Today is not only a day of sadness for fallen Israeli soldiers, it’s also one of public declarations that all those bloody conflicts were righteous and necessary – just like the current ones and those that lie ahead.
Maybe in another country, a country that goes to war once in a generation or longer, Memorial Day can be a day strictly of sadness for the soldiers who were killed, and can even be a day to look back and ask: Was that war, or the one before it, really necessary? Did some of these soldiers we’re mourning, did this family’s son, really have to die like that, before his time?
But in Israel, where Memorial Day began last evening and ends this evening, the opposite happens: It is the one day of the year where it’s absolutely forbidden to question the justice of any war or clash in which any Israeli soldier ever died. On Israel’s Memorial Day, every war, every operation, every hostile encounter in this country’s history is implicitly declared to have been unavoidable, an unquestionable act of national self-defense. On Memorial Day, even Israel’s most controversial wars, those that are by now often described publicly as wars of choice, of missed opportunities, of aggression – the 1956 Sinai Campaign, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1982-85 Lebanon War, the late-1980s first Intifada, and the hundreds of attacks and counter-attacks of this occupation and that war of attrition – are implicitly declared to have been morally pure, and all the soldiers who were killed in them died for the most glorious possible cause. On Memorial Day, each and every one of this country’s thousands of bloody fights was a fight for its existence, freedom and security, as the nation’s leaders, followed by the media, solemnly intone.
But what else are they going to say? That some of these fallen soldiers, or a lot of these fallen soldiers, died in vain? That the government, backed by the public, sent them into wars that shouldn’t have been fought, or exposed them to guerrilla attack by acts of aggression? Obviously, no government or army leader wants to say that – on Memorial Day or any other day – and the great majority of the public doesn’t want to hear that, and I imagine that very few families of fallen soldiers want to hear it, either. (Although some do.)
So Memorial Day...Read More