Shooting and laughing
|May 10th, 2018|
|by:||Ithamar Handelman Smith|
|tags:||Arab, Gaza-strip, Israeli Army, West-Jordan, Yeshayahu Leibowitz|
Simply titled “The Territories”, this prophetic piece warned the Israelis of the outcomes of an ongoing occupation in Palestine: “Rule over the occupied territories would have social repercussions. After a few years there would be no Jewish workers or Jewish farmers. The Arabs would be the working people and the Jews the administrators, inspectors, officials, and police - mainly secret police. A state ruling a hostile population of 1.5 to 2 million foreigners would necessarily become a secret-police state, with all that this implies for education, free speech, and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also prevail in the state of Israel. The administration would have to suppress Arab insurgency on the one hand and acquire Arab Quislings on the other. There is also good reason to fear that the Israel Defense Force, which has been until now a people's army, would, as a result of being transformed into an army of occupation, degenerate, and its commanders, who will have become military governors, resemble their colleagues in other nations.
Out of concern for the Jewish people and its state we have no choice but to withdraw from the territories and their population of one and a half million Arabs”.
This firm and sharp essay laid the conceptual foundations for the anti-occupation Israeli left. It is the source of one of the its most famous slogans: “Ha’Kibush Mashchit”, meaning “the occupation is corrupting us”.
Nothing shows more brutally how right Leibowitz was in his prophecy than the events of the past few weeks, as dozens of Palestinians have been shot and killed (with more than 1,000 wounded) by trigger-happy Israeli snipers along the Gaza strip border.
But, as if this is not enough, earlier this week a horrifying video leaked onto social media. Filmed with a mobile phone attached to a soldier’s binoculars, the video documents the shooting of a motionless Palestinian standing just meters from the border fence. Once the Palestinian is hit (probably in the head) one hears the Israeli soldiers jumping in triumph, saying things like “wow, what a great video” or “we got you, you son of a bitch”.
The response of the Israeli government (and general public) to this horrible document has been vaguely condemnatory at best, while the vast majority of right-wing members of the Israeli parliament, like the neo-fascist Bezalel Smotrich of the far right “Jewish Home” party, has showed full support for these criminal soldiers.
“I prefer soldiers who shoot and laugh than those who shoot and cry and in the end won’t shoot at all”, wrote Smotrich in relation to the video. Education Minister Naftali Bennett, chairman of the Jewish Home party, also reacted to the case in an interview he gave to the Israeli army radio station: “Judging them when it comes to protecting our borders is not serious. Are you beginning to judge soldiers according to the quality of their discourse? To sit in Tel Aviv and to condemn fighters is not serious; I am backing all IDF soldiers."
In a way, the reaction of the central left has been worse. More than showing sympathy towards the Palestinian that has been shot (it is unclear if he is dead or alive), the heads of the central-left Zionist parties were concerned with “Israel’s public image” more than anything else. For them, it is not the crime itself or that soldiers laugh at the sight of a man being shot that are the problem, but the existence (and the leaking) of the video.
All this comes to show how the face of contemporary Israeli society has changed significantly. A civil society that has been, as professor Leibowitz predicted, corrupted by the occupation of the other.
In his statement, the above mentioned Smotrich refers to a famous Israeli concept of “Yorim Ve’Bochim”, which translates to “shooting and crying”. This attitude of “shooting and crying” has its roots in a well-known Israeli book, “The Seventh Day: Soldiers’ talk about the six-day war”, published immediately after the war victory in 1967, which was the enthusiastically celebrated, but in historic retrospective initiated Israel’s biggest problem. In that book, the soldiers expressed their discomfort with the act of war, although they understood it as a necessity. While this feigned remorse had a false ring to it (“our hands are always reaching out for peace, even while fighting”) it is far preferable to the current situation. If in the past the Israeli moral code saw war as a terrible necessity in order to survive and the average Israeli soldier “cried” after “shooting”, has that now transformed into Israeli soldiers shooting and laughing? Too many Israelis wouldn’t care less, if this is really the situation, and this is bad.
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