Gustavo Surazski

A letter from Ashkelon

A letter from Ashkelon

David and Goliath


Rabbi Gustavo Surazski

Kehillat Netzach Israel – Ashkelon


Yesterday we heard that southern Israel reached the city of Zichron Yaacov. Unbelievable! No one would ever say that Massachusetts is a southern state in the USA or locate the province of Cordoba in the south of Argentina. In Israel the south should be the Negev. However, in Israel, “south” is not a definition that refers to geographical coordinates. It is a line that has moved northwards over the years and since yesterday is located about 70 km from the northern israeli border with Lebanon.


However, Hamas not only managed to make geography books obsolete.  It also made international organizations like the UN and much of the pro-Palestinian international press a travesty of what they profess to be.


Actually, the fight between Israel and the Palestinians is a struggle for the sake of narrative.


Today, the Israeli narrative is virtually ignored by international public opinion. According to this, the Jewish people lived in the land of Israel since biblical times and after being sacked by the Romans in 70 CE continued dreaming of returning to the land of their ancestors. The creation of the State of Israel in 1948 was the political expression of the self-determination of the Jewish people. The seed of the modern state of Israel did not sprout in the death camps. Israel was founded despite Auschwitz, not because of Auschwitz. The First Zionist Congress took place half a century before the Holocaust. And nostalgia for Jerusalem is mentioned in the book of Psalms.


This israeli narrative collapsed in the Six Day War (1967). Until then, Israel was seen in much of the world as a living example of historical reparation. A people who managed to rise from the ashes of Auschwitz and build their own state in adverse and hostile circumstances. A weak but resilient people.


Everything changed from that decisive war. Israel -in the eyes of much of the world- became a strong and assertive state; to others eyes, Israel became an imperialist and oppressor state. In that 1967 war, Israel justifiably went on the attack, and the attacker usually has bad press. The progressive and leftist public opinion -almost automatically- likes to identify with the side that is perceived as weak. Israel, in their eyes, no longer is David but Goliath.


The Palestinian narrative argues that Israel is a racist state that expelled the Palestinians from their land and their homes. Palestinian armed struggle aims to liberate the occupied Palestinian territories. Often, the Palestinian narrative is “enriched” with other elements that are an insult to intelligence. For example, it is often said that the Temple of Jerusalem never existed, and that the historical connection of the Jews with their eternal capital is nonexistent. Once it was said even that the Palestinians are direct descendants of the Jebusites or that Jesus was the first Palestinian.


The press bought the first part of the Palestinian narrative; the second part, for the moment, is not widely accepted.


Clearly, media that report without any agenda are technical and boring. And since the main purpose of the media is not reporting but selling, it presents readers and viewers with a simple picture of a conflict between two sides, between good and bad, strong and weak, oppressor and oppressed, David and Goliath.This model, transformed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a gross and cheap Hollywood movie, where no shades are seen between black and white, between the supreme evil and the absolute goodness.


I do not think Israel has ceased to be David; the problem is that the fragility of Israel is not a military fragility. Israel has a strong army, but its immense military power can never be used in the service of its cause.Israel does not fight Hamas with what it has, but with what it can. Like David, Israel has a single shot, no more than that. And as the son of Jesse, he must be accurate and avoid collateral damage.


Hamas, for its part, never ceased to be Goliath. Its military power is negligible compared to Israel’s but it has neither scruples nor tied hands. This gives enormous effectiveness to its relatively little power and transforms its narrative into an epic cause of heroism and freedom.


The Western pro-Palestinian media are a travesty because they support a narrative that holds water no more than a sieve.  If Israel is a racist state, how is Hanin Zuabi, who justified the killing of three Israeli teenagers in June, a member of the Knesset who continues to draw a salary?  If the territories are occupied since 1967, why was the PLO established three years earlier in 1964? If the intention is to expel Jews from “occupied” territories, why does Hamas shoot rockets from land that was abandoned by Israel in 2005?  If the PA wants peace talks with Israel, how can it share government with an armed movement that calls for the annihilation of Israel?


How can the pro-Palestinian West live with the idea that the perpetrator is actually the victim? Or with the idea that the weak is the strong and the strong is the weak? The binary model proposed by the pro-Palestinian press, does not tolerate this kind of annoying questions.


The world looks on from the side. At best it is silent, at worst consents.


About the Author
Rabbi Gustavo Surazski is the Rabbi at Kehillat Netzach Israel, the Masorti (Conservative) congregation in Ashkelon.