Systematically burying ourselves
The commanders who issue the orders to destroy the homes of civilians do not have it easy. It's no wonder that the commanders of the Israel Defense Forces and most of the public see the policy of destruction as legitimate; it is what their forefathers did.
The following words have no chance of influencing anyone; in fact, they are likely to reinforce the sense of despair felt by a shrinking group of people who do not know where to vent their anger and frustration. Hundreds of similar articles have been written; campaigns of protest and of solidarity with the victims have been organized; and appeals have been made to the High Court of Justice; but nothing has managed to stop, or even limit, the barbaric destruction of the homes of Palestinian citizens.
So what's the use of more words of condemnation and protest? The serial destroyers are relying on the obtuseness that is the product of routine; but just as the destroyers don't tire of the work of destruction, those who loathe this destruction are obligated to continue with their protest. Even if these words have been said a thousand times, they must be said again: The destruction of a home is a barbaric act, and taking such a course of action, no matter what the excuse, is an act of terror that comes under the category of a war crime.
One looks at the open, likable faces of the commanders (some of whom you have known since they were children) in charge of the destruction of houses and one is amazed by how short the distance is between barbarism and civilization; one wonders what emotional mechanism allows them to carry out deeds of such cruelty and then return to the safe bosom of rationalization, ethical norms and even purifying feelings of guilt, made available to them by the society in the name of which they are ostensibly operating.
These commanders are more interesting than the gang of politicians, known as "the political echelons," who authorize the destruction and then decline to take responsibility for it when the "PR damage" - not, God forbid, the moral damage - becomes evident. They are certainly more interesting than the chorus of cowardly hypocrites, none of whom dares to look into the eyes of frightened children and wailing women, but can state categorically, nevertheless, that "everything is an act, and we can rely on the most moral army in the world."
The commanders who issue the orders to destroy the homes of civilians do not have it easy. They are not heartless people who enjoy acts of cruelty, and they believe that they are acting out of considered judgment. Like all military men, they rely on norms of behavior, on the "fighting tradition" and on what they view as "the national consensus" - all of which combined make the destruction of civilian homes seem a legitimate and time-honored method, which is compatible with "purity of arms."
The night of December 7, 1947, when a "nest of murderers was cleaned out" in Abu Kabir, saw what appears to be the first act of destruction carried out by the Hagana [the pre-state military force], after which the policy of systematic demolitions became a routine act that continued until the end of the War of Independence in 1948. The tradition was resumed in the framework of the "retaliatory operations" that reached their peak in the destruction of the houses in Kibia in 1953. And since 1967, this tradition has turned into a policy of punishment and deterrence that has secured the support of the High Court of Justice.
A look at the demolition statistics shows that governments headed by the Labor Party have destroyed more homes than those headed by the right wing, with the voices of protest waxing and waning in accordance with the proximity of the "peace camp" to the government in power.
Over the years, the barbaric act was "refined" and "purified" and became defined as: "violations of the planning laws," "evacuation of intruders from state lands," "deterrence against acts of terror," "preventing shelter for terrorists," and "environmental punishment."
It's no wonder that the commanders of the Israel Defense Forces and most of the public see the policy of destruction as legitimate; it is what their forefathers did. But they should understand the reason for this policy: Its perpetrators (who learned from the British) were aware of its terrible significance in the eyes of the Palestinians, for whom a house is more than a roof over one's head. It would be hard to overstate the symbolic value of a house to an individual for whom the culture of wandering and of becoming rooted to the land is so deeply engrained in tradition, for an individual whose national mythos is based on the tragedy of being uprooted from a stolen homeland. The arrival of a firstborn son and the building of a home are the central events in such an individual's life because they symbolize continuity in time and physical space. And with the demolition of the individual's home comes the destruction of his world.
Perhaps if the destroyers were to understand the symbolic significance of the Palestinian home, they would think twice before causing its walls to collapse. The 55-year-old mountain of ruins that is constantly growing is burying all of us beneath it.
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