Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Beware the "Tel-Aviv Rose"

It's time to talk about the elephant in the room.

Like the "trauma" of the Vietnam War in the minds of many Americans, and the fears it evokes among many American politicians, the war being fought now against Hizballah in Lebanon evokes memories of the war fought in 1982, and the political fallout afterwards.

Anshel Pfeffer writes about how this is affecting the army brass here.

"The growing number of soldiers being killed on almost a daily basis in what is developing into a growing offensive over the Lebanese border is causing near panic among the army's high command. They're not concerned that the deaths might have been unnecessary or the result of some insurmountable challenge posed by Hizballah. In their opinion, this is part and parcel of ground warfare. What they're worried about are the reactions on the home front to lists of fallen in the papers and rows of photographs of young faces."

Pfeffer goes on to point out that "An army's role is by definition to defend the civilian population, often at the cost of soldier's lives. In Israel, this relationship has been turned around. When a bus explodes and 20 people are killed, there are no calls for an enquiry to find out how the suicide bomber managed to infiltrate and detonate. But if a Merkava tank blows up and four soldiers are killed, a high-level inquiry committee is immediately set up."

How did we get to this point - where our top army brass, instead of focussing all of its energies on winning the war, is constantly looking over its shoulder in fear?

The answer is simple. It is part of a much wider problem here which in effect is the Achilles heel of Israeli society. To use a suddenly popular phrase, the problem we have is the disproportionate influence the left has on the media - and the disproportional influence this in turn has on government decisions.

It is the job of a journalist to ask pointed questions. It is not the job of journalists to further their own personal political agenda using the microphone entrusted to them. This, unfortunately, is what too many reporters in Israel do. This is not my own right wing bias talking. They admit it themselves.

Shelley Yichimovitz, now a Member of Knesset for the Labor party, discusses media bias here.

"Reporter: So basically everything is acceptable in order to promote your worldview as a reporter?"

"Yichimovitz: Yes. For example, like this matter with the leftist media. When it is brought up we are so angry, but the time has come to admit the facts - the media is leftist. Put a ballot box in any media, and you will get very clear results, from the center to the left. The talk of the newspapers in the country is not the talk of the public, and the estrangement between the public and the media reaches new heights each day."

This state of affairs in normal times is troubling. In times of war it is downright dangerous. When media personalities focus too much on the loss of soldiers, they cross the line from professional journalism into being propaganda tools for the enemy - not unlike the infamous Tokyo Rose of World War II fame. There wasn't one real Tokyo Rose - this was the name that the American GIs gave to the Japanese radio personalities who would try to lower the Allied soldiers morale by speaking about Allied losses (when they weren't insinuating that the girlfriends back home were being unfaithful). The overt message was to give up fighting - because you are losing and will continue to lose.

Focussing on the loss of soldiers' lives is what the Four Mothers group did, with the generous help of the left wing media. What the media did not do is put the numbers in perspective. A quick glance at the history of Israel's wars will show that the overall loss of life in Lebanon was less than the other wars Israel fought, except for Operation Kadesh in 1956.

The Israeli public now is strong and holding up despite more than two weeks of rocket attacks - and is willing to go through more if it knows that the IDF is doing its job in Lebanon. The Israeli public is also mature enough to know that killing Hizballah terrorists, after they have had the chance to dig in for five years, is going to be bloody.

Worrying about the military death toll is legitimate. We all share that concern, and mourn each soldier killed.

But blowing this concern all out of proportion, especially to further your own political agenda, is wrong. Every person in this country is put in danger if the security decisions are made solely to placate a specific political interest group. The war should end when the military has completed its mission - and not one minute beforehand.

13 Comments:

Blogger bec said...

it's really unfortunate how the media (both in the US and Israel) has changed and instead of being an unbiased source of information, we must look at the media with skepticism. this is just more of the poison that the liberal movement spreads and it is extremely dangerous, especially for those who get caught up in it and don't realize that it is not impartial.

2:43 AM, July 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Israel cannot survive if its leadership does not have the stomach to fight for its survival. I read somewhere recently that Ehud Ohmert was quoted as saying something to the effect: "we are tired, tired of fighting, tired of defeating our enemies, tired of being successful on the battlefield." If this quote is true, it is horrifying. Such a pathetic sentiment from the leader of your state should be unacceptable. Israel is not the U.S. You can ill afford any weakness. Your enemies are watching and will strike viciously at the first sign of opportunity.

I have seen some bloggers attempt to blame the government for the timid nature of the ground offensive so far. They are constraining the military from doing their jobs.

Whoever is to blame, it either needs to be fixed immediately or you need a new government. Benjamin Netanyahu would not be vacillating about whether or not to commit adequate troops to crush Hizbollah!

Please, buck up Israel. You cannot afford to lose this fight.

3:26 AM, July 27, 2006  
Blogger Yael said...

"The war should end when the military has completed its mission - and not one minute beforehand."

You are right about everything you are saying in this post, and it's interesting about the liberal media (though my knowledge about the Israeli media is less than sketchy -- who are "the four mothers"? - but there is another issue here also, and that is: is the military allowed to do what it must? You say "The Israeli public now is strong and holding up despite more than two weeks of rocket attacks -and is willing to go through more if it knows that the IDF is doing its job in Lebanon." But isn't Olmert really half-hearted about the whole thing and refuses to listen to the military brass? From what I read elsewhere they are not using cave-busting bombs the Americans had in Tora Bora (not that that's the answer to everything of course) and they don't plan to have more than a buffer zone cleared of Hezbollah. That's not going to protect Israel from their rocket attacks, nor will it wipe out most of them, let alone Nasrallah. So, in your opinion, who is really responsible for these kinds of diminshed goals? Is it that the media which might influence the politicians who in turn are giving their (inadequate) orders to the military are redirecting the war effort? Is that what you are in effect saying? (We have a similar problem here in the U.S. The media here is also liberal, and as you probably know they have been doing considerable damage lately exposing certain anti-terror measures the government has been taking behind the scenes. So as to, uh, surprise the enemy... You can scratch that now, thanks to the NYT and WP)

I try to read your blog every day, and we pray for your safety, and for all the Israelis' safety.

Oh, anonymous, I just saw your post as I previewed mine. I also read that quote by Olmert in a blog, and it was contrasted with a quote by Winston Churchill from one of his broadcasts during WWII.

4:38 AM, July 27, 2006  
Anonymous DWB said...

Sitting a world away here in the US in the relative comfort of my home, I realize I scarcely have the right to speak of things which will quite likely cost Israel more of her courageous young on the battlefields of southern Lebanon.

However, I cannot see how Israel can get this done without a massive ground offensive. I also realize that I'm not a military strategist and have never served in battle myself. However, I watched us do the air war thing in the Gulf war of 1990 and, subsequently, of course more recently in Iraq. I just don't see how any nation can fight a war without boots on the ground.

It seems the only thing my country got right, at least at the start of it all after 9/11 was in Afghanistan when we did what it took, both through the air AND with "boots on the ground".

It seems to me as though we civilized, democratic nations have taken to fighting our wars in the court of both public AND world opinion. How can such wars ever be effectively won?

We have our Vietnam debacle of course and I understand Israel has what must be the very difficult, painful memories of 1982-2000 in Lebanon. Moreover, Israel knows she will get nothing from the United Nations but more anti-Semitism and bigotry, that is of a truth.

All of that notwithstanding, however, I just don't see how any of us are going to win wars trying to appease the court of public/world opinion. That the main stream media coverage is brazenly biased and anti-Israel would be apparent to a first grade level child who had just learned his alphabet, I think.

I don't know what else to say, except that we keep Israel and her people near in our thoughts and prayers. All we can offer is encouragement and our belief that somehow, some way, G-d will make a way. G-d has not gathered those of Jewish lineage from the four corners of the earth over the last 60 years only to allow the sovereign nation of Israel to ever again be uprooted in this life. I have to believe that. I do believe it. G-d is not a man that He should lie or break covenant.

G-dspeed Israel, her people and especially her young, courageous soldiers,
DWB

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