Pay attention – because this magic trick is deadly

“I’ve read everything you’ve been writing, and I am most concerned about what you haven’t been saying.  Not a word about the importance of making peace.  Nothing about the importance of Israel making open and honest declarations about its desire and commitment to making peace.  This is what troubles me.  I care for Israel and I fear that war – as justified as I may truly believe it to be in these past weeks – will not ensure Israel’s future.”

These words, spoken by my uncle earlier today, reminded me again of the true questions that are currently “on the table”.

They reminded me of my college debating years: like a true debate, the immediate issue being discussed – in this case Israel’s bloody confrontation with Hamas- is really only an opening to a much deeper discussion about broader values and questions that are at its foundations and which relate to a much wider range of issues.

For instance, in this case, I believe the underlying questions are:

1. Can unilateral moves by Israel lead the way to a different, more peaceful, reality in our region?

2. What impact can the international community really have in promoting such a reality and as a sub-set of this question, how much consideration should Israel give to the international community’s voice on such matters?

3. Which culture, language, norms and value systems should be predominant in the process of establishing a strategy for peace (and war) – yours or those of your enemy?

And finally, in direct relation to his most sincere comments to me, I add:

4. When is the time to look in the mirror and speak of how to bring peace and when is the time to look directly at your enemy and speak ONLY about war and about how it can and must be won?

I confess that in looking at these complicated questions – I find that I have a strong sense of clarity as to what I think the “right” answers are and I find it most tempting to address them all here and now.  But I think I can provide a sufficient response to my uncle’s comments in context of the fourth and last question above.

The analogy that comes to mind is that of a magician.  In the masterful art of ‘slight of hand’ and misdirection, the magician’s entire act is reliant on his ability to get us to look in a very certain direction at a very specific time.  This is based on the fact that we are not really able to look in both directions at once.

Sadly, this is also true when it comes to international public attention, mass media attention and tragically, even the attention of dedicated organizations such as the United Nation’s Human Rights Council (which has been high jacked by rouge states precisely for this reason – as it obsessively focuses on Israel in a way that is designed to ensure that no real or meaningful attention is given to the many true violations of human rights systematically committed by these very same rouge states).

In this case:
The magician is: Hamas.
The misdirection is: Hundreds of civilian casualties.
The magic is: How Hamas, in spite of the atrocities it commits and it’s public and sincere declaration of war against Israel and western values at large, is still able to get everyone to look in a different direction: at Israel – with questions about the proportion of Israel’s military responses, the comparative casualty rates and of course the efforts Israel is (or isn’t) making to find a peaceful solution to this terrible situation.

That’s why you don’t hear me speak of what Israel needs to be doing to promote peace.  I’m keeping my eyes on the “ball” – on Hamas, and on everything they stand for – and in my blogs and conversations I am trying to make sure that the international community, intellectuals and self declared defenders of human rights do the same.

Yes – everyone says that Hamas is horrible and that Israel has a right to defend itself.  This is like our brain understanding that the person in front of us is a magician and that it’s not really magic – just a trick.  And yet we sit there before him – memorized – and look exactly in the direction he dictated to us.

As we “fall for the trick”, we start asking questions about Israel and in doing do, we do not ask the following questions:

1. How do we – the international community – deal with Hamas in a way that will ensure that foundations for peace, which we will strongly encourage Israel to invest in and commit to, will actually be strong and effective enough to support a lasting peace?

2. How do we – the international community – deal with Hamas in a way that will also serve our greater battle against the religious and rabid fundamentalism that is slowly growing from local ripples to consolidated waves and ultimately into a global and devastating tsunami?

3. When must democracy apply the principles of “Defensive Democracy” in order to ensure the endurance of democracy and the values it promises to uphold, in a lasting way?

These are the questions that must receive our undivided attention.

And yet, after watching too many hours of media coverage by a wide range of media outlets and after listening to official statements and declarations by western leaders – I have come to realize that the magic trick was performed flawlessly by Hamas.  I have come to the troubling conclusion that they understand our culture and manner of thinking much better than we do theirs.  Non of these three last questions which I mentioned are being discussed, because – like the audience of the magician – we cannot look in two different directions at once.

And so, in looking at the direction our magician – Hamas- would have us look, we ignore the other three questions (listed above) and look only to Israel: from it’s use of military force to its efforts (or lack thereof) to promote peace, etc.

THAT is why I have not written one word about the need for peace.  Because now is not the time for such words. Now IS the time to disrupt the magician, because this specific magic trick is deadly.  And when the time for discussing peace will come, the world will find Israel and it’s people willing and ready to pursue it.  The desire for and commitment to peace is ingrained in the Israeli culture and proven in our short history:

  • The very first word an Israeli learns on their very first day of first grade is SHALOM (which means PEACE).
  • Israel is the only country in the world who’s armed force’s name revolves around the concept of defense (IDF – Israel Defense Forces).
  • Israel has already demonstrated a decisive commitment to peace by signing peace agreements with two Arab counties: Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1995) and in both cases have given up land in rerun for… Peace.

But for now, we must all pay close attention. We must all ensure that we are all looking in the right direction, and that direction is the Palestinians (not Israel!).  We must exclusively look at what THE PALESTINIANS can and must do in order to bring forth peace with Israel and what role the international community must play in order to ensure that this happens.

And when Israel – once again – is faced with Arab leaders who openly declare (that is all that is required of them – and open and honest declaration) their desire to make peace with Israel, Israel will – as we have twice before – make peace, even at what will surely be a most painful way for all of us Israelis. This will be so, because contrary to what many around the world may think – Israel is a peace loving nation that hates war with every fiber of its being.

About the Author
Ariel Halevi co-founded Debate Company (now Vayomar) together with Gur Braslavi back in 2003. Ariel holds an MA in Homeland Security and Counter Terrorism and a BA in Government and Diplomacy from the Interdisciplinary College in Hetrzlia (Israel). Prior to his studies, Ariel founded and managed several Israel hi-tech companies. Ariel holds a Master’s degree in Government specializing in National Security Studies and Counter-Terrorism (at the school for International Students conducted in English). During his academic studies, Ariel was the President of the competitive Debate Club at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya and was the Debate champion in Israel for two consecutive years and in Oxford, England.
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