Pay attention – because this magic trick is deadly

Ariel Halevi |

Senior Consultant & Co-founder

| 9 minutes

I’ve read everything you’ve been writing, and I am most concerned about what you haven’t been saying. Not a word about the importance of making peace. Nothing about the importance of Israel making open and honest declarations about its desire and commitment to making peace. This is what troubles me. I care for Israel and I fear that war – as justified as I may truly believe it to be in these past weeks – will not ensure Israel’s future.”

These words, spoken by my uncle earlier today, reminded me again of the true questions that are currently “on the table.”

They reminded me of my college debating years: like a true debate, the immediate issue being discussed – in this case, Israel’s bloody confrontation with Hamas – is really only an opening to a much deeper discussion about the broader values and questions at its foundations and which relate to a much wider range of issues.


For instance, in this case, I believe the underlying questions are:

  1. Can unilateral moves by Israel lead the way to a different, more peaceful, reality in our region?
  2. What impact can the international community really have in promoting such a reality, and as a sub-set of this question, how much consideration should Israel give to the international community’s voice on such matters?
  3. Which culture, language, norms and value systems should be predominant in the process of establishing a strategy for peace (and war) – yours or those of your enemy?

And finally, in direct relation to his most sincere comments to me, I add:

  1. When is the time to look in the mirror and speak of how to bring peace and when is the time to look directly at your enemy and speak ONLY about war and about how it can and must be won?

I confess that in looking at these complicated questions, I find that I have a strong sense of clarity as to what I think the “right” answers are, and I find it most tempting to address them all here and now. But I think I can provide a sufficient response to my uncle’s comments in the context of the fourth and last question above.

The analogy that comes to mind is that of a magician. In the masterful art of “sleight of hand” and misdirection, the magician’s entire act is reliant on his ability to get us to look in a very certain direction at a very specific time. This is based on our inability to look in two directions at once.

Sadly, this is also true when it comes to international public attention, mass media attention, and tragically, even the attention of dedicated organizations such as the United Nations’ Human Rights Council (which has been high-jacked by rogue states precisely for this reason – as it obsessively focuses on Israel in a way that is designed to ensure that no real or meaningful attention is given to the true violations of human rights systematically committed by these very same rogue states).

In this case:
The magician is: Hamas.
The misdirection is: Hundreds of civilian casualties.
The magic is: How Hamas, despite the atrocities it commits and its public and sincere declaration of war against Israel and western values, is still able to get everyone to look in a different direction: at Israel – with questions about the proportion of Israel’s military responses, the comparative casualty rates, and, of course, the efforts Israel is (or isn’t) making to find a peaceful solution to this terrible situation.

That’s why you don’t hear me speak of what Israel needs to be doing to promote peace. I’m keeping my eyes on the “ball” – on Hamas, and on everything they stand for – and in my blogs and conversations I am trying to make sure that the international community, intellectuals, and self-declared defenders of human rights do the same.

THAT is why I have not written one word about the need for peace. Because now is not the time for such words. Now is the time to disrupt the magician, because this specific magic trick is deadly. And when the time for discussing peace will come, the world will find Israel and its people willing and ready to pursue it. The desire for and commitment to peace is ingrained in the Israeli culture and proven in our short history:

  • The very first word an Israeli learns on their very first day of first grade is SHALOM (which means PEACE).
  • Israel is the only country in the world whose armed forces’ name revolves around the concept of defense (IDF – Israel Defense Forces).
  • Israel has already demonstrated a decisive commitment to peace by signing peace agreements with two Arab countries: Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1995), and in both cases has given up land in return for… Peace.

But for now, we must all pay close attention. We must ensure that we are all looking in the right direction, and that direction is the Palestinians (not Israel!). We must exclusively look at what THE PALESTINIANS can and must do to bring forth peace with Israel and what role the international community must play to ensure that this happens.

And when Israel, once again, is faced with Arab leaders who openly declare (that is all that is required of them – and open and honest declaration) their desire to make peace with Israel, Israel will – as we have twice before – make peace, even at what will surely be a most painful cost for all Israelis. This will be so, because contrary to what many around the world may think,  Israel is a peace-loving nation that hates war with every fiber of its being.

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Ariel Halevi

A teacher, first and foremost, I am most passionate about the fields of Interpersonal Communication, Persuasion and Influence Without Authority. I decided to dedicate my life to the study of these fields, so that I may first live a happy and productive life, and then turn to help others do the same. I am a strong believer in doing what you love while doing good in the world, and I endeavor to incorporate these ideals into every interaction I have.

I am the proud co-founder of Vayomar – The Power of Being Heard, along with my friend and partner, Gur Braslavi. Together, we strive to bring our insights, methodologies, and tools to people around the world, from young students to adults. 

But we don’t forget to enjoy ourselves… I am a big believer in the “theory of fun” and love to find ways for developing myself through games. My goal is to promote a better humanity through better interpersonal communications. I invite you to join us and become part of this massive transformative effort.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

My recommendations:

    • The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity, by Norman Doidge  
    • Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility, by Patty McCord  
  • Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead, by Laszlo Bock