NPR’s Israel correspondent, Linda Gradstein, conducted a heart-wrenching interview with the father of a 21 year-old IDF soldier killed yesterday in southern Lebanon. Ami Schreier [Haaretz spells the name ‘Schreier’ and NPR, ‘Shreier], the father, beseeched prime minister Olmert to continue to prosecute the war to a successful conclusion:
This is an existential war [or “war for survival”] for us and if we here in Israel can’t handle it then our soldiers at the front won’t be able to handle it either. I appreciate what the prime minister is doing and I hope he continues. Don’t give in to them! Don’t give in to them!
While I do not support either the rationale or results of this war, it is hard not to feel the tremendous sorrow and yearning for meaning of a bereaved father like Mr. Schreier. He’s just given the ultimate sacrifice to his nation–a child. He and his child believed in the mission of the IDF as they believed in the legitimacy of this war. How can you break the horrible news to such a person that his son died for naught? He died for the vanity of generals frustrated that they could not keep the nation safe from Hezbollah rockets and sneak attacks. He died in a war with no clear goals, no clear strategy and no clear outcome. How can you face such a man with what you know is the truth, but which he does not yet know or understand? Indeed, he may never know it as long as he persists in the vain, but comforting illusion that his son died for a noble cause.
Schreier has bought the notion that the Lebanon quagmire is a milhemet kiyum (“war for survival”) when it is no such thing. This is the language of those politicians and generals desperate to justify an operation which cannot really be justified. Get your public to accept such high-minded notions and they will follow you unto death as Mr. Schreier’s son has done. Before this war, Hezbollah was little more than a nasty irritant to Israel. But by responding to its provocation as if it’s existence has been threatened it is Israel which has raised the stakes enormously and unnecessarily; and to the point where anything short of Hezbollah’s eradication will be seen by the world, and even more importantly, by its Arab enemies as a major defeat.
I grieve for the Lebanese and their dead. But I also grieve for the multiple tragedies of the Schreier family as well: the loss of a son and the eventual loss of their illusions.