Forward Thinking

Yesh Atid's Ofer Shelah on War, Grief and Promise

By J.J. Goldberg

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It’s been a while since I’ve had the weekly privilege of translating and editing Ofer Shelah. Some years back he was the Forward’s Israeli commentator as well as a military and sports correspondent for Maariv. Now he’s Yesh Atid’s Knesset faction chairman. Today, marking Soldiers’ Memorial Day in Israel, he posted these thoughts on his Facebook page (in my poor translation - the Hebrew original is after the jump). His bottom line: The only true respect for the fallen is to vow that force will never again be used except in genuine self-defense.

It’s worth a read, especially if you’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that Lapid and Yesh Atid are just a warmed over yuppie version of Lieberman and Yisrael Beiteinu. ! היידה עופר

In the years after the First Lebanon War, Memorial Day was for me a day of private grief and longing. In that war, which remains to this day deeply divisive, my generation – comrades, commanders, soldiers – went first and fell, and their loss was immediately and deeply felt. For one day, it managed to cover over the helpless, bitter anger that that costly, pointless war aroused.

The years passed; the faces of the dead faded. In my annual Memorial Day conversations with my father, who with his generation fought and lost more than we ever did, the anger became stronger than the sadness. We would speak about the fact that this place, where we live and which we fought to defend, as it’s customary to say and as we say to the families of the fallen in a clumsy attempt to offer comfort for our friends who fell, is taking on an appearance that transforms our longing for them to anger over our lives that aren’t worthy of their loss.

This evening I feel that the sadness and anger are giving rise to responsibility. Not just for the fates of my son and his friends serving in combat units, but for the one commitment that must come out of this sea of loss: the commitment that any act of force must be only the last resort, an act that is justified and necessary for self-defense. A commitment not to use and not to permit the use of grief as an excuse for the blind use of force.

I hated the song, “Ani mavtiah lach – I promise you, my little girl, that this will be the last war,” from the moment it came out after that great war that was born in arrogance and drunken power. The only thing that we can and must promise is that force will never be used except for appropriate self defense, as a last resort. In my mind, this would be the truest respect for the fallen.

And here are Ofer’s words:

בשנים שאחרי מלחמת לבנון הראשונה יום הזכרון היה עבורי יממה פרטית של כאב וגעגוע. במלחמה ההיא, שעד היום ניטש ויכוח מתי הסתיימה, בני דורי - חברים, מפקדים, פקודים - הלכו ראשונים ונפלו, והיעדרם היה מיידי וחותך. ליום אחד, הוא כיסה אפילו על הזעם חסר האונים והמריר שעוררה המלחמה כולה, רווית השולל, השכול והכשלון.

השנים עברו, פני המתים התרחקו. בשיחה הקבועה שלי בערב היום הזה עם אבא שלי, שהוא ובני דורו לחמו ואיבדו יותר מאיתנו, הכעס כבר היה חזק יותר מן העצב. היינו מדברים על כך שהמקום הזה, שבו אנחנו חיים ולמען הגנתו, כך נהוג לומר וכך אנחנו אומרים למשפחות בנסיון נואל לנחם, נפלו חברינו, לבש פנים שהופכות את הגעגוע אליהם לזעם על שהחיים שלנו אינם ראויים לאובדנם.

הערב אני חש שהעצב והכעס מולידים אחריות. לא רק לגורלם של בני וחבריו המשרתים ביחידות קרביות, אלא להתחייבות האחת שמוכרחה לצאת מתוך ים האובדן הזה: ההתחייבות לעמוד על כך שכל פעולה כוחנית לא תהיה אל המוצא האחרון, אקט מוצדק והכרחי של הגנה עצמית. ההתחייבות שלא להשתמש, ולא לתת להשתמש, בשכול כתירוץ לשימוש עיוור בעוצמה.

שנאתי את השיר “אני מבטיח לך, ילדה שלי קטנה, שזו תהיה המלחמה האחרונה” כבר כשיצא, אחרי המלחמה הגדולה שנולדה מן היוהרה ושכרון הכוח. הדבר היחיד שאפשר וחייבים להבטיח הוא שהכוח לא ישמש לעולם אלא להגנה עצמית ראויה, מוצא אחרון. זה בעיני יהיה הכבוד האמיתי לנופלים.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yesh Atid, Ofer Shelah, Israeli Memorial Day, Israel Defense Forces, First Lebanon War

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