Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent (Isaac Asimov)
Opinion polls in Israel have shown a record high support for the war, starting at 90% , averaging 80% for the last two weeks and with no significant effect of the Qana massacre on Israelis' opinion. The Israeli invasion of 1982 sparked the largest anti-war demonstration in Israel. Yet, the current onslaught does not seem to generate the same reaction. The portrayal of the conflict as one of survival of the state of Israel renders the analogy with 1982 not applicable. Furthermore, the Israeli military failures further deepen the existential dimension of this conflict. All the destruction “cannot cover the Israel Defense Forces’ failure to put an end to, or at least reduce, the intense fire on Israel”, as one commentator writes in Haaretz. This helplessness and failure accentuated the existential character of this war as it puts at risk the history of military superiority of the IDF: “We cannot afford a situation of strategic parity between Israel and Hezbollah. If Hezbollah does not experience defeat in this war, this will spell the end of Israeli deterrence against its enemies”.
The twin feeling of threat and weakness explain to some extent the high level of support to the war and the absence of any reactions against the violence and massacre in Lebanon. The ‘disproportionality’ of the military response is justified because Israel “must respond not only to the current provocation but to the much larger looming threat that Hizbullah and Iran pose to Israel’s very existence”. In such a context, Israel’s moral limits are drastically reduced, as “moral blackmail” becomes only a cover for “stupidity and immorality” as one editorialist wrote. “So don’t cry to me about civilians casualties” writes another commentator, “terrorists and their supporters have lost the right to complain about civilian casualties”. Peace activists are welcomed by slogans such as “a good Arab is a dead Arab”. “ [Israel Minister of Justice] Haim Ramon "doesn't understand" why there is still electricity in Baalbek; [Israel Minister of Industry, Commerce and Employment] Eli Yishai proposes turning south Lebanon into a “sandbox”; Yoav Limor, a Channel 1 military correspondent, proposes an exhibition of Hezbollah corpses and the next day to conduct a parade of prisoners in their underwear, “to strengthen the home front's morale.”” A father whose son was killed by Hezbollah fires artillery shell into Lebanon for the reporters while Israeli children are made to sign the shells that fall into Lebanon.
Gideon Levy stands alone today facing this nationalist and revengeful mood of the Israelis. “Israel is sinking into a strident, nationalistic atmosphere and darkness is beginning to cover everything. The brakes we still had are eroding, the insensitivity and blindness that characterized Israeli society in recent years is intensifying”. For those who hoped that the peace movement or the consciousness of some might put some break on the current onslaught, think again. The combination of fear and incompetence leads to the ugliest nationalism, one that is not deterred by the amount of death it is sowing.