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"When the state disappeared, unfathomable courage emerged" and "it's time to exile all Gazans to a different part of the world"

Glimpses into some of what's being said in the Israeli press, along with a video of David Broza—Israel's James Taylor—singing with a soldier he happened upon at an army base

From YNet yesterday, a glimpse into an emerging mood:

“From Hamas’ perspective, it has already won, and the bombing campaign has only entrenched that view.

“Netanyahu is apparently not interested in a ground incursion. That means that Hamas is going to continue to rule in Gaza, will keep its weapons and its leadership will remain alive. But it also means that Hamas has finally defeated Abu Mazen in the minds of Palestinian society. The death and the destruction only strengthen Hamas.”

(article by Avi Issacharoff)

Why no ground incursion (yet)?

There are multiple suggestions being offered as to why the ground invasion has not gotten underway. Some say is it Biden, pressuring Israel to wait because he wants more time to get the American hostages out. Others are reporting that American military experts are warning Israeli leadership that the IDF has no idea how to engage in the kind of urban warfare it is planning, and that it has no coherent plan for what to do in Gaza. Others point to Netanyahu’s long-standing aversion to costly military ops, and argue that he has gotten cold feet. Still others say that the ground invasion is what will spark war in the north, and all the bravado notwithstanding, Israel’s military leadership is not certain that it can prevail against both Hamas and Hezbollah at the same time—and if the West Bank erupts, then all bets are off.

What the real reason is—or real reasons are—the public does not know. And how this will actually play out, no one knows.

But if the ground invasion is shrouded in fog, what is crystal clear is that Israel has to rethink almost everything. With that in mind, we’re sharing today two opinion pieces from Friday’s Makor Rishon, because they express perspectives and views that are not making their way to the English press very much.

The second piece will likely ruffle some feathers. We are sharing it here not because I agree—and not because I don’t—but because it is important to understand what is bubbling in the minds of thoughtful Israelis. And if the proposal at the heart of the second piece strikes you as extreme or absurd, that’s fine—just ask yourself what you would say if the author asked you, “then what do you propose?”

That’s where Israelis are getting stuck.

And finally, because there are sweet moments even in dark times, an informal video of the moment that David Broza—more or less Israel’s James Taylor—went to visit soldiers and came upon a young woman who told him that she loves to sing. So he took out his guitar, and away they went.

Ran Baratz, formerly close to Netanyahu but now calling for his resignation the day that the reservists are released back to their homes and families, is a well known, highly articulate Israeli conservative writer and journalist. Widely respected, he is a fiercely independent mind.

Baratz, almost as an aside, has some “interesting” things to say about “Diaspora mentality” versus “Israeli mentality.” Israelis have been told in recent years that it’s not PC to say such things, but that never meant that most of them stopped believing it. Now that Israel is going to go through such a deep soul searching about its very purpose, be prepared for a lot more “denigration of the Diaspora.” After all, many Israelis are certainly going to say, “if we’re all of the same import for the future of the Jewish people, why live here, after this?”

Making the new case for Jewish statehood will almost certain fan the still glowing embers of “denigration of the Diaspora” in months and years ahead —my bet, at least.

The following is a rough translation of his column from this past Friday’s Makor Rishon:

For many long hours on a Shabbat that was blacker than black, the State disappeared. But then, in a war of survival against armed monsters, there arose from below an exceptional bravery that we had already forgotten exists.

First of all, we need to take a deep breath. To stare reality in the eye, and to speak only the truth. For too long we have been lying to ourselves, and we have allowed others to lead us into calming illusions.  Now we have to recognize that the security challenge before us will be long, and will require serious engagement and rethinking.  There is going to be a battle over Gaza, maybe also in the north, but it would be a mistake of historic proportions to think that when those are over the security crisis will have ended and that it will be possible to return to a norm like that which prevailed before the Shabbat of the pogrom.  We have to change entirely our national priorities, for in the interim what has been exploded is not only a series of comfortable lies, but also fundamental security conceptions—and not only ours but also that of our enemies. 

But before that, out of the deep national pain the sort of which this country has never known since it was created, I want to deny in no uncertain terms one claim, which is understandably a natural reaction to the horrible slaughter, but which is also entirely false from a historical perspective: that Zionism has failed, because we were just subjected to the worst pogrom since the Holocaust. 

There is no question that the last clause is correct.  The enemy hit us horribly, and with its well known satanic impulse aimed its murderous knife at our civilian belly.  But there is no doubt that the first clause is mistaken.  It is not Zionism that failed, it is the State that failed.  The security system and the decision makers failed.  But Zionism? 

On that Shabbat we were thrown 75 years backwards in history.  For a number of hours, we returned, entirely surprised to 1948.  All the advantages were the enemy’s, all the disadvantages were ours.  Bunkers and hiding places, the few against the many, overwhelming attacks on civilian towns, defense brigades scarcely armed, teenagers and retired people who fought against well-armed and well-trained Hamas units.  And even worse, there were army outposts that were taken by surprise and penetrated, as Hamas had precise intelligence and commando units that silenced the IDF and the local and national command.  For long hours Israel the State did not exist.  There were only civilians. 

But there at the bottom of the bottom, outside all the technological “it seems to me” games of the failed top brass and the totally detached politicians, when the Jewish people was cast without warning to the lowest of places, to a war of survival fought by hand against armed monsters, one thing became clear beyond doubt; we have absolute superiority over the enemy. In those moments, we saw heroism that cannot be described in words, sheer courage that we had forgotten even exists, supreme bravery, which we’d long told ourselves we no longer needed. 

The heads of the army ignored reality. Our leadership forgot what it is meant to do. They believed with all their hearts that there could be no war. That everything depends on the air force, and technology, and cyber, and intelligence, and special ops. That we are in no way vulnerable to any conventional threat. Arrogance won out over everything. The utter lack of professionalism and the haughtiness eviscerated clear thinking, the most basic military know-how, any security or national responsibility. 

But at the moment of truth, when the self-impressed command collapsed, the response came from below in the form of soldiers from Golani, Nahal, the armored corps, and more, who held the line in battle until they had fired their last bullet and even then they continued to fight. In the form of female and male citizens who made up the volunteer security brigades of the towns, who engaged in fierce firefights. In the form of reservists and police officers who as soon as they heard that something terrible had happened, grabbed weapons and flew to the south of their own accord. They surged and attacked in the face of fire to try to save anyone they could. There were tons of these people. The stories of heroism are hard to believe. Every single one of them shouldered, without asking, without doubt and with no hesitation, the heaviest possible national burden. In those accursed hours, the state disappeared, but what appeared was the People of Israel.  

Even in the midst of our horrific pain, we need to remember that this was the exact opposite of Diaspora life. That there was no Jewish community in the world that could have exhibited this kind of courage in these dimensions with this kind of skill. We paid a huge price for the professional and conceptional failures of the highest level of the security and political established, from the level of the strategists, to the decisions in the field. It is obvious that the failure was enormous. And still, the historical comparison is crystal clear. In every Jewish community, over the centuries, after pogroms, the Jews were left fundamentally helpless, in pain, and despairing. In Israel the exact opposite happened. The pogroms ended with determined counter-attacks and turned into a counter-offensive. We do not feel helpless. Rather, we feel an entirely different emotion—rage. 

This rage is fundamentally different than that which Diaspora Jews experienced. Rage is the opposite of fear, the opposite of helplessness, the opposite of despair. This rage is the proof of the fundamental change we have undergone [DG — as a result of Zionism]. We are angry at the leadership because we know [that Zionism made it possible] for us to shape reality. That we control the situation. That our destiny is in our own hands. That is the very heart of the Zionist revolution. 

So yes, the state failed. But Zionism won. On that blacker than black Shabbat it became crystal clear that the People of Israel are not cobwebs, they are characterized by neither privilege nor weakness. At the moment of truth, what arose here—in a matter of minutes—was a courageous warrior people. In war, when all is said and done, it is not the Air Force that wins, not cyber, not technologically sophisticated fences and not “windbreakers.” It’s the warriors who win. And on the day of the pogrom it became clear; Israel is a nation of warriors. We are all warriors and we will not retreat from our life’s trenches. 

In these circumstances, no enemy can defeat us. We have many problems to solve, without question. We suffered a horrific blow which will echo in Jewish history for eternity. But even in that moment when the leadership and the state completely failed, we were not dependent on the goodwill of others. There was no cowardice here, rather the opposite, truly exceptional heroism. And that is why this people will defeat its enemies. Even if our leadership proved to be like the generation of [DG — the Isrealites in] the desert, this people is built of Caleb and Yehoshaua Bin Nun.

We are back in 1948 in yet another sense—because there is still a great deal to say about the tectonic changes awaiting us both strategically and operatively, about the new map of threats that this failure has now created for us, about the national and security challenges and from the lessons we can already learn from our national mistakes. We are in a Ben-Gurion moment of dramatic decisions and building from the ground up—in terms of our consciousness and in terms of our institutions and power.

But now we know– it is possible because the spirit of 1948 is still with us. Because Zionism won—and will continue to win. Abundance and success hid that fact. The political rivalries created a sense that the tear in the social fabric could not be repaired. The power grabs of national organizations which control budgets and power diminished our own involvement and our personal responsibility. The People of Israel slumbered, but at the moment of true test, distress and crisis, they were awakened from their slumber, shook off the dust of complacency, and behold: a lion.

Israelis are facing an unfolding crisis, but also an important opportunity to rebuild. If you would like to share our conversation about what they are feeling and what is happening that the English press can’t cover, please subscribe today.

Yehuda Yifrach is a journalist, and the head of the legal desk at Makor Rishon.

“The earth became corrupt before God; the earth was filled with lawlessness. When God saw how corrupt the earth was, for all flesh had corrupted its ways on earth, God said to Noah, ‘I have decided to put an end to all flesh, for the earth is filled with lawlessness because of them: I am about to destroy them with the earth’” [Gen 6:11-13]. The flood which descended on our land has drowned the narrative that the State of Israel constructed for itself, so now the state is suffering from vertigo. Our story has collapsed, our narrative has been mutilated—we have no idea how to build a sane picture out of an insane reality. 

The government has decided to topple Hamas and to deny it any military or ruling capacities. The problem is that while it is possible to recapture the Gaza Strip and to kill all of Hamas’ leaders, Hamas is first and foremost an idea, and it is not possible to kill an idea. The worship of the sword and of death is emblazoned on the hearts and minds of millions of Palestinians who were nursed on jihadistic toxicity from their earliest days, and they know no other taste. “Thou shall kill” is the foremost of their Ten Commandments. That is what they learn in kindergarten, that is what inspires their school plays, that is what they train for in their youth and are sacrificed for in adulthood. That and nothing else is the content of their life. As long as they remain on that sliver of land as a distinct national group with self-rule, the lava will continue to bubble below and it is only be a matter of time before it bursts forth and destroys everything. 

The significance of this is that there is no point in capturing the Gaza Strip without moving its population to a different place, where it will live under a different rule and a different organizing narrative. From a rational perspective this is the only solution that will allow the state of Israel to uphold its most elementary obligation—the promise of sane life for its citizens. …

The vast majority of the people of Israel, along with significant portions of leaders of the Western world, understand that the situation is not complex, but rather dichotomous. That we are in a moments when a new approach is born, that we have been drawn into an epic armageddon, a war which we have no choice but to fight, a ar between the sons of light and the sons of darkness. And most of the leaders of the West understand that the results of this battle will affect not only Israel but the world order itself. That if Israel loses, the evil axis of Iran–Russia–Syria–Hezbollah–Muslim Brotherhood will dramatically alter the balance of power with regard to the West. Yet, our strategic thinking has not changed, for we have grown accustomed to thinking in terms of “controlling the conflict” or “shrinking the conflict.” This conclusion presents Israel with an enormous challenge—the ethical justification (both domestically and internationally) of a national process of encouraging Gazan migration. This will be an overwhelming undertaking, for the West has come to think of encouraging migration as the gravest of sins. The West is going to have to undergo a conceptual revolution, it is going to have to understand that this solution is both the most moral and the most humane option.

In this new reality, encouraging Palestinian migration from the Gaza Strip is a moral act of the first order. The reason is simple; if the existence of a Hamas population threatens the existence of the Jewish state, then defending the Jewish state by way of moving the enemy population beyond a threatening distance is a moral act. The Jewish and universal moral command, that is embodied in the phrase “and you shall choose life” obligates me to be responsible for defending myself, my family, and the members of my people. If I endanger my people, that is a not of morality, but of moral corruption. If I create a situation in which Israeli citizens will die, or will be wounded, or will shake with fear at night, that is an immoral act. Murder, pogrom and the slaughtering of Jews wherever they may be are an absolute evil  that should never be tolerated. A pogrom is a sin not only if you are the attacker; it is a sin even if you are the victim and you failed to prevent the attack when you could have. Standing passively in the face of threat of murder is an immoral stance. Just as it is immoral to be an attacker and harm the innocent, so too, it is immoral to be the victim of ideological passivity. 

Moving the Gazan population would be the most humane and ethical step for the residents of Gaza themselves. A baby born there is born into a black world where there exists nothing but murder and blood, poverty and ignorance. The Gaza Strip is a cursed land without a future, without hope, without a dream. If there are in the Gaza Strip “innocents”, the only way the Western world can grant them the option of a sane life is to dilute them among other populations that live normal lives, go to learn and to work and earn an honest wage. That sort of normalcy will never be possible for them within the Gaza Strip. For the “innocent non-combatants,” this would be an act of pure grace.

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“You’ve got a friend”

You might be familiar with some of David Broza’s more popular songs like Yihye Tov (Things will be fine) or Mitachat La'shamayim (Under the sky). He’s one of many Israeli singers who have been traveling south to give concerts for IDF soldiers, to raise morale.

In the video at the top of this post, Broza sings with Israeli soldier Osher Beniso in the town of Ofakim.

VIDEO CREDIT: Josh Breiner (Twitter) RT @Hakufsah: דויד ברוזה המלך ממשיך להסתובב בדרום ולשמח את החיילים והתושבים. בביקור שלו היום באופקים, פגש בש.ג. חיילת בשם אושר בניסו שסיפרה לו שהיא אוהבת לשיר. זה מה שקרה כשהתחיל לנגן את "You’ve Got A Friend"... ❤

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Israel from the Inside with Daniel Gordis
Israel from the Inside with Daniel Gordis