Creating people's geographies
Ha’aretz 09 August 2006
Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television station would dismiss as feminine and sentimental the view that peoples don’t win wars. Like other Arab analysts, they regard attacking Israeli civilians and engaging the IDF in fierce battles as an Arab victory. But where’s the victory for the 1,000 Lebanese the Israeli army has killed? Where’s the victory in a million people fleeing homes that were bombed and destroyed? Are such losses worthwhile just to demonstrate that a guerrilla group can entangle a regular army and expose such an Israeli weakness?
On the other hand, the non-victory of the other side is not an Israeli victory, even if Israel triples the number of Hezbollah fighters and doubles the number of Lebanese mothers that it has killed so far. Even if the Israeli Air Force wipes out a thousand villages, it would still not bring back to life the Israelis who were killed.
The trauma and economic damages will continue to affect many people’s lives. Even if the cease-fire agreement is closer to Israel’s positions than to Lebanon’s, it would still not be a victory. Israel’s insistence to unilaterally lay down the rules in the region perpetuates and deepens its character as an alien element within it. Israel’s future generations will continue to pay for this obstinacy.
It comes as no surprise that this war has not yet been finished in one fell swoop. For six years, the Israeli army has accustomed its soldiers to regard their assaults in the occupied territories as “fighting” and “battles.” They fostered the myth that there was symmetry between the advanced regular Israeli army and groups of Palestinians armed with light weapons and homespun bombs, scurrying among the tanks and helicopters that are demolishing their houses and fields. Indeed, on a few occasions, the Palestinians succeeded in guerrilla operations that killed or wounded the troops. But these were the exception. The suicide attacks inside Israel attest to the “military” weakness of the Palestinian organizations.
Now the IDF has sent to Lebanon soldiers who have been taught to believe that warfare is running down refugees’ homes with tanks and bulldozers; that a battle is firing from helicopters at fighters with Kalashnikov rifles who cannot even scratch the Israeli tank surfaces. These soldiers think that defending the homeland is preventing hundreds of thousands of people from living like human beings, by operating roadblocks in the territories.
By another twisted standard set by the Israeli army in recent years, homes in northern Israel whose occupants have left to escape the Katyushas are to be designated as “abandoned.” This, after all, is how Israeli military spokesmen justified, initially, the fact that bulldozers systematically demolished the homes of civilians in Khan Yunis and Rafah – civilians who had fled massive Israeli fire.
Bulldozers will not raze the homes of Israelis in the North, but why should thieves, for example, not take from them whatever they can get their hands on? These are, after all, abandoned homes, the thieves will say in their defense, citing the precedents.
Why bring this up today? First, because the war – state cruelty – against the Palestinians is ongoing. Second, because Israel’s double standard and basic contempt for anyone who isn’t “us” explains better than the army’s outdated equipment and faulty training why it has been receiving blows so far and will continue to receive them. Israel is convinced that in Lebanon, as in Gaza and the West Bank, its unlimited power to destroy is both a deterrent and spur to political change. It is ignoring the human factor – that the Palestinians and Lebanese’ fortitude grows in lockstep with our strengthening powers of destruction.
We are justly concerned about the welfare of northern residents, proud of their fortitude, understand those who leave, are shocked by the death of each person and by every rocket hit, and identify with those suffering from anxiety. Take what the northern residents have been going through for a month, multiply it by 1,000, add an economic blockade, power and water cuts, and no wages. This is how the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been “living” for the past six years.
The Israelis allow their army to continue destroying, trampling and killing in the Palestinian territories. Here, like in Lebanon, the real intelligence and security failure is Israel’s ignoring the extent of our uninhibited, unrestrained devastation and their amazing power of human endurance. This is why Israel has delusions of “victories.” If the homemade rockets are still being fired at Sderot despite the Palestinians’ extensive suffering, it is because they have concluded, correctly, that Israel’s destruction power is not intended to stop Qassam rockets – or to free Gilad Shalit. It is intended to force them to accept a surrender arrangement, which they reject not with military victories but with their power of endurance.