Being the Tank
In high school I spent an insurmountable amount of hours at Pro-Israel rallies in front of the Federal Building in Westwood California, toting the classic “Americans for the IDF” posters and for some inexplicable reason, pleading with the Mexican-American gardener driving by in his dusty old pick-up truck to honk if he loves Israel. Who wouldn’t want to be on the same side of a picket line with the hilarious Larry Miller, a staunch pro-Israel advocate as well as hilarious comedian and actor? A true Jewish Angelino could never pass up on advocacy and Hollywood glitterati all wrapped into one.
This past Monday night, after the Israeli Navy had killed 9 extremists in self-defense on a flotilla off of the coast of Gaza, and was summarily condemned by the majority of nations in the international community, lead by Turkey, I attended a Pro-Israel rally at the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv. To say that Israeli passion kicks Tinsel-town’s behind would be an understatement of epic proportions. My first Israeli rally was as much an emotional revelation for me than a conceptual one. People, young and old, were not chanting for Israel as if it were a team playing in the Superbowl (I guess World Cup would be more apt) that weekend. You could genuinely feel people of all backgrounds chanting and singing in unison for their right to exist. Songs weren’t songs but personal anthems. Posters seemed more like enlarged I.D. cards than kitschy catch-phrases scrawled on thin paper. This is a phenomenon Americans are privileged to not have to experience (yet), but that most certainly does not mean that they do not need to learn its lesson.
On Tuesday, my Professor fielded a question from a classmate of mine that in essence was the quintessential, “why has the world turned against Israel? Why is the only democracy in the Middle East always portrayed as oppressors and aggressors? ” question. My Professor answered slowly, “Do you remember that picture of the tank and the boy (above)? Well, Israel used to be the boy, now we are the tank”.
While “being the tank” being the reason for the world’s consistent condemnation of the Jewish state is debatable, what is not debatable is that, in reality, every single person on this earth, if placed in that actual situation, would rather be the tank than the boy. Should Israel be a light unto other nations? Absolutely it should. However, this does not mean that it must take constant abuse and terror from its enemies lying down. Going like sheep to their slaughter does the other nations Israel is supposed to be an example for no good whatsoever. Being the tank is not just imperative to Israel’s survival, it is imperative to Israel fulfilling its role as a bastion of G-d’s good light in a world that’s bulb is quickly flickering out.
Israel should not have to apologize for the deaths of the extremists on the flotilla. Israel does not owe Turkey, Barak Obama, or the UN an explanation for preventing their young soldiers from being beaten to death in an ambush. It must continue to protect itself as it has since its inception, with a moral mind and a strong fist. Stopping those that wish you harm is not “stooping to their level”, as many have charged, it punctuates the statement that that “level” (i.e. genocide and terrorism) will not be tolerated.
Perhaps the tank/boy analogy has been interpreted erroneously. The boy in the analogy is cocking his arm, poised to throw a rock at the tank. He is a loner with his own story and his own ideas. As an individual this is commendable, however the tank/boy analogy is being used to compare nations not individuals. The boy as a nation is rouge, reckless, and irrational. Only such a person would go up against a tank. Courage is not a synonym for stupidity. Israel most certainly is the tank. The tank is a large machine built for the protection of the collective. The tank has a mechanical exterior, but relies on a human interior to operate correctly. Israel is, and must always be, the tank of the Jewish people. It must always be a literal as well as political and ideological machine run by people who understand the responsibilities it was built for; to shield and propel the Nation of Israel and the good that it stands for.
This is what I felt at the Tel Aviv rally. The 500 plus protesters all understood that the tank must not be traded for the boy. They understood, and yelled as such, that the Israeli Navy were heroes on Monday, not war criminals. Turkey, in its alliance with Iran and Hamas, embodies the rouge reckless boy-nation. Israel stands for the heroic and just tank-state.
Israel must maintain its passionate and unbending identity, it is what separates it from all other nations, and must be a source of pride not shame. In America, a person carries an Identification Card (unless you are an illegal immigrant of course), in Israel it’s a Teudat Zehut, or a certificate of identity. Identity, not identification, is Israel’s keystone of greatness and it must be protected at all costs.