A commission of sorts legitimized this week the July 2002 slaughter of innocents in the Gaza apartment building where terrorist Salah Shehadeh lived. There was an ethics debate, but ultimately, the commission’s language on the one-ton bomb − which killed Shehadeh’s neighbors, including mothers and children − reflected the official position, the obvious line: “The preventive attack on Shehadeh was necessitated by the escalation in the terrorist organizations’ activity since 2000 in a way that made the situation one of genuine war, defined as an ‘armed conflict.’”
National security has long been dominated by the culture of vengeance. Yaakov Amidror, a leading candidate for the post of national security advisor, is a soloist in the orchestra of wind instruments. His comment that soldiers who don’t attack when ordered to do so should get a bullet to the head is part of the mind-set the maintains that deterrent force is eroded if a terror attack is not avenged. Our lives are being run by people who have no mercy on us.
What would have happened had Yihya Ayash not been assassinated in Beit Lahia in January of 1996 − after he had ceased his activity and there was a lull in the chain of revenge and killing, a chain that began with Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of Muslim worshippers in the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron?
Neither those who carried out the assassination nor those who authorized it are seen as responsible for the masses of people killed in revenge for the Ayash assassination. The usual argument is that the Palestinians would have been killing us anyway.
Six years later, in January of 2002, came the assassination of Raad Karmi in Tul Karm. Here too, the assassination came after a lull in the wave of terror attacks that began shortly after the start of the second intifada. As after the Ayash killing, then too we were rocked by a series of barbaric acts of vengeance that changed our lives entirely. Those who justified Karmi’s assassination had the final word: “The next terror attacks were already in the pipeline.” It would have happened anyway, say the living of the dead.
These two assassinations have been cited in the past as examples of indifference to the killing that lies in our future. This week we were informed that the man to whom both assassinations are credited is the leading candidate to become the next head of the Shin Bet security service.
When Carmi Gillon, who was director of the Shin Bet when he asked the prime minister in 1995 for permission to assassinate Ayash, Yitzhak Rabin didn’t ask why Israel ought to do so. As a minister in Rabin’s government, Shimon Peres certainly did no better, since for him, restraint and hesitation are nothing but issues to discuss after the fact. We are left alone with the Shin Bet, with only an extremist yet weak prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to stand in the way. That is no coincidence.
The rise of the extreme right requires a descent into a mythical world in which there is no chronology. No one asks any longer about the logic behind a given action. No one casts doubt any longer on the motives behind military operations (maybe the Shin Bet was seeking prestige it had lost before the assassinations?).
Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror’s vision does not end with one bullet to one head. The indifference to life doesn’t stop at the sight of the death of Palestinians.
It is quiet around us, possibly due in part to the policy of unbridled killing. But undoubtedly the quiet will not endure, and when it is broken, we will once again receive a lesson in the reciprocity of revenge. The media will attribute the price in blood to “escalation” − one doesn’t ask questions in a time of war − and the escalation will become the reason, the cover for what is happening. The real rationale lies in the increasing entrenchment of colonization, terror, revenge and war; it can be traced to a leader who is more extremist than his predecessor, who intensifies the colonization, responds to terrorism and so on.
This is how Netanyahu blossomed after the Second Lebanon War. This is how the bloody hands that came back from Operation Cast Lead shaped Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who “says what we are thinking”; we, after all, think what the army does, and the army does what our leadership authorizes. Thus does the cycle of violence continue until the next leader proposes a peace of overlords, strengthens colonization and so on.
Nowadays, our hearts go out to the Libyans as the corpses are described on the radio and their images broadcast on TV. But how many Israelis remember how the dead children and their dead mothers looked in the apartment building in Gaza? How many of the survivors of that building will enlist to carry out their own acts of revenge?
The defense mechanism of repression is the Israeli’s refuge from crimes committed in his name. Everything is drowning in mythology: We are defending ourselves. They are the aggressors.
They will kill us anyway. A bullet to the head for anyone who hesitates.
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