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Conflicted about Conflict

Cross posted from my blog at the Times of Israel

I suppose I’ve kept you guessing a little since the start of the ground invasion. I’ve gone from writing posts critical of the government and damning the attacks to supporting the IDF all of the way in Gaza. My feelings were that the government led us down a path to unnecessary war when they should have invested more time in negotiation, more time in finding a way for their people to live without war. These feelings though are for now irrelevant.

I was incensed when I read it reported in the Times of Israel that for all our airstrikes we had barely laid a finger on Hamas. It made me think that we had launched merely a cosmetic military operation. One that had no purpose other than to show Israelis that the government was strong but that was doing no genuine harm to Hamas and killing innocent civilians at the same time. A made for TV war. That was before the ground invasion. Before we started genuinely working on Hamas tunnels and destroying their stockpiles of ordnance.

The civilian casualties in Gaza rose dramatically and we started losing soldiers but at least actual work was being done. Before then it looked for a moment as if we had a government that couldn’t make peace and then couldn’t make war either, making me wonder what the hell it is they can do. Hopefully now we’ll continue this war until the generals are satisfied that at least in the short term Israel can expect a couple of years of quiet. Hopefully the day after the shooting stops the government will start working on a longer term strategy to prevent the same thing happening again.

For all my harsh words for the government that I have been delivering over the last months and even years I find the moment that we are at war to be a moment that I find myself at personal crisis along with the country. I find myself thinking of the soldiers both those in hospital and those still on the battlefield and what lies ahead for them. I am thinking of the families of the fallen and of the wounded.

For in reality their war is only just beginning. It is a war they are going to be fighting every day for the rest of their lives. For lost limbs don’t grow back, the dead never return and the pain of their loss remains forever.

Right now the politicians are visiting our soldiers in hospital and thousands of people are attending funerals and consoling the families. But soon the dead, the wounded and the fighters who emerge physically unscathed but mentally scarred will be forgotten. The politicians will find a new cause to jump on, the people will dry their eyes and the soldiers and their families will be left alone.

The crowds of thousands of people who never knew the dead but attended the funerals out of solidarity will disperse and for most the fallen will become nothing more than a five minute film clip on Yom Ha’atzmaut. And the families will have to carry on alone. The politicians and their words of support will have gone, the TV cameras will no longer be there to broadcast their pain to a supporting nation, the journalists will have found new stories to cover.

But for the soldiers who are there at this moment in time this war will continue to be fought every day for the rest of their lives. Those who are wounded and those who aren’t will always remember the time they were sent to Gaza. They will always remember the hell of being under fire, they will always remember how they earned their wounds. They will be living with the trauma when this operation has become a footnote in the history of the IDF and joined all of the others that the IDF has carried out over the years.

They will remember it while pundits compare the success of the operation with other successes and other failures. They will remember it while they are undergoing their physical rehabilitation and while they are banging on doors attempting to get the compensation owed to them. They will remember this operation long after the rest of us have forgotten. Long after the television cameras have found something else to focus on.

For all my misgivings about the course of events that led to this I find that I cannot voice dissent while our soldiers are in harms way. I cannot voice dissent while there are convoys of helicopters ferrying our wounded to hospitals and I cannot voice dissent while the funerals of our fallen continue. Perhaps because of this I have fallen into a trap of supporting the current government whose politics certainly are not mine. But I don’t care. Right now I stand where I have always stood, with the brave soldiers of the IDF.

Especially those whose war is only just beginning.

This is the true face of war. Not the heroism of the moment but the long lonely suffering afterwards. The broken lives that will never be fixed and wounds that will never be healed. And the operation that now must continue until the generals have achieved all of their objectives. Until, in the short term at least, the enemy has been vanquished.

I hope that the day the shooting stops the government has the sense to figure out a way to keep us from returning to this same situation in a year or two.