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An Exercise in Self-awareness for Israel's Very Own Gantz

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Defense Minister Benny Gantz in Jerusalem, June 2020.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz in Jerusalem, June 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Benny Gantz is Israel’s most middle-of-the-road politician. It’s hard to think of a figure who better represents the middle: The “this, and that too;” the “on the one hand and on the other,” the officers’ neighborhood in Rosh Ha’ayin, the belly button of Israel. True, his reputation did a nose-dive in the eyes of many by joining the government, but he was and remains the voice of Israel, a mother’s voice. Gantz is the pinnacle of Israeli dreams to be strong and right, cruel and humane, an occupier and enlightened, democratic and tyrannical, both light and darkness unto the gentiles, the greatest there is, bro. Gantz is our ego and our alter-ego, Jekyll and Hyde, the way we love to be. He’s a clear example of an Israeli lack of self-awareness. Israel has an alternate prime minister in its image.It's not Gantz. It's everyone.

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Gantz said that he’s against violence. That was encouraging. Who is for violence, especially in Israel? A democratic, peace-loving nation, of course it is against violence. No people in the world is for violence. Gantz is for freedom to protest and against anarchy. “I very much respect them. But in places where I see them starting fires, smashing things, throwing glass, all kinds of things like that…somebody’s walking down the street, grabs a stone and breaks a glass wall in a bank, to me that’s an anarchist…those are things I will not accept…I simply do not accept violence from any side,” Mahatma Gantz told Radio FM 103. He doesn’t accept any violence. On any side. He’s sensitive, when he sees glass breaking he’s shocked.

Shortly thereafter, speaking elsewhere, almost in the same breath, the same Gantz thundered from military headquarters in the Kirya in Tel Aviv: “Lebanon and Syria will bear painful responsibility for any terrorism that comes from their territory. Any act against Israel will be met with a powerful, sharp and painful response.” The leopard changed his spots. Suddenly he is in favor of violence, powerful, sharp and painful. Now it’s not a stone through the wall of a bank. Now he’s threatening that the Israeli army will destroy infrastructure, the way he knows how to. “We know already how to strike in Lebanon,” said the pacifist of just a moment ago, with a boastful gesture showing how easy it is to him. Jekyll transforming into Hyde; Gandhi to Gantz. In the blink of an eye.

People probably won’t notice the contradiction. What the state can do, the individual cannot. Let’s leave aside the jargon where everything the other side does is terrorism and everything Israel does is for the sake of security. It’s common wisdom that what the state does is never considered violence, only self-defense. The state and the army can act as violently as they please, as much as they want, and go as crazy as they want. The state will always do this in the name of lofty values of defense. An individual who acts violently is an anarchist, a serial disrupter of law and order. There are laws that are also supposed to apply to countries, but Israel decided a long time ago that it is not bound by such laws.

And yet, is it possible that in one breath you can threaten violence and stand against it? Knowing the impact that state violence has on the way individuals act? One needs a special lack of self-awareness or a special degree of double standards to make such a claim. What Israel threatens to do in Lebanon is immeasurably more violent than anything the most dangerous anarchist could imagine. Israel’s actions in Lebanon have sowed much more anarchy and destruction than any demonstration. And so Gantz, and all his colleagues have no moral right to speak against violence. It’s almost the only language they know and it’s their bread and butter.

Tell the truth, Gantz: You are for violence. Most of your life you have acted violently and ordered others to act violently. Yes, you are for violence, as long as it serves what you consider to be just. You are against violence only when it threatens to strike you. Sound unrealistic? How Israeli is that.