La Gaceta, April 5


Israel may be the last Western nation on the face of the Earth.

2018-04-05 by Rafael Bardaji

Three years ago, I had the opportunity to spend a day in Nahal Oz. It’s a small cooperative of just a hundred families in the south of Israel, which is reminiscent of another era when Israel was the paradise of the kibbutz and socialism with a human face. Today the farmers have become technified and their production is very efficient. Nonetheless, Nahal Oz is not known only for its products, it’s also known for having suffered the impact of hundreds of rockets launched from Gaza. In 2015 one of them fell squarely in the children’s bedroom of a young couple, killing one of them. If there have not been more deaths in that community, it has been due to self-protective measures they had to adopt: Bomb-proof walls, anti-fragmentation glass, parapets, and a nursery that looks more like a bunker than a children’s place to play and be educated. The complaints I heard from its inhabitants were all reasonable, although based on naïve leftist pacifism.

In any case, my presence in the kibbutz mainly had nothing to do with my desire to listen to the dramatic experiences of the cooperative’s members. I was there because militants of Hamas—the terrorist group tightly controlling the Gaza Strip for now ten years—had built a tunnel under the security gate, which ended just a few steps from the kibbutz. Syringes with sedatives had been found in the tunnel, theoretically to make kidnappings easier. There was also a motorcycle with which the terrorists traveled more quickly through the tunnel’s three-or-four-kilometer extension.

Guided by IDF soldiers, I descended steeply about ten meters below the surface and entered a narrow but solid passageway. The walls and the vaulted ceiling were built with cement — a material that probably came from humanitarian aid for the reconstruction of Gaza, but that Hamas leaders prefer to spend on their military constructions. A few meters away, but in a span of time that seemed an eternity to me because of the darkness and humidity, the tunnel branched into a network that pointed in several directions. It also got bigger. After a hundred meters, sappers had blocked off the tunnel in order to avoid possible infiltration. "We have reached the border with Gaza," explained the commander who was guiding me.

Sure enough, we had advanced going under Natal Hoz’s sunflower fields. On the surface we could see some armed civilians in the outskirts of Gaza City who let themselves be seen as an indication that they knew we were there. From some unknown corner, we were greeted with multi-shot salvos in the air, as a way to confirm our presence on the border line. Above our heads, there was a sophisticated monitoring system in hot-air balloons, capable of detecting movements along the border as well as the firing of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip against Israeli populations. Hundreds of rockets, as I said, have been launched against the area we were visiting, but the same can be said about urban centers as Sderot while some, more far-reaching rockets, have been launched against Tel Aviv, or even the southern part of Jerusalem. Since Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, about 20,000 rockets and mortars have been fired from Gaza.

Last week I remembered that specific visit and others I made afterwards. A sense of discomfort invaded me for being so close to the hooded men defiantly looking at us on the other side of the metal fence. I don’t know what I would have thought if, instead of these few militiamen, my eyes had seen a crowd of about 30,000 Palestinians marching in formation from Gaza towards that tenuous metal fence that separates a terror regime from some farmers that nonetheless live there, exercising their rights as citizens of a free and democratic country such as Israel — whether its critics like it or not.

Organized last Friday the so-called "March of Return" had a clear objective: Forcibly go over the border and enter Israel. That is, to invade a country and to pounce on the families in all the population centers around the Gaza Strip, such as Nahal Oz. Only a fence and some few dozens of meters separated them. Oh, and something else, the Israeli army, willing to protect their own and defend their land, their country.

As usual, the march began with chants and a peaceful tone, but quickly degenerated into an uncontrolled and violent mob that threw rocks and burned tires. The tire burning produced thick smoke that Hamas militants and possibly other terrorist groups, armed with assault rifles, used as camouflage. What had to happen, did happen: 17 Palestinians were killed. Israel has identified 12 of them as Hamas militants. The terrorist organization itself has admitted that five of them were part of their security forces. You only have to see their photos to realize that they were not exactly little angels, wrapped as they were in their black-green flags and armed to the teeth.

While modern wars must be won on the battlefield against an irregular and unconventional enemy, that usually exploits and exposes its civilians to reach tactical objectives on the ground, these wars are easily lost in the blogosphere with just 140 characters. That’s what has happened again. The Palestinians know that they cannot win the battle against Israel with weapons or suicide bombers, since it’s a people and a nation willing to do anything to survive; however, the Palestinians also know that they can do a lot of damage by undermining Israel’s international image. In recent years, the Palestinians have developed great abilities to produce false or manipulated images, whose sole purpose is to offer a monstrous image of Israel. The eagerness to be the first to get out the news, the lack of means to compare sources or situations, and the need to cover 24/7 the news with images lead the media to buy into everything offered, whether real, biased, or false. In addition, badmouthing Israeli soldiers or politicians has no negative consequences — quite the contrary.

I’m one of those who think that the vaunted "Palestinian State" already exists and it’s in Gaza. Since 2005 there’s not a single Israeli there and is self-administered by its own leaders. However, Gaza lives off foreign aid, much of it coming from our pockets via taxes and by the grace of Spain’s Agency of Cooperation run now by Alfonso Dástiz’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That's why it seems legitimate to me that Israel can defend itself from a neighbor who only dreams of putting an end to the State of the Jewish people. If France, Morocco, or Portugal wanted to put an end to Spain, I would react in the same way as the Israelis. Moreover, after the huge popular reaction of Spaniards against the Catalan separatists’ coup d'etat, I think it would not be difficult to explain in Spain why a State should and must defend itself against those threatening it.

But, alas, we already know that Spain is different and that it has long since given up defending its borders — from the Sahara region to Spain’s current Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s statement that he does not care very much about borders. Maybe that's why we have our Navy ships at the service of mafias that traffic with the erroneously-called refugees leaving Libya’s coasts — where’s that round of applause?

The Palestinians, an invented people built on lies just as Catalan separatism, have political objectives and, well, that’s their business. I only hope that those objectives never materialize when it comes to putting an end to Israel; however, I hope Palestinians can live in peace and prosperity, free of terrorist organizations and corrupt and undemocratic leaders.

Nonetheless, the reaction that Israel provokes in our journalists and politicians demands a deep review, because most of the time it has nothing to do with what Israel does, but with what it is. For example, an ultra-secularized Europe, if not laicizing, cannot understand how an entire people can be defined today by their links to religion. Similarly, a Europe that rationalizes diversity and respect for multiculturalism, but it’s perplexed by a society proud of its own identity traits and who blithely refuses to renounce them. And what can we say about a super-pacifist Europe that doesn’t understand the need for its own defense? (Do you remember José Bono? He said: "As a Defense minister, I prefer to die than to kill".) All that compared to a nation, Israel, which knows all too well that it depends on its Armed Forces to protect its citizens, its borders, and its future.

There’s something we should say clearly: Israel is not the exception, we are — we, dreaming of getting out of History and keep believing that we live in Paradise here on Earth. Or better yet, in the bubble we want Europe to be. However, reality is quite different. The world isn’t full of Mother Theresas of Calcutta, nor is Europe isolated and protected. In fact, Europe has accelerated its destruction since 2015, when Angela Merkel opened Europe’s doors to anyone who wanted to settle here to live off our social benefits. Unlike Israel, we no longer know what a nation is, what our borders, identity traits, culture, or values are; we live in a nihilist world that sees no farther than the moment in which we live.

We don’t want to admit it because it’s a shame and our responsibility. However, Israel may be the last Western nation on the face of the Earth. That Trump succeeds in returning America to the place from which Obama threw it out is still just a gamble.