Don't turn the other cheek

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 |  Tsvi Sadan

A disturbing exposé in the weekend edition of the Hebrew daily Ma’ariv features the testimonies of Israeli soldiers serving in Judea and Samaria who, contrary to the ongoing lies about Israeli cruelty, are forbidden by from reacting like soldiers, even when their lives are in danger.

Due to Israeli army restrictions against using force on Palestinian assailants, we are treated to images where, for lack of any other option, soldiers are fleeing from the scene, locking themselves in their vehicles or forced to endure to verbal abuse and sexual gestures aimed at humiliating them, and to humiliate our soldiers is to humiliate Israel.

This policy of non-violence that calls on Israeli soldiers to "contain" themselves is based on the false supposition that human beings operate best when reason is detached from emotion. One can hear politicians and generals repeatedly say things like “we should follow our minds, not our guts.” Therefore, since humiliation comes from the “gut,” soldiers must learn to ignore it. But they can’t, no one can.

“Containment” is an Orwellian term meant to hide bewilderment and fear. Global anti-Israel sentiments bewilder politicians and generals, and cause them to be indecisive. The fear factor, contrary to the slogan “we should follow our minds,” is the fear of possible legal consequences that may result from decisive actions. Bewilderment and fear therefore paralyze our leaders, who in turn paralyze our soldiers.

Though it is tempting to compare of Israel’s “containment” policy to the New Testament’s virtue of “turning the other cheek,” it is unlikely that Jesus even imagined that his lofty principle would be used to justify lack of faith and wisdom. I must say that this policy worries me, because I have seen it and its results before. Israel’s unilateral and hasty withdrawal from South Lebanon in the summer of 2000 happened because of bewilderment and fear.

Israel’s position on the effectiveness of the military zone in South Lebanon had for years been eroding. At first this erosion manifested itself in the construction of massive fortified military posts inside Lebanon and aggressive operations against Hezbollah. But as the erosion deepened, seasoned generals patented the “containment policy” in an attempt to justify passivity in order to minimize their own personal responsibility in case things went poorly. In its final stages, soldiers were ordered to lock themselves in their bunkers in case of attack. Hezbollah, as a result, was able to raise its flags undisturbed over “conquered” Israeli military posts. Finally, under negligent public opinion against an Israeli presence in Lebanon that grew out of proportion, Israel hastily withdrew, abandoning its allies in the process. A similar process preceded the so called “disengagement” from Gaza.

Ma'ariv’s exposé shows serious erosion in Israel’s position in regards to Judea and Samaria. If this kind of containment policy continues, its final outcome is already written on the wall.

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