To Save the Soul of Israel

Israeli weapons are being used in South Sudan to brutally murder women and children. We must demand that the Defense Ministry stops issuing and cancels permits for these deals to save the soul of Israel.

In 1911 at the 10th World Zionist Congress in Basel there was a man who felt the Jewish suffering more intimately than any man had since Herzl’s death in 1904. His name was Max Nordau and warned the Congress that although the leaders in Europe claimed to value human life, they would not come to help the Jews when the impending catastrophe would befall them:

The arrogant deception of our contemporary culture has been perceived. How can all those leaders praise and laud using lofty words – the progress on acknowledging the value of human life and justice …Extremely impressive, a true wonder…And when we’ll turn to the nations and ask for help in the name of the ‘human emotion’ , they’ll answer  – ‘humane action ? What will we get out of that?’” (Zionist Writings, Benzion Netanyahu)

Nordau continued to explain that something terrible was about to happen to the Jews and that caring about the Jews was not in the interests of the European nations. Nations interfere in other nations affairs only when it’s in their interests.

One hundred years later South Sudan became independent. Since then an ethnic civil war has been going on between the President and his supporters (the Dinka) and the supporters of the former Vice President (the Nuer) . The civil war has degenerated to mass murder of women and children in the most barbaric way.  Israel , together with America and Europe helped South Sudan achieve independence. Close ties were formed with the South Sudanese government. Arms and military aid were provided. However, in the wake of these murderous acts – has the time not come for a reappraisal of our policy?

Tragically, Nordau was right in his prophecy that the nations of the word would not consider humane action towards the Jews to be profitable. It would be a grave tragedy if we the people of Israel prefer to choose our short term interests over humane action . Humane action is the very soul of Israel. Instead we are fueling the murderous acts against women and children by providing them with arms and training their forces, as if to say “let the kids play in front of us”(Samuel II; 2:14).

One and a half million people in South Sudan have fled their homes because of violence and starvation.
One and a half million people in South Sudan have fled their homes because of violence and starvation.

What role do we want? Do we want the role of having the massive arms industry? How do we we see our power? Is it that we sell arms or that we help people make peace?

Let’s return to our soul – let us live the prophecy intended for us. We can influence the rival factions to find another way. Our role as a nation is to help heal the world of senseless hate. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, “no nation shall lift a sword against another and they won’t learn the art of war.”

Worst of all, the weapons provided have been done so in a secret way that has prevented a public discussion on cooperation with murderers. We have to open wounds in order to bandage and heal.

We must therefore demand the immediate annulment of all permits (given by Israel’s Defense Ministry) permitting selling of arms and giving any other military aid to the government of South Sudan. Our belief in the sanctity of human life is our number one weapon; let’s not compromise it because in doing so we risk losing our soul. This coming Wednesday, we shall demonstrate outside the Knesset at 5:00 PM. We will remind them that the people of Israel (religious and secular , right center and left) believe in the sanctity of life and the members of the Knesset  must represent us.

About the Author
Eli Yossef is an educator, lecturer and activist. He currently works with the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, Machon Meir and Machon as well as in Real Estate. Published works include “The Act” (1992) for which he won the Yair Prize.