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Israel's Cardinal Fault

The Muses and Death

by SHLOMO SAND

When the muses thunder, the guns stay silent. The adage, habitually inverted, is inaccurate.

The propaganda sirens are never as loud as when the cannons, the planes and helicopters buzz and spit their fire. The television chains, in Israel and elsewhere, with their journalists, commentators and special correspondents have, between the advertising, presided over the spilled blood which few amongst them appear to attach much importance.

A majority of the viewers and listeners, not least the leaders of the Western world, have reacted no differently. The latter, after having expressed their support to the Israeli operation, have waited until the onset of the humanitarian catastrophe to utter a discrete rebuke. It is simpler to lament past tragedies (the ‘duty of memory’), than to open one’s eyes, wide, to the tragedies before us.

In Israel, the population would prefer for Gaza to disappear; but it does want to keep the Golan Heights. Israel has left Gaza; it wants only to quietly colonize its ‘Judea and Samaria’ (the West Bank), without its ambitions being inhibited by a cruel enemy. In Israel, the country prays for the extermination of Hamas and its partisans, and the hardliners add the young who are presumed destined to become Hamas supporters. Meanwhile, Jewish Israelis aspire to develop and reinforce the Jewish character of the Israeli state, rendering invisible a quarter of the citizens, not defined as Jewish.

‘No normal state can accept being the target of rocket fire’, claimed the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, at the beginning of the war. He’s quite right. But it should have also been necessary to remind Netanyahu that no normal state could accept that, in its capital, the capital of Jewish people, one-third of its inhabitants should be deprived of sovereignty and lack democratic rights. Equally there are few states that obstinately refuse, for years, to establish definitive borders, in the hope, ill-concealed, of expanding them further. Does there exist, perhaps, any link between all these things that characterize Israel’s ‘abnormality’?

It is well known that, in the wars of modern history, it is always the enemy that initiated hostilities. That is why the Jewish state, peace-loving, asserts that it is only responding to attacks of which it is a victim. Is that so? Is that how history is written? Is there not, in this latest tragedy, a short history and a long history that differ, and rather disturbingly?

In the 1950s, when I was a child, my father took me to the cinema to watch Westerns. He loved the open spaces. As for me, I loved the cowboy pioneers, and I hated the Indians. It was pretty much always the same script: a convoy of settlers travelling slowly and calmly, and, suddenly, it is attacked...

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