Why Stop Now?

Just a bit more blood to top off the honey.

It’s the again and again and again. It’s the over and over and over, and always more of the same. Another military operation, mini-war, war. Once again the rough generals, again our correspondents reporting live from the scene, again the wondrous Israeli solidarity – always stored up for just these wartime moments, again, the home-front residents displaying readiness, the reserve soldiers itching to join the battle, again Roni Daniel, Israeli television’s broadcaster, delivers violence from the offices of the war cabinet direct to our TV screens, and once again our finest hour is repeated ad nauseam.

A day before the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead in 2009, an esteemed journalist spoke with a woman from Sederot who had been carefully selected to be a “representative” interviewee during the days of the battle. “So, what’s your opinion: should it end now or would it be a grave mistake to stop at this point?” asked the veteran reporter, couching the answer in her question. Without missing a beat, the impassioned woman replied: “Why in the world stop now?” – even as the bodies in Gaza were piling up and the morgues had run out of space to house the dead.

“Hit them as hard as possible,” she said. “Do not grovel before these animals. We must finish the job once and for all!” “Tell me,” whispered the broadcaster, in a sultry voice, as though confiding some illicit secret, “I want to ask you something very personal. Is it true that you feel very, very Israeli right now?” Thus did the veteran broadcaster, with the help of a “representative” interviewee – who always speaks in the name of all of us – capture the essence of Israeliness: “Jonathan/Jonathan,/a bit of blood,/just a bit more blood/to top off the honey.”*

Thus, over the decades, politicians, generals, and their faithful mouthpieces in the media construct the paradigm of power and the demise of an alternative. Thus, over the decades, thousands of hours of orchestrated broadcasting construct a defensive shield of consciousness. So deep is this paradigm, and so monolithically aggressive the military discourse, that no Iron Dome could succeed in interrupting it. The veteran broadcaster doesn’t ask, “Why did we enter into this awful war to begin with?” (or the previous war, or the one before that). She asks only, “Why stop now?”

From an open letter written by Nomika Zion to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during Israel’s aerial bombardment of Gaza last November. Zion lives in an urban kibbutz in Sderot. Her letter was translated from the Hebrew by Avi Steinberg and first published in the New York Review of Books. Translator’s note: these lines are from “Jonathan,” a well-known 1966 Hebrew poem by Yona Wallach.