Not learning the right lessons

Last night’s massive protest in Tel Aviv against Ehud Olmert may have looked impressive on TV, but the reality… was far different. Ehud Asheri explains:

How many people would have participated yesterday in a demonstration that would have called for a bold diplomatic initiative, including negotiations with Syria? Myself and two thousand others, tops. Nevertheless, this is the only reasonable demonstration that should have been held against Ehud Olmert. Instead, about 100,000 (maybe) showed up to express a general gut feeling: remove the man who failed to bring them victory. Just like frustrated soccer fans demanding the sacking of the coach, in the false belief that only a new coach can win the championship for them. This was the broadest and genuine common denominator of the children of all the tribes that gathered in Rabin Square last night; this is the main dynamic behind the disproportionate campaign that transformed the Second Lebanon War to the twin of the Yom Kippur War and has reached its peak at the rally; everyone spoke of “responsibility,” but they were really yearning for a victorious leader to restore their lost pride. Just for that it is worth starting another war.

The excited atmosphere was fueled by the excessive and revolting use of the war dead as firm proof of the leadership’s failure. When the bereaved parents are mentioned over and over again, you feel manipulation creeping up the back of your neck; when the protesters send Olmert “to work as a gardener in the military section [of the cemetery],” you understand that cynicism has overcome even those with good intentions; when the Winograd Committee dedicates the report to the memory of the “flowers, the IDF soldiers who were picked before their time during the war” (but forgets the civilian victims), you are unwittingly taken to the halls of populism (“they left behind a crying mother, a worried father, a sad brother, a yearning wife and a baby,” the committee waxed poetic); and when Ilana Dayan says in her program “Fact”: “I listened to Judge Winograd for half an hour and most of the time I thought about Yehudit Sela, the mother of Ben, who was killed in Debel,” it is obvious that the rationale has been lost, even among the most rational commentators.

So the multitude of Western commentators who are praising the Israelis for conducting the report in the first place should get a grip and actually ask themselves what Winograd truly stated. This was not about preventing another pointless and immoral war (Israel’s military and political elite are too blood-thirsty for that.) No, it aimed to tell Israel that maybe another leader could have done better, destroyed Hizbollah and… achieved peace. This delusional thinking will only lead the Jewish state into another war soon enough (and for their own sake, hopefully lose that one, too.) Sometimes, humbling defeat is the only way for a nation to truly understand its failings. For Israel, though, it seems to have achieved little more than baying for the heads of Olmert and Peretz.

Only when open-ended US support disappears will Israel pay the necessary price for its folly. By then, however, it may be too late.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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