The questions lit up the night more than the Hamas rockets from Gaza. “Would the truce hold?” “How can Egyptian President Morsi, openly anti-Israel, possibly broker a peace?” “Is Obama really on Israel’s side?” “The whole tone of the truce starts out treating Hamas and Israel as moral equals – the assassin and the victim. Then they start detailing concessions Israel must make to Hamas. And all of a sudden Morsi’s a dictator? What’s going on?”
Those kinds of questions win smiles and good marks from editors.
But upon my question rests the immediate future of civilization.
Does the Israeli soldier today really resemble the Israeli soldiers who defeated five Arab armies with no real army of their own, destroyed five Arab air forces on the ground before lunch and won the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War and emblazoned their reputation as military madmen best left un-messed with?
As an American Jew, I feel downright guilty at my unbelievable luck. I was born too young to meet Nazis on the battlefield and too far from Hitler’s reach to be gassed and exterminated. I was just the right age, however, to pop with pride at what Israel achieved; not just in war; much more so in peace. I lived through, not only the destruction of those who would kill us, but the destruction of the hurtful myth that “Jews can’t fight!” It wasn’t just the anti-Semites. My best Christian friends believed it, too! All during World War II we heard the sneering smear, “Your brother got drafted? Don’t worry. He’ll wind up in the Quartermaster Corps!” (Handling uniforms and stuff in Ohio. Jews were good at that!)
OK. I grew up thinking Jews can’t fight. “Can’t fight”? Suddenly in 1948 the British abandoned their League of Nations mandate over the Eastern Mediterranean. Israel declared itself an independent nation. Five surrounding Arab armies moved in to throw the embryonic Israel into the sea. And Israel won.
I doubt that anything in modern times has converted so many atheists into believers as that Israeli victory in the War of Independence. Five surrounding Arab nations had armies. Israel had a few rag-tag units, some good anti-terrorist outfits, a Piper Cub airplane and, their best weapon, the driving dream of a Jewish state following Hitler’s Holocaust.
I remember as a boy sitting in awe in the audience in Greensboro, N.C., as giant journalist Erwin Canham, then of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and just returned from Israel’s victorious War of Independence, laid out before our Jewish community the “Miracle of the War of Independence.” He told of the Israeli engineers who rigged up a tunnel-tube device that amplified sound. They set it up. They packed it with dynamite. They set it off. It scared the hell out of everybody, and then they started the rumor that the Jews had the atomic bomb. No surprise; the blast had dissolved that entire sector of the front.
There followed endless terrorist attacks upon Israel and eventually the Six-Day-War. In the most phantasmagoric demonstration of perverted bad taste, there actually were Nazi German veterans of the SS and who, during the Israeli rout of the Arabs in 1967, gathered in Munich beer halls to raise their mugs and congratulate, “Our old friends, the Jews, on their incredible victory.” The unhappiest Israeli soldier I met after the Six-Day-War was a paratrooper. His unit was all set to jump into Sharm el-Sheikh, an Egyptian strongpoint in the Sinai. Sharm-el-Sheikh surrendered. “They just surrendered,” said this Israeli paratrooper bitterly. “Our plane landed normally. We didn’t even get jump pay!”
I wonder if that Israeli paratrooper’s son has that attitude. There have now been Arab-Israel “stalemates” in the years following. When you must win big, and you only tie, you lose. The Israeli excuses are credible. “We’ve been losing the support of the world for reasons we don’t understand, but we don’t want to make it worse by inflating the harm done to civilians, even though the enemy puts civilians in harm’s way for their own propaganda advantage.”
Fighting prowess changes country by country. Don’t forget, once upon a time Sweden – yes, Sweden, conquered Russia! Are Israel’s soldiers today as effective as the ones who twice beat five Arab nations?
The evidence I’ve seen indicates, yes. What made the Israeli so able still obtains today; namely, the Arabs can lose a hundred times and rest and rearm and come back for more.
Israel can only lose once.
“We faced two kinds of enemy,” said a non-gloating Israeli trooper. “Those who ran, and those who took off their boots so they could run faster!” Remember that “driving dream” of a Jewish homeland that made Israel unbeatable? Could it be that a new generation of willing Arab fighters is now driven by the dream of a world without Jews?
Don’t stop me if you’ve heard this. Help me spread it around.
If the Arabs laid down their arms, there would be no more war.
If the Israelis laid down their arms, there would be no more Israel.