Saturday 20 March 2010

Having a Strong Army is Sometimes a Disadvantage

Once upon a time many years ago, military strength was an admired quality. Military leaders were heroes, and their conquests hailed as folklore among ordinary people. Examples of such hero military officers include Napoleon, Nelson, Montgomery and others. It seems, however, that military strength has become less and less admired over the years to the point where it could even be regarded as something of a disadvantage.

There can be no doubt that the Jewish people would have welcomed a strong military fighting force to protect their interests, particularly over the period of the holocaust and the Second World War when millions were mercilessly slaughtered. I sincerely believe that many of these innocent lives could have been saved if a Jewish army were in existence at that time. It was a basic and obvious necessity that a Jewish army was formed upon the creation of the State of Israel. From the outset, the results achieved by the Israel Defence Force (IDF) was astonishing. Its first war, the War of Independence in 1948 was miraculously won, despite having little organisation, structure and weapons. When confronted by the might of the armies of no fewer than 5 Arab countries, the nascent IDF prevailed in one of many miracles that Israel and its army has achieved.

Since then, the IDF has transformed itself into one of the world's most powerful fighting forces. The integration of practices that are not standard in other armies, and the adoption of the latest technologies have ensured that man-for-man, the IDF is arguably stronger than other army on the planet. This is probably just as well due to the fact that Jews continue to be discriminated against in Israel and elsewhere. The IDF ensures that an event like the holocaust can and will never happen again while the Israeli army is there to protect all Jews.

The IDF has been called upon to fight many battles and numerous wars in defence of the State of Israel, the Jewish homeland. The enemies of Israel and the Jews have, however, cleverly utilised the changes in public sentiment to gather popular support for their position against this mighty fighting force.

Recent years have seen the general public admire military strength less, and favour the underdog instead. It is more common for public sentiment to support those who seem to be at a disadvantage rather than admire those who have worked hard to build a superior position for themselves. Somehow, it seems unfair that one side should be stronger or better equipped while their opposition is fighting them with lower quality equipment and less manpower. This is the classic notion of supporting the underdog, whether or not the underdog is justified in gaining this support. Unfortunately, when the innocent underdogs desperately needed this support during the massacres of the holocaust, it was not forthcoming. Now, it seems to be the mainstay of public sentiment.

The Arab world, and the Palestinians in particular, have picked up on this change in public support and have succeeded in taking advantage of it to the maximum extent possible.They succeed in portraying the might of the Israeli army in the most negative possible light. There is no image that the Arabs enjoy seeing more than that of the Palestinian David fighting the Israeli Goliath. It is for this reason that they ensure that Palestinian army is hidden behind the camouflage of "civilian resistance". This means that the uniform of the Palestinian fighters is jeans and T-shirts, and the base that these fighters use is the front room of an apartment or a school classroom.

These tactics are designed to draw Israeli fire into civilian areas, and to parade dead and wounded "civilians" around who have been attacked by the Israeli army. If this was all, then it would be bad enough. Unfortunately, however, the use of these tactics gets even more cynical. This cynical behaviour revolves around the unjustified use of children in public relations campaigns and in military operations.

The famous case of the Palestinian 12-year-old, Mohammed Al Dura is one of the most famous of these cynical attempts to take advantage of support for the underdog. Al Dura was shot during an exchange of fire at the Netzarim junction in Gaza between IDF soldiers and Palestinian gunmen in September 2000. Obviously, the Palestinians immediately accused the Israeli army of his murder. The case was eventually heard in a French court of law which ruled that Al Dura was not shot by IDF soldiers. The question which I ask is what a 12-year-old child was doing in the middle of this shoot-out? I asked the same question when I saw film clips of children being sent towards the border of Gaza in the middle of the night in an attempt to draw the Israeli soldiers guarding the border into action. These children are sent to test the reaction time of the Israeli guards. In the event that the Israeli soldiers may, Heaven forbid, open fire on one of these children who are running towards them with backpacks designed to look like explosives packs, the cameras are ready and waiting to film the "tragedy" in order to distribute it to all the news networks.

During the Gaza War (Operation Cast Lead), the IDF took to making thousands of telephone calls to individuals and families who were known to be residing in apartment blocks that were to be targeted by the Israeli Air Force (IAF), due to them being used by Hamas militants to fire upon Israeli civilians. Instead of evacuating the targeted site, the reaction of many of these civilians was to marshal as many of their friends and family onto the roof of the building. By doing this, they relied upon the fact that they knew that the IAF would not fire their rockets due to the IDF's policy of preventing civilian casualties wherever possible. And, if the IAF did fire their rockets, the resulting story of firing upon civilians would serve the Palestinian cause excellently.

Many ridiculous scenes which were manufactured by the Palestinians to gain public sympathy and support have been shown on international television. I recall seeing one which involved a "dead" person recently "killed" by IDF fire suddenly jumping off the stretcher that he was being carried on. Despite the fact that one would think that such scenes would expose the disgusting tactics used by the Palestinians, current levels of political correctness and favouring the "underdog" cause people somehow to look past this dishonesty and support the Palestinians.

Israel needs to have a strong army in order to continue to support the country and Jews around the world. The army has been called on many times to fulfil this role. It is not only important to have a strong army, it is important also to show the strength of our fighting force. This will hopefully deter some of our enemies from even trying to take us on. There is, however, a price to be paid in our current society for this. The price is that public opinion will always be against you , no matter how justified your actions or your fight may be. This is the price that the IDF is paying.

Despite this "curse", I don't believe that the IDF has a choice, but to continue to do what it is doing. I am proud that Israel has succeeded in building a fighting force with the power of the IDF, despite the odds. I am also proud that the IDF sets out to behave in a way that is moral and sensitive, even to those who are enemies of Israel. Even though it would be good to also have more support from the international community to recognise the justification of this fight, one cannot please all the people all the time. The report of the Goldstone Commission is just one example of how easily people can be sucked in by the public requirement to favour the underdog. If the price to pay is that public opinion does not support us, I am happy to give up on this. At least I know that Jews have a protective force to call upon at all times.

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