Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, October 2020, pp. 52-53
By Gideon Levy
THEY ARE THE MOST BORING and low-priority reports of all. Most Israeli media outlets don’t even bother to post them. They are like a bus plunging into a river in Nepal, like victims in Chad’s civil war or trapped mine workers in Siberia.
The same applies to the victims of yet another Israeli air strike in Syria. Who’s heard about it? Who knows about it, who cares? Who has the energy to look into it? Military correspondents parrot, as is their wont, unfounded statements dictated by military spokesmen, with diplomatic correspondents celebrating in the Emirates, while on Aug. 31, 11 more people are killed in a raid in southern Syria, attributed to Israel. On Sept. 2, Syria reported another strike.
According to the Damascus Center for Human Rights, three of the victims were Syrian soldiers and seven were “Iranian militia operatives,” which automatically justifies any bombing. A female villager was also killed and her husband wounded, but these things happen, after all. A dead woman in Syria really is a non-story.
Are these air strikes essential? What is their goal? What are the risks they entail? What is being bombed and why? It’s Iran, you know. Everything is done under a thick smokescreen, with Israeli media openly and gleefully collaborating, with no one stopping to ask questions or bringing it up for discussion. The sun rises in the east, and Israel bombs in Syria. What is not clear here? What is not self-evident? Only those who understand nothing or know nothing dare ask questions.
The army spokesman, in response to the strike: “The IDF is working day and night to ensure that its strategic goals in the northern arena are met in an appropriate fashion.” We seem to be satisfied with this blah-blah. It’s hard to think of a greater insult to one’s intelligence. After all, the IDF is also working day and night in the West Bank, where we’re familiar with the results and with the modus operandi, but the media and public opinion will swallow anything. As long as not one hair of a Jewish soldier’s head is touched, nothing is of interest. Go ahead, bomb Syria, bomb Lebanon, bomb Iran, bomb Gaza, to your heart’s content.
Every few weeks there is an air strike in Syria, usually with lethal results. On July 20, five deaths were reported in a strike in Damascus. On June 23, five Iranians and two Syrians were killed in an attack attributed to Israel. On June 4, there were nine victims in a bombing by warplanes firing from Lebanese airspace, attributed to Israel, not to Luxembourg. On Feb. 7, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that an IDF attack in Damascus had endangered a passenger plane with 172 people on board. Three months earlier, there were reports of 23 fatalities and dozens of wounded in an air strike attributed to Israel.
Only imagine 11 Israeli fatalities, three soldiers and seven settler militia members, in a Syrian air strike, in a mirror image of what transpired this week in Syria. War would ensue. But 11 Syrian dead in an Israeli bombing, who’s counting? Imagine a constant bloodletting with dozens of Israeli fatalities over several months. Israel would never put up with it, and rightly so. But in Syria it’s all right. It will go on as long as Israel can continue. It will go on until Israel pays a price for its strikes.
Israel is determined to prevent Iran from getting a foothold in Syria. Are the strikes contributing to this process? To what extent? The possibility that Israel will one day pay a terrible price for all this warmongering is not even raised for discussion. That’s Israeli hubris, which usually pays off. Usually, but not always.
Such fateful decisions cannot be kept in absolute darkness. They cannot be left up to a handful of politicians, intelligence officials, pilots and generals. After all, we’ve learned in many areas that we can’t trust them blindly. So why is it that when it comes to war and peace, we shut our eyes, submitting ourselves to them in total blindness? Continue bombing in Syria. We trust you. Everything will be fine.
Gideon Levy is an Israeli journalist and author. This article was first published in Haaretz, Sept. 2, 2020. © Haaretz. Reprinted with permission.