Another Tack: Marie in Morag (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By SARAH HONIG 03/16/12)
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More than anything, Marie Colvin, who was laid to rest Monday, will
be remembered for sacrificing her life for the London Sunday Times’
circulation figures (albeit pro forma in the name of intrepid
reporting on the siege of Homs). Her immortality in the annals of
journalism is guaranteed.
With that in mind, it’d be especially instructive for us to recall
one of her eyewitness accounts which is most pertinent to our own
It was published nearly six years ago – in April 2006, only a few
months after we disengaged from Gaza.
Colvin tossed the truth about our self-bamboozlement directly in our
faces. This perhaps was why that specific item generated near-zero
resonance among us. Why focus on the unpleasant even if it’s the
straightforward bottom line with profound implications for our
possible future follow- up follies? If there’s anything we dislike,
it’s to be confronted with evidence of our own inexcusable imbecility.
Colvin unceremoniously gave us the facts. It was left up to us to
draw conclusions which our establishment and Left-dominated media
scoffed at. Therefore, Colvin’s singularly unpalatable feature never
made our headlines back in the day.
That in itself poses something of a riddle. One would expect our
agenda-driven press to lap up her material, because Colvin was never
remotely renowned for being a lover of Zion.
Having gone where few men dared and promoted herself as dedicated to
chronicling war’s worst, she covered conflicts in Kosovo, East Timor,
Chechnya and Sri Lanka, where she lost an eye. In March 2006 she
boldly ventured a tad beyond the reinstated Green Line to see what
became of Morag, one of the spirited settlements razed by Ariel
Sharon and sidekicks – Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni et al.
“Four green flags of the extremist Palestinian party Hamas were
flying last week at the gate of a military training camp built on the
ruins of Morag,” she opened. “Inside the camp recruits from the
Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, ran mock
attacks over dunes covered in dry grass. One of them stopped to
launch a rocket-propelled grenade.”
Colvin stressed that “the base is no makeshift encampment. A
telecommunication tower rises from a dune; loudspeakers broadcast
from masts... the stones from the old homes have been painted white
and used to make guardhouses.
Even the settlement’s gate has been cannibalized; now it swings to
Toyota pick-up trucks bringing more armed men in uniform.”
A senior Kassam honcho who showed Colvin around explained to her that
his outfit’s deadly aims vis-ŕ-vis Israel haven’t changed one iota
since Hamas’s electoral victory.
The insolence of the unnamed hotshot quoted by Colvin was underscored
at exactly that same time by then-Palestinian Authority foreign
minister Mahmoud Zahar of Hamas (during the Hamas-Fatah partnership).
In an interview with China’s Xinhua News Agency, conducted just when
Colvin toured the ruins of Morag, Zahar waxed ecstatic about “dreams
of hanging a huge map of the world on the wall of my Gaza house which
would not have a trace of Israel on it.”
He exultantly gloried in the “dream to have our independent state on
all Palestine... This dream will become real one day. I am certain of
this because there is no place for the state of Israel in this land.”
Official Israel and its retreat-advocating mouthpieces ignored Zahar,
but he elaborated his comments in Lebanon’s Al-Mustaqbal newspaper.
The most the Hamas regime can grant Israel, he intoned just as Colvin
filed her report, is a “temporary cessation of hostilities,” in
which “the Zionist entity would be countenanced temporarily but
gradually be pushed into narrower confines.
Borders can only be provisional,” because “there’s no place on earth
for the state of Israel.”
The very same Zahar was instrumental in negotiating yet another cease-
fire a few days ago.
Colvin might not have realized how in sync her Hamas guide was with
his bosses, but she obviously didn’t misinterpret the mood in what
became of Morag. After what she observed and heard, Colvin reckoned
that “Israelis contemplating the evacuation of West Bank settlements
will shiver at the discovery that al-Qassam fighters now live and
train on the ruins of a place that was home to 37 Jewish families.”
That, however, is where she got it all wrong.
Reasonable folks would indeed be shaken to the core and rebuff those
who uprooted the most dedicated of their compatriots in order to
facilitate genocidal preparations against the entire national
But Colvin misjudged us. It’s not that our nonchalance is born of
extraordinary courage in the face of adversity. Instead it’s the
product of denial of adversity. We pretend we’ve nothing to worry
about except for the price of cottage cheese and, more recently, of a
commonplace chocolate-covered candy bar.
Those who sway Israel’s public sentiment sanction our featherbrained
fixation on the trivial. It serves their purposes that we not dwell
on the existential dangers that loom ominously from every direction.
It’s better to preoccupy our petty plebeian minds with gobbledygook.
Still, to be fair, it’s not only us. Colvin’s coverage from Morag
made no waves anyplace in the world. This should surely show us that
a correspondent’s output is rarely treated on its merit and certainly
not in light of the reality it might unmask. Correspondents are far
less influential than myth would have it. They either go with the
flow or are washed up.
It’s not veracity which counts but whether what’s exposed meshes with
the trends dictated to news consumers. If the designers of popular
political fashion are inimical to Israel – or just apathetic about
our minimal safety – they’ll keep the masses’ eyes wide shut even
when assorted Colvins present opportunities to enlighten them.
Conversely, when the Colvins of the world barely enhance common
knowledge, as in the Syrian slaughter narrative, their truisms are
sanctimoniously and unstintingly reverberated – if they suit the
That said, careless inattentiveness is foremost our sin. Foreigners
are hardly likely to bother about what predominantly imperils Israel.
That’s apart from the issue of fundamental morality.
Our fellow democracies keep prodding us to risk our very survival in
return for ephemeral verbiage (in the best case) and often not even
They pressure us arrogantly and condescendingly as if they do in
actual fact know what’s best. All the while, it’s no skin off their
noses if dire consequences from their non-too-friendly advice befall
The Iranian nukes-in-the-making are a trenchant case in point. For
much of the free world a nuclear Iran is an inconvenience. Better it
wasn’t so. Nevertheless, the real fly in the international
community’s ointment isn’t a potential genocidal strike on Israel but
a preemptive strike by Israel.
Hence the world’s energies are homed in on stopping those
troublemaking Jews from upsetting everyone else’s equanimity.
For some, like US President Barack Obama, a deceptive calm is way
preferable to shattering the illusion. With an election campaign
around the corner, Obama has reluctantly put out the welcome mat for
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. His seeming civility is quite a
departure from March 2010. Then, with no campaign to mitigate his
unmistakable aversion, Obama heaped unprecedented protocol-abuse on
Netanyahu, going so far as to summarily walk out on him mid-
conversation in order to “have dinner.”
But two years later, we get a rhetorical rampup against Iran to
soften the sit-tight admonition against Israel. The ostensible show
of camaraderie isn’t merely geared to hoodwinking Jewish voters.
Diplomatic dawdling is essential for Obama to curtail oil-price hikes
ahead of Election Day (November 6) – even if this eventually kills
Israelis. Our life-or-death interests take a back seat to his
It’s not that we’re trigger happy to hit Iran (We’d suffer the
vindictive backlash) but that the window of opportunity is narrow.
Obama’s political calendar precludes timely preventative action.
Obama’s demand is plainly that we subordinate our sovereignty to his
reelection schedule. The cruel choice is either lose Obama’s backing
(even if it’s merely nominal) or forfeit our self-reliance.
No syrupy speechifying can cover this up.
It’s our self-preservation on the line, as distinct from that of any
professed well-wisher overseas.
We cannot afford to fall for the insincerity lavished upon us – when
expedient – by Obama or anyone else.
The disingenuous counsel liberally dispensed by talking heads and
scribblers here and abroad mustn’t distract us from this realization.
Opinions are drummed up not because of their objective
unassailability but because of vested interests.
This is as basic now as it was when Colvin visited Morag.
We don’t hear all the news. We get a glimpse of what those with media
clout choose to play up. They chose not to play up Colvin’s report.
Our media aids and abets our escapist penchants.
Colvin received no proper hearing in the country that surrendered
Morag to cold-blooded mass murderers.
Hence it took countless rocket barrages, ambushes, mega-scale
gunrunning and violent clashes to impress average Israelis with the
truth – decidedly in defiance of opinion-molders whose latest line is
to suggest that Hamas is a tolerable interlocutor, despite explicitly
preaching for our absolute obliteration.
They must be laughing out loud in Gaza – just like they were during
Colvin’s stopover. It was coincidentally just then that Hamas
chieftain Khaled Mashaal stated in a Lebanese TV interview
that “Israel lacks the stamina to withstand a protracted struggle.”
“Were Israel strong, it wouldn’t withdraw,” Mashaal explained. “But
Israel did withdraw and speaks of more pullbacks. Israel is in deep
crisis. It cannot defeat the Palestinians nor break their spirit.”
This is the morale-boosting message Israel sends its foes whenever it
dithers and dallies on Iran or when it accedes to the premise that it
must cede strategic assets to still-viable enemies.
Unbeaten armies don’t give up vital holdings, especially in an
unconcluded war. That’s how conventional logic operates. Even
Mashaal’s logic. You can’t fault him for not figuring us out.
You can’t fault Colvin either. Her assumptions about what should have
sent shivers down our spines were based on the norm. Israelis,
though, are an anomaly. No one else like us in the world.
www.sarahhonig.com (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 03/16/12)
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