We proudly present the original English version the latest article of Jeffrey Gedmin in WELT (August 9, 2006):
If you are weak, you will not survive
By Jeffrey Gedmin
I overheard the bartender here at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem imparting wisdom to two guests: “In this part of the world, if you are weak, you will not survive.” Israelis have to put up with a difficult neighborhood. I’ve spent the better part of the last three weeks in Israel, after having spent the first part of the summer obsessed with World Cup soccer in Berlin. That first carefree part feels far away. I was at a sushi restaurant here this week and overheard a twenty-something guy telling two girls that “eventually we will have to fight Iran.” This is not idle talk in a country where both young men and women serve in the military and often have to go to war. It’s strange. In other ways, Israel can feel so European.
The contrasts can be stark, though. I was just in a Jerusalem shopping mall. Security guards check your car’s trunk at the entrance to the parking garage. You pass through a metal detector, just like airport security, before you enter the shopping area. Inside I saw three young men, about 20 years
old, with shopping bags from a jeans store. They looked just like guys in Washington or Berlin, except that they wore green combat fatigues, combats boots and had machine guns slung over their shoulders. I wondered whether they had been in Lebanon, or whether they would be there soon.
European friends tell me that Israel is a “militarized” society. This is true. I told my taxi driver last week how unimaginable I found the current situation: in Tel Aviv the beaches are crowded; in Haifa, about an hour north by car, Israel’s third largest city is hit by Katyuscha rockets every day. My driver said to me calmly, “We fight in the north, so the rest of us can enjoy the beach in the south.” This is not idle talk either. He is a reservist and expects to be in Lebanon soon.
Everybody agrees that Hezbollah started this. But European friends keep telling me that Israel’s response has been “disproportionate.” Israel should have swapped prisoners with Hezbollah, they say. One of Hezbollah's main aims was to trade kidnapped Israeli soldiers for a Lebanese man named Samir Kuntar. Kuntar belonged to a cell that raided an apartment building in the northern Israeli town of Nahariya in 1979. Kuntar shot Danny Haran in the head, while Haran’s 4-year-old daughter Einat was forced to watch. Kuntar then crushed the girl’s head with the butt if his rifle. Haran’s wife hid in the attic with their 2-year-old daughter, so fearful that the girl would cry out that the mother accidentally suffocated her child.
Now comes the point in the column where critics howl: Yes, terrorism is a scourge, but what of the “root causes?!" And I wonder if we can ever eliminate such loathsome soft-headedness from the debate. If poverty were the cause of terror, then Africa would produce endless amounts. If humiliation explained it, then Tibetans would be exploding buses in Beijing. Then there is the ever tedious "land for peace" argument. Of course, Israel has tried this, too. It withdrew from Lebanon. It left Gaza to the Palestinians. In both cases, the result was "land for more war." We should have known. It was never so simple. In fact, the PLO first started its terrorist tactics in 1964, three years before the 1967 War, before Gaza and the West Bank could become the central excuse for this wretched and lethal disease.
I HAD planned to go for dinner with friends in Jerusalem the other night. Jerusalem was on high alert that evening, with a suspected suicide bomber somewhere on the loose. We ate in the hotel. Last night we took a walk in a trendy, youthful neighbourhood called Rechavia. It was a dry, cool evening. You could see the stars. You could hear music on the street and restaurants and outdoor cafes were full. "Café Moment" was no exception. My friends tell me that a suicide bomber created carnage here on a spring evening in 2002. Eleven young people were killed. This night was peaceful.