The Façade of the Israeli Cease-fire

Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz speaks to the media during his visit to the scene of a suicide bombing at the Red Sea resort city of Eilat in southern Israel, 30 January 2007. A Palestinian suicide bomber killed three people in a bakery at the resort town of Eilat on Monday. (MaanImages/Moti Milrod)

This morning I opened the Haaretz Internet website to read the following headline: “Olmert decided: we will retain cease-fire; IDF has bombed a tunnel in northern Gaza Strip.” An inevitable coffee stain appeared on my shirt.

Although this headline screams absurdity, it constitutes the essence of Israel’s propaganda, and many an Israeli will not find it ambivalent. I have to admit that a year ago, I would have found it reasonable as well. The logic is simple: army officials say that the IDF has a perpetual green light to operate against terrorist groups on their way to commit their suicidal operations inside Israel. If it means the death of civilians, the destruction of homes or the arrest of innocent, then naturally it is the Hamas government to blame for not taking preemptive measures and therefore violating the truce.

So what does cease-fire truly mean for us Israelis? If it means the suspension of all active hostilities in order to allow the opponents to discuss peace terms, then in the current state of affairs, his definition seems ridiculous. While the Palestinian offensive obviously translates into terror attacks, the Israeli military agenda is never portrayed as offensive, but as defensive measures to keep Israel safe and sound. The same Israeli truism was used during the second Lebanon war. And although twenty-seven times more Lebanese civilians were killed than Israelis during the war and four times more Palestinians since September 2000, Israel does not consider itself hostile. On the contrary, it is continuously brainwashing us, its citizens, that we are under existential danger and that the IDF must regain its military dominance and deterrence in the region as if we were the weak, as if we were the oppressed, as if we were under constant threat.

Therefore, a cease-fire from the Israeli side does not really exist, because Israel is never on the offensive and naturally cannot violate the right to defend itself.

So while Hamas and Fatah are fighting for the next Palestinian leadership, Israel has no qualms about suspending its large-scale military operations, claiming it adheres to the cease-fire. And that is because these operations are only the façade, the media’s red meat; because fireworks and bloodshed film well.

But Israel’s active hostilities do not end with the drop of a bomb and the rise in death toll. The Israeli strangulation of the Gaza strip and the West Bank; the inhumane checkpoints; the illegal house demolishing; the daily disregard and violation of human rights and International laws, decrees and resolutions; the wall that separates families, expropriates lands and banishes dreams of freedom; the slow, hush-hush ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank; none of these are television-friendly, and therefore are silently forgotten, overlooked, dismissed by many Israelis and the naïve international viewer as security measures. Security measures which embody the constant beating, stifling and dehumanization of almost four million people.

That is the core of the Israeli offensive. In one word: the occupation. And as long as the occupation continues, and as long as we Israelis listen to and believe our Israeli leaders and army officials, there could never be a true cease-fire and peace.

Danny Felsteiner was born in 1977 in Haifa, Israel. He is a musician and writer currently in the Netherlands with his wife, Fabienne. Both are determined to set up a music school to Palestinian children in East Jerusalem, with the eventual prospect of bringing Israeli and Palestinian children together. They believe that music and cultural symbiosis are the foundations for understanding each other on the path to regional resolution and coexistence. You can reach Danny at: dannyfelsteiner AT