds to help the organization of terrorist. The Oslo agreement allowed Arafat to set up terrorist headquarters near Israel\'s heartland. From there he sent terrorists to attack Israel. With plausible deniability he claims "he is not responsible."
Dr. Aaron Lerner of the Independent Media Review & Analysis in Israel reports that Palestinians are celebrating attacks against USA across the West Bank Israel Radio reported this afternoon that young Palestinians across the West Bank are celebrating the terrorist attacks against the USA - waving Palestinian flags and handing out candy. There are reports of shooting in some places but it is not clear if it is Palestinian police trying to clear streets of celebrants or Palestinians shooting in the air.The largest crowd, according to Israel Radio, is in the Balata refugee camp.
The American State Department policy of equating terrorist and defender equally must stop. This kind of moral equivalency allows the terrorist to believe he can do no wrong.
Both America and Israel must massively and disproportionately retaliate for terrorist attacks. The murderers of Americans and Israelis must be stopped. It is not impossible but it will be a long and difficult battle.
Bernard J. Shapiro is Executive Director of the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies and editor of THE MACCABEAN ONLINE, its monthly Internet magazine.