The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York includes a remarkable canvas by the 17th century Spanish painter Francisco de Zurbaran. The painting, “The Battle between Christians and Moors at El Sotillo,” depicts an alleged event in 1370, when, the description informs us, “the Spanish forces were saved from a night ambush when a miraculous light revealed the hidden Moorish troops.” At the top of the painting we see the source of that light: the Blessed Mother holding the baby Jesus.
Most museum visitors probably appreciate the beauty of the painting, and may also value its insight into how medieval Spain regarded the battle to reconquer the peninsula for Christianity. Museum-goers would most certainly be surprised to learn that a senior Israeli colonel says publicly that the same kind of miracle protected his troops during Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2014.
We are indebted to Max Blumenthal and his vital new book (The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza) for introducing us to Col. Ofer Winter, the religious fanatic who Blumenthal points out is “emerging as one of the most revered military figures in Israeli society.” Here is just one of Col. Winter’s comments:
[After the Gaza onslaught,] Winter conjured a hallucinatory vision of godly intervention. “We were protected by clouds, clouds of divine honor,” he claimed. “We — all the warriors — were suddenly covered by a heavy fog, which came to us throughout the attack.”
Any journalist with an ounce of news sense should have raced to put together a profile of this man. What has formed his apocalyptic thinking? Why is he so popular in Israeli society? A man who talks like this could fill a long magazine article with provocative observations.
Yet so far, there’s been next to nothing in our mainstream media on Colonel Ofer Winter. You might even suspect that correspondents for the New York Times and others are deliberately hiding him from American audiences, to avoid shocking readers with the truth about what Israel is really like in 2015.
There is one exception to the U.S. news blackout of Col. Winter. Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who passed through Israel during the Gaza invasion, did take note of another of Winter’s fanatical religious statements. Friedman allowed that Winter sounded “frightening.” But he did not follow up.