6/26/15 Events Far from Tel Aviv

by Marc Schulman

Today, has been a difficult day worldwide with dozens of civilians dead in attacks in Kuwait, Tunisia, France and Somalia, while an unknown number have been killed by ISIS as they have retaken parts of the town of Kobani. Here in Tel Aviv a city that was under constant missile attack last summer all is quiet, with many of the residents of Tel Aviv just a little hung over after a night of partying.

It was another one of those weeks in Tel Aviv; a week during which the news seemed almost unconnected to daily life. The two stories that dominated the news were the Druze attack on the Golan Heights of an army ambulance carrying Syrian injured in their Civil War and the U.N. Report on the Gaza Conflict charging that both sites may have committed war crimes, but placing special emphasis (and devoting the majority of its report) to the actions of Israel.

The event on the Golan Heights, where Druze attacked an ambulance, killing the two wounded inside was met with disbelief in Tel Aviv. Residents of Israel became aware in the past few weeks of the growing concern exhibited amongst Israeli Druze regarding the plight of their brethren in Syria. Still, the possibility that the Druze would resort to brutally murdering wounded Syrians in an ambulance came as a complete shock to Israelis. The effect of the Druze attack is hard to fully gauge, though it clearly has served as a warning to Israelis to think long and hard about doing anything that would drag us into the morass of the Syrian Civil War. It was always hard trying to separate the ‘good guys’ from the ‘bad guys’ in the Syrian conflict. If anything, the Druze attack in Madjal el Sham and Neve Avivim on the Golan Heights made it that much harder.

As to the latest U.N. Report, Arie Shavit wrote in the Ha’aretz this week: the U.N. report will distance the chance of peace. The reason, unfortunately, is simple. Most Israelis supported Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza based on very straightforward logic – “if rockets are fired at into our country from Gaza, once Israel withdraws, we have the right to ‘carpet bomb’ them”. A slight exaggeration, yet, clearly expresses the general sense in Israel. As long as we and our troops were in Gaza, we could not take strong measures – even if we were being attacked. However, once we were out …

Then came the UN Report, which concluded (based on a legal precedent from the Nuremberg Trials) contending that since Israel had the ability of reoccupying the Gaza strip at any time, Israel holds effective control. Under that logic, Israel will be occupying the West Bank in perpetuity – since in any realistic scenario, Israel will always have the military option of reoccupying the West Bank. Therefore, when the average Israeli hears about the U.N.’s report he says to himself – we pulled out of the Gaza strip, but the U.N. does not recognize any change. According to the U.N., although we did not want a war, and begged Hamas not to start one, still somehow we were responsible. Moreover, the U.N. believes that when we fire at targets inside Gaza that are firing at us, we are “committing war crimes”.

As a result of the U.N. report’s conclusions, the majority of Israelis will ask themselves – what is to be gained from any further withdrawals? Most Israelis who have been in the army (i.e. the majority of the population, ages 18+) know that war is hell and that in war terrible things happen. Israelis also know that occupation is bad – both for the occupier and for the occupied. Nonetheless, when an account like the U.N.’s report comes out, the average Israeli shakes his head and says: “What do they want from us?”

For most in Tel Aviv, by the week’s end, any of these concerns were but a distant memory. Yesterday 2,000 people took part in a conference organized by the A.W.S. division of Amazon to discuss Amazon’s Cloud services. Last night, Tel Aviv celebrated “White Night”. On White Night, much of Tel Aviv stays open throughout the night – with museums and businesses open until the wee hours and a variety of street concerts and performances taking place all over the city until dawn. Tens of thousands of people jammed the streets of our “white city”.

Last night, the city of Tel Aviv celebrated life as if there was not a care in the world. While today, during the time it took me to write this article, there were four major terror attacks by Islamists in nations not very far from here. The people of Tel Aviv know how to enjoy life, even when the world seems “just a little” out of control.