Text size

The infamous enthusiasm of the citizens of ancient Rome for watching human beings being devoured by wild animals did not disappear with the fall of the Roman Empire, but only takes on different guises in various places, depending on the taste of the audience. The masses are always in need of loathsome entertainment of this kind, where two unequal forces conduct a duel in which the weaker side has no chance of winning, but whose desperate struggle itself arouses emotions.

The evacuation on Tuesday of the Jewish families who had squatted in the wholesale market in Hebron was a popular television entertainment of this type: One could almost say that it was designed exclusively for television, and had the squatters not squatted where they did, such an invasion would almost have to be invented, to allow for some violent spectacle, as part of the festivities of the ascent of the new emperor, Ehud Barak, to the throne of the Defense Ministry.

I am far from justifying the Jewish settlement in Hebron and the daily injustice that is caused there to the Arab residents of the city by the Jewish extremists. But it's a far cry from that to the presentation of these bearded men with the flashing eyes and their headscarf-wearing wives as a serious or dangerous force. After all, anyone who has visited there knows that the settlement in Hebron is mainly a curiosity, a kind of nature preserve of extremism, which is entirely dependent on the good will of the security forces that protect it and terrify the Palestinians. Without the Israel Defense Forces the settlers would not last there for even a day.

But someone wanted this pathetic evacuation to look like a major struggle, and for it to be seen as a war of absolute good (the IDF and the new defense minister) against absolute evil (the Hebron settlers). Television gladly joined this game, because it ostensibly expresses the voice of common sense, and common sense says that all fanatics wherever they are must be put in their place, and those fanatics among the soldiers who refused to participate in the evacuation should be punished as well. And nobody had the courage to tell the truth, that the IDF, on the instructions of the politicians, is playing a double and hypocritical game here: One hand holds the dagger and waves it for the purpose of propaganda against the monster called the Jewish settlement in Hebron, and another hand caresses the behind of that very same monster, for internal purposes.

This hypocrisy has become a totally integral part of Israel's security concept. And it is this hypocrisy that has made a joke of the determination that Ehud Barak tried to demonstrate when he spoke before the reservists at the Tzeelim army base on Tuesday, the day of the evacuation, about the soldiers' obligation to obey their commanders rather than some rabbi or other. It's a joke, because how long will the soldiers (and the policemen) quietly accept the fact that time after time they are being used against their will as actors in a comedy of evacuation, as part of the presentation of the just and humane face of the State of Israel? And then, when the comedy is over, they are brought back to their real job, to the tasks of repressing and eliminating, and finding excuses to harass the Palestinians, as though nothing had happened.

Within this hypocritical values system, the refusal of a dozen soldiers from the Duchifat Battalion paradoxically looked like the worthiest and most honest act. This refusal expressed the soldiers' disgust at serving as "TV-camera fodder," in other words, at participation in the seasonal farce of dragging bearded Jews and their screaming wives from their homes, while indicating that everything is only "kalam fadi," empty words. But who will agree to express in words on television the thought that there may be logic and justice to refusal, even if it is right-wing and religious? Nobody, of course. And here we already see one of Ehud's Barak's achievements as defense minister: Television loves him. He will provide it with good, heartrending dramas that once again show Israel as a country where people "shoot and cry," and in return it will pay him back by repairing his image as a decisive person with strong values, who is not at all hypocritical, and thinks only of the good of the country and certainly not the ambition of entering the list of settlement-evacuators, even if this evacuation is of a warehouse and a half in an abandoned marketplace in Hebron.

Wagner in Hebron

One of the "secondary curiosities" of this primary curiosity that was the evacuation of the Jewish settlers from the wholesale marketplace in Hebron, was the background music of the evacuation. Sarah Beck, a Channel 2 reporter, was the one who called the attention of those watching the news broadcast (Tuesday, 8 PM), that presumably in order to infuriate the security forces who were evacuating them, those under siege played music by Richard Wagner at a deafening volume. The intention was to hint to the policemen with a kind of strange musical delicacy that they are like the Nazis, since Wagner, as we know, was Hitler's favorite composer.

Here is additional proof of the total impotence of the Jewish settlement in Hebron. After using the famous "slut" weapon that made waves here a few months ago, an even more ridiculous provocation was chosen, ridiculous to the point of absurdity. Because in order for the provocation to work, you first have to assume that the policemen and Border Police who broke down the doors of the house in the wholesale market are all lovers of classical music, and such aficionados that they would identify, amidst the screams and the total chaos that prevailed there, the strains of Wagner. And then they would release the hands and feet that they were instructed to hold on to and loudly declare: How did you dare play the overture to Wagner's "Gotterdammerung," conducted by Herbert von Karajan and performed by the Vienna Orchestra! After all, the rendition played at the Bayreuth Festival last year under the baton of Zubin Mehta was 10 times better, both in the obligato of the celli and in the vibrato of the second violin.

And the soldiers would sit down on the ground, and declare a mutiny. Until this musical injustice was corrected, they wouldn't leave the place.

One has to regret the degree of insanity reached by the Hebron extremists, who are in effect conducting their struggle mainly with themselves and with the images of their enemies that they have created in their imaginations, without noticing those opposite them, whether the security forces or their Palestinian neighbors. When their young people were seen on television wearing masks and throwing stones at the policemen from the roof, they looked exactly like the Palestinian "shebab" (young men) - the thought arose that they want to be like them. And when by playing Wagner, didn't they give away their profound innermost desire to be, yes, like those same accursed people who admired Wagner and were, how shall we put it, nevertheless lovers of their homeland until the last moment?