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Hitting Back

My son is a soldier. He was recently out on a training run with his unit when for no apparent reason he was set upon by a soldier from a different unit, who used a wooden stick he was holding to hit my son and one of the other soldiers. It all happened very quickly, and luckily, although this boy hit my son so hard the stick broke on his back, my son and his friend were not injured. The attacking soldier was taken away to be charged and presumably punished. When they returned to the base, my son’s comrades-in-arms, and, indeed, his commanding officer, mocked him for not beating the other guy up. They used pejorative terms casting doubt on their manhood. When my son called that evening, he told me that it had never even occurred to him. He had never beaten anyone up in his life and he wasn’t going to start now. I told him I was proud of him and disgusted at his officer’s attitude on any number of levels.

Later I reflected on the situation. We, like many other parents, brought our children up not to fight, but to ‘use words’ to resolve conflicts. I remember the day our oldest daughter came home from her first grade classroom, upset by the fact that her teacher had told a boy to hit back when another boy hit him. My friends all have similar stories to share. The culture of hitting back is unfortunately only too common in the Israeli ethos. And perhaps this should not surprise me – after all, hasn’t the Israeli army, like many other armies in the world, adopted the principle of hitting back as part of its defence strategy? Although by name a defence force, retaliation (for example, in response to missile attacks from Gaza) is a central part of the army’s functioning.

“Use words” we tell our children as they grow up. Why do we not believe in the same principle when it comes to conflicts between states? I can already hear the cries of those who will tell me I am naïve. Indeed, perhaps I am. But I will also tell you that our policy of ‘hitting back’ doesn’t seem to be getting us very far. Rather than using words now to prevent the next (almost inevitable) outbreak of violence, we are waiting for the next occasion when we will be horrified by an unprovoked attack and will have no other option but to hit back. Whether it’s Lebanon or Gaza, in Egypt or Syria, if we don’t use words to resolve this conflict, then indeed we will have to hit back.

Our government has a tendency to suggest that the Palestinians only understand violence. “We won’t talk under fire,” they say. But when the Palestinians aren’t firing at us we won’t talk either. It seems that we simply won’t talk at all. As the mother of an Israeli soldier, I feel compelled to voice my plea for our government to talk now in order to prevent armed conflict later. I, for one, am not prepared to see my son go into battle in an entirely avoidable war. Now’s the time to take action to prevent the next war. It’s time we learned to use words rather than always hitting back.

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “Hitting Back

  1. I’m sorry, but I do think you’re incredibly naive. I am a mother to twin soldiers both of whom are in combat units and I completely support them and their units. It would be a perfect world if dialogue really could work. I wonder why NATO aren’t doing that with Syria or Libyia, or the USA with Afganistan. And do you really think that the Syrians who bombarded themselves through the northern Israeli borders today, on 15 May 2011 really had thoughts of dialogue and peace on their minds. For if they really wanted peace, then why didn’t they just stand against the fences with placards of LOVE and PEACE ?
    Sorry to say this, but I honestly don’t think your article was either objective or realistic. I think you’ve used this blog to get across your own personal political views. But then maybe you are right and we really should have a nice chat with the potrayers of peace who slaughted a little 3 month old baby in Itamar, just a few months ago.

    Posted by Diana | May 15, 2011, 10:28 pm
  2. Firstly, thank you for sharing your views on my blog – I’m delighted to engage in discussion and debate. I make no pretense that this blog is anything other than my personal views – that’s the reason I’ve started blogging.
    As to your actual argument, I would like to suggest that this conflict is never going to be resolved by the use of military force. In the end, we’ll have to sit down and talk. Obviously I abhor acts of brutal murder. I don’t believe, however, that allowing extremists on either side to de-rail any possible peace talks brings us further forward. As to my interpretation of today’s events on our Northern borders, I plan to write about that tomorrow.

    Posted by jerusalempeaceseeker | May 15, 2011, 11:16 pm

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