Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Nasrallah and the Spider's Web

You know you’ve been watching too much TV when the ‘breaking news’ is neither just breaking nor news. And you know black humour is taking over when you start making a list of ‘top 3 things to take into a bomb shelter’ (do bomb shelters have wireless?)

I spent the last two days in Tel Aviv wondering what I would do if I heard a siren heralding the arrival of a Katuysha. Sitting outside a café on Diezengoff, walking in the Azrieli centre, relaxing by the beach…how far can I run in a minute? Where is the nearest bomb shelter or stairwell? Is that a siren, or only cars hooting? Whilst for people in Tel Aviv these questions remain hypothetical, citizens further north, Israeli Jews and Arabs have been spending much of the past week in their Miklat. This war may not yet have a name, but it is actively affecting people’s lives. Sometimes, tragically, it is taking them.

Head of Hizbullah Hassan Nasrallah looked at Israeli society and saw weakness, a spider’s web that seemed strong but could be easily broken, a materialistic culture drunk on its economic success and bending over backwards to appease an unstoppable wave of Islamic nationalism. He saw the unequal prisoner exchanges, the withdrawals to the international border in Lebanon and Gaza, the inexperienced triumvirate of Olmert, Peretz and Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and wanted to test us. And he thought, as spiders webs do, that we would break.

He was wrong.

Because just as the theory goes that only the right wing can make peace, similarly only the left wing can make war. And it tells you something that in a country with no word for consensus, everyone from Lieberman to Livni, from Bibi to Beilin agree that military action against Hizbullah is justified and legitimate. And it’s amazing that in a week in which a million people remain under the threat of rocket fire, there have been no mass demonstrations against the war or no-confidence votes against the government.

Because whilst we wish our relationship with our neighbours was similar to that of France and Belgium, or Finland and Sweden, a post modern borderless world where trade trumps all, we also know that this is the Mid East, not the Mid West, and Switzerlands don’t survive for very long here. Sometimes, we need to fight. And strangely enough, and for the first time in recent memory, I think most countries in Europe (apart from Finland, France, and maybe Switzerland, understand that.)

view from Beirut

We may be more individualistic than in the past. We may have given up on the dream of the greater land of Israel, may have decided that being in historical places such as Bet El and Shilo is no longer in the Zionist interest. There may be fewer people going into combat units, and less soldiers turning up for miluim. The dream of many Israelis may be to go to America and make money…but we’re no spider’s web.

We’re a state based on an unspeakable bond. A people drawn together by a shared past and a unified future. A society that may seem weak and unable to decide on national priorities, but in reality one that has red lines that no one is willing to compromise on. And what Nasrallah (and Arafat and Saddam Hussein before him) failed to realise is that you don’t need to be a fundamentalist to have a way of life worth fighting for, don’t need to be an extremist to be willing to make sacrifices for the greater good.

You just need to know that, as the famous Israeli song goes, we have no other land, even if it’s burning.

In the land in the London Times


Anonymous said...

"a spider’s web that seemed strong" - ahh yes, a favorite saying of Nasrallah (which btw, means victory of Allah)


channahboo said...

Wow Calev!

A well deserved quoted blog... and my favourite so far!