Days of darkness- By Gideon Levy


In war as in war: Israel is sinking into a strident, nationalistic
atmosphere and darkness is beginning to cover everything. The brakes we
still had are eroding, the insensitivity and blindness that characterized
Israeli society in recent years is intensifying. The home front is cut in
half: the north suffers and the center is serene. But both have been taken
over by tones of jingoism, ruthlessness and vengeance, and the voices of
extremism that previously characterized the camp’s margins are now
expressing its heart. The left has once again lost its way, wrapped in
silence or “admitting mistakes.” Israel is exposing a unified,
nationalistic face.

The devastation we are sowing in Lebanon doesn’t touch anyone here and
most of it is not even shown to Israelis. Those who want to know what Tyre
looks like now have to turn to foreign channels – the BBC reporter brings
chilling images from there, the likes of which won’t be seen here. How can
one not be shocked by the suffering of the other, at our hands, even when
our north suffers? The death we are sowing at the same time, right now in
Gaza, with close to 120 dead since the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, 27 last
Wednesday alone, touches us even less. The hospitals in Gaza are full of
burned children, but who cares? The darkness of the war in the north
covers them, too.

Since we’ve grown accustomed to thinking collective punishment a
legitimate weapon, it is no wonder no debate has sparked here over the
cruel punishment of Lebanon for Hezbollah’s actions. If it was okay in
Nablus, why not Beirut? The only criticism being heard about this war is
over tactics. Everyone is a general now and they are mostly pushing the
IDF to deepen its activities. Commentators, ex-generals and politicians
compete at raising the stakes with extreme proposals.


Haim Ramon “doesn’t understand” why there is still electricity in Baalbek;
Eli Yishai proposes turning south Lebanon into a “sandbox”; Yoav Limor, a
Channel 1 military correspondent, proposes an exhibition of Hezbollah
corpses and the next day to conduct a parade of prisoners in their
underwear, “to strengthen the home front’s morale.”

It’s not difficult to guess what we would think about an Arab TV station
whose commentators would say something like that, but another few
casualties or failures by the IDF, and Limor’s proposal will be
implemented. Is there any better sign of how we have lost our senses and
our humanity?

Chauvinism and an appetite for vengeance are raising their heads. If two
weeks ago only lunatics such as Safed Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu spoke about
“wiping out every village where a Katyusha is fired,” now a senior officer
in the IDF speaks that way in Yedioth Aharonoth’s main headlines. Lebanese
villages may not have been wiped out yet, but we have long since wiped out
our own red lines.

A bereaved father, Haim Avraham, whose son was kidnapped and killed by
Hezbollah in October 2000, fires an artillery shell into Lebanon for the
reporters. It’s vengeance for his son. His image, embracing the decorated
artillery shell is one of the most disgraceful images of this war. And
it’s only the first. A group of young girls also have their picture taken
decorating IDF shells with slogans.

Maariv, which has turned into the Fox News of Israel, fills its pages with
chauvinist slogans reminiscent of particularly inferior propaganda
machines, such as “Israel is strong” – which is indicative of weakness,
actually – while a TV commentator calls for the bombing of a TV station.

Lebanon, which has never fought Israel and has 40 daily newspapers, 42
colleges and universities and hundreds of different banks, is being
destroyed by our planes and cannon and nobody is taking into account the
amount of hatred we are sowing. In international public opinion, Israel
has been turned into a monster, and that still hasn’t been calculated into
the debit column of this war. Israel is badly stained, a moral stain that
can’t be easily and quickly removed. And only we don’t want to see it.

The people want victory, and nobody knows what that is and what its price
will be.

The Zionist left has also been made irrelevant. As in every difficult test
in the past – the two intifadas for example – this time too the left has
failed just when its voice was so necessary as a counterweight to the
stridency of the beating tom-toms of war. Why have a left if at every real
test it joins the national chorus?

Peace Now stands silently, so does Meretz, except for brave Zehava Gal-On.
A few days of a war of choice and already Yehoshua Sobol is admitting he
was wrong all along. Peace Now is suddenly an “infantile slogan” for him.
His colleagues are silent and their silence is no less resounding. Only
the extreme left makes its voice heard, but it is a voice nobody listens

Long before this war is decided, it can already be stated that its
spiraling cost will include the moral blackout that is surrounding and
covering us all, threatening our existence and image no less than
Hezbollah’s Katyushas.


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