A story in the NY Times about a very interesting Israeli group, Breaking the Silence (Shovrim Shtika), finally got me motivated to blog about it (I’ve been meaning to for a while). Here’s one bit from the article that was interesting (italics mine):
At the recent talk and discussion session, one man stood and said Mr. Manekin and his friends were hurting Israel, especially its image abroad, in order to salve their own consciences. Many in the audience nodded in agreement. Tall and dignified, about 45, the man said that he, too, had served in the West Bank, “and I’m proud of what I did there to defend Israelis.”
It is crucial to intimidate people at checkpoints to keep them cowed, he said, his voice shaking a little, “because we are so few there, and they are so many.”
Then he said: “These people are not like us! They come up to our faces and they lie to us!”
That was enough for Uriel Simon, 77 years old, a professor emeritus of biblical studies at Bar-Ilan University and a noted religious dove.
“As for liars,” Mr. Simon said, then paused. “My father was a liar. My grandfather was a liar. How else did we cross lines to get to this country? We stayed alive by lying. We lied to the Russians, we lied to the Germans, we lied to the British! We lie for survival! Jacob the Liar was my father!” he said.
As for the Palestinians, he said: “Of course they lie! Everyone lies at a checkpoint! We lied at checkpoints, too.”
Everyone is afraid of mirrors, Mr. Simon said, readjusting the knitted skullcap on his nimbus of white hair. “We hate the mirror. We don’t want to look at ourselves. We don’t like photographs of us — we say, ‘Oh, that’s not a very good likeness.’ We want to be much nicer than we are. But here there are also prophets who are mirrors, who are not afraid of kings and generals. The prophet says, ‘You are ugly,’ and we don’t want to hear it, but we have to look at the mirror honestly, without fear.”
Later, Mr. Simon tried to describe the ambivalence and even confusion, as he saw it, in the room.
The army is central to Israel, and the problems so complicated, he said. At the beginning of the summer war, as in the beginning of any war, including the war in Iraq, “there’s a euphoria that derives from an almost irrational belief in power and force, that the sword can cut through all the slow processes.” It is more enthralling if, like Israel, “you have so much power that you can’t use, and suddenly you can.”
But the euphoria is always short-lived, he said, because no army is as efficient as advertised, and power rarely delivers the clean outcome it seems to promise.
If only the Washington Post editorial board would have understood this.