Oh God, It's Effi

Yossi Sarid
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Yossi Sarid

Interviews like the one given by Effi Eitam (Fein) to Ari Shavit ["Dear God, its Effi," Ha'aretz Magazine, March 22] provoke an inner struggle: If you relate to them, they acquire importance; and if you don't relate to them, it is as if what was said becomes part of our agenda, as if we hadn't noticed what he is proposing, which is the end of the state, the utter and absolute end of the Zionist enterprise.

Perhaps we could have ignored it, if only the National Religious Party hadn't come to see him as its savior and redeemer, and crowned him its leader. How pathetic the NRP is, if that's its savior. But now Eitam is not just the problem of the NRP: None other than Ariel Sharon himself co-opted him to his government and security cabinet, and made him a problem for all of us. Eitam's position at the top of the country's leadership can be compared to the appointment of a pyromaniac as manager of the Pi Glilot gas-storage facility. Wherever he goes in public life, he'll be girded with a belt of explosives.

I've never met with Mr. Eitam, but our paths have crossed more than once nonetheless. Once I received information from his soldiers about his violent behavior during the first intifada, and since then, I've kept an eye on him. I did so right up until a military court was required to address his wild behavior as commander of the Givati Brigade. The court had severe things to say about the violence he demonstrated toward Palestinians in front of his soldiers, as if he were saying: Look at what I do - and do the same.

I've made it clear to prime ministers, defense ministers and chiefs of staff that his advancement would not proceed quietly. Just as Ehud Yatom cannot serve as head of the special anti-terror forces, Eitam cannot be a general in the IDF. Anyone involved with his advancement knew quite well that the sword of the High Court of Justice hovered over that decision, which was closer than ever, and they haven't been enthusiastic about risking a judgment from that quarter.

His contention is that I hound him because he's religiously observant, because he wears a kippa [skullcap]. This infuriates me. I've said that we should look not at the kippa, but at the mind underneath. It's not his being religious that I object to, but the fact that he's so incomparably dangerous. I know what he's been feeding his soldiers, not just by his defective personal example but also with brainwashing, that is, preparing brutal soldiers for the Army of God.

At one point he entered the Lebanese arena as commander. From the advice he is handing out now, one might think that he had totally eradicated terror there, that Hezbollah had surrendered unconditionally and forthwith to his charisma as the NRP has done.

I had no intention, at first, of reading the entire interview in this magazine; I read the subheadings, which was sufficient. I often receive phone calls and letters from people claiming to be the messiah, the Messiah-Son-of-David, intended from birth to "save Israel." From the subheadings, I quickly realized that here was another one of those, and I thought that, since I'm already an expert on these nut cases, I don't have to read about yet one more. But friends of mine began telephoning and they were angry and upset. They made me promise to read the interview. I read it. When I was done, I found myself in a cold sweat.

This interview is sick, from the standpoint of both content and the personality of the interviewee. In terms of content, briefly, Eitam is in fact proposing that we cease being a "normal state" and become a "non-normal" state. By virtue of our non-normality, we must then forcibly subjugate not just the Palestinians but also Iran and Iraq. Arafat, he says, should be sentenced to death by hanging, and if he's being hung already, then obviously it should be done in the city square, in the custom of not-entirely-normal countries. The great war, in fact a war against the entire Muslim and Arab world, in his eyes is unavoidable.

He thinks it must also be quick and decisive. The transfer of the Arabs from the territories will certainly come, if not immediately - and in its wake, since there's no choice, the transfer of the Arabs of Israel as well. Israel must instigate a "world revolution" and export it to the far corners of the earth, because Israel is "above all else," and the Jewish people is the chosen people, without which "the world cannot live." The Temple Mount we must, of course, return to our sole sovereignty, and the mosques cannot remain there where they are forever.

On and on it goes, hallucinations of a lunatic determined to bring about the end, to bring upon us, speedily and in our own time, the battle of Gog and Magog which, believers maintain, will usher in final and complete redemption. We said "hallucinations," but why not use the correct words to describe this disturbed grown-up child: Effi Eitam is a man for whom any psychiatrist would prescribe tranquilizers, possibly with a recommendation for electroshock therapy.

Mr. Effi Eitam has his own way, somewhat convoluted, of saying things, using evasion, because even he does not have complete freedom from considerations of political correctness, applicable even to the hallucinatory and fascist right wing. He's against "shortcuts," he's against telling it like it is now, he's against detailed statements of certain things, there's time, the right time has yet to arrive, but we have to know where we're headed, what the trend and the overall direction are to be. In general, it's better to instigate these apocalyptic things than to talk about them, especially since one cannot forecast everything when fate and the future are in the hands of the Master of the universe, of whom Mr. Eitam has such a good opinion, to the point where he's willing to be his deputy, for now.

And as long as he's deputized to the master of the universe, he's the messiah, and now it becomes personal, it has to do with personality, and it's even more amazing and frightening than the first part. The beginning of the messiah segment in his life is the encounter between him and his future wife at the Tel Aviv central bus station, when he's only 18 years old. She asks him what he wants to do when he grows up, and he tells her without hesitation, right there in the Tel Aviv central bus station, that he wants to be "the leader of the people of Israel." Not the prime minister, he emphasizes; the "leader" of the people. He's not - heaven forfend! - comparing himself to King David, but still, he does see himself as a fighter and a poet - Eitam in his own day, as David was in his.

And of course he's not - heaven forfend! - comparing himself to our patriarch Moses, but still he is very preoccupied with the question of "how to ensure that I don't start thinking that no one exists but me. How does one achieve what Moses did: to be the humblest of men?" He isn't comparing himself - heaven forfend! - to Ben-Gurion, but there are at least two overly transparent insinuations to that effect. King David and Moses and David Ben-Gurion - all in one man, and this man is Effi Eitam, brigadier general, to whom Hebrew mothers have entrusted their soldier-sons.

The more terrifying part of the interview is his attitude to war. Of all things, what moves him most to real, orgasmic excitement is war, which in his view is the sublime expression of exaltation, of glory, of greatness. Yes, there are casualties and that is certainly regrettable, but war is the main source of "a certain absolute satisfaction and joy." Though let us be precise: Mindful of political correctness, he does not actually propose "initiating battles for that reason." It's about transcending petty considerations, and transcending is transcending - what's there to be afraid of?

Eitam, the father of four children, commander of many more, has nothing to say about the exaltation of giving birth, the greatness of life, the fulfillment in creating, the delights of love, the joys of peace. He's addicted to war, and that's what he's selling us. That is his stock in trade. He sees himself as a fighter and a poet. We've seen his wars, but we haven't yet managed to read his poetry. But from everything we have read thus far in this chilling interview, we can assume that his ode to life is our swan song.

The religiously Orthodox world, in Israel, ostensibly knowledgeable concerning false messiahs and the terrible damage they cause, is so despondent, bewildered and helpless now that it's prepared to buy even Effi Eitam. As to the general non-messianic public, so aggravatingly normal, for whom war is the greatest of nightmares, this public would do better to shun him and anyone peddling the same evil wares as they would the Devil himself.

Nowhere in this interview, thousands of words long, are there any people. There is only the nation, the state - the State as Moloch. As if human beings exist for the state instead of the other way around. Mr. Eitam works on the principle: In a place without people, be a person. In his spiritual and cultural world, there are no people. The only person present is Effi.