IDF Soldiers On Campus
Tue, 11/09/2010

There is nothing worse than sending soldiers into battle with poor intelligence. While not a crime, it has brought down many military careers and in Israel has been the subject of many inquiries and panels bringing shame and humiliation to generals and cabinet members alike.

Yet, we send Israeli soldiers into battle on college campuses with poor intelligence and, worse, with faulty ammunition.

I am referring to the two Israeli soldiers who are touring U.S. college campuses under the banner of a group called StandWithUs as reported by The Jewish Week on Oct. 29 (“IDF’s Campus Battle To Win Public Opinion”).

These two, well-meaning officers have been sent into the fray believing that the issue is simply making students “understand that the situation is complicated.”

What do they discover? That even “Jewish students often saw things the way other students did.” As if many Israelis don’t as well…

The problem begins with the name — StandWithUs — to the very point the soldiers are making: that the situation is very complicated, that there is no black and white, no us and them. These college students are, like many other Jews in America and in Israel, and frankly like many non-Jews — uncomfortable with or even against many of Israel’s policies. But that does not make them anti-Israel. And supporting rights for Palestinians does not make them anti-Israel, either.

The dilemma is that the explanations all fall back on, “We are right and they are wrong; we are really scrupulous and they are really killers; they use civilians for cover and we are just protecting ourselves.”

All perhaps right — or at least more right than wrong, but black and white nevertheless and not the answer to the admittedly difficult and complicated issues.

Imagine if they had begun the discussion by talking about the commanders who have been prosecuted for their lack of adherence to the IDF’s high standards; or about their friends who were against the actions in Gaza. Their ammunition would have been powerful, not faulty and their discussions would have been way more effective.

We sent these poor guys in poorly trained and poorly armored. Interesting that their one example of success was an Egyptian student who had never met an Israeli and commented that they didn’t fit the stereotype he had been raised with. Let’s be honest — I bet the flip side is true, too. No doubt our two boys had never met an Egyptian, and he clearly didn’t fit the stereotype they had been warned about.

This is an important war — if we continue to fight by talking to ourselves we will continue to lose.

 

Vice Chairman and COO

Wunderman

 

The writer is a member of the paper’s board of directors.

 

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