Jonathan Zausmer

Pillar of Clouded Judgement

As you may recollect, the pillar of cloud was a beacon to guide the children of Israel during their exodus from bondage: it represented guidance, clarity, leadership and freedom.

Operation Pillar of Cloud has been erroneously translated from Hebrew into English as “Operation Pillar of Defense” but not by chance. Clearly the elements of guidance and clarity do not apply. Defense does.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its baby brother the Ministry of “public diplomacy and diaspora” aka the hasbara dept. have chosen this term appropriately to describe the current Gaza war.

Let us be clear. Hamas is a racist supremacist organization that advocates the destruction of Israel. It manifests a policy of fundamentalist religious intolerance and violence. Its leader in Gaza, Ismael Haniyeh pays tribute to Osama Bin Laden. It commits war crimes by targeting innocent civilians with rocket fire. Israel has a right and a duty to defend itself.

What is not clear? Goals are not clear. Diplomatic and strategic goals are not clear. Long term goals are not clear. What remains clouded? The timing, the consequent motives and one targeted assassination.

Skirmishes, rocket attacks and retaliation are not new in Southern Israel. Friction on the border with Gaza is a continuing problem. The prevailing theory among current government advocators is that the previous Olmert government “did not do the job properly” and “left a mess” for others to clean up in Gaza. One of the most successful operations in decades was not good enough for them. Flak from the Goldstone report was not devastating enough for them. We needed, according to these purveyors of spin, to “finish the job”. What is that exactly? In an enlarged city crammed with humanity, the Israel army must do what? Bomb it to smithereens? Ethnically cleanse it? Wage a ground war at a massive cost of human life to find the core 20 Hamas leaders who will be replaced by another 20? Let me assure all the hawks who know better in retrospect: Netanyahu – Lieberman Incorporated will not achieve more. The “job” as they like to say will not be finished. They will reach a temporary cessation of conflict, exactly as was achieved before.  And the longer it takes to get there, the more troops that are involved, the greater the collateral damage will be for Israeli soldiers and Israel’s stature among nations. Netanyahu, Barak, Lieberman and the Israeli people know this.

So what are Israel’s long term strategic goals and what are the short term benefits?

With respect to the Palestinians the current government of Israel has no long term strategic goals. It has no diplomatic road map. It has no vision of peace. It works on the short term. It drifts on a political current of short term exigencies and political threats from within.

Fresh in our minds is the targeted assassination of Ahmed Ja’beri, the chief of staff of Hamas military operations. An enemy, a terrorist and a dangerous adversary. According to Gershon Baskin who brokered the deal to release Gilad Shalit, something that neither Olmert nor Netanyahu’s emissaries managed to do, Ja’beri is a highly respected and skilled leader with influence. According to Baskin Ja’beri was in the process of advocating a long term cease fire which was to be relayed to Israel’s leaders. According to Baskin, the government of Israel was informed of this and knew this immediately prior to his assassination. Baskin is a man to be taken seriously. Gilad Shalit, free and alive, is the proof of his credentials. If this is correct, it warrants inquiry. Could it be that Israeli lives would have been saved? But hey, with rockets flying above us let’s just bunker down now and break their backs. Baskin who?

Not fresh in our minds is another assassination. A strategic target that is being eliminated as we speak. It’s called the two-state solution. The perpetrator: the movement for a Greater Israel. The instrument: the Likud party under the domination of its massive settler constituency that votes en bloc. The vehicle: the Government of Israel. The means: continuous, consistent, obdurate settlement in the territory designated for a future Palestinian state. In order to understand why and how this works, one needs to understand the Palestinian psyche. In the same way a rocket from Gaza is an assault on our country, robs us of our sense of well-being and threatens our lives, for Palestinians who’s national ethos (justifiably or not)  is displacement and loss of homes and assets, expanding settlement and arrogation of land is viewed much the same. How can one compare loss of life to loss of land? Our entire Zionist endeavor and the establishment of the Jewish State has been one of sacrifice and loss towards a goal of independence and statehood. Palestinians are losing faith in the two-state solution. Israel has obliterated it as an option. Abbas’s policy of non-violence, fulfillment of Bush’s roadmap, adherence to full cooperation between Israeli and Palestinians security forces has brought no results. They are further from statehood than ever in the past.

Abbas declared that he recognizes Israel’s right to exist. He has stated that he forgoes his right of return. He says the Palestinian state is in territory only beyond 67’ lines with a recognized border with Israel. Remember the interview only days before the current Gaza conflict. Clouded, right?

Remember the social justice movement two summers ago? Clouded, right?

Remember Barak could barely get two mandates for his splinter non-party? Clouded, right?

Remember the shock of the Likud-Beteinu announcement? Could a classic revisionist philosophy find a home together with sectarian pugnaciousness?

At this time, that’s all clouded by the fog of war.

Iron Dome is keeping us safe. The Israel Defense Force is keeping us safe. Netanyahu is keeping us safe. Lieberman is keeping us safe. Barak is keeping us safe.

It’s very safe. As long as you remember the rules and find a safe zone when you hear the alert. Lovely and safe and warm and cozy in the shelter.

They say a negotiated cease fire may ensue but there are some problems finding reliable people on the side of Hamas. There was that guy who delivered Gilad Shalit. What was his name?


Good riddance.

Got to run now – back into my warm cozy shelter.

About the Author
Originally from South Africa, Jonathan made aliya in the seventies, and lived and worked on a kibbutz for several years. He has a graduate degree in business from Boston University and is a managing partner of an Israeli based business. He was a co-founder of the Forum Tzora peace action group and participates in the Geneva Initiative workshops. He is the author of the book “Valley of Heaven and Earth”.