What Made Israel Burn Lebanon, Again?
By ARTHUR NESLEN
(Arthur Neslen is a journalist working in Tel Aviv. The first Jewish employee of Aljazeera.net and a four-year veteran of the BBC, Neslen has contributed to numerous periodicals over the years, including The Guardian, The Observer, The Independent and Red Pepper.)
"But why pursue this objective by force of arms, at the cost of hundreds of lives, before even considering the diplomatic option that was available from day one?
Partly because Israeli society holds a longstanding inclination towards overwhelming force preferably involving collective punishment whenever an Arab force militarily defies it. But where does this prejudice come from, and why has it proved so pernicious?
'We strike like the wolf strikes,
We come like the wind and are gone,
And the fascist feels our clenched fist,
Our clenched fist, our clenched fist...'
The clenched fist allegory evokes two defining characteristics of Israeli Jewish identity, eternal victimhood and its Zionist riposte, the 'new Jew'. Early Zionist leaders such as David Ben Gurion, Ze'ev Jabotinsky and Arthur Ruppin were anxious to construct Israeli national identity around this unyielding and aggressive prototype. Nordau called it 'muscular Judaism'.
Zionist groups had not been distinguished in their physical resistance to anti-Semites in Europe but they were gladiatorial in their assaults on Palestinian communities. Moshe Dayan was frank about it: 'We are a generation of settlers and without the steel helmet and gun barrel, we shall not be able to plant a tree or build a house."
Those who resisted learned how Moshe Dayan's steel helmets and gun barrels provided their housing insurance. 'If we try to search for the Arab it has no value, but if we harass the nearby village,' Dayan said, 'then the population there comes out against the [infiltrators]. The method of collective punishment so far has proved effective.'
As successive waves of migrants arrived in the holy land, the "new Jew trope required them to prove their worth as Israelis. Holocaust survivors became the most merciless warriors of 1948; Arab Jews, the most fearful anti-Arab racists. The meek Orthodox establishment won their spurs as gun-toting hilltop bigots, while Russians today flock to Avigdor Liebermann's Yisrael Beitenu party of ethnic cleansing. They marched there all with fingernails piercing their palms.
Safer to say the phoenix will prevail, and each time more barbaric. For the poisoned bird of prey feeds on the hatred it creates as it hovers above the ruins, unable to fly, its talons clenched and bloody, its screech of 'a nation's right to self-defence' an agonised cry for help that might better translate as 'Stop me before I kill again'.
Washington listens, and sends more bombs."