An Evening's ThoughtsI am an American Professor now living in Netanya Israel for most of each year. I work with a local College, delivering lectures, writing research papers, interacting with the youth-Jews and Arabs alike. Together with my mate we also own a successful store, we employ both Jews and Arabs. This Friday evening we are taking 12 of our friends and family to our favorite Arab restaurant where we shall be treated with respect and dignity. The service is the best we have ever experienced, anywhere in the world. I also do volunteer work with the Israeli Defense Forces aka the military. I have been in the sea off Gaza, traveled in Judea and Samaria and I have stood watch at selected checkpoints. I am not Jewish-I have been accepted by this country and its peoples.
I mention all of this to provide some background for my next comments. Today we begin the major escalation of the war that none of us want. We have called up 40,000 reservists and they are in respective staging areas as I write, early Thursday morning. These men are doctors, lawyers, business owners, students working on Ph.D.s, blue collar workers from all types of work, clerks in stores, farmers, energy workers and high tech personnel. This is comparable to calling up 2.2 million American reservists-imagine the impact this would have upon your economy, imagine what it is about to do to ours.
The war has cost us over 1 billion dollars for the last 30 days of fighting-this is the direct cost of running the army. We have had to do this-we did not ask for this war. Thirty two days ago we were all sitting with our families, at the parks, by the sea, in our homes, or even in our favorite coffee cafes. Our economy had turned the corner, our northern border was absolutely quiet, our thoughts were directed to simple daily life concerns such as can I now afford the new television or how about finally upgrading our home computer system? We also had thoughts about the summer holiday we were about to take; the first one in 7 years (last Intifada was over, so we thought).
We were hopeful that the world was beginning to better understand what the turmoil in the Middle East is really all about-we were reading and watching some encouraging news. We sat peacefully 32 days ago-we had a signed agreement, ratified by the United Nations-the border between Lebanon and Israel was legally defined and honored-it has been for over 2 years. Those farms that are making the news today had been properly identified as belonging perhaps to Syria but captured by Israel way back in 1967 and if anything, this would be settled when Syria decided it wanted to make peace with us. Kofi Annan even declared all of the preceding complete-signed, sealed and delivered. He did this over 2 years ago.
We knew that Hezzbollah had spent the last 6 years building under-gound bunkers, storing munitions and rockets (delivered by Syria but provided by Iran)-we did not realize how extensive all this was-for some reason our previous governments did not alarm us. Of course, the rationale/justification for Hezzbollah to exist was to fight Israel and force it out of Lebanese territory-it was developed for this one purpose, so we thought, so we were told. Thus, you can imagine the upset when the reason for their existence no longer existed and they began to kill Israels. For all intensive purposes, they had completed their mission and reason for existing.
If truth be told, some of us tried to tell a different story about the Hezzbollah-it appears now that our stories were accurate but the media, the governments and certain political groups within Israel choose to look away, bury their heads in the sand and to fail to see that the "emperor had no clothes on".
We awoke 30 days ago to the start of a war. We were attacked; the enemy crossed over into sovereign Israel, killed several soldiers, kidnapped two, simultaneously firing hundreds of rockets into our towns and communities in the north. Out of nowhere the rockets rained down killing, maiming and destroying people and buildings. When the first news rang across the Israeli TV and radio stations, I was on my way to my daily walk along the sea expecting to return to have a coffee on my patio. Life changed abruptly for all of us that morning!
You know the rest-we have completed 30 days of war. Over 3 thousand three hundred rockets have been fired on Israel proper. Dozens upon dozens have been killed; thousands have been injured and maimed for life. Travel into Israel is down nearly 17%; tourism is hurt again. Virtually all businesses up north have been closed for over 3 weeks. Thousands of acres of valuable forest have been burned; the animals and vegetation could not be saved. Our North has been ravaged by fire. Trees and plants that many Americans actually helped plant-all are gone, all gone. Over one million of our citizens spend the entire day or parts of days inside safety bunkers and have done so for nearly 4 weeks. Estimated cost to business in Israel is approaching 6 billion dollars. Families across Israel suffer this pain, they do not celebrate anyone's death, especially our enemy.
However, the pain of public opinion disturbs all of us, left, right, middle, secular and religious. The operative word is disturbs. We do not appreciate a world which acts with hypocrisy towards us; we do not enjoy the false stories and photographs that have been divulged. We do not enjoy the double standard you hold us to let alone the unwillingness to learn. It is not Israel who began this war. We did not provoke it, yet to hear the media, the pundits and most of the world leaders you would think we were the scourges of the planet. We do not take kindly to this response. Explain to us when in the history of the modern world has a country that has been attacked been given a time line to defend herself? Our military "rules of engagement" are the direct opposite of Hezzbollahs: they intentionally target civilians; we are brought up on military charges if we do the same. What gets under our skins is we know that you know this. We know that it is the enemy's strategy to "play the world's opinion" and you are falling for it-again! If there was ever moral clarity between the two warring groups, it is now-Israel stands tall and is acting ethically-not so for Hezzbollah, Syria and Iran.
We are fighting your proxy war against Iran-you know it and we do so because our survival depends upon it. You are able to sleep peacefully tonight, enjoy a coffee at your favorite cafe, watch your sons and daughters participate in youth soccer programs. What annoys me most is the audacious behavior of those who live far away, safe in your own lives because we in Israel are guarding the gate. We do so first for us and second for you. We have identified the real enemy-it is not the Palestinians or even Hezzbollah. This is definitely NOT about occupation. This is not a war on terror. Terror is the tactic the enemy uses with our populous and on the battlefield. It is time to properly identify the enemy so the correct strategies can be developed and implemented. Although disturbed, we are not tired or worn out. Quite the contrary, we are motivated beyond belief. We use the lies, the revisionist history, the doctored photos and stories to energize ourselves. The enemy's PR strategy does not work, on us! It has the opposite impact-we are responding with renewed vigor. I only ask that you gather your courage and stand up for what is right in this world-you know what is, no one has to tell you. The courageous act is to stand up now, acknowledge what we face and what you face. I thank those of you who "get it" and who are standing tall while "protecting our back."