Israel’s estranged generals

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In one her best articles, “Our Estranged Generals” (April 4, 2016), Jerusalem Post journalist Caroline Glick writes: “Our generals are not on the same page as the rest of us. In fact, they aren’t even reading the same book.”

What the generals learn

She asks:

What explains our generals’ embrace of positions that most Israelis reject? Why are they willing to sacrifice soldiers and embrace Orwellian notions that weakness rather than strength is the key to peace? It is hard to say. Perhaps it’s groupthink. Perhaps it’s the selection process. Perhaps it’s overexposure to Europeans or Americans. Perhaps they are radicals in uniforms. Perhaps it is none of those things.

A memorial to the last time Israel was ever on any real offensive. Today Israel's generals learn how to fight not to win.

Memorial to the Six-day War, on the Jerusalem road. Photo: CNAV

It seems that Ms. Glick has never examined what “our estranged generals” learn at Israel’s Command and Staff College, which makes them “estranged from the rest of us.” As the present writer has often pointed out, the formative Director of this college was also the Director of Israel Military Intelligence, Prof. Yehoshafat Harkabi, a self professed moral relativist. What Harkabi says about Israel’s enemies in his book Arab Attitudes to Israel will shed considerable light n why Israeli generals are estranged from the rest of us.

Harkabi’s book was written (of course in Hebrew) just before the Six Day War of June 1967. The English edition appeared in 1972, that is, before the Yom Kippur War. The book is replete with hundreds of quotes from diverse Muslim Arab sources, all vilifying Jews and Israel in the most lurid terms and promising the eventual annihilation of the Jewish state. In some 500 pages one finds not a single exception to this ventilation of Arab hatred – not even from Islamic scholars. Yet Harkabi was convinced before the Six Day War as well as before the Yom Kippur War that a peaceful and political solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict was possible.

I single out Harkabi because he was not only the head of Israeli Military Intelligence, but also an internationally prominent academic and reputed expert on Islam. In fact he is the reputed mentor of Shimon Peres, the genius behind the disastrous Oslo or Israel-PLO Oslo Agreement.

Moral equivalency again

Harkabi’s book is dedicated to Jews and Arabs alike – a telling example of moral equivalency! Nevertheless, its central thesis is the Arab’s unmitigated hatred of Jews and Israel. However, the implacable nature of this hatred is obscured or mitigated by Harkabi’s moral equivalency on the one hand, and by his fixation on the idea of “peace” on the other.

Harkabi book does not mince words about the Arabs’ Islamic faith. He refers to what he terms the “negative characteristics of Islam. Islam, he says, is a “combatant,” “expansionist,” and “authoritarian” reed. He admits that “The idea of Jihad is fundamental in Islam,” in consequence of which “hatred,” “hostility,” and “conflict” are endemic to Arab culture (p. 133). Furthermore, and of profound significance, he acknowledges that “the use of falsehood” and “distortions of the truth” are typical of Arab political life. He points out that “Political scientists, sociologists and historians seem to feel reluctant to mention this aspect of … the Arab world” (p. 337).

Harkabi goes so far as to say that mendacity is “second nature” to the Arabs, and that one may rightly say “falsehood is an expression of [Arab] national character.” He quotes the liberated Arab sociologist Sonia Hamady: “Lying is a widespread habit among the Arabs, and they have a low idea of truth” (p. 348).

Nevertheless, these “negative characteristics” of the Arabs are diluted or lose political significance by the doctrine of moral relativism which Harkabi imbibed and conveyed at the Hebrew University. This doctrine (mysteriously) induced Harkabi to believe that the Arabs would shed their negative characteristics if Israel would simply withdraw from Judea, Samaria, and Gaza and permit the Arabs to establish thereon an independent and economically well-off state of their own,

This is precisely the position of a policy paper that General Moshe Yaalon produced sixteen years ago at the Shalem Center. The ideas of this paper represent the position of none other than Benjamin Netanyahu. Moreover, not only is the Ya’alon study logically related to Netanyahu’s “two-state solution” to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. It also explains Caroline Glick’s confusion concerning Israel’s “estranged generals.” Recall her asking:

What explains our generals’ embrace of positions that most Israelis reject? Why are they willing to sacrifice soldiers and embrace Orwellian notions that weakness rather than strength is the key to peace? It is hard to say…. Perhaps it’s overexposure to Europeans or Americans. Perhaps they are radicals in uniforms. Perhaps it is none of those things.

That’s right Miss Glick, it’s none of those things. It’s the mind-set of these generals. They have internalized the pervasive academic doctrine of moral relativism, which undermines wholehearted conviction in the justice of Israel’s cause and in the unmitigated evil of Israel’s enemies!◙

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