“This War Does Not Bring Me Peace Nor Security”

These remarks by Israeli Nomika Zion struck me as having the moral force and eloquence of ancient Hebrew prophets.  I read it in French in Le Monde and translate it here. 

“I speak with the people of Sderot and I see that they have all begun to smile again,” boasted Fouad [Benyamin (Fouad) Ben Eliezer, Israel’s minister of infrastructures] on the radio during the second day of the war.  “As the initiative goes forward, hearts come together,” he added.

My dear sir, that is not true for everyone, far from it.  And even if I were the only one in the all the region of Sderot who does not see herself in your words–and I am not the only one–, it would still be wise to listen to me.

It isn’t for me, it isn’t in my name that you have started this war.  The blood bath that is taking place in Gaza is not for my safety.  Destroyed houses, bombed out schools, hundreds of thousands of refugees:  all that is not done in my name, much less for my security.

In Gaza, they don’t have time to bury the dead.  They slip them two by two, however they can, in refrigerated cells.  In the street, the cadavers pile up, policemen in one pile, children in another.  Our zealous journalists recite propaganda virtuously in the face of these “images that speak for themselves.”

But if I may ask, what do these images speak of?  This war will not provide me peace nor security.  After a necessary truce, which will permit all of us to regain little by little some emotional and psychological balance and something resembling a sane life, our leaders will have succeeded in leading us back to the same place, a place of nightmare and agony, back on this humiliating and terrifying race toward shelter. 

Please understand me.  Hamas is a frightful band of terrorists, not only for us but first for all the Gazans themselves.  But beyond this cursed leadership, there live human beings. 

Painfully, citizens on both sides of the border are building small bridges out of human acts.  Thus, the association Kol-Acher (Another Voice), of which I am a member, has found a human path toward the hearts of our neighbors. 


But, while we Israelis were able to profit from the calm [during the course of the cease fire], they had to endure the blockade during that time.  A young Gazan told us that he would not marry and have children.  Gaza does not nourish dreams for the future. 

I am afraid of the rockets.  Since the war began, I have hardly dared leave my street.  But the cast lead of official and media discourse, as equivoval as it is boastful, frightens me more. 

I am afraid when a member of our association is attacked by inhabitants of Sderot for having expressed criticism of the war in an interview.  Criticisms that are followed by anonymous phone calls and fear of returning in his car, not knowing what might await him. 

I am afraid when I see so little place given to other opinions and how hard it is to express them here in Sderot.  I am ready to pay the price of isolation but not that of fear. 

I am afraid when I see my city drape itself in Israeli flags during this war, of the cars that honk their horns each time a huge bomb falls on our neighbors. 

I am afraid of the gentleman who admits, his face radiant, that he has never been to a concert, but that the bombing of the inhabitants of Gaza by the Israeli army is the sweetest music he has ever heard.  I am afraid of the arrogant journalist who does not contradict this statement.

I am afriad of the orwellian double speak of these words and of the bodies of children, the image of which is blurred likewise, blurred and unclear, a public service rendered to us so that we lose the human capacity to see the other side, to feel, to be scandalized, to have any empathy. 

Under the code name Hamas, the media have fabricated a huge and dark demon without a face, without a body, and without a voice.  A million and a half nameless people.

A dark current of violence has infiltrated the heart of Israeli society, poisoning it and intensifying from war to war.  It has no form or smell, but from here you can sense it strongly.  It is a kind of euphoria, a joy in war, a vengeful exaltation, an intoxication of force that has buried a noble Jewish precept: “Do not rejoice at the fall of your enemy.”

An ethic so soiled today that it seems that no amount of washing will rid us of it.  In our fragile democracy, we have to weigh every word.  Otherwise, watch out for what is awaiting you.  The first time I felt protected by my country was when a truce was negotiated. 


I have absolutely nothing to say to the people of Hamas, but I ask these things of our leaders: Have you really tried every means of prolonging the truce?  Did you really try to resolve the problem of the points of entry and the blockade before committing “the inevitable”?  Did you go to the ends of the earth looking for appropriate intermediaries?  Why did you decline impassively, when war broke out, the French proposal of a cease fire?  Why are you refusing right now every initiative of go betweens and third party negotiators?

Have we not had as many rockets as we can stand?  Have there not been more Palestinian children killed than the world can stand? Who promises us that it is possible to eliminate Hamas?  Have these same methods not already been tried elsewhere?  Who would replace Hamas?  And how will voices of peace rise from these ruins, this famine, this cold, and these dead bodies?

Where are you leading us?  What future do you promise us here in Sderot.  And for how much longer will you make us bend our backs under the weight of lies and cliches: “There is no one to talk with on the other side,” “it’s an inevitable war, let Tzahal bring the work to an end,” “we are just going to strike Hamas and go home,” “this is in the name of peace.”  Always the lies of force, the only guide for finding a solution to the problems of our region.

And why does every furtive interview with a member of our association begin and end with the same mocking from the journalist: “Don’t you think that you are a little naive?

Why is it that all possibility of talks, of efforts at an accord or an agreement, even with the worst of our enemies, should have become synonymous with naivete, whereas the military option is always the result of a rational choice.?

Eight years of violence which have lead to nothing, does that not teach us the vanity of force?  Tzahal has fought, eliminated, struck, rased, attacked, and failed, making a lot of noise all along.   What advantage have we drawn from it all?  A rhetorical question.

Life in Sderot today is intolerable.  At night, in Gaza, Tsahal destroys infrastructure and kills human beings.  The walls of our houses shake.  In the morning, in Sderot, we take rocket fire, ever more sophisticated.  A person who goes off to work is not sure of finding his house intact at night.  At noon, we have just enough time to bury one of our young heros who paid with his life for the nth “just war.”

Sometimes, we manage to speak on the telephone with some of our desperate friends in  Gaza.  No electricity, no water, no heating oil, no food, nowhere to escape the violence.  The only words we get from N. a young girl 14 years old whose school was bombed and whose classmates died, in her impeccable English by email: “Help us.  We are human beings.”

These words do not leave me in peace.  I have not remembered how to smile, dear Fouad, not at all.  A ton of cast iron is weighing on my heart, and it cannot hold it. 

Nomika Zion is a member of the organization Kol-Aher (Another Voice), writing for Le Monde. 

English translation by Van Ness


One Response to ““This War Does Not Bring Me Peace Nor Security””

  1. nancy Says:

    Barbara sent this. Gila Svirsky is an Israeil peace activist. She says:

    I was listenting to the radio interview of two teenagers from the South of Israel, both of whom had been living under intolerable conditions for several weeks, caught in the crossfire of the adults.

    “Oh, my family never watches the foreign TV stations,” said one. They’re not as accurate as the Israeli news.”

    “My father forbids it,” said the other. “It could be demoralizing.”

    Yes, indeed, it could be demoralizing. If you don’t watch the “foreign channels”–CNN, the BBC, Sky News, let alone Al-Jazeera–you don’t hear the (other) half of what is happening. You never hear, for example that Al Quds Hospital took a direct hit yesterday, or that UNRWA notified the IDF that a shell had hit their storage facility (food, medicine, and fuel), but that the IDF fired six more shells after that; or that children were found cowering in their home near the dead bodies of their parents, probably for days, as ambulances could not reach them, despite strict international laws about the free movement of medical crews.

    But Israelis hear only the Israeli news. So what does my neighbor say to me yesterday? “Israel has the most moral army in the world. What other army would drop leaflets warning civilians to leave so they won’t be hurt by shelling?”

    Wel l, the answer is: many countries. It’s a common propaganda tool. Here’s an excerpt from a leaflet dropped by the US into Japan during World War II:

    “The weapons used by the Japanese military authorities in order to extend this hopeless war will be completely destroyed by the US Air Force. However, bombs cannot see, so we do not know where they will land. As you know, we Americans are a humanitarian people and we do not want to injure innocent people. Therefore, please evacuate these cities.” [http://www.ww2propaganda.eu/translat.htm]

    And here’s an excerpt of one dropped by Israel into Gaza a few days ago:

    “As a result of the acts undertaken by terrorists in your area against Israel, the IDF is forced to respond immediately and take action in this area. For your own safety, you are asked to leave the area immediately.” [http://www.ynet.co.il/english/articles/0,7340,L-3649729,00.html]

    Needless to say, there is nowhere to go. Gaza is a tiny area – 10% the size of Rhode Island – densely occupied, and all the borders are sealed shut.

    But Israelis are still repeating the mantra that turns my stomach: The IDF is the most moral army in the world.

    Throughout these horrific weeks, the most carefully documented reports inside Israel of what is and what isn’t actually happening have been those of the human right organizations. You can see a combined blog of these organizations at http://gazaeng.blogspot.com/. You know there have been serious human rights abuses when eleven organizations come together to do something. B’Tselem even took the unprecedented step of issuing a call for a cease fire [http://www.btselem.org/english/]. All have done important work in getting the message out to Israelis.

    Last but not least, the peace organizations continue raising their brave and lonely voices to the ongoing vilification of patriotic passersby and motorists. Here’s what I wrote on my sign yesterday: “We have become our own worst nightmare.” Most passersby didn’t get it.

    Gila Svirsky

    Co-chair, B’Tselem

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