Israel’s Most Famous Photograph Teaches a Lesson in Greatness and Humility

April 21 2017

Considering the Israeli photographer David Rubinger’s famous image of three Israeli paratroopers looking up at the Western Wall in June 1967, Meir Soloveichik writes:

The picture of the paratroopers is constantly compared with an American image: Joe Rosenthal’s immortalization of the moment that American Marines hoisted the Stars and Stripes aloft at Iwo Jima. But understanding the power of Rubinger’s picture should begin by noting the differences, rather than the similarities, between his photo and Rosenthal’s. The Iwo Jima image inspires because of an action that it illustrates; young men working in unison to plant a flag. . . .

In Rubinger’s photo, the emphasis is the exact opposite; what is stressed is not action but a sudden inaction. . . . After achieving the most famous Jewish military victory in 2,000 years—becoming the first Jewish soldiers to hold Jerusalem since Bar Kokhba’s rebellion—the soldiers stand still before the locus of Jewish longing. They suddenly seem, to paraphrase Milton Himmelfarb’s felicitous phrase, not actors but rather acted upon. . . .

This points to a [tension] at the heart of Zionism. Should Jewish achievement, one small people’s outsized impact on the world as it outlived all its enemies, be seen as a triumph of the human will, or as a miracle? Are Jews the primary actors in this story, or are they the acted upon? . . .

The answer is both. . . . Rubinger’s photo, of warriors who waged one of the most brilliant wars in military history suddenly standing still at the Wall, is thus the embodiment of Israel itself. Therein lies its allure. Zionism was predicated on the ability of human beings to achieve even the impossible: in Theodor Herzl’s formulation, “if you will it, it is no dream.” And it remains an immense, and majestic, human achievement—the return of a people to their land, making a desert into an Eden, creating a mighty military, and building the Silicon Valley of the Middle East. Yet as Paul Johnson put it [in 1998], . . . “in the past century, over 100 completely new independent states have come into existence. Israel is the only one whose creation can fairly be called a miracle.” Israel is itself a symbol of both human achievement and divine mystery, and the combination of the two in Rubinger’s photo means he had somehow captured the essence of Israel itself.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Israel & Zionism, Photography, Western Wall, World War II

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy