Opinion |

A 'Red' Knesset

In every Knesset faction except for the ultra-Orthodox and Arab parties there are representatives who have borne arms in the past and were involved in the killing of civilians: Palestinians, Lebanese, Egyptians

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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The Knesset chamber last year.
The Knesset chamber last year.Credit: Adina Valman / Knesset
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

With great enthusiasm and eagerness did the correspondents on the Israeli channel Kan 11 report on candidates for the Palestinian parliament who in the past have borne arms, were involved in killing Israelis, and were or still are incarcerated in Israeli prisons. In short, what we call “terrorists.” They also reported on the wife of a certain Hebron resident who killed and was killed, and who is No. 2 on the official Fatah list (loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas).

The blindfolds covering the eyes of Israelis, which they refuse to remove or don’t even notice, are too numerous to count. In the past two years alone, for example, the “Anyone but Bibi” camp has pinned its hopes on three MKs who are former Israeli army chiefs of staffs – Benny Gantz, Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi. It’s impossible to calculate the precise number of Palestinians and Lebanese (including unarmed women, children, and elderly people) citizens who were killed by soldiers serving under the supreme command of these three men. There are many, many thousands.

It is also impossible to know how many were killed by the three chiefs of staffs with their own rifles and hands, as they climbed up through the military ranks. And let’s not forget two prime ministers whose resumes included “chief of staff”: Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak.

Benny Gantz, left, Gabi Ashkenazi and Moshe Ya’alon.Credit: Daniel Bar-On

In every Knesset faction – except for the ultra-Orthodox and Arab parties, and may Hashem and Allah bless them for this “defect” – there are representatives who have borne arms in the past and were involved in the killing of civilians: Palestinians, Lebanese, Egyptians.

How many female MKs are there who are “wives of” or “sisters of” air force pilots or ordinary officers in the Artillery Corps, who were directly or indirectly involved in the killing of Arabs? How many present and former male and female lawmakers have sons who killed and wounded Arabs while their parents served in the Knesset? How can we even begin to calculate this huge statistic? Since its inception the Israeli parliament has been packed with Jewish representatives with blood on their hands – mainly Palestinian blood.

When it comes to Palestinians with blood on their hands – we will know every detail about the Jew they killed or wounded. And we’ll know all the details about those Palestinians, too. The Shin Bet security service and the police not only make every effort to arrest and torture these individuals – they are also happy to report their suspicions about them (which are practically pre-trial convictions), followed by the indictments and the court rulings as well. Diligent journalists and research institutes also make an effort to report everything they were told about those armed Palestinians, even decades after the trial.

On the other hand, when Israeli soldiers kill or wound a Palestinian – and that has happened and still happens, much more than the opposite – they are safe and protected by the welcome anonymity granted by service in the Israel Defense Forces. Indeed, that’s the case with the exception of really rare instances, in which the Israeli soldier or police officer is subject to a reprimand, a disciplinary hearing or a very short prison sentence, with one-third off for good behavior.

Instead of counting the number of former prisoners or bearers of arms among the candidates in next month’s election for the Palestinian Legislative Council, it behooves the Israeli media – from a professional point of view – to also clarify the following details about every male and female candidate:

From which village or city was his or her family expelled in 1948; how many dunams of land did Israel steal from their West Bank villages and cities in order to build a settlement or a highway for Jews only; who lost parents, children and siblings in Israeli military bombardments, and who saw them killed in front of their eyes; who was expelled from the country; who experienced military raids in their homes, in the middle of the night, and as children received a slap or a kick here or there from a soldier; who was tortured by the Shin Bet; whose home was demolished within the framework of collective punishment, prior to or without a trial; who was choked by tear gas as a child in elementary school; who was held in administrative detention, without trial; and who has wasted and still wastes several hours a week at military checkpoints, while Israeli soldiers aim their rifles at them.

Most Israelis, including many journalists, are blind to such details and to the injustice that cries out from them – not only because they commit them and are responsible for them, but because they automatically associate “legitimacy” and “justice” with government and official weapons and military uniforms. In their view, “A just act is an act that expresses the will of the strong,” as the late Ovadia Ezra explains, in a posthumous collection of essays in Hebrew, entitled “Living in Dignity.”

A professor in the Tel Aviv University Department of Philosophy, Ezra was in 1982 among the founders of Yesh Gvul, an organization supporting soldiers and reservists who refuse to serve in the occupied territories, and himself an occupation refusenik, who was incarcerated in a military jail several times for that reason. As he explains in one essay, dated 1997: “This perception (of a just act as an expression of the will of the strong) can be associated to the viewpoint of Thomas Hobbes, to the effect that justice means carrying out the will of the sovereign, and thus, by definition, the sovereign himself cannot be involved in injustice … The more time passes and the measure of suffering and torment increases, the greater the adherence of the strong party to that concept of justice, and the greater the hatred and the aspiration to overturn the belligerent hierarchy. Along with this, there is also an increase in the fear, which sometimes reaches the point of paranoia, that the other side could become stronger and justice will cross the lines and reach it.”



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