Evan Schneider/UN/כל הזמן
Chairman of the Gush Etzion Regional Council
Imagine a post-post-post-modern reality, in which the concept of "truth" has been outlawed, and people do not have a history, identity, values or reality that they experience, but only a "narrative." Their story, their experience, their subjective truth. This narrative is equivalent to that of any other, and they are all equal and provide space for the unique reality of every individual in society.
In this post-post-etc. reality, imagine a courtroom with a plaintiff, defendant, defense attorney, prosecutor and judge. What would the lawyers' speeches sound like in this court? Perhaps, "My client denies the charge even though he really, fully understands how the plaintiff could have been harmed by his actions or interpreted the knife he stuck in his chest as something intended to hurt him"? Or alternatively, "Because we are inclusive and acknowledge the mental state of the defendant, who perhaps may preferably be called a 'disadvantaged citizen' so as not to tag him with a label, God forbid, we in the prosecution request that the court sentence him to a significant term of rehabilitation after he tried to murder my client"?
It isn’t necessary to tax the imagination, because the desire for "objectivity" already exists today: the desire to present both positions as reasonable, our side and the other side. But the struggle against our enemies for the land has been going on for over a century, perhaps because we have not firmly settled our victorious position and have never said proudly and absolutely: we – the people of Israel – won the battle for the land. Even when we won militarily, we did not decisively secure the victory within ourselves on the ethical, moral level. The last time the nation did not get confused and knew to the deepest level of its soul that we had absolutely won was in the Six Day War; but even then, the moment we didn’t apply full sovereignty over the liberated territory, we essentially forfeited the military victory. The movement embodying the "objective" viewpoint began to apologize on behalf of us all and so we steadily regressed until the Yom Kippur War, after which the leadership of the state began to voice both narratives.
This conduct, this way of looking at things, is good for lecturers in academia or historical researchers of nations that have passed from the world. They can afford to stand from afar, look at reality and analyze it. But what a scholar can do today with the American Civil War of almost two centuries ago between the north and the south, a nation that is still fighting for its life cannot do.
When you are in the midst of a war, you are one side of it and on the other side is an enemy who wants to destroy you. The very act of advancing and searching through the other side’s narrative is what prevents your victory and determining what your victorious position should be. Not only does this not bring peace closer, this conduct is exactly what perpetuates the war, and prolongs the violence and the terror attacks. Because if one side in the war is fighting and the other side is busy clarifying whether it is right, the hope of the former only grows stronger and encourages it to attack again and again.
This critique is first and foremost aimed inward, to public opinion in Israel, really to ourselves. Global public opinion will be influenced by it. But if we explain both sides everywhere we go, and say, “This is my truth and this is his," it leads to the objectivity mindset and it is impossible to end a war from such a starting point. The objective must be to end the war with a complete victory. If hesitation penetrates the hearts of the people, and from there it enters the heart of the nation’s army and the fingers of its soldiers on the trigger, what are the chances that they will win?
Since returning to our country, we have been required to fight for our national right to the Land of Israel, but also for the fundamental human right to have a country for our people. This right is repeatedly threatened because we are constantly attacked by our enemies. We have no imperialist ambitions and we are not troublemakers or warmongers. But yes: we will fire back at those who attack this fundamental right.
But in order to win, we need two fundamental things. (Note that I do not seek to head the most powerful army in the world, and there is no fleet of submarines or warplanes on the list of demands.) The first is faith in the righteousness of our course and the second – to define the enemy. We can win with these two, as we have won before, in our ancient history and the more recent past. And vice versa: the chances of our victory shrink in inverse proportion to the continued failure in these areas; and again, it really doesn’t matter how much steel, high-tech and sophisticated weapons we have.
Have you ever heard any Arab leader who opposes us talk about the "Israeli narrative"? Try to understand it, or us? Of course not. The enemy knows very well how to wage war. In our case, we have no need to distort facts, use civilians as human shields, commit acts of terrorism against women and children, and crimes against humanity. We just have to stick to the facts and believe in the rightness of our path.
And how are we going to stand up to international pressure? Only by being inwardly convinced, by having the power of our faith that we are here to stay, by right and not by grace. For this we must fight without hesitation, subdue without getting confused, and win. Yes, win. This word that has already become anachronistic in the internal Israeli discourse.
We must win and proudly declare our victory for another reason – hope. If it won’t be clear to us that we have won, and we don’t pass this clarity on to our enemies and from there to the whole world, we will continue repeating our history in the future, in the next "round of fighting.” If we do not do what we must, just as we are not doing today, the enemy will not surrender, will not recognize his defeat, and will have hope that in the next round he could bring his victory closer. There will therefore surely be another round, and it will be filled with the hopes of those who want to destroy us, and erase our hope of being “a free people in our land." Or in other words: our hesitation, our apologetics, is leading the region into a renewed round of fighting, to more bereavement and suffering on both sides, and a complete lack of hope that something will change.
And therefore, I ask that you once again use your imagination, but this time see a completely different reality: a reality in which we are convinced of the righteousness of our way, define the Arabs who live among us and rise up to destroy us as the "enemy," proclaim also de jure our full, final and irrevocable control of the borders of our land and, based on all this, fight to win the current round. And after this glorious victory that will surely come, we celebrate it unapologetically, upon every stage and with a smile from ear to ear. I am sure that the echoes of the celebrations will reach other countries in the world as well, and their attitude towards us will change accordingly, and for the better.