This morning, Israel appears to have lost more than the battle. We seem to have lost the war.
Because if our justification for killing civilians, which happens in war and we must stop apologizing for it (especially when the enemy uses human shields), is that the Israeli government and army have an obligation to protect our own citizens ABOVE ALL, then by agreeing to stop BEFORE ensuring that the enemy is demilitarized, our government essentially conceded that we had no right to go to war in the first place.
I am reminded of two points I learnt in a wonderful two-year parenting course, given by a Rebbetzin Salenger of Neve Yaacov.
The first point has to do with defining victory. We can only “win” an argument with our children if we have CLARITY, if we know WHAT we want and THAT we truly want it.
For instance, if I am not convinced that my child really must eat her vegetables, then I will not be able to put my foot down as clearly to her as I put my foot down on “clear” issues such as seatbelts. In order to achieve my goals, to win my arguments, to get my children to do what I feel they MUST do, I have to be totally clear to myself that I really believe in what I am saying.
If our government truly believes that the Israeli citizens living within missile fire of Azza TRULY DESERVE TO LIVE WITHOUT FEAR OF MISSILES, they would stop at nothing to ensure their safety. The Jews, Bedouins and loyal Arabs living in Southern Israel have lost because the politicians don’t really believe that their blood is as red as the blood of the rest of us. And that, to paraphrase Stephen Covey, is because we, as individual citizens, don’t seem to feel that “the periphery” is as valuable as “the centre.” This is reflected in our investments, in our choice of places to live and work, in our political parties and their agendas.
We can demonstrate against the government all we like, but as long as each of us, myself included, don’t prioritize those who have been marginalized – the People and the Land – “talk is cheap.”
As with our arguments with children about eating habits, we have to clarify with ourselves: How important is the South? How important are its residents?
If we are totally clear that this a priority and worth fighting for, then we will show this in our actions; in our interest in their local news; in our visits there; in our relationships with the residents there; in our involvement in those communities; in our volunteering and donating as well as cooperation as equals; and that will (eventually) be reflected in the media and by politicians.
The next issue , after the clarificaition , is our justice system. As parents, Reb. Salenger taught, we must reward and punish according to intent much more than according to the result. A famous “Moral Cognition” test asks a child: Who deserves a stronger punishment: George who tried to get a drink for his mother, but the pitcher slipped out of his hand and broke along with four glasses; or Bill, who angrily threw one glass on the floor, smashing it.
An immature child will say to punish George more severely because he caused more damage, while a more mature child recognizes that Bill was purposely destructive, while George was not trying to do any harm.
Reb. Salenger’s example, as a morality test to parents, was: Whom do we punish more harshly (if at all) , the child who threw sand at his playmate but missed, or the child who ran to his mother and accidentally knocked over another child who was running the other way.
The child at the park who throws sand at others, even though he was not strong enough to get it into his friend’s eyes, intended to do harm. In order to prevent this from happening again, he must be castigated as if he had succeeded.
The Israeli justice system is missing this important point on many levels. All drunk drivers must be treated as attempted murderers, and sentenced accordingly. And those who support terror, those who support the murder of Jews / Israelis because they are Jewish / Israeli must all be treated like Nazis.
Hate crimes are not defined well enough in our law books, nor in our personal interchanges. At the same time as the government is clamping down on anti-Arab graffiti (as it must), we see that anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli media and schoolbooks, cartoons and MK’s comments, are often ignored. Yes, it is a type of thought police – because if we wish to outlaw hate crimes, we must stop hate speech, hate literature, not just against minotrities. We must not tolerate hatred agaisnt ourselves (or “other Jews / other Israelis” either. The line must be clearly drawn between “Jewish humour” and anti-Jewish humour.
As individuals, we must also check our own behaviour and tolerance for crime. Do we forgive our friends for misdemeanours which we would not accept if committed by non-friends? Are we more interested in reading about and decrying one group’s ills than another’s? Do we think in stereotypes?
While we must complain about the government’s impotence against those who spend all their money, time and resources on hating us, we must check if this public behaviour is simply our own private behaviour writ big.
Our first step, within each of our selves and families, is to be clear on our goal to create a society in which EVERY CITIZEN’S life, security and comfort is a priority – and, yes, that means more of a priority than that of illegal immigrants, and certainly more of a priority than that of enemies.
The next step is to demand laws which focus on intent as much as deed. The thief who is caught immediately is as guilty as the thief who is caught a year later. The politician who accepts bribes “for a tzedaka organization” is as guilty of perverting justice as his colleague who keeps the “baksheesh” for himself. The rape of schoolmates must draw as much national self-scrutiny as the allegations of a “revenge murder”. And, the shooting of missiles at civilian targets is not less of a war just because Gd watches over us, preventing missiles from exploding when they land next to gas balloons or inside populated homes, or giving the Iron Dome such supernatual success.
It is our own standards of love for one another a well as intolerance for crime and hatred, that will dictate how our government will treat the residents of Israel’s periphery and how the army will be told to respond to enemy attacks.