Blogging the War: Naming the War

by Brian on July 26, 2006

in In the News,Living Through Terror,War with Hezbollah

This article was posted on on Tuesday, July 25, 2006. The link is here.Is it too early to give the war in the north a formal name?



What should we call this
war? Thus far, we’ve been using fairly generic names, like the “War
with Hezbollah” or the “War in the North.” But those seem too
pedestrian to capture the essence of what is rapidly shaping up to be
one of the most decisive fights in Israel’s short but battle-weary
history.A grander name might be the “Israel-Iranian/Syrian
Proxy War.” Or how about the “War Between the West and Radical Islam?”
But those high-flying monikers presuppose we know more than we do about
who the ultimate players in the unfolding drama will be and how it will
all end up. Most wars don’t get named until after they’re done. After
all, you couldn’t know the Six-Day War would be called that on the
fourth day of the fighting?

Indeed, maybe what’s taking place
today along the Lebanese border will eventually be downgraded in the
history books from a full-fledged war to a limited “operation,” in
which case the military code name – “Just Reward” – might just as well
be used.

The Knesset debated that very issue earlier today.

Menahem Ben-Sasson of Kadima argued that Israel can use “the term ‘war’
only when the military actions are started by our side.” Ben-Sasson
expressed concern that calling the current conflict a war would
contribute to a negative public image painting as a “hostile
aggressor.” He preferred the label “military action.”

response infuriated Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav. “Refusing to call this
situation by its rightful name, a war, is a completely irresponsible
action by the government,” Yahav declared. Only by calling it a war can
“proper aid be received by citizens of the North.”

definition of war also allows for reparations for real estate damage
and provides a security blanket to employees and businesses
guaranteeing that both will be compensated for time absent from work,
Yahav added.

Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On agreed. “I think it is a
clear case of hutzpa by the government not to have declared war the
first day,” she said “They are trying to save money while people are

Legal wrangling aside, I
think we have enough data to give the war a proper name. My proposal
stems not from the war’s most likely conclusion, but the mood into
which Israelis have fallen at its onset. Yes, there’s defiance and
resolute steadfastness. But there’s something else that’s gripped the

I say we should call this “The War of Disillusionment.”

disillusionment in our military or even the government: opinion polls
still show a high degree of support for the action in the north.

this is the war when our dreams of a new Middle East literally went up
in smoke. Everything we’ve strived for since the Oslo Accords has been
bombed back to 1967, most critically our hope that things could ever be
different in our tough little neighborhood.

When Oslo first
emerged on the Israeli political scene some 15 years ago, it was met by
both detractors and supporters, but there was an overall mood in the
country that, if nothing else, life would not be the same. We had a
chance at peace, at treaties, at borders and negotiated resolutions.
Some felt Yasser Arafat was going to be rehabilitated and that the PLO
would be our partner. Our children would no longer have to serve long
years in the army and reserves.

That was quickly followed by
the peace treaty with Jordan and the opening of friendly relations with
several progressive Arab countries. We even gave our daughter, born in
those heady optimistic days, the middle name “Yonit” – meaning little
dove of peace.

The process eventually culminated with the
pull-out from Lebanon which, while hasty and ill-planned, still said to
the world: “This is an internationally recognized border and you no
longer have any basis for calling us ‘occupiers.'”

We all know
what happened then. In the fall of 2000, following the failed Camp
David talks, Arafat and the Palestinian Authority launched a protracted
campaign of terror and suicide bombings against civilians inside the
1967 “Green Line” that effectively buried the Oslo process.

Sharon re-invented himself and his drive to build the separation fence,
along with last summer’s controversial Disengagement from Gaza, were
conscious steps to create a new reality, one where Israelis and
Palestinians – and indeed, Israelis and the rest of the Middle East –
would be able to co-exist peacefully … just not together.

up the dream of driving to Damascus for falafel was the first
disillusionment. Now the War with Hezbollah represents the final one.
Because if disengagement posited that we can live in the same crowded
piece of real estate, just not in the same building, we were – a year
ago – still closing our eyes to the growing reality that the other side
wanted us evicted entirely.

We wanted so desperately to
believe that all those statements made in Arabic (but not English)
about still intending to push the Jews into the sea were just poetic
hyperbole that made for good rally chants, but that no one really meant
it. That all those who had died in the years of so-called peace had not
died in vain.

Now, sadly, Israelis believe what the other side
is saying. And the message is this: Nothing has changed since 1967.
Since 1948 before that, and maybe all the way back to the Balfour
Declaration. The War with Hezbollah tells Israelis that our neighbors
don’t want us here, not at all.

Lebanon is not a border
dispute – Israel pulled out in 2000 and the UN went as far as to
recognize the border. The legal definition of the border with Gaza is
murkier, but for nine months, the Strip has been judenrein. The attack
that killed two soldiers and resulted in the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit
was on the Israeli side of the border. So what else could all this be,
but a continuation of the first Arab-Israeli war?

Israeli Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday told representatives of the Gaza
evacuees living in temporary housing in the Negev community of Nitzan
that “we will yet evacuate communities and it is important to me to
complete this chapter as soon as possible.” He added that he was
“convinced that we made the right decision to carry out the
disengagement plan.”

But will he really be able to implement
his realignment plan? Will Israelis, after the “War of
Disillusionment,” consent to setting the hoped-for new international
border to just a few kilometers away from their homes in Jerusalem and
Tel Aviv? Hezbollah and the Palestinian government run by Hamas both
get their marching orders from Iran and Syria. If Hezbollah can make a
35-kilometer band of land in the north of Israel a living hell, why on
earth would Israelis agree to a plan that could potentially put those
same missiles under someone’s bed in a house down the block, even if it
is on the other side of a “fence?”

Let’s not forget that “when
Iranian President Ahmadinejad speaks about destroying Israel, he means
exactly that,” wrote MK Ephraim Sneh, leader of the Labor Party Knesset
faction. “And before he obtains nuclear weapons, he is trying to hammer
and weaken Israeli society with various types of rockets and missiles.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Israeli Prime Minister in
their meeting on Monday that it is “time for a new Middle East. It is
time to say to those that don’t want a different kind of Middle East
that we will prevail. They will not.”

Israelis won’t give up.
It’s not that kind of disillusionment. We won’t all pack up and make
yerida to New York or Los Angeles. We have no choice but to remain

Even if the war is concluded in our favor and
Hezbollah is dealt a mortal blow with international peace keepers
replacing terrorists in southern Lebanon; and even if Iran is given a
bloody nose through the defeat of its proxy and remarkably goes the way
of Libya which has purportedly given up its weapons of mass destruction
program; even then there’s still no turning away from the lessons
learned in these hot weeks of July.

“Give peace a chance?”
veteran Israel Television journalist Idelle Ross said this week.
“Wouldn’t we love to? Maybe another time, another place.”

Let me suggest, then, perhaps an even better name for everything that’s going on: “The War When Reality Finally Sunk In.”


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous July 27, 2006 at 12:46 am

How about, “The War of Lebanese Agression”?
Too chauvenist? Perhaps.

2 Anonymous July 30, 2006 at 4:03 pm

I've read a few names referring to the Jewish calendar: The War of Tammuz, the 17th of Tammuz War, the War of Dire Straits.
These make me uneasy because I don't want the end result to be something to add to the 9th of Av list.

3 Anonymous August 3, 2006 at 6:01 am

Originally, I thought it should be called the Three Weeks War (or War of the 3 Weeks), as the bulk of it would take place during that period. As it stretches past 9 Av, I'm not as sure, but perhaps Israel can finish them off over the next few days.

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