There once lived a rich and powerful man. One day, bandits stole a water jug; but instead of taking it back and punishing the bandits — which would have been easy, since he had many sons — he said “it’s only a jug, it’s not worth a fight. Anyway, I have more jugs.” Then they took a goat. “Oh well, I have more goats, and after all the bandits were hungry,” he said. The next day he woke up to find himself outside his tent, and that they’d killed his sons, and taken his camels, his goats and his wives to boot. Then, since he had no goods, no sons and no honor, they killed him. – Bedouin story
Israeli athletes kicked butt at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam Judo tournament, winning a gold medal and 3 bronzes, coming in 6th overall out of 48.
And as everyone knows, Israel was the only country out of the 48 that competed that was not permitted to have her flag on their uniforms or to have her national anthem played when they won. Instead, our athletes were required to compete under the flag of the International Judo Federation (IJF). The name “Israel” or our flag does not appear in the tournament’s standings on the IJF website, where Israel is listed as “IJF”.
Apparently this was the result of a demand by the host, the United Arab Emirates. The IJF objected, but apparently wasn’t prepared to go to the mat over the issue (so to speak) by sanctioning the UAE in any meaningful way.
Some may say that the UAE is just a few camels, fancy architecture and sand floating on a lake of petroleum. Israel, on the other hand, is a world power in many fields including Judo, and there is no reason to get upset. When the oil dries up the skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi will collapse from lack of maintenance, while Israel will continue to excel in Judo and Nobel Prizes.
But this isn’t trivial and should not be allowed to pass. It should not be treated as business as usual by Israelis, who are so used to being insulted and shamed that they barely react.
This is the Middle East, and nothing here is more important than honor, whether it be the honor of an individual, a clan or a nation. A person that does not maintain his honor does not have a right to keep his possessions or even his life. A nation that loses its honor can be bombarded with missiles and can have its citizens stabbed and run down in the streets. Why not? Such a nation is nothing and its people have no rights.
Honor and deterrence are two sides of the same coin. A country that doesn’t retaliate for injuries done to its people invites more of the same.
Honor can be lost in many ways. Public insults such as the one delivered by the UAE and countless other Arab and Muslim entities around the world, day in and day out, are attacks on Israel’s honor. Palestinian Authority maps that don’t show Israel and veneration of terrorists as military heroes chip away at our honor. “Anti-normalization” activities in the PA and countries with which we supposedly have “peace,” Egypt and Jordan, constitute attacks on it. BDS tells its adherents to treat us as nothing and nobody in the hopes that if everyone did that we would disappear.
PA Arabs and Bedouins systematically steal cars and agricultural equipment and produce in Israel. What we call “crime” is often a form of warfare, because one of the first objectives of warfare in the Middle East – before the physical destruction of an enemy – is the destruction of his honor. A man or nation that can’t keep its possessions loses honor as well.
Israel’s Western idea of justice works against it. Marwan Barghouti sits in jail and could very well be freed by political pressure after he was convicted of five murders, four Jews and a Greek monk (he was accused of responsibility for 26 murders as head of the “Tanzim” organization). National honor demands a death penalty for nationalistic murders like those committed by Barghouti.
That is not the only way that Israel has diminished herself in Middle Eastern eyes. The recent debacle over metal detectors and cameras at the Western Wall – where Israel allowed herself to be forced to back down from taking very reasonable security measures by threats of Arab violence – was simply a disaster for our honor and deterrence. And everyone remembers the deal in which Israel released more than 1000 security prisoners, including numerous murderers, as ransom for one soldier held by Hamas, Gilad Shalit.
There are even major strategic decisions that work against us. Iron Dome is wonderful, but what is the message it sends when we cower behind it instead of striking out and destroying Hamas’ ability to shoot at us? What does it mean that despite tunnel-digging and rocket manufacturing, we continue to supply necessities of life to Hamas-controlled Gaza? The message, in case it’s not obvious, is simple: Sure, go ahead, it’s OK to shoot at Jews. They don’t even shoot back.
Loss of honor is not only dangerous for us a residents of the Middle East. Europe also gets the message, despite its pretence of enlightenment. While Europeans don’t shoot bullets at us (yet), they shoot Euros by way of the countless subversive organizations they support and their “humanitarian” assistance to the PA. They know that they can do whatever they want because we don’t fight back (I try to avoid EU products in the supermarket, and you should too).
All of these decisions are “rational” ones. It would be a problem for us if we destroyed Hamas. Who would govern Gaza? There is great political pressure from families of captured Israelis; how can we abandon them? What if there are riots at the Temple Mount? The police are always short of manpower, so there is only so much they can do about car theft and agricultural crime.
All of these are legitimate considerations, but decisions are made without taking into account the intangible, but very real aspect of honor.
I am not sure what we can do to the UAE over the slight we received in Abu Dhabi, but we should find something and do it. Israelis like to say the equivalent of “don’t sweat the little stuff (and everything is little stuff).” But in this case the sum total of the little stuff is a big thing. If we don’t act, we will wake up one day and find ourselves outside our tent, with no sons, no wives and no camels.