Friday, May 1, 2009

A Memorial Day for Peace and Without Rancor

Israel observed its memorial day April 27-28. In addition, in light of constant Arab media accusations that Israel hates and defames them, it is notable that not a single word derogatory toward Arabs, Muslims or Palestinians was spoken by any Israeli media, educational, religious, or political institution as the country marked the death of over 22,000 soldiers and thousands of terror victims at their hands.

This attitude is part of a larger standpoint in a country which is not only hated and slandered but is hated and slandered by accusing it of hating and slandering, yet does not hate and slander back.

The most recent Israeli soldier killed was Captain Yehonatan Netanel, 27, a paratroopers officer, in Gaza, January 6 from friendly fire. He left behind a widow, Tziona, and a 5-month-old daughter, Maayan. His father, Amos Netanel, made a speech at his son's grave. He said:

"There is a feeling that we are part of a large family of sons who fell in battle. It's part of the price we pay so that we can live in this land," he said. "Standing over his grave, we pray, of course, that he will be the last grave, the last victim."

Notice what he unselfconsciously said. Not merely the last Israeli victim, mind you, but the last victim altogether. For Israelis look forward to the day not of total triumph or the extinction of the other side but a peace without victims or violence.

Throughout the ceremonies, as noted above, no hatred was displayed whatsoever to any Arab, Muslim, or Palestinian. One might well compare that to the rhetoric toward Israel coming out of the Arabic-speaking world and Iran.

Mark Lavie's story, “Israel marks Memorial Day for fallen soldiers,” April 27, quotes Defense Minister Ehud Barak as explaing that the Middle East is not North America or Europe. "It is an environment without charity to the weak, and there are no second chances to those who don't know how to protect themselves."

What a true and important statement that is, deserving of wide discussion and consideration among Western leaders, both regarding Israel's limited options and level of risk and what faces those other countries in their own policies.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who usually only appears as a “hardliner” and “right-winger” who is allegedly against peace is allowed to explain that:

Israel must maintain strong military and security forces to fend off threats, while adding, "In spite of the difficulties, we will continue our efforts to complete the circle of peace with our neighbors."

Another article, by Aron Heller, “Israel marks Memorial Day as Peace Remains Elusive," April 28, notes that ”Israelis are “mournfully aware that the strife that led to those deaths [of 22,000 soldiers and terror victims] is far from over.”

But wait a minute. This is the only mention in AP's two main articles covering the memorial day of the fact that this is not a commemoration only for soldiers but also for victims of terrorism. Why is this major point left out? For terrorism, at least in the form of attempted but foiled attacks, is an important problem for Israel, creating the need for many defensive actions which are elsewhere reported by the AP and others without appropriate context. Why a fence? Why arrests? Why cross-border operations? And how Hamas is constantly launching attacks and the Palestinian Authority is usually, though less so recently, either inciting or participating in or not stopping them.

This article, too, contains a Netanyahu quote which gives a sense of the balance contained in his policy:

"Our hand is extended in peace to all our neighbors. But our enemies should not misunderstand: We shall never compromise on our security, the security of the state of Israel. That is our obligation to the fallen, that is our obligation to the citizens of Israel, that is our obligation to coming generations."

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